Thomas A. McMahon

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Ira Foxglove
Copyright © 2003 Carol Ehlers McMahon
Brook Street Press

Publication date: February 16, 2004

Brook Street Press is pleased to announce a posthumous novel by a writer who has been compared to Gabriel García Márquez and Kurt Vonnegut. Ira Foxglove is a tale of the heart—both real and imagined — that revolves around a talented scientist whose own heart has been broken physically and spiritually. In an odyssey to repair both Ira ventures on a fantastical journey by blimp to try and recover his fractured family. Along the way he also works on an unorthodox creation of a prosthetic heart. In his unique combination of science, fantasy, humor, and a deep understanding of our constant search for love, McMahon weaves a story that deepens with each reading.

Ira Foxglove introduces us to a world of unique characters: Ira, with his invention of inflatable fabrics that never get dirty; Neptune, a blimp pilot who likes to use his airship for Icelandic fishing trips; Portia, the estranged wife and full-contact competitive swimmer; and Peaches, a student at a mime school in Paris.

Loving Little Egypt
Copyright © 1987 by Thomas McMahon
Viking Press

"A hilarious, wonderful book!" -- Tracy Kidder

Thomas McMahon's extraordinary new novel is an adventure story the way Huckleberry Finn and the Horatio Alger books are adventure stories, a romance the way Scott Fitzgerald's boy-meets-girl stories are romances. It's about a young man named Mourly Vold, a nearly blind physics prodigy who in the early 1920's discovers a way to tap into the long-distance telephone lines and set up a communications network with other blind people nationwide - to the horror of William Randolph Hearst (who believes they're part of a Mexican anarchist plot to infiltrate the U.S.) and with the blessing of Alexander Graham Bell (who with his deaf wife, Mable, becomes a kind of mentor and foster father to Mourly).

How Mourly falls into, and then escapes, the clutches of the robber barons who control the telephone system; how he decides, regretfully, to renounce the haven of the Bells' Cape Breton retreat and strike out on his own; how he finds love on a bus through West Virginia; how he and his motley crew join forces with the eccentric, pigeon-fancying physicist Nikola Tesla to outwit Hearst and his crony Thomas Edison, and exact a fitting vengeance from them - all this, and more, forms an enthralling tale that is made even more alluring by McMahon's blending of narrative with scientific and philosophical insight and trivia, and by the frequent intrusions of "real" historical characters like the Bells, Edison, Hearst, Einstein, Sarah Bernhardt, and others.

Funny, wistful, surprisingly erotic, and endlessly fascinating, Loving Little Egypt begins like a fairy tale, builds to a thumping climax, and ends with a marriage feast. It is a magnificent achievement, the work of a dazzlingly talented and humane writer who has reached his prime.

McKay's Bees
Copyright © 1979 by Thomas McMahon
Harper & Row

The year is 1855. Gordon McKay, a man of means, has decided to lead an expedition from Massachusetts to Kansas, where he plans to make a fortune keeping bees. McKay's imagination has been fired by a book about bees: their incedible fecundity and productivity. Presumably one hive can be expanded into several each year, and each hive can produce 100 pounds of honey. His bees will create an empire for McKay.

His wife, Catherine, and her brother, Colin, go along. They travel via New Orleans, where McKay buys a steamboat and invites a group of Germans to join them. (The Germans are to make music boxes for sale until the bees start producing.) At the last minute they take aboard a pair of alligators, with the intention of breeding them, and the journey upriver begins merrily. But before long it is beset with disasters- they are attacked by Missouri border ruffians and their boat runs aground. One calamity, however, turns out to be a blessing. When their alcoholic pilot abandons them, the remarkable William Sewell turns up to take his place- the most humane of men and a passionate naturalist. It is thanks to Sewell that the newcomers, once they have reached Kansas and are settled into the grand hotel that has been built to receive them, discover the marvelous and unfamiliar plants and creatures thriving on the prairie.

Sewell knows about bees, too, and when McKay's bees succumb to a mysterious disease, he urges a quick trip back east to consult the author of the book that started the whole thing. Along the way Colin falls in love with a mysterious and magical girl; left alone in Kansas, Catherine, missing her brother far more than she misses her husband, toys with what consolation she can find. And by the time they are all reunited in the West, Sewell has had a head-on confrontation with the great Louis Agassiz of Harvard, nearly all McKay's bees are dead, and Lawrence, Kansas, has been sacked in a border-ruffian raid.

We now recogize these years as a watershed in our history- the
slavery-abolitionist fury would soon split the country in two; westward expansion was underway, industrialism was on the rise, and Darwin's ORIGIN was thundering offstage. But, to the people in these pages, all this is peripheral. They live their lives and pursue their goals inconvenienced but hardly deflected by the cataclysmic events around them-the way most of us live now. And their story, filled with love and humor and folly and steadfastness, and with vibrantly realized men and woman, is a joy and a wonder. It confirms a major talent.

"A marvel of brains, brevity and sharp description." --TIME

"Don't miss it...funny, vibrant, and human...a gem."

"That wit, irony, gentleness, passion and knowledge conspire so successfully is a wonder of craft."--John Leonard, NEW YORK TIMES

"A complete surprise, with a lilt and a bite of its own."

"Exhilarating...warmed by a tender sensuality and illuminated by the most specific details."

Principles of American Nuclear Chemistry: A Novel
Copyright © 1970 by Thomas McMahon
Published by Little, Brown and Company

PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY: A NOVEL is a startling and highly original work of fiction, which paradoxically combines the lightest gaiety with the deepest sense of corruption. Told through he eyes of Timmy McLaurin, whose father is an atomic physicist, the novel captures the special excitement -intellectual, sexual, emotional- which surrounded the Los Alamos laboratories in 1943-1945 and which caught up so many men and woman in a scientific project of terrifying import. For Timmy, the atmospheric excitement was directly associated with Maryann, his father's beautiful, elusive mistress. But, for some reason, the vitality, the feeling of the community vanished. Was it because of Maryann's disappearance? Had she been the inspiration for the technological triumphs at Los Alamos? Through the eyes of a child now grown, Thomas McMahon extracts the bittersweet mood of the most remarkable collective effort in the history of science and conveys an overwhelming sense of destiny-good and evil.

"From the somber afternoon of the nuclear age, two physicists, father and son, look back at its dawn. The elder had helped to build the bomb. The younger had been blighted by it...The chemistry in PRINCIPLES OF AMERICAN NUCLEAR CHEMISTRY: A NOVEL is not of science, but of flesh and blood." -- Time

"How could there, in so lunatic a setting as Los Alamos, have been so much warmth and truth of human presence? Why was the science of the bomb-the deliberate manufacture of monstrosity-science at its intellectual, psychological best? Mr. McMahon's enterprise is of considerable moral and literary value." -- George Steiner, The New Yorker

"Few novels have caught so exactly this illusion of potency: the intoxication of scientists on the hunt. But...what began as scientific creativity has run away into a...madness of know-how." -- Life

"Brilliant and important." -- Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

"Genuinely original." -- C.P. Snow

"Strangely compelling." -- J.P. Priestly

"An extraordinary novel for its author to have written." ----William Cooper, Nature