Friday, 19 December 2014

Down Among The Dead by Steve Finbow

Down Among The Dead by Steve Finbow is a novella I didn't see coming. Published by #13 Press (and released on the 13th of December), it's the second in a proposed series of 13 novellas to be issued over 13 months. So, that's fun.

Finbow's writing style is slightly idiosyncratic. He doesn't present his dialogue in the conventional manner for a start. It's woven into his paragraphs like internal monologue; through the filter of a paranoid wreck. This creates a disjointed feel to the narrative which works well for the dual timeline that the subject, Michael O'Connor, relays to us in first person. O'Connor, a Belfast man in the twilight of his regret-filled life, may be an unreliable narrator, but his fears are very real. The scenes set in 2008 see him as a broken man with loose lips, a stark comparison to the O'Connor of 1998 who still half-believes his own Belfast bravado.

On the face of it, and because 1998 was quite a year for Northern Ireland and the peace process, I expected this slim tome to be heavy on the politics. And to be honest, I was relieved to find that this was more of a human story. An examination of regret and self-destruction. The novella really is too short a form to get too deep into that tangled mess that is the Troubles.

This is my first encounter with the author, Steve Finbow, but a quick look at his backlist shows that the unique writing style displayed in Down Among The Dead has been forged by experience. Down Among The Dead is a murky read with flashes of hard-hitting clarity. This is no Micksploitation* shoot-em-up. It aims for better and hits its mark. Touché Mister Finbow.

*Hat-tip to Adrian McKinty, an anti-Micksploitation activist.

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