Roger Ekirch


On his book The True Story that Inspired Kidnapped

Cover Interview of January 24, 2010

A close-up

The prologue of Birthright is the portion to which I devoted the most energy.  If it does not capture the reader’s imagination, chances are that the rest of the book will not either. Commencing with the sudden death of Annesley’s father, Baron Altham, the prologue recounts James’s life as a street waif, climaxing with his abduction and being placed aboard a ship in Dublin Bay bound for America.  Legal records, maps, city records, even a diary of Dublin’s weather allowed me to reconstruct this remarkable sequence of events, which is cast, unlike the remainder of the book, in the present tense.

Still and all, readers, I like to think, will profit from reading the book’s final chapter, entitled “A Note on Legal Sources.”  The prose is more analytical, but I use this opportunity to sort out the conflicting legal testimony surrounding Annesley’s efforts to reclaim his birthright—to explain, in short, why I found the arguments in his favor very difficult to refute.