Roads and Circuses By Tom Mazzone

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“If what you want and what you get meet half way, consider yourself a lucky person.” So advises Bernard O’Malley, of the West Dubliner O’Malleys, in this free-ranging, hilarious commentary on life in general, Irish politics in particular, and the goings-on of the O’Malley clan in passing.

Well, really, it’s mainly about eldest son Marcus O’Malley, who slogs his way through boarding school, then law school, with single-minded adherence to another motto of the family: “Inaction will lead to being run over, so keep moving.”

Marcus becomes a celebrated barrister with many calls upon his time and attention. Unlikely events and a colorful cast of supporting characters keep him well occupied. When he’s not roundly defending his bald head against unwarranted attacks by boorish ex-classmates, he’s complimenting his future wife Ciara: “You look nice with clothes on,” he tells her one drunken night at a party.

Eventually, he’s talked into running for political office by a kindly, white-haired gentleman who paradoxically has the pull to make an axe murderer — a persistent would-be client of Marcus — mysteriously go away in handcuffs. For Marcus, life is good in his new role as defender of the downtrodden. He fills every pothole in West Dublin, then sets his sights on higher aspirations.

“The fastest way to a destination in Ireland (is) via a crooked and wide line,” he pontificates, and, after spending years in his first term being a do-gooder, he sets about to drastically change tacks. One whisky-soaked evening he’s watching a documentary on Adolph Hitler and decides the man had the right idea — at least in the beginning. Visions of national pride engendered by fiery rhetoric and an iron fist begin to resonate in Marcus’s befogged brain cells.

But how to go about it and still be adored? He partners with a wide variety of businessmen and real estate developers to substantially remake West Dublin, but his ambitions now include becoming the youngest P.M. in the nation’s history. He can’t do that with nickel-and-dime resolutions and revolutionary land developments. He’s got to have a Cabinet position.

This he achieves smoothly by becoming Minister for Justice and Equality. One of his first actions is to get his sister, Therese, a job in the Passport Office. “This didn’t raise any eyebrows, since nepotism in Ireland was as common as moaning at the rain.”

On and on it goes, as the political intrigue becomes ever more outrageous, and Marcus moves ahead with his plans to assume dictatorial rule by the time he reaches his mid-forties. Among the many new measures he plans to put in place: a Passing Wind / Excessive Gas Tax — twelve cents a fart, levied when outside one’s residence.

The author shows a masterful hand at painting the tomfoolery that oftentimes accompanies political maneuvering not just in Ireland but around the world. His characters are finely drawn and the story never lags — right up to the unexpected conclusion.

Five stars to Roads and Circuses, and to its talented author, Tom Mazzone. I look forward to the next installment of this series.

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