Billy O’Callaghan

billy-o-callaghan-abroad-writers-conference-lsmore-castleBilly O’Callaghan has published three short story collections, In Exile (2008) and In Too Deep (2009), and The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind (2013), which won the 2013 Irish Book Awards. His first novel, The Dead House, is published by Brandon Books (an imprint of The O’Brien Press) in Ireland and Arcade (Skyhorse Publishing) in the USA.

His fiction has appeared in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, The Bellevue Literary Review, Kyoto Journal, the Los Angeles Review, Narrative Magazine, Southeast Review, Southword, Versal, Kenyon Review, London Magazine and numerous other magazines and journals around the world.

In addition to winning the 2013 Irish Book Award, he’s received bursaries for literature from both the Arts Council and the Cork County Council, and has won and been short-listed for numerous other prizes, including the Francis McManus Award, the Molly Keane Award, the George A. Birmingham Award, the Faulkner/Wisdom Award, and the Sean O’Faolain Award, to name a few.

His work has featured on RTE Radio’s “Book On One”, “Sunday Miscellany” and the Francis McManus Awards series, and he has been shortlisted four times for the PJ O’Connor Award for Drama.

The Dead House

TheDeadHouseSketch2-2Attempting to rebuild her life after a violent relationship, Maggie Turner, a successful young artist, moves from London to Allihies, in the south-west of Ireland, and buys a long-abandoned cottage dating back to pre-Famine times. She is keen to concentrate on her art, but still fragile after suffering two years of brutality. The idea of isolation seems romantic, and she is captivated by the wild beauty of her surround.

When the major renovations are complete, she hosts a house-warming party, inviting Alison, who owns a small gallery in Dublin; Liz, a poet and mythology fanatic, resident in nearby Bantry, and the story’s narrator, her agent and best friend, Michael Simmons. The weekend reaches a climax on the Saturday night: Liz produces a Ouija board and what starts as a drunken game briefly descends into something more sinister. Maggie apparently channels a spirit who refers to himself simply as ‘The Master’ and who, during the worst days of the Famine, had encouraged the locals to abandon Catholicism and turn instead to the old religion, and the worship of pagan deities, a decision which ultimately culminated in the ritual sacrifice of a young girl.

When Maggie awakens from her stupor the other guests are visibly shaken, but by the following day, with the sun shining and as they prepare to take their leave, the whole thing is easily dismissed as the combination of suggestion and too much alcohol.

Then the problems begin…

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“A moving work that builds to an elegiac climax and is a welcome voice to the pantheon of new Irish writing.” —Edna O’Brien

“The artistry… is spellbinding. O’Callaghan has injected his characters with enough resignation to make their failures believable, but enough emotion to convince us the failures are tragedies, not merely bad luck.” —Hudson Review (USA)

“I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan. The stories in The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind are at once harrowing and uplifting, achingly sad and surpassingly beautiful. O’Callaghan is a treasure of the English language.” —Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain.

“O’Callaghan writes evocatively of a way of life that has become memory rather than reality… he demonstrates an affinity with people and place which is tender but never trite, and invariably rewards the reader with a surprising twist.”  —The Irish Times

O’Callaghan’s ability to use words to convey emotion is astonishing. He can draw you into each story in a few sentences, the words coming up from the page and wrapping around you, transmitting that emotion, the aching from the core of the piece into the reader themselves… a delight to read, with strong, immediate prose, a distinctive style that becomes a thing of beauty.”   —The Red Curtain