Author Archive

Eureka Dunes

01 May


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This is what Magnus remembers. It will only make sense when he speaks it out in his head. Then, it is his story.
Magnus shades his eyes and looks into their faces. They stand as they are, inviting his inspection. They follow his eyes with a steady, inscrutable gaze. The hairs on Magnus’ arms stand up. He doesn’t know why. He isn’t afraid of them. He puts out his hand. They don’t appear to be impressed. He is about to retract it when the oldest one reaches, and they shake. It is 1976. Magnus is fourteen years old.
Magnus can’t determine whether the lightness of touch is in the shaking or in his own head. These men don’t appear to want to speak to him. Mojave Indians, though Magnus does not know them as this. Two tall men and a boy teenager. One of the men is old. He has the deepest vertical creases that Magnus has seen on a human face. To his eyes all three are strong and effeminate, but not like girls. There are just two feathers, both in the old man’s hair. They hang down, they don’t stick up. Eagle feathers fixed into a thin braid, with what Magnus thinks would be bone glue. These men stare without grinning. They are beautiful, like his mother.
They speak to each other. Their talk is even, deep-throated and sleepy. They aren’t shocked or angry. What are they saying?
At first, they appear to be not listening to each other. If they talk to him, Magnus will reply in a whisper.

The three take turns looking into the distance. They look in all directions in a lazy way, it seems to Magnus. If any one of them comes to some conclusion, it seems, they make a point of not sharing it. The old one recognises that the burning boy has come out here on a mission, sees he does not know how to put himself in the way of healing.
They give Magnus water from a big plastic jerry can. Carefully pour it into his mouth as though he were a kid goat. The heavy rain that has fallen is already in the ground, or has evaporated. They give him all he needs without him choking. His eyes take in what they can while he drinks. He observes that they take no real interest in the stranded car. He glances at their feet. Their mule skin boots, he thinks, are two sizes too small. The two younger men, he is sure, are wearing eye makeup.
‘You run out of gas?’ one says.
These words come as a shock. Magnus nods.
The other young man grunts disapprovingly. ‘You break the top?’ he asks, without looking again at the car or indicating with a gesture.
Magnus shakes his head. He does not feel responsible for the convertible roof being stuck a quarter of the way up, though it had failed with an electrical fizzle when he had thrown the switch.
The old man shakes his head and scowls. He touches his lips with the tips of the fingers of both his hands, shades his eyes, then taps the crown of his head.
Magnus indicates with a nod that he takes this to mean that a boy in his position will die of thirst after he had gone blind from the sun and mad from the heat. He is puzzled that they make no move to investigate the broken roof. Make no move to fix it. They just stand waiting for him to speak.
Finally, the old one moves forwards and speaks at the side of Magnus’ head. Magnus’ face is lightly whipped by the ends of his long grey hair. ‘You come with us. We’ll bring you to a gas station.’ He points imprecisely.
The use of the phrase ‘gas station’ prompts Magnus to turn and flinch, with a little spurt of panic and excitement. He nods.
They don’t ask his age. They make no move to lay a reassuring hand on his head or his shoulder. Nor do they seek an explanation. They aren’t saying whether or not they are taking him to the gas station to get gas or dump him. The teenage one slings the jerry can in the back of the truck. One of the men opens the passenger door for Magnus to get in. The bench seat is high off the ground. There is a sweet human musk and the smell of stale tobacco: this is inviting.
The old man drives, the teenager sits in the middle, and Magnus by the passenger door. The other one is sitting splay-legged on the flatbed. Except for the last part, when they come off a trail onto the highway, the journey across the hardpan to the gas station is bone-shaky. The bumpiness is good, Magnus thinks.
A short distance on, they cross the slot canyon. Magnus doesn’t see it coming. They bounce through shallow floodwater in an instant. The desert air still smells smoky damp, but that aroma will be gone even before they reach their destination, which is not far now. Already, there are dry sand particles coming out of the tyres and blowing down the road in their wake.
The three are mostly silent, but the old man does speak his name. Pete. Could he really be called Pete? The teenager doesn’t give his own name, but points to the back and identifies the other one by the name. Judd. Magnus wants their secret names, but keeps his mouth shut.
‘And you?’ the old man asks with a sustained look to Magnus. He appears to be threatening not to look back to the dirt road until he has a response.
‘Magnus,’ comes the reply, in a whisper.
The old man repeats the name – speaks it at the windscreen. He isn’t surprised by it, nor is he curious, though, Magnus supposes, he may have never met a Magnus in his whole long life. His name falls nicely out of this old mouth.
He wants to ask the name of their tribe but doesn’t dare, lest they take insult.
‘Where you from?’ the old man asks.
Magnus doesn’t answer. The old man doesn’t press him.
The teenager has been studying Magnus’ clothes and his shoes. He now adopts the same sustained look as his elder. ‘Did you dream you’d be out here?’ he asks.

