American Doll in Italian

I’m delighted to announce the wonderful translation into Italian by Roberta Torrisi of my highly commended novel American Doll about 9/11 and an Irish-American family.
In paperback or on kindle for only €2.99 https://www.amazon.it/Bambola-Americana-James-Lawless/dp/1547506504/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1500459349&sr=8-2
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The exciting anthologyThe Lonely Crowd is now published

blis-4hj_400x400Retweeted The Lonely Crowd (@thelonelypress):
‘There are no vegetables in Saint Stephen’s Green. It is a place for the aesthetic, for the gladness of days.’ Read @vanThool in Issue 7 https://t.co/bzRuCSKAyL

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Echoland by Joe Joyce

9781848406124

Echoland
Joe Joyce
New Island
€12.95

German-speaking army First Lieutenant Paul Duggan is promoted to G2 Intelligence to investigate the activities of a German spy in 1940’s Dublin. Paralleling this is his uncle’s request for him to trace his missing daughter. The uncle, Timmy Monaghan, is a nationalist TD who believes his daughter may have been kidnapped.
This mystery story is low on tension and is not fast-paced or noir enough to be deemed a thriller. Nevertheless, the fears and tribulations engendered by the Emergency in Ireland are captured very well. The country at the time was divided into pro- and anti-German feelings. The Germans had steamrolled their way through France, forcing the British evacuation from Dunkirk. Many believed at this stage that Hitler would win the war. So the country was replete with spies and rumours that the IRA would join with the Germans to drive the British off the island.
Joe Joyce knows his history well and his knowledge of Dublin locations of the period is spot on, and an unscrupulous politician such as Monaghan, slipping into a church to receive Benediction before meeting Duggan to carry on with his machinations, is typically hypocritical and redolent of the times. But the author goes into far too much detail to the detriment of the narrative. And too much is made of cigarette smoking at the expense of more meaningful familial exchanges between Duggan and Monaghan, which are treated rather cursorily.
The writing is authentic and very visual as when Duggan, in his quest for his missing cousin, follows her friend Stella up the stairs to Nuala’s flat: ‘A strip of yellow linoleum ran up the centre of the steps, the black paint of either side greyed by ingrained dust.’
Some tension does arise but it is not till halfway through the novel when Duggan, following a lead to the whereabouts of the missing girl, is confronted by a man pointing a Webley 45 at him. The man is apparently looking for the ransom money offered by Nuala’s father. When Duggan mentions that the missing girl is his cousin, his captors, who are the IRA, appear not to know her, something which causes mystification to both the lieutenant and his abductors. Duggan is rescued by his accomplice Gifford from Special Branch. One feels that this is the moment where the novel could really have taken off but instead it sinks into vagueness with Duggan’s captors fleeing and the police platitudinously shouting: ‘Come out with your hands up.’
Duggan tried to think the conundrum through: ‘Nuala was supposedly kidnapped. Timmy paid a supposed ransom. Then sent some of his old IRA friends or contacts to get it back. Nuala gave back the money. Then her boyfriend was supposedly kidnapped by the IRA as a spy. Was that why she gave back the money? Someone had paid her back in kind. Timmy. Would have to have been him.’ There was a chance, Duggan concluded, that it was all a hoax, a nationalistic guise by Monaghan to score points against the old enemy England. Or in addition it could equally have been a warped revenge plan against his recalcitrant daughter because of a family feud as he told the IRA that her boyfriend was an English spy.
Another problem for the reader regarding the kidnapped girl, is that is very hard to feel sympathy for her when we hardly know her. Also Duggan himself comes across as rather flat with few compelling traits. An interesting romantic subplot could have been developed for example between the ebullient Gifford and Duggan in their competition for the attentions of the office girl Sinéad, but nothing comes of it.
Well into the novel, while in their pursuit of the German spy, Duggan, at Greene’s bookshop, runs after Gifford and declares: ‘I think we’re being followed.’ ‘Thanks be to God,’ Gifford says, ‘some excitement at last.’
James Lawless’ latest novel is American Doll; www.jameslawless.net

Published in the Irish Examiner 01/07/2017

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New work in The Lonely Crowd

Delighted to have a story in Issue Seven of The Lonely Crowd.
The Lonely Crowd
@thelonelypress
Jun 07
New work from Fred Johnston @jessbonder @SeanMTanner @vanThool @briankirkwriter @alisonwells & more. Pre-order here
thelonelycrowd.org/online-shop/

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Book Review: Trespass by Anthony J. Quinn

Book review: Trespasstrspassbook_large

Irish Examiner, Saturday, May 13, 2017 Review: James Lawless
IN the light of Brexit and the talk of soft and hard borders, this is a topical novel as it is set on the blackthorn-hedged borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic.

