Wednesday, August 06, 2008

The Dead Yard

The Dead Yard, second in Adrian McKinty's three-book series about Michael Forsythe, moves in harsher, more serious territory than its predecessor, Dead I Well May Be.

For one thing, the first book's third act, a long section in which Forsythe recovers from an ordeal, regains his place in the world, and gathers the physical and emotional resources he needs to resume his adventure, is here compressed to 2 1/2 pages — or, more strictly speaking, to a single brutal and vital sentence. That leaves more room for the central narrative, and a violent narrative it is.

For another, the betrayals are more numerous, and they hit harder. This book's violence is more graphic as well. But the main difference is that The Dead Yard is more direct in its harsh judgment of a nation battered for ages by a foe of overwhelming power, sentimental about its failures, overweening in the pride at its meager successes:

"`Sorry, I don't know much about baseball, nothing actually. We don't play it in Ireland. I've only heard of Babe Ruth, oh, and Joe DiMaggio of course, because of Simon and Garfunkel, and yeah, Lou Gehrig because of the disease. Oh aye, and Yogi Berra, you know because of the cartoon.'

"`What did I tell you about Yankees players?' Kit snapped, her face turning bright red ... '

"They were all Yankees? Jesus. Sorry. Who are the famous Red Sox?' I asked.

"`I don't want to talk about it now,' Kit said, still a little ticked off. Petulant and furious, she looked even more fetching.'"
Oh, yeah: In a moment of extreme stress, Forsythe also thinks harsh thoughts about Ireland and some of those who presume to fight for Ulster against the British.

Yankee fan McKinty's dig at the Boston Red Sox and their hysterical fans is the book's second-cleverest (and just maybe a metaphor). The cleverest concerns a trio of American conservative media pundits.

Highly recommended.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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44 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Thank you for your kind words once again. I should point out that you're the only person in about thirty reviews who noticed that thing about the media pundits. I see that I can slip nothing past you. And I'm glad that, er, Michael, kept his feelings about the Phils to himself.

Joba rules!

Adrian...

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I prefer to think that my fellow reviewers were too modest to point out that they had noticed that thing about the pundits. I'm not sure I'd -- but then, I want to avoid spoilers.

Nobody gives a shite about the Phillies except here, and no one ever has. There will never be an "America's Team" here. No one will ever say "Rooting for the Phillies is like rooting for U.S. Steel." And the Phillies, despite a record of losing unparalleled in the history of sport anywhere (the franchise last season became the first to lose 10,000 games in its history), will never be loveable losers. No, any novelist foolish enough to write about the Phillies will be asked by his or her editor to excise the reference.

And Joba left last night's game with a sore arm.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

"Nobody gives a shite about the Phillies..."

Hehehe. You're really getting into the swing of this lingo.

And yeah, it was modesty that kept me from talking about the pundits... ahem.

I share your thougts on the betrayals. A major theme in the book, and kind of a poetic anti-justice for Forsythe?

Anyway, it's a great book! Looking forward to your thoughts on The Bloomsday Dead.

gb

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll be getting to The Bloomsday Dead before too long, I expect.

On The Dead Yard, I've been pondering your thoughts about why this is the least popular of the Michael Forsythe books in the U.K. You speculated that "America, however, still has quite an interest in this kind of thing, especially among the Irish-American communities. With the luxury of distance, they maybe have a romantic idea of the struggle and are open to more from this sub-genre. And McKinty has given it to them in spades."

You could be right, though Irish Republican sentiment has traditionally had a higher profile than Unionist sentiment in the U.S. I found myself wondering, in fact, whether McKinty might want to follow Michael Forsythe into the Witness Protection Program, at least if he ever wanted to visit Massachusetts. This is not because The Dead Yard or its protagonist are especially pro-Britain in sentiment, but rather because the book is decidedly unromantic about the struggle.

Perhaps that's what you meant when you wrote that we in America may be "open to more from this sub-genre." We, or at least I, was open to as thorough as a deromanticizing as The Dead Yard offers.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Also dont you think it was heroic of, er, Michael, to root for the NYY, surely the most hated franchise in America? That's not a way to make friends, even in big parts of NYC. Be like supporting Man United in England (I'd kill myself first).

And hey at least I'm comforted that I seem to have sneaked my Brian O'Nolan gag past you.

A...

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, Brian O'Nolan made it by me.

