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Emerald Germs Of Ireland (Picador £14.99) Paddy McCabe’s been a very bad boy, so he has. He’s only gone and written another novel about a fellow who has a stormy relationship with older women and who’s not adverse to a spot of murder. In fact, Pat McNab, middle-aged killer in Emerald Germs Of Ireland, could be the older brother of Francie Brady, aka The Butcher Boy.
’He could well be a relation,’ says McCabe down the phone line from the Emerald Isle. ‘He could be Francie’s brother or father or a third cousin he’s never met.’ The new novel begins with McNab murdering his beloved but smothering mammy, so he might also have a relation in the motel business in America? ’He’s very much related to Norman Bates,’ agrees McCabe, who had that psycho in mind when he created McNab. ’Bates is an archetype of Oedipal compulsions and madness.’
Like Brady and Bates, McNab is strangely sympathetic. ’Women really like him,’ says his creator. ’If you examine his nemeses, they’re all particularly unappealing figures of authority — aggressive or manipulative — and it renders him as some kind of innocent abroad.’ An innocent who, in the year following the matricide, pumps to bursting a nosy neighbour full of whiskey and water, impales a dishonest turf salesman on the end of a pitchfork and burns alive a thuggish farmer and his flock of sheep. This and around 50 other crimes are set to a selection of folk songs, each of which was a starting point for McCabe’s musings over murder. He calls it a ‘song novel, a repository of tales and songs.’
It’s disturbing stuff, and the more upsetting McNab’s misadventures, the more absurdly funny they get. 'It’s a theatre of the absurd,’ says McCabe. ’Being born is an absurd idea anyway. "How can we live if we must die”, Hemingway said. It’s written into the DNA that things are hilariously funny; you’re laughing yourself into the abyss.’
Assuming he hasn’t impaled any travelling salesmen, is there much of McCabe in McNab? ‘I may have wanted to murder a turf salesman, which is a different thing. Those impulses are in everyone; if you're standing at a bus stop in the rain and you say ”I could kill that bitch”, you’re
A song novel of murder, madness and mothers
not going to do it. You could consider that McNab hasn't murdered anyone.’ That it’s all in his head? ’Yeah, he’s sitting in a bar late one evening listening to the songs. There might be a very bad three-piece band or an infernal drum machine attacking these once beautiful melodies. Let's say it's a music night of some description in a bar which much be some part of hell's empire itself. It’s a cross~section of wish fulfilment notions.’
l Emerald Germs Of Ireland is published on Fri 26 Jan.
set in a West Highland seaport where eco-warriors go in search of Scotland‘s last wolf.
Alienation and death with a dose of fun
Waterstone's, Edinburgh, Thu I Feb.
Literary phenomenons may come and publishing imprints may go, but 11:9 has ensured a place in history With its very name. Referring to the date when voters made their chorce for a Scottish Parliament (it September 1997 to be precrsel, the stable's first six authors were launched to acclaim last October.
But who are they and what have they done? Shug Hanlan’s Hi Bonnybrig And Other Greetings is a comic look at the country’s maior paranormal hotspot and muses over John Knox playing Bill Murray's part in Ghostbusters and the Dalai Lama movrng into Shirley MacLaine’s spare room. The Wo/fc/aw Chronic/es from Tom Bryan was billed as a cross between Hamish Macbeth and Iain Banks and is a modern fable
Linda Cracknell’s Life Drawing is a set
of shOrt stories beginning in childhood and movmg through life’s passages,
taking in loneliness, death, separation
and alienation but With healthy humour. Occasional Demons by Raymond Soltysek also has Wit but is an altogether bleaker collection With titles like ’Drowning In The Shallows’ and ’Dismantled’.
Finally, Martin Shannon describes his '
novel The Tin Man as 'a domestic drama which Will be pretty close to the bone for many’ and East Kilbride poet Davrd Cameron’s Rousseau Moon stories are tinged with primitive longing and the intensity of youth. If you’re intrigued, keep an eye out for 11:9 part two at the end of May.
Debut authors under the microscope. This issue: Heidi Julavits
Who she? Heidi lulavits was born on 20 April 1968 in Maine She moved to New York in I990 and worked as a temp in Ralph Lauren’s corporate HQ The followrng year she went on a Six- month tour of ASIa, at one pomt finding herself stranded on a desert island. She returned to America, waiting tables by day and writing at night, finally Signing on a publisher's dotted line On her 30th birthday She Currently resides in Brooklyn,
Her debut It’s called The Mineral Pa/ace, a sprawling epic, telling the 19305 tale of Bena Ionssen, a doctor’s Wife and young mother whose sense of purpose rails against the Great Depressron But can she thrive in the bleak enVirons of Pueblo, Colorado and what Will become of her family?
First paragraph test ’As soon as the Ford Towing Car crossed the St. Paul crty limits on April 20, I934 ("You are leavrng St. Paul, Minn, Home of the lnlagd Sill Herring Festival, Please Visit Us Again"), and passed into the great, square-upon-square expanse of the surrounding farmland, Bena rotted down the odometer reading With the golf penCII she kept in the ashtray. 5,434'
Thoroughly recommended by Amy Tan believes that Julavrts has penned 'a mesmerising first novel'. Elle compliments the book’s 'hard grace and quret command' While Harper’s Bazaar commends her for haying ’Woven an utterly conVincmg case for human sympathy’,
Speak for yourself ’The Mineral Palace
has been my attempt to discover more about my grandmother, a woman as gregariously and publicly available as she was cryptic and covert. I set the novel in Pueblo because her descriptions of life in the town ~ With its closed sooal ranks, its dust storms —
. were the only complaints I ever heard
her make.’ (Brian Donaldson)
I The Mineral Palace is published by Virago on Thu 25 Jan priced £9, 99,
I8 Jan—l Feb 2001 THE “ST 95