It was one of those eerie Irish coincidences: the day PW caught up with Irish historian Tim Pat Coogan in Dublin just happened to be the 79th anniversary of the assassination of Irish revolutionary and statesman Michael Collins. "It's incredible what's happening over here," Coogan said breathlessly into the phone. "On the radio this morning [Irish political parties] Fianna Fáil and Fine Gael were both trying to claim Michael Collins as 'theirs'—and he has absolutely nothing to do with either of them!" It's vintage Coogan—bluntly and delightfully outspoken.

Coogan is probably best known for his biography, Michael Collins (1992), which was the basis for the 1996 movie starring Liam Neeson and directed by Neil Jordan. Now, he's celebrating the publication of Wherever Green Is Worn: The Story of the Irish Diaspora by Palgrave (dist. by St. Martin's) later this month. In fact, several of his books—including the acclaimed biographies Michael Collins and Eamon DeValera, plus his definitive histories, The IRA, The Troubles and On the Blanket—will be reissued in 2002 in trade paperback by Palgrave. Coogan recently reacquired the rights to the books from their previous U.S. publishers, Roberts Rinehart and HarperCollins.

"Coogan's books on the IRA and Michael Collins have never been surpassed by other writers," said Michael Flamini, v-p and editorial director of Palgrave. "When I heard that he was looking around for a new publisher a few years ago at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and that the subject of Wherever Green Is Worn was the history of the Irish diaspora, I went after it immediately." Palgrave will go out with 25,000 copies of the hefty $35 hardcover volume and back it with signings and media appearances in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C., in late September and early October.

But Flamini isn't stopping there: "I wanted all of Tim Pat for Palgrave." The IRA and The Troubles are scheduled to be published in January 2002. Collins, DeValera and On the Blanket are due in May 2002, all with coordinated book jackets.

Coogan clearly loves the minutiae of Irish history, easily turning the conversation to Collins's validation of the notorious "Black Diaries" of Sir Roger Casement, a leader of the 1916 uprising who was hung by the British for treason. The debate on the authenticity of the diaries—which were used to prove that Casement engaged in illegal homosexual acts and helped justify his execution—has recently been revived. Coogan, of course, has his own unique perspective: "Collins was a very intelligent guy and highly sexed himself. He'd been in prison and he would know the urge is the urge. So he would have taken a very cold, pragmatic view of [Casement's sexuality]."

The story of the Irish diaspora is long overdue in being told. "It's the first time," Coogan insisted, "that someone has tried to go in the footsteps of the diaspora and the footsteps of the emigrants. One of the many shames of Ireland is the way we turned our back on them. The reason for immigration is very much rooted in the whole history of the country. There are two forms of colonialism in Ireland's history—Mother England and Mother Church. Both of those colonialisms had a huge effect, not only on the Irish in Ireland, but on the Irish abroad—and in driving the Irish out of Ireland."

Coogan recalls that the Irish built canals in New Orleans when no one else would do the job. "At the time, slave owners wouldn't let their valuable property work on the project because of the diseases," he explained. "But the Irish were glad for the work, though some died doing it. I know it's crude symbolism and it's a bit schmaltzy in some ways, but it is a fact that they came literally from that stench to the scent of the Rose Garden."