The Irish are about as fouled up as the Jews and it’s going to
take me at least one thousand pages to set them straight.
—URIS TO IRVING STONE, 1974
URIS WAS NOT far off. It took him 751 pages to tell the story of Ireland in Trinity (1976), a novel that sold more than five million copies and stayed on the New York Times best-seller list for one hundred weeks. Preceding it was Ireland: A Terrible Beauty, coauthored with Jill. His interest in Ireland began in 1968, when he was in England to research QB VII. He had taken note of the Irish Troubles largely because the BBC nightly reported on the destruction and mayhem caused by sectarian violence.
As mentioned earlier, Uris and Jill stayed in Ireland over a nine-month period (May 1972–January 1973) so that Uris could conduct research for a new novel. Their visit coincided with one of the most violent years of the Troubles. Four hundred seventy-two people died; there were more than 10,500 shootings. Eighteen hundred bombs were planted, more than 41,000 pounds of explosives were found, and 531 people were charged with terrorist offences.1 Of course, the violence in Northern Ireland began before the Urises arrived. On 30 January 1972, fourteen unarmed men were shot dead by a British paratrooper regiment in Derry after a large civil rights rally. This became known as Bloody Sunday, which created a wave of anger throughout the Roman Catholic community (the protesters were Catholic, the soldiers mostly Protestant). The events of Bloody Sunday “definitely piqued [Uris’s] interest in writing a book,” Jill remarked.2
Uris and Jill lived through security curfews, bomb warnings, and other dangers. Visiting Derry just after several bombs exploded, they found themselves close to a gunfight. Dramatic photographs of a bombed-out grocery shop and car dealership appear in Ireland: A Terrible Beauty. In Belfast, they had to evacuate their hotel because of a bomb threat, which turned out to be a car bomb that was defused on the street. They were caught on a “border” street between Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods in Belfast when a gunfight broke out, and they had to hug the walls while Jill photographed the scene.3