beautiful fictions and chameleon experiments


Three of Belfast-born writer Brian Moore’s novels, all decades out of print, were reissued by Turnpike Press for its centenary in August.

We start with the best. The Ice Emperor (1965) is not only one of Moore’s finest fictions, but also his most autobiographical book, and therefore of particular interest to admirers of the “chameleon novelist” who never wrote the same book twice. It is about the teenager Gavin Burke, hating life in Belfast “dull and dead” during WWII, who lives knowing that “there was nothing in the world so big as a big bomb cannot detonate it ”. Gavin is a rescuer for an air raid team, but his mind is elsewhere, led by the “Dark Angel” on his shoulder. Moore’s simple style oscillates between internal and external action and offers a new perspective on a very covered era.

School demons

The Feast of Lupercal (1958) was Moore’s second novel, and it reads as an accompanying piece to her debut Judith Hearne. This time the loner is male, high school teacher Diarmuid Devine, and it’s sex – or the lack of it – rather than alcohol that fuels his despair. An excruciating comedy of embarrassment and minor tragedy, this novel also exorcises Moore’s demons over his old school in Belfast. Revenge is sweet and a bit bitter.

Fictitious kidnapping

The Revolution Script (1971) is the runt of the litter, abandoned by Moore, who never authorized its reissue during his lifetime. This is an example of what Truman Capote called the non-fiction novel, or Moore subsequently called “journalism” (hey!) – a fictional account of events in Canada in 1970, when Quebec separatists kidnapped a government minister and a British commissioner. It goes well enough, and we get some interesting political angles when the government goes all out to stop the crisis, but Moore’s great characterizing force is necessarily lacking in the kidnappers, whom he does not enter into the minds of. satisfactorily. Still, it opened up a whole new avenue for Moore’s writing, paving the way for late-career thrillers. And we can hardly deny such a versatile writer the weird experience that doesn’t quite unfold.


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