Moone Boy and Chris O’ Dowd’s adventure in a fish factory

Chris O’Dowd and Nick Murphy’s new book, ‘Moone Boy: The Fish Detective’ brings Brazil to small-town Roscommon

Glorious migrants: Chris O’Dowd and Nick  Murphy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Glorious migrants: Chris O’Dowd and Nick Murphy. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Chris O’Dowd and Nick Murphy are glorious migrants. Both have recently relocated, with their families, to Los Angeles. Both are aware that the planet is in flux and that people are shifting from place to place, mostly through necessity and adversity.

Their new book, Moone Boy: The Fish Detective, tells another story from the life of Martin Moone, the small-town 12-year-old they created. “Thematically, it is a book about outsiders,” O’Dowd says; it features foreign workers who arrive to work in a fish factory in a small Irish town.

The workers are from Brazil. “We got inspiration from Gort, in Co Galway, where there is a huge Brazilian population,” Murphy says. O’Dowd thinks that many migrants experience similar things. “It’s the same as Kilburn. For whatever reason, migrants tend to congregate in one place.”

Despite the fact that the new book is centred on a fish factory, O’Dowd and Murphy decide on meat-based dishes when we meet for lunch. Chris orders chicken pie. Nick goes for sausage and mash.

So what’s the story with Moone and his imaginary friend, Sean Murphy, played in the Sky TV series by O’Dowd? “I think that there’s something interesting in the boy-man thing. In this book we are looking at a lot of grown-up stuff from a child’s perspective.”

“Simple logic”

Caveats flying, O’Dowd adds: “Not in any way to associate ourselves with that book, but they do a similar type of thing in To Kill a Mockingbird. I mean, how does innocence deal with things that are above their station, in a way?”

“The character of Scout had such a simple logic, and Martin has that as well,” Murphy says. “We’re dealing with issues of prejudice in a small town. Martin doesn’t understand why somebody just moving from one place to another might create issues in the adult world. Martin rightly sees it as a silly fuss about nothing.”

Racism is unnatural, O’Dowd says. “It is kind of driven into people, so it’s interesting when somebody hasn’t developed those instincts yet.” Martin Moone hasn’t a racist bone in his body, but Moone lovers will be pleased to hear that he is “still an idiot”, according to O’Dowd. The plot of the new book revolves around Martin having to get a job to feed his Game Boy habit. Have you any advice about how to get a job, I ask.

“I think lying always helps,” O’Dowd says. He recalls blagging his way into working at an American cocktail bar in Paris. “The place was heaving, and I went up and asked if I could have a job, and the guy said, ‘No, we don’t really need anybody.’ I kept pushing him, and he said, ‘Okay, come in tomorrow.’ I went in next morning and he didn’t show up, so I went up to this woman and said, ‘I’m supposed to be starting work today.’ So she gave me a T-shirt and I went behind the bar.”

One of Murphy’s first jobs was in the central Dublin hotel in which we are talking. So you’ll definitely be leaving a big tip, I say.

Moone Boy: The Fish Detective is raucously funny. It will be well thumbed by many a parent before it lands in Junior’s Christmas stocking. Set as the 1980s morph into the 1990s, it touches the fall of the Berlin Wall, but it definitely isn’t This Is Ireland ’90, Murphy says.

Lest we forget, football remains part of Martin’s story. Anyone called Martin Paul Kenny Dalglish Moone, and who is at peak Panini sticker-collecting age in a World Cup year, can take that as a given. O’Dowd’s brother took Kenny as his confirmation name. Before ecclesiastical purists ask, St Google confirms that there is a St Kenny.

Can we take it that O’Dowd is a Liverpool fan? “Yes,” he says. Will Klopp ignite the Kop, we ask. “Or will he be a flop?” suggests O’Dowd, getting into the spirit of things. He is “incredibly optimistic”, he says.

O’Dowd has proved himself on the pitch – in his case a Gaelic pitch, when he lined out for Roscommon at minor level. Murphy went to Kilkenny College but showed no aptitude for its main sport, rugby, he says.

“I was not good. I was basically on the E team. They formed a new tier for me and my buddies because we were so bad.” “Was there an E team?” an incredulous O’Dowd asks. “Yes, and I was one of the stars,” Murphy says.

New sons

Now it is back to the United States, where they have “signed on to write a big studio animation feature”. And back to their new sons – O’Dowd’s son, Art, was born in January, and Murphy’s second son, Jules, joined Leo in March.

Have they any advice to offer their brand new boys?

“Stop screaming at me,” O’Dowd offers. “Why don’t you have a proper Irish accent?” Murphy wonders of his Californian boys.

Fatherhood has been a revelation for O’Dowd. “That huge weight of responsibility is quite overpowering. I didn’t know it was going to have such a visceral effect, but you do suddenly realise that it’s not about you. That has been interesting.”

Has Murphy given you any advice about how to be a good dad, I ask.

“Just criticism, really,” O’Dowd says. The laughter is comfortably numbing.

Moone Boy: The Fish Detective is published by Macmillan

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
GO BACK
Error Image
The account details entered are not currently associated with an Irish Times subscription. Please subscribe to sign in to comment.
Comment Sign In

Forgot password?
The Irish Times Logo
Thank you
You should receive instructions for resetting your password. When you have reset your password, you can Sign In.
The Irish Times Logo
Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.
Screen Name Selection

Hello

Please choose a screen name. This name will appear beside any comments you post. Your screen name should follow the standards set out in our community standards.

The Irish Times Logo
Commenting on The Irish Times has changed. To comment you must now be an Irish Times subscriber.
SUBSCRIBE
Forgot Password
Please enter your email address so we can send you a link to reset your password.

Sign In

Your Comments
We reserve the right to remove any content at any time from this Community, including without limitation if it violates the Community Standards. We ask that you report content that you in good faith believe violates the above rules by clicking the Flag link next to the offending comment or by filling out this form. New comments are only accepted for 3 days from the date of publication.