Free copy of my new novel American Doll in return for posted review.

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Halloween: A timely extract from my novel The Avenue

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Freddy is playing with his own ball again. He is playing football with a group of boys on the green near the pylon. Freddy is quite skilful with a ball; he tackles well, he has fast feet despite the flapping boot; the other boys find it difficult to win the ball from him. ‘Pass it, pass it,’ and ‘over here,’ some of them shout through the dusk, but Freddy is singleminded, determined as he progresses up the green on a solo run, outfoxes the defence and scores a goal. A cry goes up from his team, and John Paul shouts, ‘A fuckin’ massive kick.’
Hard to see now as darkness falls, but the kids, with eyes like cats, play on undeterred by the world’s transformations.
I sit on the garden wall under the light of a street lamp as the game fizzles out, darkness the ultimate victor.
‘Hiya, Franky,’ says Freddy, coming to sit on the wall beside me. His voice is subdued, lacking its usual chirpiness. John Paul and Tomo join us. A gust blows up.
‘It’s raining leaves, Franky,’ says John Paul.
Freddy has a big bruise over his left eye.
‘Where did you get the shiner?’ I say.
‘Ah, it’s nothin’.’
Freddy says no more, making it clear that he doesn’t want to explain anything.
‘Fancy a mint?’ I say. I’ve been devouring mints ever since I gave up smoking a few years ago.
‘Are they the ones with the hole?’
‘No,’ I say, ‘they’re bad value.’
‘Thanks, Franky.’
‘Thanks, Franky.’
More kids approach and I’m soon cleaned out of sweets.
‘It’s a nice evenin’, Franky.’
I’m getting used to adult-speak, with kids that is. John Paul is right. The evening is nice, nice and dry, no wind (except for that odd gust), no frost, mild enough to sit outside on a garden wall.
John Paul nudges Tomo. ‘Go on tell him.’
Tomo hesitates.
‘Go on.’
‘We saw the English one.’
‘We saw her changin’.’
‘Through the window.’
‘We got a good decko from Freddy’s garden.’
‘We saw her diddies.’
For a moment I think they are testing me, that they know I’ve seen her too, and yet the tone is boastful, non-accusatory.
‘Your dog,’ I say, trying to change the subject, ‘I don’t hear him bark anymore.’
There is an immediate lull. The kids look at Freddy. Freddy lowers his head.
‘You don’t know the story?’
‘Tell him, Freddy.’
‘Yeah,’ shouts a chorus.
Freddy takes a butt of a cigarette and a match out of his trouser pocket He checks behind that no one is at his window, then strikes the match off the wall and, like an experienced smoker, cups his hand around the flame until he is puffing smoke.
‘Do you not think you’re a bit…?’
‘It calms me down.’
Calms him down. Sounds like a grown-up neurotic.
Freddy wets the tip of his finger and applies it to the side of the butt which is not burning evenly.
I suck on my mint.
‘Why are you always eating mints, Franky?’ asks John Paul.
‘It keeps me off those things,’ I say, pointing to Freddy’s stabber.
‘I feck them from me oul fella, from his breast pocket,’ Freddy says. ‘He never misses them. He comes in so pissed he doesn’t notice anythin’.’
‘Tell him what else you found,’ says John Paul.
Freddy hesitates.
‘Go on.’
‘You wont squeal?’
‘No,’ I say.
I don’t know why they’re taking me into their confidence. Maybe they don’t see me in the typical authoritarian light of an adult world. Maybe they can trace a lost childhood somewhere in my face.
‘He found a used johnny with the stabbers. Didn’t you, Freddy?’
‘Where is your da now?’ I say.
‘He’s fucked off on us.’
‘Will he be back?’
‘Who knows? Who cares?’
‘You were going to tell me about your dog.’
‘Maybe another time.’
‘Tell him,’ says John Paul.
‘Go on,’ says Tomo.
‘That dog was almost a purebred, what do they call it?’
‘He had pedigree,’ I say.
