After leaving his native Belfast for London at the age of 15, in the late 60s, Seamus Smyth spent several years “knocking about, sleeping under flyovers, just dossing” and the embarked on a remarkably varied career.
Almost always self-employed, he worked, among other things, as a landscape gardener, an antiques restorer, a furniture maker, equestrian gear manufacturer, horse breeder and a tomato inspector…
Seamus Smyth finally came to writing – a long time ambition – while in hospital after an unfortunate accident involving an under-sized parachute, a crash landing and a broken leg. He’s been at it intermittently ever since.
His first novel, QUINN, has been published in the UK by Hodder to a critical acclaim.
Seamus Smyth is currently working on a new novel featuring his diabolical but strangely likeable villain Gerd Quinn.
Historical background: In the Republic of Ireland, for most of the 20th century, orphanages, known as “industrial schools”, were run by the Catholic Church. Children were forced to work in child slave labour camps. Physical and sexual abuse were commonplace. Children grew up believing that their families had befallen them and were responsible for all that. Some were driven insane; many went on to a life of crime. For decades, the majority of prison inmates in Ireland were ex-industrial school. Only in mid-nineties, these institutions were exposed as “the gulags of Ireland”.
In 1949, on the night of their birth, Robert “Red” Donovan and his twin Sean are placed in such an institution and given the name Dock. Aged nine, Red witnesses the kicking to death of Sean by a Christian Brother. At his twin’s deathbed, he vows to one day return his body to their birthplace for reburial. Red’s life is consumed by this vow. It is his driving force to the exclusion of all else.
His family, and a garda constable Winters who put the twins into “care”, will be made to pay.
Aged 21, Red Dock kidnaps Winters’ new born daughter and leaves her on the steps of an orphanage to be raised by nuns who name her Lucille Kells. But this is not his revenge. Not yet. Revenge will come 22 years later, after Lucille left the nuns…
Is there a more fiendish vengeance than to take an innocent child and destroy her entire life in order to get back to her parents? One needs a patience of Job and sufficient hatred to carry through so many years of waiting for his handiwork to come to fruition…
The story is told by Red Dock himself, by Lucille and by Hockler, a psycho and an ex-industrial school inmate whom Red blackmails into killing the Donovan family. Red Dock is a pitiless sociopathic killer but the poignancy of the story is, strangely, all the more pronounced when delivered in his aggressive style.
A powerful novel about monstrous by-products of a terrible system that will make the reader shiver, grieve ant think.
Rights available: World ex. Japan( Hayakawa); France (Fayard)
Praise for RED DOCK
“It’s no mean feat for an Irish crime novelist to stand out from the (ever-growing) Celt crime-writing crowd. Yet Seamus Smyth’s Red Dock succeeds in being something fresh and far darker than the rest. Red Dock, Smith’s primary narrator in this haunting mosaic of first-person voices, is a thug, shakedown artist, kidnapper, misogynist and full-on sociopath. Yet Smyth keeps us on board to ride’s end, pulled along by Red Dock’s boisterous, self-centered, view-askew take on the world and his up-from-the-heels Irish voice. In putting us in the heads of this nasty but fascinating man — as well as that of a serial killer with a twisted artistic bent — Smyth deftly follows in the footsteps of James Ellroy’s Killer on the Road, while simultaneously recalling some of the fever-dream tug of the best of Jim Thompson and Grand Guignol of Thomas B. Harris.” Craig McDonald
“Cross me bedraggled heart, Red Dock just blew me to smithereens. Unbelivable book. Ferocious. Terryfying. Beautifully compassionate. And oh so wonderfully written…” Ken Bruen
“I’m sort of Perry Mason in reverse. Only instead of investigating a crime after it happens, I investigate it before it happens and iron out the wrinkles by drawing on the same expertise as the police. The methods they use to detect crime, I use to cover it up.”
Gerd Quinn kills people. He is a womanising respectable businessman who hasn’t a blemish on his public persona but behind the scenes he is a villain who sets up innocent people to get his hands on their assets, manipulates and kills them in ways that cannot be detected by the police, a ‘criminal genius of spectacular proportions’ who knows all there is to know about pulling off the perfect crime.
He is a consummate exterminator but generally disapproves of sadism. He is a social satirist and a philosopher. He is an encyclopaedia of pathology, behavioural psychology and unusual methods of murder and disposal. He is intelligent. He is entertaining. He has a wry sense of humour and he tells jokes against himself. Gerd Quinn is a disturbingly fascinating character and you will hate liking him but couldn’t help it.
World rights available ex. Dutch; Danish, Japanese, French.
Praise for QUINN
“Interesting and compulsive read with a thoroughly unpleasant main character whom you actually end up liking. Told in the first person, it is an extraordinary insight into the mind of a totally amoral individual. Good one.” Bookseller
“Shiveringly superb.” Image Magazine
“Taut and incredibly readable, Quinn may have a high body count and be distinctly unsavoury, but it’s a page turner… For its lightning exposition of Quinn’s swaggering amorality, this first novel proves Smyth to be a truly original, febrile talent.” The Times
“A welcome break from the stereotypical crime novel told from the Good Guy’s prospective.” Dublin Herald
“Quinn, not to put a tooth in it, is a cracking good read. There is an even pace maintained which makes it impossible to put it down.” The Irish Times