The Eskimo in the Net

shortlisted for The 2004 Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award and selected by the Lit Ed of the Daily Express, England as his Book of the Year 2004 ("scandalously ignored by the Man Booker judges...")

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Earagail Arts Festival Launch

7–20 July 2003
County Donegal
Special Events
Theatre & Comedy
Children’s Events
Literary Events
TICKET HOTLINE 074 9120777 INT. CODE (+353 74)
Programme Design: Kevin Boyle

Tagann an túrscéalaí Gerard Beirne chugainn ó
Cheanada le scéal rúndiamharach atá lonnaithe in Inis
Eoghain, áit inar chuir Gerard faoi ar feadh tamaill le
linn na nóchaidí. Beidh sé ag léamh giotaí as ag
Leabharlann Phobail Bhun Cranncha.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Conversations in the Book Trade

Catheryn Kilgarriff -- publisher (Marion Boyars) talks to Conversations in the Book Trade

Many major publishers now refuse to accept "unsolicited" work; that is, they will not even consider work unless it is agented. Is this a sound policy from point of view of finding the best new literary voices? Isn't there a chance good writing will be squeezed out?

We have only taken one novel from the slush pile – a very good Irish writer living in Canada called Gerard Beirne. His novel, THE ESKIMO IN THE NET. If it had got onto a good prize long list, it would have done better.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mouth Watering

Model hosts double celebration The Model Arts and Niland Gallery will be hosting two celebratory events on Thursday July 10 at 6.30pm.

The first being a book launch and the second, the re-launch of the Atrium Cafe.

Gerard Beirne will be reading from his new novel, “The Eskimo in the Net”, published in May.

Beirne is the winner of several awards including two Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Awards. He is the author of a collection of poetry, “Digging My Own Grave”, and has published short stories. He is currently working on a non-fiction book based on his experiences of living on a remote Cree Indian Reserve in northern Canada.

For those of you who have visited the Atrium Cafe you will notice there are new people behind the counter serving up a new menu.

Brid Torrades, formerly of The Glebe Restaurant and Roy Kinsley, formerly of Ta Se Mohogani Gaspipes Restaurant, Dublin, are the new owners of the Atrium Cafe. They present a new menu that offers hot and cold dishes made from locally grown seasonal produce, as well as exotic open sandwiches, home-made soups, salads, fresh baked breads, croissants, and mouth watering desserts. Breakfast is available in the morning as well as light snacks, coffees, cappuccinos and teas throughout the day.S o come and enjoy the beautiful food and drinks by Brid and Roy while listening to Gerard read. Refreshments will be served and all are welcome.

Book of the Week

Book of the Week The Eskimo in the Net by Gerard Beirne
By Eoghan Ferrie

Jim Gallagher is back living on the Inishowen peninsula after spending a number of years working in the canneries in Alaska. Out one day working as a fisherman on his friend Knucky's boat, he hauls in the body of an Eskimo. When the authorities show little interest in understanding the whys and wherefores of the Eskimo's appearance in his net, Jim is driven to get to the bottom of the mystery. Concurrently, he is coming to realise that his relationship with his two best friends since childhood, Frances and Knucky, is changing for the worse and possibly coming to an end. 'The Eskimo in the Net' is the story of his efforts to understand both the Eskimo's origins and the current state of his life.
Gerard Beirne's enthralling debut explores the themes of friendship, self-exploration, love and death among others in a thoughtful and occasionally humourous way. We follow Jim as he struggles with alcoholism and loneliness, and attempts to create for himself a life with which he can be content.
The protagonist is living in a sort of limbo. He left Donegal to escape but he doesn't know from what. His friends considered him brave for setting out on his own while they took the safe option but he saw it as running away and wondered if they weren't braver for staying behind and making the most of the hand they were dealt. He's unsure of his reasons for returning and doesn't know what kind of life he was expecting to find for himself. He has a vague notion that in solving the puzzle of the dead Eskimo he will also answer some questions regarding his own future.

This is a book that will strike a chord with the majority of readers as it examines the struggles individuals face in coping with ever-changing circumstance and the realisation that the only certain thing in life is that there is no certainty. Gerard Beirne marries these observations with a good story and the result is well worth a read.

