Acclaimed Dublin Story: The Corpseman of the Liberties

I am delighted to announce that my story The Corpseman of the Liberties has just been published in Portuguese as O Livreiro do Liberties, translated beautifully by Rafael Matias.
A young boy in the Liberties of Dublin learns about growing up through his handicapped cousin and a strange bookseller.
Opening English extract:
Ashen, his skin, unsmiling, smokereeking with thin strands of hair like the tines of a fork. I never saw him leave his bookshop even to get a breath of air – where did he go to eat, to get provisions? There was no name on the facade of his shop in Cuffe Street. Not like Dillon’s, the butcher’s shop next door with its gold plate lettering, or even Gillespie’s sweet shop across the road with its black enamel painting, at least telling people who they were. ‘In the name of jaysus,’ Anto said, ‘people should tell you who they are.’ But the front of his shop was a smooth grey almost like an invitation to fill in the blank space. Not that it bothered us at the time. As kids, we paid no heed to things like that. We were just interested in the comics, the second hand buys. He paid us for Toppers, Beanos, Dandies and Hotspurs all categorised neatly in rows on his dark wooden counter. Adult books walled the premises, some hardback, some exotic paperbacks, one with cancan dancers highkicking, showing off their petticoats, a book which Anto whisked away the minute he laid eyes on it. The story of the Moulin Rouge or some such history, of Toulouse Lautrec, I was to learn later, with quite a large section dealing with the Parisian brothels and his frequenting thereof, and Anto drooling over every word. And this had been rubbing shoulders with staid Alan Lane paperbacks in their faded orange or green, a jaded gesture to colour in the place, but the pages were often gelled together in their umber ageing on shelves, out of my reach of course, in a small dingy room. ‘Not enough room to swing a cat in,’ Aunt Peg would say but it didn’t deter us and, ironically, it was only down the road from Kevin Street public library. Did he even know it was there? But it didn’t take from his business, not by a long shot. The library didn’t do comics or any of the adult books that he apparently sold and for which, judging by Anto, there was no shortage of demand. But Anto said the women ‘had it all’ because they were able to get the ‘special books’ from the Dewey-eyed librarian on their doctor’s prescription. Other men would come in of course, jingle the little bell on the door of the shop, women in scarves devouring the ‘mills and booms’ as I used to call them, and clerks or shift workers with their tweed caps pushed back on their heads looking for their ‘friction’ perusing the hardbacks, or the lanky man with a walking cane who came in one day looking squinty-eyed through thick lenses. ‘That could’ve been James Joyce,’ my mother said, for she was with me that day buying a few romances. ‘He could be home for a visit,’ she said, but sure wasn’t he dead long ago and I not knowing then. ‘A dirty get,’ she said and I wondered did she mean did he ever wash. ‘Disgusting the things he put into the books,’ and I wondering were they lollipop sticks or chewing gum and said, ‘How do you mean, Mam?’ ‘Everything in time,’ she said.

Also avaiable in French and English at Amazon bks uk or amazon bks com and in Englshi at


Author: James Lawless

Irish novelist, poet and short story writer.

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