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SHREWSBURY, Massachusetts — A new, small press located in Shrewsbury has published Hannah’s Left Hook, a novel by Worcester resident Brian McKeown. A book launch party will take place April 2, 7:00 p.m., at the Worcester Art Museum. This is Garland Press’s first title. Publisher Laurel Dile King is longtime resident of Shrewsbury.
Set in northwest England, Hannah’s Left Hook is the story of a poor washerwoman who develops a devastating left hook through countless scrubbings of St. Lawrence’s Church floor. During the Great War she persuades the Birkenhead Shipyard to hire her as its first female laborer, beginning her transformation into a working-class legend.
Brian McKeown’s novel is based on the life of his maternal grandmother, Hannah Corcoran. It begins during World War I and follows the Corcoran family through the tumultuous events of the first half of the twentieth century, such as the Spanish Flu Pandemic, the Great Depression, the Food Riots, the Blitz, and the social upheavals of post-WWII England.
McKeown admits he took a few liberties with local history, but most of the events of the novel are historically accurate. “My grandmother did not go around decking people,” McKeown says, “but she was a remarkably strong woman. She really did wash dead bodies to earn a few extra coppers and worked as a laborer at the Birkenhead Shipyard during World War I. And yes, Hannah really did carry a grudge against Winston Churchill—many of the working class did.”
Born and raised in Birkenhead, England, the setting for Hannah’s Left Hook, McKeown attended St. Anselm’s College. He did a stint with the RAF and the Merchant Navy, and then studied electronics at Birkenhead Tech, which allowed him access to the fledgling computer industry. After being hired by an American computer company, he relocated to central Massachusetts where he has lived for the last thirty-five years. His first book, Enter at A, Laughing is a collection of humorous essays.
McKeown met Laurel Dile King, Garland Press Editor and Publisher, in 2010 when he was a student in one of the writing class she teaches at the Worcester Art Museum. When starting up Garland Press a year ago, she immediately thought of Hannah’s Left Hook.
“Hannah and her left hook are unforgettable,” King said. “The novel explores serious social issues but contains a lot of humor, too.”
Hannah’s Left Hook was a finalist in the prestigious William Faulkner-William Wisdom Contest in 2010. “I’m really grateful that Brian entrusted Hannah to us for Garland Press’s first title,” King said.
On Wednesday, April 2, McKeown will read from and discuss Hannah’s Left Hook, and sign books at the Worcester Art Museum, 55 Salisbury St. The event is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served. For more information visit Garlandpress.com or email firstname.lastname@example.org.