I suggested to Gerard that you might want to join the Witness Protection Program after your less than romantic view of the Sons of Cuchulain. But the hell with that. It's your views on the Yankees that could get you in trouble in Massachusetts.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - Yeah, to clarify my point, these days the general UK reaction on anything to do with the Troubles is to skim past the article, flick over the channel or put down the book.

At least, that's the BBC view on things, which is why Colin Bateman made the savvy decision to set his TV series, Murphy's Law, in London. Other writers have told me the same thing. Example -- A popular show over here (a comedy called Teachers) was pitched to the BBC as a series set in Northern Ireland. The executives asked if it was about the Troubles. When the writer said it wasn't the executives said, "Then lets set it in Norf London." Even when it's not about the Troubles, NI still has that label that's going to take a long time to pick off.

So, as, I think, America is more open to subject of the Troubles, even if this tendency does have a leaning towards Republican ideals, McKinty's book would still be given more of a chance. And as a huge plus, it's a step towards showing that both sides are equally wrong and right.

Now, can't we all just get along?

Adrian - There's only one team in Manchester. City 'til I die!

gb

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

You wont be surprised to learn that I was heckled at a book reading for the Dead Yard in Boston. I suppose I had it coming.

Even on the DL Joba still rules

Adrian...

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard, I suppose I can imagine that folks in the UK might have a bit of Troubles fatigue. I had read, probably on your blog, about instances of producers rolling their eyes and vetoing Northern Irish settings.

Ken Bruen and Jason Starr have some fun with American naiveté about the IRA in their novel Bust, one of the funniest crime novels ever set down on paper.

There's a nice scene in Michael Walters' novel The Shadow Walker in which a British cop meets a businessman at a lodge in the middle of Mongolia, finds out he's from Manchester, and assumes that, as a fat-cat successful businessman, he must root for Manchester United. He warms to the man considerably and thinks it a great insight into the surprising variety of human nature when it transpires that he is, in fact, a Manchester City supporter.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, did you read that scene with Michael, Kit and the Yankees in Boston? In Cambridge, this might have drawn good-natured heckling. Elsewhere, the response might have been more vigorous.

Joba was rushed into the starting rotation at the insistence of Hank Steinbrenner, who has shown signs of acting just as his father did in the early days of his Yankees ownership. But Joba seems to be doing exceedingly well as a starter. If I recall correctly, his ERA was something like 2.63, astonishing in modern baseball.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Pete & Ger - Noel Gallagher (not admittedly the best source) says that only Londoners support United. Real Mancunians support City. I'm for Coventry City so I'm neutral.

Pete, yeah I've been worried about Joba, but he seems a lot less fragile than Hughes or Kennedy.

Ger, BBC drama told me flat out that they wanted nothing whatsoever that related to the Troubles, as if the whole thirty years was a bad dream or something. I've heard they're even painting over the murals in Belfast, replacing them with cows in fields etc.

And finally I got heckled in Boston but it was less about the NYY than because I was "using fancy words and trying to act smart.." I was reading from chapter 1 which I dont recall being that fancy.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

"And finally I got heckled in Boston but it was less about the NYY than because I was "using fancy words and trying to act smart.." I was reading from chapter 1 which I dont recall being that fancy."

Boston is full of smart people. Where were you reading?

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Peter - That's Bust and The Shadow Walker added to my wish list. Cheers!

Adrian - Yeah, the Gallaghers don't know much, but I'll concede that point.

Also, at least you know it's nothing personal. I've heard this from a number of writers. Of course, they changed their tune when Liam Neeson got involved with a project on the Troubles. Him a Jimmy Nesbitt are set to star in a new BBC film on the very subject!

Typical!

gb

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter, B&N near Filenes. He may have been slightly crazy to begin with and I seem to have the capacity to draw out the madness in perfect strangers. It did get quite ugly and - in retrospect - funny. Must blog it sometime. I love Boston's dedication to Yankee hating though. My wife's from Newburyport, Mass. and one time I was out for a run there when a guy drove past me, stopped his car, waited for me to reach him and then, looking at my cap said, "Yankees suck" and drove off. Admirable dedication.

