- 29 Nov 21
The Town She Loved So Well
When I left my sheltered, midlands upbringing for the bright lights of the Maynooth metropolis all those years ago, one of the more challenging factors I had to adapt to was the Dundalk accent of many of the fellow last-line-of-the-C.A.O.-form chancers I found about me. Cassidy, a well-travelled native of “the town”, dropped me right back there with this debut novel, told in that same heavy accent, which takes a bit of adjusting to, although once you’re a few chapters in, you’ll have slipped into the vernacular yourself, haigh.
Aoife is one of several drug hawkers in the locale, dealers who work together to keep the peace, further their commercial concerns and take care of problems that rock the boat like Chip’s bad coke that leaves two kids dead. As far as Aoife’s concerned, Dundalk means something special, a place that “makes it’s own kinda balance”, “a safety valve for the rest’ a the country”. It’s a place she can’t get away from, and doesn’t want to either. When she finds herself abroad in the big cities, she can’t wait to get back, and can’t understand why anyone would want to live anywhere else.
She meets Andrew, who turns out to be a ‘beor’ called Annie, and after pants are dropped and weird feelings subside, Annie sends “a slice’ a electric all through” Aoife. “Pure class,” she reckons. “I thought men weren capable ‘a doin anything like that. Then I realised that, yeah, they’re not.”
The big Shamey, who Aoife has known longer than anyone else in the town, warns her that he suspects Annie’s “out for herself” and local “king’ a the gypsies” the Rat King stipulates that Annie should not be told about the large amount of stolen cocaine he’s got his hands on. Because of a tip from Aoife about heroine and some lads from Liverpool, Garda Kelleher makes detective. Aoife calls in the favour to spring Annie after she’s mixed herself up with the wrong bucks. They head to England, both to make themselves scarce and to sell on the Rat King’s gear, despite the fact that Aoife has never even been on a boat before, and the main part of the novel follows their adventures and those they run up against as they head from Liverpool to London.
A suggestion from Annie as they make their way south throws Aoife as does the appearance of a third party that she, with her senses clouded by emotion, can’t see the use of, and events are set in train towards their end. Fans of Irvine Welsh will find a lot to like here, but Cassidy deserves more than mere comparisons for Aoife’s gripping narrative voice and the construction of his own Dundalk-based netherworld. That at least one if not two sequels are on the way is good news indeed. A strong debut.