Bloomsday Again

Bloomsday — james-joyce

21st Annual Celebration of Irish Arts

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Program: 4-9 p.m.

Drexel Hall, 15 W. Linwood, K.C. MO 64111

On Thursday, June 16, the Kansas City Irish Center presents the 21st annual “Bloomsday” celebration in honor of James Joyce’s novel, Ulysses.

Joyce’s Ulysses is the story of 24 hours in the life of Leopold Bloom who, like his Greek counterpart of old, confronts cyclops and sirens while navigating the streets, pubs and bordellos of 1904 Dublin in search of home. It’s a vivid portrait of a city and time never to be seen again.

In Ireland and around the world, June 16 is commemorated as “Bloomsday” and manifested by tributes to Joyce, marathon readings of Ulysses, and celebrations of Irish literature and music.



 Here’s a schedule of the festivities on June 16 at Drexel Hall, 15 W. Linwood:

  •  4-5:15 p.m.: A showing of the documentary Joyce to the World.
  • 5:30-6:45 p.m.: Local Irish troubadour Eddie Delahunt sings traditional Irish music.
  • 7-9 p.m.: The play BLOOMSDAY: DUBLIN, 16 JUNE, a script-in-hand dramatization directed by Katie Gilchrist and performed by the Bloomsday Players. The show culminates with the beautifully erotic soliloquy of Molly Bloom.

Admission is free. Free parking is available next to Drexel Hall. Parental discretion advised due to adult language and situations.

For more information: Nancy Wormington, executive director of the Irish Center at; 816-474-3848; or Tom Shawver,, 816-210-1290


A Down Under Coincidence

IMG_1642Sleet lashed against the beveled windows of the Wellesley Club bar as my wife and I settled into leather chairs next to a roaring fire.  I was knackered from my efforts on the rugby pitch earlier and was happy to have found this quiet shelter after a challenging, but immensely enjoyable, week in Wellington, New Zealand.

In November 2006, we had journeyed to this far side of the world with the Colorado ‘Ol Pokes, a harlequin team of mountain men and their significant others, to participate in the sixteenth international Golden Oldies Rugby Tournament.  Nancy and I are lowlanders from Kansas City, but the Pokes have welcomed us on these international forays that are held every two years alternating between countries in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Dating back to 1891, the Wellesley is housed in an historic brick and marble building on a secluded street near Wellington Harbor.  Stag heads and caricatures of old Wellington society grace the wood-paneled walls.  It’s the kind of place where the bartenders wear starched white vests, call women ‘madam’ and men ‘gentlemen,’ and serve wine from carafes.  Asking for a second helping of crumpets, Nancy and I felt like characters in a P.G. Wodehouse novel.  It’s not a rugby club, but it counts former All Blacks among its illustrious members.

IMG_1911cropBy 5 p.m. the rain had stopped and it was time to head back to our hotel.  On the walk along the harbor we came upon bronze plaques set in remembrance of the American 2nd Marine Division which had used Wellington as a staging point for the Pacific battles of World War II.  Seeing the eagle, globe and anchor emblem in that unlikely setting reminded me that it was November 10, the Marine Corps’ birthday.  My record was about to be broken—I hadn’t missed gathering with other Marines to celebrate the anniversary in more than thirty years, beginning with my days as a young lieutenant at Quantico.

I needn’t have worried, however, because by an extraordinary coincidence the Ball came to us.  That evening as Nancy and I left our hotel room for the final party of the rugby tournament, we were amazed to encounter two American Marines in the hallway in their “dress blues”.  They told us they were on their way to the birthday celebration being held in our hotel’s ballroom. The Marine detachment from the American embassy was hosting the formal bash for other foreign embassies and their military personnel.

IMG_1918Now, the Golden Oldies Rugby festival finale is not a shindig to be missed.  The Wellington extravaganza, held under the largest tent ever erected in New Zealand, would have multiple band stages, Maori dancers, tons of food and drink and the chance to swap stories and jerseys with over a thousand ruggers from every corner of the world.  But I wasn’t about to let the Corps’ 231st Birthday celebration pass me by either; not when it was going on right down the hall from our hotel room.

