Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers

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9780375412974: Yeats Is Dead! A Mystery by 15 Irish Writers


“I think he was dead before I shot him.”

With these auspicious words begins a murder mystery so utterly unlike any other that it took fifteen of Ireland’s finest writers (working well below their peak) to bring it to its unlikely conclusion. The plot involves a mad search for the only manuscript of an unpublished novel by James Joyce, and features a stellar cast—including a sadistic sergeant with the unlikely name of Andy Andrews and the unforgettable mob boss Mrs. Bloom, a woman “who had tried everything but drew the line at honesty.” Raucous, raunchy, gratuitously violent and completely hilarious, Yeats Is Dead! is a diabolically entertaining mulligan stew of a novel. James Joyce would be proud.

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Review:

Yeats Is Dead doesn't seem like a book so much as a protracted pub crawl in the company of 15 hyper-articulate potty-mouths. Roddy Doyle, Frank McCourt, Anthony Cronin, and a dozen of their lesser-known compatriots have written a literary mystery that isn't terribly literary and doesn't really hang together as a mystery. It is, however, a showcase for riffing by some very clever writers. The novel commences with a chapter from Doyle, wherein a couple of cops on the take raid the trailer of a down-and-outer. They've been instructed to sack the joint by the all-knowing underworld crime boss Mrs. Bloom (much given to crying "O yes" in proper Joycean fashion). Unfortunately, the two policemen accidentally kill the resident hobo, and in doing so set off a whirlwind of brutality, inner-city intrigue, and unlikely romance.

Each chapter is written by a different writer, and each writer seems eager to outdo the last by killing off as many characters as possible. This can be good, bloody fun. It can also lead to some creaky exposition along the lines of this passage from Cronin's chapter: "The guard that got shot. What did he think he was up to? And what was his connection, if any, with the Tommy Reynolds murder?" More successful are the writers who altogether give up the ghost of creating a cohesive mystery, and instead wallow around in literary references and ridiculously purple prose. Here novelist Joseph O'Connor tries his hand at an action scene: "Gravity and Mrs. Roberts had entered into conflict, and, as devotees of the late Sir Isaac will confirm, out of such a negotiation may emerge one victor." Not exactly Tom Clancy, and a good thing, too.

The Irish must be a genial race, for they keep turning out these collaborative efforts, the most recent being Finbar's Hotel and Ladies' Night at Finbar's Hotel. (By the way, all royalties from the sale of this particular round robin will go to Amnesty International.) In any case, the format can be tough on the writer who must bundle it all up in the final chapter. Here the task falls to honorary Irishman Frank McCourt, and let it be said, he does his salty, saucy best. --Claire Dederer

From the Inside Flap:

Conor McPherson, Gene Kerrigan, Gina Moxley, Marian Keyes, Anthony Cronin, Owen O’Neill, Hugo Hamilton, Joseph O’Connor, Tom Humphries, Pauline McLynn, Charlie O’Neill, Donal O’Kelly, Gerard Stembridge, and Frank McCourt

Fifteen of Ireland’s brightest and most entertaining authors came together to benefit Amnesty International–resulting in this raucous, raunchy, and diabolically entertaining mulligan stew of a novel.

Yeats is Dead! is an elaborate mystery centered around the search for something more valuable and precious than anything else in Ireland–an unpublished manuscript by James Joyce. A madcap chase ensues, spiced with the shenanigans of a spectacular array of characters: a sadistic sergeant with the unlikely name of Andy Andrews; a urinal paddy salesman; and the unforgettable Mrs. Bloom, a woman “who had tried everything but drew the line at honesty.” Gratuitously violent and completely hilarious, &

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