Published by Sligo’s Lepus Print
Johnny Gogan, the writer-director of two recent Netflix acquired film titles Black Ice and Hubert Butler Witness to the Future, has been branching out into the novel. The Dromahair-based writer has been receiving a positive response to his new novel Station to Station.
The novel is set largely in Spain in 2008. It is the eve of the financial crash that will befall both Ireland and Spain’s property-charged economies. The protagonist Jack Lennon, a poet turned diplomat, is posted to Spain for his first diplomatic posting. Things go awry when the government Minister he is shadowing, John Paul Grealish, goes missing.
Declan Burke, in his Irish Times review, writes that “what follows is a delightfully dry take on the spy novel - while John Le Carré’s spies operate along Moscow Rules, Irish diplomats follow Lambay Rules, according to which anything that happens east of Lambay Island is fair game - and Jack Lennon is terrific company as he goes ricocheting around southern Spain as a self-styled “Don Quixote on another wild goose chase”.
Gogan, writing in the Sunday Independent highlights some of his own formative influences, including the work of the late Maugherow-based Dermot Healy, the Australian writer Peter Carey and the Irish writer Ian Gibson whose work first led him to Spain and its troubled history.
Author Martina Devlin has identified in her cover note for Gogan’s novel “a gripping storyline”. She adds: “The central character, a likeable poet turned junior diplomat, tries to safeguard Ireland’s honour amid Celtic Tiger skulduggery. But he finds himself struggling with a wayward minister, inflexible bureaucracy and dark undercurrents in southern Spain. What’s not to enjoy?”
Station to Station, Gogan says, “evokes a time of political and collective turmoil; a time of “grotesque, unbelievable, bizarre and unprecedented” events (to quote a politician on the events of an earlier era).
Journalists and academics have written about the financial crash of 2008, but fiction has approached the subject sparingly”.
Station to Station also evokes a place and a world with insight. Andalusia is a region of wonderful cities such as Cádiz, Málaga and Seville, of sparsely populated wildernesses and of postmodern coastal resorts dedicated to leisure. The central characters traverse this world in a revealing and dramatic way.
Station to Station is published by Lepus Print, an initiative of writer Brian Leyden..
Netflix recently released Johnny Gogan’s films, the feature drama Black Ice (2013) starring Killian Scott and Jane McGrath and Hubert Butler Witness to the Future (2016), a feature documentary on the Irish essayist focusing on his work in the Balkans and Eastern Europe.
This continued international exposure to Gogan’s work comes thirty years after Gogan established his production company Bandit Films (based in North Leitrim for the past 25 years).
Station to Station is Johnny’s second novel. Ghost Writers (2010) details our protagonist’s earlier life in Dublin’s 1980s bohemian world before he exchanged the precarious life of a poet for a government job. Joe O’Connor described the book as follows: “Johnny Gogan’s canvas is the counter-cultural Dublin of the pre-boom era, a city half-emptied by emigration, and dying of corruption. Anyone who came of age in that long-gone town will give a bitter-sweet smile of recognition”.
Love Song to a Bicycle which enjoyed a couple of sneak preview screenings in Leitrim and Sligo during Bike Week, will receive its national premiere at the Galway Film Fleadh in July. The short documentary is a collaboration with artist Laura McMorrow on their shared passion for cycling and the writings of Flann O’Brien.
Gogan is also the writer-director of a range of short films and some ten feature length dramas and documentaries. In addition to the Netflix titles the past year saw the release in UK and Ireland of Groundswell (2021) which deals with the prospect of fracking in Ireland’s border counties, described by Guardian Chief Critic Peter Bradshaw as “a lesson to communities everywhere to remain vigilant”. While this was mainly an online release in Ireland, one-off cinema screenings continue through May and over the summer.
His drama documentary Prisoners of the Moon (2019) was recently released on Amazon Prime. On the occasion of its UK release (June 2019) The Guardian’s Leslie Felperin described
the film as having “...a heft that’s given an eerie quality by fine performances, thoughtful direction and a creepy music soundtrack by Steve Wickham”.
In 1987 Johnny became the founding editor of the Film Base publication Film Ireland, and edited it for its first three years before focusing on his filmmaking work. Since then, he has created a body of work covering some twenty films including the feature dramas The Bargain Shop (1992), The Last Bus Home (1997), Mapmaker (2002), and Black Ice (2013). In September 2022 Gogan’s company Bandit Films will recommence, after a break of some years, Adaptation Film Festival. Established by Gogan in 2005, Adaptation shines a light on the relationship of screen drama and literature. Over the years the festival has celebrated the adapted screen works of Irish writers such as Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Jennifer Johnston, Bernard MacLaverty, William Trevor and Eugene McCabe.
Lepus Print is the publishing initiative of writer Brian Leyden. Recent publications include poet Mary Branley’s collection A Pinch of Snow in a Black Velvet Glove and My Name Suspended in the Air Leland Bardwell at 100.