IMG_1925IMG_1924cropI introduced myself to Gunnery Sergeant James Sheppard, who was in charge of the event, and, after verifying my Leatherneck pedigree, he graciously invited us to attend later that evening.  Nancy and I went to the rugby gala on the wharf—it was as spectacular as promised—then returned to the hotel just before midnight to find the birthday ball in full swing.  True to his word, the gunny ushered us in and for the next few hours we shared cake and champagne with a whole new set of extraordinary people.

As has happened so many times in my long rugby career—which began when I was in the Marines—it was another experience to savor.

International rugby great in K.C.

When I began this blog five years ago one of my first entries was on a book about how an international rugby match was used by Nelson Mandela to bring black and white South Africans together.  The book was Playing the Enemy by John Carlin.  A few year later Clint Eastwood produced and directed the movie Invictus that was based on the true story.  Matt Damon played the role of Francois Pienaar, the inspirational captain of the Springboks, South Africa’s national team.  This past week Mr. Pienaar was in Kansas City to give a speech and my local rugby club had the opportunity to meet him.

Pienaar speakingHere is a report written by one of the K.C. Blues club members on the event:

The image of Francois Pienaar shaking hands with Nelson Mandela as the South African captain was presented with the Webb Ellis trophy at the 1995 World Cup at Ellis Park transcends sport and time.  A generation of rugby players and fans from that bygone amateur era look back on that World Cup in awe of the impact it has had on the social and racial integration in South Africa and around the world.  Twenty years later a new generation of athletes from the Kansas City Blues had the unique opportunity to hear Pienaar re-live the story of the Springbok’s 1995 Cup win – and the extraordinary relationship he shared with Mandela – that helped unite post-apartheid South Africa through the boundless power of character, perseverance, and forgiveness.  Invited to participate in an exclusive event for a local chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization (YPO) that featured Pienaar as the keynote speaker on April 16th, the Blues were the early entertainment as they held a closed training session and exhibition on the pitch of Sporting Park in Kansas City during the YPO’s sideline cocktail reception for its local chapter Members.  The Blues players and staff then had the honor to join the audience as guests during the former South African captain’s candid and inspiring address.Pienaar in K.C.

Standing at a podium on the field of the MLS’s Sporting Kansas City – upgraded with international rugby posts  for the event – Pienaar spoke about his career and his friendship with Mandela.  In the context of the parallels of sport and business, he shared his insights on the virtues of leadership, and the lessons that playing a game like rugby can impart on those who commit everything they have to an endeavor.  The Members of YPO are peers who share in common the achievement of success at an early age (chief executives and business leaders younger than 45), a commitment to learning as a lifelong adventure, and a desire to connect authentically in an environment of trust and confidentiality.  Drawing on the Members’ highly competitive nature as successful business leaders, Pienaar quoted Theodore Roosevelt’s famous lines from The Critic, sharing that “the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood.”   Closing in on the culmination of one of the Club’s most successful years in its 49-year history, the Kansas City Blues were fortunate to be in the company of such high achievers and to take part in a tremendously uplifting event.

After his address Francois spent time on the field with the Blues, and offered supportive advice as they head into the final weeks of their regular season.  With a 9-1-1 (12-1-1 overall) record in the Midwest Conference and a hold on first place, the Blues still have three league games to play but also have their sights set on something more.  Pienaar urged them to put everything have into their passion for the sport, and encouraged the players to push themselves beyond their physical and psychological limits to achieve something more.  While he emphasized the importance of the team throughout his address, Pienaar’s message for the Blues was that in the end, each player must decide for themselves if they’ve done all that they can to achieve their goals.  Emphasizing the role that strong individual character must play in the lives of people who do great things, he closed with the words from the influential poem The Man In The Glass by Wimbrow: “You may fool the whole world down the pathway of years; And get pats on the back as you pass; But your final reward will be heartache and tears; If you’ve cheated the man in the glass.”

The book man returns!

TThe Widow's Son_Shawverhe Widow’s Son, the third in the Michael Bevan book man mystery series published as an eBook by Penguin Random House, is due out July 7.

