Great review in today’s Irish Times: A murderous vicious streak emerges when a group of older women go on holiday; a man buries the infant girl he could never have claimed as his own child; a student discovers an unlikely connection with a hard-nosed teacher; a member of the Orange Order exiled in Ecuador maintains a Catholic priest’s lifesaving transport system. There are gasp-out-loud moments in each of these perfectly composed stories, some of which are inhabited by characters seething with hatred, others of which uncover unexpected moments of kindness which emerge in the most unlikely circumstances. Malone is a powerful storyteller; assured, compassionate, clear-eyed in his observation. Humanity runs through this collection like a ley line and the dark machinations that bubble beneath the surface of many of the stories are perfectly balanced by the ribbon of quiet love that winds its way through others. It is a true pleasure to read such an accomplished collection.
In Denny Summer’s artist’s studio the other day, I was sitting with a mug of coffee and thinking to light the stove. The wind was on the cry a little and a good fire from the turves I’d bought from Joe Moran would smother the din a little. A crying wind can make you feel sorrowful. I could almost taste the sorrows and tears of the souls; it came like a dab of salt to a raw tongue.
My writing for the day was done and a sip of the good stuff in the coffee was after putting a grand eye to matters. As I moved from the armchair to fetch the starter log, a sudden movement caught my eye on top of the outer wall of the conservatory. The head of a cat, maybe? I waited for more than the head to appear, wondering if I had put too much of the right stuff in the mug – the mug embossed on its side to tell me what it was – I presumed otherwise I would not know.
Not a cat.
Perhaps a year old. Or into her second, but not by much.
Beautiful russet coat, matching a crop of rusted ferns curtaining the cottage at the rear, before a steep ascent of lichen mottled boulders to the ridge.
I moved under the glass ceiling and we watched each other. She displayed no surprise at seeing me, which probably meant she’d been observing me before my eyes had come to her. Fear did not thrive because between us lay a thick glassy sky and not a scrap of food she might want to fight with me over.
I said, ‘Hello?’
She did not reply.
Nor did she have Fox etched on her for me to know what she was.
We studied each other intensely.
I wondered if she were an augury?
I put my fingertips to her glass socked paw.
Her green eyes to my blue. Not a blink between us.
I thought of a woman I used to know.
A new short story entitled Whisperings…check it out here.
Have a read of a story from This Cruel Station…
Article about Clifden’s Art Festival
I’m looking forward to reading from This Cruel Station, stories in Clifden next month.
Fresh from the Doire Press hothouse http://www.doirepress.com/writers/m_z/martin_malone/
Read Brian Byrne’s review of This Cruel Station, stories here…
This Cruel Station. Martin Malone. Short Stories. Published by Doire Press.
A book of good short stories is like an Easter egg, writes Brian Byrne. Break it open and eat a piece, and it becomes difficult not to eat more until you finish it all, even if you had absolutely planned to leave the rest for later.
So it is with this new collection from Kildare writer Martin Malone. I had intended dipping in and out over maybe a week. But like with the pieces of chocolate, I couldn’t stop nibbling.
Those familiar with this author’s work will know that he doesn’t write succulent milk chocolate. More the high-quality dark stuff, where there’s a strong under-taste of bitterness that both complements and contrasts the chocolate flavour.
The short pieces here are unrelated. But they all probe at human matters and situations more than making big statements. I’m not going to go into details of any of them, but every reader will likely have had personal experience directly or indirectly with at least some of the themes explored.
The stories also reflect real life in that mostly there’s not an end at the end. Just like life, there’s a future beyond the episode, with its unknowns which may or may not become sequels. One of the nice things about writing short stories is that you don’t have to go beyond the now at the final full stop.
In this collection there are echoes of the author’s home places and life, and also of the work he has been involved in far beyond Kildare town, recalling his peacekeeping times in the Middle East. He has done what every writer is urged to do, write what you know, from your own experience, or what you see happening around you. But it takes a further experience to learn how to actually do that, and then move to the next level. In this collection — added to his previous seven novels, short story collections and playwriting — we can see clearly just how much Martin Malone continues to mature as a writer.
Staying with the Easter egg theme, there is an extra piece of interest in the book, as with the samples of whatever chocolate bars under which the modern eggs are marketed. A longer story, a novella, extends and concludes the collection. Its proposition is right up to date, linking Ireland’s efforts on refugee resettlement with the author’s first hand knowledge of conditions in Libya and neighbouring countries — and most of all, of the people involved. In this one the reader is gently led in, then shocked by the successive lobbing of unanticipated narrative grenades.
This collection relies heavily on the author’s excellent ear for conversation, and how he has learned to transcribe that into a vehicle for narrative which is both interesting and believable. At first sip, sections of dialogue might read a tad haphazard, even disjointed. But then, like tastings of interesting but not expensive wine on the palate, they rise beyond the price. And everything suddenly becomes just right.
Wine and chocolate, especially dark chocolate, will always do it for me.