To my readers: Highly praised novel Knowing Women at reduced price for one week only.

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For my readers who may not have been able to access the Kindle countdown deal, I am reducing my book to the same bargain price of 99 cents as offered by the countdown deal, for one week.

‘Possessed of a lively, fleet-footed style that brims with intellect and poeticism (he has a study of modern poetry, Clearing The Tangled Wood, to his name), Lawless is an author who we should perhaps start taking more seriously.’ Sunday Independent


Just published A Prostitutes’s Tale, exciting new story by James Lawless at a bargain price of 99 cents for limited time.

prostitute_taleThe mean streets of Dublin and powers that be lurking. A man known to wear a wig in his exemplary life roams the dark streets of the city exploiting the weak and vulnerable. And who is the hooded figure who has to pick up the pieces for him, perpetuating the age-old problem?


Acclaimed novel Peeling Oranges only 99 cents for limited time.

peelingfront (1)Acclaimed novel Peeling Oranges now an ebook for only 99 cents for limited time.

‘In the vast sea of fiction Peeling Oranges is a true hidden gem. Contemporary Books


A new ebook free with my compliments


A new ebook free with my compliments The House of the Fornicator by James Lawless @vanthool at #smashwords

The House of the Fornicator, an Ebook by James Lawless
An uncherished daughter flees to the city from a rakish and abusive father.


Book Review: On Balance by Sinéad Morrissey

On Balance
Sinéad Morrissey

This is the sixth collection from the Belfast poet who has been nominated for the Forward Prize 2017. Sinéad Morrissey was Belfast’s first Poet Laureate and is currently Professor of Creative Writing at Newcastle University.
The balance in the title refers partly to the great feats of human engineering throughout our history and the epiphanic moment for the poet in Whitelessness ‘If its’s life that controls the geological machinery of the planet, rather than the other way round, we are neither new, nor tragic’ acts as a central motif as Morrissey examines our ecological and economic fragility in poems ranging from global warming to gender equality through timeframes of history.
The collection begins with The Millihelen, which the poet explains in a note is a fanciful unit of measurement meaning the amount of physical beauty required to launch a single ship. This she aptly applies to the launch of the Titanic into Belfast Lough in 1921: ‘Millihelen her beauty slathered all over the slipway…’, the temporary wobble before it and ‘the sun-splashed titled hills the railings the pin-striped awning in fact everything regains its equilibrium’.
On Balance, the title poem, is an anti-misogynistic piece taking issue with Larkin’s Born Yesterday and reminiscent of Yeats’ Prayer for My Daughter where he expressed fear for his daughter’s beauty in a world such as ours. Nevertheless Morrissey, however unwittingly, shares a quality with Larkin in her eye for telling detail where for example at a school Nativity play ‘stewed tea in too-thin plastic scalds our hands’, and she encapsulates in a wonderful simile the pride of parents doting on their children’s performances when the parents ‘turn as heliotropes to the sun to watch a hundred preternaturally tiny children…’ (Nativity).
The poems are mainly without punctuation and one or two of them initially appear somewhat cryptic and struggle to break through their opacity, but pay dividends in rereading. Perhaps the best poem is Collier, her tribute to her grandfather who toiled and sacrificed his health working in a coal pit, where he’d eat his Spartan bread and jam from greaseproof paper after eight hour stints ‘black as a bat/bar the whites and reds of eyes and his teeth’s gapped ivory.’ He listened for the ‘squeal of the wheel’ and the ‘cages singing’ and by ‘the fluted shaft’ he’d sing himself, knowing ‘eight-and-twenty ways to raise the roof’. There is a moving resonance from the word ‘cage’ as situated in the pit but also denoting physical degeneration as ‘his breath was a wounded animal pacing its ever decreasing circle underneath his rib cage.’ Her grandfather paid his coal bill with a heavy cost where there was no compensation for the searing sadness of a life cut short in the dark world of a coal mine. The poet’s granny ‘would preen and pick at the elderly man grown elderly early hunched across from her in his armchair. He’d turn himself into a tree and wouldn’t answer.’
But despite the poverty and lack of linoleum, their’s was a welcoming house where ‘they’d play host to strange familiar visitors/soft-landing expertly in amongst the furniture’.
In the Mayfly, a celebratory poem in honour of Lilian Bland, the first woman to design, build and fly her own aeroplane, the poet captures beautifully early aviation attempts where, in Morrissey’s interpretation of aerodynamics, ‘the nuts dance themselves loose’ in

