November sees significant book-launch
Acclaimed playwright and novelist brings out a new collection of short stories
Hailed as Britain's Brecht, John Arden, now entering his 80th year, produces in his new collection of stories, Gallows, a mixture of melodrama and black comedy, probing the underside of Irish and English history over some four hundred years. The book, which is accompanied by a DVD of a short documentary of Arden talking about his influences and his illustrations of episodes in Gallows, will be launched by Fintan O'Toole (critic and cultural commentator) in Galway this November.
Arden was born and reared in Yorkshire. He has lived in Galway for over four decades, and has lost none of his vigour or curious imagination since his notable plays, e.g. Serjeant Musgrave’s Dance (1959) and The Non-Stop Connolly Show (co-written and co-produced with Margaretta D’Arcy in 1975). His first novel, Silence Among The Weapons, was short-listed for the Booker Prize. He won the PEN Short Story Prize for his collection, Cogs Tyrannic, and the V.S.Pritchett Memorial Prize for the tale Breach Of Trust, which he included in his 2003 volume, The Stealing Steps.
The title-piece is a ghost story set in contemporary Galway: a nightmare of ghastly slaughter resurfacing from Penal Law times. Other tales contain sideways reminiscences of the Irish visits of US Presidents Reagan and Bush; xenophobia on a Bus Éireann express; the savagery that envelops a young Galway woman who exposes clerical sex-abuse a decade or so too soon; the murderous breakdown of a British soldier after Belfast and Iraq. The playwright Ben Jonson is trapped into acting as a government spy against the Gunpowder Plot; a distressed London clergyman becomes involved with Fenian ‘dynamitards’ in the 1880s; successive generations of a Yorkshire family steer their way through corrupt provincial politics between the epoch of the 1798 Irish Rebellion and the beginnings of 20th-century mass-tourism.
All these tales testify to Arden’s consistent preoccupation with the contradictions, treacheries and unaccountable attachments of private life and public affairs.
Books of Bale:
‘Historically cranky, gutsy, opinionated, and as singularly refreshing as anything by Robert Graves.’
- The Observer
The Stealing Steps
‘…tales and settings are controlled by a third-person voice narrating in a sympathetically knowing, tragic-comic tone…theatrical mood and picaresque sprightliness…Arden himself is far from word or world weary.’
- The Irish Times - John Kenny
‘A continuing communication between the real world and the mythological… Arden’s greatest gift with such swiftly moving content is in the apparently easy tone of his calm prose… a work of great richness and beauty.’
- The TLS - Simon Conway
‘It is almost impossible to escape the energy of these stories. It catches you from the very first line and leaves you breathless for the next, until … you reach the end of the narration and say “Wow!”’
- Galway Advertiser - Des Kenny
‘This unruly collection of confessions, reckonings and betrayals flails at Ireland’s precarious relations with Britain and itself, at frightened states policing their own people.’
- The Guardian - David Jays