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Calan McCarthy

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Calan McCarthy is a writer of Irish descent who has written three novels, a short story and a collection of poems. His material spans multi genres – Westerns, Spy, Science Fiction and Gothic. His most recent publication Stalemate is a Cold War spy novel penned as John Isaac. An excerpt from his novel in progress – Capstone is included in Issue 14 of Impspired Literary Magazine online and in the Print Anthology.

Capstone is set in New Mexico during the 1860s and is a poetic adventure of violence and hubris following the life of the BOY who is caught in a Miltonic odyssey of bloody savagery. Based on historical events that took place on the Great Plains of Native American country, the boy is left for dead near Santa Fe, his family murdered and is hove into a feverish world of Bluecoats and Mexicans who butcher for sport.

Excerpt from CAPSTONE:

THIS CHILD. Twelve years since his birth. Small boy of raven hair. Skinnier than a prairie muskrat. His spotless eyes observe the labour of his folk while they harrow down the scorched purlieu in the white heat of the dry noon sun but his father has been a minister. A dozen years. Preaching the good book before tenet stanched by doubt and bare conscience. He is Texas born. His wife halfbreed. And while the black sky casts pinpoints of light the boy watches his mother suckle the infant by stentorian blue flame as wolves slank the ambit with unsilent howl. He watches his father enter a void of thought prohibited by living man as he draws circumspect on his clay pipe. On a certain day they are humbled by a weekly dose of wrathful tongue and the auguries of the reverend fall upon his listeners like a plague of hailstone and the boy shuts his ears watching the faces of the congregation gathered. He sees fear in their eyes. A fear he will later feel on their journey homeward. He sees a small girl perched on a makeshift hassock regarding him with her halcyon eye, her hair as gold as the dawn or a dying solstice sun. She smiles but he does not return it and her mother vents disapproval, moving her towards that dour voice of contention. The rain has been falling during the extent of the reverend’s sermon and the boy listens to the patter as it strikes the canvas tent and he likens the sound to that colony of ants he had watched on the prairie scuttling about the nest mindlessly.
The rain stops as has the homily and his father makes for the livery stable to untether the horse and flatbed wagon. He walks it to the rear of the tent and they ready themselves for the several mile journey ahead. The boy is cold and buries himself beneath the pallet in the wagon and falls asleep to the motion of the scantling shifting and fraying over the dark loam earth. They reach a small creek and the boy is woken by the sudden jolt of their standstill. He opens his eyes but does not move.
What is it you want? he hears his father say. His escopeta lies across his thigh and he indicates to the riders of their prising it. You can take this here rifle. Just don’t want no trouble now. They offer no reply and he is made uneasy by their presence and the cradled infant begins to cry as if summoned by some spectral prediction and the folk bid her hush while the ominous faction look on with their faces slathered with almagre and mounted on their horses like monoliths. A band of carrion birds drop weary black notes upon the motionless scene and a lizard scratches about on the parched dust, for there has been no rain there and the creek trickles effortlessly through rock and eelgrass but nothing is still said and at length a brave appears up on the ridge above them waiting as if there for the view.
The father attempts to whet their appetite with scant pickings of his wares and as he reaches for them into the wagon he pinions his son to stay put with his large firm hand. The wares are spread out on the ground before them and the Comanche survey the chattels with mute indifference. One of the four braves astraddle a white stallion points to the rifle and the man tenders it with both hands from bended knee hoping above all hope a neutral trade can be determined. This same brave perhaps the chief is clad in buffalo hide and a feathered headdress, his long braided hair in a scalp lock with beaver fur and the sole tribesman of the four in such attire. As he dismounts his horse a hundredhead riders unite from the kerfs of the ridge overhead and like a herd of antelope they descend the talus slope and wheel round the creek to flank the wagon. The chief aforementioned walks towards the man takes the shotgun and surveys it turning it over in hand then pitches it to one of the tribe behind him while the infant continues to cry. Without warning he unsheathes a large blade proceeds forward and cuts the man’s throat ear to ear and the woman screams a terrifying shriek of fear yet still the boy does not move. The chief then places the blade to the dead man’s scalp and yanks it clean from his head with little labour and the bloody skull lies tonsured flooding the dustslaked earth beneath him. His next move is a sudden one for he tears the infant from its mother, taking it by the throat and with all his strength of barehand scrags the child until entirely dead. The woman now desolate with grief climbs down from the wagon falling to her knees and gathers the remains of her crushed child from the fouled earth as the trammelled heat beats down on her and as she embraces it in sodden agony the natives look on insensate and unyielding.
The unseen boy has rank terror in his eyes and this fear he has never known weighs heavy on him as if gravity itself depresses his small thin frame. A redtailed hawk soars overhead shedding uneven symbols above qualified prey then a drove of arrows release and they are each unerring in ambition. The first cleaves through the woman’s left eye, the rest a retardance through torso and limb delivering her to the blood blackened dust where the dead child lies. A pandemonium of ungodly syllables spew from the flanked Comanche as they circle the dead with speed raising clouds of victory dust to the firmament while the chief clutches the dead woman’s hair, winding it round his left arm then cleaves the scalp clean off. Another of the four untethers the horse from the wagon and ties it to the trailing reins of his horse before he hobbles the limbs of the dead folk and fastens them to the recruited horse, then a torrent of gunfire erupts and the hundredhead horses stampede the turf balefully and as they exit the territory they torch the pilfered wagon blind to the boy nested there. The flames surge quickly and the boy is squirrelled with fright. He feels the burning heat through the pallet swell as the terror takes root of his soul. Attempting to flee he makes for the opening of the wagon with the pallet trussed to his back and with the flames ablaze he at length jumps from the pyre unscathed and beaten.



Stalemate is set during the bleak days of the Cold War following the British Intelligence debacle of the Cambridge Five. An old case – Operation Vesna – has resurfaced, purportedly linked, and photographic intelligence is vouchsafed through an external source to MI6 operative, Saul Mercer giving evidence of a long-term Soviet spy. Charles Rutherford, the Head of Operations, has ordered Mercer to break ranks and delve into a murky and elusive path of deception and murder to uncover the Soviet handler and his British agent.

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