Bounce was commissioned by the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry~Londonderry for something called the UK City Disobey Gravity program and was presented at the Killer Books Festival in October 2013. If you couldn't come by the Centre to pick up a free copy, you could read it free online, which you can still do right HERE. And of course I urge you to do just that, but I am very happy that I have this sweet little printed book, if 'sweet' is a word you should apply to any of Mr. Brennan's work, which possibly you shouldn't.
One thing I was realizing as I read this short novel, and that is that I never really know what to expect when I open a Gerard Brennan book. Just when I think I have him sussed, it turns out I haven't. If I knew what the plot of this story was at some point, I had since forgotten, so a book with the title Bounce could have been about anything. I think I half expected a caper. Instead, I found a touching portrait of a bouncer. Touching portrait of a bouncer, you say? In Derry-Londonderry?
The story is pretty straightforward. Paddy is a bouncer at a night club, a scene he doesn't have much trouble controlling, but he's also the father of a son just becoming an adult, who happens to be gay. Although you might expect that Paddy's problem would be about coming to terms with his son's identity, he has long since accepted that. His problem is really how he, as a restrained, non-emoting tough guy, can connect with his boy, whom he loves but also wants to protect in a homophobic culture.
The story couldn't actually be more timely. Just by coincidence, I happened to learn that there is a bill up currently in the Northern Irish Assembly that, if passed, would make it legal to deny service to gay, lesbian and bi people in restaurants, hotels and other businesses. So the struggle for equality is far from over in the North. (Although for sheer benightedness, my own state of California possibly takes the cake right now, as there is a guy currently trying to get a proposition on the ballot which would make it legal to shoot gay people.)
But I digress. Although most of the other books I've read of Mr. Brennan's focus on gritty action, and there's a bit of that here, this one is really more a portrait of an old style guy who is coming to terms with a new age and culture the best he can. I liked Paddy a lot and I really dug the Norn Iron speech patterns evident throughout.
One thing I admire a lot about Gerard Brennan's writing life is that he doesn't seem to worry too much about fitting standard formats. He somehow always seems to find a way to put his stuff out there. The only question, really, is--whatever will he get up to next?