Cover image for Night boat to Tangier : a novel
Night boat to Tangier : a novel

1st ed.
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255 pages ; 20 cm.
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In the dark waiting room of the ferry terminal in the sketchy Spanish port of Algeciras, two aging Irishmen -- Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, longtime partners in the lucrative and dangerous enterprise of smuggling drugs -- sit at night, none too patiently. It is October 23, 2018, and they are expecting Maurice's estranged daughter, Dilly, to either arrive on a boat coming from Tangier or depart on one heading there. This nocturnal vigil will initiate an extraordinary journey back in time to excavate their shared history of violence, romance, mutual betrayals and serial exiles.


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One of The New York Times Book Review' s 10 Best Books of 2019
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times Book Review , Lit Hub , The Millions , The Paris Review , and NPR
No. 1 Irish Times Bestseller
Longlisted for The Booker Prize

From the acclaimed author of the international sensations City of Bohane and Beatlebone, a striking and gorgeous new novel of two aging criminals at the tail ends of their damage-filled careers. A superbly melancholic melody of a novel full of beautiful phrases and terrible men.

In the dark waiting room of the ferry terminal in the sketchy Spanish port of Algeciras, two aging Irishmen -- Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, longtime partners in the lucrative and dangerous enterprise of smuggling drugs -- sit at night, none too patiently. It is October 23, 2018, and they are expecting Maurice's estranged daughter, Dilly, to either arrive on a boat coming from Tangier or depart on one heading there. This nocturnal vigil will initiate an extraordinary journey back in time to excavate their shared history of violence, romance, mutual betrayals and serial exiles, rendered with the dark humor and the hardboiled Hibernian lyricism that have made Kevin Barry one of the most striking and admired fiction writers at work today.

Author Notes

KEVIN BARRY is the author of the novels Beatlebone and City of Bohane and the story collections Dark Lies the Island and There Are Little Kingdoms . His awards include the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, the Goldsmiths Prize, the Sunday Times EFG Short Story Prize and the Lannan Foundation Literary Award. His stories and essays appear in the New Yorker , Granta and elsewhere. He also works as a playwright and screenwriter, and he lives in County Sligo, Ireland.

Reviews 6

Publisher's Weekly Review

A pair of Irish drug runners who've seen better days haunt a ferry terminal in southern Spain in search of a missing woman, in Barry's grim and crackling latest (after Beatlebone). Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond had a long and profitable run in drug smuggling, but now, with both just past 50, they are out of the business after a decline in their fortunes. The two stalk the ferry terminal in search of Maurice's daughter, Dilly, whom they haven't seen for three years but believe will be showing up on a ferry there, either coming from or going to Tangier. As the men wait and scan the crowds, they reminisce on better days and an unfortunately textbook betrayal, and flashbacks to pivotal moments in Maurice's adult life reveal a torturous history. Whether Dilly is actually Maurice's daughter is an animating question of the narrative, along with what the men's true intentions are. Barry is a writer of the first rate, and his prose is at turns lean and lyrical, but always precise. Though some scenes land as stiff and schematic, the characters' banter is wildly and inventively coarse, and something to behold . As far as bleak Irish fiction goes, this is black tar heroin. (Sept.)

Booklist Review

Two Irish drug runners, Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond, sit in a ferry terminal in the Spanish port of Algeciras in October 2018, waiting for the night boat to Tangier, hoping to encounter Maurice's wayward daughter, Dilly. While they wait, they talk in the kind of cryptic, half-finished ­phrases almost a code that signal friends with history, not always good. A melancholy haze hovers over it all, both the port, with its old tatty charisma, and especially the two men: There is old weather on their faces, on the hard lines of their jaws, on their chaotic mouths. But they retain just about a rakish air. Two Irishmen waiting and talking inevitably recalls Samuel Beckett, and, like Waiting for Godot, this hypnotically beautiful tone poem is both wildly comic and deeply sad. The text alternates between the old friends' staccato dialogue and flashbacks to their earlier days, mainly in Ireland, during which we gradually learn why Dilly has disappeared and what happened between Maurice, Charlie, and Maurice's wife, Cynthia. We also witness prodigious amounts of drinking and drug-taking ( breakfast from the bottle and elevenses off the mirror ) along with plenty of fevered sex, some tender, some rage-fueled. Through it all, though, it is the mercurial personalities of Maurice and Charlie and the depths of their storm-tossed friendship that elevate this dank night in a shady ferry terminal into a transformative celebration of language itself. As Cynthia says about her tumultuous years with both Maurice and Charlie, They do fill a room, though, don't they? Yes, they surely do.--Bill Ott Copyright 2010 Booklist

