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Bloomsday Novels 2006 (Irish): ‘The Bloomsday Dead’, by Adrian McKinty

One of the novels written about by Philip Harvey for his paper (‘A Hundred Bloomsdays Flower : How Writers Have Remade Joyce’s Feast Day’) on Bloomsday in Melbourne, 16th of June 2023 and read at the annual seminar upstairs at the Imperial Hotel, corner Bourke and Spring Streets in Melbourne, on Sunday the 18th of June. 

The opening line of ‘The Bloomsday Dead’, by Adrian McKinty is a coded message about a secret hotel location that reads “‘State LY Plum P. Buck Mulligan” and the last word of the novel is “Yes”, but everything in between bears no resemblance to ‘Ulysses’. The book is a “tangled and bloody odyssey through Dublin and Belfast … [a] well-paced edgy thriller” (McKinty Back cover) about a hitman called “the fucking unkillable Michael Forsythe”; it’s the finale of a series called The Dead Trilogy. In essence, Forsythe has come back to Ireland to help mobster boss Bridget Callaghan find her kidnapped daughter Siobhan, his modus operandi being to kill virtually everyone who gets in his way, whether they are police, IRA operatives, petty crooks, or anyone else who is in the wrong place at the wrong time. This mounting list of fatalities amounts to the Bloomsday dead of the title. This is because it so happens Forsythe flies into Dublin on the 16th of June 2004, the centenary of the setting of Joyce’s novel. The hitman is an eyewitness to the celebrations, which is convenient as he has just had to kill a dodgy taxi-driver who may have had a contract out on him.     

I turned a corner and found that I was at Trinity College.


I ran in through the gates and chucked myself into a seething mass of students, visitors, and other extras in my little scene.

Total chaos.

Even more chaos than usual, which meant that a big party of tourists had just arrived, or that it was exam time, or graduation.

“What’s the craic?” I asked a forlorn girl who was looking everywhere for her friends.

“It’s the parade,” she said and pointed to a corner of the quad where a big disorganised line had formed and was filing out into the street. I saw then that it was part of the Bloom thing. The kids were all dressed in Edwardian gear, some were riding old-fashioned bicycles, and there was even a horse-drawn omnibus pulling drunken members of a rugby team.

As good a place as any.

I joined the procession just as the two peels arrived at the college gates. One of them still had his cigarette in his mouth. Jesus, didn’t they want to catch me? Let go your fag, you cheap Mick flatfoot.

(McKinty 55)

Peels are the police. They are in hot pursuit, or rather lukewarm pursuit. But what we notice is that Bloomsday is a fully organised perambulation of the city open to anyone who is interested. Even an escaping murderer can meld into the crowd, aided by a purloined period costume that he throws over his leather jacket, just for the occasion. 

Now I was in a parade of a couple of hundred similarly dressed and high-spirited students heading for O’Connell Street. Like to see them find me now.

We marched merrily away from Trinity and turned north.

I wasn’t that familiar with Ulysses but it was an easy assumption that a lot of the weans were dressed as characters from the book. There were barbers, undertakers, bookies, priests, nuns, all of them in old-timey gear and most so cute you could forgive them for being young, exuberant, and irritating. And besides, they’d saved my hide.

Some of them were drinking and I got passed a can of Guinness, which I took gratefully.

(McKinty 56)

 Another detail of interest is when Forsythe goes to the credit exchange and the girl doing the transaction greets him with “Happy Bloomsday.” He replies, “Thanks, happy Bloom to you, too, love.” This is a greeting that could only happen in modern Dublin. It is certainly not going to happen in Belfast, where the action shifts for the second half of the story. Indeed, Bloomsday goes from being a huge public event in Dublin to entirely absent up north in Belfast, the only reminder of Joyce being the chapter headings, e.g. ‘Scylla and Charybdis’, when Forsythe must visit the Linen Hall Library to investigate the chief of the IRA who is writing his memoirs there. The disappearance of Bloomsday in the second half of the book leaves the reader wondering what the relationship might be between Ireland’s second-largest city and Ireland’s most famous novel.


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