The amazing success of McCarthy's Bar put Pete McCarthy securely into the upper echelons of modern travel writers. His skills were many: an uncanny knack for evoking the ambience of the often bizarre and unlikely places he visited; insights into human behaviour that range from the sardonic to the insightful, and (best of all) a fractured sense of humour that made reading the book in public dangerous if you didn't want to embarrass yourself by spontaneously laughing out loud. There were those who feared that his new book The Road to McCarthy would not match its predecessor for quirky and idiosyncratic charm, but a few pages of the first chapter quickly puts paid to the nay-sayers.
Over a few pints, McCarthy unwisely decides to investigate mythical stories of his own clan history. Were the McCarthys a nomadic tribe who travelled from North Africa in the mists of pre-history? This none-too-serious attempt to anatomise worldwide Irish connections results in an outrageously entertaining odyssey. From the Fried Breakfast Zone of Belfast airport, McCarthy journeys to Morocco and Gibraltar and finds that the Casbah in Tangier doesn't have too many historical traces of a hereditary Gaelic Chief. Despite attacks from ornamental monkeys and ill-tempered geese, he ploughs through the fleshpots of the island of Montserrat in the Caribbean in his fruitless search (where the only Celts he encounters are worse-for-drink Glasgow Celtic supporters); and then, in the secluded Alaskan township of McCarthy (where else?) with its populace of just 18 bewildered citizens, he comes across a final revelation. This is absolutely hilarious stuff, every bit as entertaining as McCarthy's Bar--and that's no blarney.--Barry Forshaw
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