THE literary character Shane ‘Blackie’ O’Neill, from Co. Kerry, is a popular one, created by novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford.
But his name has meant that the proposed title of her latest book Blackie and Emma has had to be changed.
The prequel to the highly successful A Woman of Substance was due for imminent release. But at the last minute her publishers feared that the title Blackie and Emma might offend political correctness and asked her to come up with an alternative.
In A Woman of Substance and its prequel, Shane ‘Blackie’ O’Neill is an Irish builder turned navvy working on the canals of England.
He is a friend of the main protagonist Emma Harte.
Blackie was played by Liam Neeson in Channel 4’s 1985 TV adaptation, a three-part mini-series.
It remains the station’s most-watched production ever, peaking at nearly 14 million.
The book itself has sold 32 million copies worldwide.
The author, who is 86, spoke about the last minute change in the title in an interview with the Media Masters podcast, hosted by Paul Blanchard.
She told Blanchford the book will now be called Shane O’Neill and Emma Harte, and will flesh out the life of Shane.
As a 13-year-old, Blackie is orphaned in Co. Kerry.
He eventually leaves for a better life with his mother’s brother in Leeds
Barbara Taylor Bradford grew up in Yorkshire before moving to the US in 1963.
She considers Dublin historian and author Cornelius Ryan her literary mentor and a big influence on her writing.
Ryan, whose work includes A Bridge Too Far, was the first person outside her immediate family to whom she had confided her literary ambitions.
The full podcast with Barbara Taylor Bradford is available here.