generation searching for new direction
Skerries author Patrick Bentley talks to John Manning this week about his triumphant return to the book shelves with his eagerly awaited follow up to the successful debut novel ‘Darkline’ which plots an ambitious course that ultimately points to a new direction for his characters and his country
Patrick Bentley is a man on a mission but to find out exactly what that mission is you will have to make it to the end of the mighty tome that is his intriguing new novel, ‘A Nation out of Time’.
‘A Nation out of Time’ is the follow-up to his hugely successful debut novel, Darkline which took the Skerries author to thousands of doorsteps where he met his readers face-to-face selling his book in the most direct way possible.
All those thousands of encounters with readers informs the new book which takes up where Dark Line left off but is set in a troubled Ireland, consumed with a banking crisis, failed by its institutions, its politicians, its church, without a sense of purpose or direction and ‘out of time’.
Patrick began writing with his own autobiography, entitled ‘Jagged Edge’ which told his tale of survival. Patrick was abused as a child, locked up in reform schools and ultimately sent to prison. The Skerries man turned to drugs for salvation before finding God, losing him, finding Him again and then putting it all down on paper so that others might avoid the cul-de-sacs his extraordinary life led him down from time to time.
The autobiography was followed by his debut novel ‘Dark Line’ in a bid to lift the lid on Ireland’s drug culture and perhaps save a few lost souls along the way. When that book came out, Patrick explained to the Fingal Independent: ‘I thought I wanted to have a go at a full-blown novel that would really attack the dangers of the drug culture for young people.’
Lisa was the central character of the book, described by Patrick as a ‘Celtic Tiger cub. She’s on Facebook and has a group of girlfriends she goes out with and they are all taking cocaine and ecstasy on a regular basis’.
Lisa has an awakening in the book and turns away from drugs and falls in love with her soul-mate, David. In the new novel, ‘Nation Out of Time’ we find Lisa on another painful and dangerous adventure and in the middle of a mystery, putting her life on the line to uncover a mysterious ‘third code’ found on the case file of murdered man, Jason Bailey.
That’s where the new story begins but there is a lot more to this new book than a simple crime thriller. Patrick explains there is an historical backdrop to the events in the book this time around and through his character’s eyes, he takes a cold long stare at Ireland and what it has become and where it might go.
It is Patrick’s thesis, that almost 100 years after the Easter Rising, Ireland is yet to be free and has simply swapped one type of enslavement for another.
The Skerries author explains: ‘The banking crisis, abuse scandals and our drug culture have all enslaved us and people are looking around for hope – we can escape a recession but can we escape a drug culture that threatens to destroy the next generation of kids? Is there hope for them?’
Patrick is worried for the current generation of young people, a generation he feels has been let down and lack a sense of direction or identity. He said: ‘Everyone has let them down – governments have let them down, religions have let them down, banks have let them down and this new generation don’t have any trust in any authority – there’s no sense of direction and in all of that where do you find purpose and where do you find peace?’
That’s just one of the big questions, Patrick set out to find the answer to in the more than 500 pages of his epic new novel.
The dangers of Ireland’s modern drug culture are again front and centre in this novel. Patrick explained: ‘I’ve been on the doors nearly three years, selling the book and I’ve talked to tens of thousands of people and a lot of parents I talk to say it is their greatest fear when their kids go out the door that they have no control over what happens them on the social scene. T
‘The drug culture is accessible to all and drugs are so easy to come by now. Drink is a huge problem too obviously. That’s where we have landed and that’s what the book is about.’
‘There’s something else going on in the background too and it’s a story that’s never really been told.
‘There was a prophecy made about this crash and that all these things were going to happen and I first heard of it about 25 years ago. I was in a room with ten or 15 people and nobody found it particularly interesting but for some reason it twigged with me.
‘The next time I heard about it was sitting in a McDonald’s in Santry, talking to a friend of mine and a bell went off in my head and it ended up in the book.’
To find out more about that element of the story and where it leads Patrick’s characters, well you will just have to read the book but having completed the tome, the Skerries author believes that writing ‘A Nation Out of Time’ was the most important piece of work he will ever do.
Patrick explained: ‘I believe I’ve survived a near death experience – I should be dead, really. And I believe I survived because God has a purpose for my life.
‘You don’t go through all I’ve gone through and survive it and be able to sit here eight years later with a stable life, a wife and a home without there being some purpose in mind and I believe it is my purpose to write this book.’
Like Dark Line, A Nation Out of Time delves into some dark and murky corners of Irish life as Patrick’s own life once did, but like his life, his books ultimately provide hope of a new way forward.
‘Everyone is looking for hope and where do you find hope? That’s what the book is about,’ Patrick told the Fingal Independent.
The Skerries author, who now lives in Balbriggan, admits that while it is not deliberate, a lot of his own experience ends up in his novels.
He explained: ‘Whatever is in your own heart and soul and whatever has happened to you in your life, does come across in your writing – there is no doubt about that.
‘I do see a lot of myself in these characters – you don’t do it purposely but it happens naturally.
‘I think people will read this and think that this story has never been told and my hope that not only teenagers read it but their parents read it.
‘I only write about this stuff because it really does happen and to give parents the tools to deal with it. I hope parents will recognise that I’m on their side.
‘We’re going to wake up some Sunday morning to news of another teenager that has died of an overdose and people will say we have to do more, let’s do something about this – well, that’s what I’m trying to do.’
Since publishing Dark Line, Patrick says the youth drug scene has only got worse and he puts that down to his assertion that this generation of young people lack confidence and a certain sense of direction. They were the Celtic Tiger cubs that had the rug pulled out from under them during the crash and are struggling to find their feet ever since.
This book and a lot of the Skerries author’s thoughts are concerned with helping them find their feet again.
Patrick Bentley does more than right books, he starts missions and this book heralds the beginning of a new one that will once again send him door-to-door selling not only his books but his message.
It is a hard slog for an author just complete a book of this size and complexity but it is a whole other physical challenge to take on to sell thousands of these books door-to-door, taking him to pretty much every county in Leinster and sometimes, beyond.
That test of endurance proved a little too much at one point during the Dark Line campaign when he now confesses, Patrick suffered a complete physical and emotional ‘burn out’.
He worked through it slowly but surely and in a triumph of will, managed to keep writing the new novel through it all.
He has picked up many fans along the way, not least of which is the famous blues man, Don Baker who has professed his love of Patrick’s work and helped him launch the new book at a special event in Raff’s on the Corner in Skerries, last week where the Fingal Independent cameras were in place to capture a great night for the local author.
Patrick wanted to throw a big party for the launch of the new book and welcome all those people who have supported him and his writing.
This is a writer that is truly grateful to have an audience and in an unusual but touching move, his new book is dedicated to no one individual but simply to all ‘the kind hearted people who supported my book Dark Line at the doors, and elsewhere’,
Now that the writing is done on this latest tome, Patrick looks back on his efforts, saying that this was ‘by mar the most amazing experience I’ve ever had, writing a book’.
While ‘A Nation Out of Time’ might seem like a dark and heavy read from the weighty issues it tackles, the Skerries author reassures readers that there is a lot of comedy in the book too.
Patrick has been quietly satisfied in the lead up to releasing the book, catching his wife having a giggle at some of the lighter moments in his latest novel. The tag-line for the book is ‘sometimes the last chapter is only the beginning’ and we are sure this is just the beginning for this talented local author too.