Patrick McCabe

1955- [fam. Pat McCabe]; b. 27 March, Clones, Co. Monaghan, son of Belfast-born quantity surveyor, stone-mason, clerk who played the trumpet (‘poorly schooled but highly educated’) and Dympna [née Maguire], orig. of Tyrone; ed. locally at Largey Primary School, 1962; St. Macartan’s, 1967; St. Patrick’s TTC, Drumcondra, Dublin, grad. 1974; taught at St Michael’s Boys’ School, Longford; played keyboards, gigging in ballad and country & western groups with Jake Lukeman and Paddy Hanrahan as the Oklahoma Showband; met Margot Quinn (m. 1981; with whom two children, Ellen, b.1985; Katie, b.1987);
moved to Dublin and taught at St. Mary’s, Haddington Rd., 1978-80 and St. Teresa’s Nat. School, Balbriggan, 1981-87; and afterwards as remedial teacher in Kingsbury Day Primary and Special School, London, 1987-93; completed Carn (1989; rep. 1993), the story of an eponymous small border-town in Ulster which undergoes economic rejuvenation and then ruin; won Hennessy Short Story Award (Irish Press) with “The Call”, 1979; appt. teacher at Kingsbury Day Special School, London, 1980; issued The Adventures of Shay Mouse (1985), a children’s story; issued Music on Clinton Street (1986), a novel;
settled with wife and 2 dgs. in London, 1987; issued The Butcher Boy (1992), the first-person narrative of Francie Brady, son of a dysfunctional family who becomes a murderer after a trial of misfortunes at the hands of a careless community and state; published by Peter Straus at Picador after initial rejection by Aidan Ellis, going on to become winner of Irish Times Literature Award (Fiction), 1992, Aer Lingus Irish Lit. Prize for Fiction 1992; also shortlisted for the Booker Fiction Prize, 1992 and filmed by Neil Jordan for Warner Bros. in 1996 (released in 1997), with McCabe himself in a small part as the town drunk;
issued a play, ‘‘Frank Pig Says Hello ’’, based on Butcher Boy, was premiered Dublin Theatre Festival, 1992, being produced by Joe Byrne of Co-Motion Theatre Co.; Loco County Lonesome opened at 1994 Dublin Theatre Festival with less success; The Dead School (1994), based on teaching experience in Ireland and concerning Raphael Bell, the faith-and-fatherland school-teacher, and Malachy Dudgeon, the hippie-generation student teacher who becomes his nemesis and his own; gave up teaching to write full-time; returned to Dublin, and then moved to Sligo;
issued Breakfast on Pluto (1998), named after 1969 hit ‘single’ by Don Partridge, the narrative of a small-town trans-sexual, Patrick ‘Pussy’ Braden, illegitimate child of local priest in “Tyreelin” who flees after the death of a friend and lives in London as a prostitute only to become inadvertantly involved in an IRA pub-bombing; shortlisted for Booker Prize; elected Monaghan Man of the Year, 1998; issued Mondo Desperado (1999), a collection of short storiesoffering a satirical view of Irish fiction and centred on prize-winning writer Phildy Hackball of Barntrosna;
issued Emerald Germs of Ireland (2001), in which Pat McNab, a wannabe show-band star, turns serial killer in rural Ireland; issued Call Me the Breeze (2003), a novel set in a border town called “Scotsfield” and centred on the lovesick writer-to-be Joey Tallon; McCabe now lives in Collooney, Co. Sligo, with his wife and two dgs.; 2 early stories broadcast on RTÉ; plays broadcast on BBC and RTÉ; film of Breakfast on Pluto (2006);
issued Winterwood (2006), the story of Redmond Hatch, local boy who “makes good” as a journalist and escapes rural Ireland to join the London professional class but finds his past follows him; winner of Bord Gáis Irish Book Awards fiction section; issued The Holy City (2009), in which Chris McCool, a ’sixties survivor, gets involved with Marcus Otoyo, a Nigerian new arrival; McCabe is founding director of the Flat Lake Literary & Arts Festival at Hilton Park, Clones, co-organised with Kevin Allen of Trainspotting fame, 4-6 June 2010; the acquisition of his papers by Hesburgh Libraries Special Collections of Notre Dame University was announced in Jan. 2015. OCIL DIL
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  • Music on Clinton Street (Dublin: Raven Arts 1986), 152pp.
  • Carn (Nuffield: Aiden Ellis 1989), 252pp; Do. (London: Picador 1993), 252pp., and Do. (NY: Dial 1997).
  • The Butcher Boy (London: Picador 1992), 215pp; Do. (Picador reps. incl. 1993, 1998); Do., with introduction by Ross Raison [Picador Classic] (Picador 2015), 215pp.; Do. [another edn.] (Delta 1994), 231pp.; Do. (Pan Books 1992, 1998, 2015), 256pp.
  • The Dead School (London: Picador 1995), 344pp., and Do. [rep. edn.] (Oxford: ISIS 1996), 416pp.
  • Breakfast on Pluto (London: Picador 1998, 1999), 200pp; and Do. [rep. edn.] (London: Picador 2000), x,229pp.
  • Mondo Desperado (London: Picador 1999), 228pp. [short stories].
  • Emerald Germs of Ireland (London: Picador 2001), 380pp.
  • Call Me the Breeze (London: Faber & Faber 2003), 308pp.
  • Winterwood (London: Bloomsbury 2006), 242pp.
  • The Holy City (London: Bloomsbury 2009), 216pp.
Children’s fiction
  • The Adventures of Shay Mouse: The Mouse from Longford (Dublin: Raven Arts [1985]), ill. Margaret Quinn; Do. (Dublin: New Island 1994), 64pp.
  • [...]
  • ‘‘Frank Pig Says Hello’’, in John Farleigh, ed., Far from the Land: Contemporary Irish Plays, with a foreword by Sebastian Barry (London: Methuen 1998).
  • ‘‘Girls’’ [short story], The Big Issue [Éire] (June 1995).
  • ‘Ships and shadows and invisible men’, in The Guardian ([Sat.] 4 Sept. 2004) [infra].
  • The Butcher Boy (1997), dir. Neil Jordan; Breakfast on Pluto (2006), dir. Jordan, rewritten by McCabe and Neil Jordan

