Carswell House Books

Carswell House Books

 Bread, History, Fiction

As our list of publications continued to grow and diversify, it became clear that we needed a distinctive imprint, one that would be recognizable in the publishing world.  After a bit of head scratching, we came up with Carswell House Books, because Mary G’s Artisan Breads is based in an 1856 house built for the watchmaker and jeweller John Carswell.  John emigrated from England in the 1790s, and this was his retirement home, finished when he was 76.  He lived to be 92, and he and his family are all buried in a row in the cemetery just up the road from us.  His diaries show he was a very staunch monarchist, so it’s not that difficult to know how he would have regarded Jim’s much less loyal Irish historical fiction.  Still, the name is the continuation of a historical tradition.  


The Wood Fired Artisan Bread Book 
from Carswell House 

Many people have travelled to Mary G's Artisan Breads to attend our wood-fired bread baking workshops. They've come from across the United States, Canada, and as far afield as New Zealand and England. Frequently, they asked for a book- length document that recreates what we do here. Tools Are Made, Born Are Hands is the result. It's based on thousands of hours working with our wood-fired oven, plus the input, questions and concerns of hundreds of students, experienced, professionals and beginners alike.
Through 272 pages, 182 photographs, and six chapters, you'll learn the history of these fascinating and enduring ovens, follow a typical two-day workshop in detail, then explore the various oven shapes, types and building methods to select your own. A clear, unbiased investigation of oven types does not exist in print--until now. Throughout, myths are dispelled, little-known tips provided and results-oriented methods explained. Far too much mystery has surrounded true artisan baking. Not here.
How about an authentic Neapolitan pizza baked for ninety seconds on a 750 degree hearth? This book shows you how.
From theory to practical, hands-on techniques, from ingredients to equipment, from wild to commercial yeasts, hearth breads to sweet breads, from preparing to firing and baking, you'll gather the information you need to make genuine artisan breads in a wood fired environment--or even in a home oven. This is exactly the kind of detailed look at real hand-made breads that is not available anywhere else. We know, we checked.
This is a book of method and technique, not hundreds of bewildering recipes. As we tell our students, once you master the recipes in Tools Are Made, Born Are Hands, you will have the ability to approach any formula with confidence, whether you have a wood fired oven or not.
Copies have gone from coast to coast in North America: Vancouver to Halifax, Los Angeles to Boston, Whitehorse to Brownsville.  It's even made its way to Holland, Germany and England.
Tools Are Made, Born Are Hands is available in pdf format that can be read with Adobe Reader, Adobe Digital Editions (both free programs) or on most book readers. The price is $26.95, CDN, prepaid by PayPal or money order. Canadian residents choose Option 2 in PayPal.  The price for US residents (Option 1) takes the exchange rate into account. The pdf can be sent either electronically or on disc.
US Residents
Please contact us at to place an order, get more information or obtain a sample chapter.

If a paperback is more your style, you'll find it on, or, or You'll find a list of five-star reviews on


Readers' Reactions to Tools Are Made, Born Are Hands
"I just started reading your bread book today, and it is great!" Drew B, Denver, Colorado.
"Started reading it with the intention of checking out a couple pages before hitting the hay. It's now 12:12 AM, and I'm forcing myself to go to bed. Awesome job." Henry W, Scarborough, Ontario.
"Really like the practical, this-world approach and the stories woven in with the facts." Patrick F, Gardena, California.
"Lovely book!" Chris B, Port Carling, Ontario.
"The book is amazing." Frankie Giovanni, San Francisco, CA,
 Amazon Five-Star Review Excerpts

"This book is the best I've ever read on brick oven bread baking. It is very easy to understand and covers all the bases from the actual baking right on down to the brick oven itself and how to build your fire. I would suggest this book to anyone who owns a brick oven or is contemplating building one."

Sal Groi, Elizabethtown, New Jersey

"It takes us into the workshop and mind of a master baker who is an excellent teacher of his craft. If you are ready to improve your skills and understanding of the art of bread, then let this teacher be your guide."  

Bill Funkhouser, California

"This book is very funny and also very informative. All recipes so far work very well and are right on. I can't wait to finish and use all the recipes." 

