It's The Playboy of the Western World revisited in this first novel by Connaughton, author of the collection A Border Station (1990) and collaborator on the screenplay for My Left Foot. For surely the Irish rapscallion here (who remains unnamed) goes on as wild a coming-of-age ride as Singe's Christy Mahon ever did, beginning with the death of his dear, flour-coated, buttermilk- smelling mammy. Her passing leaves him at the mercy of his daddy, the police sergeant in the village of Butlershill, right on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic. But when the sergeant suggests he learn to cook, our hero takes off to bunk in with his buddy Prunt and to go on adventures--shouting ``vagina!'' right out loud on a dare, smuggling a bit, impersonating a priest in order to bless a pig, and rolling in the hay at a Freemasons' dance with a girl who gets insulted when our boy takes it in his mind to kiss her foot. True love does eventually come his way in the form of pretty Annagh Lee; but after a month of delirious loving, her form swells, bringing more trouble--Annagh Lee shipped off to Toronto after a miscarriage induced by the sight of a rat, and her lover's privates tarred and feathered by irate relatives. The latter is what teaches Connaughton's wayward youth to calm down, of course, because ``You can't run amok forever....'' The tale's familiar--and, sadly, the writing's uneven, with some wretched schmaltz (``Fold the ground over me/You have broken my heart/That's what hearts are for'') cheek by jowl with much sprightlier stuff (``Sex drove you to love. Or love drove you to sex. Either way it was enough to drive you mad''). Still, Connaughton's heart is in the right place, so some Irish eyes will be shining.