(Marion Boyars Publishers, ISBN 0-7145-3093-X, pp331, €14.30)
About the author
Gerard Beirne is an Irish writer living in Canada. He was awarded the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Best Emerging Fiction Writer and New Irish Writer awards in 1996. His work has been published in numerous journals, including Stet, Irish national literary magazine, the Sunday Tribune newspaper, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His story, Sightings of Bono, was adapted into a short film, featuring U2's Bono, by Parallel Productions, Ireland.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Last Chance Creek

Alaska trip inspired tale of mystery, murder

“In the summer of ’93, an MFA under my belt, we set out from Bellingham, pitching our tent aboard the ferry up the Inside Passage. With the names of John’s friends in Homer and Cordova stuffed in our top pockets and little else we embarked on this remarkable experience. ”
— Gerard Beirne

Editor’s note: I ran across a reference to Irish author Gerard Beirne’s debut novel, “The Eskimo in the Net” that said the story was influenced by the author’s trip to Alaska. Considering that the plot of the novel involves an Irishman who discovers the corpse of an unknown Eskimo, I wondered exactly what kind of trip that was.

I asked this, and Beirne told me — sort of.

This was the entire text of his reply:

While studying at Eastern Washington University my advisor was John Keeble, a wonderful instructor and writer. He had been commissioned to travel briefly to Alaska to write an article for Village Voice based on the Exxon Valdez disaster. Instead he stayed on to produce his outstanding nonfiction book Out of the Channel — the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Prince William Sound. Influenced both by John and his book, a common interest in maps, and deep respect, my wife, Eilish, and I began plotting a trip to Alaska.

In the summer of ’93, an MFA under my belt, we set out from Bellingham, pitching our tent aboard the ferry up the Inside Passage. With the names of John’s friends in Homer and Cordova stuffed in our top pockets and little else we embarked on this remarkable experience.

Past the glaciers, the porpoise, the humpbacked whales, the deserted islands, the coast of Canada, the father pointlessly imploring his two-year-old daughter to look, to see the most beautiful sight she would ever see in her life, on to Tenakee Springs where in the Blue Moon Cafe one inhabitant decried the “raving veggie eater” who ordered a hamburger on board — a hamburger please and hold the patty, where in the hot springs I was told by an elderly man who had clearly failed to see me shower before entering the springs, “Wash your body before you get in here, we don’t need to share your shit!”

To Juneau and Mendenhall Glacier, hiking up past Last Chance Creek with whistling pigs, three days and nights of solid rain, thick muck, bad boots, food hidden from the bears under the rocks one hundred wet and muddy yards away and nothing else to do but that which would result in the necessity for a baby-size Made in Alaska t-shirt some time later.

Further on to Skagway and the whole romance of my youth, to Anchorage for a night of cheap pizza, expensive beer and free headaches the following morning, to Whittier, through the dark tunnel of war, emerging into daylight July 4th to festivities at the harbor, free hotdogs, burgers (“pile on the patties”) and a ferry trip out through the bergy bits, a lone fishing vessel sounding off a solitary firework, the silence of a frozen world, Valdez, the stench, the supertankers, and Cordova, the Orca book store, David Grimes leading us up into the mountains, a near deathly slip, smoked fish given to us generously to be eaten in our carpark campsite out of town, the boats — Foreplay, Wet Dreams — the bald eagles sitting aloft their masts, upwards to Fairbanks, a city campsite, World Eskimo and Indian Olympics, Paddy just down from the Brooks Range — a part never set foot before in, found a plane, a skeleton on board, couldn’t bear to leave it outside one more night, slept with it in my tent, radioed in the next day, twenty five years he’d been missing, are you hungry, just going to fire up the old stove, make a bit of a stew — into Denali, a day long trek through sub tundra, boots finally unlaced, tents unfolded, a huge grizzly bearing down on us, a quick gathering of tent and footwear, a backing off, it following us on a bear path until we veered off, it fording a stream, us heading uphill in the opposite direction, a large elk waiting to greet us … and on it goes.

A remarkable trip. An inspiration.


Beirne reports The Eskimo in the Net has been shortlisted for the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award. This award for the best work of fiction by an Irish author is worth 10,000 Euro. The winner will be announced June 2, 2004.

