Bogmail by Patrick McGinley

IMG_0552A truly funny and stunningly well-told tale of murder in a small Irish village in Donegal, Bogmail is a classic of modern Irish literature.

Set in a remote village in the Donegal countryside, the action begins with a murder when Roarty, a publican and former priest, kills his bartender, with a volume of his beloved 1911 Encyclopedia Brittanica, then buries his body in a bog. It’s not long before Roarty starts getting blackmail letters, and matters quickly spiral out of his control.

Twisty, turny and enlivened with colour that echoes the landscape and surroundings, Bogmail was Patrick McGinley’s first novel, yet it remains just as fresh today as the day it first appeared.

Bogmail is NOT your traditional mystery! We know right up front who did it, it’s rather about will he get caught. We don’t know the blackmailer is though! Bogmail is also a dark comedy, basically about the deterioration of a man’s psyche after he commits murder. McKinley didn’t portray the people of Glenkeel in a very favorable light and I’m sure if I were Irish I would understand the little nuances better. The Donegal Democrat wrote this on the publication of Bogmail…

‘a horrific concoction of filth … a picture of life in Donegal that is revolting in the extreme … virtually pornography veneered with an assumption of literary value … a shocking libel on the people of Donegal.’

There is some sex in this book, fairly descriptive and failure of male physiology. A straight forward novel with philosophical, theological and psychological weight to it.

Lots of wonderful tension that kept me interested and turning pages. The characterization is wonderful! I loved all the characters and got pulled in right away. Wonderful sense of place with lovely descriptive writing that puts you right there in Ireland, having a pint in the pub to fishing in the bay or hunting snipe. I loved the lyrical writing of Mr. McGinty, here’s a sample, a bit on the long side, but worth the read. Meet Roarty…

‘Roarty was sitting behind the bar, holding the newspaper at arm’s length as he read. Even in his present hunched position he looked impressive. He was tall, broad-backed, bald and bearded with an air of stillness that reminded Potter of early mornings on the mountain. Was it the stillness of self-possession or self-absorption, he wondered without knowing why. When you met him in the street, the first thing you noticed was the width of his shoulders and his bow-legged walk. But when he was behind the bar, you could only see his top half, and then it was the head that impressed. It was a noble head with a grizzled beard from the depth of which emerged a sandblasted, straight-stemmed pipe. Beardless, he would hav been red faced. As it was, the flush of his cheeks showed above the greyness of his beard, contrasting oddly with the pale skin of his bald head. The thickness of his beard concealed his closely placed ears. You could not see them if you looked him full in the face, and this gave his head its unforgettable outline. Pulling a pint of stout, he would eye the rising froth, his head tilted sideways, the cast of his half-hidden lips betraying serious concern. But when the pint was nicely topped, his eyes would light up momentarily as he placed it before the expectant customer. At such moments one felt that because of some pessimistic streak in his nature he did not expect the pint to be perfect and that he was continually surprised by the successful combination of brewer’s technology and his own handiwork. The pint served, he would put out a big hand with wet-kept nails and take your money with an absentmindedness that robbed the transaction of anything approaching the cold-blooded self-interest of commerce.
   Looking at him now, Potter became aware of the difference between him and the farmers and fishermen who drank in his pub, hardy, bony men who went out unthinkingly in all weathers. They were men who reminded him of bare uplands, grey rocks and forlorn roads in the mountains. Even in the twilight of the pub they wore their peaked caps down over their eyes, and though they could be seen occasionally squinting from beneath them there was an unflinchingness in their gaze as if they believed that looking could change the object looked at. Their lean faces bore spiders’ webs of deeply etched lines that branched from eye corners or criss-crossed stubbled chins, expressing for Potter a noble stoicism in the grip of life’s adversity. But Roarty did not look like that at all. He was big-boned and fleshy rather than hardy, with the look of a man who had led a comfortable life, who had never experienced sun or wind except from personal choice.

I’ve had this book on my shelf for sometime. I also read Goosefoot by McGinty some years ago and wasn’t sure what to make of that one. I’d kind of like to reread it now but I’ve passed it on to someone else :(. Read Ireland Month over @ 746 Books was the impetus to finally pick this one up and read it. I’m glad I did!

The BBC made a TV series from this book back in 1991 and I found it available to watch on Youtube! There are three episodes. Check it out HERE. I’m including links to two reviews by Irish authors who would get more out of the Irishness of the book than I might for you to read….   Rob Kitchin and Darragh McManus. HERE is a nice interview with author. I think I’m going to enjoy this month of reading very much!

#readireland18   #begorrathon18   #irishliterature

This fulfills the “set in a small village” category under “where” in the silver era Just the Facts Notebook @My Reader’s Block.   Also counts for Cloak and Dagger.

4 thoughts on “Bogmail by Patrick McGinley

  1. This sounds so very different. And still, very common in a way. I find that stories set in very small, regional places, tend to bevery critic of that people’s lifestyle. In a way, they all have something in common.
    It’s kind of fascinating.

    This one sounds kind of surreal, in a way.


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