Authors: Brian Moore

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

Irish-born Canadian novelist

Author Works

Long Fiction:

Judith Hearne, 1955 (pb. in U.S. as The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne)

The Feast of Lupercal, 1957

The Luck of Ginger Coffey, 1960

An Answer from Limbo, 1962

The Emperor of Ice-Cream, 1965

I Am Mary Dunne, 1968

Fergus, 1970

Catholics, 1972

The Great Victorian Collection, 1975

The Doctor’s Wife, 1976

The Mangan Inheritance, 1979

The Temptation of Eileen Hughes, 1981

Cold Heaven, 1983

Black Robe, 1985

The Colour of Blood, 1987 (pb. in U.S. as The Color of Blood)

Lies of Silence, 1990

No Other Life, 1993

The Statement, 1995

The Magician’s Wife, 1997


The Luck of Ginger Coffey, 1963 (adaptation of his novel)

Torn Curtain, 1966

The Slave, 1967

Catholics, 1973 (adaptation of his novel)

Black Robe, 1991 (adaptation of his novel)


Canada, 1963

The Revolution Script, 1971


Brian Moore’s novels have been praised for their varied settings, stylistic economy, precise realism, careful blending of ironic wit and genuine sympathy, and, most broadly, for their consistently professional quality of composition. The son of James Bernard Moore and Eileen McFadden Moore, Brian Moore was educated in Belfast schools, attending St. Malachi’s College in Belfast until 1940. After serving in an Air Raid Precautions Unit in Belfast from 1940 to 1942, he became a civilian employee of the British Ministry of War Transport and was stationed, in turn, in Algeria, Italy, and France during World War II. After the war, he first served as Port Officer in Warsaw under the United Nations Refugee Relief Agency and then as a freelance reporter in Scandinavia.{$I[AN]9810000971}{$I[A]Moore, Brian}{$I[geo]IRELAND;Moore, Brian}{$I[geo]CANADA;Moore, Brian}{$I[tim]1921;Moore, Brian}

Brian Moore


In 1948, Moore immigrated to Canada, establishing residence in Montreal and eventually becoming a Canadian citizen. From 1948 to 1952, he was employed initially as a proofreader and ultimately as a reporter for the Montreal Gazette. In 1951, he married Jacqueline Sirois and also published his first “serious” story, “Sassenach,” in the Northern Review. Still, for almost a decade, Moore supported his interest in writing serious fiction by publishing pulp fiction under the pseudonym Michael Bryan.

In 1955, Moore published his first novel under his own name, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne. Acclaimed at the time of its publication and still considered one of Moore’s superior novels, it concerns the crisis that occurs in a Belfast spinster’s life when her alcoholism exaggerates her romantic delusions and she must seek emotional refuge in a repressive religiosity.

After moving to New York in 1959 (he later moved to California but continued to maintain Canadian citizenship), Moore received a Guggenheim Fellowship. A year later, he published The Luck of Ginger Coffey, the story of a man who emigrates with his family from Northern Ireland to Canada and must balance his delusions of making a grand success against the demands of his family. For this novel, Moore won the Governor General’s Literary Award of Canada for fiction. In 1966, Moore married Jean Denny, his second wife.

In I Am Mary Dunne and Fergus, Moore adapted the largely representational realism of his early novels to narratives more broadly subjective in structure and in purpose. In both novels, the central characters’ unexamined pasts intrude neurotically on the fragile contentments of their present lives, with the first-person narrative of I Am Mary Dunne imitating an extended exercise of memory and with the hallucinations of Fergus existing almost literally among real circumstances. There is a continuity among Moore’s next three books, all of which explore how the media coverage of “significant” events ironically colors that significance. The Revolution Script depicts the staging of an act of urban terrorism in Montreal. Catholics, for which Moore received the W. H. Smith Prize in Great Britain, is set in Ireland in the 1990’s, at a time when the Catholic Church has for ecumenical reasons proscribed the practice of many traditional rites. The most provocatively imaginative of these novels, The Great Victorian Collection, works from the premise that an ambitious young historian might fall asleep in a motel and awaken to discover that he has dreamed into existence a vast collection of historical artifacts and curiosities that then arrange themselves in the motel parking lot. For this novel, Moore received the James Tait Black Memorial Award and the Governor General’s Literary Award of Canada for fiction (for the second time).