* * *

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Lockie’s Umbrella

01 May




LOCKIE: (V.O.) I’m in the swimming pool again. I walk the length until the water reaches my upper lip, then, I stop and turn about. Then, back I go. Then, turn again. I wade ahead, one-third speed. Like a funeral march. Swimmers make way. I do this every day now, I think. Don’t know how long I’ve been at it – all morning, maybe. It calms me. For a time, at any rate. Don’t know how long.

(V.O.) Maybe this time I won’t stop. I’ll keep walking.
Keep wading. Let the water over me. Let it into me…


(V.O.) Oh – look, I’m turning early. I’ll get out now. Yes.
Ah, there she is – my wife, Bel, watching over me. She’ll
know how long I’ve been in the water. She must have got me here.

BEL(calling): Lockie…


LOCKIE: I see you.

BEL: I’ll meet you on the other side.


BEL: I’ll be outside the changing room.

LOCKIE: I need to put the bins out.

BEL: We can do that.

LOCKIE: Rotten, they are.

BEL: Come out and dry yourself. I’ll get us home.

LOCKIE: I’m all right.

BEL: I know you are.

LOCKIE: Bel, where’s my umbrella?

BEL: I don’t know. It isn’t wet. We don’t need it.

LOCKIE: I need it.



* * *


Jumping Hedges

01 May


LARRY(calling):Hey-ho, Piglet.

Bring that line into me now, Florence.


And we’re off. Snifter?

FLORRIE: Not yet – Oh my God – Mrs Piglet – Piggot,
she’s very keen.

LARRY: She likes to get me up. Likes to get on
with the job.

Florrie confides in us –

FLORRIE(V.O.):When Larry let go, we rose up effortlessly
from the meadow.

Over the roof of the grand house – the sun
glinted in the water that was trapped in the gullies.

Over the church spire, over the adjoining
graveyard – there were rabbits in the briars.

Just over the tree tops, birds taking
flight, coming out from the branches
then back into the canopy in a great loop behind us.

Over the lanes and the hedges – a car
passed under us like a giant slater.

Larry had been drinking, and like all
drunks, he was trying to be sober. He
was very good at this. There was not a
word out of him while he got us safely aloft.


LARRY: There now.

FLORRIE: This is amazing.

LARRY: You can still see Mrs P in the follow car?

FLORRIE: Ehhh – yes. There she is.

LARRY: Hanging above scenes of great natural
splendour, and I must constantly keep track of my wife.

FLORRIE: It’s good the way she’s – so involved.

LARRY: It goes beyond good. My wife, with whom I
speak very little, is a fully integrated, fully bonded member of this little team.

FLORRIE: Bonding. Yes.

LARRY: Do I detect a sneer?

FLORRIE: No-no. And it’s good that Justin is there
with her.

LARRY: You saw – a sack of potatoes would have
been more useful at the launch.

FLORRIE: Does your wife ever come up?

LARRY: Certainly not. You have to get the
distance right.

FLORRIE: Of course you do…what distance, exactly?

LARRY: Between you and them.


LARRY: Women, mostly.


LARRY: I’ve tried to teach Justin, but his

FLORRIE: She’s not big on distance?

LARRY: Don’t act the fool with me, Florrie.


LARRY: I do what I want. I’m no slave. I have
wings because –

FLORRIE: Because you’re a success. I wish Justin
was like you.

LARRY: Now you’re being a cheeky pup. I like

FLORRIE: I’m in tune, Larry.

LARRY: Young men who have trouble with their
women make trouble in business. That’s my

FLORRIE: And you think Justin –

LARRY: Justin is a disaster. Question is – is
there any hope of nailing the bugger.
Getting him thinking right.


FLORRIE: If we get the seed money.

LARRY: Me – I’m never out of range.

FLORRIE: I’m going to have a serious talk with
Justin. Get his personal life sorted.

LARRY: Get the distance right.

FLORRIE: We’ll get the distance right, Larry.
You’ll see.


LARRY: We talk on the walkie-talkies, me and
Mrs Piggott. That’s essential.

FLORRIE: Would it matter if you lost sight of the
follow car?

LARRY: It’s their job to be watching us.
Otherwise, they wouldn’t be following,
would they?


LARRY: She likes to flirt, that’s the thing. We use these at home as well as up here. You
wouldn’t call it flirting, but I know what
it is. Watch this –


Balloon One to Mrs Piggott. Over.

FLORRIE(gently scoffing): Balloon One…

LARRY: You think that’s funny?

FLORRIE: No. Sorry.


MRS P: Mrs here. Yes?

