Tag Archives: Irish folklore

The Monday Book: THE SILVER TATTOO by Laura Treacy Bentley

tattooDark literary thrillers are not my thing; I got this book in the post from the author who requested consideration for the Monday Book. We like to support regional authors (and she’s in WV) so while prepared to be optimistic, I worried I’d not have much to say about it.

But I totally loved Bentley’s writing. She has a great way with details and scene-setting. Her characters are not driving the plot; the plot drives the plot, specifically the psychotic weirdness of the stalker after her protagonist Leah. Bentley paints the slow, steady suspenseful rise with increasing depictions of violence or madness that pretty much verge on poetic. In the background hover tributes to Irish folklore that add nice atmosphere.

Bentley’s writing reminds me of two fantasy authorities: Ray Bradbury (one of her writing heroes, so it stands to reason) and Stephen King. She has that playful sense of poetry that Bradbury has, and like King she eschews explanation and too-obvious depictions of what’s going on inside the person’s head– a la King’s “he did it because he did it” writing.

This is a scene-by-scene book, and some of the scenes are quite intense. If you like plots that are less twist-and-turn than finely drawn, if you like to figure out for yourself why someone is behaving as they are,  or if you like Irish mythology, you’re going to love The Silver Tattoo.


Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, folklore and ethnography, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch, writing, YA fiction


lizEvery other year on my annual tour of Scotland I divert for a couple of days to Ireland. Specifically we drive up the beautiful Northeast coastal route to the Giant’s Causeway and thence to Ballyeamon Barn.

The barn is located in one of the stunning Antrim Glens that radiate back from the coast, and is attached to the home of Liz Weir. Liz is a highly regarded, internationally famous professional storyteller. She purchased a run-down farm house and steadings with help from the European Union some 20 years ago, and has worked hard to turn it into a comfortable hostel-cum-performance space where she provides hospitality to walkers, tourists, and storytelling and traditional music enthusiasts, among others.

We first got to know her when my wife introduced me to the world of storytelling; Liz had booked her for one of the festivals she ran, and they got on like a house afire. Liz subsequently attended our wedding in Auchtermuchty, Scotland and we’ve been working with each other off and on ever since, from Belfast to Dublin and across to the States, including my Scottish tour going to Liz’s storytelling barn on even years.

Which brings me neatly to why I have the greatest regard for Liz.

She is a brave woman! She involved herself in the Irish peace process when bombs and shootings were the order of the day, when it would have been easy to say (as the recently ennobled Australian Director of the Edinburgh International Arts Festival did) “we need to keep politics out of the arts.”

Liz worked both sides of the conflict with her particular branch of the arts to bring them together, using music and stories to raise awareness of a common humanity and shared values. In the process, of course, the vested interests on each side had her on both their hit-lists. Liz’s agenda wasn’t non-political – not by a long chalk. Her political message? This has gone on too long and there are bad folks on both sides who are taking everyone for a ride. Enough is enough!

So Liz is one of my real living heroes and we could do with a lot more like her.

If you would like to meet her and spend time with her I can offer you two opportunities – she will be appearing at a house-concert here at the bookstore this coming Monday (Sep. 9th) at 7 pm ($8/$5unwaged). Or can join my 2015 tour at the end of June and experience the the hospitality of Ballyeamon Barn.

Slainte Mhath Liz Weir and lang may yir lum reek!


Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, humor, Life reflections, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, writing