Cork-born author Danny Denton crashes onto the Irish literary market with the epic tale of The Earlie King and The Kid in Yellow. Grace Keane finds the writing is exciting - but feels it might all work better on the stage.
In a post-apocalyptic Dublin, sheets of rain incessantly fall from the grey heavens, drowning the country and stifling the hopes and dreams of those who live in it. Bygone are the days of sunlight, now nothing but a myth for religious fanatics to cling to.
This dystopian Ireland is a place of poverty, it's capital ruled over by the Earlie King and his gang, and forgotten it seems by the rest of the world. Yet from this deluge a strange young hero emerges - The Kid in Yellow. The Kid does not steal the King's granddaughter on behalf of any cause, or from a desire to bring about social or political reform. In these dreary times, he steals her in keeping with a promise, a promise made from love.
The Earlie King came to power through his demonstrations of strength, violence and willingness to fight to the death. His origins, as with any fear-inducing figure, are unknown and shrouded in mystery. The King and his 'Earlie Boys' are also the main distributor of Fadinhead, the drug of choice for the masses. Money and power mean that The Earlie King and his lackeys are untouchable, and those that are capable of taking him and his criminal empire down are either on the take or too scared to try.
The Kid in Yellow, so named after his yellow 'skins' or rain gear, was once a part of this gang. Never quite a fully fledged Earlie boy, nonetheless being a 13 year old runner of Fadinhead for the King had it's perks, such as not being guillotined or shat on by the boys. That was to change, however, once The Kid laid his naive young eyes on the King's 15-year- old daughter T, and fell desperately and unapologetically in love.
It was a certainty that he and T were doomed. Every minute felt borrowed.
The Kid has a way with words, an ability to memorize and recite endless passages, tales, profound prose and poetry on demand. Whatever he read, he remembered, and his inability to actually understand the meaning behind the words he spoke seemed of little consequence. For him, pleasure could be found in the sounds of the words themselves - their lilting phrases, the art and construction of the piece.
A neon seagull came to me, he showed to me a way back, and astral teardrops falling free, My love i'm rowing back to you.../What does it mean?/Dunno. You tell me/
Denton uses T and the eponymous Kid's relationship as a springboard for his hybrid tale of past, present and future. In essence, it's the retelling of a classic love story, one heard a thousand times; a poor young boy falls in love with a princess, and their innocent love is doomed. Denton's unique version of the tale, however, is infused with a mix of Celtic mythology of the past, the perils of our dependency of technology of the present and the apocalyptic climate change of the future.
It would have been very easy for this first-time novelist to weave a depressing and dreary tale, but by cleverly creating the romantic relationship between two young teens he hones in on their youth as a means of emphasising their innocence in this dark and damp world. Likewise, the subsequent actions of The Kid and his efforts to keep his promise come from an uplifting place of loyalty, love and hope.
The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow, like it's theme, is told through a mish-mash of styles. Sections are written almost entirely in the native dialect, encouraging the reader to speak the words aloud and fully appreciate their meaning, as well as Denton's linguistic skills. Other sections in the text appear as passages from poems or as a manuscript of a play, one which can be clearly visualized. The author capitalises on all literary elements and media at his disposal to capture the reader's imagination and present his story in several ways. His commitment to this approach can be clearly seen, even from the pages upon which the story is printed - designed to look as though sprinkled with raindrops or stained by water.
Denton's writing is exciting, and demands the reader's attention, but at times that attention can be difficult to fully commit. The writing style jumps about so frequently that often I found myself re-reading passages to make sure I was following what was going on - unsure, for example, whether certain characters were still alive or dead. There is no doubt that The Earlie King and the Kid in Yellow is an stimulating debut novel from an ambitious young writer, but I think it is one that I would rather see fully formed and produced on the stage, rather than the page.