Ollie Ewing has forgotten the thing that tells him who he is. The hero of Dermott Healey's Sudden Times has returned to Sligo to recover from "a few experiences" in London by laying low and listening to "complaints and sermons, jibes and asides" in his own head. Men are after him. A crowd of them. Or maybe not. He's in hiding, mostly from his own shame.

His brother Redmond and his best friend Marty are dead. It seems as though Marty died in a labouring accident but as snippets of Ollie's scatty recollections cohere, it becomes apparent that Marty was murdered, left in the back of a lorry, in a pile of charred bones. Redmond too, was flown home from Luton in a coffin and it isn't until much later in the novel that the details of his manslaughter are revealed. The deaths haunt Ollie and people in the town can see the danger in his eyes. His attempts to reintegrate socially and mentally are slack, confused, painful and absurdly funny. He shifts from job to job, finally getting routine and acceptance as a trolley check-out in Doyle's supermarket. "You have to break out before you can learn the laws of the tribe. And you have to break inside before you can learn your true nature." Ollie is often uncertain of time or place and dislocation overtakes him without warning, throwing the narrative back to London, forward to France, while Ollie is too frightened to move far at all.

Healy's prose has ripping dialogue, an amiable grace and moments of great, uncomplicated tenderness for Ollie and his estranged father, who's holed up in a single room in Coventry, a burnt-out labourer, too poor, proud and travel home. In one of the most hilarious scenes in the book, Ollie and his father and "a posse of retired, low-slung Sligo and Mayo men" roam the Midlands looking for a fiddler from Gurteen and a "bit of crack". "It was the sort of thing my father would do, go searching for a man he couldn't find." Ollie is a man Ollie cannot find, and Healy excels at a compassionate portrait of the loss of self, with a fierce, resilient humour and a touching, vulnerable love for his characters. He works the paradoxes of pathos and tenacity beautifully. The climax of what happened to Ollie is irresistibly sinister and packed with sustained menace and Healy mines the particular tragedy that can befall the working class Irish in England with astute bleakness. --Cherry Smyth

Genre: Thriller

Praise for this book

"Disturbing, funny, mad and beautifully human... it's a great novel and Dermot Healy is Ireland's greatest writer." - Roddy Doyle


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Used availability for Dermot Healy's Sudden Times

Hardback Editions

June 2000 : USA Hardback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 0-15-100578-8 / 978-0-15-100578-9 (USA edition)
Publisher: Harcourt
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


September 1999 : UK Hardback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 1-86046-672-9 / 978-1-86046-672-4 (UK edition)
Publisher: The Harvill Press
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


Paperback Editions

July 2015 : UK Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 0-571-28186-9 / 978-0-571-28186-2 (UK edition)
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


April 2011 : UK Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 0-09-956513-7 / 978-0-09-956513-0 (UK edition)
Publisher: Vintage
Availability: Amazon UK   


February 2001 : Canada Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 1-55278-183-6 / 978-1-55278-183-8 (Canada edition)
Publisher: McArthur & Co
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


June 2000 : UK Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times (Panther S.)
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 1-86046-730-X / 978-1-86046-730-1 (UK edition)
Publisher: Vintage
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


October 1999 : Canada Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 1-55278-087-2 / 978-1-55278-087-9 (Canada edition)
Publisher: McArthur & Co
Availability: Amazon UK   Amazon CA   


May 1999 : UK Paperback
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
ISBN: 1-86046-681-8 / 978-1-86046-681-6 (UK edition)
Publisher: Harvill Press
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   Amazon AU   


Kindle Editions

July 2015 : UK Kindle edition
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
Publisher: Faber & Faber
Availability: Amazon UK   


May 2011 : USA, Canada, UK Kindle edition
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Title: Sudden Times
Author(s): Dermot Healy
Publisher: Vintage Digital
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA