Dan Starkey

Created by Colin Bateman

DAN STARKEY is a Belfast born-and-bred reporter (as is his creator, Colin Bateman). He’s a cynic and an alcoholic, and so far, the hero (or more precisely, the anti-hero) of four novels and one film, loosely based on the first novel.

That first book, Divorcing Jack (1995), is set in Northern Ireland where it’s election time and the non-sectarian Alliance Party is expected to romp to victory. Bateman is cynical about this but more concerned about keeping his wife and girlfriend apart. That is, until his girlfriend is brutally murdered and Starkey is the only suspect. The novel follows Dan as he goes from one hilariously surreal scenario to the next as he strives to prove to the innocent and in the process discovers more about the forthcoming election and the personalities involved than he wanted to. (Some folks have claimed that the main protagonist of Divorcing Jack is Vincent Banville’s Belfast journalist John Blaine, but don’t believe ’em!)

Of Wee Sweetie Mice and Men (1997) is predominantly set in New York after Dan, now re-united with his wife, Patricia (pregnant with another man’s child) accepts an offer to follow Fat Boy McMaster, a Northern Irish boxer, in his efforts to win the Heavyweight belt against Mike Tyson. In the process, Dan hopes to get a book out of it. But along the way, Dan manages to antagonise the IRA, the UVF, an obscure sect called the Sons of Mohammad and Save the Whale campaigners.

In 2000’s Turbulent Priests, Dan’s book on Fat Boy McMaster has finally been published and Dan’s once again looking for work. He’s hired by the Catholic Church in Northern Ireland to travel to Wraithlin Island of the coast of Belfast and ghost write a new bible with a little girl whom the locals believe to be the second coming. But Dan has his doubts. After all, why did they hire a Protestant? And if this isn’t hard enough for Dan, he soon discovers the only pub on the island has been closed by the reformed residents.

In Shooting Sean (2001), Dan gets involved with the making of a film about a legendary Irish gangster (supposedly based on Martin Cahill, the general) to be directed by a famous Irish actor called Sean (the Sean of the title), who’s essaying a tricky career change from major movie star to low budget director. When things start to go wrong on the set, Dan’s suspects that the gangster himself may be behind it.

I wouldn’t consider Dan to be the hero of these books, but in fact the stereotypical anti-hero. He suffers from many flaws, he cheats on his wife constantly, is a hardened alcoholic, smokes like a train, has doubts about his stepson and how he should treat another man’s child, and hates the other man. Dan also has a vulnerable side, most evident perhaps in Of Wee Sweetie Mice, when Patricia has returned to Belfast, and Dan wanders the streets of New York in search of company. He eventually seeks solace in a peep show where his only intent is to talk.

Despite these weaknesses, however, Dan usually, somehow, saves the day in the end, and despite his weaknesses I can’t help but like him. Maybe because he’s the stereotypicall Northern Irishman or maybe just because he reminds me of home, but whatever it is I would advise anyone who is a Carl Hiaasen fan to read Bateman’s novels (he has also written non-Starkey books such as Empire State, Maid of the Mist and Cycle of Violence (aka “Crossmaheart” after a film adaptation).

Still, though the references to Northern Ireland politics may confuse some readers, the Hiaasen-esque prevails. More recently, Bateman has started the Mystery Man series, about the owner of a struggling mystery bookshop in Belfast, who has to contend with the abandoned clients of the detective agency next door that goes bust.

Like Starkey, the author worked as a journalist in Ireland — at least until he became a full-time writer of comic capers. His first stab, Divorcing Jack (1995), which introduced hapless Dan Starkey, won the Betty Trask Prize. Colin later adapted it into a film starring David Thewlis and Rachel Griffiths. Besides the Starkey and Mystery Man series, he’s also written several humorous children’s books and mystery standalones, including Reservoir Pups, Bring Me The Head Of Oliver Plunkett, Mohammed Maguire and Wild About Harry. In fact, in May 2010, Bateman won the Crimefest Last Laugh Award for the Mystery Man novel The Day of the Jack Russell.



  • DIVORCING JACKBuy this video | Buy this DVD Watch it now!
    (1998, Scala Productions)
    110 minutes
    Screenplay by Colin Bateman
    Based on the novel by Colin Bateman
    Directed by Jan Chandler
    Produced by Robert Cooper
    Co-executive producers: Chris Craib, Marina Gefter
    Co-producer: Frank Mannion
    Executive producers: Nik Powell, Stephen Woolley
    Original music by Adrian Johnston
    Cinematography by James Welland
    Starring David Thewlis as DAN STARKEY
    Also starring Rachel Griffiths, Jason Isaacs, Laura Fraser, Richard Gant, Laine Megaw, Bronagh Gallagher, Kitty Aldridge, Robert Lindsay, Adam Black, Simon Magill, George Shane, Alan McKee, Brian Devlin, Sean Caffrey


Respectfully submitted by Dermot.

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