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Latest Review by Claire Ryan, Oxygen

David Cowzer's A Matter of Life and Death review

World cup nostalgia, rollicking picaresque adventures and class A narcotics are all to be found here, says Claire Ryan.

 

With the World Cup in full swing, David Cowzer's first novel A Matter of Life and Death is released just in time to relive Irelands glories in Japan four years ago, as a way to console ourselves over the fact that we didnt qualify this year. But this book isnt just about the highs and lows of the World Cup; in fact, that only plays a small part in what is a high speed dash half way across the world on the trail of gangsters, smuggled cocaine and a passage home. The book introduces us to the world of Nick Dunne Davis, an obnoxious garage owner and small time cocaine supplier. When a shipment of cocaine goes missing, Tony Doyle, one of Dublins toughest gangsters, sends his associates around to the garage to have a word with Nick. As luck would have it, his mechanic Barry turns up at just the right moment to get him out of trouble.

After a fast dash across Dublin where they inadvertently cause the death of Tony Doyles nephew in their efforts to escape him, they realise that they must go on the run before they are the next to be killed. Armed only with a Honda 50 and the missing cocaine, they take off across Europe on a mission to sell the cocaine and buy their way out of trouble back in Ireland. Needless to say, their plans dont work out exactly as they would have liked, and they have to find an alternative route to safety. With a possible stop off at the World Cup on the way.

All the while, they are blissfully unaware of everything that is taking place in Japan, in what was possibly Irelands most eventful World Cup as Roy Keane was sent home from the Irish squad. But as far as Barry is concerned, his hero is leading the team to victory, and apart from trying to escape certain death, all that is on his mind is making it back to Ireland, or just to a television set, in time to see Keane lift the trophy.

The action doesnt let up for a minute in this book, and Cowzers creative style of writing leaves you feeling like you are on the run with the two men, living through their adventures with them. The story progresses well and it is interesting to witness the way in which Nick and Barrys relationship moves on from hating each other, to grudgingly getting along to actually enjoying the others company, but of course never admitting it.

In Barry and Nick, Cowzer has created two of the most interesting and lively Irish characters to be seen in recent years. Barry really progresses throughout the story, going from a hardworking Dub who minds his own business, brought through disappointment and fear as their journey continued, to final triumph. Nick Dunne Davis provided most of the comic relief through the story, with plenty of laugh out loud moments. While we were first greeted with an impression of a spoilt young yuppie who you would love to hate; you do grow to love him and his schemes as the book goes on. And who couldnt feel sorry for a fully grown man who had to ride on the back of a motorbike that was being driven by a naked Barry, while wearing a size 10 summer dress and a German war helmet, and being chased by an angry Dutch farmer with a shotgun? It goes without saying that this isnt the most conventional book ever written about two men going to the World Cup!

There is also a strong set of background characters, whose stories are an interesting respite from the main action of the book. Their personalities also give a good insight into the two main characters as we get to see what they are really like through the eyes of the people who know them best.

This is Cowzers first book, written after taking a year out from his job as a copywriter, and with the wealth of talent he has shown here; hopefully it wont be the last we see of him. It goes without saying that this book will appeal to all football fans, but theres also a great story there for those of us arent. And its definitely one worth turning to when you cant stand the thought of watching another World Cup game!

Claire Ryan, oxygen

 

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David Cowzer has won more than 50 national and international awards for his advertising work to date.

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