See also short fiction contributions to to Panurge, The Irish Times, Cork Examiner, et. al.

[Note: McCabe’s conversation with Neil Jordan published as ‘&147;1916 I Think Impossible to Think about without Thinking of Yeats and O’Casey”: Public Interview with Neil Jordan’, in Towards 2016: 1916 and Irish Literature, Culture & Society, ed. Seán Crosson, Werner Huber [Irish Studies in Europe Ser.] (Trier, Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier 2015) pp.229-53; noticed in Melania Terrazas - infra.]

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  • Aubrey Dillon-Malone, review of Pat McCabe, Music on Clinton Street (1987) [with other fiction works], in Books Ireland (May 1987), p.95 [extract].
  • Rüdiger Imhof, ‘The Fiction of Patrick McCabe’, Linen Hall Review, 9, 2 (Autumn 1992), pp.99-100.
  • Shaun Whiteside, review of The Butcher Boy, in The Guardian (16 April 1992) [q.p.; see extract].
  • John Waters, interview with Patrick McCabe, Irish Times (31 Oct. 1992), Weekend, p.5 [see extract].
  • Pat Collins talks to Pat McCabe’, Film West, 20 (Spring 1995), pp.10-14 [see extract].
  • Thomas Kilroy, ‘Book of the Day’, review of The Dead School (1995), in Irish Times (17 May 1995), [see extract].
  • Kate Grimond, review of The Dead School, in Spectator (24 June 1995), [see extract].
  • George O’Brien, review Carn [rep. edn.] (Delta 1997), in The Washington Post, ‘Book World’ (26 January 1997), [see extract].
  • Patrick Brennan, ‘From Britpop to Yeatspop’, Irish Times (7 Feb. 1997), [see extract].
  • Julia O’Faolain, ‘The Furies of Irish Fiction’, in The Richmond Review [q. iss.] (1997) [available online].
  • An essay by Alan Riding, ‘Challenging Ireland’s Demons With a Laugh’, in New York Times (29 March 1998), [see extract].
  • Shirley Kelly, ‘A lad I used to know around with …’ ,[interview], in Books Ireland (May 1998), pp.117-18 [see extract].
  • John Kenny, interview with Pat McCabe, in Irish Times (16 May 1998), [see extract].
  • Ruth Scurr, ‘Transvestite Troubles’, review of Breakfast on Pluto, in Times Literary Supplement (29 May 1998), p.25 [see extract].
  • George O’Brien review of Breakfast on Pluto (1998), in Irish Times (30 May 1998).
  • John Dunne, review of Breakfast on Pluto, in Books Ireland (Sept. 1998), p.212 [see extract].
  • Clare Wallace, ‘Running Amuck: Manic Logic in Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy’, in Irish Studies Review, 6, 2 (August 1988), pp.157-64 [see extract].
  • Gerry Smyth, The Novel and the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto Press 1997) [on The Butcher Boy], pp.81-84 [see extract].
  • Christopher FitzSimon, ‘St. Macartan, Minnie the Minx and Mondo Movies: Elliptical Peregrinations Through the Subconscious of a Monaghan Writer Traumatised by Cows and the Brilliance of James Joyce’ [interview article], in Irish University Review, 28, 1 (Spring/Summer 1998), pp.175-89.
  • Martyn Bedford, ‘Satire Rebounds’, review of Mondo Desperado, in Literary Review (Sept. 1999), pp.50-51 [see extract].
  • Donna Potts, ‘From Tir na nOg to Tir na Muck: Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy’ in New Hibernian Review [3, 3] (Autumn 1999) pp.83-95.
  • Joe Jackson, interview with Patrick McCabe (‘When Love Hurts’, in The Irish Times, Weekend, 3 June 2000) [see extract].
  • John Scaggs, ‘Who is Francie Pig?: Self-Identity and Narrative Reliability in The Butcher Boy’, in Irish University Review (Spring/Summer 200[0]) [cp.52.].