About the Author

Irish writer Gerard Beirne completed his MFA in Creative Writing in 1993. In 1995 he was awarded second place in the Patrick Kavanagh Award for his collection of poems Digging My Own Grave (Dedalus Press). In 1996 he won two Hennessy Literary Awards: Best Emerging Fiction Writer Award and New Irish Writer Award. His short story Sightings of Bono was adapted as a short film featuring Bono (Parallel Productions). His novel The Eskimo in the Net was published in England by Marion Boyars Publishers (London, New York) in May 2003 and released in North America November 2003. Beirne now lives in Canada

Outstanding Read

The Eskimo in the Net by Gerard BeirneEdition: Paperback
Price: $14.95

The Eskimo in the Net, February 5, 2004

From start to finish, 'The Eskimo in the Net' by Gerard Beirne is an outstanding read. Never once does this book waver off course on its voyage to uncover the complexities of truth. Beirne has the rare gift of being both a superior storyteller and skilled craftsman.
After the main character, Jim Gallagher, hauls up a dead Eskimo in his fishing net off the coast of Northern Ireland, he sets out on a personal journey to find the origins of the unknown man. The side trips along the way make for fascinating reading: Jim's exploration of self, the unique power of friendship, the interplay of relationships and the mysteries hidden inside all of us.
I loved the way I got to know the characters in the book, not just as either good or bad but all the murky gray that made them seem truly human. I felt a part of the intimate lifelong friendship between Jim, Knucky and Frances and struggled along with them through the pages.
Five stars for this beautifully written novel! This is a book you will want to read over and over again.

Tangled Up with The Eskimo in the Net

Reviews Written by Donna Besel (Manitoba, Canada)
Page: 1

The Eskimo in the Net by Gerard BeirneEdition: Paperback
Price: $14.95

How to Get Tangled Up with "The Eskimo in the Net", January 30, 2004If you want to get caught by this quirky, evocative novel, all you need to do is read the first line. "Everything started to go wrong the day we dragged the Eskimo up in the net off Malin Head." Who could ask for a more intriguing opening sentence? Right from the first scenes, set aboard Knucky's fishing boat, willing readers get entangled in the snarled-up mess. As the two Irish fishermen, Jim Gallagher (the main character) and Knucky (one of Jim's best friends, and present employer) verbally wrestle over what to do with the partially decomposed body, Beirne lures his audience into the obsessive darkness which permeates the novel. His graphic descriptions of the Eskimo's corpse resting amongst the piles of wiggling fish and web of netting are both fascinating and morbid. Throughout the book, he maintains this clear, strong narrative voice. He also paints a memorable picture of the bleak ruggedness of the Irish coast, with its isolated fishing villages, where people are pushed, or driven, into alcoholic binges and stange sadness. Even the weather, with its constant damp, and unrelenting wind, emerges as another hard-nosed, but compelling, character. When Jim realizes the Irish authorities do not plan to fully investigate the circumstances leading to the Eskimo's death, he sets out on his own voyage of fixated, and often intoxicated, discovery. Beirne portrays the stumbling uncertainties of Jim's search with a compassionate, and sometimes surprisingly comic, voice. The scenes in the local pubs, encounters with Irish authorities, and glimpses into life abroard a Russian fishing trawler are especially captivating. Throughout the novel,the tangled mysteries of life's choices, of staying or leaving, of acting or not acting, of loving or refusing to love, are explored. Whether Jim likes it or not, he is being pulled along to a revelation of the truth about his own life. With a cast of deftly drawn characters, and enough mystery, death, drugs, and sex to sustain even the most jaded reader, Gerard Beirne creates an engrossing world of convoluted love, friendship, and compulsion, set in an unforgiving environment. It is a strong debut novel for a very fine writer, and sure to be well-received in North America, the British Isles and Europe.

Discovering A Corpse is Disquieting

From Booklist

Discovering a corpse is disquieting, to say the least. Hauling one up in fishing nets is even more so, especially when the waters involved are off the coast of Northern Ireland, and the corpse is that of an Eskimo. Jim Gallagher hauls in the body of an unknown Eskimo thousands of miles from its home and insists on taking it to the authorities over the objections of his boss and friend, Knucky, that the only results will be fruitless inquiries and lost fishing time. Beirne creates an atmosphere of destiny as Jim compulsively explores the dead man's origins in a journey mirroring his own, often drunken, examinations of life and relationships, particularly with Knucky and their chum, Frances, who used to be half of a couple with Knucky. Can Jim succeed at his sort-of-heroic quest? Can people just muddle on, learning to take comfort in doing the best they can? Filled with brooding and ecstatic sea-and-sky imagery, Beirne's impressive debut could easily become an art film.

