City of Bohane
* Shortlisted for the 2011 Costa Book Award in the First Novel category *
A blazingly original, wildly stylish, and pulpy debut novel
"City of Bohane, the extraordinary first novel by the Irish writer Kevin Barry, is full of marvels. They are all literary marvels, of course: marvels of language, invention, surprise. Savage brutality is here, but so is laughter. And humanity. And the abiding ache of tragedy." —Pete Hamill, The New York Times Book Review (front page)
Forty or so years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the North Rises, and the eerie bogs of the Big Nothin' that the city really lives. For years it has all been under the control of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there's trouble in the air. They say Hartnett's old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight.
Barry's debut novel, a near-future noir, takes readers on a walking tour of Bohane, an apocalyptic fictional city on Ireland's west coast. One of its seedier precincts, the Back Trace, is ruled by underworld boss Logan Hartnett of the Hartnett Fancy gang, who governs like an Irish Don Corleone. But the graying Hartnett finds his power threatened when his rival, the Gant Broderick, returns after a 25-year absence. Hartnett also has to cope with an upstart gang, the Cusacks, that wants to take over the Trace. To make matters worse, his wife, Macu, who is also the Gant's former lover, wants him to give up the life. And finally, tough Fancy girl Jenni Ching, a "saucy little ticket" with a "pack of feral teenage sluts at her beck 'n' call in the Bohane Trace," may be playing both ends against the middle. How Hartnett handles these various crises forms the dramatic core, but with so many literary influences running through it, the novel reads as if China Mi ville and Irvine Welsh had collaborated to update Dashiell Hammett's Red Harvest. Although this sort of future-shock noir is nothing new and the elliptical narrative peters out before it reaches its inconclusive climax, the author succeeds with a continual barrage of hybrid language reminiscent of Anthony Burgess at his A Clockwork Orange best.
Innovative use of language.
I like City of Bohane