With the explosion in crowdfunding, indie publishing, the growing diversity of voices and wider dissemination of books due to the internet, the market is rich and vibrant for both author and reader.
However, when it comes to the mainstream publishers, it seems they’re a lot more risk averse these days. And this emphasis on new voices mean that long standing figures can be pushed aside, despite consistently delivering quality work. As the old saying goes, eaten bread is quickly forgotten.
And when the likes of Patrick McCabe fall prey to this, we must stand up and speak out.
Along with Eoin McNamee, McCabe has left an indelible mark on Irish literature through characters like Francie Brady, Pussy Braden, Malachy Dudgeon and Redmond Hatch. Characters who are on the fringes of polite, modern Irish society and whose tales demonstrate the moral decay at the heart of the Free State. Then again, maybe they’re just pulling our legs. Whatever way you choose to look, te stories that they tell are not pretty, often surreal but there is truth in them (regardless of how outlandish they may be). This is important, as truth is something a lot of writers promise but bottle out of at the last minute because they don’t like what they’ve found.
So when such a pivotal author must crowdfund to produce their newest works, it’s imperative that others know.
The press blurb for Goldengrove reads:
After the triumph of Poguemahone, McCabe returns with a vicious black comedy set in Dublin in the 1970s in which a theatrical agency acts as a front for British counterterrorism.
It’s the summer of Brexit, and in a seedy hotel bedroom in Woolsey Bay, we find the recently retired Chenevix Meredith looking back on his years running a theatrical agency in Dublin in the late 1960s. Working with flamboyant fellow Brit, Henry Plumm, Meredith turns Grafton Partners into a home away from home for the whole gamut of the Dublin’s post-war thespian talent: veterans of touring repertory, B movie actors, forgotten stars of music hall and radio soap opera, pushy starlets, visiting Hollywood legends and the emerging heroes of the avant garde and agitprop.
But Meredith’s reminiscences soon darken to reveal the true nature of his calling. Far from the clubbable ‘Plump and Chenny’ so beloved of their clients – it turns out that both men are active agents of the British state posted to Dublin to identify and infiltrate terrorist networks and to snuff them out by any means necessary – including murder, abduction and torture.
But that unpleasantness was almost half century ago.
Surely history has forgotten them?
When Plumm is found floating in a bathtub with his skull stoved in, Meredith realises that as far as Irish history is concerned, the past is never dead: as a wise man once observed, it’s not even past...
Readers of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy and Poguemahone will be familiar with this lurch from social comedy into horror, but what sets Goldengrove apart is its elegiac tone – can we ever really know ourselves? – and its disarming insights into the vexed and violent relationship between Britain and Ireland, two countries divided by a common history.
Pledge here for Goldengrove, and let a literary legend know that he’s still a necessary voice.
⏩ Christopher Owens was a reviewer for Metal Ireland and finds time to study the history and inherent contradictions of Ireland. He is currently the TPQ Friday columnist.