“It was never the politics with me. Never. It was the being part.” – Michael O’Connor
In Down Among The Dead (UK and US) Michael O’Connor is an old man living on the Kilburn High Road. There are too many steps to his flat and he drinks too many pints to keep himself healthy. His life is now as empty as his fridge and he fills his days with visits to the pub, the bookies and to Mrs Quinn who lives across the way.
The thing is Michael O’Connor has a past. He’s been a soldier for the IRA and has been involved in events that are bound to catch up with him. His problem is that the events that have destroyed his life also happen to be the only things that define his existence. It’s no wonder, then, that he goes shooting his mouth off after a few drinks every once in a while.
Steve Finbow has done a brilliant job with this story. He flicks back and forth between 2008 in Kilburn and 1988 in Gibraltar where he’s on one final job for his boss. The settings in each case are extremely vivid. There’s plenty of detail and each has a constant feeling of menace as the separate story-lines converge to sharply pointed endings.
O’Connor himself tells the story. While he’s clearly kissed the Blarney Stone, he also knows how to tell a tale without wasting a word. This is sharp and bold writing that is populated punchy dialogue and crisply drawn characters. It’s a wonderful voice that is at once sympathetic and pathetic and it’s one that’s very easy to spend time with.
For those of you who are around my age and above, the story of the murder of three unarmed IRA suspects will be brought to mind. The past has a way of haunting us in real life as if it was all just a fiction. This particular fiction is a treat to be part and entirely avoids any of the potential pitfalls of dealing with such material.
In the post script, it mentions that Finbow is currently writing something new. I’m delighted to hear it and I’ll definitely be there to check it out when it’s published. I'm reminded that I have an earlier book of his on my kindle called Nothing Matters (Snubnose Press) which has just joined my must-read pile.
Very highly recommended.
Down Among The Dead is now available for pre-order.