Liam O'Flaherty was born August 28, 1896, in Gort Capall in the islands off the coast of Ireland. He attended Junior Seminary at Rockwell, Blackrock College, and Holy Cross College, a diocesan seminary in Dublin, and at University College in Dublin, he studied medicine. Later, O'Flaherty served in World War I after joining the British military in 1915. After he was injured and became shell-shocked, he worked as a seaman on ships traveling in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, eventually finding work in the United States and Canada where O'Flaherty became interested in Socialism and the Industrial Workers of the World. While living with his brother, who also was an author, Liam O'Flaherty was urged to write. Unfortunately, he considered his first attempts to write short stories failures and burned several of them. After returning to Ireland, O'Flaherty led a group of dockers in Dublin in taking the Rotunda and raising the red Communist flag it in January 1922; however, the affair was short-lived, and O'Flaherty was forced to travel to London, England. It was there that he began his writing career.
In the January of 1923, O'Flaherty published his short story, "The Sniper," in The New Leader. Edward Garnett became O'Flaherty's literary mentor, advising him to "focus his fiction on life in western Ireland" (Robb) and was instrumental in getting O'Flaherty's novel, Thy Neighbour's Wife (1923), accepted by the London publisher, Jonathan Cape. O'Flaherty's first major success, however, was The Informer. The 1920's became years of great success; O'Flaherty wrote and published several novels and large quantities of short stories.
In 1926, Liam O'Flaherty eloped with Margaret Barrington and published Mr. Gihooley.
After traveling to the Soviet Union in 1930, O'Flaherty had an experience that changed his belief in Communism. He later wrote about this experience in I Went to Russia. In 1923, O'Flaherty and several other prominent writers created the Irish Acadamy of Letters. Three of his novels were filmed in the 1930's, including The Informer, which won two Academy Awards in 1935. He also published Skerrett and Famine which are considered by critics to be two of his best novels. O'Flaherty continued to produce volumes of short stories, many of which deal with life in rural Ireland or with the animal kingdom.
O'Flaherty had a wide range of beliefs and experiences which influenced his works. "O'Flaherty's range of style and subject and the erratic quality of his prose make it difficult to characterize his work simply" (Cyclopedia of World Authors); however, some common themes and recurrent writing traits can be drawn from his works.
Because of his background in western-Ireland and experiences in revolution, O'Flaherty often included the Irish culture and settings in his works. He uses descriptions that are very clear to the reader. "A discussion of O.'s fiction would not be complete without stressing his excellent use of visual detail that particularly enriches such often-praised animal stories as "The Rockfish" (1923), "The Blackbird" (1924), "The Wounded Cormorant" (1925), and, especially, "The Conger Eel" (1924), in which the reader comes to feel the power and grace of the eel in its habitat and the force that drives it to escape the fishermen's net" (Robb). Other critics describe O'Flaherty as being, "more naturalistic and forceful in his writing than the others..." and "unconcerned with style" (Robb).
After he died September 7, 1984, Liam O'Flaherty had successfully published sixteen fictional novels, five nonfiction accounts, and fourteen collections of short stories.