Goldengrove

By Patrick Mc Cabe

A black comedy set in 70s Dublin: a theatrical agency acts as a front for British counter-terrorism.

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After the triumph of Poguemahone, McCabe returns with a vicious black comedy set in Dublin in the 1970s in which a theatrical agency acts as a front for British counter-terrorism.

It’s the summer of Brexit, and in a seedy hotel bedroom in Woolsey Bay, we find the recently retired Chenevix Meredith looking back on his years running a theatrical agency in Dublin in the late 1960s. Working with flamboyant fellow Brit, Henry Plumm, Meredith turns Grafton Partners into a home away from home for the whole gamut of the Dublin’s post-war thespian talent: veterans of touring repertory, B movie actors, forgotten stars of music hall and radio soap opera, pushy starlets, visiting Hollywood legends and the emerging heroes of the avant garde and agitprop. 

But Meredith’s reminiscences soon darken to reveal the true nature of his calling. Far from the clubbable ‘Plump and Chenny’ so beloved of their clients – it turns out that both men are active agents of the British state posted to Dublin to identify and infiltrate terrorist networks and to snuff them out by  any means necessary – including murder, abduction and torture. 

But that unpleasantness was almost half century ago. Surely history has forgotten them? When Plumm is found floating in a bathtub with his skull stoved in, Meredith realises that as far as Irish history is concerned, the past is never dead: as a wise man once observed, it’s not even past...

Readers of Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy and Poguemahone will be familiar with this lurch from social comedy into horror, but what sets Goldengrove apart is its elegiac tone – can we ever really know ourselves? – and its disarming insights into the vexed and violent relationship between Britain and Ireland, two countries divided by a common history.

Image credits: Cover design by Mecob. Photos: Irish bar: Nat Farbman; The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965 Paramount Pictures)- Eddie Kelly /Irish Times; Grogan’s – Roy Esmond, 1976; Talbot Street Bombings, 1974 – Belfast TelegraghBook designs, cover and other images are for illustrative purposes and may differ from final design.

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