The Doctor’s Wife depicts the dilemma of Sheila Redden, whose adultery while she is alone on vacation forces her to weigh the values represented in her family ties in Belfast against the emotional possibilities that she has lost in that city’s atmosphere of religious violence. In this novel, Moore most effectively combines the poignantly exact realism of his early novels and the more complex rendering of psychological insights characteristic of his later novels such as The Mangan Inheritance and Cold Heaven. Black Robe, a novel about a group of Jesuit missionaries in precolonial North America, sparked controversy for its graphic accounts of ritual torture and cannibalism among warring American Indian tribes. Two later novels, The Color of Blood and No Other Life, also portray clerics who must confront their own faith in the midst of violent social conditions, though Moore sets these tales in the near future instead of the New World.

Moore’s concern with history is shown in his last two novels, The Statement and The Magician’s Wife. The first examines the French government and Catholic Church’s protection of and complicity with Nazi war criminals. The protagonist is based on a functionary of the Vichy government who was found guilty of war crimes and who spent twenty-five years hiding in monasteries and avoiding Jewish agents hired to kill him. In The Magician’s Wife, Emperor Napoleon III orders a magician to travel to Algiers and terrify the locals with his illusions, in the hope of aiding France in its conquest of the territory.

Moore died in 1999 at the age of seventy-seven. He had long been highly regarded in Great Britain and Canada, and his screenplays and later novels had earned for him a reputation in the United States as well. His frequent use of Irish settings and his realistic style may have marked him early in his career as a somewhat provincial craftsman, but he produced a body of work of such consistent quality and increased thematic range to have earned for him a large audience in the United States and a special award from the American Institute and Academy of Arts and Letters.

BibliographyDahlie, Hallvard. Brian Moore. Boston: Twayne, 1981. This comprehensive study of Moore discusses his short stories and nonfiction as well as his novels. Addresses the metaphysical dilemmas presented in those of Moore’s characters who struggle for identity and meaning. Selected bibliography and chronology.Flood, Jeanne A. “Black Robe: Brian Moore’s Appropriation of History.” Eire-Ireland: A Journal of Irish Studies 25, no. 4 (1990): 40-55. Considers Moore’s appropriations of history as attempts to explore the dynamics of “power and submission, desire and fear, the ancient impasse between father and son.” The novel furthermore is seen as a refutation of an antiquated book on the Jesuits and their mission in the New World.Flood, Jeanne A. Brian Moore. Lewisburg, Pa.: Bucknell University Press, 1974. Covers Moore’s work until 1973, with some emphasis on Catholics. Each chapter looks at a different position the novelist takes. This slim volume is a solid if stolid piece of criticism and contains much insight into Moore’s narrative technique and purpose. Chronology and bibliography.Gindin, James. “Brian Moore.” In Contemporary Novelists, edited by James Vinson. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1982. An overview of Moore’s work that spans his first novel, The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, to The Mangan Inheritance, in 1979. Also discusses The Luck of Ginger Coffey in the light of popular genre of fiction. Gives insight into the plots of Moore’s novels, which Gindin applauds as “highly inventive.”O’Donoghue, Jo. Brian Moore: A Critical Study. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1991. Examines sixteen novels in terms of Moore’s spiritual questioning and the personal search for freedom. Although the study examines each novel, particular emphasis is given to his novels dealing with female protagonists.Sullivan, Robert. A Matter of Faith: The Fiction of Brian Moore. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1996. An extensive and detailed treatment of Moore’s fiction, examining novels up to No Other Life. Concentrates on the themes of love and faith and suggests that the writer’s oeuvre is a cohesive master narrative. Sullivan is equally concerned with issues of craft and reveals the author’s dedication to the art of fiction.Whitehouse, J. C. “Grammars of Assent and Dissent in Graham Greene and Brian Moore.” Renascence 42, no. 3 (Spring, 1990): 157-174. Examines Graham Greene’s Monsignor Quixote (1982) and Moore’s Catholics for their investigations of belief and faith. Each writer is seen as a Catholic haunted by religion and propelled to investigate the religious experience; both employed similar techniques to explore their themes.
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