‘Yeah,’ says Freddy, ‘a cocker spaniel, but when I said that me oul fella said, “Cocker spaniel me arse; he’s half a cocker and half a conger eel”. He was a bit lame but he could still play with me.’
‘And me too,’ says John Paul
‘He played with all of us,’ says Tomo.
‘Me ma says he was lame because he was probably thrun out of a car after Christmas.’
He looks around, inhales deeply. ‘Anyways we’re goin’ down to the field by the canal. Melancholy’s sniffin’ about.’
‘How did he get the name?’ I say.
‘Me oul fella christened him. “Fuckin’ melancholy,” that’s what he said when he saw him. You know the way their eyes are, on cocker spaniels I mean, like they’re always cryin’?’ Anyways,’ he continues, ‘we’re down by the canal, Melancholy and me hidin’ behind a bush lookin’ at the ciderdrinkers standin’ around a fire when it happens.’
‘What happens?’ I say
‘Wait for it,’ says John Paul.
‘Give us another mint, Franky.’
‘He’s none left.’
‘A hand,’ says Tomo.
‘Let Freddy tell it,’ says John Paul.
‘I feel this hand tight on me mouth and I’m wheeled around to face a punk with purple hair. The punk blows smoke into me face. And he lifts up me hand.’
‘His left hand,’ says John Paul
‘He lifts up me left hand and presses his cigarette into it.’
‘The lit cigarette.’
‘Like it was an ashtray,’ says Tomo.
“‘Squeal scumbag,” he says, ‘but I don’t make a sound.’
‘Show him,’ says John Paul. ‘Show him the mark on your hand.’
Freddy shows me the burn in the centre of his left palm.
‘“Somethin’ stronger,” says the punk when I make no sound, and he takes out a blade real shiny.’
‘Ooooh,’ say the audience.
‘Melancholy jumps up on him and tears a piece out of his hand. The punk runs off down to the canal, cursin’ and screamin’. “ I’ll get you, Freddy Browne,” he shouts. “I’ll get you and your fuckin’ dog. Wait and see.’”
‘That was Spikey,’ says Tomo. ‘Spikey always produces the blade.’
‘Tomo knows about the ciderdrinkers,’ says Freddy. ‘His brother’s one of them.’
‘Not any more,’ says Tomo.
‘No, not anymore,’ says Freddy
‘No fuckin’ way.’
‘They’re going to get him,’ says John Paul.
‘No, they’re not,’ says Tomo.
‘Yes, they are. They’re goin’ to get him for rattin’.’
Freddy glances behind him.
‘You’re ma’s not lookin’.’
‘His ma thinks he’s a delinquent.’
‘Why does she think that?’
‘Because he goes off sometimes,’ says Tomo.
‘Is that true?’ I say.
‘He sells things as well.’
‘Sell things?’
‘Yeah, from shops.’
‘He sells batteries at half price if you ever want them,’ says John Paul.
‘For Walkmans,’ says Tomo.
‘Not just them. Other stuff as well,’ says Freddy.
‘Get on with the story,’ says Tomo. ‘I’ll be called in soon.’
‘We hear bangers explodin’. Melancholy doesn’t like the bangers; they frighten him, see, and he sort of makes a little cry every time one explodes. So I takes him home.’
‘Your ma gave us some stuff, ‘says John Paul.
‘Yeah, and then we all scarper down to the canal to watch the bonfires. We’re lookin’ at these for a while when Melancholy sidles up to me out of the blue. I point towards the house. I’m cross with him for getting out and he knows it; he puts his head down, whines a bit and limps away.’
‘They were gettin’ high on jungle juice,’ says John Paul.
‘They’re bleedin’ fireworks were rapeh,’ says Tomo, ‘so we leg it down to get a better look.’
‘We smell the rubber of the car tyres burnin’.’
‘Then we notice it.’
‘Notice what?’ I say.
‘They take a dog out of a sack,’ says Tomo. ‘His mouth all taped up.’
I look at Freddy. He has gone silent. He is breathing heavily. Tears are welling.
‘Flames are jumpin’, hands are wavin’ like in a dance.’
‘Tell him what you feel, Freddy.’
‘I feel the heat of the fire burnin’ into me and I can taste the vomit risin’.’
‘The dog’s legs are tied,’ says John Paul.
Freddy takes an inhaler out of his pocket. Sucks frantically. ‘Kick out, Melancholy,’ he cries. ‘Kick out. Jesus will come.’

