"O'Keefe has delicately balanced history with touching humanity and humor."




About the author:

Jack O’Keefe, the son of Irish immigrants, earned a Ph.D. in Literature, and attended the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop.

He joined the seminary of the Christian Brothers in West Park, New York, near President Roosevelt’s home, and later taught at Power Memorial Academy in Hell’s Kitchen, New York City. Jack is also the author of Brother Sleeper Agent: The Plot to Kill F.D.R. brothersleeperagentbook.com.


Contact info:

Jack O'Keefe, Ph.D.

Email: jackokeefe@ameritech.net


When the potato blight struck the country from 1845-1850, it destroyed the subsistence food of the small Irish farmer. The Limerick and Clare Examiner in 1848 wrote that “nothing, absolutely nothing is done to save the lives of the people. They are swept out of their holdings, swept out of life without an effort on the part of our rulers to stay the violent progress of human destruction.”

1847 was the third year of the Great Hunger. Never before had the potato failed even two years in a row. This year would come to be called “Black ’47.” British Prime Minister Russell said the famine was over. He was wrong.

Published May, 2011: Contact




Famine Ghost


5.0 out of 5 stars

Famine Ghost: Genocide of the Irish, October 10, 2011
By  Frank West - See all my reviews

This review is from: Famine Ghost: Genocide of the Irish (Paperback) "The Great Famine was one of the most important events in Irish history. However none of my older relatives from Ireland ever mentioned it. Yet their parents and neighbors must have lived through it. Neither did I learn about it during all the years of parochial education. Finally, when a young man, I learned about The Famine. I keep seven books about The Famine on my bookshelf, and I will now add this outstanding book.

Why is it outstanding? Even extraordinary? It tells the story of this terrible event in a vibrant, colorful way. It includes well developed fictional characters and, at times, even humor. The book is illustrated with drawings from contemporary newspapers and other sources. Most are from The Illustrated London News. This news magazine was hostile to the Irish. However, even those who worked for it felt sorry for the suffering in Ireland. This is shown in sympathetic pictures. It is remarkable that the author can bring this utterly grim event to colorful life.

O'Keefe makes the story come alive by using a vigorous and memorable story line. He develops the story with fictional characters but constantly with The Great Famine as the background."

Frank West, Irish Books and Plays in Review.
Irish American News. October 2011.


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The Irish  Famine

painting by George Frederick Watts




















Contact info:

Jack O'Keefe, Ph.D.

Email: jackokeefe@ameritech.net


The Leave-Taking

Artist: Margaret Lyster Chamberlain (Wrentham, MA, USA)

Sculpture from the An Gorta Mor Collection Quinnipiac University

Photograph by Gina Toell



In Famine Ghost, O'Keefe captures the raw details of the 1845-1850 Great Irish Famine, building our awareness of the true drama through photos, newspaper clips and drawings. It is a chilling story of the one million who died in Ireland and two million who emigrated.

As O'Keefe says: "Though there are no exact figures on either mortality or emigration, we know that Ireland had a pre-Famine population of eight million.  According to a modern scholar, Norita Fleming,  “it is commonly accepted that from Ireland to Grosse Ile, in the ocean graveyard, bodies could form a continuous chain of burial crosses” (Appendix in Whyte 129). By 1911 the figure was four million, half of the number before the potato blight.

So why write a novel about a tragedy that is over 150 years old?  Because it happened and should no longer stay hidden."

An imaginative and thoughtful author, O'Keefe has a real gift for the dialog and pace of the language of 19th century Ireland. His storytelling skills enliven Famine Ghost with the diaries of a young Johnjoe Kevane, the fifteen-year old boy, left on his own after his family is murdered. With authentic language, O'Keefe tells of the troubles which, I assure you, none of us living today would have the fortitude to endure.