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Kevin Forde
Mickey Collins
Kevin Forde, author
A life of Petty crime, dysfunctional family behaviour and State involvement in same, as seen through the eyes of a petty criminal growing up in modern Ireland.
Forde (The Leaving Cert) serves up a mix of crime and punishment with this voice-driven, stream-of-consciousness tale set in Ireland and penned in the tradition of that island’s great novelists. Mickey Collins, the son of pregnant drug dealer Tanya Collins, lives on the outskirts of society, viewing as simply part of everyday life things such as shoplifting, random violence, suicide, dropping out of school, and jail sentences where cellmates smoke heroin, inmates are beaten merely for sport, and an elaborate caste system reigns. Forde leads readers through two decades of Mickey’s life, recounting a hardscrabble existence that shows how a disadvantaged life evolves.

Mickey’s hard-edged, offhandedly lyric, richly Irish voice powers the novel, the sentences like something you might overhear from the best storyteller in the pub. The prose steeps readers in Mickey’s mind, moments, and milieu—and demands, over dense monologuing paragraphs of “I tell ya”s and idiomatic expression, that they either sink or swim. A vital comic spirit brightens the material, especially as Mickey recounts youthful dustups and scrapes, like getting caught “​​thrun the chicken nuggets deliberately” out a hotel window, or pretending to sell The Big Issue and then hitting up pedestrians for fifty pence for making them smile. His character portraits, quick and cutting, delight throughout, full people captured in a minimum of words.

Forde offers striking insight into the realities of addiction and how easy it is for a user to need more and more: “every hit of heroin was like a tiny bit smaller than the last one,” Mickey tells us, adding “usually, after a while it wouldn’t barely get you into the sky.” Forde also adds depth and nuance to Mickey’s character as he muses about his exploits with his baby sister, Jordan SueAnne—tellingly, our protagonist has no problem with selling and consuming drugs during their outings, but he draws the line at changing nappies. Forde’s style requires a close reading to keep up, but its authenticity and deep humanity shine through every word.

Takeaway: Readers who enjoy voice-driven Irish literary storytelling will devour this account of a wild life.

Great for fans of: Mike McCormack, Rob Doyle.

Production grades
Cover: B
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: A-