Authors: Kevin Barry
Tags: #Literary, #Fiction
Forty years in the future. The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are the posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and the eerie bogs of Big Nothin’ that the city really lives.
For years, the city has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. They say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and his missus wants him to give it all up and go straight… And then there’s his mother.
City of Bohane is a visionary novel that blends influences from film and the graphic novel, from Trojan beats and calypso rhythms, from Celtic myth and legend, from fado and the sagas, and from all the great inheritance of Irish literature. A work of mesmerising imagination and vaulting linguistic invention, it is a taste of the glorious and new.
Kevin Barry’s story collection,
There Are Little Kingdoms
, won the Rooney Prize in 2007. His short fiction has appeared widely on both sides of the Atlantic, most recently in the
New Yorker. City of Bohane
is his first novel.
ALSO BY KEVIN BARRY
There Are Little Kingdoms
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Epub ISBN 9781407086118
Published by Jonathan Cape 2011
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Copyright © Kevin Barry 2011
Kevin Barry has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work
This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, resold, hired out, or otherwise circulated without the publisher’s prior consent in any form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition, including this condition, being imposed on the subsequent purchaser
The author acknowledges the support of the Arts Council of Ireland
First published in Great Britain in 2011 by
Random House, 20 Vauxhall Bridge Road,
London SW1V 2SA
Addresses for companies within The Random House Group Limited
can be found at:
The Random House Group Limited Reg. No. 954009
A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library
for Olivia Smith
The Nature of the Disturbance
Whatever’s wrong with us is coming in off that river. No argument: the taint of badness on the city’s air is a taint off that river. This is the Bohane river we’re talking about. A blackwater surge, malevolent, it roars in off the Big Nothin’ wastes and the city was spawned by it and was named for it: city of Bohane.
He walked the docks and breathed in the sweet badness of the river. It was past midnight on the Bohane front. There was an evenness to his footfall, a slow calm rhythm of leather on stone, and the dockside lamps burned in the night-time a green haze, the light of a sad dream. The water’s roar for Hartnett was as the rushing of his own blood and as he passed the merchant yards the guard dogs strung out a sequence of howls all along the front. See the dogs: their hackles heaped, their yellow eyes livid. We could tell he was coming by the howling of the dogs.
Polis watched him but from a distance – a pair of hoss polis watering their piebalds at a trough ’cross in Smoketown. Polis were fresh from the site of a reefing.
‘Ya lampin’ him over?’ said one. ‘Albino motherfucker.’
‘Set yer clock by him,’ said the other.
Albino, some called him, others knew him as the Long Fella: he ran the Hartnett Fancy.
He cut off from the dockside and walked on into the Back Trace, the infamous Bohane Trace, a most evil labyrinth, an unknowable web of streets. He had that Back Trace look to him: a dapper buck in a natty-boy Crombie, the Crombie draped all casual-like over the shoulders of a pale grey Eyetie suit, mohair. Mouth of teeth on him like a vandalised graveyard but we all have our crosses. It was a pair of hand-stitched Portuguese boots that slapped his footfall, and the stress that fell, the emphasis, was money.
Hard-got the riches – oh the stories that we told out in Bohane about Logan Hartnett.
Dank little squares of the Trace opened out suddenly, like gasps, and Logan passed through. All sorts of quarehawks lingered Trace-deep in the small hours. They looked down as he passed, they examined their toes and their sacks of tawny wine – you wouldn’t make eye contact with the Long Fella if you could help it. Strange, but we had a fear of him and a pride in him, both. He had a fine hold of himself, as we say in Bohane. He was graceful and erect and he looked neither left nor right but straight out ahead always, with the shoulders thrown back, like a general. He walked the Arab tangle of alleyways and wynds that make up the Trace and there was the slap, the lift, the slap, the lift of Portuguese leather on the backstreet stones.
Yes and Logan was in his element as he made progress through the labyrinth. He feared not the shadows, he knew the fibres of the place, he knew every last twist and lilt of it.
Jenni Ching waited beneath the maytree in the 98er Square.
He approached the girl, and his step was enough: she needn’t look up to make the reck. He smiled for her all the same, and it was a wry and long-suffering smile – as though to say: More of it, Jenni? – and he sat on the bench beside. He laid a hand on hers that was tiny, delicate, murderous.
The bench had dead seasons of lovers’ names scratched into it.
‘Well, girleen?’ he said.
‘Cunt what been reefed in Smoketown was a Cusack off the Rises,’ she said.
‘Did he have it coming, Jen?’
‘Don’t they always, Cusacks?’
Logan shaped his lips thinly in agreement.
‘The Cusacks have always been crooked, girl.’
Jenni was seventeen that year but wise beyond it. Careful, she was, and a saucy little ticket in her lowriders and wedge heels, her streaked hair pineappled in a high bun. She took the butt of a stogie from the tit pocket of her white vinyl zip-up, and lit it.
‘Get enough on me fuckin’ plate now ’cross the footbridge, Mr H.’
‘I know that.’
‘Cusacks gonna sulk up a welt o’ vengeance by ’n’ by and if yer askin’ me, like? A rake o’ them tossers bullin’ down off the Rises is the las’ thing Smoketown need.’
‘Cusacks are always great for the old talk, Jenni.’
‘More’n talk’s what I gots a fear on, H. Is said they gots three flatblocks marked Cusack ’bove on the Rises this las’ while an’ that’s three flatblocks fulla headjobs with a grá on ’em for rowin’, y’check me?’
‘All too well, Jenni.’
It is fond tradition in Bohane that families from the Northside Rises will butt heads against families from the Back Trace. Logan ran the Trace, he was Back Trace blood-and-bone, and his was the most ferocious power in the city that year. But here were the Cusacks building strength and gumption on the Rises.
‘What’s the swerve we gonna throw, Logan?’
There was a canniness to Jenni. It was bred into her – the Chings were old Smoketown stock. Smoketown was hoors, herb, fetish parlours, grog pits, needle alleys, dream salons and Chinese restaurants. Smoketown was the other side of the footbridge from the Back Trace, yonder across the Bohane river, and it was the Hartnett Fancy had the runnings of Smoketown also. But the Cusacks were shaping for it.