LARRY: Darling, Over.

MRS P: Yes, Over.

LARRY: Nothing. Just – darling. Over.


You see, Florrie?

FLORRIE: I see. I do.

LARRY: You learn about your relationships – not
too late, we hope.

FLORRIE: It’s simply amazing what you can see from
a balloon.

LARRY: Where is she? Do you see her?


LARRY: Ha-ha – yes.


Balloon One to Mrs Piggott.


MRS P: Mrs here. Yes? What now? Over.

LARRY: There’s a tractor ahead of you, beyond
that bend. It’s blocking the road. Take
the next left and cut across under me.
Next left. Over, darling.

MRS P: Next left, and under you. Over.


* * *


One Way Telephone

01 May

RTE, 2015




Bartley conducts a rhetorical conversation with himself. Clearly, he is a man attempting to suppress his anxiety, and this adds to the tension –

BARTLEY: I know you’re there, old man. I know you’re listening.

On your one-way telephone. Didn’t I hear
you pick it up? I know you hear me.

Don’t tell me there’s a technical problem – or do – go ahead, speak.

Tell me you’re getting a mobile phone, like everybody else. You want me to get it for
you? You wouldn’t want me coming down there to deliver it, believe me.

No. You’re just not talking to me, are you?

You want to torture me. It’s part of your
new isolationist regime, isn’t it?

FX: A CLICK, THE LINE GOES DEAD. Bartley slams down his receiver, dials again. Handset is lifted at the other end. Bartley jumps in–

Me again. Speak.

No reply.

Bartley lets out guttural expressions of
frustration that are cut with incredulity. This
gives way to muttering designed to show
forbearance, even a measure of understanding –

Look, I know, in these times…
A man of your age – it used to be simpler, but we must keep up…

Strange what you can hear on an open
line…electric air.

I keep thinking I’m going to hear

He grows impatient again, gives a shrill whistle down the line.

Say something. Anything.


INTERLOPER 1: (D) Anyway, Paula, I told her she
should have it seen to without delay.
You know how these things are, Paula, I know you know.

INTERLOPER 2: (D) I do. I know. But he won’t let her. I mean, they’re her feet.

* * *


On Being Flattened

01 May

RTE, 2013


a radio play by Philip Davison


A busy city street. Car and lorry horns sound – sustained blasts, left to right, right to left. Passing shouts – somebody is in the way.

A gentle shushing that, nonetheless, is heard above the harsh sounds of the traffic.

MARIANNE(calling): Dad – get in off the road.

JAS: Can’t.

MARIANNE: Come on the pavement.

JAS: Shhhh.

More car horns. Marianne and her father now in close
perspective –

MARIANNE: What are you at?

JAS: Crossing the road.

MARIANNE: No you’re not. You’re just standing there,
staring up at the sky. Are you trying to get
yourself killed?

JAS: Shh. I have the chips.


JAS: With salt and vinegar.

MARIANNE: Oh well then. That’s everything sorted,
isn’t it?

He sits down with a weary sigh.

What do you think you’re doing?

JAS: I’ve been drinking.

MARIANNE: I know you’ve been drinking. Get up off
that curb.

JAS: Are we nearly home? We are, aren’t we?

MARIANNE: I’ve been looking for you everywhere.

JAS: You can rest now.

Change perspective – Jas moves along the pavement –
sonic waves of unintelligible conversations passing right to left, left to right.

Background traffic becomes foreground sound.

JAS(in the head): Shhhh.

Traffic sounds waver and recede. Jas’ footfalls become more distinct, then, he stops. Distant perspective –

MARIANNE: Are you all right, Dad?

JAS: Too much noise.

MARIANNE: Too much noise in you head?

JAS: Around my head. In my head. Too much.

MARIANNE: It’ll pass.

JAS: I look up. It goes away. Then – bang.

MARIANNE: Bang. Yes. You’ve told me. But what are you saying?

JAS: I see you brought that bloody tape recorder.

* * *


A Burnable Town

06 Aug

A Burnable Town

A Burnable Town (2006)

Somewhere somebody drops a pearl into a beaker of vinegar, challenging their companion’s eyes as it dissolves, just to make a point. And, just to make sure the point is made, they’re going to drink the vinegar.
I know people like that. I’ve had them look into my eyes. I’ve learned to break their stare.
Somewhere beyond the realm of thinking this person, this unfinished being, is supremely prepared – but for what? Not this waiting. This going to ground.
I have also learned that facts do not explain the world, but I will give you the facts relevant to my situation at the time, and I will try to explain.

