Psychotic Episodes, by Alan McMonagle
It’s tempting to race through the stories in Alan McMonagle’s second collection one after the other, but they deserve to be read individually and savoured. There’s a blurb from Pat McCabe on the cover, and indeed there are shades of the vivid “bog Gothic” of McCabe and Kevin Barry in these melancholy tales of ordinary misfits living on the fringe, although McMonagle has a slightly paler palate and a gentler approach to his protagonists. These are injured characters, struggling with life and often strapped for cash. The funny, touching title story tells of the friendship between two people incarcerated in a psychiatric ward. The atmospheric final tale, The Spanish Arch Whores , takes us on a drug-fuelled odyssey in a foggy Galway in the small hours. In between are lonely singletons, troubled couples and neglected children, all scrabbling in the scrubland and searching for solace.