Reviewers coming to this book, the second volume of Roddy Doyle’s The Last Roundup trilogy without having read the first, must be a frustration for the author.
I had a struggle connecting with Doyle’s character, Henry Smart. The first volume might have endeared him to me and set him in context — it followed his hard hit-man life in his Irish homeland, his troubles with Republican paymasters — but a second volume should cater for newcomers. Pick up any random volume of Anthony Powell’s A Dance to the Music of Time and you care about the characters right away.
It is 1924. Henry has taken flight and gone west to seek a new life and identity. America between the wars, all the deprivation, is rich pickings for an atmospheric writer of Doyle’s calibre and he is truly inside the period, suffering the aggro of New York’s pimps and conmen, hearing the rough dialogue and Louis Arm- strong’s music.