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The Self-Made Men

The hero of this wonderfully funny first novel is a young Irishman, Billy Whelan, who one lonely, dinnerless Christmas day in London, in that desert stretch of afternoon when the pubs are shut and Kilburn High Road dead as a tomb, huddles in his rented room and in desperation answers an ad in one of his collection of Screen Monthlies. He soon finds himself in a deep and confessional correspondence with a box number in New York and by the time we meet him next, in Limerick, married and with two small children, he is president of Fart International, an organisation with American money in the bank but as yet no members but himself.

How Billy collects the handful of eccentrics who are to be the members of this ego-boosting club and how this activity meshes in with his career as an ice-cream hawker and his marriage to Breda — which is bedevilled by his enthusiasm for pubs and scant though affectionate relationship with his children — is the stuff of this refreshingly unusual tale.

Fart International, of which the true origin remains obscure until the book ends, is both an absurd joke and an answer to a psychological need. Through it the fatherless Billy and its secret founder re-imagine themselves and absolve the loneliness and the failures of the past — a past which for Billy holds not just the desolation of that Christmas day but his imagined humiliation at the hands of four schoolfellows — Higgins, Murphy, Nicky and Mark Brown.

How Billy, buoyed up by the lunatic fraternity of Fart International and by warm memories of the old Irishman, Hogan, in whose beery glow he spent many hours in London, confronts these ghosts at an Old Boy's Dinner, and how Breda (from the classy end of town, but persuasively courted and won by the engaging Billy) gets her washing machine and a step nearer to a conventional home are two more threads in this finally triumphant tale.


‘Curtin is one of Ireland’s best writers.’

Roddy Doyle

‘Michael Curtin’s first and very funny novel gives a good impression of being a free-wheeling, rumbustious shaggy-dog story while actually being a carefully structured and ordered work of considerable craftsmanship… the story grips and entertains until the last page.’

British Book News

‘I thoroughly enjoyed Michael Curtin’s debut and look forward to his second novel.’

The Irish Press

Buy Michael Curtin