City of bohane a novel, p.1
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       City of Bohane: A Novel, p.1

           Kevin Barry
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City of Bohane: A Novel

  About the


  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.

  About the


  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.


  There Are Little Kingdoms



  Kevin Barry

  This eBook is copyright material and must not be copied, reproduced, transferred, distributed, leased, licensed or publicly performed or used in any way except as specifically permitted in writing by the publishers, as allowed under the terms and conditions under which it was purchased or as strictly permitted by applicable copyright law. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author’s and publisher’s rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

  Version 1.0

  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

  Jonathan Cape

  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

  ISBN 9780224090575



  About the Book

  About the Author

  Also by Kevin Barry




  Part I: October

  Chapter 1: The Nature of the Disturbance

  Chapter 2: The Gant’s Return

  Chapter 3: A Marriage

  Chapter 4: A Powwow on the Rises

  Chapter 5: The Mendicants at the Aliados

  Chapter 6: Big Nothin’ Rendezvous

  Chapter 7: The Lost-Time: A Romance

  Chapter 8: Night on Nothin’

  Chapter 9: Girly

  Chapter 10: In a Smoketown Patois

  Chapter 11: The Gant’s Letter to Macu

  Chapter 12: Who Gots the Runnings?

  Part II: December

  Chapter 13: The View from Girly’s Eyrie

  Chapter 14: The 98 Steps

  Chapter 15: Black Crab Soup

  Chapter 16: Wolfie: His Allegiances

  Chapter 17: The Shortest Day

  Chapter 18: The Light That Never Goes Out

  Chapter 19: Logan and Fucker Meet the Sand-Pikeys

  Chapter 20: Beauvista Interior

  Chapter 21: Feud

  Chapter 22: The Note That Macu Left For Logan

  Chapter 23: The Darkroom

  Chapter 24: 22 December, 12.01 a.m., Bohane Authority

  Part III: April

  Chapter 25: Babylon Montage

  Chapter 26: The Burden

  Chapter 27: The Ancient & Historical Bohane Film Society

  Chapter 28: The View from Fifty

  Chapter 29: The Intrigue in Smoketown

  Chapter 30: The Beak of the Law

  Chapter 31: All Our Yesterdays

  Chapter 32: Wolfie Got a Brood On

  Chapter 33: Jenni Ching, Superstar

  Chapter 34: The Succession

  Chapter 35: On Riverside Boulevard

  Chapter 36: Macu’s Dilemma

  Chapter 37: Speak a Dream

  Chapter 38: Baba-love

  Chapter 39: Logan’s Letter to Macu

  Chapter 40: Late Nite at Tommie’s

  Part IV: On the Night of August Fairs

  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 a
nd 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.

  ‘I’d say we keep things moving quite swiftly against them, Jenni-sweet.’

  ‘Coz they gonna come on down anyways, like?’

  ‘Oh there’s no doubt to it, girl. They’re going to come down barkin’. May as well force them to a quick move.’

  She considered the tactic.

  ‘Afore they’s full prepped for a gack off us, y’mean? Play on they pride, like. What the Fancy’s yelpin’? Ya gonna take an eye for an eye, Cuse, or y’any bit o’ spunk at all, like?’

  Logan smiled.

  ‘You’re an exceptional child, Jenni Ching.’

  She winced at the compliment.

  ‘Pretty to say so, H. O’ course the Cusacks shouldn’t be causin’ the likes a us no grief in the first place, y’check? Just a bunch o’ Rises scuts is all they is an’ they gettin’ so brave an’ lippy, like? Sendin’ runners into S’town? Why’s it they’s gettin’ so brave all of a sudden is what we should be askin’.’

  ‘Meaning precisely what, Jenni?’

  ‘Meanin’ is they smellin’ a weakness, like? They reckonin’ you got your mind off the Fancy’s dealins?’

  ‘And what else might I have my mind on?’

  She turned her cool look to him, Jenni, and let it lock.

  ‘That ain’t for my say, Mr Hartnett, sir.’

  He rose from the bench, smiling. Not a lick of warmth had entered the girl’s hand as long as his had lain on it.

  ‘Y’wan’ more Cusacks hurted so?’ she said.

  He looked back at her but briefly – the look was his word.

  ‘Y’sure ’bout that, H? ’nother winter a blood in Bohane, like?’

  A smile, and it was as grey as he could will it.

  ‘Ah sure it’ll make the long old nights fly past.’

  Logan Hartnett was minded to keep the Ching girl close. In a small city so homicidal you needed to watch out on all sides. He moved on through the gloom of the Back Trace. The streets of old tenements are tight, steep-sided, ill-lit, and the high bluffs of the city give the Trace a closed-in feel. Our city is built along a run of these bluffs that bank and canyon the Bohane river. The streets tumble down to the river, it is a black and swift-moving rush at the base of almost every street, as black as the bog waters that feed it, and a couple of miles downstream the river rounds the last of the bluffs and there enters the murmurous ocean. The ocean is not directly seen from the city, but at all times there is the ozone rumour of its proximity, a rasp on the air, like a hoarseness. It is all of it as bleak as only the West of Ireland can be.

