About Michael Casey's writing
“…lovely clear prose-style, great characters and beautifully crafted vignettes…”
“…I was thoroughly captivated by the fine quality of the prose and the strong deeply-felt characterizations…”
“…elegant, shrewdly observed and with a lovely wry humour…”
“…a very interesting piece of work – an unusual idea, very well executed…”
Joyces at Last and Other Short Plays
This collection of short plays begins with Joyce at Last, which was performed in Dublin and in the Henrik Ibsen Museum, Oslo – an appropriate venue, given James Joyce’s admiration for Ibsen’s work.
The play is set in Paris where Joyce is making arrangements to travel to neutral Zurich just before World War II. His great work is behind him and, possibly for the first time, he reflects on his family, especially his children, Lucia and Giorgio, whose lives seem to be blighted. Could he have been a better parent? The fruits of his reminiscences come as a shock, a final epiphany.
Many of the other plays were inspired by paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland and were performed in one of the public spaces of that institution. Audiences were impressed by the fusion of the dramatic and purely visual.
The six plays following Joyce at Last deal with the following themes: a single mom captured by ISIL, a woman who fights to save her marriage, a sad recluse who hides away but still tries to help people from ‘inside’ a computer, a father who, because of a guilty secret, dreads his daughter’s upcoming wedding, a dog which has been given the gift of awareness, and a conversation between Frederick William Burton and George Eliot.
The other six plays are lighter in tone, and they range from a married couple with acute sexual problems, to a human clone who is expected to donate his heart; from a would-be writer who lives with his characters, to a vulture fund which has evicted the cousin of a mafia don; from elaborate sexual role-play, to confusion in the non-binary community of LGBT.
The humour in these plays is ‘greyish-black’, and comes close to the bone of PC-ness; it is not for the faint-hearted.
“It is possibly the ekphrastic plays in this collection – those based on paintings in the National Gallery of Ireland – that are the key to why the texts here are so compelling. An idea, once sparked to life here, goes where its own logic takes it, to great effect.”
– Peter FitzGerald
Joyces's Wake and Other Full-length Plays
In ‘Joyce’s Wake’ we see what an utter failure James Joyce was as a family man. The ‘wake’ in the title refers to that of his children, especially Lucia, who suffered at the hands of her father. (She also had an ill-judged affair with Samuel Beckett whom she loved.) Lucia ended her life in an asylum and her brother, Giorgio, became an alcoholic. Does the creation of great literature have to take such a toll?
The ‘High Priest of Hackballscross’ explores the dynamics of a local drama group putting on a Passion Play in a small town. The tension of performing exposes character flaws among the actors, hidden desires and all-too-human passions.
In ‘Wherewithal’, an emigrant returns to help the town he had to leave twenty years ago. He seeks political office and comes up against a hostile cabal that will stop at nothing to keep him out.
‘Get Up’ is a futuristic piece about a new regime that seeks to rehabilitate a former political enemy for their own reasons, and to build alliances with the global superpower.
In ‘Wait Now’ two losers — one a robot — are hired to dress a stage for some absurdist play. The director never comes but the dramaturg does, and s/he (a state of the art android) forces them to ad lib a play that ends very badly for them.
“The beauty of play scripts – when done well, as here – is that they plunge us into the action. Our imagination engages from the start. The great range of these plays, from Joyce’s troubled daughter through careening passion play to the absurd at play in multiple dystopian futures, is in the end a stream of questions around who we are, what we want, and what awaits us all.”
– Peter FitzGerald
The first of these short stories, Epitome, is about Elvis Presley as you have never seen him before. Elvis is, in fact, one of the most endearing of the characters who people these darkly humorous tales.
There are other fabulous ‘Kings’, e.g. the Shah of Iran, who feature in some of the subsequent stories, but they are not as charismatic as Elvis.
Neither is Hitler who appears in another story in reincarnate form.
In a couple of stories, bullies get their just desserts in intriguing ways. In others, bad behaviour in Hollywood and the Vatican is exposed.
One cautionary tale features the obsessive-compulsive behaviour of a ‘failed priest’ in a refuse and recycling facility.