  • Tom Herron, ‘ContamiNation: Patrick McCabe and Colm Toibin’s Pathographies of the Republic’, in Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories, ed. Liam Harte & Michael Parker (Basingstoke: Macmillan 2000), pp.168-91.
  • Tom Gilling, review of Emerald Germs of Ireland, in NY Review of Books (q.d.) [see extract].
  • Robert MacFarlane, review of Emerald Germs of Ireland, in Times Literary Supplement (19 Jan. 2001) [see extract].
  • James M. Smyth, ‘Remembering Ireland’s Architecture of Containment: “Telling” Stories in The Butcher Boy and States of Fear’, in Eire-Ireland: Journal of Irish Studies (Fall/Winter 2001) [q.pp.].
  • Aisling Foster, ’Germs, Madness and Murder’, review of Emerald Germs, in The Guardian (27 Jan. 2001) [see extract].
  • Derek Hand, ‘Grimy Times in Gullytown’, review of Emerald Germs, in The Irish Times ( 13 Jan. 2001).
  • Elizabeth Cullingford, ‘Virgins and Mothers: Sinead O’Connor, Neil Jordan, and The Butcher Boy’, in Yale Journal of Criticism, 15:1 (2002), pp.185-210.
  • John O’Mahony, ‘King of Bog Gothic’, in The Guardian (Sat. 30 Aug. 2003) [see extract].
  • Nadine O’Regan, ‘Travelling the long bog road’, interview with McCabe, in The Sunday Business Post Online (7 Sept. 2003) [online].
  • Heather White, interview with Patrick McCabe, in Ulster Tatler (April 2005), q.p.
  • John Kenny, ‘If you go down to the woods today ...’, review of Patrick McCabe, Winterwood, in The Irish Times (21 Oct. 2006) [extract].
  • Irvine Welsh, ‘The Man from the Mountains’, review of Winterwood, in The Guardian (4 Nov. 2006) [see extract].
  • Rosalind Porter, ‘Patrick McCabe: Interview’, in Time Out London (9 Nov. 2006) [see extract].
  • Colin MacCabe, The Butcher Boy [Ireland into Film Ser.] (Cork UP 2007), 97pp.
  • Eugene O’Brien, ‘Winterwood: A Portrait of the Artist as a Postmodernist Pariah’, in Modernity and Postmodernity in a Franco-Irish Context - Studies in Franco-Irish Relations Volume 2, ed. Grace Neville, Eamon Maher & O’Brien (Berne: Peter Lang 2008), pp.141-60.
  • Ellen McWilliams, “Madness and Mother Ireland in the fiction of Patrick McCabe”, in Irish Studies Review, 18:4 ((2010), pp.391-400.
  • Liam Harte, ‘Malignant Shame: Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992)‘, in Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel (Oxford: Blackwell 2013), pp.75-104 [Chap. 3].
  • Melania Terrazas, ‘Satire and Trauma in Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy’, in Biblioteca di Studi di Filologia Moderna [Journals and Workshop] (7 June 2017) - available as .pdf at Core - online]
See also ...
  • Tom Herron, ‘Contamination: Patrick McCabe and Colm Tóibín’s Pathologies of the Republic’, in Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories, ed. Liam Harte, & Michael Parker (London: Macmillan 2000) [cp.172].
  • Linden Peach, The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings (Basingstoke: Palgrave 2003, 2004) - Chap. 8 - ‘Limit and Transgression: Roddy Doyle’s The Woman Who Walked into Doors’ (1996), Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992) and William Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey (1994)’ [q.pp.].
  • Aveen McManus, “Narratives of Childhood - A Comparative Study” (MA Diss., Univ. of Ulster 2005) [with Mary Costello, Frances Molloy, Jennifer Johnston, David Park, Glenn Patterson, Seamus Deane, Edna O’Brien].
  • Lynden Peach, The Contemporary Irish Novel: Critical Readings ( Basingstoke : Palgrave 2004), c.p.169.
  • Daniel Hahn, entry on the British Council’s Contemporary Writers website [available online].

