PRECIOUS BLOOD by Bill O'Sullivan


Email this review


O'Sullivan's first novel pays vivid tribute to a Brooklyn boyhood and an Irish heritage, both steeped in fantasy, while detailing family tensions and street altercations that were an integral part of neighborhood life in the 1950's. From stickball showdowns of which legends are made to first tentative contacts between boy and girl, O'Sullivan uses a sensitive, sure hand to convey the moods and perils of adolescence. Mike Driscoll is torn between conflicting influences in his young life: on the one hand, he treasures moments spent with his father Jimmy, who works his heart out to support his family but still retains a poetic and sympathetic worldview; on the other hand, he also worships at the altar of Deucey Doyle, stickball champion and local war hero, but a man whose violent temper, bigotry, and underworld habits lead him to plot the destruction of a black Baptist congregation holding services in the local movie theater. Mike drops squarely into a moral dilemma when he overhears Deucey talking about the dynamite he's stashed to do the job, and agonizes over whether to become a squealer by revealing his secret to the police. He does--thereby precipitating a bizarre sequence of events that destroys his family and ends with his father's death by fire in the Navy Yard. Such melodramatic trappings are given substance by a complex cluster of haunting images from Ireland and colorful scenes of Brooklyn life from the standpoint of an adolescent, so that the tale simultaneously shimmers in rosy hues--like a dream fondly remembered--and stirs with undercurrents of malice and death. Evocative, potent, and, above all, disturbingly real: an auspicious debut.

Pub Date: May 5th, 1992
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: "Soho--dist. by Farrar, Straus & Giroux"