Another concerns a white-collar criminal who buys the prison he’s incarcerated in.
There are a couple of quirky love stories, and others in which characters slide into madness or are driven to murder.
The collection as a whole deals with people in all their splendid, dark-side variety.
“This is a collection of great creativity and play. Some stories give full rein to a what-if idea; others develop protagonists in their unbridled quirkiness. The stories always entertain, and they always make you think.”
Writer and TV celebrity Robert Lynskey is part of the Manhattan skyline. Despite his obvious success, he begins to doubt himself. His partner, Sarah, tries to dispel these doubts and convince him that he has earned his success. She is aware that the producer of Lynskey’s TV show is also attracted to her, and she tries to keep him at bay.
Khaled Hassan, a Palestinian, is on his way to New York to free his mentor from Guantánamo Bay. To set up a hostage exchange, he and his associates kidnap Lynskey – a soft target with a high profile. They demand that his TV Network broadcast a series of propaganda tapes.
The CIA, FBI and Homeland Security become involved. Following 9 / 11 there is no question of negotiating with terrorists. There is a strong suspicion that Lynskey might be collaborating with the terrorists, especially when it is discovered that Hassan had been a student of his in Columbia in the late nineties.
Motivated by ratings, the network broadcasts the tapes, breaching the Patriot Act. Public reaction is hostile. As the network’s ratings rise, Lynskey’s chances of survival fall. Sarah worries that he will be killed by his abductors, and she works with the security agencies to find out where he is being held.
In captivity, Lynskey has time to review his life. He is intrigued by Hassan, who must know that the pro-Israel Administration will never free his mentor from Guantánamo Bay. What then is the real agenda?
As events move to an unexpected conclusion Lynskey finds himself in possession of the final tape which contains explosive footage that would undermine America’s role in the world. The security agencies learn of its existence and Lynskey’s problems really begin. With his personal life in crisis, is he in a fit mental state to bear the enormous responsibility that has been thrust upon him?
“A byword for success, Robert Lynskey is lost in the ease of his own intellectual victories. Everything he has struggled for, and achieved, now undermines its own driving logic. Potential escape arrives in the form of mortal danger. Brilliantly constructed and fluidly told, the core dilemma is very real.”
This is a light-hearted story about two young men and their girlfriends in the rowdy, lived-in Dublin of Brendan Behan, Patrick Kavanagh and Flann O’Brien. They pit their wits against all comers in a last fling before adulthood.
Murf is a ‘chronic student’ who lives dangerously, savouring the roar of the crowd. He is fortunate to meet Gobnait, a kindred spirit, who could become a steadying influence. She sees through his posturing to the deeper reasons that make him a risk junkie.
Rolo is a nervous, gentlemanly sort, often scared by Murf’s escapades. Will he find his feet when he meets the stunning Maura?While the gals have steady jobs, the lads eke out a living by smuggling condoms from Northern Ireland into the South. This ‘modest trade’ lands them in serious trouble with their ‘clients’, the British Army, and eventually the IRA and the police. They lurch from one crisis to another and are repeatedly bailed out by Gobnait and Maura – and by a club of gentle transvestites.Will their splendid women help them grow up or will the lure of shenanigans prove too strong?
“This is a wonderful immersion into the Dublin of the early seventies, a city making do on an island held together by string, bandages and impious prayer. The lead protagonists are immediately credible, their mental and emotional contortions on full display. The plot is like a colourful, writhing snake that may intend no harm.”
— Peter FitzGerald
“…pace, alacrity and wit in this highly entertaining work that had me in tears of laughter on several occasions…a wonderfully heart-warming read … A very enjoyable book …could easily see it turned into a movie..…”
Maura's Dance with Uncle Sam
Maura, a shy Englishwoman, works for her dentist husband, Harold, who tries to restrict her many outside interests. To his chagrin, Maura appears on a major TV Quiz show. She wins a prize to visit the US and attend a Celebrity New Year’s Eve Ball in Washington DC.
