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Danielle McLaughlin reviews Eddie Stack's newest short story collection






danielle mclaughlin

Danielle McLaughlin lives in County Cork. Her stories have appeared in The Stinging Fly, Southword, Long Story, Short, The Irish Times, Boyne Berries, Crannóg, The Burning Bush 2, Inktears, and Hollybough. They have also been published in various anthologies, most recently Willesden Herald New Short Stories 7 (2013), The Salt Anthology of New Writing 2013, Scraps - the NFFD Anthology 2013 and have been broadcast on RTE RadioShe has won a number of prizes for short fiction including the Writing Spirit Award for Fiction 2010, the From the Well Short Story Competition 2012, the William Trevor/Elizabeth Bowen International Short Story Competition 2012, The Willesden Herald Short Story Competition 2012-2013, the Merriman Short Story Competition in memory of Maeve Binchy, and the Dromineer Literary Festival Short Story Competition 2013. She was awarded an Arts Council Bursary in 2013.






quare hawks

Quare Hawks

Eddie Stack

(Tintaun, 2013)

ISBN: 978-1930579002

€12 paperback

Buy from Kennys Bookshop





‘Quare Hawks’ is Eddie Stack’s third collection, eleven wildly energetic and inventive stories set for the most part in Ireland. There is an eclectic mix of characters here, and Stack affords them a range of colourful predicaments to grapple with.  We meet Moscow Honan, engaging with the forces of prayer and medicine as he pursues his compensation claim, and unemployed poet Bobogue who ‘counted the words she’d spoken ... like they were spent coins’, but who reveals a darker side to her nature when a love affair goes wrong. In ‘It Couldn’t Have Happened To A Nicer Man,’ we are introduced to Malcolm who comes to grief during a late-night underwear raid on a convent. Stack revels in imaginative, somersaulting plots, delivering fast-paced, often humorous, stories.

Worlds collide in ‘When Everyone In Ballyjames Had Helicopters’ when a group of strangers settle beside scenic Logra Lake to wait for a spaceship, engaging in increasingly turbulent encounters with Paddy, owner of the local store and post office. It is a story of ‘fairy juice and Earth People, crocodiles and ostriches, singers and machine-guns, choppers and snakes.’ In ‘After Hours’, a post-boom story, it’s the world of the NAMA deal, but not as we know it. The Book of Kells has been sold to Google and the Cliffs of Moher to Micosoft. There’s a woman with a NAMA deal to sing songs: ‘A microchip sent a message back to Apple every time she sang... and money went straight into her bank account in Kilrush.’  The story takes place in a pub after closing time, and demonstrates Stack’s aptitude for dark humour and satire, though I did struggle with the very large cast of characters.

There are quieter stories too. In ‘Blue Money’, one of the strongest stories in the collection, it’s a lazy Sunday afternoon, when ‘those who could, went to the seaside.’ Amongst those who couldn’t are two young men, John and Marty, ‘bored and penniless ...sixteen and just finished school for the summer.’ As the story opens they are fishing in the glen below the town, where ‘only quiet river sounds dimpled the stillness: the distant pop of a rising trout, the worried hoot of a water hen in the reeds.’ They catch no fish, but their discovery of two young women camping along the bank takes the afternoon in a different direction. Here, Stack shows us what he can do when he slows the pace. The riverside setting is well conveyed in language that hints at trouble to come. There is the tree arching over the bank, ‘darkening the water with its shadow’, and later we see the river ‘boil in the heavy rain’. Stack does a good job of portraying the very different personalities of the two young men. I was particularly drawn to the character of John, the shyer of the two, ‘testing sentences in his head’ and carried along in the slip-stream of the more extrovert Marty.

 In ‘Morning Tea’, a woman waits in bed for the cup of tea that her husband, in spite of their deeply dysfunctional relationship, continues to bring her each morning. It is ‘the one constant in their marriage.’ She registers her husband’s movements through the house by the sounds that he makes – the rattle of clothes hangers, footsteps across the landing, a bathroom door bolted. They sleep in separate bedrooms, and often she remains awake through the night. ‘Many movies had run in her head in the darkness, reels of film were scattered on the floor of her mind. In some films she was married to other men - ….’ In others, her husband ‘dies, gets killed or just disappears, and she marries Robert de Niro, who’s the local doctor.’

There is an unabashed verve to Stack’s storytelling. Like the stranger at a set-dance who accidentally wanders into the Siege of Ennis, we find ourselves seized and swung from one character to the next, to arrive at the end, breathless, and perhaps a little giddy. It is however in the quieter stories, the ones that pause and linger on the internal lives of his characters, that Stack best portrays the dynamics of human relationships.



©2013 Danielle McLaughlin



Author Links


'A Different Country' shortlisted for Writing.ie Short Story of the Year 2013 Award

'The Governor's Gin': fiction at Long Story, Short

'Fields with Asterisks are Mandatory': fiction in Burning Bush 2

'All About Danielle McLaughlin': a guest post by Ethel Rohan

'To the Tea Rooms' by Danielle McLaughlin on RTE Radio 1

'Midnight at Ali's King Kebab Takeaway': a short story in Southword (Issue 22)

Purchase The Stinging Fly with fiction by McLaughlin (Issues 21, 23, and 26)





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