Dead I May Well Be: A Novel, by Adrian McKinty

It’s hard to describe my admiration for Adrian McKinty without getting gushy. This is his first published book and in many ways may be the most lyrically Irish book from him. It has the grit and violence of his later books but immediately locates itself far from “The Troubles” that are the center of many of his later books.

The book centers around Michael Forsythe. On unemployment in Northern Ireland he makes the mistake of letting his picture be taken by a reporter as he and some friends are working to clean up a bombed site. He’s reported and loses his unemployment compensation. With no hopes for work and no income at 19 he’s encouraged to head to America to work for an Irish mobster in New York City named Darkey White. There he begins a liaison with Darkey’s girl Brigit.

McKinty was born in North Ireland, too. And while he’s now living in Australia he lived for a time in Harlem and Colorado. Colorado has appeared in other books. This book focuses on Harlem where Darkey’s mob operates during the height of the crack cocaine years. There the Irish can operate with little interference from the police, though a growing influx of immigrants from the Dominican Republic is beginning to put pressure on their activities.

Michael manages to fit in quickly and shows more intelligence and courage than most of the others in the gang. But he’s sent on a job in Mexico that goes horribly wrong, and sends him back on a path of revenge.

McKinty is able to make a terrible era for NYC come alive as he has Michael go on long walks through Manhattan, from the streets of Harlem where gunshots are a daily occurrence to the wealthy streets around Central Park and Greenwich Village. And as the story moves to Mexico even dangerous parts of the jungle are vivid under McKinty’s pen.

McKinty later wrote two other book featuring Michael Forsythe, the other two titled The Dead Yard and The Bloomsday Dead. Given how this book ends I have no idea where these books take Michael but I’m adding both to my own library now.