City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Vintage)


“Whatever is wrong with us is coming in off that river. No argument: the taint of badness on the city’s air is a taint off that river.”

A GANGLAND fantasy set in the tenements of some futuristic Irish city. The inhabitants “are given to bouts of rage and hilarity which makes us unpredictable”, and may not be unconnected to the amount of herb and poppy they smoke.

It is not only the river that taints the city, but the violent winds that blow “49 weeks out of the year, the effect is not physical only…but philosophical.”

The 98 steps are policed by the Fancy gang, so called because mod-like they like to dress fancy: “A Fancy boy would wear clicker’d clogs with crimson sox pulled to the top of the calf and worn beneath three quarter length trackie cut-offs, with a tweed cap set back to front, a stevedore donkey jacket with hi-viz piping, the hair greased back and quiffed – oh we must have looked like proper fucking rodericks – with a little silver herb-pipe on a leather lace around the neck”.

It is a strip cartoon with rich, sticky prose for images. Some of the dialogue can be hard work but it has its own rewards every now and then.

“‘Do you hear me clearly?’

‘Cathedral bells, Mr Hartnett’.”

The long man likes his shots and seeds and…still listens to his old ma who directs the chaos from her bed, aged 90+…Well written nonsense enhanced by a love triangle of hoodlums that eventually reaches a crescendo not so much as a novel but more as a bawdy, western-style ballad behind-the-bike-sheds.




About drewsmith28

Words, words, words...
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