Here’s a blog post that I originally did for the wonderful Cleopatra Loves Books website about how reality came to spookily mirror events that happen in The Day That Never Comes.
In the middle of December I went home to Dublin for a ‘working holiday’ when something very peculiar happened. It was a ‘working holiday’ because I was going over the final, final, final proofs of my latest book The Day That Never Comes that my editor had sent over. This meant sitting in my mother’s backroom while she nipped in every fifteen or so minutes to make sure I wasn’t being disturbed. She’d occasionally mix this with standing outside the door loudly telling my dad to eat his toast more quietly.
To give you some background, my book is a crime thriller set in Dublin. One of the things that happens in it is that a group of homeless people take over an office building in central Dublin that the Irish government have left unoccupied. I awoke one morning to an excited email from my friend Brendan in Ghana, who was one of the few people bar my editor who had read the book up until this point. The reason for his excitement was he had been reading the Irish Times online and a group of homeless people had just taken over an office building in central Dublin that the Irish government had left unoccupied.
The name of the real building in question is Apollo House and it has been big news in Ireland and has even gained some coverage internationally. Of all the many, many coincidences between Apollo House and the Ark, the real building stands about a four-minute walk across the River Liffey from where I imagined the fake one would be.
I currently live in Manchester in the north of England, which is actually a lot alike Dublin in many ways; sadly one of those is that in the last decade there has been a shocking explosion in homelessness in both cities. It is normally hard in hindsight to recall exactly what inspired the ideas that end up in your book, but I’d be pretty certain that the shanty town that existed on Oxford Road in Manchester that I walked by most days, at least until the authorities ripped it down, was a large part of the inspiration for the fictional ‘Ark’ building that appears in my book.
Now, I should point out, the Ark is merely a small part of my novel and it is not a book about homelessness. Really, where its core inspiration comes from is the anger I think most people feel, in Ireland and elsewhere, where they suffered and continue to suffer the effects of an economic collapse that was caused by the reckless actions of a few people. Certainly in Ireland, with the enormous bank bailout that occurred, it feels like there is a well of anger that has never really been dealt with. The driving engine behind my novel is the idea of what would happen if someone decided to extract their revenge by killing the people they hold responsible for the collapse.
Still though, the similarities between my fictional Ark and the real Apollo House are frankly a bit freaky. It is very odd as an author to see something you had hypothesized played out in reality. I think I got both the Irish public’s reaction (almost total support) and the Irish government’s response (almost total embarrassment) pretty much bang on. The thing which most caught me by surprise was that I never in a million years thought someone in authority would make the case that these poor people should be evicted from the building and put back on the freezing mid-winter streets ‘for their own safety’. Even in fiction, that seemed like to bizarre and cruel an argument.
In reality, the occupants of Apollo House have now been evicted by order of the High Court, once temporary accommodation had been found for them elsewhere. Their actions have also done an awful lot to raise awareness of an issue that for too long went ignored.
Let’s just say, in the fictional version of events in my book, things don’t end quite so peacefully. The Irish government should take note.