Book Summary –
In Donegal, Ireland, 1832, Coll Coyle faces eviction from the land that has been in his family for generations. With a mother, pregnant wife and young child at home, Coyle must find out why the landowner wants him gone and somehow convince him to leave his family in peace. On the fateful morning Coyle and landowner Hamilton meet on a road and in one tragic moment, one man is dead and the other is on the run.
Coyle finds himself pursued by the Landowner’s main man, John Faller. The main who had raised Hamilton since he was a child. The man who has now buried him and sworn to bring Coyle back to face his own brand of justice.
Across Ireland and aboard a ship to the Americas Coyle is chased.
“…The stood up and walked out onto the street and they ran down another and then they began to walk.
This toe of mine is busted.
What’d you do that this fella wants you so bad?
I didn’t give him the satisfaction of getting caught…”
Faller chases Coyle across the ocean, determined to deliver either vengeance or justice to the young man. Faller’s own history is darkened by his own deeds of the past and a code of what is right and wrong based on the very basest of beliefs.
“…Faller kicked his horse forward and Macken rode alongside him, his face puzzling and then it straightened. People are still people though, most of the time, he said.
Let me tell you something Macken. People aren’t people. They are animals, brutes, blind and stupid following endless needs they know not of what origin. And all the rest that we place on top to make us fell better is a delusion. The price of life is the burden of your own weight and some people are better off without it…”
In a workcamp, building the railroad line, Faller and Coyle meet their final fate. The loss of friends and family. An epidemic of Cholera raging about them, they come to the end of their chase.
Red Sky In Morning is a well written small novel by Paul Lynch that is reminiscent of American westerns of their heyday. Tales of small town values and revenge and vengeance played out on a grander scale. Violence and vigilante justice that is far more about the bloodlust of a few than setting any wrong right.
Coyle’s act of murder is a moment of lost control, not in character, but simply the act of a good man pushed way too far. The subsequent torture of his brother and the acts of Faller and his henchmen in pursuit of Coyle only lend to his sense of innocence and perhaps naivety in the course of this tale.
However Coyle is with his own faults and sins. Spending time and money at brothels while he cries over the lost time from his wife and family is hypocritical at best. Watching the torture of his brother and then fleeing when all he had to do was step forward also points to his sense of self preservation above love of family.
But that is what works so well about Coyle. His humanity. Faults and all. His moments of bravery and cowardice. His love of family and the need to live in the moment, knowing that around any corner is a man with a gun.
Faller also is a very interesting character. The desire to pursue Coyle across the ocean when he could have very well turned away at first seems to be about wrecking vengeance upon the man who killed who is rumored to be his own son. But is instead, after time, more about his sense of what the world is and his need or obsession in setting it right.
Faller is, had he been given a badge, very much the old western lawman. The Wyatt Earps or Bat Mastersons. Men who committed murder and atrocities against others in the name of the law. Faller for himself follows his own law.
The novel is lyrical, written in the halting and haunting lilt that is the brogue of the Irish. There is a style here, seasoned with the cadence that is flavored throughout a Cormac McCarthy novel. The seedier and honest side of human life. As if Daniel Woodrell wrote tales of the Irish Immigrant.
Red Sky In Morning is a terrific read. My issue with it is the ending and I won’t say anymore about it than I wished for something different. But overall, it is a very good read!
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