Published in 1986 to augment a BBC television series, The Celts, the book proved timely. Celtic imagery had begun to find its way into popular culture; Celtic warriors had surfaced in cult fantasy books and comics; music with traditional sounds from Ireland and Brittany and Scotland had begun to be called 'Celtic'. The world seemed to be acknowledging that this early people had a mighty place in the formation of Europe - yet all the information about this civilization remained in the realm of the academic. Some books had been published (with lavish photography but cautious text) and many books had been derived from university studies, historical, linguistic, archaeological. But I wanted to read something accessible, a book that would tell me, in essence, whether I had indeed descended from these emphatic and slightly magical people. When the BBC invited me to write and present the television series, the book seemed a natural option.
"They have been called 'one of the greatest barbarian peoples of the world'. An impression of the Celts persists that portrays them as wild, excitable, ferocious and uncivilized - in their latter manifestations much given to drink, song and entertainment. In truth, despite their numerical smallness, they made a major and exciting contribution to western civilization, as Frank Delaney shows in his new book, a companion to the BBC2 television series.
The Celts is a personal quest in which Delaney discovers the truth about his forefathers. Beginning in the plains of Hungary, through Austria, Switzerland, southern Germany and France, into Scotland, Wales and the west of Ireland, he traces the origins, growth, flowering and eventual decline of a people whose very name conjures romance and adventure.
In this first major popular book on the subject, Delaney brushes away the cliches and feyness of the Celts and describes a people once so significant and powerful that they sacked Rome, penetrated the sacred heart of Greece by pillaging Delphi and attracted the name 'the fathers of Europe'.
With lavish colour and black and white illustrations, The Celts is far more than the book of the television series, extending beyond the six BBC2 programmes. With the enthusiasm that hallmarks his two previous books, James Joyce's Odyssey and Betjeman Country, Frank Delaney once again informs as he entertains."
From a (Welsh) online reader...
"An interesting history of the 'Fathers of Europe', tracing their migration from the plains of Hungary to the Celtic Fringe countries of today. An insightful account of their thinking and culture, although the whole book is highly biased in favour of Irish history as oppose to a true balanced view of the Celts as a whole. Would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in ancient history."
Still in print in paperback; the hardback is currently out of print, but may be available at secondhand and antiquarian bookshops and websites. Links to Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk are provided above.
Described by NPR as "the most eloquent man in the world," writer and broadcaster Frank Delaney has interviewed more than 3500 of the world's most important writers over three decades, but it's now his turn to be interviewed by Lynne Nolan for the Dublin Writers Festival.
One of Frank Delaney's most endearing new projects, a series of short stories produced as e-books called, "Storytellers," began as a means of introducing his novel "The Last Storyteller," in which the character of an itinerant Irish Seanchai is central to the plot.