There was a Mondeo in Bellmullet. Test, no tax, “….she won’t need much….” after that it was all Ballina, Ballycastle and Castlebar. Passats, Hondas and heaps of Insignias. There was Insignias everywhere. All washed, looking good, but dead inside. “Engine light on, not sure, probably just a sensor…” which is Chinese for that oil seal yoke that blows the engine that everyone suddenly knows about and is dying to tell you only after you buy it. Been there, done that, burnt the fuckin t-shirt. One lad had a Skoda for sale but had no keys. The car was locked but you could look in the side window and if you liked what you saw you could tow it away. No tax, test, and no logbook “…hence the price…”
On went the dream. A Kia in Limerick. A Tuscon in Crossmolina. Cars in the North at crazy cheap prices til you add the VRT and the wonderful Nox. An Avensis in Headford. A Focus in Roscommon. Lads offering PCP. Sure PCP is easy. Almost certain to get it. Here’s one now, a nice 1 litre, affordable, reliable, guaranteed. Call today, drive away. Yours by lunch, no credit crunch. Take the wheel, enjoy the steal. Want to go far, then buy this car. Sure that’ll do, time to get out of the dregs, into the big leagues, shiny at the football pitch with the child, big shtuff. Here we went, just a case of picking it up. There was breeze, a bruised sky, and an uncertain salesman. Yeah, them deals were a while ago, where’d you read that?
-Oh right. See. Well. Let’s try.
We tried. There was paperwork. Questions. More questions. Questions about questions. Bit like giving blood. Then there was forms. Beloved forms. Upload this, scan that, make sure it’s this date and from these places only. Now we’ll think about it. Hit submit and we’ll be back within 48 to 72 hours and we might need more. Depends on if you fucked it up. No car today, no steal of a deal or fancy wheels making lunch time reels around shiny new leather roundabouts of long term debt and wonderful guarantees of reliable travel.
Back to Donedeal. Even the Skoda with no keys was gone by now.
The phone rang, then. The dealer that bought the Peugeot. Christ, Jesus, why’s he ringing me? Didn’t I tell him it didn’t work? He was hardly wondering about the weedkiller in the engine?
I answered with a tentative, hello? Like I wasn’t sure who it was. Casual, innocent, blameless in this whole mess.
He didn’t buy it, asked: ‘Have you got a new car yet?
‘Are you still lookin for somethin? I met your oul fella downtown. He said you were lookin…’
‘I….am. Well, just waiting on a PCP….’
‘I have a yoke here for ya.’
‘Yeah, two months test, tax, and in good shape. I’ll call around and show to ya.’
Set in Athlone, the heart of the Irish midlands, The Naked Flame is a story of love, loss, betrayal, and passion. John joe is engaged but doesn’t want to get married. He’s not sure how to break this to Karen. Then it’s time for the stag party in Madrid. There he meets Marilyn. They spend the night together and everything changes. Now the wedding is cancelled, the police want to talk to him about a double murder and the phone is ringing with mysterious requests to come to London. John joe suddenly finds himself in a surreal world, full of unusual characters and extreme danger, with no obvious way out. Met with impossible choices he can only trust the alluring woman that offers all the answers – but at what cost?
Mick Donnellan’s fourth novel is rich in comedy, tragedy, hints of the absurd and undertones of a man in existential crisis. The story thunders along with unexpected twists and ominous turns that culminate in a devastating climax. A unique tale, it strikes an emotional note, and is guaranteed to supply an entertaining read.
The Naked Flame was completed during a retreat at the Tyrone Guthrie Centre in late 2021.
When not writing fiction he works as a successful Playwright and Screenwriter. Film credits include Tiger Raid (2016) adapted from Mick’s Play Radio Luxembourg. He has recently received the Agility Award through the Arts Council of Ireland and the Mayo Theatre Bursary through Mayo Arts Office.
His most recent Play Nally was supported by Westmeath Arts Office and aired in May 2021 as a Zoom/Youtube performance. It was attended by over two thousand viewers on the night and many more since.
In May 2020 Mick had a monologue (The Crucified Silence) chosen as part of the Scripts Ireland Play festival. After a week of intensive workshops with Playwright Eugene O’Brien, the monologue was directed by Jim Culleton (Fishamble) and performed by Aaron Monaghan.
Mick Donnellan completed the MA in Writing at NUIG in 2004. Since then, he has worked as a novelist, travel writer, teacher and Playwright. He completed his first novel, El Niño, in 2004 and immediately secured a literary agent. He left Ireland soon after and went on to live in Spain, Australia, and Canada. While traveling he worked as a journalist and co-founded the Arts Paper – Urban Pie – in Vancouver. Upon returning to Ireland he went on to work with Druid (2009) and RTE (2010) and El Niño was published in 2012 with excellent reviews.