New York Review of Books Review

This novel was longlisted for this year's Booker Prize. It's Barry's follow-up to "Beatlebone" (2015), his memorably offbeat imagining of John Lennon's attempted visit to an uninhabited island off the west coast of Ireland that, in real life, Lennon had purchased in 1967. "Night Boat to Tangier," like Beckett's "Godot," is about the wait. It's about hunkering down and admitting the presence of old ghosts. The reason "Night Boat to Tangier" works is that Maurice and Charlie are vivid company on the page, a couple of battered and slightly sinister vaudevillians on a late-career mental walkabout. They might have fallen out of an early Tom Waits ballad, a chest fever splashing over minor seventh chords.

Guardian Review

Ageing Irish gangsters trade banter in a Spanish ferry terminal, in this beautifully written two-hander about crime's toll on the soul Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne are Cork drug dealers, former big-time suppliers and users. Now into their 50s, their black money is squandered; they have done and could still do terrible things. "The years are rolling out like tide now. There is old weather on their faces, on the hard lines of their jaws, on their chaotic mouths. But they retain - just about - a rakish air." It's October 2018, and Charlie and Maurice find themselves keeping vigil at the Algeciras ferry terminal in southern Spain, where the night boats to Tangier depart and dock. This place has the clear contours of purgatory, perhaps one that Charlie and Maurice deserve. It is a Hades crossing point, a portal to dread. Kevin Barry is a clairvoyant narrator of the male psyche and a consistent lyrical visionary Yet what these two horrors of men - and they are, by their own confession, flawed fellows - are carrying is a cache of missing person posters; desperately, pathetically, they are trying to find Dilly, Charlie's 23-year-old daughter. Dilly fled Ireland after the death of her mother to join new age travellers, moving on queasy and confounding ley lines between Spain and north Africa in ways Charlie and Maurice struggle to fathom. They have not seen Dilly for three years, but they have street intelligence of her whereabouts, often gleaned by intimidation. They are still tenacious, menacing, solipsistic guys, but their chances are slim and their wait at the terminal is the temporal anchor of a book that deftly pivots elsewhere. As the two men exchange a supple flow of defeated banter and craic, we see that they are cut straight from the toxic cloth of Beckett ; an iPhone Hamm and Clov, they play out their own endgame, one urging the other to utterance in all the glory and vinegar of Irish disillusion: Personally speaking, Maurice? My arse isn't right since the octopus we ate in Malaga. Is it saying hello to you, Charlie? It is, yeah. And of course the octopus wasn't the worst of Malaga. .... They look into the distance. They send up their sighs. Their talk is a shield against feeling. To avoid plot spoiling, let me say that what we assume is a two-hander crime novel swells with plenitude into an emotionally crushing panorama of two friends gone wildly astray, punished by regret but with their grim solidarity intact - so far. This is not a journey devoid of dark humour; there are back-breaking moments of mirth, as well as real madness and love (this is complicated, since Maurice's love was for Charlie's wife, Cynthia). The novel puts a great deal of procedural crime fiction into perspective as puerile and exploitative fluff. For here is a meticulous, devastatingly vivid portrayal of serious crime and its real consequences: the waste, the insane risks, the threat of demonic violence, the punishing paranoia and the vulgar glut of cash reward packed into dodgy real estate or money laundering ventures. Most of all, though, the toll is taken on the human soul itself. Barry, winner of the Impac Dublin literary award for City of Bohane and the Goldsmiths prize for Beatlebone , is a clairvoyant narrator of the male psyche and a consistent lyrical visionary. The prose is a caress, rolling out in swift, spaced paragraphs, a telegraphese of fleeting consciousness: "The roads after the rain were black, sliding tongues and gleamed." "The cold white moon speaks highly of the coming winter." Here is the creepy, nosing landlord of a west Ireland cottage where Charlie and Cynthia try to hide out from dangerous men: "There was a papery film, like mothskin stretched over his eyes. He slithered about making goldfish gasps as if traumatised by an otherworld invisible but to his eyes." Barry's sensibility is eerie; he is attuned to spirits, to malevolent presences, the psychic tundra around us. But what distinguishes this book beyond its humour, terror and beauty of description is its moral perception. For this is no liberal forgiveness tract for naughty boys: it is a plunging spiritual immersion into the parlous souls of wrongful men. There is scant chance of anything as vulgar as redemption down by the Tangier ferry for Charlie or Maurice; after all, who is young Dilly really running away from? Yet it is impossible to finish the novel without loving and caring for each protagonist in all their verbose fallibility. We could pray for Charlie and Maurice - and wow, they need it.

