Sunday 18 August 2019

'I won't be doing a Shane Lowry on it quite yet!' - Kevin Barry on being longlisted for Booker Prize

Kevin Barry
Kevin Barry
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

Irish author Kevin Barry is quietly celebrating the news that he has been longlisted for the Booker Prize.

The longlist features 13 authors including eight women and five men, including two former winners and literary heavyweights, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie.

Barry, whose third novel Night Boat to Tangier earned him a place, said he celebrated with "a glass" when the news landed at midnight on Tuesday.

"It's kind of only the semi-final so I won't be doing a Shane Lowry on it quite yet!" he joked to

A shortlist of six for the £50,000 prize will be announced on September 3 with the overall winner revealed on October 14.

Should he succeed in winning the prize, the author says the money will simply buy him the luxury of time.

"There’s nothing not to love about winning a money prize for books but it’s always the same thing a writer spends it on really - it buys you time, time to keep going and keep writing," he says.

Night Boat to Tangier centres around two ageing Cork gangsters who find themselves keeping vigil at a ferry terminal in southern Spain.

The Booker judges describe it as “a rogue gem of a novel… is a work of crime fiction not quite like any other. The seedy underbelly of a Spanish port and a stony Irish town are the backdrop for a story of misdeeds, madness and loss that swells with poetry and pathos”.

"The main characters are definitely rogues," says Barry of Charlie and Morris. 

Read more: Kevin Barry lands on Booker Prize longlist with 'Night Boat To Tangier' 

"It’s kind of a book that kind of plays with the reader a bit.  You’re never quite sure what kind of story you’re getting.  They're two dreadful men really, dreadful characters, and what I’m trying to do is get the reader to go with them and empathise with them.  I’m trying to humanise them."

Writing the novel  was an 'intense' experience and he says he was "kind of glad to get them out of my hands".

"They’re big characters, intense, and it was hard to switch off from them when I was writing it," he adds. "I wrote it quite quickly, in just under a year, but it was great fun to be honest to put it together.  But it was a very intense process too so I wasn’t that sad to see Morris and Charlie go."

The book was just published in June and has featured in the top ten in Ireland since, but being longlisted will undoubtedly boost sales.

"It does help a lot.  It’s the kind of prize everyone is excited about really even if they’re not interested in literary fiction.  It really crosses over," says Barry.

The author is already immersed in new projects.  A new book of short stories is in the offing, and he has also penned the screenplay for a feature film based on his Dark Lies the Island short story collection. 

The film, of the same title, will release in September with director Ian Fitzgibbon at the helm and boasts Pat Shortt, Peter Coonan, Moe Dunford, Charlie Murphy, and Tommy Tiernan among the cast.

"It's very close to the tone of the short stories," explains Barry, "It's very dark comedy, inky black comedy and we've a great cast for it.  It's very exciting."

Read more: Night Boat to Tangier: Kevin Barry's unique brew of wit and mayhem lacks his usual depth

Dark energies creep into the writing shed - author Kevin Barry on the black comedy in his latest play

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