Ghosts and Lightning

ghostsandlightningHaving failed to make anything of himself in the wider world, Denny Cullen returns to his roots in provincial Dublin. In no time he is (in Stephen King’s words) seduced by the siren song of familiar places and familiar faces. ‘How fuckin low and sad and manky this world is,’ Denny reflects, and that’s the landscape of this book in a nutshell, full of ageing wasters, cod philosophers, violent men with empty, laughing eyes. As the marvellous first chapter makes clear, Byrne’s underworld is somewhere where the drugs are watered down and sex is hard to find. The place thrives on mediocrity and cheap, bitter jokes.

Naturally, Ghosts and Lightning is narrated in phonetic patois, and the language is somehow too consistent, as if Byrne’s just hit find and replace – what with wha, of with o. Get past this, however, and there’s a real sense of loss and confusion from Byrne’s protagonist, and the book’s episodic readability ensures you’ll hang on for its surprisingly heartwarming conclusion.

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