Reviews | Written by Nigel Watson 30/09/2019

IRISH TALES

IRISH TALES / AUTHOR: NICK LARTER / PUBLISHER: MATADOR / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

This collection of short stories takes you into the bizarre, grotesque, weird, and fascinating world of Irish faerie folk and their interaction with modernity. It is not an easy world to understand as the ways of the faeries and nature are magical and beyond our tendency for reason and scientific explanation.

Stories like A Coarse and Violent Gesture twist and turn round unexpected corners of the mind’s eye. It starts with the misadventures of Packie Murphy, who not only plays the Bouzouki but is the man to go to for information. Both of these abilities get him into a right old pickle performing at an Officers’ Mess at Osnabruck Garrison, Germany, which turns into a pseudo-Nazi gathering. Back in Ireland, Murphy is persuaded by Rory Mason, who set-up the Nazi gig and is now out of the Army, to help him find the King of the faeries to upset a hurling match. As with the gig in Germany things soon unravel, it leads to rather unexpected confrontations with a paramilitary gang and the appearance of the supernatural Gangly Men.

Like Mason in that story, these tales take us into swampy ground and then pull us deeper into the murky bog of Larter’s imagination. He is particularly good at creating images of the natural world where every leaf and branch (sometimes literally) come to life.

We are also treated to tales of animals, like the adventures of Smut the Jack Russell dog, who is bullied by a gang of badgers to steal lemon cakes from his owner. It is a neat doggy fantasy that has him glimpse the magnificent underworld of the badgers. Nick vividly brings into focus a world seen from the perspective of the animal world and often has a telling description or phrase that tickles the cortex. In Lemon Cakes, for example, he evocatively notes that waterlogged tractor ruts glisten ‘with an iridescent pellicle of spilled diesel.’

Nick also gives us some horrifying images and very strange goings-on when we take human problems to the faerie world. In An Appointment with the Terminator the monstrous Dr Arnold (he is a fan of Arnie and a bit part player in movies) uses his faerie skills to abort a human foetus. As with the Violent Gesture story, it leads to unexpected and rather unhappy consequences for the main protagonist.

Author Peadar Ó Guilín provides a short foreword, observing: ‘You’ve never seen anything like this.’ And, to back up that claim there are numerous black and white illustrations scattered throughout the book and a fine section of colour plates by Tim Booth.

Our technology weakens the King and his faerie folk but Nick is able to see into their world and bring these mighty visions writhing and wriggling into our consciousness, like the glowing light and heat from a well stacked log fire.

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