Roddy Doyle

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Roddy Doyle
Doyle in c. 2006
Doyle in c. 2006
BornRoderick Doyle
(1958-05-08) 8 May 1958 (age 66)
Dublin, Ireland
OccupationNovelist, dramatist, short story writer, screenwriter, teacher
Alma materUniversity College Dublin
SubjectWorking-class Dublin
Notable worksThe Barrytown Trilogy, Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, The Woman Who Walked into Doors, A Star Called Henry
SpouseBelinda Moller (m. 1989)

Roddy Doyle (born Roderick Doyle, 8 May 1958)[1] is an Irish novelist, dramatist and screenwriter. He is the author of eleven novels for adults, eight books for children, seven plays and screenplays, and dozens of short stories. Several of his books have been made into films, beginning with The Commitments in 1991. Doyle's work is set primarily in Ireland, especially working-class Dublin, and is notable for its heavy use of dialogue written in slang and Irish English dialect. Doyle was awarded the Booker Prize in 1993 for his novel Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha.

Personal life[edit]

Doyle was born in Dublin and grew up in Kilbarrack, in a middle-class family.[2] His mother, Ita (née Bolger) was a first cousin of the short story writer Maeve Brennan.[3]

In addition to teaching, Doyle, along with Seán Love,[4] established a creative writing centre, "Fighting Words", which opened in Dublin in January 2009. It was inspired by a visit to his friend Dave Eggers' 826 Valencia project in San Francisco.[5] He has also engaged in local causes, including signing a petition supporting journalist Suzanne Breen, who faced gaol for refusing to divulge her sources in court,[6] and joining a protest against an attempt by Dublin City Council to construct 9 ft-high barriers which would interfere with one of his favourite views.[7][8][9][10]

In 1989, Doyle married Belinda Moller.[11] She is the granddaughter of former Irish President Erskine Childers.[12] They have three children; Rory, Jack and Kate.

Doyle is an atheist.[13]


Doyle attended University College Dublin, where he studied English and geography, and graduated with a BA in 1979.[14] He went on to complete a Higher Diploma in Education (HDipEd) in 1980. He spent several years as an English and geography teacher before becoming a full-time writer in 1993.[15]


Doyle's writing is marked by heavy use of dialogue between characters, with little description or exposition.[16] His work is largely set in Ireland, with a focus on the lives of working-class Dubliners. Themes range from domestic and personal concerns to larger questions of Irish history. His personal notes and workbooks reside at the National Library of Ireland.[17]

Novels for adults[edit]

Doyle's first three novels, The Commitments (1987), The Snapper (1990) and The Van (1991) compose The Barrytown Trilogy, a trilogy centred on the Rabbitte family. All three novels were made into successful films.

The Commitments is about a group of Dublin teenagers, led by Jimmy Rabbitte Jr., who decide to form a soul band in the tradition of Wilson Pickett. The novel was made into a film in 1991. The Snapper, made into a film in 1993, focuses on Jimmy's sister, Sharon, who becomes pregnant. She is determined to have the child but refuses to reveal the father's identity to her family. In The Van, which was shortlisted for the 1991 Booker Prize and made into a film in 1996, Jimmy Sr. is laid off, as is his friend Bimbo; the two buy a used fish and chips van and they go into business for themselves.

In 1993, Doyle published Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, winner of the 1993 Booker Prize, which showed the world as described, understood and misunderstood by a ten-year-old Dubliner living in 1968.

Doyle's next novel dealt with darker themes. The Woman Who Walked into Doors, published in 1996, is the story of a battered wife, Paula Spencer, who was introduced in his 1994 television series Family, and is narrated by her. Despite her husband's increasingly violent behaviour, Paula defends him, using the classic excuse "I walked into a door" to explain her bruises. Ten years later, the protagonist returned in Paula Spencer, published in 2006.