Whitney Scott

The Eskimo in the Net - Opening Extract

Everything started to go wrong the day we dragged the Eskimo up in the net off Malin Head. I wasn't long back from Alaska, and it seemed as if he must have followed me halfways around the world. My initial instinct was to pull his chewed-up corpse free from the mountain of fish and roll him overboard, to let him sink back into the depths of the ocean where he had first appeared from, to watch him slip beneath the waves as if he had never surfaced in the first place. Knucky even suggested as much.

'It's going to be a headache if we don't,' he said, 'a mountain of paperwork.'
But I didn't have the heart to do it. For all we knew someone could be out looking for him at that moment in time, searching this northern coastline for his remains. Or somewhere on the other side of the globe perhaps, clinging to some frail hope that he was still alive, still hanging on to the frayed edges of this world.

'We're going to have to take him in,' I said. 'It's our duty.'

'Fuck you and your sense of duty, Gallagher. This is going to cost us a full day's fishing.' Knucky cleared his throat of phlegm and spat into the sea. I watched it float there like spawn. Then a swirl of froth swept across it and took it from our sight. 'Let's just throw him overboard. It's where he belongs.'

'Knucky,' I protested, 'it's a human being we're talking about.'

'It's a corpse. A rotting corpse. It's probably been buried at sea. Now you don't want to start digging up the dead, do you?' Knucky walked back to the wheelhouse, his eyes on the buoys ahead.

'We don't know that,' I said. But all the same, Knucky had a point. There was a possibility that he, whoever he was, had died on board one of the vessels that fished these waters and had been buried in that time-honoured fashion. In fact, I had often thought myself that it would be the perfect way to go, to sink into the murky soul of the sea and be devoured by the marine life within, drifting forever in one form or another throughout the oceans of this world.

But what if that wasn't the case? What if he had fallen overboard during a squall, or if he had nothing to do with the sea whatsoever? If that was just where his remains had ended up?

A wave of spray washed over the boat, swept across my face like a light mist. I held on to the side and looked down at the black water he had emerged from. Its troubled surface swirled in a filthy froth, keeping its inner secrets to itself. 'If that's the case,' I said,'if he's been buried, we'll find out.'

'It'll be too late then.' Knucky turned on the engine and let it idle. 'The body will have been disturbed.'

I listened to the low rumble of the hidden mechanical components, like a mumbling complaint. 'It's already been disturbed,' I said. The boat lurched, and instinctively I shiftedmy balance. The wooden deck groaned. I wasn't convinced by my own argument.Nevertheless, whatever way I weighed it up I knew we'd have to take the body in. My conscience wouldn't have allowed otherwise.

'It's my boat, Jim,' Knucky said. 'When you're out here you're following my orders. And don't you forget it.' The radio crackled next to him. A gull flew in low, stalled in its flight and landed on top of the wheelhouse.

It was a half-hearted attempt at asserting authority. It wasn't in Knucky's nature to be a boss of anything. Besides, that wasn't the way it worked between Knucky and I. I fished with him and he paid me a wage. We helped each other out. We went back too far for it to be any other way.

I continued to insist, and Knucky had no option but to relent.

While Knucky turned the boat around I took another look at the body. It lay there in the net, swallowed up by a slimy wriggling mound of fish, crabs and seaweed. One half-eaten arm poked out through a covering of sea bass as if reaching towards me, begging tobe saved. The putrid smell of the life of the sea mingled with the stench of his death. I swept seaweed and some carp and trout from his face to get a better look at him. His left ear was missing, and his skin and flesh were torn away in parts so that you could see right down to the bone.
It was like looking below the surface of your own body, seeing beyond the flesh into the hollowness of all you contained. His mouth was slightly open as if he was trying to say something but couldn't find the words to express it adequately. A small white crab the size of a ten pence piece crawled out of his mouth, across his lower lip and down his chin, then scuttled away to disappear into the scaly crevices of the stacked fish.

