This Irish bad-boy thriller -- set in the hardest streets of New York City -- brims with violence, greed, and sexual betrayal.
"I didn't want to go to America, I didn't want to work for Darkey White. I had my reasons. But I went."
So admits Michael Forsythe, an illegal immigrant escaping the Troubles in Belfast. But young Michael is strong and fearless and clever -- just the fellow to be tapped by Darkey, a crime boss, to join a gang of Irish thugs struggling against the rising Dominican powers in Harlem and the Bronx. The time is pre-Giuliani New York, when crack rules the city, squatters live furtively in ruined buildings, and hundreds are murdered each month. Michael and his lads tumble through the streets, shaking down victims, drinking hard, and fighting for turf, block by bloody block.
Dodgy and observant, not to mention handy with a pistol, Michael is soon anointed by Darkey as his rising star. Meanwhile Michael has very inadvisably seduced Darkey's girl, Bridget -- saucy, fickle, and irresistible. Michael worries that he's being followed, that his affair with Bridget will be revealed. He's right to be anxious; when Darkey discovers the affair, he plans a very hard fall for young Michael, a gambit devilish in its guile, murderous in its intent.
But Darkey fails to account for Michael's toughness and ingenuity or the possibility that he might wreak terrible vengeance upon those who would betray him.
A natural storyteller with a gift for dialogue, McKinty introduces to readers a stunning new noir voice, dark and stylish, mythic and violent -- complete with an Irish lilt.
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August 31, 2004
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Excerpt from Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty
Prologue: Belfast Confetti
No one was dead. For once they'd given a good, long warning and there'd been no fatalities. We arrived after it was all over, and when the forensics officers were done, the policemen raised the yellow tape to let us through. We carried the glass from vans, a sheet at a time, to foremen and builders' mates who forklifted it up to carpenters on cranes and cherry pickers.
We climbed the stairs, put on our gloves, unloaded the pallets. We caught our breaths and took in the view.
The gray certainty of a December sky. Cold fathoms of paralyzed lough. Sea rain and peat smoke drifting over the shipyards and the town.
We walked back to the huge spindle-sided vehicles and carried more sheets, all of them precut and lying there in sailcloth and plastic, well wrapped, and seemingly long ready for an event such as this.
Sore fingers, aching backs.
We worked hard and drank water and smoked and a man brought beer and chicken-salad sandwiches from Marks and Spencer.
Someone had bombed the Europa Hotel again, no casualties but every window within a half a mile was out. It was the stuff of glaziers' dreams and the cops were on overtime and the army on foot patrol and the journalists chasing copy for the morning papers. TV crews, radio reporters, still photographers, the gloaming dark, the broken glass like diamond on the leadened streets.
We labored, talked.
A fog had oozed down from Cave Hill and Black Mountain, bringing cold and damp to the tangle of runaway alleys off Sandy Row. We were underdressed and a foreman gave us knit caps and hard hats and that helped a little.
All of us had met only a few hours ago outside the bookie's when a man said he was looking for fit guys to move pallets of glass into and out of vans. The pay was fifty pounds the day and a bonus for a clean job.
And everyone, including those on disability, had of course said yes. Unemployment was at 35 percent and the man could have offered half the wages and still we all would have come. In any case the market rate was unimportant since the Europa's insurers were footing the bill and the insurers were indemnified by the British government and ultimately, if you traced it back, the burden was falling on the taxpayers of Surrey and Suffolk and Kent, and really, if you lived in one of those places your worries were small and undisordered and you could well afford it.
The fog encouraged levity and more than once we put our hands to our throats and pretended we'd been dragged off by Jack the Ripper.
The real tragedy, of course, wasn't the modern Europa Hotel but the Crown Bar opposite, whose stained glass windows and gaslight had been fixtures since the 1840s. The bar was a gem owned and operated by the National Trust -- its crystal sea patterns and ship anchors and Celtic turns utterly destroyed and in pieces on the pavement.
The Europa, "the most bombed hotel in Europe," had been redesigned with crumple zones to absorb the impact of explosions. And now it had done well on its first field test: the whole building intact, except for the windows on the lower floors where the hijacked car had erupted with most effect.
But the Belfast glaziers couldn't complain about that, for with Christmas coming the payday from surrounding buildings would be enough to keep their own in Islay whisky and Belgian chocolate and Italian shoes. And we didn't care. It was a job, there was money at the end, and it was heavy lifting, which is a tricky thing if you don't look out.
We laid down a long sheet for a lobby door and an AP man snapped our pic and said it was a good one and walked back with us behind the police lines. We chatted and he said he was from Jacksonville, Florida, and couldn't believe how dark it was so soon, and I explained, having taken geography, that Belfast was on the same latitude as Moscow and the panhandle of Alaska and the nights were long in summer and in winter you paid the price.