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See separate file, infra.

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The Butcher Boy (1992): ‘When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done to Mrs. Nugent. I was hiding out by the river in a hole under a tangle of briars. It was a hide me and Joe made. Death to all dogs who enter here, we said. Except us of course. You could see plenty from the inside but no one could see you. Weeds and driftwood and everything floating downstream under the dark archway of the bridge. Sailing away to Timbuctoo. Good luck now weeds, I said. Then I stuck my nose out to see what was going on. Plink - rain if you don’t mind. But I wasn’t complaining. I like rain. […] Take your time drop, I said - we’ve got all the time we want now. We’ve got all the time in the world.’ (Opening; p.1.)

‘I went down to the river it was bulging nearly ready to burst its banks you could be eyeball to eyeball with the fish. I was shivering with the cold and the wet. I pulled at the grass along the edge of the bank and counted all the people that were gone on me now. / 1. Da / 2. Ma 3. Alo / 4. Joe. When I said Joe’s name all of a sudden I burst out laughing. For fuck’s sake! I said, Joe gone! How the fuck would Joe be gone! / That was the best yet.’ (p.163.)

‘Nugent it was you caused all the trouble if you hadn’t poked your nose in everything would have been alright.’ (p.2.) Further: ‘You did two bad things Mrs Nugent. You made me turn my back on my ma and you took Joe away from me. Why did you do that Mrs Nugent? She didn’t answer I didn’t want to hear any answer I smacked her against the wall a few times there was a smear of blood at the corner of her mouth and her hand was reaching out trying to touch me when I cocked the captive bolt. I lifted her off the floor with one hand and shot the bolt right into her head thlok was the sound it made, like a goldfish dropping in a bowl. It you ask anyone how you kill a pig they will tell you cut its throat across but you don’t you do it longways. Then she just lay there with her chin sticking up and I opened her up then I stuck my hand in her stomach and wrote PIGS all over the walls of the upstairs room.’ (p.195.)