And yes I must also compliment you on your use of the word shite. I'm waiting for you to say: "I was keeking ma whipe" when the occasion arises.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

That should read "I was keeking ma whips." Damn you qwerty.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

I may have mentioned sometime that we were on a tour bus in Boston and someone with a British accent asked who was Ted Williams!
I was worried that anyone without a Boston accent would be thrown off the bus, but I quickly told the offender to say that he was joking and that Carl Yazstremski and Jim Lonborg were also great.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, if my memory serves as well as Goran Ivanisevic used to, a character in The Dead Yard asks that very question: Who's Ted Williams? Nowadays, even non-baseball fans may know Ted Williams as the guy for whom the defective Boston harbor Tunnel was named, the one whose inner tiles fell off and killed a woman.

Uriah, as one of the most knowledgeable baseball fans in the United Kingdom, you will know that Jim Lonborg became a dentist after he was done playing. So did Bill Lenkaitis, a former center for football's New England Patriors.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, from what I have heard about his stuff, John Rickards is the crime writer who might talk about keeping his whips.

I don't know "I keeping ma whips," and I shall gladly integrate it into my vocabulary as soon as I learn what it means.

But I do have pictures of a gravelly voiced baby in diapers talking about keeping his wipes, so qwerty has served us well.

The main Filene's at Downtown Crossing? Yes, one is apt to get an unrestrained character or two walking around there. What streetcar do you ride, that you always depend on the madness of strangers?

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Er, "keeking," not "keeping." And blame the eyes, not qwerty.

"Keeking" -- cool word. If it means "looking," as a quick search seems to indicate it does, it's the same as in Dutch, where the word for "to look" is "kijken."

Every day, or maybe once a week, I learn something thanks to crime fiction.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Other noted athlete-turned-dentist: Mark Spitz!

No word on whether he performs extractions under water or in hyperbaric chambers.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I don't know what kind of control Jim Lonborg had. I wonder if he used to drill lots of batters.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

keek = poop
whips = underpants

I'm glad no one mentioned what happened to Ted Williams's head. When Michael asked who TW was in the book, of course he was still alive. Will there be a Manny Ramirez tunnel some day? Somehow I think not.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. I can well imagine sneering at some threat and saying, "Yeah, right. I'm keeing me whips on that one" and then muttering under my breath, "Gobshite!"

I'd forgotten about Ted Williams' head. The history of Ted Williams and Boston fans' recent love for him is probably interesting. The great Bill James (the great baseball writer/thinker, not the great Welsh crime writer) says that Williams was hated through much of his career, even in Boston. Maybe John Updike's famous article about Williams' last game was a turning point.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Lonborg's hit-by-pitch numbers:

1966 AL-7-3
1967 AL-19-1
1968 AL-11-4
1969 AL-7-10
1971 AL-14-1
1972 AL-11-3
1973 NL-9-5
1974 NL-6-9

First number is batters hit; second number is where he was in hit batters within the league (1974 he was 9th among NL pitchers).

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Wow, he didn't skip a beat when he opted for a post-baseball career than included drilling. Interesting that by far his highest HBP total was the Red Sox' Impossible Dream season.

I wonder if many ex-ballplayers have gone into oil and natural-gas exploration.

Thanks.

And be careful if you're ever at a crime-fiction convention with Adrian McKinty. He might throw at your head.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Linkmeister said...

Ha! If Adrian shows up again, he'll be marginally pleased to know I just reserved/requested all three of his trilogy at my local library.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Still, if you and he are at an awards dinner, don't crowd your plate.

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

I couldnt throw a baseball to save my life. Also I remember many sunny afternoons at Coney Island humiliated in front of wife/girlfriend at the batting cages. If you grow up playing cricket you almost never see a "full toss" whereas in baseball almost every ball is one. In cricket a "yorker" is the equivalent to a curve ball and that's about the only one I could ever (seldom) hit.

I will be at the Melbourne Literary Festival in a fortnight and I have promised to "kick ass" so, be warned.

Has Ted Williams's head ever appeared on Futurama?

August 06, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Oh and thank you linkmaster, I hope you like the books. Dont be fooled by the author photo. Really I'm a pussycat.

Adrian..

August 06, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I have a colleague who was born in India and loves cricket. He must still play it because he had his cricket bats in the office a few weeks ago, and I actually held one in my hands. It was the highlight of my work night and probably my work week and month as well. I would probably not do any worse with a cricket bat than you did with a baseball, though, thanks to the same "Uriah Robinson" who posted above, I now understand a bit abotu cricket's rules. And that, in turn, has allowed me to decode Andy Capp in ways I never could before.

