Caimh McDonnell is a stand up comic, writes for multiple TV sketch shows and among all that fits in being the announcer at London Irish Rugby Club.
Now, the Dubliner has found the time to pen his first novel, and it is well worth a read for the premise alone. Main character Paul Muchrone volunteers at his local hospice, a ‘granny-whisperer’, a loner who lends his nondescript face to comforting dementia patients who assume he is a friend or relative from years gone by. Funny, heart-warming stuff. Until the novel takes on a crime caper alter-ego when Caimh bumps into the wrong patient and goes on an adventure with murder-mystery afficianado Nurse Brigit Conroy – the woman who initially signed him up for his volunteer duties.
It is a genuine crime book. And, of course, genuinely funny.
“People said you couldn’t have a funny crime thriller, and I suppose there was an element of trying to prove them wrong,” says the author.
Set in Dublin, Paul ends up going on a mission to solve one of the country’s biggest 30-year-old mysteries, while confronting various obstacles in an almost ‘farce’ which includes trying to escape the clutches of professional assasins. But it is not farcical to the point of hysterical and Caimh has a genuine talent for the crime thriller genre, which does result in some truly edge-of-your seat moments.
The plot is extremely well thought out and seems to move seamlessly, as does the interludes between humour and drama. Caimh, who says his name throws up many pronunciation errors, ‘not least because if you spell it phonetically Q-W-E-E-V, doesn’t even have one of the original letters in’, refers to himself professionally as the White Haired Irishman for ease, as well as titling his website by the term too.
The Manchester- based comic always wanted to write a book, and despite his extensive experience in writing material, wanted to make sure he did it properly, going to Manchester Met university for a special writing course.
“One of the things I learnt was the importance of peers as critics. Of course my wife wants to read my stuff but after that people do it as a favour, or aren’t interested or aren’t critical enough.
“It was wonderful being in a room full of people who all wanted to write and could critique it properly.”
And he also learnt to take baby steps.
“In my ‘training’ I started small, writing short stories. Actually, that’s where the first idea for the plot of this story came from before it turned into a novel.
“But yeah, I started writing short stories first as you wouldn’t want to train for a marathon just by running 26 miles on your first attempt, it wouldn’t make sense.”
The characters in the book are extremely stand-out and the humour is evident throughout. Does Caimh base them on specific people he knows in his life?
“Well I think everyone you create, whoever they are, has to be based on at least some elements of what you know for sure.”
And was it hard to balance the crime thriller element with comedy seeing as he is used to writing for the specific intention of making people laugh usually?
“It was all in the editing. I didn’t want the humour to take away from the plot, so there is one scene at the end which had what I thought is a really good joke, but my editor told me to maybe take it out. And you have to be able to have that hit to your pride and be ruthless because otherwise you are taking away from the story you are setting out to read.
“But generally, maybe it is because I am a comic the humour comes naturally as opposed to me forcing it in. I would tend to see the funny things in life anyway so you could recall it for stand-up or material or whatever, and the story allows for that humour to naturally come through due to the situations the characters find themselves in, and just their nature too.”
And it is proving popular with online reviewers too, with the majority of people giving it a full five stars on goodread.com and Amazon..
“That’s great to hear and I already have my idea sorted for the sequel which I’m looking forward to working on.” Paul is also enjoying his long-term role as announcer at London Irish.
“I was always a rugby fan and when I first moved over here I would follow London Irish. One day my agent rang me and said the club were looking for an announcer and would I be interested. I told him that I was already wearing their jersey as he was talking to me! “The club must have been looking at ten or so different candidates and my CV said I had done MC’ing so they were interested, and I just couldn’t say no.
“I’ve been there for fourteen years now and it really is like a family down there, I’ve gotten to know the players who came up through the youth system and their parents. This year is really exciting now that we are trying to get promoted again.
“There was a nice crowd at the opening game and a real sense of promise. They also moved all the fans together so it seemed like it created more of an atmosphere too.”
A Man With One of Those Faces is available now for £7.99 through McFori Ink.