The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow by Danny Denton

Published by Granta Books

Living here in the north west of Ireland, where it seems to rain more than than anywhere else in the country, it’s really not such a far-fetched concept to imagine it may begin to rain one day and then simply never stop. That’s what has happened in Danny Denton’s imagined future of Ireland, where most of the country is perennially underwater, rumours from around the country tell of twelve month pregnancies, if they happen at all, and Dublin is over-run with gangs and misery.

The Earlie King rules the roost. Legend has it he arrived from nowhere to sell his livestock at market one day long ago, got into an altercation with a local bigshot and taught him a lesson. He came back the following week and taught some other bigshots some more lessons, and instead of going back from whence he came, he set up his empire in the capital city and ruled from the edge of society with an iron fist and a thirst for blood.

Most of the young men who live in the fetid, decaying, perpetually damp Croke Park flats have little choice but to join The King’s gang, first as ‘runners’ before ascending the ranks to heavies and thugs. The teen known only as The Kid in Yellow is one such runner, who is the sharp tack to his layabout brother, whose day consists of playing computer games and partaking in ‘herb’. The Kid in Yellow makes the grave mistake of falling for The King’s daughter T, which leads to a miracle healthy baby being born in exchange for its young mother’s life, and the banishment of The Kid from society. Earlie King

The story is told from the point of view of The Kid, an assorted cast of other characters and what is presented as ‘Bits From’ plays and stories written about the unfurling story of the hero kid and his quest, villain king and his vanquish and the strange and mysterious characters that lurk in the periphery. There’s Mister Violence, The Earlie King’s sadistic henchman, and Vinny DePaul, a Robin Hood style vigilante. The Reporter is a man whose job it is to report to their families the deaths of men who’ve fallen out of favour with the king, who is also compiling a ledger of the names of said unfortunates for morbid yet possibly important posterity. Plenty of the action takes place in a pub called The Pub and Pendant, where two self-styled philosophers prop up the bar and are served by world weary barman Jim Corcoran.

This debut from Cork man Danny Denton is a folk tale from the future. There are recognisable glimpses of the Ireland we know today – people still trudge to work in the central business district, they drink wine and go on dates and to the pub and play video games and watch TV (although it’s now known as the TeleVisio) – but there’s a distinct dystopian air, which put me in mind of the dark and dismal version of the future that’s depicted in the likes of Blade Runner. Moreover, its telling through the use of transcripts of plays and documents, and word of mouth communications indicates that some parts of the narrative is told from one future (that in which the Kid in Yellow dwells) and others are from an even further future, where the Kid himself is legend. It’s a very imaginative, ambitious approach, well-constructed around meticulous world-building.

It’s also a rather challenging read. The future Dublin patois takes some getting used to and the grim fairytale-esque and dreamlike style of some of the narrative approaches almost disturb the flow of reading, which could well be intentional given the number of different styles utilised to tell the story in such a manner. It’s somewhat hard work – reading it took me back to the effort expelled trying to get through Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in first year of college – but once the pace is entered into and you’ve gotten used to the modern, a-tonal, a-rhythmic flow it becomes quite satisfying to have conquered another passage in the tale. The infrequent but well placed elements of humour are welcome and the story of love and loyalty at the centre of it is touching and fierce. An impressive debut, it’s worth a go if you’re up for a test of resilience; but maybe don’t save it for a rainy day.

  • First published in The Tuam Herald on March 14th, 2018.

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