Author Dolley Carlson – a third generation Irish-American with Southie roots – has written her first novel, The Red Coat, about the contrasting lives of working-class Irish from South Boston and upper-class Brahmins from Beacon Hill set in the 1940’s and 1950’s. Think Downton Abbey set in the heart of Boston.
We recently sat down and chatted with Dolly about her book. Here’s the Q&A:
How long did you live in Southie for?
I’m a third generation Southie “girl.” All of my grandparents lived in Southie. My mother’s parents emigrated from County Galway, Ireland and they lived in a three-decker on E. 8th Street. My mother and father grew up in Southie. My mother went to Gate of Heaven and my father went to public schools. I lived in Southie for seven years as a little girl and I went to St. Augustine’s. I remember everything so well. From street peddlers with horse drawn wagons, door to door salesmen (insurance, photographers, Fuller Brush man . . .) and the Saint Patrick’s Day parades. After my family moved to Jamaica Plain we went back to Southie all the time for Castle Island walks, days at Carson Beach, fried clams & fries and to visit relatives. My father was a BPD patrolman out of Station 3 (later a detective) and when we lived in Southie my mother waitressed at Steuben’s downtown a couple of nights a week. Saint Augustine’s was our parish.
Dolly and her family at Old Colony apartment on Pilsudski Way in the early ’50s.
Where do you live now?
I live in California now. But Southie will always be the home of my heart. My husband and I come back every Christmas for the Laboure Home tour where I had book signings this year. I’m thankful to say that the book sold out at both events and people have been sending me the nicest comments. We sometimes come back in the spring too. We’ll be back this May for sure.
Favorite childhood memory?
My favorite childhood memory of Southie is summers at Carson Beach. My mother would take my brother Bobby and me to the beach in the morning. Then home again to a lunch of pancakes or Franco American spaghetti. Afterwards, into the tub we’d go – and then she’d cover us and our beds with Johnson’s Baby Powder to counter the stickiness of the humidity and to promote long naps.
What inspired you to write The Red Coat?
The inspiration for my historical novel, The Red Coat – A Novel of Boston, circa 1941 – 1955 was born out of love, my love for Boston and its people, and my love for my parents and grandparents and the road they traveled. And also out of Boston pride – The book takes place throughout Boston but most of it happens in Southie.
Many current stories about Southie feature crime and I wanted to emphasize the heart and soul of the people who cared, people who had a passion for community and celebration, people who lived, many times, challenging, but still really good lives. The Red Coat has vintage photos in the margins – churches, Kelly’s, three-decker, Joe’s Spa (ask older generations about this one :)) . . .and side-notes too.
Tell me about the cover art work:
I just want to say how grateful I am for the beautiful cover that Southie’s own renown watercolorist, Dan McCole created. With his great talent and heart for Boston, Dan readily captured the emotion of the story and the beauty of the city while producing this wonderful work of art!
Where can people purchase The Red Coat?
In Southie, at Fresh As A Daisy (29 Farragut Road) and in Boston at Blackstone’s of Beacon Hill – at 46 Charles Street. It’s also available on Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com It may also be purchased at The Red Coat website – www.theredcoatboston.com Personally signed copies available upon request.
Will you be in Boston for a book signing or anything?
Yes, I can hardly wait to come back! I have a book signing at Blackstone’s on Charles Street the day of the Secret Gardens of Beacon Hill tour on Thursday, May 21st.
Dolley will be in town for a book signing on Wednesday, May 20th from 5pm-7pm at Fresh as a Daisy Boutique – 29 Farragut Road. Copies of the Red Coat will be available for purchase. Wine and cheese will be served.