Novel of the Year 2004

"By far the most memorable novel of the year for me was Gerard Beirne's wonderful TheEskimo in the Net...Just like the central character, Jim Gallagher, the reader is drawn into the depths of both a mystery and a personal voyage of discovery... Wonderful clear prose andsensitive observation in a tough environment make this an outstanding debut work, scandalously ignored by this year's Man Booker judges."

- Graham Ball (Literary Editor, The Daily Express, 2003).

Judges Go By the Book - Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award

Listowel - Judges to go by the book

THE shortlist for the Listowel Writers’ Week/Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award was announced last week. This year the adjudicators, John F Deane and Emer O’Kelly, had the difficult task of choosing the shortlist from the entries received. The winner of this prestigious award, with a prize fund of €10,000, will be announced at the opening of Writers’ Week on Wednesday, June 2.

The chairperson said the mission of Writers’ Week is to support, enhance, invigorate and inspire the writers. Thanks to Kerry Group PLC, Irish Literature is alive and well with this generous and worthy prize.
The shortlisted books are The Eskimo In the Net by Gerard Beirne, Schopenhauer’s Telescope by Gerard Donovan, Skin of Dreams by Evelyn Conlon, All Summer by Clare Kilroy and An Evening of Long Good-Byes by Paul Murray.
Previous winners of the Writers’ Week fiction award include William Trevor for The Story of Lucy Gault, John McGahern for That They May Face the Rising Sun and Booker Prize nominee Michael Collins for Keepers of the Truth.

Reviews for The Eskimo in the Net

"The haunting central image of this book provides an opening sentence that is easily the best I have read in a long time... a very ambitious first novel ...this book is so good it is hard tobelieve that such a mature work is a first novel. It is a vivid and very moving attempt to makeus kiss the cold realities of individual existence." - Paul Pickering, The Daily Express

"This first novel by the Irish poet and short story writer has one of the most intriguing beginnings I have ever read .... vivid and sensual..." - New Books Mag

"Flashes of brilliance... chilling, tragic, and ironic all at once... haunting...It's been said thatJames Joyce could create a character by the way he held his umbrella. Beirne has that knack..." - Vancouver Sun

"a writer with a captivating voice...evocative... a vivid sense of life." - Montreal Gazette

"moving search for friendship and self..." - Edmonton Journal

"... the reader is caught - hook, line and sinker...Through an achingly poignant journey,Gerard Beirne coaxes readers along roads many would perhaps rather not travel, punctuating every mile or so with stark realism." - The Belfast Telegraph

"...filled with brooding and ecstatic sea-and-sky imagery Beirne's impressive debut couldeasily become an art film." - Booklist

" of a novel from the Irish author of cult short story Sightings of Bono ..." (Fourstars) - Uncut

" enthralling debut..." - Irish Emigrant.

"A strong debut novel...adroitly crafted...there is a rare quality at play in this novel...a thoroughly enjoyable read." - Winnipeg Free Press

Reviews for The Eskimo in the Net (Marion Boyars Publishers, 2003)

The Cold Realities of Individual Existence

The Eskimo in the Net was published by Marion Boyars Publishers

'This book is so good that it is hard to believe that such a mature work is a first novel…a vivid and very moving attempt to make us kiss the cold realities of individual existence' Daily Express

Jim has come home to the town of his birth on the coast of Donegal in Ireland after working in the canneries of Alaska. Like his friends Knucky and Frances he finds it difficult to escape the ties of the past. Then one day while out fishing he hauls the body of a dead Eskimo up in one of his nets. Jim’s ensuing obsession with tracing the corpse’s origins and discovering how the man died mirrors his search to comprehend the mean-ing and contours of his life in the tiny coastal town to which he has returned. Drink, loneliness and the price of survival become the major themes in this subtly shaded and superbly handled literary debut from one of the best of the New Irish Writers.

Gerard_Beirne is an Irish writer living in Canada. He was awarded the Sunday Tribune/Hennessy Best Emerging Fiction Writer and New Irish Writer awards in 1996. His work has been published in numerous journals, including Stet, Irish national literary magazine, the Sunday Tribune newspaper, and broadcast on BBC Radio 3. His story, Sightings of Bono, was adapted into a short film, featuring U2’s Bono, by Parallel Productions, Ireland.

The Eskimo in the Net - by Gerard Beirne