The Irish Quarter
I am looking for suggestions for the best of contemporary Irish novels. Please share your ideas with us.
Oh, Play That Thing is the fourth book by Roddy Doyle that I have read in the last two weeks. It is the second book, A Star Called Henry is the first one, in The Last Round Up Trilogy which centers on Henry Smart, born in 1900 in Dublin. In the series we see him grow up on the very mean and dangerous streets of Dublin, kill a number of people, some for money, some for revenge and some in his role as a soldier in the Irish Republican Army. I have read a few books on the Irish Civil war and Doyle's novel gave me a much better feel for the period than the non-fiction books I read.
Oh, Play That Thing opens with Henry Smart pulling into the Irish immigrants place of entry in America, Ellis Island. Henry has almost no education but he has a lot of street smarts. We see him set up his own business in New York City, advertising sign boards carried by men walking the streets. It was great fun to see New York City in the 1920s through his Irish eyes. Hit men show up looking to kill him for something he did back in Ireland and he moves on to Chicago. Here he becomes the body guard and driver for the famous trumpet player Louis Armstrong. We see how black people were treated in Chicago at the time. A lot of the novel does deal with the cultural importance of Armstrong.
Most people say this book is not as good as the first one and I agree. I am still deciding if the use of Louis Armstrong as a central character was a good idea.
In the last novel in the trilogy, The Dead Republic has Henry working for the famous American movie director John Ford who is making a movie based on his life. I will read it soon.