Doyle's most recent trilogy of adult novels is The Last Roundup series, which follows the adventures of protagonist Henry Smart through several decades. A Star Called Henry (published 1999) is the first book in the series, and tells the story of Henry Smart, an IRA volunteer and 1916 Easter Rebellion fighter, from his birth in Dublin to his adulthood when he becomes a father. Oh, Play That Thing! (2004) continues Henry's story in 1924 America, beginning in the Lower East Side of New York City, where he catches the attention of local mobsters by hiring kids to carry his sandwich boards. He also goes to Chicago where he becomes a business partner with Louis Armstrong. The title is taken from a phrase that is shouted in one of Armstrong's songs, "Dippermouth Blues".[citation needed] In the final novel in the trilogy, The Dead Republic (published 2010), Henry collaborates on writing the script for a Hollywood film. He returns to Ireland and is offered work as the caretaker in a school when circumstances lead to him re-establishing his link with the IRA.

Doyle frequently posts short comic dialogues on his Facebook page which are implied to be between two older men in a pub, often relating to current events in Ireland (such as the 2015 marriage referendum[18]) and further afield. These developed into the novella Two Pints (2012). Other recent works are The Guts (2013), which continues the story of the Rabbitte family from the Barrytown Trilogy, focusing on a 48-year-old Jimmy Rabbite and his diagnosis of bowel cancer[19] and Two More Pints (2014).

Novels for children[edit]

Doyle has also written many novels for children, including the "Rover Adventures" series,[20] which includes The Giggler Treatment (2000), Rover Saves Christmas (2001), and The Meanwhile Adventures (2004).

Other children's books include Wilderness (2007), Her Mother's Face (2008), and A Greyhound of a Girl (2011).

Plays, screenplays, short stories and non-fiction[edit]

Doyle is also a prolific dramatist, composing four plays and two screenplays. His plays with the Passion Machine Theatre Company include Brownbread (1987) and War (1989), directed by Paul Mercier with set and costume design by Anne Gately. Later plays include The Woman Who Walked into Doors (2003); and a rewrite of The Playboy of the Western World (2007) with Bisi Adigun. This latter play was the subject of litigation about copyright which ended with the Abbey Theatre agreeing to pay Adigun €600,000.[21]

Screenplays include the television screenplay for Family (1994), which was a BBC/RTÉ serial and the forerunner of the 1996 novel The Woman Who Walked into Doors. Doyle also authored When Brendan Met Trudy (2000), which is a romance about a timid schoolteacher (Brendan) and a free-spirited thief (Trudy).

Doyle has written many short stories, several of which have been published in The New Yorker; they have also been compiled in two collections. The Deportees and Other Stories was published in 2007, while the collection Bullfighting was published in 2011. Doyle's story "New Boy" was adapted into a 2008 Academy Award-nominated short film directed by Steph Green.[22]

Rory and Ita (2002) is a work of non-fiction about Doyle's parents, based on interviews with them.[2]

The Commitments was adapted by Doyle for a musical which began in the West End in 2013.[23]

Two Pints (2017) was produced by the Abbey Theatre initially in pubs and later in the theatre itself.[24]

In 2018 the Gate Theatre commissioned Doyle to write a stage adaptation of The Snapper. The show was directed by Róisín McBrinn and was revived in 2019.[25]

Awards and honours[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

In the television series Father Ted, the character Father Dougal McGuire's unusual sudden use of (mild) profanities (such as saying "I wouldn't know, Ted, you big bollocks!") is blamed on his having "been reading those Roddy Doyle books again".[32]



The Barrytown Pentalogy
Paula Spencer novels
The Last Roundup

Short fiction[edit]

Title Year First published Reprinted/collected Notes
Recuperation 2003 Doyle, Roddy (15 December 2003). "Recuperation". The New Yorker.
Vincent 2007 "Vincent". Click. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. 2007.
Ash 2010 Doyle, Roddy (24 May 2010). "Ash". The New Yorker. Vol. 86, no. 14. pp. 64–67.
Box sets 2014 Doyle, Roddy (14 April 2014). "Box sets". The New Yorker. Vol. 90, no. 8. pp. 62–66.
  • "The Slave" (2000)[34]
  • "Teaching" (2007)[35]
  • "The Dog" (2007)[36]
  • "Bullfighting" (2008)[37]
  • "The Child" (2004)[38]
  • "Sleep" (2008).[39]
  • "The Bandstand" (2009)[40]
  • "Brilliant" (2011)[41]
  • Not Just for Christmas (1999) (part of the Open Door Series of novellas for adult literacy)
  • Mad Weekend (2006) (part of the Open Door Series)
  • Two Pints (2012)
  • Two More Pints (2014)
  • Two for the Road (2019)
  • Dead Man Talking (2015) (part of the Quick Reads Initiative)


