Into Book Reviews: For The Good Times by David Keenan

Book: For The Good Times
Author: David Keenan
Publisher: Faber & Faber

Browsing through Twitter recently a tweet from Spider Stacy (Pogues tin-whistle player extraordinaire) perked my attention. “This. This is what’s happening. Seriously brilliant. Fair puts a song in your dark heart and a smile on your cracked lips so it does”. Of course, I was intrigued, but what exactly was happening?

A quick search on the internet brought For The Good Times to my attention and reading into David Keenan’s background made me more than curious about this book, so of course I went and bought it, thanks, in part, to Spider’s tweet.

Keenan’s first book, released in 2017 entitled This Is Memorial Device, delves into the post punk scene in early 1980s Airdrie and won the Collyer Bristow/London Magazine Award for debut fiction as well as being shortlisted for other awards. While I haven’t read that as yet (I will), it got me thinking. Do authors have that same difficult second book syndrome as some bands do with their second albums? Well, there’s nothing to worry about here because Keenan has written an accomplished and often hilarious novel set amidst a bleak backdrop of the troubles, IRA paramilitaries, the Brits and, er, Perry Como.

Set in the Ardoyne area of Belfast in the 1970s, the book centres around Sammy and his mates, the escapades, friendships, dreams, nightmares, sex, torture, criminality, prison and a whole host of sub-stories that make every single page all-killer and no-filler.

It’s one of those rare books that provides you with humour while at the same time provoking a stark and sobering retrospective in what it meant to grow up in the centre of a political and cultural maelstrom. Make no mistake, there are real dark issues at play here – occult, drugs, kidnap, murder, honey traps as well as some lighter imagery of the Provos with super powers (Sammy and his mates run a comic book shop as a front for the IRA).

Ultimately this is a thought-provoking book, tackling a difficult subject matter with an engaging style with several threads running through resulting in the best book I’ve read this year and one that I’d be surprised if it’s surpassed.

Make no mistake, David Keenan is now on the big stage, seek out his work, you’ll not be disappointed.

John Welsh
@welshjb

For The Good Times by David Keenan is published by Faber & Faber (£12.99)

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