Patrick, a Frenchman, embarks on a dangerous geo-political mission. He kidnaps Harold and poses as Maura’s husband. She has no option but to travel with him to the US, where they meet with celebrities, other prize-winners, and senior political figures. She is racked by guilt, but her worries shift as she realises that Patrick is more a misguided idealist than a terrorist. She can’t help being drawn towards him. Maura begins to fear for her life and his.
The Washington Ball approaches. Tight security is coordinated by a shrewd and ambitious FBI agent with support from Homeland Security. Maura tries desperately to persuade Patrick to abort his mission.
Maura grows in adversity, becomes stronger and more questioning. Even in captivity, Harold is the same old fogey. Then after all seems lost, Maura makes a remarkable discovery that will change everything…
“Against a backdrop of Washington covert dealing and heartless calculation, two figures find their truer selves. Patrick’s idealism battles with human desire. As the plot develops, carefully and unpredictably, we see Maura unfold too, as stronger and more complex than she ever imagined. In a deft storyline told as though in a single breath, the inevitable crisis is a long-delayed reckoning.”
– Peter FitzGerald
The Killing of Ros Grenham
Niall Grenham, a ‘failed priest’, emigrated to the US. He married Rona and they had a daughter, Ros, who is the light of their lives. Ros grows up to be an accomplished and well-meaning young woman. Niall cannot credit his good fortune.After a late-night graduation party, Ros tries to help her childhood friend, Mark, who has gone off the rails and is addicted to drugs. Motivated by jealousy, he engineers a car accident in which Ros is brutally killed.
Mark’s father, who works in the British Embassy, Washington D.C., is the first to realise what has happened. He puts Mark on a plane to New York to alibi him.
Niall and Rona try to deal with their grievous loss in different ways, which causes some estrangement between them. When Niall discovers it was not an accident, and there is not enough evidence to bring Mark to trial, he begins a kind of psychological warfare against Mark and his father. He gives Mark money for drugs, and gives him souvenirs of his early life with Ros. He shows him home movies that feature them both as children, happily playing. He feels diminished by these tactics but will not quit.After many months, the pressure exerted by Niall produces a result, but does it make any difference to his monumental sense of loss? He follows Mark and his father to another country and is prepared to put his own life, marriage, and faith on the line for the sake of his beloved daughter, Ros.
“Bad things, as we know, can happen to good people. But what choices do they make when justice turns away? We live the pain of the bereaved father, and we struggle with the rightness of his decisions. This is compelling writing, in which we feel dilemmas we hope never to confront.”
The frantic preparations for the visit of John Fitzgerald Kennedy to his hometown in Ireland are largely seen through the eyes of Martin Moroney and Eileen Blayney who are beginning to fall in love.
The Mayor of the town, New Ross, has to use all of his considerable skills to keep a sense of order and decorum. He knows that the eyes of the world will be on them. An aggressive CIA advance party causes much grief and forces the Town Council to change its plans for ‘security’ reasons.
The events are keenly observed by Martin and Eileen who ‘come of age’ against the background of the visit. In a sense, the town itself begins to come of age.
The world’s press begins to arrive. Four days before the visit a man checks into the local hotel and registers under the name of L.H. Oswald.
Despite many difficulties, the visit is an outstanding success. Like the return of Ulysses, it is the stuff of myth.
Five months later, JFK is assassinated in Dallas. The town goes into mourning and Martin and Eileen are forced to confront newly-awakened demons.
“…..a lovely clear prose-style…some great characters and beautifully crafted vignettes…”
—Stella Kane, Quartet Books Ltd.
“The charisma of JFK touched an Irish generation … A great, pacy, suspenseful read. Hard to put down … At times witty, at times tragic, sumptuously detailed … Casey’s sympathy with the protagonists results in an emotional investment that, for the reader, is worth every turn of the page … highly recommended…
Come Home, Robbie
This is a novel about a crime worse than murder, and one where the main character never appears.
Parents are terrified when their son vanishes into another world. Challenged by trying to understand a very different mind-set, they draw on every resource that they have. Action-driven father and brooding mother fear that their son is being trained for a religious war.