Jennifer W.

"If you have a wood fired oven and you want a book about how to bake bread in it, this is the book for you. I have many bread baking books, but not many have specific information on how to handle things when baking in a wood fired oven. I pull this book out often!"

Gary W. Bouchard, Los Angeles, CA

"It is a great first person perspective, from someone who clearly knows the subject very well.... This book is a real winner. If you are interested in the subject, this is the one to buy and read." 

Matthew Kruvczuk, King of Prussia, PA

"I think anyone using or considering a wood fired oven would find this book most useful.... I highly recommend it." 

Bill Price, Deary, Idaho

Carswell House Presents
The Kavanagh Novels by Jim Wills
Cover designs for all four novels  by Sarah Orr, ArtPlus Ltd.

This is the first in a series of four novels, all of which have Irish culture, settings, personalities, beliefs, triumphs, failures as the background. A Few Men Faithful sets the stage, defines the Kavanagh family, introduces the continuing murderous feud with the Devlins, tells of a troubled land and an equally troubled romance amid war and treachery. The time frame is 1916 to 1924 in Dublin, County Cork and Northern Ireland. The events include the Easter Rising, the Secret War, the War of Independence and the Irish Civil War. This last protraction of the struggle--brother against brother--is little known and less explored, especially through the eyes of a soldier on the losing side.
Danny Kavanagh from County Armagh, the main character, escapes the inferno of Dublin's General Post Office in 1916 only to become one of Michael Collins' Twelve Apostles, that squad of executioners Collins used to put out the spying eyes of the notorious Dublin Castle. It is the story of a soldier haunted, nearly driven mad, by what he has done, what he cannot do, what he has witnessed, yet still holding onto that deathless dream of a united Ireland. He pays the price, finally, after he escapes from Kilmainham Jail, and is shipped as an IRA emissary to North America, far from his beloved homeland. His wife, Sophia, and his two young children are with him. Neither Danny nor Sophia consider what terrible burdens they bring from the old world to the new, and what an agonizing legacy they will create there.
Like all the novels in the Kavanagh series, this one is on street level: at the barricades, in the fields, up against the wall in the Stonebreakers Yard. There is action in every chapter, conflict and contradiction on every page. Anyone interested in high-speed historical fiction will find A Few Men Faithful to their liking. Anyone who has wondered where the modern Troubles originated will find their beinnings here.
A Few Men Faithful runs to 276 pages. It, like the other three in the series, is available in a wide variety of electronic formats is available for $2.99 on Smashwords: . If you prefer a paper copy of this novel, you can order it from Amazon ($14.95, plus shipping): . 
The Amazon people have built a book page that let's you see the front and back covers, read the first few pages of Chapter One and random pages from the body of the text.  It's a pretty slick set up for this title and the three novels that follow.

Review Excerpts

"This book is rich with accurate history, well researched, poured out in the deliciously nuanced tale of the Kavanaghs. Though the family might be fictitious, the true story of the Irish is unearthed here in a compelling story of human yearning tangled in one beautiful and troubled country's destiny. Galloping through this book on the momentum of the storytelling leaves you wishing for more - more about the strong characters in the family, more about their love and desires forced between violence and revenge, more about the habitual propaganda that has buried the truth, more about the tragic history of the Emerald Isle. It's good, very good!"

This five-star Amazon review by Patrice O’Neill-Maynard, New York.

"It is a treat when one reads a novel that is both saturated with history and the art of story telling. The language is tight. The dialect is so rich that one can hear the Northern Irish tongue echoing inside one's head. The beginning scene of introducing the three brothers in the mist of war foreshadows the on-going struggles in a violent trend. I greatly enjoyed the weaving of Ireland's history which influences the Kavanagh family decisions to get involved in the IRA with such conviction one feels just as patriotic. Because the novel also reads like a thriller, one doesn't need to be inspired by history to simply enjoy a thorough read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who takes pleasure in solid story."

This five-star review from an Amazon customer in Kansas City, MO.