Part le Carré, part Graham Greene… thoroughly compelling… cracking dialogue INDEPENDENT

Each word in this bleakly humorous novel promises to explode and bring light to the shadows… Davison never fails to surprise, compel and intrigue with dry philosophy and grim wit TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

Davison writes well about betrayal and loss, and what matters most in this strain of fiction is the mood rather than chapter and verse. Maddening if you feel a bit left out; but possibly addictive. LITERARY REVIEW

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The Long Suit

06 Aug

The Long Suit

The Long Suit (2003)

I had my own troubles, some of which I had addressed. When they lifted me my plan had been to go to ground, let time pass and be vigilant. Like a Druid, I had come to count nights instead of days. I watched Clements talking to somebody at the end of the corridor. He was loud, but I couldn’t make out the words. The lower jaw seemed to have just the one spring action. He was like a thirsty dog drinking from a water pistol.

Davison writes with the intelligence and intent of a James Lee Burke, flecked with the mordant wit of a Kinky Friedman. ARENA

Sharp. Funny. Hip. Learned. Surprising …if you haven’t experienced Ireland’s equivalent of Graham Greene with a dash of Le Carre and the readability of Len Deighton, then treat yourself to The Long Suit. EVENING HERALD

Philip Davison is a gem of a writer, and this is a glittering read, deceptively leisurely in pace, with killer flashes just when you least expect them. THE IRISH TIMES

This is unlike any other crime novel you’ll read this year; funny, poignant and gripping by turns, it will leave Davison’s many fans eager for more. THE GOOD BOOK GUIDE

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McKenzie’s Friend

06 Aug

McKenzie's Friend

McKenzie’s Friend (2000)

I was on my way to nowhere in particular. I was forty-nine per cent asleep, but watching for a sign in the face of a stranger. I had convinced myself that nothing is ever finished. Somebody who is no longer with us assured me it was so. The forty-nine per cent, I decided, had shut down like an ailing machine. It was some kind of safety feature.

Chilly, elegant and disconcertingly comic. Rather like a collaboration between two notable Green(e)s – Graham and Henry – and quite safely described as original. LITERARY REVIEW

Davison shares Beckett’s knack for making the down-at-the-heel appear surreal. TIMES LITERARY SUPPLEMENT

A subtle undercurrent of humour – well written, weird. TIME OUT

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The Crooked Man

06 Aug

The Crooked Man

The Crooked Man (1997)

Cabinet ministers have to be protected, even when they are out cheating on their wives. If a cabinet minister is out cheating on his wife he doesn’t want to bring his Special Branch bodyguards with him. He tries to give them the slip. He is happier knowing that they are guarding his wife and children while he is making his visit. If the jolly coppers know about his little ploy some new faces are drafted to cover those visits. As a matter of course they bring their expensive camera equipment and take some photographs. Taking account of these additional man hours it would appear that more tax-payers’ money is spent protecting the male cabinet minister than the female cabinet minister. She is either more faithful, or she is more cunning in conducting her affairs. If, however, the jolly coppers are not aware of our man giving them the slip, he continues to be protected at the cheaper rate.
Hamilton is in a position to hear about such affairs. His tentacles have a long reach. Officially, he is a lowly civil servant working for the Joint Intelligence Committee which operates out of the Cabinet Office. When he isn’t busy meeting people like me he is responsible for bringing together and presenting information from the different services. Hamilton serves more than one queen. He can poo–poo any suggestion that a politician be put under surveillance because of gossip or rumour. He can then put me on the job.

An exciting, literate thriller SUNDAY TIMES

As flawed heroes go, Harry Fielding must rank as among the best of them IRISH INDEPENDENT

Davison has perfectly captured, in short, clipped prose, the world of a man …whose only skills are survival and patience and whose basic decency is an inconvenience that he tries to overcome. Harry is compelling in his stubbornness to endure… It is his prosaic nature that makes him fascinating, and that makes The Crooked Man such a scarily convincing book. CRIME TIME

A darkly merry story about the individual in society… Davison’s lean and ultra-minimalist style evokes an atmosphere that is quite surreal. THE IRISH TIMES

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The Illustrator

06 Aug

The Illustrator

The Illustrator (1988)

“I had decided that there was no starting a new life. There is a minimal self to which some can retreat, to which others are transported by shock or failure. A less bruisable, more watchful self. Beyond that leanness is flux, the shallows of madness. A person might think themselves small enough to fall from a great height and splash down safely in the water well of a paint box, or, they might take refuge in a bag of leaves suspended from a tree. This is the nearest one gets to starting again.
I looked at my watch. Nurse Cummings would be calling soon.”

The Dublin-based author has a wicked ear for conversational quirks and the minutiae of life. The Illustrator is compulsively readable THE SUNDAY PRESS

What this slender, bittersweet tale does best is convey the sharp taste of overwhelming grief and loss, in a deceptively glib tone of wry, cool detachment. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

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