Later, Mick established his own theatre company, Truman Town Theatre. All Truman Town Plays are written, directed, and produced by Mick. The company exploded on to the theatrical circuit in 2011 with their hit Play – Sunday Morning Coming Down. Following a national tour, they went on to produce (and tour) two more hugely successful Plays Shortcut to Hallelujah and Gun Metal Grey. These dramas eventually became known as the “Ballinrobe Trilogy.”
Moving slightly from rural settings but not themes, the theatre company toured a fourth Play, Velvet Revolution. Set in a stark urban landscape, it created interest in Mick’s work among the film industry. He followed Velvet Revolution with his fifth Play – Radio Luxembourg – and it was immediately optioned by London Film Company Dixon/Baxi/Evans and adapted for the screen.
While the film was in development, Mick’s second novel – Fisherman’s Blues – was published. As it rose up the ranks, and enjoyed positive reviews, Mick was taken on board as screenwriter on the Radio Luxembourg project. After some months commuting to and from London, the script was complete, and a shoot was organised in the Jordanian desert. Titled Tiger Raid and Starring Brian Gleeson, Damian Molony and Sofia Boutella, it was accepted into the Tribeca film festival (New York) and was also seen at Cannes and Edinburgh. The Irish Premiere was screened at the Galway Film Fleadh. You can read more about Tiger Raid and watch the trailer here:
Other exciting projects include the screen adaptation of Shortcut to Hallelujah with Florence Films. The screenplay is titled Sam and is based around the gypsy curse supposedly set on the Mayo Football team as they returned home as All Ireland Champions in 1951. Set in the present day, Sam is drenched in Irish lyricism and modern-day dark humour. The script has been met with keen interest by film producers and actors throughout the industry.
Mick has lectured part-time in writing at the AIT (Athlone Institute of Technology) in County Westmeath. The course has enjoyed an exponential increase in numbers since its inception in September 2017. April 2019 saw the release of the well-received Tales from the Heart which is a collection of creative work from the students. It was launched at the college by bestselling author and esteemed politician Mary O’Rourke.
Mick has worked as a writing lecturer at NUI Galway.
The advice was – don’t let her go low on oil, whatever you do. Keep plenty of oil in her.
There was an almighty bang and a plume of smoke. I couldn’t see out any of the windows for about twenty seconds. When the cloud cleared, it was like the aftermath of a drone strike. Parents running stunned away with kids. Abhorred traffic and two lads at the pub door coughing and spluttering and unsure what the hell was happening.
One of them came over and said: ‘I think your turbo’s gone.’
‘How do you reckon that?’
‘The smell. The smell of burning sweet rubber.’
‘That’s not too bad, I suppose.’
‘Did you notice anything beforehand?’
‘No. Just put oil in it?’
‘Oil? A good bit.’
He thought, said: ‘You might be fucked so.’
I tried starting it. Sure enough, it fired. Hesitant, then strong. Maybe it was too much oil. Drive her out of it. Hope for the best. I pushed on -away from the new smoke, and the onlookers and into the oil free future.
It was then I noticed the temperature. It was over the usual half. Gone past the dangerous three quarters. And was now at full tilt maximum. I thought then I should maybe stop but I was sure when a big light came on and said: ‘Engine Overheated. STOP IMMEDIATLEY.’
Great craic. I got out, tried to breath, struggled a bit. A Romanian man came along, asked:
‘Car has problem?’
‘Turbo I think.’
‘I think not.’
‘No. I think more like, how you say….KAPUT?’
And he walked off. Darkness coming now. And some cold. Rang the breakdown assistance. Told them I think it was the turbo. They said they’d send someone down. And they did. He pulled up, all lights and swagger, said: ‘Overheated?’
‘Any lights on?’
‘Just for the oil.’
‘And did you put much in?’
‘A good bit.’
‘Oh. You’ll need a taxi home. I’ll let them know.’
He rang the taxi. Put the car on the truck. Said we had to go to some town, some place. Sat in. Talked about life, kids, mortgages, Brexit, the price of cars. Then he said we’ll stop here and wait for the taxi.
We got out. Kind Friday air. Decombusted week. Then – more smoke. It was coming from the back of the truck. Had to be my car, a new fire, a latent sizzle gone rogue. But no. It was the truck. Smoke coming from here too. Something to do with wheels, rubber, axles, calipers. He explained while he poured water over the source and said he had to call a breakdown truck for himself now but he’d have my car back in Athlone by the morning and here comes your taxi.
The taxi man was delighted. Long handy fare. Asked me had I the car long and what happened. And was Athlone nice and do they have good chippers?
After that, we drove and didn’t talk much. Not much to say, only the dark night and the dead road and the carless future. He dropped me off on Connaught Street and I told them they do good chips in Mr.Pizza and he said thanks and charged me a €182 for the fare.
Great day, sure it might be grand. The next day I rang the mechanic and told him the craic and he asked me where the car is now. And sure I hadn’t a clue. Some town somewhere, on the back of a smoky truck. I’ll get back to you on that, I told him.