Kirkus Review

In this gifted Irish writer's muscular, magical, and often salty prose, several lives take shape as two older men look for a young woman in a ferry terminal.Maurice and Charles, both past 50, are "fading Irish gangsters" once involved in bringing Moroccan hashish to Ireland via Spain. As the novel opens, they're sitting in the Algeciras ferry terminal because they've learned that Maurice's daughter, Dilly, who took off three years earlier, may be coming through on her way to Tangier. As the men question young vagrant travelers about Dillythere's a complicated dog connection, among other things, that identifies such targetsflashbacks reveal the men's drug-trading days, dovetailing with Ireland's roaring Celtic Tiger economy. With wealth come poor choices, paranoia, and real threats. Maurice's marriage to Cynthia suffers, the men fall outmarked by a brilliant barroom sceneand over this trio hangs a much larger question that helps explain the Dilly vigil at Algeciras. The daughter is revealed as a strong, intriguing character in all-too-brief appearances while the pivotal Cynthia inexplicably gets short shrift. Mostly the two men talk, with a profligate, profane, comic splendor that mixes slang, Gaelic, artful insult, and the liturgy of long friendship. Barry (Beatlebone, 2015, etc.) delights in the sound of two voices at play. In City of Bohane (2011), the banter of a brace of thugs named Stanners and Burke winds through the main tale. In the story "Ernestine and Kit" from Dark Lies the Island (2013), two women in their 60s trade seemingly harmless insults to comic effect, barely masking their evil intentions. Ever playful, the author titles the new novel's opening chapter "The Girls and the Dogs," which is also the title of a story in Dark Lies the Island that alludes to the Moroccan hash trade.Barry adds an exceptional chapter to the literary history of a country that inspires cruelty and comedy and uncommon writing. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal Review

Maurice Hearne and Charlie Redmond while away the hours in a ferry terminal in Algeciras, Spain, on the lookout for Maurice's daughter, Dilly, rumored to be traveling between Spain and Morocco. To pass the time, the middle-aged men reminisce about their intertwined lives and marvel at how a pair of Irish hoods from Cork became international drug smugglers, going over their rise and fall as criminals and lamenting their failures as men. When Dilly does arrive, she is unrecognizable. Upon noticing Maurice and Charlie, a shaken Dilly evades their surveillance to observe them from a safe distance, at the same time revisiting the events that led to her decision to leave Ireland and sever contact with her dad and "Uncle Charlie." Like them, Dilly has unanswered questions. But are they worth resolving? VERDICT This third novel (following Beatlebone) by IMPAC Dublin Literary Award winner Barry is deeply satisfying. Stylistically, it advances the author's talent for lyrical prose, with the dialog between Maurice and Charlie particularly magical. Similarly, Barry's narrative pacing creates and then brilliantly settles the tensions between his characters. For all readers of literary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 3/4/19.]--John G. Matthews, Washington State Univ. Libs., Pullman