It is a deeply atmospheric and poetically written Emerald noir which examines crimes with roots dating back to the dark days of the Troubles.

Anthony J Quinn confesses to being ‘a thwarted poet’ who undertook to write crime novels to add plot to his themes.

He is good at juxtaposing the outer landscape of the border counties with the inner landscape of his characters.
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Detective Celcius Daly, a divorced 44-year-old, wonders not only about his life in the police force but about life itself as he tries to avoid the ‘downward pull of the past’.

Quinn is good on silence and Daly’s struggle with his Catholic faith as he follows the solicitor Rebecca Hewson to a church.

There he resists the imploring face of Jesus on the cross where the detective’s ‘heart did not move… and the quietness of the church deepened’.

Daly has been relegated to court duty because he is under internal investigation for his possible involvement in the disappearance of a spy.

Daly’s own mother was murdered during those turbulent times, but the horrible impact of this on the son could have been brought out more and is only cursorily referenced throughout the novel.

The same applies to his scant reflections on his divorce and one wonders if maybe a new love interest could have enhanced the non-professional roundedness of his character.

When Hewson’s son goes missing from the court house Daly is tasked with the investigation. Suspicion lies with a group of Travellers and Quinn, a former social worker, shows great insight into the world of these marginalised people.

Daly himself, as one side-lined in the force and inhabiting his father’s old rundown cottage on the shore of Lough of Neagh, identifies with them: ‘His fear of uprootedness and not belonging; his inability to shake off the notion that deep down he was a stranger too’ in the wake of the long Troubles and his own involvement in them.

Despite his contemporaries buying new houses, contemptuously deemed ‘trophy properties’ by Daly and which Quinn indulges three pages in describing, the cottage was the only place in which Daly could feel at home.

It is interesting that the wealthy Traveller Thomas O’Sullivan, head of a trading empire, shared a similar feeling with Daly. O’Sullivan bought a lavish mansion in Duncannon but, unable to change his nomadic way of life, could not bring himself live in it. Quinn portrays O’Sullivan as a person of high ideals who may speak too well to be utterly convincing but shows a disdain for capitalism, putting family honour to the fore.

Daly lives a lonely life with no children for miles around and old farmers and their wives ‘floating along in their solitary routines like weeds trailing in a stagnant pond’.

His probing gets murkier as suspicion hovers over politicians and sectarian powers including the Strong Ulster Foundation who are intent on buying up border farms left vacant after the recession to ensure that no Catholics will come into ownership of them.

Matters become even more complicated when it is learned that the missing boy apparently went willingly with the Travellers.

While the prose is of a high quality generally, there are some unnecessary words such as ‘dark’ with shadows and ‘shoulders’ with shrugged and maybe one too many crows ‘hovered out of the leaden air’.

Also, sometimes there are author intrusions in the dialogue and circumlocutory passages slowing down the pace, but the plot speeds up as the sense of menace increases and there are exquisite moments of high tension as Daly makes his way through the night forest to locate the missing boy.

James Lawless’ latest novel is American Doll; www.jameslawless.net

Trespass

Anthony J Quinn

Head of Zeus, €21 hb/€9.50 pb;

€1.49 ebook

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Staccato Reading on 10th May

Looking forward to reading in good company at the Staccato readings next Wednesday 10th May in Toner’s pub on Baggot Street, Dublin at 7.30 pm.
Those reading with me will be Niamh Boyce, Peter Sirr, Enda Wyley, Triona Walsh and Michael Farry. The featured musician will be Sarah Buckley.
STACCATO is Dublin’s newest Spoken Word event founded by writer Tanya Farrelly and co-hosted by David Butler. ‘Our aim is to showcase the best of poetry and prose by both new and established writers. There will also be a featured musician on the night. The last half an hour is an open mic session where audience members are invited to read flash fiction or poetry! Event takes place in the basement of Toner’s Pub (Baggot Street) on the last Wednesday of every month! Come along and join the fun. We’d love to see you there.’

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Book Review: His Name is David

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Jan Vantoortelboom

World Editions, £10.99

Saturday, March 11, 2017Review: James Lawless Irish Examiner

In Flanders during the First World War, David Verbocht, a young Belgian schoolteacher, stands before a firing squad, sentenced to death as a deserter. He lyrically prophesies: “I’ll be as cold as the earth, as the frost on the branches on the beech. As the air.”

In his last moments David reflects on his life and the circumstances that led to where he is now. How did he end up here? Is he the victim of circumstances or did he bring this on himself?

