The Afterlife according to Harrigan

EAMONN HARRIGAN’S dedication to getting the right words down in the best possible order is a noticeable feature of Where the Dead Go (Solstice Publishing ), his debut novel.

He is a craftsman when it comes to making sentences. He opens chapter two with the brilliantly stark: “Dave got up early that morning for the last time.” On page 29 he really gets into his stride: “She could wield the sweetest words like an arsenic-tipped chainsaw. Anyone ear wigging might envy the receiver of such compliments. The receiver would feel like a shoal of piranhas was gobbling away at his innards. Helen knew all about tone.”

And later, when the aforementioned Dave passes out of this life: “Dave was poisoned that night, and died an ugly death on the pine-scented chess board lino floor of a café in a small town.”

His killer is described as a “twisted little man who took the sheer badness he got from his mother and father and polished it up until it was a whole blacker shade of dark.”

Harrigan’s writing is good precisely because of the more than occasional eccentricity of his phrasing; Where The Dead Go is a book which could only have been written by him and this is an achievement indeed, given that he is still in the early days of his writing career.

Harrigan’s version of the afterlife is a variation on the Heaven/Hell theme. There is an ongoing struggle between “the Entity”, who may or may not be God, and His/Her opposite, “the Enemy”, who may or may not be the devil or “a myth”. Familiar enough thus far. However, the place the dead go is made up of “Hives”, where hundreds of “specialists” work “mining the essence [of each human being] to recycle it into better versions”.

So, in this afterlife, there is recycling, but it would appear that the market goes on forever: “The set up was straightforward: many different Hives run by many different entities. Even here, competition proved an efficient means to optimum production. Go capitalism.”

In the Hives sanitising machines move in and vacuum up the evil whenever a “little dark spot [appears] on a monitor.” At one point, the main character, Dave, comes face to face with the Enemy, who shows Dave 3D images of himself masturbating “in the shower with full view of the ugly leer on his face” and also the dog he hit on the road one Christmas Eve and left there to die.

These are intermingled with “the worst horrors the world has seen and joined by a soundtrack designed to convince him that his dirty little secrets made him just as bad.”

The rather controversial implication being that the Catholicism we grew up with, with its tendency to get all hot and bothered about subjects such as masturbation, was, as it were, perhaps working for the other side. The publication of Where The Dead Go marks Eamonn Harrigan out as a writer with the ability to both entertain and make us think.

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