Now That You've Joined The Gang

‘I mean, we all went to see Bill Haley when he played Belfast. That was just an excuse to rip out the seats.’

David Keenan’s debut novel This is Memorial Device was one of BooksfromScotland’s favourite reads of 2017, so we are thrilled that he has followed it up so quickly with another cracking book, For The Good Times, which will be released in January 2019. It’s a novel that follows Sammy and his three friends as they come of age in 1970s Belfast, where the usual concerns—music, clothes, girls, comic books, drinking—clash with the criminal and terrorist violence around them. We hope you enjoy this exclusive pre-publication taster.


Extract taken from For The Good Times
By David Keenan
Published by Faber


Longhairs came late to Belfast. It was 1972 before I ever clapped eyes on a hippy, but there he was right enough, sitting on the ground at a bus stop on the Lisburn Road in the blazing sunshine, with his bare feet and an acoustic guitar round his neck with a piece of string; I could barely believe my lamps.

So as some longhairs turn up at the wedding, some hippy bastards, and they stand out like plums. Tommy starts to making jokes. Look at these fucking women, he says, and he’s doing this comedy walk, mincing up and down. I’m sure I recognise one of them but I can’t place him. At this point I don’t know any of the boys with the long hair. Then this guy who I nearly almost recognise comes over with some of his longhair pals and he walks up to Tommy. Are you Tommy Kentigern? he says to him. Tommy says to him, who wants to know, fucking Bob Marley? and he turns round to us and he’s all laughing and winking. The guy is just looking at him. What are you talking about? he says to him. Bob Marley is a Rastafarian. I don’t give a fuck what you are, Tommy says to him. Tommy’s confused, Pat says, he means Bob Dylan. Don’t fucking correct me, Tommy says to Pat, and he turns on him. I mean fucking Bob Marley, he says. What songs does Bob Marley sing? the guy asks him and there was something in the way he says it, something arrogant in his voice, that made me recognise him for who he was. Ah fuck, I says to myself, it’s only fucking Mackle McConaughey, this guy’s a commandant in the IRA. A killer, a hero, a serious guy. I put my hand on Tommy’s shoulder. Tommy, I says to him, take it easy. Take it easy, he says to me, what the fuck is wrong with you? Then he turns back to Mack. Bob Marley sings the song about the wind, he says to him, don’t fucking try to cheat me. It’s Bob Dylan what sings the song about the fucking wind, Mack says to him, cool as you like. Look, I says to the both of them, who gives a fuck about Bob Marley and Bob Dylan. Excuse me if I’m wrong, I says, but you’re Mackle McConaughey, are you not? One of his longhair pals steps up to me. Who the fuck are you? he says. I’m Samuel McMahon, I says to him. Sure, I thought it was yourself, McConaughey says to me. Suddenly he’s all friendly, like. How’s your ma? he says to me. Ah, she’s grand, I says to him.

You’re Mackle McConaughey? Tommy says. Now he can’t believe his lamps. I’m sorry for calling you Bob Marley, he says. That was unforgivable. Sure, I probably did mean Bob Dylan. Fuck it, Mack says, let’s get the green in, and he and his boys head to the bar. I’m starting to breathe again. Tommy gives me a look and under his breath he says to me, is the fucking Ra really coming to this? But we all end up getting half-blocked and at one point Mack actually gets up onstage with the band and sings ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’.

Now Tommy knew nothing about the rock n roll. None of us did. I mean, we all went to see Bill Haley when he played Belfast. That was just an excuse to rip out the seats. But that night I looked at Mack, who had his arm around Tommy by this point, the pair of them completely blocked and talking into each other’s faces, and I thought to myself, the times they are a-fucking changin’ alright.


For The Good Times by David Keenan is published by Faber, priced £12.99

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