A historical novel set in Roxbury Crossing and written by a Mission Hill native will debut on June 16 with a celebration at the Mission Bar & Grill.
“The Rising at Roxbury Crossing” by James Redfearn follows a local rookie cop caught up in the Boston Police strike and the Irish war for independence in the tumultuous year of 1919.
“It’s a fascinating period in Boston history,” Redfearn said in a Gazette interview last week. “History carries the story.”
A retired State Police trooper, Redfearn grew up in the Mission Main public housing development, then known simply as the Mission Hill project, in 1947 to 1962. His undergrad degree in political science included a minor in history, and he holds a graduate degree in writing from Harvard.
The hero of his debut novel, Willie Dwyer, is also a local. The fictional police rookie is assigned to the real-life Station 10 in Roxbury Crossing, which once stood on Tremont Street just past Terrace Street.
“Willie lives in a rooming house on Iroquois Street. Mission Church has a small role in [the novel], too,” Redfearn said.
Another local touch is a fictional diner in Brigham Circle called The Switch, based on a real bar of the same name that once stood there, Redfearn said.
In the novel, Dwyer emigrates to Boston from Ireland, but finds himself haunted by a secret from his past in the Irish independence movement.
The year 1919 was a time of radical politics and the rise of the labor movement. The Russian Revolution had recently occurred, sparking the first Red Scare era, and there was a local Bolshevik workers’ party that operated from a Terrace Street office, Redfearn said. That year, thousands of people packed every inch of Fenway Park to hear Éamon de Valera, president of the Irish republic, solicit funds for what would soon become the Anglo-Irish War. And Boston Police officers, many of them from Irish immigrant families, went on a landmark strike to protest terrible working conditions.
Redfearn was drawn into this history when he did some family research and discovered that his father-in-law’s father had been one of the striking police officers.
“I think they were honorable men,” Redfearn said of the police strikers. “What the strike was, was a struggle for political control of the city.”
It was a time of veterans returning from a war, high unemployment, high cost of living and political unrest. Redfearn said that some similarities can be seen in modern society.
“History does repeat itself,” he said. A press release about the novel says that its “themes of compassionate immigration, justice in the workplace and cultural freedom resonate today.”
“The Rising at Roxbury Crossing” has been available since February, but the upcoming Mission Hill event is considered its official launch party. Redfearn said it will be more a “celebration” than a book-reading, and the Boston Police Gaelic Column of Pipes and Drums is expected to perform. The June 16 event will run 5-8 p.m. at the Mission Bar & Grill, 724 Huntington Ave. in Brigham Circle.