This is a novel which falls into a number of categories: comedy, Western, fantasy, literary. ‘The Conjuring Cowboy’ is an essentially -if not quite wholly- true chronicle of one man’s struggle to make the transition between education and employment. Many step happily from class- or lecture-room to office, but some find themselves content to wander about a bit before taking on life’s responsibilities. This chronicle/novel follows one particular soul of the latter type, who, one fateful day, finds an advertisement in the paper which piques his curiosity: ‘MAGICIAN WANTED. NO EXPERIENCE NEEDED’. Coming face to face with the author of this curious notice -and then chewing the fat with him over a few drams- marks the beginning of both a remarkable journey and an even more remarkable transformation. (Or vice-versa.) Before long, this recently graduated chap will find himself spectacularly transitioned from late 1980s small town North Ireland to late eighteen hundreds small town America. He will also find himself in possession of powers beyond his imagination, and, dangerously -even ridiculously- beyond his own control… The reader may take all this with a pinch of salt, of course, but be prepared for a journey into the Wild, Wild West, where guns shoot deadly, unfunny bullets, and the towels that hang beneath the saloon counter are splattered with all manner of unmentionable… stuff. There’s a lot of drinking in this novel, and a lot of gunplay, too. This novel goes to the very heart of the American Wild West, and to the heart of a man who never felt very serious about taking anything very seriously. Talking of ‘hearts’, be prepared for a bit of romance, too, all played out against a backdrop of stringy, twangy, bluesy, and not always quite perfectly executed, music… The original manuscript goes back to the very same period the novel begins in. It lay for decades in the dust until one fateful day of its own when it was re-discovered, dusted off (literally), and worked upon in order to bring out the essential reality of everything that happened. Read it carefully: you may see familiar figures throughout… ‘The Conjuring Cowboy’ boldly takes the Irish novel into territory it has likely never entered before. Can this fellow survive? Can Irish literature?
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Martin Connolly is Irish, from Belfast. He is a professor of literature at a university in Japan. He has published extensively on medieval English literature, Irish poetry (including Seamus Heaney) and the work of James Joyce, most recently working on Joyce’s poetry. In 2015 he published a novella, ‘Eri, a Japanese ghost story’. This was followed by his debut collection of original poetry, ‘labournight’ in 2016, and his first novel, ‘The Conjuring Cowboy’ in 2017. (There has also been a second edition of ‘Eri’, which contains a postscript.