Read Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman Free Online
Book Title: Divorcing Jack|
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Reader ratings: 4.4
The author of the book: Colin Bateman
Edition: Arcade Publishing
Date of issue: September 11th 1996
ISBN 13: 9781559703598
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 1.94 MB
Read full description of the books:
More black comedy than true Irish noir, Divorcing Jack is my first foray into Colin Bateman. Based on first impressions I believe I will read more of his books, even if this one did not deliver on all fronts. I am already familiar with several flavors of noir : classic 1940's West Coast, East Coast, Florida camp, Scandinavian bleak, Scottish rumpus (Brookmyre). This here is an attempt to branch out into Irish, with London calling next (Ken Bruen?). And as I like to do with new authors, I have chosen the debut novel, in order to see how the author and his characters develop in time.
The hero of the story is not Jack, and is not getting a divorce (hopefully). His name is Dan Starkey, and he is a satirical columnist for a Belfast newspaper. Safe choice: write what you know about, Mr Bateman! although I hope the author is less fond of drink than his diminutive hero. Drinking lands Starkey in trouble with the missus after she catches him kissing a girl he picked up while lying pickled to the ears in a public park.
Beer and cider do not for a good hangover make.
Worse than the hangover is the discovery of the dying body of his one night stand who murmurs with her last breath : "Divorce Jack!". This is the starting point of a wild rollercoaster ride peppered with car chases, gunfights, wife taking revenge for the betrayal, multiple kidnappings, underworld bosses chasing Dan side by side with the IRA, the Protestant paramilitary factions, the police, the army, possibly a couple of foreign Secret Services too. Everything going down while the country prepares to elect a new Prime Minister, a guy Starkey intensely dislikes for his 'hollier than thou' pacifist agenda. And let's not forget the surprise nun with the bad atitude from the cover:
Her name was Lee Cooper. Her parents had a warped sense of humour. And her friends called her Jean.
As a stand up comedy routine the novel is often real funny, but uneven. Some jokes are a hoot, others are a tad stale and forced. I chalk this down to debut jitters of a talented artist trying too hard to impress on his first night out. As political satire it functions even better, reminding me that laughing while climbing to the gallows pole is one way to keep sane while the world around burns. And Belfast knows all about burning. There's a little piece of trivia in the book that almost passes unnoticed but it is enough to make me not want to find out more about the game of Irish roulette: it involves a petrol bomb and an ability to blow out matches very quickly.
As a crime novel it suffers somewhat from lack of originality, or it may be the case that I have seen one too many Guy Ritchie movies or that Bateman is too similar to Christopher Brookmyre, who writes much funnier and much, much more biting satire across the Irish sea in bonny Scotland. The story is saved by local colour, a riveting glimpse at a region ravaged by civil war, sectarian terrorism and distrust. At one point Dan Starkey is assigned as a minder for a visiting American journalist, and they get to talking:
- Stick to calling it Northern Ireland, although you'll hear variations. If you're a Loyalist you'll call it Ulster, if you're a Nationalist you call it the North of Ireland or the Six Counties, if you're the British Government you call it the Province.
- And what do you call it, Mr. Starkey?
As a final impression, the novel holds together well in the plot and character department, but the general vibe is of light reading, as the more serious tones (present and truly disturbing) were subverted by the need to be funny at all cost. There's enough promise here to continue with the setting and its creator.
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Read information about the authorColin Bateman was a journalist in Northern Ireland before becoming a full-time writer. His first novel, Divorcing Jack, won the Betty Trask Prize, and all his novels have been critically acclaimed. He wrote the screenplays for the feature films of Divorcing Jack, Crossmaheart and Wild About Harry. He lives in Northern Ireland with his family.
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