  The Fancy boss Hartnett turned down a particular alleyway, flicked the cut of a glance over his shoulder – so careful – then slipped into a particular doorway. He pressed three times on a brass bell, paused, and pressed on it twice more. He noted a spider abseil from the top of the door’s frame, enjoyed its measured, shelving fall, thought it was late enough in the year for that fella, being October, the city all brown-mooded. There was a scurry of movement within, the peephole’s cover was slid and filled with the bead of a pupil, the brief startle of it, the lock clacked, unclicked, and the red metal door was slid creaking – kaaarrrink! – along its runners. They’d want greasing, thought Logan, as Tommie the Keep was revealed: a wee hairy-chested turnip of a man. He bowed once and whispered his reverence.

  ‘Thought it’d be yourself, Mr Hartnett. Goin’ be the hour, like.’

  ‘They say routine is a next-door neighbour of madness, Tommie.’

  ‘They say lots o’ things, Mr Hartnett.’

  He lit his pale smile for the Keep. He stepped inside, pushed the door firmly back along its runners, it clacked shut behind – kraaank! – and the men trailed down a narrow passageway; its vivid red walls sweated like disco walls, and the building was indeed once just that but had long since been converted.

  Long gone in Bohane the days of the discos.

  ‘And how’s your lady wife keepin’, Mr H?’

  ‘She’s extremely well, Tommie, and why shouldn’t she be?’

  A tautness at once had gripped the ’bino’s smile and terrified the Keep. Made him wonder, too.

  ‘I was only askin’, Mr H.’

  ‘Well, thank you so much for asking, Tommie. I’ll be sure to remember you to her.’

  Odd, distorted, the glaze that descended for a moment over his eyes, and the passage hooked, turned, and opened to a dimly lit den woozy with low night-time voices.

  This was Tommie’s Supper Room.

  This was the Bohane power haunt.

  The edges of the room were lined with red velvet banquettes. The banquettes seated heavy, jowled lads who were thankful for the low lights of the place. These were the merchants of the city, men with a taste for hair lacquer, hard booze and saturated fats.

  ‘Inebriates and hoor-lickers to a man,’ said Logan, and it was loud enough for those who might want to hear.

  Across the fine parquet waited an elegant brass-railed bar. Princely Logan marched towards it, and the obsessive polishing of the floor’s French blocks was evident in the hump of Tommie the Keep’s back as he raced ahead and ducked under his bar hatch. He took his cloth and hurried a fresh shine into the section of th
e counter where Logan each night sat.

  ‘You’ve grooves worn into it, Tommie.’

  Logan shucked loose from the sleeves of his Crombie and he hung it on a peg set beneath the bar’s rail. The handle of his shkelper was visible to all – a mother-of-pearl with markings of Naples blue – and it was tucked into his belt just so, with his jacket hitched on the blade the better for its display. He smoothed down the mohair of the Eyetie suit. He picked at a loose thread. Ran dreamily the tip of a thumb along a superstar cheekbone.

  ‘So is there e’er a bit strange, Tommie?’

  There was a startle in the Keep for sure.

  ‘Strange, Mr H?’

  Logan with a feint of innocence smiled.

  ‘I said is there e’er a bit of goss around the place, Tommie, no?’

  ‘Ah, just the usual aul’ talk, Mr Hartnett.’


  ‘Who’s out for who. Who’s fleadhin’ who. Who’s got what comin’.’

  Logan leaned across the counter and dropped his voice a note.

  ‘And is there any old talk from outside on Big Nothin’, Tommie?’

  The Keep knew well what Logan spoke of – the word already was abroad.

  ‘I s’pose you know ’bout that aul’ talk?’

  ‘What talk, Tommie, precisely?’

  ‘’Bout a certain … someone what been seen out there.’

  ‘Say the name, Tommie.’

  ‘Is just talk, Mr Hartnett.’

  ‘Say it.’

  ‘Is just a name, Mr Hartnett.’

  ‘Say it, Tom.’

  Keep swivelled a look around the room; his nerves were ripped.

  ‘The Gant Broderick,’ he said.

  Logan trembled, girlishly, to mock the name, and he drummed his fingertips a fast-snare beat on the countertop.

  ‘First the Cusacks, now the Gant,’ he said. ‘I must have done something seriously fucking foul in a past life, Tom?’

  Tommie the Keep smiled as he sighed.

  ‘Maybe even in this one, Mr H?’

  ‘Oh brave, Tommie. Well done.’

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