"Jim Wills’ A Few Men Faithful is the very best of reads.  It starts off with epic action and, before you know it, you are not only sucked into the story but also deeply involved with its protagonist, Danny Kavanagh....This is no glamorous, romantic look at the Irish revolt from 1916-1922.  It is instead an inside view of a cause that degenerated into civil war, Irish against Irish, and the cause for a unified, free Ireland bitterly fought, bitterly lost.  It sets out a moment in time when the Cause became the Troubles.  How it all came to that is the crux of the story....This is compelling reading indeed.   A Few Men Faithful is strong, fascinating historical fiction very well done."

This five-star review by Karen Andreas on:

"As a native German, I learned a lot from this book but never felt talked down to or taught something. The history could also be seen as the background for the love story between Daniel and Sophia, which runs as parallel story to the political part of it. I personally enjoyed the political part the most for the objective and factual way the conflict was described, particularly the third part of the book when the Irish fighters split over the treaty, which of course bears relevance up to the present. This is a great achievement."

This four-star review by Christoph Fischer, an Amazon Top 500 Reviewer: ChristophFischerBooks "Chris".

"In A Few Men Faithful, Jim Wills perfectly blends details of Ireland during 1916 to 1924 with fiction; such that, you may question whether the main characters are real or fictitious. For those unaware of the troubles in Ireland, this book is an eye-opener. Additionally it is a story of love and loyalty and the strains of civil war.

Detailed descriptions, fast-paced action, realistic dialogue, and a well-crafted story made it difficult for me to put the book down. Fortunately, this is the first of a series, and I can look forward to the sequels."

This five-star Amazon review by Jane V. Blanchard, Sarasota, Florida.

"I loved this book. The Irish lingo, the Irish names, the Irish country side. The author describes it all so artistically. He draws you in to the frays and skirmishes and has you thinking as if you were Danny Kavanagh. This historical fiction will let you know what the Irish had to endure and what they had to do to survive. I can't wait for the sequel."

This five-star Amazon review by David Leahy.

"The prose throughout is clear and reminiscent of Hemingway, particularly in instances where Wills describes battle....  Clear writing and strong characters make this a novel (and, presumably, series) worth reading, especially for those interested in the last century of Irish diaspora history."

This is by Marc Schuster of Small Press Reviews.

"A Few Men Faithful is a strong historical novel. The storyline was convincing and emotionally fraught and woven into the historical record with care and skill that reflected a lot of diligent research. I liked the way the main character, a multiple killer, emerged with his moral centre more or less intact. Recommended."

This four-and-a-half-star Amazon review is by J. J. Toner, Dublin, Ireland.

"Congratulations. I totally enjoyed this book and think it is very well written. I love your turn of phrase and descriptive way of writing and felt for most of the book I was actually there with the men who were your characters. There were times I was on the edge of my seat and other times where I got to take a breath. I think you have exceptional writing skills that jam packed this book."

This five-star Smashwords review is by Geoffrey Preston, Australia.


Philly MC is the story of Jack Kavanagh, grandson of Danny Kavanagh of A Few Men Faithful, the first of the Kavanagh stories. Jack's twisted, tortured life is a battle between his IRA heritage and his father's decision to reject violence. This is the dark backdrop for the even darker motorcycle underground in Philadelphia during the 1960s and 70s. It's about survival but also qualified salvation.

Review Excerpts

"Philly MC by Jim Wills is the second in his Kavanagh series. Having read the first book, I was quite surprised by this second installment, but it was a very pleasant surprise. In a series of books I often expect to see repetition and the same formula, but in this book Wills has not only changed time and place, he has also taken on a new concept.

In Philly MC he focuses much more on just one man and his inner torment, making this a brilliant character study and a rewarding experience. Jack's moody personality was as interesting as the setting, a very authentic portrayal of the 1960s, which admittedly I know only from television, but it seemed very real and right.
Having started his series with historical fiction with a lot of issues dictated by the setting, this book is much more playful and shows a great versatility and an admirable ability to keep the reader interested with fewer props.

A great book."

This five-star review is by Christoph Fischer, a Top 500 Amazon Reviewer.

"I had a little trouble getting into this book, perhaps it was me not paying enough attention. However, once again Jim Wills has shown that he does not let his readers down. It is fast moving, full of surprises and carries the reader through. There was one time I was totally on the edge of my seat, so much so that after going to bed I got back up to see what happened next. Good read, well written and presented."