Here is a brief synopsis of the plot.

In 1844, Joseph Smith, the Mormon prophet, died at the hands of an angry mob who stormed his jail cell in Carthage, Illinois. Shortly after, a radical faction of Smith’s followers swore to avenge Smith’s death by killing not only the four men deemed most responsible, but to teach their heirs to eliminate future generations of the prophet’s murderers as well.

One hundred and seventy years later, rare book dealer Michael Bevan is offered a valuable first-edition Book of Mormon that bears a strange inscription hinting at blood atonement. Within days of handing the book over for authentication, the volume disappears and two people lie dead. Michael soon learns that his friend Natalie Phelan, whose only crime is her genealogy, is the likely next victim. One of her would-be murderers has fallen in love with her, another is physically incapable of carrying out the act, but other avenging angels remain on the loose.

When Natalie is kidnapped, Michael must venture into a clandestine camp of vengeful men hell-bent on ritual sacrifice. To save her life, the book dealer needs all his worldly courage, brawn, and wits. But to defeat fanatics driven by an unholy vision, a little divine intervention couldn’t hurt.

Left Turn at Paradise arrives August 26

The second in my mystery series featuring bookman Michael Bevan comes out as an eBook on August 26.  It’s published by Alibi, an imprint of Penguin Random House.  Here is a synopsis of the novel:

left turn at paradise by thomas shawver

Michael Bevan is barely scraping by with his used bookstore and rare book collection when he discovers a timeworn journal that may change everything. Dating back to 1768, the tattered diary appears to be a chronicle kept during the first of legendary seafarer Captain James Cook’s three epic voyages through the Pacific islands. If it’s as valuable as Mike thinks it is, its sale may just bring enough to keep his faltering used bookstore afloat for another year.

Then he meets a pair of London dealers with startling news: Adrian Hart and Penelope Wilkes claim to possess the journal of Cook’s second voyage. Is it possible a third diary exists? One which might detail Cook’s explosive final voyage—and his death at the hands of native Hawaiians? Together, all three would be the holy grail of Pacific exploration. But before Mike can act, the two journals are stolen.

Chasing them down will sweep Michael, Adrian, and Penelope across the globe—past a dead body or two—and into a very sinister slice of paradise. High in the Southern Alps of New Zealand, in a remote and secretive Maori compound, a secret rests in the hands in of a man daring enough to rewrite history — and desperate enough to kill.

Meet the Author!

Tom Shawver, owner and operator of the former Bloomsday Books, becomes a published author on May 13, when Random House releases his new e-book “The Dirty Book Murder.” It’s the first of a three-volume series, featuring murder and mayhem set in a Brookside used book store.DBM cover

Tom will be at Aixois Bistro, 301 E. 55th Street, from 3-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 17. He’ll do a brief reading from the novel at 3:30 p.m. and will take your questions after the reading.

The e-book is available from your favorite e-book store for $2.99.

Follow Thomas Shawver, Author, on Facebook ( and sign up for the Bloomsday Barflies email newsletter.


For the first time in years, my wife and I missed attending the Aspen Ruggerfest, one of the premier amateur sporting events in the country.  It occurs the third weekend of September when the Aspen trees are shimmering gold, the high peaks are crowned with snow and the weather is almost always lovely.   For years I played with the Kansas City Blues and when I got into my fifties continued to participate with a great group of mountain men called the Colorado Ol’ Pokes.  I’ve traveled with them to France, New Zealand, Scotland and Australia to play in the Golden Oldies Rugby tournaments sponsored by Air New Zealand.  My wife and I were attending the Bouchercon Mystery Writers conference in St. Louis and couldn’t go to Aspen this year, but we got word that one of our new players who is age 50-something suffered two broken leg bones in his first old boys game.  Another, after competing in an over 55 age match against a Virginia side, had a heart attack as he walked off the field.  He was air-lifted to Denver, received an angioplasty and is reported doing well.

As for the “rookie” with the broken leg, he emailed his new teammates last week that he was doing fine also and couldn’t wait to be ready to get on the pitch next year.

What a lovely bunch of coconuts.  The kind of guys who’ll live til’ they die.