A boy runs away to fight in the civil war like his father, a young woman rediscovers her dreams, a man confronts a legendary figure that haunts the town where he spent his youth.
A story about growing up in a traveling carnival, revenge, love and the value of a good co-pilot when undertaking a long road trip.
A compelling and cleverly constructed story, tying past with modern day. A page turner that gripped my attention from the beginning and had me reading well into the night, wanting to unlock the secrets of the main protagonist, the hanged man.
The story starts with a short prologue describing the death of a Sherriff; it is not until the end that you learn the reasoning and the killer’s identity. We then get transported to the modern day, summer 1988, and we are introduced to a young woman with dreams of going to college again, saving the little money she gains from waitressing. Her name is Daisy, Daisy soon learns that her husband has spent all of her savings, and as she confronts him, he strikes her. Daisy then attacks, subsequently knocking him unconscious and fleeing.
A series of events leads to an encounter with a stranger, named Utah, dressed as a cowboy would be and evidently confused by modern life and technologies. He is also hunted by police for a series of gristly murders, he and Daisy set out to find sanctuary, eventually going separate ways, leaving several questions unanswered. Daisy knows little of Utah or his background, it is not until she finds a carnival leaflet on the floor that she learns a little more, but at the same time a bigger mystery unfolds, Utah has been alive over 120 years.
The story flows between past and modern day, we learn of Utah as a young boy, abandoned and alone, yet possessing deadly skills taught to him by his deceased father, skills which include shooting and knife throwing. We learn of his time with Dr Lazurus Miller’s medicine show and good time carnival, here he perfects his skills and makes friends. His talents bring him fame and his charm and luck mean he meets an abundance of women. One of these women he has feeling for, it is not until she is murdered that the skills he possesses are used as they are intended and justice and vengeance will be served.
An excellent debut novel by the author, Conor Mahood, it's brilliantly written and character building is fantastic. Each character is distinct and compelling, with their own set of skills, background, flaws and personality. The narrative is taut and riveting, a great, emotional and engaging read, a western with a contemporary twist, an unexpected ending that will leave you wanting more.
About the author
He is a writer for Trilabyrinth, a company based in Los Angeles and Dublin producing VFX and video games. http://trilabyrinth.com
He is currently working on his second novel, a magical realist story set in contemporary Dublin.
When did you start writing and why?
Like a lot of people I wrote stories from a young age and then let go of the idea of writing as a dream one is supposed to grow out of. I always had story ideas banging around in my head, but recently it finally reached the point where the easiest way to deal with that was to start writing them down again.
I write because I love certain kinds of stories and I feel like they will only exist if I create them.
What gave you the idea behind The Hanged Man?
Some years ago I was living in Colorado for a while and I took a long road trip to and through New Mexico. I'm from Ireland, there could hardly be a place further removed from what I grew up with. The desert was the loneliest, most beautiful place I had ever seen and I could never get it out of my head after that.
I'm in love with mythic characters, those heroes who may have flaws but they move through the world as something different, something beyond the normal. I wanted to tell a story about an exceptional individual who had the same doubts and pains as everyone else, set in this eerie, lonely place that moved me so deeply.
What are you currently working on?
I'm currently finishing my second novel, a book called "Somebody Else's Dream." It's about a young man who wakes beside a new lover only to have her tell him he isn't real, just something she dreamt last night. Eventually he realises she's telling the truth, walks out of her place into present-day Dublin and has to figure out what to do next. What follows is a story that tries to have a little compassion for all the discarded dreams wandering the earth out there, and maybe a little bit for the nightmares too.