Thursday, September 06, 2012

Book Review: Cycle of Violence

Many years ago, I can remember spending a Sunday afternoon at a friend's house in another part of Dromore, except we weren't at his house. Instead, we stood on Bridge Street, watching as a film crew transformed a street we knew very well into part of another town. A fictional town, called Crossmaheart, the setting of the film version of the Colin Bateman novel, Cycle of Violence. The scene we watched repeatedly being filmed (and even interrupted by the cathedral bell chiming the hour) was the actor cycling up the street. Other scenes were filmed around the south Down and Armagh area, with Rathfriland doubling up as the actual Crossmaheart.

It was reported on at the time by the local papers, and I often wondered what came of the film. I often looked out for it, but never heard anything further about it. As it turns out, Crossmaheart the movie never was released on DVD, but was appearing on a Sky Channel called Movies for Men. So much for seeing it on screen, but as I'm getting into Bateman's books and had two on holiday with me, I read and finished this one on the plane on the way home (again when the Kindle couldn't be turned on for taking off/landing).

First impressions, it's another funny book, but the title is very accurate - it's perhaps even more violent than Divorcing Jack (and that's saying something). Another frustrated journalist features as the lead character, this time Miller, who finds himself seconded to the sleepy, sectarian town of Crossmaheart, where he soon finds himself in too deep in a local mystery. His immediate predecessor has gone missing, and Miller is quickly hot on the trail of the story.

Bateman continues with his amusing stories, and hilarious situations, but this is also a deeper, more thoughtful work at times, dealing with traumatic themes and experiences. The disturbing portrait of sectarian characters on both sides (including a Presbyterian minister) hits home, and leaves the reader wondering if we've really moved on since the mid 1990s. There is a moral and (unintended) justice done in the end, although the very ending was brutal, and very sad.

It was interesting to see the regular appearance of Miller's (deceased) father, and how the afterlife was presented or assumed. I'm not sure if it was Miller's imaginings or if it was displaying Bateman's own beliefs, or just an outlet for some of Miller's thought processes and fears being verbalised.

I found this to be a fast-moving novel, which made a nice change from some of the theology I was also reading on holiday, and I'll certainly be looking forward to reading more of Bateman's books in the near future. If only they weren't as violent!

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