A must read: Being Alexander by Diarmuid O’Conghaile

I had the privilege to be at the launch of Diarmuid O’Chongaile’s first novel, Being Alexander. While I was waiting for the festivities to begin, standing in the Gutter Bookshop, I flicked through a few pages. The power of Diarmuid’s voice reached out to me immediately. It is a voice that rings strongly and consistently through the novel and is a major achievement for a first time writer. It puts me very much in mind of some of the great contemporary American authors like Joseph Heller and John Irving. The story that he tells is less of a journey and more of a sight seeing expedition. He stops and marvels at each little thing, filling in a bit of back story on each character, philosophising on each trivial event while all but ignoring the major plot turns, remembering fondly a childhood lost but grown sacred with memory.

There is a scene where Alexander has acquired a top of the range BMW; he climbs in, astonished by the quality of everything about the car. He goes to drive off, is politely informed by the satnav that he is going the wrong way and, still recovering from a very heavy night’s drinking, he vomits down the beautiful dashboard. I thought this was a  metaphor for Alexander as a whole. Privileged, well educated, with a girlfriend and family who care deeply about him, Alexander pretty much vomits on everything that could bring salvation to his life. He turns constantly away from anything good and seeks out whatever is destructive, soulless and empty.

He is not, though, a pitiful or malicious character, he is simply cast adrift in a vacuum lacking spirituality or values, itself a metaphor for the worst days of the Celtic Tiger corruption in which he is immersed. He watches himself as if from afar, as the reader does also,  curious to see what he will do next, what depravity he will choose to sink to. Despite his deep failings, Alexander is a charming host for this sight seeing tour. His looping deviations constantly entertain and amuse, and, as you drop your head in your hands thinking ‘what the hell is he at now’, you are already forgiving him and vainly hoping that he will find some direction and some happiness.

It’s a first novel, it certainly won’t be Diarmuid’s last given the fantastic prose and that voice.

New Planet Cabaret launch

Had a great time at the New Planet Cabaret last night, Gutter Bookshop. The launch featured a full hour program with invited contributors reading their pieces, well worth a listen on RTE:


My story didn’t get read but I did get a mention so very happy.

The book is now available in the Gutter Bookshop and country wide, as well as Amazon, proceeds go to a charity that seeks to make writers available to schools to inspire children.



Book launch of New Planet Cabaret

Back in April, my story Snow Can’t Last was read out on the Arena program on RTE as part of Dave Lordan’s New Planet Cabaret series. Now the best stories plus some commissioned stories are appearing in a New Island book, to be launched Friday in the Gutter Bookshop. Looking forward to it.

Shortlisted for Irish Times ‘Legends of the Fall’ competition

The Irish Times have been running a series of stories based around the general subject of the events of the last five years, recession, property crash, bank guarantee etc, under the title Legends of the Fall. It has featured such luminaries of the Irish literature scene as Ann Enright, Colm Tobin etc.

They had an open competition to submit a story to feature as the last in the series in this weekend’s paper. I am delighted to find that my story Vicious Circular has been shortlisted in a group of ten for the competition, and appear on the Irish Times website today here




Longlisted for the RTE Guide/Penguin Ireland short story competition

Learned today that my story Huddled Murders has made the longlist for the RTE Guide/Penguin short story competition. The bad news is that it is a pretty long longlist, with apparently 60 folks receiving the honour, but hey ho, we’ll take what we get. Also getting to attend a special writing workshop being organised in September for longlistees, so looking forward to that.

Published on Five Stop Stories

My story, “Panic Made Stone” received Honorary Mention in the Five Stop Story competition and will be published on their site as well as their iPhone app within the next two weeks here.

Update: Story is now online here: http://www.fivestopstory.com/read/story.php?storyId=5250

Broadcast on Arena on RTE Radio

The Arena program on RTE radio is running a series of pieces as a kind of “Creative Writing Class” and each month the public is invited to submit short fiction on a particular theme. I submitted a piece for the February program but heard nothing back so assumed I was out of the race. I was somewhat surprised when I went to listen to the program to find I was one of two stories read out by Dave Lordan. Even better some of the descriptions: “an absolutely brilliant piece of writing, it’s one of the best pieces I’ve got in. When I read it first I liked it, when I read it a second time I loved it, it really blew everybody away who read it including the actors.” “This story illustrates the reason we have fiction.” Very happy indeed. The program is online here


My story starts about 10:23 into the excerpt.

Other good news, though perhaps a little pale in the light of the above, I have a fifth story, “IED” shortlisted by Writers Forum magazine, plus I got an Honourable Mention in the “String-of-10” flash fiction competition on EveryDayFiction.com.


Writers Forum Magazine

After four shortlistings that failed to make the final cut, I just heard that my story, “My Shadow, At Evening, Rises To Meet Me” has been selected to be published in issue 139. Very much delighted by that. A small step but took a lot of work.images

Take settlers and seamen, tell women with men

Heavy heat pressed him back onto the park bench, seedy sweat making his shirt uncomfortable.

‘I should never have got off the boat.’

‘Yeah, yeah. Tell me about it again, why don’t you. I enjoy listening to it.’

‘The sea never treated us this rough.’

‘Christ’s sake, the sun’s fricking shining, that’s all. It’s not like you’re gonna fall over board and drown.’

‘It’s not the same…’

‘That’s what I’m saying, you gobdaw.’

There was the simplest of breezes coming in off the sea, hot wind, not cooling. Gulls sat on thermals that twisted up from the concrete wharf. Boats rocked gently, salt crusted ropes slapping on masts, rusted applause for a sailor who has turned his back on the sea.

‘We could go home, run a cool bath. Like, if you’re hot and all.’

‘I wanna stay here a bit longer. Looking out there, it… It gives me peace.’

A young couple walked past them, pushing a pram, gazing together at their little piece of miracle, a gift so easily given by some, so cruelly denied by others. Alice turned her head from them, looking north towards the open bars and seafront cafes.

‘Hey,’ she said. ‘Look over there.’

He looked, and immediately tensed. He pulled his feet up, despite the cramped bench, pulled himself into a ball. The cat was black with a white trim at its throat. It wandered along, dawdling as if conscious of the effect it was having. It stopped straight in front of them to lick at its fur, then eventually found something to draw it further down the promenade, away from them.

‘You can relax,’ she said. ‘It’s gone now.’

He uncurled himself slowly, cautiously. If he had been damp before, he was saturated now, and his eyes had shrunk into his head.

‘Home,’ he muttered, pulling him self up onto his skeletal legs.

As Alice stood to follow him she felt a strong pang of guilt, but there was only so much she could take.