‘biplane extravaganzas that had the ground
–gadzooks! – for a couple of minutes
only to wobble uncontrollably
in recalcitrant space and then nosedive…’

Many of the poems, like Mayfly, have narratives running through them and are set before the poet was born, recounting her ancestors’ lives as she eavesdrops on them from a modern perspective like a movie ‘they haven’t scripted yet’.
There is a delightfully humorous play on words in My Life According to You in which the poet christened her cat Morris Morrissey to match her mother’s Morris Minor. The same poem contains what must be the most succinct description ever of human bonding:

‘…I met a man in a bright
white classroom the darkest parts
of our eyes turned into swirls then question
marks then hearts so we got married…’

Some brilliant interlinking of natural and technological images are evident in The Singing Gates where the poet’s grandad tells his son war stories and they fall asleep with ‘clouds passing over their faces like zeppelins’. In Articulation she reimagines history through the skeleton of Napoleon’s horse Marengo, on show in the National Army Museum in Chelsea, and she captures the world’s vulnerability in Whitelessness where the ice grows increasing smaller until it becomes ‘lozenges dissolving visibly on the tongue’. And the big top of Duffy’s circus in The Wheel of Death takes on Armageddon-like proportions as the ‘wind lashes the outer awning/like the last of days’.
In The Photographer, the most lyrical piece where the world addresses the poet semiotically, Morrissey declares that she will make a map of her life ‘with holes for hideouts/ between birth and death’, and she concludes on a hopeful note by reminding us that God put a rainbow in the sky ‘as a promise/ that He’d never let the ocean rise again’.

Published in Books Ireland, September/October 2017, Issue No 375.


Enter Free Giveaway of acclaimed novel American Doll

Goodreads Book Giveaway

American Doll by James Lawless

American Doll

by James Lawless

Giveaway ends October 11, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Critically acclaimed novel Knowing Women on special offer

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From 7 Sept critically acclaimed novel Knowing Women in Kindle Countdown. 67% off, Only 99 cents. Offer lasts for a week.

Laurence J Benbo is a thirty seven year old graphic artist and Dublin bachelor, awkward with women and lonely after the breakup with his girlfriend Deborah. He meets Jadwiga, a lapdancer and, after winning a lottery, he bestows gifts on her. But his upwardly mobile brother Maoilíosa and his scheming wife Ena, on hearing of his win, try to blackmail the innocent Laurence into handing his money over to them by alleging that he interfered with their daughter Lydia. Laurence seeks out Jadwiga for advice in her lapdancing club. To his dismay, he sees her going into a room with Maoilíosa. He spends the night awake listening to the rain pattering at his window, thinking of Deborah and he imagines little Lydia coming to seek out her uncle Lar to finish the story he had started reading to her. As the rain gets heavier he knows there is going to be a storm.

‘A very thought-provoking story that leaves you asking yourself, What if? A reminder of how devastating loneliness can be… Lawless does an amazing job bringing the reader inside the world of the characters…The story really is Epic!! I can honestly say I’ve become a fan of Mr. Lawless, and I look forward to reading his next work.’
David Clarke, Goodreads review.

