Literary Programme 2017

Neil Hegarty & Billy O’Callaghan

Neil Hegarty & Billy O’Callaghan

Neil Hegarty
Billy O’Callaghan

Bantry Library

Wed 19 July 2017



Neil Hegarty and Billy O’Callaghan are two well established writers who have recently published their debut novels, one set on Ireland’s north coast in Derry and the other on the south coast, in West Cork.

Neil Hegarty’s Inch Levels is a haunting debut set in the harsh, beautiful landscape of Ireland’s north coast. Patrick Jackson lies on his deathbed in Derry and recalls a family history marked by secrecy and silence, and a striking absence of conventional pieties. He remembers the death of an eight-year-old girl, whose body was found on reclaimed land called Inch Levels on the shoreline of Lough Swilly. And he is visited by his beloved but troubled sister Margaret and by his despised brother-in-law Robert, and by Sarah, his hard, unchallengeable mother.

Each of them could talk about events in the past that might explain the bleakness of their relationships, but leaving things unsaid has become a way of life. Guilt and memory beat against them, as shock waves from bombs in Derry travel down the river to shake the windows of those who have escaped the city.

Inch Levels is a perceptive and moving study of remorse and resilience, of the legacy violence leaves behind, and of the intricacies of family life; in the world as Neil Hegarty conjures it, old secrets never die, and what's past is never past.’ – John Banville

Neil Hegarty was born in Derry and studied English at Trinity College Dublin, receiving his PhD in 1998. He is the author of the authorised biography of David Frost and of The Story of Ireland. Inch Levels is his first novel and is shortlisted for the Kerry Group Novel of the Year Award in association with Listowel Writers’ Week.

In The Dead House by Billy O’Callaghan, Maggie Turner, a successful young artist attempting to rebuild her life after a violent relationship, moves from London to Allihies in West Cork and buys an ancient abandoned cottage. Keen to concentrate on her art, she is captivated by the wild beauty of her surroundings. After renovations, she hosts a housewarming weekend for friends. A drunken game with a Ouija board briefly descends into something more sinister, as Maggie apparently channels a spirit who refers to himself simply as 'The Master'. The others are visibly shaken, but the day after the whole thing is easily dismissed as the combination of suggestion and alcohol. Maggie immerses herself in her painting, but the work devolves, day by day, until her style is no longer recognisable. She glimpses things, hears voices, finds herself drawn to certain areas: a stone circle in the nearby hills, the reefs at the west end of the beach behind her home…

The Dead House is a compelling modern ghost story from a supremely talented writer and is grounded in the wildness of West Cork.

‘A moving work that builds to an elegiac climax and [O’Callaghan] is a welcome voice to the pantheon of new Irish writing.’ – Edna O’Brien [on The Dead House]

‘I know of no writer on either side of the Atlantic who is better at exploring the human spirit under assault than Billy O’Callaghan… O’Callaghan is a treasure of the English language.’Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize Winner

Billy O'Callaghan, from Cork, is the author of three short story collections: In Exile and In Too Deep (both Mercier Press), and The Things We Lose, the Things We Leave Behind (New Island Books). His first novel, The Dead House, will be published by O'Brien Press/Brandon Books in Spring 2017. Winner of a Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Award in 2013, and runner-up for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award, recent stories have appeared in the Chattahoochee Review, the Kenyon Review, London Magazine and Salamander, and a novella, A Death in the Family, is forthcoming as a Ploughshares Solo.

You may read Billy’s short story The Boatman which was runner-up for the 2016 Costa Short Story Award here.

Neil’s photo is by Claire Newman Williams and Billy’s photo is by Claire O'Rorke.