The sound of the night at the Port of Algeciras-- The newsy static of tannoy announcements. The hard insect drone of police boats on the harbour. The soft hubbub of the ever-moving crowd in the terminal building. Outside-- An attack dog barks a yard of stars. A jet from the army base breaks the sky. Inside-- A soft-headed kid in singsong makes an Arabic prayer. An espresso spout gushes laughingly. And, stretching out his long, spindle legs, crossing them at the ankles, knitting his fingers, clasping his hands behind his head, Charlie Redmond looks high to consider the vaulted reaches of the terminal building, and the vagaries of life that are general. You know the tragic thing, Maurice? What's that, Charlie? I haven't enjoyed a mirror since 1994. You were gorgeous in your day, Charles. I was a stunner! And sharp as a blade. Maurice turns left, turns right, to loosen out the kinks in his neck. Images slice through him. The wood at Ummera, in north Cork, where he spent his first years. And Dilly as a kid, when he'd walk her through London's grey-white winter, Stroud Green Road. And Cynthia, in the place outside Bere­haven, on the morning sheets as the sun streamed through. I suppose I was an unlikely sex symbol, he says. I mean you put this old mug together, on paper, and it don't make any sense. But somehow? There's a magic. Or was, Moss. There was. They look into the distance. They send up their sighs. Their talk is a shield against feeling. They pick up the flyers and rise again. They offer them to passers-by--few are accepted. Sympathy is offered in the soft downturn of glances. The missing here make a silent army. Her name's Dill or Dilly, Charlie says. She was in Granada maybe? Not long ago. She might be with a gang of them, I'd say. They kind of move in packs, like? They move in shoals, the crustaceans. Dilly Hearne, twenty-three, a pretty girl, with dreadlocks, and dogs, and she have pale green eyes. Off the mother she took the eyes. The mother was a left-footer from Kinsale. God rest her. Green eyes and low-size. Dill or Dilly? Maurice? Charlie has clocked a young man's arrival in the terminal. Now Maurice notes it too. The man is in his early twenties, dreadlocked, wearing combat trousers and army-surplus boots, and carrying a rucksack in a state of comic dishabille. He has a dog on a rope. He throws down his rucksack. He is deeply tanned. Dirt also is grained into his skin--the red dirt of the mountains. He takes out a litre carton of vino tinto. He takes a saucer from the rucksack, pours a little wine onto it and offers it to his dog. When he speaks, it is with an English accent, countryish, from the West Country. Cheers, Lorca, he says. Your good health, mate. Maurice and Charlie watch on with interest. They exchange a dry look. The dog laps at the wine; the young man pats the dog and laughs. Maurice and Charlie approach the man. They stand silently smiling before him. He looks up at once with a measure of fear, and he takes the rope, as if to hold the dog back. Maurice turns his smile to the dog, and he clenches his tongue between his teeth, and spits a hard Ksssssssstt! ------ But Charlie Redmond? He's a natural with dogs. He reaches a long hand for Lorca, takes the paw, shakes it. He bats at the dog with his free, open palm, gently, about the eyes, as though to mesmerise, just little back-and-forth movements of the palm, and the animal is at once besotted. Maurice and Charlie sit on the bench just west of the hatch marked informaciónat the Algeciras ferry terminal on an October night with the ragged young man wedged firmly between them. All three consider the laughing, the lovestruck dog. He's a lovely fella, isn't he? Charlie says. He's a dote, Maurice says. A dotey old pet, Charlie says. What you say his name was? His name's Lorca. And your own name? I'm Benny. Good man, Ben. Benny and Lorca. Lovely. He's named for the little winger lad, is he? Used be at Real Madrid? Around the same time as Zidane? Little dazzler fella? Maurice says. A jinky winger type? I always loved a little winger, Charlie says. A slight fella and fast. Nippy little dazzler, Maurice says. Twist your blood and you trying to mark him. That was kind of your own style and all, Moss? Oh, I definitely had a turn of pace, Charles. You were very quick over the first five yards. But I lacked a first touch, Charlie. You were always hard on yourself. Benny rises and reaches for his dog--he wants to get away from these odd gentlemen. Boys, I got to think about making a move, he says. But Charlie reaches out a friendly hand and lets it hover there, for a moment of comic effect, and now it snaps a clamp on the shoulder and presses the young English firmly down to the bench. There's no rush on you, Ben. You know what I'm saying? But listen, Benny says. Maurice flicks to a stand and pushes his face close in to