Tuesday, November 5, 2013

'Red Sky In Morning' Mixes Forceful Language And Powerful Story

Alan Cheuse reviews Dublin journalist Paul Lynch's first novel, Red Sky in Morning, which is set in 19th century Ireland. The book tells the story and aftermath of a murder committed by a rage-filled farmer against the landlord who evicts him. Cheuse says Lynch's forceful language makes the story's violence palpable.

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A propulsive new thriller set in 19th century Ireland hits the shelves this week. It's called "Red Sky in Morning," and it's the first novel from Paul Lynch, who is best known in his native Ireland as a film critic. But our books critic, Alan Cheuse, says this one doesn't read like a debut.

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: At the outset of this first novel of considerable power, both in language and story, Coll Coyle, a Donegal farmer, boiling hot with anger because of having been precipitously evicted from his house by the landowner he rents from, sets out to right this wrong. Full of roaring rage, Coyle strikes out at and kills the man responsible.

Faller, an overseer for the landowner - a cruel, hulking sociopath with near-supernatural skills as a tracker - sets out on Coyle's trail, torturing and killing along the way. Through forests, over rivers and townscapes, Coyle runs, sometimes crawls, skulks, lies, and finally ships out to America in order to save himself. There he goes to work, digging the track bed of the new Pennsylvania railroad, only to have Faller pick up his trail again.

From the opening lines of the novel - night sky was black and there was blood, morning crack of light on the edge of the earth - you find yourself in the hands of a lapidary young master, working language to make you suffer the murder, nearly exhaust yourself in the pursuit and find a haven in Coyle's American refuge, for a time, for a time, until the infernal Faller crosses the ocean and comes calling.

Here, as is often the case in the work of our own Cormac McCarthy, the beauty and force of the language works congruently with the violence in the story. Paul Lynch, "Red Sky in Morning." Sentence by sentence, a debut definitely worth noticing.

BLOCK: That review from Alan Cheuse. He teaches writing at George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia.

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