‘Prolific and possessed of a lively, fleet-footed style that brims with intellect and poeticism (he has a study of modern poetry, 2009′s Clearing The Tangled Wood, to his name), Lawless is an author who we should perhaps start taking more seriously.’ Sunday Independent

Danny Faraday meets Laura Calane, an Irish-American postgrad student in Trinity College, and their attraction is instant. Laura is beautiful and enigmatic and plays infuriating mind games. Her father Con dislikes Danny because Danny doesn’t hate Muslims. Con is poisoned with hate. An ex-fireman, he was on duty on 9/11 and lost his wife in the tragedy. His fireman brother Thady saved Con’s life that day and sometime later Thady retired to live in Ireland. Laura visits Thady regularly. And therein lies the problem.
Danny has suffered his own tragedy, losing his parents in a plane crash and still feels vaguely responsible. Laura and Danny commence a relationship fraught with trouble, in which Thady plays his part. If this book hadn’t been published in 2016, with Donald Trump feeding on the bloodlust and paranoia of so many white Americans, one could be forgiven for thinking the plot is a tad far-fetched. But Lawless has his finger on the pulse of post-9/11 America, and his depiction of the bitterness and paranoia within Laura’s family is – in the context of Trump’s rise to prominence – frightening.
Laura is less convincing, alas. She is a fruitcake, while Danny is an even-minded man. A bit haunted maybe, but aren’t we all? Therefore I didn’t hold out much hope for their strange coupling. However, this is an excellent novel by an award-winning writer, highly praised by the likes of Jennifer Johnston.
James Lawless deserves to be more widely read than he is.

Sunday Independent


Before I was Yours – Book Review.


Before I was Yours
Virginia MacGregor
Rosie Keep and her husband Sam desperately want a child. She considers her inability to conceive as a kind of failure. She works as a midwife and bringing other people’s children into the world is her attempt at redeeming herself. Part of Rosie’s problem initially is she starts imagining an ideal child that she would like to adopt. This leads to disappointment and frustration in her efforts until her heart strings are eventually pulled when she slowly warms to Jonah, a child enigmatically dispatched from Africa by his prostitute mother, ironically named Grace, so that he can become ‘A True English Gentleman’.
MacGregor is good at capturing the universal innocence of childhood: When Mr Sir, who brings Jonah to the UK, repeats the word ‘shit’ after his assignation goes awry, Jonah remembers his mother saying ‘Words you use on the outside show people who you are on the inside.’ Although one wonders here does dissimulation not have a role to play in our lives? But you have to admire MacGregor for doing her homework in child psychology as exemplified when the children in the adopting centre are made to wear their names on their backs because, as Cathy the social worker explained, they were more likely to stay on as ‘children like to pick at things’.
Sam has a natural way with Jonah and the child warms to him as his adoptive father teaches him to sculpt in wood. Rosie’s approach however is marred by her neurotic and possessive nature in hankering for a child, and this is overdone and at times can be cringe-inducing. ‘He’s our child now, she keeps telling herself,’ and she imagines people whispering ‘the poor childless couple’ added to the quasi refrain: ‘they have a little boy and he’s theirs to keep’. Also the author’s language can be cloying, and the family cat and emotional chords used to draw the reader in seem at times almost a la Enid Blyton: ‘Jonah hears something padding into the room and then a warm bundle nestles onto the duvet against his side. He’s too tired to move. Hop now.’
The character of Jonah is sensitively presented, but occasionally he is made to use language in a higher register than that of a seven year old child. His friend Alice says to him ‘you’re an odd one’ for wearing his native scarf on a hot day. Jonah shrugs, ‘I’m odd?’ One feels especially with the italics this is the author intruding here, trying to score an ethnically cultural point. Or when Sam cuts his foot, Jonah tells him ‘the salt water will disinfect’ it. Also there are a couple of unfortunate typos in the book as when Rosie and Sam, who were not drug dealers, ‘were peddling (sic) along the cliff path’.
The mystery element works quite well. There is growing suspense and the story is unpredictable as we don’t know how things are going to turn out for Jonah in the end. As readers we are intrigued to find out more about Jonah’s mother and why she sent such a young son to the other end of the earth in the company of a man who deserted him as soon as they arrived in London.
Although the novel is over four hundred pages long, the author uses a very limited narrative palette and each chapter is introduced almost cinematically in the ubiquitous present tense and mainly in dialogue. Strands do knit together when we discover the sad circumstances surrounding Jonah. Despite milking sentimentality for its last drop¬¬—the debilitated Jonah dancing on the shore to catch the now flakes and Sam’s heart, on witnessing the wooden horse fashioned by his adopted son, ‘doesn’t shift this time: it breaks’— the novel does reach a satisfying conclusion.
James Lawless’ latest novel is American Doll;
Review published in the Irish Examiner 26/08/2017


How I Wrote ‘Gone’ – James Lawless discusses his short story, ‘Gone’, featured in Issue Seven of The Lonely Crowd.

