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CITY OF BOHANE by Kevin Barry


by Kevin Barry

Pub Date: March 13th, 2012
ISBN: 978-1-55597-608-8
Publisher: Graywolf

Gangland warfare rules the day in an imagined, decivilized Irish city. 

Roll up Joyce, Dickens, Anthony Burgess and Marty Scorsese, sprinkle with a dash of Terry Gilliam, and smoke up. That’s roughly the literary experience to be had from ingesting this marvelously mashed-up creation from Irish storyteller Barry (There Are Little Kingdoms, 2007). The author goes for broke in constructing his fictional City of Bohane, a once-great city on the west coast of Ireland that has taken 40 years to fall into utter decay. The setting is a rich stew of ethnicities, loyalties, gangster cred, vices and technologically barren conflicts. Different provinces promise different pleasures: parallel streets in New Town, barely controlled chaos in the Back Trace, fetish parlors and shooting galleries in Smoketown, all behind the moat of the Big Nothin’. Pulling the strings on this criminality is Logan Hartnett, a gaunt, pale rake called “The Albino.” Hartnett is beleaguered by harpy wife Immaculata and protected by a trio of young warriors: ambitious Wolfie Stanners, irrepressible Fucker Burke and razor-cool Jenni Ching, who works all sides with equal aplomb. A “welt of vengeance” threatens to jump off, after a Cusack of the Rises gets “Reefed” in Smoketown. Make sense? Much like the fiction of Irvine Welsh, the vernacular takes some acclimatization. Stirring the pot is the fact that Hartnett’s mortal enemy, “The Gant Broderick,” has sashayed back into town. “Halways pikey, halfways whiteman. Been gone outta the creation since back in the day. Was the dude used to have the runnins before the Long Fella. Use’ t’do a line with the Long Fella’s missus an’ all, y’check?” explains Wolfie in his messy patois. The familiar gangland drama won’t come as any great surprise, pulling in traces of pulp fiction, cop flicks and the grittier dystopian films into its gravity, but its style is breathlessly cool.

Barry’s addictive dialect and faultless confidence make this volatile novel a rare treat.