  • Brownbread (1987)
  • War (1989)
  • Guess Who's Coming for the Dinner? (2001)
  • The Woman Who Walked into Doors (2003)
  • Rewrite of The Playboy of the Western World (2007) with Bisi Adigun
  • Two Pints (2017)
  • The Snapper (2018)


Children's books[edit]

  • Wilderness (2007)
  • Her Mother's Face (2008)
  • A Greyhound of a Girl (2011)
  • Brilliant
The "Rover Adventures" series
  • The Giggler Treatment (2000)
  • Rover Saves Christmas (2001)
  • The Meanwhile Adventures (2004)
  • Rover and the Big Fat Baby (2016)


  • Rory and Ita (2002) – about Doyle's parents
  • The Second Half (2014) – memoirs of Roy Keane[42]


  1. ^ "Ireland, Civil Registration Births Index, 1864-1958". Retrieved 9 December 2023.
  2. ^ a b Sbrockey, Karen (Summer 1999). "Something of a hero: An interview with Roddy Doyle". Literary Review. 42 (4): 537–552.
  3. ^ Angela Bourke, Maeve Brennan: Homesick at the New Yorker, 2004, Counterpoint Books, New York.
  4. ^ "The Work - Fighting Words Dublin".
  5. ^ Fighting Words web site
  6. ^ Mark Sweney, "John Pilger and Roddy Doyle back journalist over Real IRA interviews". The Guardian (London), 8 June 2009.
  7. ^ O'Regan, Mark. Roddy joins chorus of anger over flood barrier. Irish Independent. 17 October 2011.
  8. ^ Nihill, Cian. "Over 3,000 attend flood defence plan protest at Clontarf". The Irish Times. 17 October 2011.
  9. ^ "Clontarf residents protest over flood wall plans". 16 October 2011.
  10. ^ Murphy, Cormac. 5,000 turn out with Roddy Doyle to fight 9ft flood wall. Evening Herald. 17 October 2011.
  11. ^ "Notice of Marriage". Irish Press. 20 January 1989. p. 32. Retrieved 9 December 2023 – via Irish Newspaper Archives.
  12. ^ "Eldest daughter of Erskine Childers". The Irish Times. 22 March 2014.
  13. ^ Chilton, Martin. "Roddy Doyle interview". The Daily Telegraph. 22 September 2011. The 53-year-old Dubliner, who will be the headline performer at the start of the 10-day Telegraph Bath Festival of Children's Literature, said: "I'm an atheist so I suppose that was part of the challenge of writing about a ghost. Strictly speaking, I don't believe in anything.
  14. ^ Blackburn, Anna; Feb 18 2021, Natalia Duran |. "OTwo Interviews: Roddy Doyle". University Observer. Retrieved 6 January 2023.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ "The Times & The Sunday Times".
  16. ^ "Our experience of Barrytown and the people that live there is constructed through the interplay of language, as Doyle's texts consist primarily of dialogue between various characters with a minimum of narrative exposition." Matt McGuire (Spring 2006). "Dialect(ic) Nationalism?: The fiction of James Kelman and Roddy Doyle". Scottish Studies Review. 7 (1): 80–94.
  17. ^ Telford, Lyndsey (21 December 2011). "Seamus Heaney declutters home and donates personal notes to National Library". Irish Independent. Independent News & Media. Retrieved 21 December 2011.
  18. ^ Martin Doyle, "Roddy Doyle adds his Two Pints worth to marriage equality Yes vote campaign", The Irish Times, 1 May 2015.
  19. ^ Tait, Theo (3 August 2013). "Still singing the old songs". The Guardian Review. London. p. 5.
  20. ^ Roddy Doyle. (2012). In Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale. Retrieved from
  21. ^ Ronan McGreevy, "Abbey 'to pay €600,000' in dispute over play copyright", The Irish Times, 31 January 2013.
  22. ^ "New Boy". 27 February 2009 – via IMDb.
  23. ^ Brown, Mark (23 April 2013). "The Commitments West End". The Guardian. London.
  24. ^ "Two Pints - bringing Roddy Doyle's play on a pub crawl". RTÉ. 30 August 2018.
  25. ^ "The Snapper". Gate Theatre Dublin. Retrieved 2 January 2020.
  26. ^ Roddy Doyle The Royal Society of Literature. Retrieved: 2023-05-18.
  27. ^ "Royal Society of Literature: People". Archived from the original on 2 October 2012. Retrieved 22 January 2013.
  28. ^ "Roddy Doyle - Literature". Retrieved 15 January 2020.
  29. ^ Roddy Doyle’s ‘The Guts’ named novel of the year Irish Times, 2013-11-27.
  30. ^ Dundee, University of. "University To Honour Leading Figures : News".
  31. ^ "Novel Of the Year Award Shortlist 2021".
  32. ^ "TV Quotes Database". Retrieved 21 October 2020.
  33. ^ Short stories unless otherwise noted.
  34. ^ Middle-aged man reads Cold Mountain and obsesses over a dead rat.
  35. ^ Reflections of a spent, alcoholic teacher. The New Yorker, 2 April 2007. Teaching online text (2 April 2007)
  36. ^ A man ponders the gradual erosion of his marriage. New Yorker, 5 November 2007. The Dog online text
  37. ^ Four middle-aged friends from Ireland take a week's vacation in Spain and reflect on life. New Yorker, 28 April 2008. "Bullfighting online text"
  38. ^ An insomniac is constantly plagued by intrusive visions of a boy. McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories, 2004.
  39. ^ A man admires his wife while she is sleeping, reflecting also on his life with her. The New Yorker, 20 October 2008, The Sunday Times, 15 February 2009."Sleep at the New Yorker" (20 October 2008), The Sunday Times online text
  40. ^ A homeless Polish immigrant in Dublin comes to terms with money and his family. "San Francisco Panorama," 8 December 2009. Also, it was a work in progress published in monthly instalments in Dublin immigrant magazine Metro Éireann, and recently Dublin immigrant magazine "Metro Eireann" web site Archived 12 March 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  41. ^ March 2011 Brilliant written by Roddy Doyle for St. Patrick’s Festival Parade 2011 & Dublin UNESCO City of Literature Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine Full text on Doyle's website
  42. ^ "Roddy Doyle: Keane was fantastic to work with right down to the proof-reading". The Score ( 16 September 2014. Archived from the original on 4 October 2014. Retrieved 9 October 2014.

