“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
Nobody Move, This Is A Review: HELLFIRE by Mia Gallagher
Mia Gallagher’s debut novel utilises two risky devices to embellish its narrative, but boy, do they work. Firstly, the protagonist, Lucy Dolan, is trying to make sense of a horrific, life-changing event of 13 years earlier and narrates the story partly from the first person, but mostly from the second; she’s addressing her childhood friend, Nayler, who is the missing piece of the puzzle that is her life. This switching between pronouns works beautifully and imbues an epic story, which spans four generations, with a life-force from the beginning – who is this Nayler and why is he so central to the plot? It doesn’t become fully apparent to the end, but that device drives the narrative in its jumping from the present, which is 2003, back to the ’30s,’40s and ’50s of inner city Dublin and from there to the ’60s, right up to the heroin epidemic that infected the city in the ’80s. Secondly, the entire story is relayed in vernacular Dublinese, which can be tricky to pull off; Roddy Doyle is one the only writers to have successfully done it thus far. But Gallagher’s faithful rendering of Dublin’s wackers, ganglords, messenger boys, tinkers, dealers, fortune tellers, pimps, junkies and brassers is more comparable in flavour to Irvine Welsh (which is intended as a high compliment). My only criticism is that the novel is perhaps overly long – somewhere three-quarters of the way through it seemed as though its cohesiveness had slipped a little; the time that Lucy spends in prison feels like it could be shortened and is slightly at odds with the rest of the novel. But, that small quibble aside, it redeems itself by the end and HELLFIRE is, overall, as addictive as Lucy’s beloved ‘gear.’- Claire Coughlan