Former barrister bases first novel on his own ambitions

Henry Murphy in Canillas de Albaida with his new novel.
Henry Murphy in Canillas de Albaida with his new novel. / SUR
  • Henry Murphy came to live in Spain in 2014 and, like the main character in his new novel, he has always had a desire to write

A former barrister who now lives in Spain has recently published his first novel, Tilting at Windmills: a Spanish Year Chasing a Novel Dream.

Henry Murphy came to live in Spain in 2014 and, like the main character in his new novel, he has always had a desire to write. The novel is set in the town that the author now calls home, Canillas de Albaida, a 'pueblo blanco' nestled in the mountains of the Axarquia region of Malaga.

Born in Dublin in 1949, Henry had an interesting life prior to arriving in Spain: as well as working as a teacher in Calcutta during the Indo-Pakistan War, the keen rugby player toured Argentina with the Irish rugby squad at the beginning of the 1970s. He enjoyed a distinguished career at the bar for more than 40 years; after which, he headed to Spain to do something he had always dreamed about: write a novel.

Established author

The mild-mannered author is well-established as a writer, a career he embarked on shortly before retiring from the bar. He is the author of the Dermot McNamara courtroom series, a set of short-stories based on a young Irish barrister who treads his way through the halls of justice of Ireland.

"I qualified as a barrister before I went to India. When I returned, I entered the Law Library in Dublin. Between work and family there wasn't time for anything else. However, I had always had a bit of a hankering after writing. In the '90s, when I was in my forties, I made a bit of time to try short stories," Henry explains to SUR in English.

The title of his new book is a reference to Don Quijote, which Henry declares to "have never read". The novel focuses on a barrister who decides to take a year out and head off to Spain. The story-line follows him through a year in Andalucía, pursuing his ambition at the same time as coming to terms with his changed environment. His new neighbours, both Spanish and expatriate, and life in an old village which preserves its traditional ways despite times of change, are all observed and described with humorous understanding.

"After the short stories, my publisher said he wanted a novel. My wife was all on. We discussed it and eventually she went online and found us a house to rent in a village in the mountains of Andalucía. We had never lived in a village so everything was new, including Spanish," the author says.

Henry's original idea was rejected by his publisher, so he decided to concentrate on his surroundings as a theme for the novel.

"I had no idea what I was going to write about. Eventually I came up with a sort of year in Canillas, which was rejected. I went back to the drawing board and eventually produced Tilting at Windmills," the humble Irishman declares.

At first, Henry wondered if the idea of the book was "just pie in the sky", but he was soon spending hours alone in his writing room creating the story of a man who goes to Spain to write a novel: a novel that certainly seems to be a reflection of Henry's own life.

The book, which is receiving five-star reviews on Amazon, has been praised as 'a novel that stands out as being something refreshingly different.'

He is currently busy promoting his new novel, but he longs to get back to his writing.

"When the dust settles, I would like to return to my collection of short stories involving Dermot McNamara, which is nearly ready to go," Henry concludes.