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The war in Northern Ireland as told through the story of an odd-couple relationship between an eccentric old man and an IRA assassin; a glumly Byzantine second effort from Irish-born Power (Hunt for the Autumn Clowns, 1983). Arthur Apple is a minor diplomat who has retired to Belfast after some obscurely disgraceful incident in Mexico--all we have to go on are some irritatingly unclear journal entries showing him being publicly flogged by fanatically religious Indian peasants. In any event, his mind is unhinged--he wanders about talking to his two imaginary friends, Sefer and Mr. Divine, and seeing apparitions. He works in a betting parlor that is actually a front for an IRA moneyqaundering operation; his assistant (really there to keep an eye on Arthur) is baby-faced killer Martin Deeley, a man who so enjoys the agony of violent death that he reaches sexual climax while watching the shower scene in Pyscho. Strangely (and unbelievably) the two of them get along quite well--each feels he's found a friend, and they work happily together until Martin botches an attempt to assassinate an English security officer named Maddox. Maddox's counterpart in the Royal Ulster Constabulary, the sinister Mr. Asher, leads the hunt for the killer, making things so hot that the IRA cynically decides to turn Martin in themselves. Seeing his friend in danger, Arthur clears the cobwebs from his delicately musty old brain and comes up with a plan: he and Martin kidnap Asher (right out from under a whore who happens to be Martin's girlfriend) and offer him in exchange for Martin's safe passage out of the country. But someone informs, as someone always does. The IRA finds their hiding place and, with the tacit approval of the British, executes Martin, causing Arthur to have a fatal heart attack. Ultimately, a wordy, rather theatrical melodrama of double-cross and betrayal (self: consciously full of war-weary cynicism) pretending to be a serious rumination on the horror that is modern Belfast.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1985
Publisher: Viking