‘That was all a long time ago. Twenty or thirty or forty years ago. I don’t know. I was on my own for a long time I did nothing only read the Beano and look out at the grass. Then they said to me[:] There’s no sense in you being stuck up in that wing all on your own. I don’t think you’re going to take the humane killer to any of our patients are you? / Humane killer! I don’t think Mrs Nugent would be too pleased to hear you call it that, doc, I said. Oh now now he says that’s all over you must forget all about that next week your solitary finishes how about that hmm? I felt like laughing in his face: How can your solitary finish? That’s the best laugh yet.’ (p.214; [...] End.)

Emerald Germs of Ireland (2001), “An Introduction” [opening]: ‘These few word are written so that we might understand why Pat MacNab, the main character in this book, behaved in the way he did. What they definitley are not is an attempt to excuse him, for Pat is guilty and everybody know it, but at least, with a bit of luck, they will go some way towards explaining why he grew up with the reputaiton of being a complete “loo-la” and a “headbin of the highest order” as Timmy Sullivan, the proprietor of Sullivan’s Select Bar, described him one night. You see, for as far back as he could remember, Pat had always wanted to be in a “pop” or “show” band but his mother wouldn’t countenance it. Almost losing her mind, in fact, if it was even so much as mentioned! “Band!” she would snap, glowering at her son, “I’ll give you band!” Think you’re going to end up like that other lug, do you, that father of yours, disporting himself in his great big Captain’s uniform for every trollop and painted hussy that went walking the road, and ne’er so much as a copper sent home to buy a crust of bread! Band! Pshaw! Get down on your knees this very instant and scrub them tiles before I put this brush across your back and don’t think for a second I wouldn’t! [... &c.]” (p.3.)

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Winterwood (2006), Ned “Auld Pappie” Strange to Hatch: ‘ -She never repented. Not once. Every time I looked in her eyes I could see she was still thinking of him. That old snake - he was still on her mind. Damn near broke my heart so it did. / - So what did you do? I asked him. My saliva formed a thick and distasteful ball inside my mouth. / He lowered his eyes and gazed at the floor. Then he raised them again and flashed his incisors. The look he gave me chilled my blood./ - You’d like to know, wouldn’t you? Who knows - maybe I’ll tell you. Maybe I’ll tell you one day, just how it ended between us. Between me and the lovely Annamarie Gordon.’ (Irvine Welsh, ‘The Man from the Mountains’, review of Winterwood, in The Guardian (4 Nov. 2006; accessed 28.4.2007 [online].)

Winterwood (2006): ‘If you look at some of the old cowboy songs that started out as kind of campfire ballads, they are absolutely scatological and profane. The tension is when you yearn for something that wasn’t there in the first place - some lost paradise.’ On Temple Bar: ’the epicentre of Dublin’s hedonistic empire, a playground exclusively populated by louche adolescent Euro-ramblers and indigenous chemical-fuelled youths vertiginously wading in the currents of an ever-expanding opalescent ocean, shorn of history and oblivious of religion.’ (Quoted in Rosalind Porter, ‘Patrick McCabe: Interview’, in Time Out London (9 Nov. 2006) [as supra].

