Ireland's young writers are as contemporary, irreverent and punchy as anyone Scotland could throw at you. Now top Dublin publisher POOLBEG is ready to take the UK market head on.

Words: Brian Donaldson

{/1 ' L I. \I i ii \kj \- a i ,. i


WHAT IS A POOLBEG? IS IT: a) a lighthouse:

b) a small hole; or

c) a street in the Irish capital?

Yes. to all three. To call your publishing house that name would make a reader think of:

a) a bright light spreading its glare across space and time: b) a special niche; c) urban and gritty.

Poolbeg could be argued to be all of those things. but the title‘s roots are much more fundamental and mundane. On his way to register the company he co-founded. former literary agent Philip MacDermott found himself parking in Dublin‘s Poolbeg Street. An invisible lightbulb appeared above his head and the future of independent Irish publishing v 'as assured.

Beginning in 1976 as small-scale publishers of political non—fiction. literary fiction. short stories and biography. the company really took off in the early 90s with a few big hits in the women‘s mass market area. Now they're at the point where they so dominate the Irish book charts with a mix of the literary and the popular. that expansion to the UK is inevitable.

Poolbeg‘s thing has always been to discover and nurture new Irish talent. Now though. they have had enough of watching their babies flee the nest for the Penguins. Capes and Fahers of the world. 'We rethought our strategy and began giving authors three- hook deals so that we had something to hold on to.‘ recalls Gaye Shortland. Poolbeg‘s Editor and novelist in her own right. ‘And we then realised that our product is selling well in Britain. so we should really be doing this ourselves.’

8 rue usr 13—27 May 1999

After the recent publication of a collection of ‘fresh Irish fiction' entitled Slzwzanigans which signalled that the country's literati were about to shake off the locked chains owned by Joyce. Beckett and Behan that long-standing statement about the Irish and their a-coming is finally about to be properly realised. Names such as Neville Thompson. Gaye Shortland and Conal Creedon may not be uttered over breakfast tables much beyond Cork or Dublin. but Poolbeg‘s hope is that they will soon be spoken in the same breath here as the likes of Welsh. Kennedy and Warner.

First up for Poolbeg in the UK are novels by Neville Thompson and Conal Creedon. Thompson gets into the dark side of Dublin's drug-addicted underbelly through the black comedy romances of his main characters. Creedon's heroes spin through the insanity of everyday life at a farcical pace. Both have been compared to a certain other Irish talent: the former is ‘Roddy Doyle with knobs on': the latter "Roddy Doyle on Scumpy Jack‘.

‘For years the Irish bestseller list was reserved for the Danielle Steels and John Grishams and Catherine Cooksons.’ states Poolbeg Chairman Philip MacDermott. ‘Now if you walk into any bookshop. you‘re surrounded. blinded by our books. Our first aim for the UK is to get a prominent position on The Sunday Times" paperback list. And I know in my heart and soul that all the publicity and presentation and jacketing we did in Ireland. we can do it in Britain. too.‘

It‘s amazing the effect a pigs’ head on your front cover can have.

Mo Birds/One Stoned by Neville Thompson is out now, priced £6.99. Conal Creedon's Passion Play will be published by Poolbeg in June.

“Rfi'fii’i'f 5’

with twining Sundrr/ Time: '

0 1’1 tr; 5. L! H ti?" U.

Neville Thompson

ghthouse 21me

The oncomin Irish Other writers to watc from the Emerald Isle.

Lana Citron London-based writer with short story and radio work behind her, who made a splash with the urbane and thoroughly contemporary Sucker. Look out for her story ’The Craic Run' in Shenanigans.

Hugo Hamilton Born of Irish- Germanic parentage, Hamilton’s last novel Sad Bastard had a bald, bespectacled man with a fish in his mouth on the front cover. He has spent time as writer-in-residence in Bucharest and York.

Ardal O'Hanlon The novelist formerly known as Father Dougal Maguire proved he was no simpleton in real-life with the gritty, relentlessly harsh and ultimately tragic The Ta/k Of The Town. Emer Martin Familiar to purchasers of Rebel Inc’s The Rovers Return collection, Martin’s second novel More Bread Or /’// Appear is due out this year. She can often be found in New York watering-hole Frankie Splits.

Robert Cremins Texas-based Dubliner's debut A Sort Of Homecoming received rave reviews with words such as 'exceptional' and ’funniest book of the year’ included in them.