Reviewed by: Keith Nixon
Approximate word count: 15-20,000 words
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Gerard Brennan lives in Northern Ireland with his family and recently completed an MA in creative writing at Belfast University. Gerard has previously published several other works including the novel, Wee Rockets, a novella, The Point, several short story collections and contributed to a number of anthologies.
You can learn more about Gerard on his website.
Danny Gibson is in a home for young offenders, in for a stretch after previous bad behavior. He has to prove to his teachers and psychologist that he’s a reformed character before he can be released. But that’s difficult after a lifetime of running wild on the streets of Belfast and when his fellow ‘inmates’ are trying to get him in trouble. Danny knows only one way to act, until he meets Conan that is.
Gerard Brennan is one of my favourite authors. He writes highly accomplished and gritty crime fiction. However, underneath the vast majority of his stories are softer human elements, the characters often existing in a dog-eat-dog world but fighting to be something more. One example is Bouncer, a short story from the previously reviewed Other Stories…
Danny is one of the main characters from Wee Rockets. His incarceration is supposed to turn him around, but as usual he’s simply revolting against the regime and fighting for position with his peers. Danny is unlikely to ever conform.
Then he comes across Conan Quinlan, who, of course, gets nicknamed The Barbarian. Conan is a gentle giant and displays some distinctly odd behavior at times. Danny isn’t sure whether he’s friend or foe. Whether he’s disabled or not. But they quickly, and unexpectedly (to Danny at least) form an increasingly strong bond.
The boys are offered some community support work at a nearby castle – time outside the institution is very rare – but Danny takes events into his own hands and a really touching and emotional series of events occurs. The element Mr. Brennan handles so well is that another person, loaded with his own problems, is what ultimately begins Danny’s transformation, not the rigidity of routine, law and psychology.
Overall Wee Danny is a powerful and touching story of friendship over adversity and disability. I’m not ashamed to admit I spent the majority of the tale smiling my stupid head off. Excellent writing in a small package that’s brought to a great conclusion with an economy of words. Perhaps Mr. Brennan’s best work to date. It’s no accident that another excellent Irish writer, Colin Bateman, rates him so highly.
Rating: ***** Five Stars