Kerry Hammond takes Drinks with Reads to Ireland this week...
I recently took a trip to Ireland, and when I started to think about reading some Irish mysteries in preparation for my trip I came across a most interesting book. Instead of reading a book written by just one Irish author, I decided to read a book written by fifteen Irish authors, each writing just one chapter. I think I was drawn not only by the synopsis of the book, but by the curiosity on how this would turn out. The original purpose of the collaboration was to benefit Amnesty International. The result is a funny, raunchy, twisting story that I think would make a great movie, in the realm of Snatch or Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels.
The 15 authors are: Roddy Doyle, Conor McPherson, Gene Kerrigan, Gina Moxley, Marian Keyes, Anthony Cronin, Owen O’Neill, Hugo Hamilton, Joseph O’Connor, Tom Humphries, Pauline McLynn, Charlie O’Neill, Donal O’Kelly, Gerard Stembridge, and Frank McCourt.
The book is about the discovery of a long lost, and unpublished manuscript written by James Joyce. The characters are all in a mad race to steal the manuscript, and step over (or kill) anyone who stands in their way. The cast of characters includes: an unlikely crime boss, who looks more like a sweet middle aged woman; several dirty cops, one with the unfortunate name of Andy Andrews; and a urinal cake salesman with no self-esteem or social skills. The book contains its fair share of bribery, deceit, murder and sex. The body count is high, but in a way that can be as comical as it is violent.
After finishing the book, I did a little reading about how the book came together and it was very interesting, and quite funny. Poor Roddy Doyle wrote the first chapter, introducing characters who would start the line-up. In subsequent chapters, his writing cohorts killed off almost all of them. In a group interview, which is linked here because it was so funny it is worth reading in its entirety, Doyle says:
“It was a bit like coming home and finding that the babysitter had murdered your children," Doyle says, to appreciative laughter. "All my lovingly created characters were dead by page 17. I've only ever killed a character once, I think, and you bastards kill every one of them."
Reading each chapter, and knowing that it was written by a different author who was hell bent on either out-doing, or maybe un-doing is a better term, the last’s work was extremely comical. If you’re worried that the styles of writing make the book incongruous, you need not. I kept forgetting it was a different author until an event would happen and I just knew it had been added to make the next writer suffer. It even appears that they had to make a rule to stop killing characters and stop adding new ones.
In the same interview, Pauline McLynn speaks to my movie idea:
"... it was competitive killing," says McLynn. "If you were ever to make a movie of the book, there'd be great parts for actors: two days work and a splendid death."
The interview and the book are a worthy read.
I decided to pair the book with a Longueville House Cider that I ordered at the Blarney Castle Hotel. 100% natural, handmade medium dry Irish cider from orchards in the Blackwater Valley, County Cork.
Happy traveling and happy reading.