Keane, John B.  

Short Stories of John B. Keane | John B Keane | Fiction


A collection of John B. Keanes short stories.

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There are more shades to John B. Keane's humour than there are colours in the rainbow. Compassion, shrewdness and a glorious sense of fun and roguery are evident in this collection, which brings together all of John B's short stories. 


In this collection are gems such as 'A Hanging', a tale of accusation by silence in a small village, which shows both the comic and tragic effects of small-town gossip, and 'Guaranteed Pure', which concerns the innocence of bachelor Willie Ramley, who is seeking an unsullied bride in Ireland.


To see other books by John B. Keane, click here.





Each of the five was decked out in a long shift which fell to the toes and which concealed all the shapeliness thereunder. The shifts were off-white in colour and the material lightweight. What Willie Ramley could not know was that these full-length costumes were the common bathing attire of the people of the countryside. Thrifty souls that they were these frugal females rarely visited emporiums for the material which went into the making of their underclothes and beach attire. The flour which was used for the making of the daily bread came, as a rule, in calico bags of one hundred and twelve pounds or one hundredweight. When the flour was used up the bags were thoroughly washed and dried. The textile was used to make shifts, slips and knickers not to mention football togs and bedclothes. While the numerous town and city people on the beach might regard the calico-clad countrywomen with some amusement they, nevertheless, refrained from showing it. This could well be because they themselves had only recently emerged from country backgrounds.

Despite the lack of design the shifts sat well on their owners as they moved in stately formation from bathing boxes to shore with their heads held high to show how little they cared about what others thought. Their leader was a formidable, mightily busted lady of late middle years, tall and broad-shouldered with aquiline features and a bearing which suggested that she was capable of defending herself and her charges in the unlikely event of an attack. The others were younger by far, late teens or early twenties so that Willie could not be blamed for concluding that the matriarch was more than likely the mother of the four. They walked demurely behind her looking neither left nor right. The girl who had prevented Willie's collision with the bus brought up the rear and it was clear that under the shapeless shift there was a body as beautiful as the imagination could conjure up. Reaching the water they proceeded along its edge to a spot where no other human soul was in evidence. Here, prompted by the matron, the young ladies entered the sea and after much skipping, leaping and shrieking accustomed themselves to its cold but salving wavelets. Then, dutifully while the matron kept a lookout in the background, the four faced themselves to the distant horizon and lifting the fronts of their shifts liberally sprinkled the exposed part of the anatomy with handfuls of cleansing sea water. The matron herself did not enter the water at all, content in her role of mother hen, repelling the curious with the most intimidatory of looks and doughty of stances. As soon as the girls had finished they chastely lowered their shifts and turned their backs to the very same horizon. The first exercise was repeated until the matron was satisfied that each was adequately bathed. Mustering her charges in a single file she resumed her position at the head of the column. Proudly and gracefully they returned the way they had come. Willie Ramley decided to make a closer inspection. He strode seawards with what he hoped was a casual air, pouting his lips into an indifferent whistle, giving the impression that he was an innocent holidaymaker lost in a private world of his own. Warily he circled round the matriarch as she led her brood to the boxes. His aim was to keep pace with the group from the rear so that he could better observe the lady of his choice. As he neared completion of his arc their eyes met ever so fleetingly but in that split-exchange he lost his heart irrevocably. Again he recalled the seers advice, Do not let yourself be carried away by a pretty face.

- From Guaranteed Pure.



ISBN 9781856353441

About the Author

John B. Keane, one of Ireland's most prolific and respected literary figures, died on 30 May 2002 at the age of 73, after a long and difficult battle with cancer. John B. Keane was born in 1928 in Listowel, County Kerry and it was here that he spent his literary career, running a pub which provided him with inspiration for his characters and ideas.

His first play, Sive, was presented by the Listowel Drama Group and won the All-Ireland Drama Festival in 1959. It was followed by another success, Sharon's Grave, in 1960. The Field (1965) and Big Maggie (1969), are widely regarded as classics of the modern Irish stage and jewels in a crown which includes such popular hits as Many Young Men of Twenty, The Man from Clare, Moll, The Chastitute and The Year of the Hiker. His large canon of plays have been seen abroad in cities as far afield as Moscow and Los Angeles. Big Maggie ran on Broadway for over two months in 1982 and The Field was adapted into an Oscar-winning Hollywood film, starring Brenda Fricker and Richard Harris, in 1991.

But it was not just in his plays that John B. Keane managed to portray all aspects of humanity with both wit and truth. He also wrote many fine novels, including The Contractors, A High Meadow and Durango. Durango was adapted for the big screen, starring Brenda Fricker and Patrick Bergin. A writer of essays, short stories and letters, his humorous words live on in Celebrated Letters of John B. Keane, More Celebrated Letters, The Best of John B. Keane and The Short Stories of John B. Keane. In 1987 John B. Keane received a special award for his enduring place in Irish life and letters from the Sunday Independent/Irish Life. In that year he also won a Sunday Tribune Arts Award and in 1988 he was chosen as the recipient of the Irish-American Fund Award for Literature. In 1999 he was presented with a Gradam medal, the Abbey Theatre's highest award.
He was a member of Aosdana and the recipient of honorary doctorates from Trinity College, Dublin, Limerick University and Marymount College, New York. John B. Keane remains one of Mercier's best-loved and best-selling authors.