Tuesday, 15 July 2008

The Bloomsday Dead by Adrian McKinty

Serpent’s Tail
IT’S such a great idea – a thriller based on Ulysses.
And it starts out well: “State LY Plum P Buck Mulligan” reads the note handed to the hotel shamus.
It translates thus: “In stateroom LY (that is, the fiftieth floor, suite Y), a Plum (in other words, a drunk American) named Mr P Buck was creating a Mulligan (ie a disturbance).
And it ends well, in Joycean tradition, with that trailing sibilant “Yes.”
The middle is more problematic. Michael Forsyth, McKinty’s hero, is the kind of Northerner who wears crossed Union Jack and Red Hand in the fanlight of his little mind, and absolutely hates all things Irish.
“In my eyes the Garda Síochána was only a notch or two above the Irish Army and, as an ex-member of the British Army, I had nothing but contempt for that body,” he writes.
“Any squaddie worth his salt would join the Irish Guards in London; any peeler up to scuds would get into one of the big metropolitan police forces across the water. Irish coppers and soldiers were second-rate.”
Not, perhaps, the perfect note to strike if you’re aiming to lure Joyceans, who adore Dublin, Ireland and all about the country.
Between ‘plump Buck Mulligan’ and ‘yes’, it’s an orgy of killing, interspersed with paranoid ravings, self-hatred and a bit more killing.
The effect is curiously anaesthetic. After a while the reader stops bothering to notice new characters – after all, Mike’s going to kill them in a minute.
Reading, you get the feeling that McKinty is ‘writing away from’ his subject – that he really wants to write about something else. From the wrongness of his take on the IRA characters (hellfire and respectability), I suspect that he wants to be writing about the UDA.
If you like thrillers with a high body count, this is for you.


adrian mckinty said...

I dont know if you read the other books in this trilogy. Michael Forsythe (by the way his name has en E at the end) is not a Protestant, has nothing but contempt for the UDA, wouldnt dream of having a Union Jack tattooed on his hand and certainly has no hatred of all things Irish. Is that really your view of Northerners? Have you been to Belfast recently? Things have changed, you know. Michael's contempt for the Garda is purely about the money. You can get twice the pay across the water as an English copper and its the same with the British army; its all about the dough - for us working class types that's the bottom line that counts, not some high falutin' sociological theory.

In fact I'm not entirely sure you were reviewing my book or trying to make some grander political point about Ulster and Ireland. I certainly wasn't. I couldn't care less about politics and I don't think didactic novels are terribly interesting.

If the story didn't engage you that's a fair comment, this style isn't for everyone. Athough perhaps you would have cared more about the characters if you'd known their context and histoy from the other books.

Finally do you really know more about the IRA than I do? I wonder.

Thanks for the review.


adrian mckinty said...

I wrote a comment here yesterday but I noticed that you havent had the nerve to post it. There was nothing defamatory in it, I merely pointed out some sloppy reading and factual mistakes in the review.

Why didn't you post my comment? I think that's obvious. Many reviewers are very good at dishing it out but, sadly, are far too cowardly to take it. Indeed that's probably why they become reviewers in the first place.

What you should do is post the original comment and then this one. Prove that you CAN take it. Don't be scared, they are only words and honestly it will make you look good.

Looking forward to it,



adrian mckinty said...

Thank you for posting my comment.

I really appreciate the right of reply.

You guys rock!


Pageturners said...

An odd thing happened with your comment, Adrian (thank you for commenting, by the way).

I got the comment some time yesterday (Wednesday July 23) and immediately okayed it for posting.

Then this morning (Thursday July 24) I woke up to several annoyed emails asking why I hadn't posted it.

I suspect that Blogger, a huge, unwieldy class of a thing, may have been having one of its occasional hiccups.

Please take my assurance that I posted your comment straightaway.

I sent a reply to the address from which you posted, but Blogger seems to have anonymised that, so it may not arrive.