The question wasn't whether but when Philip A. Crowl would produce a guidebook on Ireland. After the publication of his two earlier books, "The Intelligent Traveler's Guide to Historic England and Wales" in 1983 and "The Intelligent Traveler's Guide to Historic Scotland" in 1986, the next road sign had to be saying Trilogy.
The intelligent reader will have questions. Why Ireland last? Because, being already familiar with much of Britain, Mr. Crowl had a head start there; Ireland was new to him -- and fresh. How many gardens, stately houses, churches and so on rate three stars, in "The Intelligent Traveler's Guide to Historic Ireland" (Contemporary Books, $35; due out late next month)? Answer: 129, or more than the one- or two-week sightseer can hope to take in.
How many of these sites, three stars down to none, did Mr. Crowl inspect? Above 97 percent, during three summerlong, rented-car journeys, often with his wife, Mary Ellen, along. Weather interrupts a few of the island ferries; the public is seldom welcome at a few of the grand spreads (Ireland alone has no National Trust).
What did he like most? Round towers, tall crosses, Celtic artifacts: unique to Ireland and, at the National Museum in Dublin, intelligently arrayed and described. The cheerful people; the ruined friaries and other ecclesiastical architecture. Galway, and the County Cork farmer, named Crowley, who thought they might be related. That monument to Irish nationalism, Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, now a museum, where the Easter Rising patriots were imprisoned. And that feast of Victorian house design, the United Kingdom's remaining best, in Belfast.
U.S. tourists are unnecessarily frightened by the Ulster headlines, Mr. Crowl declares; he crossed and recrossed the border and "experienced no inconvenience."
An Annapolitan with a history Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins, Mr. Crowl is retired from teaching at Princeton, Nebraska, the Naval War College. He is the author of historical studies. Now 75, he "hangs up his hat with this one." Still, for next summer, what might the trilogist traveler have in mind?
The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore's annual ceremony is next Sunday: 12:30 p.m., graveside tribute, Westminster Churchyard, Fayette and Greene streets; 2 p.m., 68th annual Poe Lecture, by Richard Fusco of St. John's University, New York, at Pratt Library, Cathedral and Mulberry streets.
Saturday the 13th, from 12-4, three lectures at the Pratt. in overservance of the 10-year anniversary of the Poe House. Jeff Jerome (curator at house). 396-4866.
This year's anniversary observances of Poe's Baltimore demise continue Oct. 14 at the Pratt from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m., with two lectures and a dramatic reading; and the two following weekends with theater and readings at the Poe House, 203 N. Amity St.
R. H. Gardner was a Baltimore Sun reporter, and then its theater and movie critic, from 1951 to 1984. In retirement, he went on writing -- many of the old stories, but with detail that newspapers of the time shrank from printing. His book, "Those Years: Recollections of a Baltimore Newspaperman" (Galileo Press/Sunspot Books; paperback, $14.95) is due out late next month. Hal Gardner, known to some as Rufus, has pungent recall for that funnier, or cruder, or anyway older, Baltimore.
Stephen Hunter, author of "The Day Before Midnight" and four other thrillers, and this newspaper's present film critic, will be the Friends of Pratt Library's speaker Oct. 13 at noon at Scarlett Place. For tickets, at $25, call 448-4131 or 448-0333.
The Middle Atlantic Writers Association's 11th annual conference will be Oct. 18-20 at the Baltimore Inn, Reisterstown Road at the Baltimore Beltway "And Still They Rise: The Phenomenal Black Women Writers of the '80s and '90s" is its theme; speakers include J. California Cooper. To register, call 444-3388.
Rosalia Scalia a free-lance's free-lance, will be the Baltimore Writers' Alliance speaker Oct. 10 at 7:30 p.m., Grace Methodist Church, Charles Street and Northern Parkway. Ms. Scalia, published in virtually every Baltimore periodical that buys from outside, will discuss phone interviewing, note-taking and other techniques.
For the university-press biography of Gerald W. Johnson that he is writing, Vincent T. Fitzpatrick seeks significant letters or anecdotes. Johnson, born 100 years ago last month, was long a Sun editorial writer and columnist; he wrote more than 30 books, and his New Republic essays established him nationally as a champion of decency and the American people. Mr. Fitzpatrick, whose life of H. L. Mencken came out last year, can be reached at the Humanities Department, Pratt Library, Baltimore 21201.