Ships and shadows and invisible men’, in The Guardian (4 Sept. 2004): speaks of overhearing a parental quarrel in childhood, and finds comparisons between the resultant mood and that of Joyce’s Dubliners, Houellebecq’s remarks on Kafka’s Trial, and Nabokov [as infra]: ‘[...] , Everyone lives in their own private world - I began to learn that soon after - which meant I could never tell my father what had happened. He was never to know I’d been watching them. [...] Being invisible made you learn fast. Find out that, just as I’d suspected, every house had its landings. It didn’t seem so bad after I’d made that discovery once and for all - amassed incontrovertible empirical evidence, as Detective Inspector Paul Terhune of The Hornet might put it - and, shortly after that, I established my office - in a shed behind the doctor’s with paper and pens I’d borrowed from my father. My first story was “The Death of all Those Bastarding Shadows”, and while it wasn’t a major international success, it cheered me somewhat and brightened up the landing. There were many to follow after that, including “Louis Crandell vs The Minotaur” (I had this idea he was waiting for me after school) and a good few more concerning my family. [...]’ uotes Nbokov with approbation (‘Thank you Mr Nabokov): ‘Literature is not concerned with pitying the underdog or cursing the overdog. It appeals to the secret depth of the human soul where the shadows of other worlds pass like the shadows of nameless and soundless ships.’ (For full-text version, see online & infra.)

Tragic State: ‘[...] Until I was about ten, Ireland was a very grey place. If you look at the cabinet papers that have just been released, you actually realise what sort of place you were living in and the state that your mother and father lived through. The abuse they had to put up with, like living in fear of their jobs simply because a certain section of the population had taken control and had actually made the country a more illiberal place than when the British were here; that was the great tragedy of the Free State. These people got to power through isolationism.’ (Interview by Pat Collins, Film West: Ireland’s Film Quarterly, No. 20 [q.d.]; quoted in Aveen McManus, “Narratives of Childhood - A Comparative Study” (MA Diss., Univ. of Ulster 2005, p.72, from online issue.)

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Raven Introductions (Dublin: Raven Arts; Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1984), 80pp., contains a sample of his writing.

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Carn (1986): The story of Benny Dolan, son of an IRA family who is drawn in by the republican traditions of his border county family; (‘Your grandfather took the bullet in the head. He died a soldier. And [...] your own father he got it from them too. That’s your breed son I hope you’re made of the same stuff. I know you are.’); Josie Keegan is sexually abused by her father Buyer Keegan, then institutionalised; escapes and lives with Phil Brady in his cottage but is recaptured by Sister Benignus, a sadistic Reverend Mother; turns to prostitute after her brief escape in England and return, and is finally ostracised after her second abuser, Vinnie Culligan, that she has killed the baby with which he left her pregnant; Sadie Rooney’s teenage dreams are soured by rude awakenings; Maisie Lynch thinks that ‘three weeks of non-stop prayer’ will solve the problems in the North; Pat Lacey wishes to ‘hold back the insidious tide of alien values’ that seem to enter through television (‘The humdrum of daily conversation has been invaded and supplanted by interweaving plots of American soap operas’).

The Butcher Boy (1992) is the first-person narrative of Francie Brady, son of a dysfunctional family - ‘nothing better than pigs’ in the view of Mrs Nugent, who epitomises the small-town snobbery of the community. It traces his odyssey through social ostracism, delusional paranoia and incarceration in an industrial home [reformatory] home after the deaths of his parents, ending with his murder of Mrs Nugent, loosely based on real events involving the notorious killing of a boy, John Flanagan, by his friend Joe Fee, the model for Francie [?in 1904].

