Derry, Northern Ireland

Derry, Northern Ireland
A book I'm working on is set in this town.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Requiem For The Departed

I've begun reading an anthology of short crime stories written by authors from Northern Ireland and the Republic, all based on Irish legends.  It's an interesting take and the stories do get dark and gritty, but I'm having this weird sensation of reading work that was written in the 70's and 80's, even though all are based in modern times.  I honestly don't know why...unless it's the fact that back then I was heavy into mysteries -- Agatha Christie, Earl Stanley Gardener, Earl Derr Biggers, Ellery Queen -- mixed with Steven King and Peter Straub (and the stories do seem a bit like a cross between King and Queen...sorry, couldn't resist that) -- and they seem to be about as inventive as books of that time.

One is based on "the hound of Culain," which was killed by Cú Chulainn, one of Ireland's ancient heroes...but I don't really see that story in the modern short.  In the legend, as a child, Cú Chulainn kills the guard dog of Culann in self defense then offers to take its place until one can be trained to replace it.  In the story, only half the legend is used and the Cú Chulainn character is made into a scumbag version of Clive Owen's transporter in the BMW commercials, ten years back.  Seems a bit disrespectful.

The opening story is based on the legend of Queen Macha, who dominates her men and supposedly won a race she was forced to run against some horses, even though pregnant with twins.  She went into labor at the finish line and cursed the men of Ulster to suffer her pains whenever they most needed their strength.  In the story, she's a drug-dealing whore who's one step ahead of all the men she knows because she knows how to use sex against them.  Hell, that could be Scarlett O'Hara of Belfast.

I can't say much about the liberties taken with the legends, in these stories, because of what I did with "Darian's Point"...using harpies formed from the Dagda's sins and Morriggan's witchcraft to build a new branch to the myths...though I do think I stayed close to the mythology of the times.  And the writing is good.  I'm just...I dunno...not impressed with the directions taken, so far.  It's like they went the easiest route to build their stories.  Nothing really fresh or exciting in them, just...typical.

For example, why did the Macha character have to be evil as well as smart?  She's not really that way in the legends.  Why couldn't she have been a judge or a barrister or a reporter or a cop or just a housewife who doesn't want her kids exposed to drugs or a tourist who's inadvertently caused trouble?  Any of these would have fit much better with the story, even keeping it basically as is (a guy is being paid to kill her, even though he was once involved with her).

I dunno, I guess I was hoping for something more fresh.  Now I'm hoping they'll get better as I go along.

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