Skilful portraits of small drab Irish towns and their inhabitants, places where streets are 'woeful', the surrounding hills 'morbid' and skies 'dishwater'.
Characters overly familiar perhaps: drinkers, talkers, singers, fighters, dreamers, chancers: 'fine specimens of fear and bile and broken sleep'.
There are quiet country pubs and desperate farms and collapsing old houses. There is drizzle and general damp. There are old fellas. There is stout; 'the rush and mingle of the brown and cream notes, and the blackness rising, a magic show you would never tire of.'
The language is vernacular and the dialogue comic: 'You're like the auld farmer hitting off to a matchmaking festival. He's had the first bath of the year. He has the hair slicked back with strong tea. He's dragged a comb through his teeth...and he's set the hens on automatic.'
The mood is melancholic, resigned, regretful: 'The years come in, the years go out. The longer you'd sit and look at it, the life of the town would contract to almost nothing, to the merest glimpse of life, the tiniest crack of light against the black.'
Men long for a fine tenor voice and girls for keys to cars.
We're in Ireland all right. Oh yes indeed, sor. That violent, sentimental, feckless land mythologised by countless writers over the centuries. Barry's version is slightly O'Disneyfied: no internet, mobiles, politics. In pictures, the author wear a battered brown hat. His prose and turn of phrase steer these stories away from cliche (though one character does actually say 'To be sure, to be sure', and eejits abound) though he never ventures towards the true despair of Beckett. His future-set novel, 'City of Bohane' seems to be an interesting way forward.