I’ve been a bit rubbish at promoting The Lost Tribes since publishing it at the tail end of 2018. In hindsight, it was a bad choice for a second novel. It has none of the hooks of altruism or education which have garnered me good reception. Indeed, it’s a nasty book with no redeeming characters, and the central epic of the Ulster Cycle is purposely anti-academic, told through an unreliable berate-r narrator.
(For an actual sourced rendition of these legends, buy up Patrick Brown’s Cattle Raid of Cooley graphic novel.)
‘Spide’ is a slang term in popular usage in Northern Ireland referring to feckless male troublemakers, junkies and layabouts. Another variant is ‘steek’. In England the equivalent is ‘chav’, so I’m told. Spide’s roots come from 1970s Ulster paramilitaries, who wore spider tattoos on their necks, before becoming more casually used. (I suspect that word link muted one editor to compromising over a similarly branded but tangential work.)
The short novel is narrated by Dan Spide, who along with his sidekick Ape, is typical of those Irvine Welsh archetypes to be found on any low-rent council estate: swilling cheap lager; sexist; racist; horizons peaking with the next welfare cash or anticipated beating.
‘The Lost Tribes’ is a multi-fold extension, viewing the scoundrels’ own psychological turmoil in the wider culture of local authority figures with batshit insane philosophies. It’s a feature of N. Ireland’s political communications that a small vocal elite polices with literal Bible truths , Westboro Baptist ethics and tacitly endorsing paramilitary acts.
A subset of these subscribe to an Ulster-British concept where they self-identify as direct descendants of Israel’s lost tribe of Dan. Peter Robinson. Nelson McCausland. Edwin Poots. Never mind that the lost tribe of Dan has more biblical links to God’s banished, (necromancy, for one), these lead politicos and their advisors draw their family trees from Jeremiah and Jacob through Conchobar, Nuada and classical Irish myth. Stories where study tells of alteration to improve the fiction. The time displacement reeks.
I wanted to understand and show the perspectives of Dan and Ape and of these crazy rulers of the world. I’ve paired their ‘truths’ with the train route between Northern and Southern Ireland , making for a sort of psycho’s geography. It’s stories within stories, a slow build into an Indiana Jones romp, if Indy was a paranoid xenophobe. I’ve read their literature. The sources make for the most un-credible conspiracy theories.