It was a country pub on a Monday. Derelict streets and one customer inside. Half a pint in front of him, a haze of lost years behind. There was a smell of absence, unused stools and dead promise. Barely dried ink from a bad deal off the boom. There was racing on the telly, a 32 Inch hangover from the days of easy credit. It had the bored look of a woman that shoulda made it big, but now it’s too late and she’s stuck here and bitter about it. The barman was like someone you’d call Joe. A sound type with a striped shirt and grade two hair, three days of stubble and probably a few hundred thousand debt. I got to the shiny counter and said I was here to collect a painting. He squinted then, gave the impression that cogs were turning, but it would help if I volunteered some more facts. The customer’s mouth kinda hung down, two bottom teeth left, Heineken on the chin, dirty raincoat on the stool behind him, the pint looking terrified on the counter. I told Joe that I was publishing a book, and the artist said I could use one of her paintings for the cover, but it was hung in a pub that used to be a restaurant, and I’d need to go and collect it. He nodded wisely, like this was a good idea, then seemed to realise it was here I was talking about. He said to follow him out back and I did. Past Tayto and kegs and dusty dark tablecloths with unlit candles. The walls were dark, and the window didn’t gave much light that wasn’t drowned out by rain. I could just about see the stripes on Joe’s shirt as he reached the wall and stared at what we were here to find. Twas like finding a diamond in a coal mine, or a gold nugget in a cave. I took it down with care and Joe scratched his head and looked at it and asked: ‘Is that it?’
And he walked back to the bar. I followed him out, awkwardly trying not to hit corners and grooves or walls with the frame. The telly in the corner let us know that the race was underway. Horses belting down the track towards some invisible line in another country. The customer had a name like Patsy. There was a good shlug gone out of the pint. He stared at the painting like he was supposed to feel something, but there was nothing there, and he felt bad about it. He took a drink and got more on the counter than in his mouth. I needed to send and e-mail to the publishers to tell them I got the image for the cover so I asked Joe: ‘Do you have any WiFi here?’
And he said: ‘Wifi?! We’re lucky to have phones.’
Patsy gave a wave. A sort of sympathetic effort that tried to convey something, but fell short, like he knew all there was to know about all there was to know about everything, but just couldn’t quantify it, so he gave up and let his tongue fall through the space between his teeth and stared at his pint. Joe folded his arms and got fixated on the race and I left.
Fisherman’s Blues is the hilarious new novel from Mick Donnellan.Dark and audacious, written in a distinct West of Ireland vernacular, it covers a myriad of genres from Crime Noir to comedy and an odd bit of religion. Fresh in its language, vivid in its descriptions, the book sings with the signature style of all Donnellan’s previous work, and a bit more. Delving into the lives of drinkers, lovers, thieves and scam artists, the story weaves a web of intrigue and curiosity that ends with an unforgettable bang. Not without its poignant moments, the plot hinges on the chaotic consequences of three unlikely comrade’s attempts to save their lost relationships, while unintentionally ruining the plans of a rising criminal’s efforts to take over the city. The question is: Can they succeed? And if they don’t, what then? And where have the women really gone?