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Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman

Divorcing Jack (1995)

by Colin Bateman

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335447,010 (3.59)55
  1. 00
    The day Aberystwyth stood still by Malcolm Pryce (Aula)
    Aula: A bit more violent and has no fantastical elements but the protagonists have similar dry senses of humor (both books are rife with black humor).
  2. 00
    Quite Ugly One Morning by Christopher Brookmyre (Aula)
    Aula: Both series are fast-paced, with sarcastic and snappy dialogue; both authors portray (journalist) protagonists with real character (and quite a bit of violence).
  3. 00
    Beat the Reaper by Josh Bazell (Aula)
    Aula: Same fast-paced action with sarcastic, black humor.
  4. 00
    The Twelve by Stuart Neville (VivienneR)

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I picked this up at a Brussels literary event last year, at which Bateman himself spoke and autographed a couple of his works for me. I had previously read a couple of his thrillers set in Belfast, usually involving struggling journalists who get into political and criminal difficulties, though I don't think I had looked at any of them this century. Divorcing Jack is more political, but it is a slightly different politics to our time line, set in an alternate 1995 where the Alliance Party is about to win the elections and take power. (I read this bit with particular interest because in our timeline, the real Alliance Party's central Director of Elections in 1995 was, er, me; and we were struggling to hit the 6.5% we got in 1996, never mind win outright. A significant subplot revolves around the party's candidate for North Belfast, who in 1995-96, in our timeline, was, again, me; but Bateman's fictional McGarry had a much more successful political career than I did.)

As with the other Bateman novels I've read, the narrator is a journalist down on his luck. Here, his marriage is on the rocks, two other women appear on the scene, and he unleashes a criminal scandal which threatens to rock the political world to its foundations. Bateman's Northern Ireland is a small world. There is only one taxi driver in the whole of Belfast, apparently. The least credible element of this alternate Northern Ireland is that everyone at the top level of politics has known each other practically from childhood, and that the battles of young love are still being fought a decade or two later, along with all the other political battles. I do actually know of a couple of countries where this is a decent explanation of a lot of the political dynamics; but Northern Ireland, given its internal division and also relative permeability to outside influences, is not one of them.

But I'm far enough away in time and (usually) space to appreciate that not every detail of the fictional politics of Bateman's Northern Ireland needs to be convincing to make it an entertaining book; and it is an entertaining book - in particular, he catches the caustic Belfast wit very well, also showing how it can link to a cynical worldview where scepticism even of the apparently heroic is always justified. It's not a terribly attractive approach, but at least it means that, by assuming the worst in advance, you are more likely to get pleasant surprises than unpleasant surprises.

It's also striking, to a visitor from the 21st century, how much the plot of this book set in 1995 depends on old technology - the McGuffin is a cassette tape of which there is only one copy; when your spouse goes missing you have to call round all imaginable relatives and friends and ask if they know where your loved one is, because nobody has a mobile phone.

Anyway, it's of its time, but it brought me back to places which were very important to me once, and showed them to me from a different angle and in a different light. I don't know how well it would be received outside Northern Ireland - the humour is very local - and I'm not even sure how well it was received here - rather too close to the bone in some cases. But I liked it. ( )
  nwhyte | Sep 12, 2015 |
This is a very entertaining book by Colin Bateman an author from my hometown of Bangor, so a lot of place names and expressions well used here in Northern Ireland!! It is however for everyone, it is very funny and fast paced.
Dan Starkey is a journalist with a Belfast Newspaper, he is married to Patricia, both live a life packed with drink and parties. One night Dan meets Margaret, and in a drunken blur ends up having a one night stand with her, after Patricia throws him out. That is when the fun starts!, mystery is afoot as Margaret is murderd, but not before giving Jack a cassette tape and whispering Divorce Jack before she snuffs it!!
Dan ends up all over Belfast with all sorts of dodgy characters, wondering what the heck he has got himself into and whats it all about.
A very good read, lighthearted in a macabre sort of way!! You really should give it a go. ( )
1 vote Glorybe1 | May 9, 2010 |
Lots of local colour for Belfast in this entertaining murder mystery. Dan Starkey stumbles through his mariage, an affair, the Belfast underworld, and Northern Ireland politics. A very good read. ( )
  maunder | Apr 6, 2008 |
Showing 3 of 3
Here's what happens as a result of Belfast columnist Dan Starkey's oh-so-brief dalliance with Margaret McBride, whose "eyes were close together, but not so close as to suggest Catholicism": Dan's tax-inspector wife Patricia catches the pair together and throws Dan out. Margaret McBride and her mother both get killed. The police go a-hunting for Dan. Dan goes a-hunting for an audiotape worth €100,000. Dan's brief acquaintance with Mark Brinn, the Alliance Party candidate for Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, takes an unexpectedly nasty turn. Dan meets a trainee nurse prowling the city dressed as a nun, and then a priest whose life has been ruined by his recent heart transplant. Dan falls in with Cow Pat Coogan, Mad Dog Angus, and several other unsavory types who want the audiotape. Patricia gets kidnapped, and sleeps with her captor. A visiting American journalist whom Dan has been escorting around the city makes an abrupt exit from the scene. Dan drinks a little less than usual and says some very funny things. Several bombs go off. There's nothing special about the story this novel unfolds, but Bateman, himself a Belfast journalist (did you guess?), has struck gold the first time out with his mordant, loquacious hero and his ruined landscape. The promised sequel can't arrive too soon.
added by VivienneR | editKirkus Reviews
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In Belfast, reporter Starkey arrives in the apartment of his mistress, a politician's daughter, to find her dying from bullet wounds. Her last words send him on a hunt for an audio tape, pursued by various factions in the Northern Ireland war. Irish politics, Irish humor.… (more)

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