Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Irregulars by Kevin McCarthy

Irregulars is a novel set in Dublin in 1922 at the height of the civil war. That description might be enough to put many people off. We all know about the civil war, don't we? We learned all about it at school, how brother turned against brother but no-one likes to examine it in too much detail because even nearly one hundred years later the politics are just too raw and personal. We all have family stories which place us firmly on one side or the other. However was it really so black and white? Along comes Kevin McCarthy with the second of his novels to feature Seán O'Keefe and he shows us Dublin in its raw and unglorified state. This book features good and bad on all sides and on none. Seán O'Keefe is a demobbed RIC officer hired by a well known Monto madam to find her missing son. So our hero sets off with unwanted companion Just Albert and their search takes them through classroom, doss house, and hotel to Gormanstown Free State Army Camp and Dublin City Morgue. The plot is peopled throughout with fantastic characters and dialogue so witty and alive that I read a number of passages aloud just so I could hear the fantastic language. When I say fantastic I mean alive and nasty and filthy and real. I wish Kevin McCarthy was writing for TV or stage. I am amazed that anyone but a Dublin native would have such a gift for the patterns and peculiarities of Dublin speech. (My grandfather was a Dublin taxi driver and I am married to a Northside Dub.) The convolutions of the plot twist and turn satisfyingly through the various strata of society, though never too far from the bleak dingy bedsits or the filth-strewn tenements. The descriptions of tenement life are vivid and shocking and so is the violence. Whether you are interested in Irish History or just enjoy a cracking crime novel then this is a book not to be missed. I had a personal interest in requesting this book from the publisher as parts of the novel I'm writing are set during The Irish War of Independence just before events in this novel take place. I didn't realise when I requested it that this was the second in a series so it can be read without any knowledge of the first book, nonetheless I will be buying the first Seán O'Keefe novel Peeler at the earliest opportunity.
I would be very interested in learning more about the author and his writing and research process.

Irregulars is out now from New Island  



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