Benny's. Dilly Hearne is the girl's name, he says. Dill or Dilly? She'd be twenty-three years of age now, that kind of way? Charlie says. I don't know no Dill or Dilly! I don't know no . . . Irish girl? I known some Irish. Is that right? Charlie says. But I don't know a Dill or Dilly. I mean . . . Where'd you know these Irish? Where at, Ben? Was this in Granada, was it? I don't know! I mean I've met loads of fucking . . . Benjamin? Maurice says. We're not saying ye all know each other or anything, like. Sure there could be a half million of ye sweet children in Spain. The way things are going. Charlie whispers-- Because ye'd have the weather for it. Maurice whispers-- Ye'd be sleeping out on the beaches. Like the lords of nature, Charlie says. Under the starry skies, Maurice says. Charlie stands, gently awed, and proclaims-- "The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit." Whose line was that, Maurice? I believe it was the Bard, Charlie. Or it might have been Little Stevie Wonder. A genius. Little Stevie. Charlie, with a priest's intelligent smile, limps behind the bench. He wraps a friendly arm around Benny's neck. He leans to whisper in his ear-- The girls and the dogs all in sweet mounds on the beaches and the sky is laid out like heaven above ye. You're lying there, Ben, Maurice says, and you're looking up at it. You don't know whether you're floating or falling, boy. Do you think he can hear the sea, Charlie? I have no doubt, Maurice. It's lapping. Softly. At the edges of his dreams. You know what he don't want in his dreams, Charlie? What's that, Moss? Us cunts. She's a small girl, Benny. She's a pretty girl. And you see what it is? Is we've been told she's headed for Tangier. Or possibly she's coming back from Tangier. On the 23rd of the month. Whichever fucken direction? It's all going off on the 23rd. Is what we've been informed by a young man in Málaga. On account of the young man found himself in an informa­tional kind of mood. Maurice moves close in to Benny again and considers him. There is something of the riverbank in his demeanour. Something beaver-like or weasel-ish. He reads the faint blue flecks of the boy's irises. He might not live for long, he thinks. There is a hauntedness there. He is scared, and with reason. Now Maurice softly confides-- You see, it's my daughter that's missing, fella. Can you imag­ine what that feels like? Charlie speaks as softly-- Do you have nippers yerself, Ben? Any sproglets, Ben? No? Any hairy little yokes left after you? In Bristol or someplace? Charlie says. Any Benjamin juniors left behind you? Hanging out of some  poor gormless crusty bird what fell to your loving gaze. What you shot your beans up, Maurice says. Benny shakes his head. He looks around to seek help, but his predicament remains his own. You have empathy, Benny, Maurice says. You're a lovely fella. I can see that in you. So feel it out with me here now, okay? Imagine, after three years, how you'd do anything to be free of this feeling. Because my heart? It's outside of its fucken box and running loose in the world. And we've been told that she's heading for Tangier, Dilly, and she's travel­ling with her own kind. I don't know, Charlie says, sitting again, flapping out a lazy hand. Maybe a convoy is going to come together in Algeciras? Spend the winter in Africa, the hot sun on yere bony little pagan arses. Lovely.  And all about ye the colour­ful little birds is a ho-ho-hoverin'. I'm seeing pinkies and greenies and yellowy little fellas. All very good-natured. So is that the plan, Benjamin? Ben? You've gone a bit pale on us, kid. What I'm going to do is I'm going to ask you again, Benny? Dilly Hearne? Dill or Dilly? I don't know no fucking Dilly! Now Charlie folds an embrace around the boy's neck. You know what I think, Maurice? What's that, Charlie? I think this lad is a ferocious wanker. That's a harsh view, Charles. And I don't mean to be in any way personal with this specu­lation, Benny. But I'd have to say you have the look of an animalistic fucken self-abuser altogether, you know? Maurice shouts-- He have one arm longer than the other from it! And he stands and drags Lorca on his rope, as if to make off with the dog. Come here, he says. Wouldn't it be a horrible fucken thing for poor Lorca to wake up without a head on him in the port of Algeciras? Like in a nightmare, Ben. It's an awful place, Charlie says. It's a shocking place, Maurice says. Sort of place things could take a wrong steer on you light­ning quick, Ben. You heed? Dilly. Have you seen Dill, have you? She's a small girl. She's a pretty girl. Dill? Or Dilly? When the young man answers finally his voice is hollow, weak-- I might have seen her one time in Granada, he says. Excerpted from Night Boat to Tangier: A Novel by Kevin Barry All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.