‘I still think’a her every day, several times a day.‘
– Iron Annie
[ About the Book ]
Aoife knows everyone in Dundalk’s underworld. Too well, in some cases. But when she meets Annie, a beautiful whirlwind of a woman, and brings her to the Town, she finds that she doesn’t know nearly enough about her. Annie is magnetic and wild and Aoife’s desire to learn more quickly becomes a need, and then an obsession – to know this dangerous woman, to love her, to keep her.
So when Aoife’s friend and collaborator the Rat King asks her to help him dispose of ten kilos of cocaine, swiped from a rival, she brings Annie along for a road trip through a Britain that she only knows as a place to be suspicious of. So when Annie decides she doesn’t want to return to Ireland, Aoife makes a decision that changes everything.
Gritty and yet tender, tragic and yet hopeful, Iron Annie is a breakneck journey that crackles with energy, warmth and heart, and marks the arrival of a fresh and vibrant new voice in literary fiction.
[ My Review ]
Iron Annie by Luke Cassidy was published with Bloomsbury September 2nd and is described as ‘mixing Thelma and Louise and Lisa McInerney’s The Glorious Heresies, with a dash of Pulp Fiction….heralds the arrival of a major new Irish writer.’
I have watched, and thoroughly enjoyed, Thelma and Louise and Pulp Fiction many times. The sense of freedom in Thelma and Louise always struck a chord with me and the pure violence and humour of Pulp Fiction brought me into the world of Quentin Tarantino. I have read Lisa McInerney’s three books – The Glorious Heresies, The Blood Miracles and The Rules of Revelation, and was blown away by the accuracy of the setting, the plot and the dialogue. I was completely immersed in the lives of all McInerney’s characters but, knowing it was very much a Cork based tale, I wondered how I would feel about a similar style novel set in Dundalk, Co. Louth, a county I have never visited. I needn’t have been concerned.
The local dialect is very much a feature of Iron Annie and I’m sure could be a barrier to some readers, but I must insist that you roll with it. Get into the mindset of Luke Cassidy and his cast and the flow of the language will just come. This I do promise.
Iron Annie is ultimately a story of an unexpected love set against the grim backdrop of the underbelly of Dundalk’s crime scene. Aoife is the main character. Toughened by a life surfing the edges, Aoife is known as a shrewd, no-nonsense operator. She has all the right contacts and is gutsy and fearless when a situation warrants it. Aoife was originally from Mullaghbawn, over the border, but over the years she has been accepted in Dundalk as one of their own. She plays by the rules and has garnered respect from the different hierarchies.
“Dundalk. The fuckin Town. Round here, that’s what ye call it, cause yer either part’a the Town, or yer not. Ye don’t needta be born here or nathin, ye juss needta be there long enough that the place knows ye.”
Aoife is knocked off kilter when she crosses paths with Annie, a young woman unlike anyone Aoife has experienced before. Aoife had been with many men in her life but an unexpected liaison with Annie sets Aoife’s head spinning. Annie is elusive, temperamental, her behaviour erratic. She is like a whirlwind sweeping in and out of Aoife’s days and Aoife is completely smitten. Aoife’s friends are wary of Annie. They don’t trust her and they can see the effect she is having on Aoife. But Aoife is blinded by love, satiated by passion and wants more.
When one of Aoife’s contacts, The Rat King, requests Aoife’s help with shifting some cocaine to the UK she sees the possibility of an exciting adventure. Aoife keeps Annie in the dark initially as to why they are off on this sudden trip and Annie is a willing companion. She is flighty and this escapade appeals to her with its possibilities for the unknown. But their dreams and aspirations falter as their trip faces some very challenging and life-changing obstacles.
Aoife is one of society’s misfits. I expect, if I met Aoife in reality, she would frighten the life out of me. Her image is that of a hard nut on the outside, one unafraid of acts of violence, a very heavy drinker and occasional drug user. She plays hard but with Annie, Aoife is allowed to show a more vulnerable side to her personality and it is this exposure that brings her great pain. Aoife has never had a relationship with a woman before. She had never really considered it until now…
“Before her, I’d never really been involved in anythin too serious. I mean, I’d been with fellas an that, but that’s mostly cause, well, ye juss figure that’s the way things should be cause that’s what people want ye to think things should be like an that, when yer young an ye don’t know how to listenta yerself cause there isn really yer self yet, juss a bunch’a selves other people want ye to be sure. Not that that gets much better mind. An in fairness I do like th’odd fella.”
Aoife narrates Iron Annie with a strong accent that can be difficult to grasp initially but after a bit, it just becomes part of the story as you become completely immersed in the lives of these people who you would probably never cross paths with in your everyday life.
Kevin Barry’s Night Boat to Tangier is another comparable read where the local dialect of a couple of Cork gangsters was littered throughout. This style of writing is one that I hadn’t realised I would enjoy so much but it actually takes you away into the mind of the characters, very much bringing them alive.
Iron Annie is a violent and stark, yet very touching, read. Luke Cassidy has created a living, breathing tale that is a completely hypnotic experience. The use of language, the complexity of the characters, Dundalk as a setting, all combine, resulting in an intoxicating and refreshing tour de force, a book that will stay with you long after you turn that final (and sanguine) last page.
“An I kinda liked the look’a Cork, looked like a big Dundalk, an I mean that in a good way. Like a place sound people might live, not a bunch’a pricks with big notions’a themselves. A daecent kindofa place”
[ Bio ]
Luke Cassidy is a writer from Dundalk, Ireland. He has adapted his novel, Iron Annie, for the stage as the Iron Annie Literary Cabaret, a spectacle of spoken word and music based on the book, which will tour twenty theatres in Ireland with the support of the Irish Arts Council.
A short story of his, A Good Turn, will be featured in the forthcoming New Island Books anthology of writing from the Irish border region, The New Frontier.
Iron Annie is his first novel.
Twitter – @flukecassidy