On a late August night in 2004, a young man is kicked to death by his team-mates outside a Dublin nightclub and celebration turns to devastation. The reverberations of that event, its genesis and aftermath, is the subject of this extraordinary story, stripping away the veneer of a generation of Celtic cubs, whose social and sexual mores are chronicled and dissected in this tract for our times. The victim, Conor Harris, his killers – three of them are charged with manslaughter – and the trial judge share common childhoods and schooling in the privileged echelons of south Dublin suburbia. The intertwining of these lives leaves their afflicted families in moral freefall as public exposure merges with private anguish and imploded futures. This stark, elliptical tale tells of catharsis and self-examination through the eyes of the narrator and Laura Haines, girlfriend, confidante and catalyst. Akin to Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE and Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD, it deals with the unacceptable, and the nature of truth. Like all good fiction, it illuminates a society and transcends its age with the searchlight of a sympathetic imagination. It is a significant debut by an intuitive writer.The title is a nod to the classic Spencer Tracy movie, obviously, although it’s been used in an Irish context before – Blackrock, y’see, being a well-to-do area of south Dublin, represents leafy-suburbed affluence in Ireland. Anyhoos, Power’s story appears to be based on a real event from a few years back, and one that exercised the country to an enormous extent at the time, giving rise to much media soul-searching and state-of-the-nation polemics mainly because the perpetrators and the victim hailed from the ranks of the overly moneyed oiks of what passes for Ireland’s aspirational middle-class.
My initial reaction when I read the blurb was that the story is too parochial to translate to a wider audience, that Power will take all kinds of stick for reopening old wounds (fair play to him), and that the blurb elves were doing a debutant novelist no favours at all by comparing him to John Banville, Truman Capote and Lionel Shriver.
Then I heard ‘Wilderness Gothic’ on Sunday night, Power’s short-listed entry for the Francis MacManus Short Story Award, and I thought, hmmm, okay, the guy can write …
Anyone out there know anything more about him?