This is a historical novel about William Kean, a journalist and rebel in the 1790s, and of his newspaper, the Northern Star, which for a few short years outraged the gentry and propagated revolt throughout Ireland.  

Willie Kean is a real person. He was caught up in an extraordinary drama of intrigue, violence and betrayal, as the mainly Presbyterian population of Belfast and the adjacent counties simmered with revolutionary fervour, inspired by events in France and America.  

He tells the story himself in this imagined account of his turbulent life and loves during the years leading up to the rebellion of 1798.  His tale is interwoven with the historical figures of the day, including United Irishmen Wolfe Tone, Henry Joy McCracken and Thomas Russell, their oppressors, Castlereagh, Camden and the Crown forces, and many noted bit players, from the heroine Betsy Gray to the notorious portrait painter Edward Newell and the infamous prostitute Belle Martin. 

Willie Kean, along with many thousands of his kinfolk, fought British Crown forces for liberty and equality, for all the people of Ireland, only to be undone by treachery and superior arms in 1798.  Thousands were slaughtered and hundreds executed. How Willie Kean himself evaded the rope is in itself one of the great escape dramas of the times.


Belfast-born Conor O’Clery is a twice winner of Journalist of the Year in Ireland for his dispatches from around the world for The Irish Times. He is the author of a number of books, translated into several languages, including The Billionaire Who Wasn’t, a biography of the philanthropist, Chuck Feeney, which was ‘Book of the Year’ in both The Economist and Businessweek. His most recent book is Moscow, December 25, 1991, an account of the last day of the Soviet Union.

"A monumental achievement, clothed with a narrative skill honed through decades of top-class journalism" Deirdre Purcell

"The novel is a vibrant mixture of the frolicsome and the horrific, leaving you with a feeling that you’ve been dancing on skulls" Sunday Times

"The Star Man, an impressive blend of scholarship and inspiration, enumerates the causes of disruption and disaffection while keeping its tone lively and its narrative engaging" Irish Times

"Gripping" The Phoenix

"A rattling good tale…a thought-provoking thriller based on scholarship which I hope will encourage wider understanding of Northern Ireland and a greater respect for the northern Presbyterians" Dr David McConnell, Dublin Review of Books

"A vivid work of fiction by one of Ireland's most distinguished journalists casting new light on a fascinating historical period" David McKittrick

“A wonderful book. It breathes life into this neglected and fascinating part of our history”  Gerry Adams



ISBN: 978 0 9927364 60
Paperback with flaps

Historical Fiction
8 September 2016
Somerville Press