“…part thriller, with all the page-turning urgency of that genre, part astute psychological study of a crumbling marriage and a brain-washed teenager … The background of impending divorce notches up the tension even further so that we are dealing with people permanently on the edge … the sheer quality of the writing lends the story some of the stature of heroic tragedy … The denouement is unexpected and yet leaves the reader with some of the empty feeling of real tragedy … I guarantee that you will find the novel difficult to put down…
“…The writing carries a spine-tingling compulsion…”
Education Times, 1998
The O’Brien Press, 1990
About Michael Casey's short stories
These stories deal with ordinary people, for example a farmer who falls in love with a sophisticated woman, a butcher who shoots a scavenging dog, a letter of complaint to Meryl Streep. But on occasion the characters are not so ordinary. One story deals with a Siamese twin who fears that his brother may commit suicide, another with a woman chef who kills a food critic, another the relationship between a security man and his building, another an aristocrat who trepans himself to relieve depression.
“The crawling figure has reached the steps and lies face down like a crouching dog, limbs bent awkwardly under him. He seems to be etched in black because the snow has melted in a narrow strip around him. If there is body heat he may still be alive.
‘Is there nothing we can….?’
‘No.’ She cuts across him and shuffles a pack of cards. ‘Want a hand?’”
“…Michael Casey has succeeded in bringing to life some vivid characters who, by turn, captivate, amuse and engage. This is an original and exciting author whose work shows a wry observation and quick wit…”
Mike McCormack, 2006
Winner of the Start Chapbook Prize for short stories, 2006
ISBN-13: 978 0 0555598 0 8
Published in The London Magazine, Bridport Anthology, Columbia Magazine of Prose and Poetry, The Tribune, etc.
‘Securex’, The Bridport Anthology, Samson and Company, 2000; and in Signals-3, London Magazine Stories selected by Alan Ross and Jane Rye, 2001
‘Mssrs Trimble and Cluestar’, Columbia Magazine of Poetry and Prose, The Lost Issues, 1993
‘The Sign of the Dog’, Columbia Magazine of Poetry and Prose, The Lost Issues, Number 9, 1984
‘The Wrong Address’, Adapted For Radio, Raidió Telefís Éireann, 2001
‘Normality’, The Tribune (Short-List For Hennessy Award), 1992
‘The Mystery of it All’, The Tribune (Short-List For Hennessy Award), 1994
‘Treadmill’, Tipperary Arts Festival Winners Chapbook, First Prize, 2006
‘Daniel and Brad and Wheeze Momma’, Ibid.
‘Boring for England’, Shortlisted for Best Story, Listowel Writers Week, 2008
‘Grey and Brown Unrelieved’, Shortlisted for Molly Keane Creative Writing Award, 2008
‘Letter to Meryl’, Orbis, 2014
‘Playing Through’, Leapfrog Press, Spring 2015
‘Bedrock’, The Honest Ulsterman, 2016
‘Letter to Meryl – the Sequel’, Orbis, #179, 2017
‘Daily Bread’, Second Prize in Words by Water, Kinsale Literary Festival, 2017 and Commended by Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards, 2017.
‘Storyline’, Fictive Dream … 2018
‘Quietude’, Story Magazine … 2018
‘Trending’, a Play, Scrittura Magazine, 2018
‘Dough’, Peacock Journal, 2018
‘Letter From the Curia’, shortlisted and Highly Commended in the Jonathan Swift Creative Writing Awards, 2018
‘Letter to Meryl: Final Sequel’, Orbis, #186, 2019
DAILY BREAD: “ ….A brilliant and very funny story with a wickedly witty conclusion. I love how this writer (Michael Casey) has captured the setting….he has a beautifully observant eye for the details and atmosphere of the time….The images of the story really stayed with me, and I laughed out loud at the ‘theological conundrum’….Genuinely hilarious, beautifully written and an absolute pleasure to read.”
—Sarah Moore Fitzgerald, Fiction judge for Words by Water, 2017.
STORYLINE: “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed ‘Storyline’…I am delighted to accept it for publication…”
—The Editor, Fictive Dream