If Ted Williams' head ever appears on Futurama, the writers might work in a gag about Williams's legendary (and overstated) eyesight and the hot Leila's one eye.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

In India cricket really is something special. Want to make friends on a train? Start talking cricket. Want to navigate labyrinthine bureaucracy? Again mention cricket. I remember going into blind alleys in Old Delhi and seeing twenty kids playing cricket the way you imagine kids playing stickball in Brooklyn in the 30's. In a little over a month in India I ended playing more cricket pick up games than I'd played in the previous twenty years. I'd love to be able to play baseball like that. My wife said that one year for my birthday she'll send to Yankees fantasy camp. I was hoping for it yesterday, but alas no.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter yes, I knew Jim Lonborg had gone on to drill patients instead of batters and Mark Spitz was a Jewish dentist.

I got asked to play cricket for a very good club once but could I also bring along the Indian oral surgeon who worked part time for me.
OK they did not really want me but they had heard my Indian friend was a fantastic cricketer as well as being captain of Surrey at squash.
He went into the first team and I was put in the second team, they did not have a third.

August 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I enjoyed "Dead I Well May Be" quite a bit, but sadly haven't been able to get interested in any of the others.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's hard for me to picture cricket being played in the confined spaces of an alley. Of course, baseball, also designed for wide-open spaces, in adaptable to school yards, narrow streets, even, in one odd variant, to a walkway and a flight of steps.

It would be interesting to read about the social history of cricket in India. I wonder if it has similarities to the history of baseball in Cuba, Japan or the Dominican Republic.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

All right, Uriah, what is the best way for an outsider to become acquainted with the pleasures and quirks of cricket?

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian: Yikes, I meant I would probably do no BETTER with a cricket bat than you would playing baseball and probably considerably worse.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous, I haven't read "The Bloomsday Dead" yet, but I think the "The Dead Yard" will repay your interest, should that interest develop.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter there is almost as great a cricket literary tradition as there is in baseball.
The books of EW Swanton and Neville Cardus if still in print will give you an idea of the depth and charm of the game.
England of course are 2-0 down with one to play in their present series with South Africa.
England have done very well today with their new captain born in Pietermaritzburg, who was appointed ahead of the favourite who was born in Jo'burg.

August 07, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Uriah, thanks for those names. I shall look for them. Wow, looks as if the long-suffering English side is using South Africans to try to beat South Africa.

August 07, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Back to the book for a moment? I stumbled across The Dead Yard
and read it first -- or listened to it first (Gerard Doyle is perfect for the character -- sign him up for the movie, especially if he can transfer a jagged piece of glass from his foot to his bound hand). Then Dead I May Well Be, and most recently,Bloomsday Dead Enjoyed them all tremendously, even from the viewpoint of an Irish-American Catholic, with a romantic view of "the Troubles."
[Is it just me, however, or did the paternity opportunity calculation have anyone else scratching their head after Bloomsday?]

Not so much Hidden River (good story, just could not get past the heavy heroin emphasis)

Adrian, please feel free to set your next novel in Detroit; it has a real baseball team, and a crime novel about our mayor would practically write itself.

August 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the comment. Back to the book is always welcome.

I don't remember scratching my head over the paternity-opportunity calculation, but I did think about the paternity question. It may have been a bit melodramatic, but it was no deus ex machina. It fit nicely with the motif's, carried through from the first book, of Michael's love for Bridget. Perhaps that consistency was why I didn't scratch my head over the calculations.

Detroit's mayor is spinning out lots of material for a shelf of true-crime books or maybe a comic-crime novel, yes.

August 21, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of which is true, and maybe a tribute to the writer's art. It seemed like MF was in Mexican jail forever, then getting fit and preparing, avenging his way up the mob food chain, all before visiting Darkey. And then, Bridget isn't even showing, let alone telling?

Still, a terrific book, and no need to nitpick.

August 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Maybe Bridget had her clothes made by an artful designer. And don't forget that she's off the scene for much of the time that she would have been showing.

It seemed as if MF was in the jail forever, but I think the only definite indications of time passing are weeks, not months.

Yes, a hell of a book and part of a trilogy whose third volume is surprisingly comic. But perhaps I shall take another look and try to chronicle Bridget's pregnancy from its beginning.

August 21, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian - There's only one team in Manchester. City 'til I die!

gb


Gerard, do you think City will become a little less loveable with its new owner and recent signing?

September 16, 2008  

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