A Tiger in Eden by Chris Flynn
Flynn’s debut novel sees Billy Montgomery, an Irish loyalist foot soldier, on the run from his violent past and hiding out in Thailand during the mid nineties. There, Billy attempts to find solace on the beaches, in the beers or between the bosoms of the many comely backpackers he stumbles upon. All the while however he is haunted by the memories of his former life.
Written in the first person and in bawdy Irish vernacular, the novel reads like a road movie. Through a series of vignettes we see Billy grow increasingly frustrated with his life in paradise; he feels like his life is missing meaning. Eventually, via a mixture of curiosity and boredom, he winds up at a Buddhist monastery – and forced to contemplate the vagaries of existence and self, he starts on a path that leads him to confront the demons from which he has been hiding.
With its lusty language and unwittingly introspective narrator, A Tiger in Eden brings to mind the novels of Irvine Welsh, or DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little. Unlike Vernon though, Billy never seems to be in any real peril. Like an uncouth Irish James Bond, Billy merely fires off a jab of Celtic wit or a right hook of Ulster muscle and he easily negotiates any hurdles that Thailand may fling at him. And gets the girl to boot. It is in this same way that his redemption, or at least his confrontation and acceptance of his own conscience, also comes to him too easily, and as a result, the novel winds up feeling a little hollow and unsatisfying.
That being said, A Tiger in Eden is a worthy debut, the writing is fluid and authentic and the descriptions of Thailand make you yearn to holiday there. In fact, if you do find yourself on a tropical beach looking to ignore the troubles of the world, this novel would make a fine companion.
Tom Hoskins is a rock and roll musician moonlighting as a bookshop manager. Or is it the other way around? In his spare time he enjoys riding bicycles and indulging the cats that have taken up residence with him.