Jan Vantoortelboom’s beautifully written novel His Name Is David shows how guilt can ruin a life.

The light, poetic prose, disguising a heavy theme, consists of a series of vignettes hopping from past to present as it captures significant freeze frames in the protagonist’s life, from childhood, to school teacher and ultimately to soldier.

The telling is in the detail, as, for example, when the author describes farmer Verschoppen’s clothes as the same colour as the cobbles he was walking on, and his wife Godaleva, with whom David falls in love and who is the mother of the tragic Marcus, he observes as she pours coffee, “the gentle slope from her knuckles down to the wrists, the slightly tanned skin”.

The narrative treats of an angst-ridden young man grappling with the loss of his religious faith.

David teaches in a tightly controlled religious environment but does not believe in a life after death, and he thinks of his father, who taught him that faith was a weakness.

The visceral world witnessed by the sensitive David leaves its mark. As a boy he beheld the axe used by his father to chop the chickens’ heads off, and hearing the local butcher chopping through bone “went through me like a knife”.

And later as a teacher he finds himself admonishing a pupil to set a butterfly free.

Vantoortelboom, although he studied in Dublin, was possibly unacquainted with the writing of Patrick Pearse, but he shows a remarkable affinity with the patriot in their mutual poetic sentience of the world.

The sadness that lies in the beauty of the world which Pearse wrote about has echoes running as a motif throughout the Belgian’s novel.

David, an imaginative, impressionable child who the world treated to nightmares, understands the deepest recess of forests “where you could feel the wood itself take a deep breath”.

Whether he is friending a hedgehog which he delineates with Darwinian accuracy or detailing the effects of a wasp’s sting, the protagonist shows himself as an acute observer of the sensory.

Nature is setup in the novel as a parallel universe to the manmade world of violence and war. Not that David doesn’t recognise that nature can also be red in tooth and claw.

The difference is, while nature follows its inevitable universal and timeless laws, man imposes and interferes with the natural design of things.

Vantoortelboom recounts the tragedies that befall David: the suicide of his younger brother with the rather cold nickname of Ratface, his sensitive pupil Marcus whose death by drowning David blames himself for because he refused his embrace.

For a relatively young writer, Vantoortelboom strikes a powerfully emotive chord: the desperation some individual souls carry inside themselves.

The atmosphere of the First World War in Flanders is well conjured, down to the trains with “the click-clacking of rails and the whistling steam”.

The former sensitive boy shows courage as a soldier and is not afraid to use a bayonet. He wins the respect of his comrades in the trenches and even teaches some how to write so they can send letters to their loved ones.

Ultimately beset by too many chimeras and the memory of Marcus, David wanders away homewards, heading for the elusive finish line staring at whatever lies “hidden behind the clouds”.

James Lawless’ latest novel is American Doll; jameslawless.net

READ MORE Visit the section home page here

KEYWORDS books, book review

© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved

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Another five star review of For Love of Anna

For-Love-of-Anna-front

Review by Archit Goodreads 4/3/17
Excellently written – well versed – witty – promising – amorous – passionate – picturesque!

After my encounter with James Lawless’ “Knowing Women”, “The Avenue”, “Peeling Oranges”, “The Adventures of Jo Jo”, I was vowed to read his other books.

It is beyond happiness to get to read his books. There is not a thing that I don’t like about his books.

Passionate – is the word my mind recalls when I think of James Lawless’ writing.

Just as his other works, For Love of Anna presents a vivid story of a student Guido van Thool who is deeply in love with a ballerina Anna Zweig. His passion for the female character had grown leaps and bounds when suddenly he hears about her accident. This accidental event urges him to go beyond his boundaries and do the unimaginable.

How his journey takes him to one place from another, is an adventurous ride you can’t refuse.

Everything feels meteoric and at the same instant, steady and gentle while reading For Love of Anna. It functions like a soothing drug for you. You want to go on and on wherever the author beckons you. Your reasons surrender because the author has mesmerized you too much with his charming and delightful writing.

His writing style is nothing but poetic. He binds you with his charismatic words and powerful events. I could observe right through the characters that to write them the author has to follow them day and night. He had to think about them, for them every single time. And that he did!

His style is deep and profound. It pierces your heart and that’s why you keep going on with the book. The more I praise James Lawless’ books, the more I feel that it is still less. All I can say is that one should certainly read his books.

Verdict : Before you come to a state when you have to say that why didn’t you read James Lawless’ books before and regret, you should just get your hands on his books!

