Night Boat to Tangier is a beautifully written story about the criminally complex and intertwined lives of two haggard gentlemen, Charlie Redmond and Maurice Hearne. Both men are from Ireland and we meet them in October of 2018, sitting in the terminal at the port of Algecirus, hoping to spot Maurice’s estranged 23 year old daughter Dilly, either coming or going. Charlie, early 50s, walks with a pronounced limp and Maurice, 51 years old, has a bad eye. The injuries are the result of hard lived lives.
As the two men sit and wait, they see a young man, dressed in combat gear, with dreadlocks and a dog. They approach him and begin to question him about his knowledge of Dilly. They find his answers less than satisfactory and there is some violence. Ultimately the young man escapes but the episode provides the reader with a hint of the men’s history. The men continue to wait in the terminal, looking for Dilly and reminiscing about their lives. The unidentified narrator fills in the gaps.
The story moves back and forth from the terminal in 2018 and the earlier years of their lives beginning in 1994. As a young man, Maurice finds his calling in the drug trade. His introduction is initiated by a woman named Kadima, who moves in and out of Maurice’s story throughout the book. Charlie joins him in the business and keeps potential trouble at bay simply by his unpredictable nature. “The thing about Charlie was that you took him into a room and they knew. One look and they f——- knew. A single glance into the soulful eyes of Charlie Redmond and they knew that this could go in any direction.”
The money comes and goes. Maurice makes investments, is flush and then he’s broke. He meets Cynthia, falls in love, marries and Dilly is born. Cynthia is wary of Charlie. “She said the most important thing is to maintain a distance from Charlie Redmond.” Maurice cheats on Cynthia and Cynthia grows close to Charlie, despite her misgivings. Ultimately Cynthia and Maurice fall apart, Maurice ends his friendship with Charlie and Maurice leaves Ireland and travels, mostly in Spain. He connects with Kadima for a time, but ultimately he returns to Ireland.
During Maurice’s childhood, his father suffered from mental illness and ended up in a hospital. Upon his return to Ireland, Maurice suffers from the same or similar ailments and ends up hospitalized. Shockingly, Charlie, with whom he had fallen out, ends up in the same hospital room and they reconnect. Cynthia dies and Dilly takes off. Charlie and Maurice end up looking for her at the terminal in Algecirus, where we meet them in 2018.
Among their reminiscences, Maurice is constantly missing Cynthia. “And now from the vantage of his years, a terrible swoon comes down on him; Cynthia, for a moment, descends all the way through him. This is not a rare occurrence…Hate is not the answer to love; death is its answer.”
At the end, someone like Dilly enters the terminal, but the men do not believe it is her and they never speak.
The novel is beautiful and lyrical in its prose, almost visual, and the dialogue is brilliant. This is a short must read for anyone who appreciates brilliant writing and a unique and enchanting gangster novel with a twist. The novel can be reserved at the Cuyahoga County Public Library by clicking here.