‘Ruthless crime lord Declan Hennessy has only one ambition; to rule Dublin’s northside.‘
– An Honest Life
An Honest Life by J.F. Conroy was published November 2021 and is described as ‘a powerful and stirring crime novel with a dark sense of humour that reveals the redemptive power of adversity.’
I am delighted to share an extract with you all today which gives you a little insight into the relationship between two of the female characters featured in An Honest Life.
[ About the Book ]
Ruthless crime lord Declan Hennessy has only one ambition; to rule Dublin’s northside. Once he is in control of the drug trade, he can take his foot off the pedal and enjoy the empire he has built for his family.
Incompetent amateur Martin Lynch has charm and no real malice. At heart an honest man, he struggles to provide for his family as a result of bad debts and worse luck.
Declan and Martin despise each other but over the past two decades, their families’ lives have become intertwined in unsettling ways.
Despite the common traits they share, nothing can resolve the long-standing conflict between them.
When two rival gangs enter Declan’s territory, a violent struggle for power ensues; a struggle that both families cannot avoid.
Whilst Declan and Martin will do anything to protect their families, they soon realise that the only thing they need protection from is… themselves. If they cannot find a way to unite, they will lose everything.
[ Extract ]
Shuffling herself in a dress, Bridget glanced down at herself, feeling confident. Kathleen studied her in it and remarked, ‘Hmm, that one isn’t right.’ Her chin rested in between her index and middle finger knuckles as she thought aloud. ‘You have a great figure for an aul gal. Your arse is still in great shape, but your tits have sagged somewhat, mind you. You need something that is gonna give you more support and lift your bosom. That frock does nothing for you.’
Bridget slumped back in her chair. ‘Well, I suppose there was a compliment in there somewhere,’ she chuckled, taking off the dress and moved on to the next one. Dropping each dress to the floor as she tried them on, she casually paraded in knickers and a bra that didn’t match. An hour later, following intense deliberations, both women had selected the perfect dress. The remaining dresses lay draped over the sofa. Bridget was happy, and Kathleen was exhausted but pleased. Feeling relaxed, she signalled for the wine. Bridget obliged, pouring generously as the bottle clinked against Kathleen’s glass. Bridget stuck to a mug of tea. They gossiped freely, knowing Sinead was out of sight.
An hour later, after all the usual topics of conversation were exhausted, Bridget tentatively turned to Kathleen and, looking down, said, ‘Can I ask you something? It’s been bothering me for some time, years actually, but if it offends you, please just shut me down.’ Clasping her hands together, she rubbed her index fingers against her front teeth.
‘Christ, B, how many years have we known each other? There is nothing you can’t ask me. Fire away, woman,’ Kathleen rolled her eyes.
Looking flustered, Bridget tried to find her words. ‘Ok, fuck it. I’ve always wondered, did you ever think that you and Martin would have made it together even if you hadn’t lost the baby?’
The question hung silently in the air as Kathleen, surprised, inspected the stem of her glass and gathered her thoughts. She raised her
eyebrows, then smiling ruefully, said, ‘Right!… One of those questions.’ Kathleen took a large swig of wine with a small smile, then looking into the glass was surprised to see it empty. ‘I wish I had left the car at home now so I could finish off the rest of the bottle.’
Bridget tried to backtrack, ‘I’m sorry, I pushed you. I should’ve let it lie.’
‘For God’s sake, B, what are friends for if we can’t speak our minds?’ Kathleen retorted. Leaning forward, clasping her legs, she searched for words to begin.
‘Ok. Well, firstly, it wasn’t a miscarriage. I carried my baby full-term. She was born asleep. People didn’t realise back then that the loss of a child stillborn was still as traumatic as losing a child that had lived.’ A three-second beat passed as she stared into thin air. ‘The difference is when a child dies, a mother still has the memories of the child. I had none.’ She paused, rubbing her finger around the rim of her glass until it dried out with an annoying squeak.
‘I never got to buy her pretty dresses or do a simple thing like change her nappy for the first time,’ pale and saddened, Kathleen’s face changed. ‘As each month and each year went by, I pictured how her face would have changed as she grew up. Nobody understood my grief.’
Tapping her wine glass, she nibbled her bottom lip. ‘My mother never thought much of Martin and thought even less of him after that. You have to remember I was only twenty-two then. I think at the time, I had post-natal depression, but of course, there was little advice given to women at the time. Nowadays, there are support groups and blogs to help women. I had nobody really who I could talk to.’
Taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling, Kathleen tried not to let it consume her after all those years. ‘So, with that and Martin’s partying, we were doomed from the start. It’s completely different for fellas; they carry nothing, so feel nothing. I didn’t hold it against Martin. Everything was in God’s control and not ours.’
As the room remained silent, Bridget felt embarrassed that she’d broached the subject, so she busied herself leaving to make tea. It gave Kathleen time to compose herself. Bridget peeped in on Sinead before she returned.
Feeling guilty but resolute, she still pursued her question, ‘You still haven’t answered my question, Kath? I know he’s my husband, and it was a long time ago, but I need to know if there was ever a chance that you and he were supposed to end up together.’
Kathleen was reluctant to answer, concerned not to offend her friend. Gazing across with a soft smile, she continued, ‘It was no fairy story, Bridget.’
‘In the beginning, we flirted with one another. Mind you, Martin did with all the girls. You remember the saying, “If sin had a twin brother, his name would be Martin Lynch?” We finally spoke to each other at that party Noreen Ryan threw at her parents’ home. Do you remember? The big house with the railings on Josephine Avenue. Martin came up behind me and made a joke about it, “If we had kids, we’d lose them in this house.” That was probably the first and only time the real Martin was talking with me with no drink about him.’
Bridget was now regretting her question. She felt vulnerable and worried about what was to come.
Purchase Link ~ An Honest Life
[ Bio ]
I am an Irish writer with an English accent, born and raised in Brixton, South London.
An Honest Life is my debut novel.
Twitter ~ @JFConroy1