We are delighted to present you an excerpt from Station to station, the new novel by Johnny Gogan.
Diplomat Jack Lennon was posted to Spain in 2008 as the wheels fell off the Spanish and Irish property boom. On the trail of a missing Irish government minister, Jack meets a coterie of real estate moguls, former celebrities, desperate bankers, the remains of the “wine geese” of Ireland and Franco’s Spain. .
As he boarded the Ave for Seville on a clear April morning en route to Cadiz, his head was full of the speech he was writing for Marine Minister John Paul Grealish. He knew it was a challenge. Grealish was a cattle dealer from landlocked Cavan County and probably had nothing spontaneous or educational to add to a talk on ‘Sustainability in the Atlantic’, one of those well-founded but dubious European conferences, which dealt more with flying the flag to the far reaches of the Union than, in this case, to alter the status quo in the Atlantic. The chances that the main players – the fish-hungry Spaniards and the land-loving Irish who had ceded their fishing by joining the EU – could contribute anything on the topic of the well-being of the marine environment were close to zero.
Grealish’s recent appointment had been met with scornful comments with suggestions that he was “surpassed by Marine”. He was a party hacker and a backwoodsman with a really big chip on his shoulder. The ambassador had practically said that to Jack before she briefed him further on the political positions. An official of the autonomous government – the junta – of Andalusia would meet the train in Seville, the ambassador said, and they would travel by government car to Cadiz.
Seville was plagued by the April Fair, the week-long festival of costume, conversation, and ostentatious consumption. Tired faces crowded on the quays of Santa Justa after a sleepless night of celebration, among which was the gaping silhouette of his contact at the Ministry of Tourism. He saw her before she saw him. Unsurprisingly, when she seemed to have a hard time holding the cardboard nameplate she had crudely prepared with Jack’s name on it.
“Hola, soy el,” he gestured. She seemed to be waiting for someone else.
“Señor Lennon? I am Teresa Paz, Press Officer, Ministério de Turismo. Encantada.
“Jack Lennon. Igualmente.”
– Entonces, vamanos! We must act quickly.
They began to negotiate the crowds. Why so urgent? Yes, the train had been late, but the car to take them to Cadiz could wait. They turned to another platform that people were running on now. Just in case something went through the cracks, he was prompted to mention the promised car.
“Mi oficina me ha avisado de coche para seguir a Cádiz.” She seemed upset by this investigation. “Do you have a problem with the train?” “
“I have a hard time being late.” He was under strict orders. John Paul Grealish was no one to keep waiting.
“Sir, I took the train to Inglaterra. You won’t be disappointed with the Spanish train.” Inglaterre? It wasn’t just the car that had slipped through the cracks. Ireland followed in its wake. Before he could correct her, she rushed past him in anticipation of the doors closing and expertly held them open. Faced with this gallantry, it seemed petty to him to take diplomatic shade. John Paul Grealish could wait.
“Inglaterra? You should try the trains in Ireland.”
“Eres Ireland? “
She hid her misstep well.
Fortunate? Why? It seemed like a strange comment.
“Suerte, why?” “
“Hombre, porqué no eres Ingles! Los Irlandeses odian los Ingleses, right?”
It was too early in the morning for a nuanced explanation of the thaw in Anglo-Irish feuds, so he dropped the comment. No sooner had they taken their seats in the train to Cadiz than she immediately fell asleep. In this she was not alone.
A nursing home was a good place to do some work. He had a few additions for the Minister’s speech. As the provincial train tumbled down to Jerez de la Frontera, he took the opportunity to insert some references to the Wild Geese, the followers of Red Hugh O’Donnell and the O’Neills and later Patrick Sarsfield who had fled to Spain and had found refuge with the Spanish court. One of them, Ricardo Wall, had become prime minister and was granted land near Granada by Charles III. Others had become producers of wine and sherry in this region – the “Wine Geese” – and over time had developed a trade with the west of Ireland, not least because it offered a convenient route for wine. Spanish wine to the English court via Galway during the official embargo era.
Every now and then he allowed himself to glance at his traveling companion who was sleeping from the night’s festivities. Her hair had fallen over her face with fine features – blue eyes (he had noticed this earlier), a pronounced, almost Roman nose, and full lips from which a little trickle of drool was now slipping. As if she felt this in her sleep, she smacked her lips and readjusted her body. In that movement, her shirt loosened to further reveal her slender neck, an alluring collarbone, and a glimpse of the cleavage. He marveled at her feeling of abandonment and wondered what she was dreaming of, before pulling himself together and resorting to the distraction of the Diplomatic World.
Station to station by Johnny Gogan (published by Lepus) is now available.