The Butcher Boy (1992): the author’s third novel and his American debut; a journey into the heart of darkness, set in Ireland in 1962. It depicts the mind of a desperately troubled boy one step away from madness and murder, who retells the events from adulthood after a life in state care - reformatory and mental hospital. Francie Brady lives in small-town Ireland. His father [Benny] is a drunk and his mother a slovenly housekeeper but he has a good buddy in Joe Purcell whose company sustains him in a Tom-and-Huck friendship. All changes when Francie and Joe cheat Philip Nugent, a middle-class school-mate, out of his comic-book collection, causing an outraged Mrs Nugent to call the Brady family “pigs”. This slur increasingly magnetises Francie’s growing sense of resentment. After his mother enters a mental hospital he runs away to Dublin and returns to find she has drowned herself. In rage he breaks into the Nugents’ home and make a mess on the carpet, resulting in a sentence to the Reformatory run by sadistic (and perverted) priests. On his release he finds that Joe has befriended with Philip Nugent. The death of his father, who remains unburied in the house, tips him into psychosis. He makes a trip to Bundoran where his father played the trumpet, and discovers that his father was a drunk from the outset of his marriage. The novel is related in Francie’s voice full of keen impressions, jibes and name-calling, self-loathing and the detritus of pop-culture from comic books to John Wayne movies - all delivered with the assurance of a stand-up comic. Snaking through Francie’s story is his longing for childhood innocence, now lost forever, and just an inkling of the gathering mental darkness that contributes to the gruesome climax when he murders Mrs Nugent and guts her like a pig, having worked for a time in a slaughter-house. (See Kirkus reviews - where it is called a tour-de-force novel that gives an uncompromisingly bleak vision of a child who retains the pathos of a grubby urchin even as he evolves into a monster. Kirkus compares it with the novels of Salinger and Sillitoe.

The Butcher Boy was filmed by Neil Jordan with Stephen Rea and many other Irish actors, with Eamon Owens as the central character, at Warrenpoint, Co. Down, and Clones, Co. Monaghan in 1996 (released in 1997).

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Frank Pig Says Hello (Co-Motion production) Frank moves from his Lombard St. venue last Oct. to the Gate this month [April 1993], Francie Byrne’s gradual descent into isolation and madness and murder in small ton Irish Border town brought to life by two actors and a trumpet; the sense of yearning and betrayal in the first-person novel conveyed through spare, droll dialogue; Pat McCabe wrote the play before his novel was accepted; pace and rhythm give the play a lighter tone than the novel. Co-Motion also produced a Sinking of the Titanic and Other Matters (1990) with cast of 20 at SFX Centre, transformed into the hull of the ship, marked the furthest extension of large scale visuals.

A Mother’s Love is a Blessing (RTÉ 1994), first in half-hour drama series TV; story of a boy’s murder of his mother, her cruelties, and the boy’s attempt to thwart her; beginning ‘The world is a sad place and no mistake [...] On minute you’re as happy as Larry and the next you’re away off with a machine-gun to kill all around you’; black, deliberately shaky tone; set in 1950s with strange anachronisms; borderland between realism, hallucination, and parody (allusions to Psycho); dir. Charlie McCarthy; Pat Kinevane as son; Joan O’Hara as mother; highly regarded by reviewer (Gerry MacNamara, Irish Times, 17 Sept. 1994). Note: A Mother’s Love is a Blessing produced by Backstage Theatre in 1995, with Eithne Ward as Mammy, and Noel Strange as Pat McNab, directed by Mick Reilly; so noticed in Padraic O’Farrell, ‘Amateur Drama’, Irish Times (3 Jan. 1996).

Loco County Lonesome, produced by Co-Motion Theatre Co., in which Paco Phelan returns home after a spell behind bars, eager to settle old scores [1994].

The Dead School (1995): ‘Malachy Dudgeon has escaped the misery and madness of his childhood home and landed a job in the most famous school in Dublin. The headmaster, Raphael Bell, has overcome his own tragedies to forge a model career, but when Malachy Dudgeon and Raphael Bell meet, they become inextricably engaged in a macabre relationship which proves fatal to their fortunes and their sanity. Reviews: ’McCabe can make you howl at the darkest antics ...He never sets a foot - or syllable - wrong. His novel is death on a laugh-support machine. Stupendous.’ (Scotland on Sunday); ’Raphael, the great headmaster, is a marvellous creation ...McCabe has a charm as a storyteller which is all his own’ - (Sunday Telegraph); ’Exhilarating. Reading the distilled gouts of consciousness which pour from the minds of these characters is like being trapped on a big dipper with articulate maniacs ... Horribly funny’ (The Times); ’An appallingly funny story ...horribly memorable’ (Times Literary Supplement). [Copied from COPAC online; accessed 23.02.2010.]

