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
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 and think.
Rights available: World rights ex. Japanese and French translation
FOUR O'CLOCK EASTERN
In 1985 a young man returns from his honeymoon, inherits a million dollars, is forced to hand it over when his bride is kidnapped, doesn't get her back, goes down for her murder, and comes out seventeen years later looking for the men who framed him and killed his wife.
In 2008 a young man comes into a large sum of money, is forced to hand it over when his wife is kidnapped, doesn't get her back, has his father kidnapped, then his brother, all three are paraded live on the air - reality television gone mad - in the countdown to Four O'Clock Eastern, when the executions will begin, if their captors' demands are not met.
Solve one case, solve both. But the only lead available is so preposterous even the law won't investigate it…
Rights available: World rights ex. Japanese translation
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. You will hate liking him but couldn't help it.
Gerd Quinn is a disturbingly fascinating character and Quinn is one of the best Irish thrillers of the recent years, not self-consciously "Irish" but recognisably of and about modern Ireland.
Rights available: World English; translation rights ex. Denmark, the Netherlands, Japan, France.
Praise for Quinn
Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association's John Creasy Memorial Dagger
"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
THE MOLES' CAGE
The Moles' Cage is set in Belfast during the Troubles and focuses on the experience of the thousand of Catholics wrongly interned without charge or recourse to legal help. It's a first-person narrative through the eyes of a streetwise teenager. An amazing insight into events that happened in Western Europe not so long ago…
In July 1972, 17-year-old Michael Hill is arrested crossing the border into the Irish Republic, interrogated and interned in Long Kesh, an ex-RAF (Royal Air Force) airfield ten miles west of Belfast. The compounds ("cages"), some two dozen, house several thousand men. He is put into Cage 5, nicknames The Moles' Cage, because inmates are forever doing what moles do – burrowing. They live in Corrugated-iron huts – ovens in summer, fridges in winter. The only way out is to convince the British army that he is not a member of IRA. Many men are… And many of them are known to Michael. For him, walking into Long Kesh is like walking into a local pub – a sea of familiar faces, kids he went to school with, in some cases their fathers. He discovers a crazy world where justice has been removed and there is nowhere to go for it.
Michael is forever trying to escape, but the IRA control the escape committees and they want their own men out, not non-members. After years of fighting for decent food and better conditions, the IRA orders the place burnt to the ground. The prisoners survive living out in all weathers for months, under "tents" made from corrugated iron. A plan is hatched to dig a 200-foot tunnel, for the whole "cage" to escape under the cover of darkness. After months of digging, Michael breaks out. A massive manhunt is launched by the British army and the escapees are rounded and brutalised.
After 3 ½ years, Michael's internment comes to an end and he is released, without a charge being brought against him, and awarded £600 compensation…
Rights available: World rights ex. Japanese and French translation