Review by Ian Keogh
Bernard Brady works with iron in his foundry, designing, welding and creating, but he’s a man with a past and well able to handle himself when it comes to indulging his sense of injustice. His son P. J. is now a police sergeant, and officially despairs his father’s individual notions of justice, while admiring his strong ethical outlook. Johnny is a street kid because he’s neglected by drunken parents at home, and when he sees people breaking into Bernard’s premises he lets Bernard know, and all three characters become involved in what spins into a spirited urban crime drama.
In the eyes of the world millennium era Dublin was a thriving European city, immensely different from even twenty years previously, with architect Gerry Hunt playing a part in that. Yet for Streets of Dublin he strips back that modern facade, showing the suburban working class communities where people still ride and trade horses, and live in deprived three storey estates. The utter poverty and lack of social concern breeds desperation, and Hunt brings through that there’s always someone prepared to exploit that for their own gain.
A quote on the back of the book from Irish Times reviewer Ed Power notes Hunt’s work as ripe for film adaptation, and this has a realism, what British soap operas when at their best dramatise so well. Hunt has a feel for locations and for characters, and the flow of the story has a fast pace and brutality, and an acceptance of that being life as it is for some people without any form of judgement. Hunt’s art matches this urgency. It’s not perfect, but the layouts work and he’s good at characterising people. You can tell the way they are from the way they look, and he doesn’t shy away from explicitly presenting the grim results of their poor choices. It’s also very much influenced by the grittier boys’ stories in the likes of Action during the 1970s, but given unique elements such as the important part played by horses.
Unfortunately the urban realism isn’t quite maintained until the end, which has more in common with a Punisher story, but Hunt is otherwise sure-footed and capable, and an infectious enthusiasm carries Streets of Dublin a long way.