Highly recommended!

https://www.amazon.com/Love-Anna-James-Lawless/dp/1849237662/ref=la_B001JOXD96_1_3_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489059277&sr=1-3

or

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Love-Anna-James-Lawless/dp/1849237662/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=&sr=

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Another great review of The Avenue

The av front new https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Avenue-James-Lawless/1517619289/ref=la_B001JOXD96_1_11_twi_pap_2?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1488710448&sr=1-11

Pooja rated a book FIVE STARS in Goodreads 04/03/2017

it was amazing. There are no adjectives enough to show my love for this one!

The Avenue – *Claps for you.*

This was by far one of the best drama book I read since ages. Where should I start describing how entertained I felt while reading it? Let me decide.

Characters and Plot :

Francis Copeland, profession librarian, talks to the kids in his neighborhood and is deeply frustrated with the intervention of her wife’s friend in their personal life. That’s how his description will go.
Her wife is totally amusing. She has the plethora of exasperation and bitterness for his husband and the why and how of it – that we don’t know yet.

The common friend I talked about, she is the ultimate piece of enjoyment. Her only task is to keep providing her divine involvement in this couple’s life. But this couple have seen half of life together. At least enough of life to be bored and used to each other complaints and style of living. So if any outsider tries to superimpose herself/himself on them, they have no objection to that.

Writing Style :

I have been searching for something as amusing as this with a classic touch in it and The Avenue provided me just that. Every single word and line is amazingly written. His writing style is appealing and keeps you mesmerized. I was absolutely in the mood of reading a book like this and it did wonders to my mood.

If you’re looking for something witty, convoluted lives and society with superb narration, get your hands on this one. I highly recommend James Lawless’ books to you.

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Parables full of laughter, lyricism and deep pathos

Once-We-Sang-Like-Other-Men

The opening story of John MacKenna’s Once We Sang Like Other Men is a modern reimagining of the gospel parable of Lazarus. The contemporary wit of the author becomes immediately evident in Laz’s phrase: ‘I’m not here to upset the apple tart’ and in the more foreboding comparison of him to Midas where ‘everything you touch turns to cold’. The humour is evident in other stories too, such as in Words, where the dead guy only known as Blue on his tombstone was ‘probably a porn reader in his day.’
Some of the stories’ openings are brilliant, as in Absent Children with the ominous line: ‘I moved away from the river when its invitation became too strong’. Places are mentioned cursorily – Barcelona, Ireland, USA, Russia, Palestine and the Black Sea, but the settings are largely unspecified, deliberately perhaps, in homage to the structure of the Gospel parables on which the stories are loosely based, but also perhaps for the sake of wider interpretation. The Captain was assassinated in a revolution which could be any revolution and his followers, who wind up in far-flung fields, try to come to terms with this.
At their last meal, an old story retold with refreshing clarity by the author, when the Captain tells his followers to eat his flesh and drink his blood, they take his words literally and, after his death, bring his body into the desert and cannibalise him. But no miracle follows and all they feel is guilt.

The poet in McKenna shines through in some beautiful lyrical writing. The father, for example, in the story Sacred Heart watches his daughter running along a beach, ‘her sun-bleached hair flying like a thousand short kite strings’. Or witness how the author allows the choirmaster in The Angel Said to capture something both physical and sacred in his search for Peter as he watches ‘the passing shapes of the figures in the street – quavers and semi-quavers with crochets in tow; figures of darkness and, occasionally, figures blessed by the light of the falling snow’.
Twenty five years after the Captain’s death his followers, many in fractious relationships, work at various occupations from fisherman to theatre producer to farmhand and car salesman without any great fulfilment. Their lives seem empty and futile in the absence of their leader. They are people who crave guidance and appear to be devoid of any teleological or autonomous existential sense.

Even Laz wishes that he might not come back second time round. Life is too much trouble. But the stories draw you on in the skilled hands of the narrator despite their despair. Sometimes the author is sparse in describing what his characters look like and, as short stories, perhaps there could have been a little less reverie and a little more dialogue which the playwright MacKenna would be well capable of delivering, but then that may not have fitted in with the overall plan of a book which, with its disparate parts, must be swallowed whole to be fully enjoyed.
MacKenna has a gift for conjuring deep pathos as in the tragic story of a dog in Buying and Selling, and he captures wonderfully the explosive undercurrents of unarticulated emotion in possibly the best story Absent Children, where the cuckolded husband ‘behaved as if a word would shatter whatever it was that held his world together’.

Like Thomas Hardy, MacKenna sees nature as red in tooth and claw, juxtaposing the human condition. In Buying and Selling the action of a cat consuming a dunnock is perceived as almost something preordained: ‘It seemed to be filled with joy when it flew into the cat’s… jaws,’ Thaddeus says. ‘It was singing.’
James Lawless
Sunday Indo Living 26/02/2017

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