How I Wrote ‘Gone’ – James Lawless
James Lawless discusses his short story, ‘Gone’, featured in Issue Seven of The Lonely Crowd.

My story ‘Gone’ is about transience, about an old world and a new world, the monochrome and homogenous town of my mother’s generation and the multiethnic, modern metropolis of the present day as captured in the microcosm of a city Green. It’s about generational change, about life performing its full circle: the little boy being pushed by his mother in a pram, and now the debt has to be repaid with him as an adult steering her aged and debilitated self in a wheelchair as she reverts to a childlike state. It is the turn of the son now to point out the wonders of the world to her just as she had done for him when he was a child. But in hindsight one is tempted to enquire if the wonders she had pointed out were contained and proscribed to fit into her own agenda.

The story is also a reflection on parental possessiveness, on the powerful, emotional bind that a mother can hold over her child. If, as Roland Barthes claimed, writing is playing with the body of the mother, then there is great scope here for a creative artist. What are the responsibilities of a parent towards a child? What is your responsibility towards something you helped to create? We, as writers, all have different ways of dealing with this umbilical bond which can be a spur for inspiration but can also carry the potentiality for destructiveness in the shackling of a developing life. This story is about the inner dialogue of love and selfishness as integral and intricate patterns deep inside a person as exemplified in the perhaps unwitting egocentricity of a mother in never wanting her child to fly away from the nest. And this is achieved, not through an abundance of love, but in a form of suffocation. It is a mother’s way of investing to protect herself in old age, regardless that such action can block the autonomous growth of her own offspring. And so is it any wonder, on the part of the son, that feelings of filial love and duty torment him and ultimately give way to resentment?

With his mother’s death, he reflects on the missed opportunities of his life: the new world which he only sees now opening up before him, the chances for love as he beholds the pubescent girls on the lawns and the blossoming shrubs and the kicked ball, which he cannot reach out to because age has caught up with him now. How brief the time, how fleeting it all was, and a panic seizes him as he sees the sun setting and he heads away trapped in his childhood past. What has he to show for his life? The chains that bound him are released now. But it is too late. It is all gone now like the little immigrant girl Zoe as she disappears with her mother over the humpbacked bridge of the Green of his youth.

James Lawless’ poetry and prose have won many awards, including the Scintilla Welsh Open Poetry Competition, the WOW award, the Cecil Day Lewis Award and a Hennessey award nomination for emerging fiction. His work has been broadcast on radio and appeared in the Fish and The Stinging Fly’s anthologies, and two of his stories were shortlisted for the Willesden (2007) and Bridport prizes (2014). He is the author of six well-received novels, a book of children’s stories, a poetry collection Rus in Urbe, and a study of modern poetry Clearing the Tangled Wood: Poetry as a Way of Seeing the World for which he received an arts bursary.

© James Lawless, 2017. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.


American Doll in Spanish

I’m delighted to announce the wonderful translation into Spanish by Emmanuel Castro Hernández
of my highly commended novel American Doll about an Irish-American family and a poignant love story set to the tragic backdrop of 9/11.
‘A sweeping story of how 9/11 opened a Pandora’s Box on an Irish/American family.’
When Laura Calane of New York comes to Ireland to further her studies and to live in what her father considers a safer environment after 9/11, she discovers that the land of her ancestors is not the haven she had believed it to be. When she meets social worker Danny Faraday, she is torn between her attraction towards him and the emotional blackmail of her uncle Thady who is domiciled in Ireland and who never lets her forget that he saved her father’s life in a terrorist attack in New York.
‘An excellent novel by an award-winning writer, highly praised by the likes of Jennifer Johnston. James Lawless deserves to be more widely read than he is.’ Sunday Independent.
In paperback or on kindle for only €2.99