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October 03 , 2010

The Keepers of Truth


Prose with bite. A dark new novel from much-praised young Irish writer.

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The first collection of stories from a Booker Prize shortlisted author. Michael Collins's stories are about Ireland, about the Irish as they are and as they would like to be imagined. In the title story we see the fatal consequences of self-deception. Posing as a nationalist hero, a young man travels to America with a suitcase full of…

It is the mid-80s in post-industrial America. Men no longer produce things with their hands but Pac-man consumer culture has yet to lift the recession. In a small town graced with the decaying hulks of defunct factories, young journalist and college dropout Bill churns out lengthy essays on the death of industry and of America itself for The Daily Truth, whose scoops rarely rise above the latest home-bake contest. Bill broods over the suicide of his father and the decline of their family - an industrial empire built on refrigerators and founded on his immigrant grandfather's dream of America.

The static summer is punctured when local bad boy Ronny Lawton reports his father missing. A dismembered finger is found and all suspect the son of murdering his hated father, but nothing can be proved. The sorry tale of the white trash Lawtons hypnotises the town and Ronny Lawton becomes a local icon. Bill becomes increasingly obsessed with the story - he gets involved with Ronny's estranged wife, finds a decomposing human head, and ends up as a suspect in the murder case himself. Things come to a head and Ronny Lawton holds his wife, child and Bill hostage in a confrontation with the FBI. Bill escapes with the woman and child and contemplates the American dream gone sour.

Michael Collins' writing is sharp and intense - the decline of the town, of an era, of a culture, of individual lives, is detailed in a gripping narrative. Intertwined with a meditation on the state of America and on failed dreams is the story of the axe-murder investigation which keeps you on the edge of your seat as the characters rush headlong to their destruction - cathartic and inevitable.

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