Further reading[edit]

  • "Roddy Doyle." Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale, 2012. [1]
  • Abel, Marco. "Roddy Doyle." British Novelists Since 1960: Second Series. Ed. Merritt Moseley. Detroit: Gale Research, 1998. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 194. [2]
  • Allen Randolph, Jody. "Roddy Doyle, August 2009." Close to the Next Moment: Interviews from a Changing Ireland. Manchester: Carcanet, 2010.
  • Boland, Eavan. "Roddy Doyle." Irish Writers on Writing. San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 2007.
  • McArdle, Niall. An Indecency Decently Put: Roddy Doyle and Contemporary Irish Fiction. (M.A. thesis, 1994, University College, Dublin)
  • McCarthy, Dermot. Roddy Doyle: Raining on the Parade. Dublin: Liffey Press, 2003.
  • Mouchel-Vallon, Alain. La réécriture de l'histoire dans les Romans de Roddy Doyle, Dermot Bolger et Patrick McCabe (PhD thesis, 2005, Reims University, France). [3]
  • Reynolds, Margaret, and Jonathan Noakes. Roddy Doyle: The Essential Guide. London: Random House, 2004.
  • White, Caramine. Reading Roddy Doyle. Syracuse: Syracuse UP, 2001.

External links[edit]

Works by Doyle
  • Archive of Doyle's short fiction for The New Yorker.
"The Photograph" (16 October 2006)
"The Joke" (29 November 2004)
Interviews and reviews