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Breakfast on Pluto (2006) [I], dir. Neil Jordan; set in the 1970; follows the exploits of Patrick Braden (Murphy), an endearing, but deceptively tough young man. Abandoned as a baby in his small Irish hometown and aware from a very early age that he is different, Patrick survives this harsh environment with the aid of his wit and charm, plus a sweet refusal to let anyone and anything change who he is. [...] transvestite; changes into the beautiful and androgynous Kitten; moves to London to find his mother; ends by finding the love and happiness he so craves and deserves]. cast includes Liam Neeson, Stephen Rea, Brendan Gleeson, Eva Birthistle, Liam Cunningham, Bryan Ferry, Gavin Friday, Ian Hart and Ruth Negga. (Sony Classic Pictures, publicity info.)

Breakfast on Pluto (2006) [II] provides a cover photo for FilmIreland (Jan/Feb 2006), relating to an interview with Neil Jordan. See also review by Lir Mac Cárthaigh: ‘Breakfast on Pluto, greatly expanded [sic] from its source novel by Pat McCabe and Neil Jordan, follows the fortunes of Patrick “Kitten” Braden [...; &c.] For all of its merits, Pat McCabe’s Breakfast on Pluto is not an easy book to like. By fleshing the book out beyond its original boundaries, Neil Jordan has created a work that is genuinely redemptive without saccharine emotion or false sentiment. A lot can be said about Breakfast on Pluto, and it’s open to a range of interpretations; it’s hilarious, tragic, and brimful of standout performances, but it also has serious questions to pose about what deserves to be taken ‘seriously’. (See full text [infra] or go to FilmIreland website [ link].)

Winterwood (2006): ‘“The intention was, of course, to bring her out to Winterwood - to that magical place that only me and her knew - but I wouldn’t tell her that until much later on, for I wanted it to be as much of a surprise as possible.” On a return to his home place in the mountainy middle of Ireland, Redmond Hatch meets old Pappie Strange, a fiddler and teller of tales whose honeyed words and giddy reels have persuaded the local mothers and fathers, anxious at the loss of traditional values, to bring their little lambs to his Saturday morning ceilidhs. Once, in Kilburn, married to the sugar-lipped Catherine, and sharing his daughter Immy’s passion for My Little Pony, with its enchanted kingdom of Winterwood, Redmond was happy. But then infidelity, betrayal and the “scary things” from which he would protect his daughter steal into the magic kingdom, and the bad things begin to happen. Now Redmond - once little Red - prowls the barren outlands alone, haunted by the disgraced shade of Ned Strange. A shape-shifter, Red reinvents himself as Dominic Tiernan, builds a new life in TV, finds a new wife and begins to know domestic happiness once more. Then one day, in Dublin, he spies Catherine again. Like the best old songs and folk tales, this is a story both simple and complex, shot through with recurring themes and motifs, ribbons of song, rags of lore. Full of raucous humour and savage satire, Winterwood taps deep into the old, dark, unseen places below the shiny surface of modern Ireland. It is Patrick McCabe’s most disturbing, original and accomplished novel yet.’ (COPAC notice, online; accessed 23.03.2010.) ]

US Reviewers: NY Times, “Review of Books” (1 Oct. 1999 [Internet Issue]), calls Butcher Boy ‘part Huck Finn, part Holden Caulfield, part Hannibal Lector.’ Washington Post, “Book World”[q.d], compares The Butcher Boy (1992) to ‘a Beckettian monologue with a plot by Alfred Hitchcock.’

Gavin Friday Friday appears in Breakfast on Pluto. Friday [pseud. of Fionan Harvey], an experimental figure on the Irish music scene, was lead singer with the Virgin Prunes and later compère-impressario; has worked with Bono [Paul Hewson] of U2, &c. (See Brian Boyd, ‘Gavin Friday’s Passions’, in The Irish Times, 22 July 2006, “Weekend”).

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