Between Limerick and London

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‘Any man who would see another man’s glass empty is a bastard.’ This is the first commandment of Stanley Callaghan, one of many wonderful characters created by Michael Curtin, a comic genius sadly recognized as such only by a discerning few, though his fellow Irishman Roddy Doyle described him as ‘one of Ireland’s very best writers’, and they do say that it takes one to know one.

I was first introduced to Curtin’s brilliantly realized and eccentric world almost forty years ago. My then flatmate Harry, an unusual character himself who would not have been entirely out of place in Curtin’s work, had come across his novel The Replay (1981). Usually the most loquacious of men, Harry was rendered speechless for the best part of twenty-four hours while reading it – apart from splutter­ings of manic laughter and occasional shouts of ‘You have to read this when I’m finished.’ I did so, and was up all night. I was devastated when I finished it, but then overjoyed to discover that it was Curtin’s second novel. I duly found, and devoured, his first, The Self-Made Men (1980). Then I had to wait a few years for Curtin to write another one, but thankfully he did. In fact he wrote another four.

Michael Curtin died in 2016, so sadly it seems there will be no more (I say ‘seems’ because when he died he left behind the uncom­pleted manuscript of his seventh novel, so I live in hope that one day, somehow, it will be published), but the six novels we do have are up there with the very best of Irish comic writing. The Sunday Express, reviewing his fifth book, The Cove Shivering Club (1996), described him perfectly. ‘Curtin is one of Ireland’s national treasures, a superb comic writer who deserves to be better known.’

Those who do know him read him not just for the gorgeous craziness of his storytelling but also for his powers of description. Whether his characters are in Limerick or London, you are

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About the contributor

Andy Bourne now lives in Devon, after many years in Galway on the west coast of Ireland. He writes fiction and non-fiction, with the encouragement of his partner and their cat.

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