This five-star Smashwords review is by Geoffrey Preston, Australia.


In 2018, peace, possibly fair, possibly lasting, is getting far too close for the hardliners on both sides in Northern Ireland. Shooter in a Plague Year, the third Irish historical novel in the Kavanagh saga, describes one possible outcome, a nightmare scenario that completes the gory chapters of the past. What happens if the moderates are eliminated? What happens if the New IRA, just formed on one hand, and the shadowy Core Command on the other, finally square off to determine who owns Ulster, all of it?

Review Excerpts

"In Shooter in a Plague Year, Jim Wills returns to the Kavanagh family once again, the third installment of this inspired series....  In a worst-case scenario, the opposing forces in Northern Ireland have become more radical rather than moderate. Unwilling to share or negotiate violence flares up again. With no helpful interference from the US or Britain, all of Ireland is left to fight it out on their own.

Interspersed in the story are segments about the history of Ireland, told by way of relating the fate and involvement in the conflict of several of the Kavanagh men over the decades. These segments were incredibly informative and helpful to understand the origins and complexities of the existing differences and to understand how torn families and loyalties are, as the Kavanagh family does not stand entirely united behind the IRA and its demands and practices.

The author does a splendid job at explaining where the points of conflict between the opponents stand and how easy it is for politicians and paramilitary groups to disagree and find the answer in violence.

I was reluctant to delve into this book, being one about a conflict that is ongoing and has still a lot of sensitivity attached to it. Wills does well in portraying the situation and views of both camps. By taking the views and the situation to an extreme, this is provocative and rewarding in many ways, leaving me with not so much an answer as a better understanding.

The book is well written, tension and plot move smoothly and the dialogue is also well done, particularly where the different accents need to be emphasized phonetically. A thriller as much as political novel this is a gripping read.

After Philly MC, it is also a great move in the context of the series. There are some vague connections to the stories of the other books but in essence the members of the Kavanagh family are all individuals, as are all people of Ireland. By going into the future Wills teaches us just as much about the present as he does with the actual historical information."

This five-star review is by Christoph Fischer, a Top 500 Amazon Reviewer.


A Hard Gemlike Flame, the fourth novel in the Kavanagh saga, is an unblinking adult tale of love, betrayal, truth, honesty, falsehood, deception and tragedy. What binds Mick Kavanagh and Cathleen Murray, what saves them, is passion in the face of a devious and nearly successful campaign to separate them. Only their strength in each other keeps them together--and sane.

They both think they are incapable of love, and both are blind-sided by how quickly their troubled relationship turns into just that. Their backgrounds and mindsets are so divergent, that they can't seem to come to any sort of terms with each other—until they become lovers—but even then the incendiary scenes continue and intensify. Their interaction is alternately passionate, angry, pacific, understanding, ignorant. What binds them, saves them, is passion in the face of a devious and nearly successful campaign to separate them.

Review Excerpts

"A Hard Gemlike Flame by Jim Wills is the fourth novel in the Kavanagh saga, and this time the author has turned his talents to the genre of romance in the broadest sense, although it is yet again a tale of morals, concerning trust, honesty and deceit.

Frustrated Mick Kavanagh gets a break in advertising through Cathleen Murray, a wealthy and powerful woman, who hires him and falls for him at the same time.

They come from different worlds, and both fear the strong attraction and bond between them. Can they find common ground with him coming from such a poor background? Can her disapproving parents prevent their union?

Erotic, full of literary quotes and ideas on what it means to be Irish, Mick is truly Irish and teaches Cathleen about it as they embark on their affair and the turbulence that their young relationship undergoes. There are several interesting side characters that add to the plot and make the story complex and interesting.

The book is a surprising addition to the saga but it certainly freshens and livens up the selection in the series so far. As history fan, I was personally a little disappointed that the novel is more contemporary, but the choice is well in line with the author's previous frequent changes of direction, and thematically it complements the other books in the series very well."

This four-star review is by Christoph Fischer, a Top 500 Amazon Reviewer