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Hugo Hamilton

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To purchase Headbanger

Title: Headbanger
Author: Hugo Hamilton
Genre: Novel
Written: 1997
Length: 230 pages
Availability: Headbanger - US
Headbanger - UK
Headbanger - Canada
Der letzte Held von Dublin - Deutschland

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Our Assessment:

B : decent, darkly humorous Irish tale

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Times A 3/4/1997 Antonia Logue
TLS . 21/3/1997 Edward McBride
Die Welt . 20/3/1999 Wieland Freund

  From the Reviews:
  • "Headbanger is as surprising as if Nick Hornby had suddenly delivered a Proustian epic. () T)hrough an accretion of one-liners and humorous set-pieces he sketches a morally ambivalent world which is immensely compelling and engaging. ()If Flann O'Brien's lunatic Professor De Selby had genetically engineered a cross between the novels of Raymond Chandler and those of Patrick McCabe, this is what the progeny might well have looked like." - Antonia Logue, The Times

  • "With its echoes of the gangsters' bravura and Coyne's ranting sermons, this strident style verges on self-parody, further blurring earnestness and irony. This is just the mindless mess of rhetoric and confusion against which Coyne is banging his head. (...) Hamilton turns the collapse of the hero's world into a nail-biting finish, not a domestic tragedy. He covers his tracks so well that it is impossible to tell whether the book is a thriller with existentialist hankerings or an elaborate joke. Therein lies the appeal." - Edward McBride, Times Literary Supplement

  • "Hugo Hamilton hat einen Krimi ohne Helden geschrieben, denn unter Helden, ganz gleich, ob katholischen oder protestantischen, leidet Irland schon lange genug. Sein Pat Coyne ist Mike Hammer und Magnum zugleich. Wie sie redet er stets mit sich selbst und glaubt sich beständig beobachtet durch ein imaginäres TV-Publikum. Hugo Hamilton hat erfolgreich die Medientheorie bemüht, um die irische Heldenobsession zu karikieren." - Wieland Freund, Die Welt

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Pat Coyne, Dublin cop (Garda), is a headbanger -- and, occasionally a headbutter. He's not a happy man. There is a sense of frustration, and a sense of ennui about him. He is married, but there are some strains here: he isn't comfortable with his wife Carmel indulging in her newly-discovered artistic talents. He has a family -- three children -- but he isn't entirely sure about his role as father.
       "Pat Coyne was the most complicated man in Ireland", Hamilton eventually insists. It's a big burden to put on a character, but Hamilton does his best to have him try to live up to it.
       There is injustice in Dublin, and the Cunningham brothers are responsible for a considerable amount of it. They are larger than life criminals, brutal, seemingly untouchable. Irish Krays, essentially.

Berti Cunningham was the kind of guy with a high metabolic rate who would get up in the morning and think, who do I need to whack today ?
       Carmel gets more involved in her art (and her art teacher), leading to other incidental complications. Meanwhile, Coyne tries to mete out his own form of justice in this world he doesn't quite understand any longer. There's some tit for sometimes misguided tat between him and the Cunninghams, with neither they nor Coyne backing down -- indeed, each escalating the conflict until the grand splash of a finale.
       Headbanger meanders fitfully and sometimes uneasily, but Hamilton has a certain style and flair, and it is a fairly fun tale. Coyne is meant, perhaps, to be too much, and the crimes and events around him aren't quite as crafty or significant as the build-up sometimes suggests, but it's a decent, fast-paced story.

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Headbanger: Reviews: Other books by Hugo Hamilton under review: Other books of interest under review:
  • See Index of Irish literature

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About the Author:

       Irish author Hugo Hamilton was born in 1953.

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