Set in Dublin during the Lockout of 1913, Strumpet City is a panoramic novel of city life. It embraces a wide range of social milieux, from the miseries of the tenements to the cultivated, bourgeois Bradshaws. It introduces a memorable cast of characters: the main protagonist, Fitz, a model of the hard-working, loyal and abused trade unionist; the isolated, well-meaning and ineffectual Fr O’Connor; the wretched and destitute Rashers Tierney. In the background hovers the enormous shadow of Jim Larkin, Plunkett’s real-life hero.
Strumpet City’s popularity derives from its realism and its naturalistic presentation of traumatic historical events. There are clear heroes and villians. The book is informed by a sense of moral outrage at the treatment of the locked-out trade unionists, the indifference and evasion of the city’s clergy and middle class and the squalor and degradation of the tenement slums.