from The Avenue ‘a work of passion and truth’ Declan Kiberd.

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Special offer until 12th December American Doll and For Love of Anna only 99 pence/cent

Special offer until 12th December American Doll and For Love of Anna only 99 pence/cent
am doll about lossanna promo novel finds

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Short Story in The Honest Ulsterman

Delighted to see my short story Night Watch published in the prestigious literary journal The Honest Ulsterman which is now online. Prose – Honest Ulsterman …


Signing copies of new novel

I will be signing copies of my new novel American Doll, which is shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize, in Maynooth Bookshop at 3 pm next Monday (10/10/16) in the company of my namesake James Lawless TD. If you are free and in the area you are welcome to call in for a chat.
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American Doll shortlisted

Great news: My new novel American Dollamerican_doll_front (1) is shortlisted for the Carousel Aware Prize



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Anne Cunningham Sunday Independent 29/8/16

Danny Faraday meets Laura Calane,an Irish-American postgrad student in Trinity, and their attraction is instant. Laura is beautiful and enigmatic and plays infuriating mindgames. 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.


Special Offer. Exciting new novel American Doll only 99 cents

American girl, #finding love, against the odds, family pressures, #9/11, USA, Ireland … OR


Book Review: Death by Water

BookDeathbyWater_largeBook review by James Lawless published in the Irish Examiner 6/8/16

Death by Water
Kenzaburo Oe
Atlantic Books, €23.50

WATER is the metaphor and the phrase “taken by the current” is the recurring motif for going away and never returning, as happened to his fictitious father who drowned during a stormy night, in this autobiographical novel by Nobel prize winning Japanese author Kenzaburo Oe.

Kogito, a play on cogito ergo sum, is Oe’s doppelganger who feels guilty as he was supposed to accompany his father on that fateful night. Kogito idolised his father, considering him a hero in a fraught, war-torn Japan.

His mother, however, had other ideas about the supposed gallant qualities of her husband and is unrevealing to her son about him, which results in the son falling out with her for many years.

Kogito is determined to find out more about his father by exploring a red leather trunk which he had left behind containing many of his papers.

It appears that the father was involved in a revolutionary plot to overthrow the emperor and may have lost courage before the event and fled by boat on a flooded river.

Oe uses the death of his father, who in reality did not drown, but died as a soldier in World War 11, as a trope to see through the prism of TS Eliot’s ‘Death by Water’ section from The Waste Land:

“A current under the sea/ Picked his bones in whispers. / As he rose and fell/ He passed the stages of his age and youth/ Entering the whirlpool”.

He coldly analyses the circumstances of his father’s death rather than engendering any emotional impact and elicits perhaps an unmoved or uncaring response from the reader.

Kogito intends to turn the information he gleans from the leather trunk into a final valedictory work called The Drowning Novel.

However, when he eventually gets to see the insides of the trunk, most of the material surrounding his father’s death has been removed, and he abandons the effort.

Other literary references, showing how literature weaves its way into our lives, include Frazer’s The Golden Bough, significant in seeking “a renascence of fertility in the world in calling for the killing of the living god”.

Kogito’s father interprets these words as a mandate to assassinate the emperor Hirohito.

The forest, home of Kogito’s childhood, is presented as a sort of prelapsarian state where “we were all together, happily unborn yet alive”, and there are wonderful poetic links between it and the sea, as the leaves of the trees in their undulations resemble the waves.

Despite the advancing years — both fictional and real narrators are 74 — and the possibility of writer’s block, Oe/Kogito never at any stage doubts his own worth as an artist. He gives instructions on how to interpret his work to the players of the adulatory Caveman Group who want to stage his novels.

The players for their part accept unquestioningly the value of the work “of such an eminent author”, which is something Oe reminds us of frequently.

And it is interesting that theatrical criticism is exemplified in some quarters of Japan by hurling stuffed animals— dead dogs— not at the artist but at the actors.

Such artistic awe may not be a totally bad thing as perhaps we are more critical of the artist’s role in society and less reverential in western culture.

However, on the downside, in western eyes this work could be viewed finally as a post-modern, self-regarding exercise in navel-gazing, all the time conscious of its own making.

Book review: Death by Water


A story of mine and poem of political nature published in issue 12 of Levure Litteraire

logoA story of mine and poem of political nature published in issue 12 of Levure Litteraire (Known in English as Literary Yeast – in its electronic version, dealing with generalist and multidisciplinary specificities of the present cultural field in the service of creation and literary exchanges.
LITERARY Yeast is a quarterly e-magazine, multidisciplinary and multilingual, which defends the friendship and solidarity between peoples. (copy and paste)
Issue 12 of the multilingual-multicultural literary magazine Levure Littéraire treats of THE CAMPS OF RESISTANCE & FIELDS OF CONSCIOUSNESS with some wonderful prose and poetry and very moving images.