“MURPHY’S LORE: TALES FROM BULFINCHE’S PUB”
by Patrick Thomas
Padwolf Publishing; Trade paperback; ISBN: 1-890096-07-5; $14.00 US
293 pages; 2000
Reviewed by Marianne Plumridge – February 2005
If ever you’re in Manhattan and see a rainbow, follow it to its end. There you will find a place called Bulfinche’s Pub and a sympathetic ear to hear your story – sometimes several. This might not sound so unusual or impressive, until you find out who the owner and employees of the premises really are, let alone the regular clientele. Then the magic begins…
The Murphy of the title is, initially, a lost soul himself who, in the very first story, finds his way to Bulfinche’s by way of a rainbow. Murphy has lost his soul-mate wife to cancer and his will to go on. At Bulfinche’s, he discovers that it is the magical place that his wife found during her last months on the mortal coil, that she could relax and paint and draw in while Murphy was at work. In the end, Murphy stumbles through the same pub door and finds the same thing his love did: a respite, hope, friends, and finally home. Owner and client alike stand in awe when they realize that Murphy’s wife’s last painting was of the very bar and occupants itself: entitled, Rainbow’s End. The painting stands now over the bar.
The subsequent stories in this anthology regale the reader about the Owner and patrons of Bulfinche’s and are narrated by Murphy. However, don’t ever think to presume that you know what’s coming next. The stories are funny, underwritten by a sly sense of humour that could be loosely termed ‘hard-boiled comicalness’ that’s definitely got a New York edge to it. And it’s very entertaining. Underpinning the humor is an intrinsically subtle, but solid psychiatric base. With that combination, I can only say that there are some really interesting twists in these stories. But don’t ever make the mistake that they are simple. These tales linger in the mind for ages after you’ve read them.
Urban fantasy doesn’t really appeal to me as a reader generally, and I began this book with just a little trepidation. There are no fairies – wicked or otherwise – tricking we bumbling humans around New York; no fantasitical warlords that bespeak Manga influences trying to invade the city; or dragons trying to pass as human and seeing us as fodder. No, the employees and patrons of Bulfinche’s Pub have a solid grounding in the multiplicity of history, religion and myth of the human race, but are bound by rules and sometimes curses. The rules and curses are suspended in Bulfinches however, except for the standing rule of ‘no powers to be used’ inside the pub, imposed by the premises’ immortal owner, Paddy Moran. Paddy is a Leprechaun, and only stands out because of his height – or lack of it. His employees include, besides Murphy behind the bar, Dionysus as head brewer and bartender, Hercules mans, or ‘gods’ the door as bouncer, while Demeter runs the kitchen. Other personnel change from time to time. Paddy bought the pub and the building that houses it one hundred years ago with his pot of gold, but he is still required to help people that need it. Therefore whenever a rainbow beacon leads a troubled soul to the door of Bulfinche’s, he, she or it will always find surcease and help.
The best thing about these stories is that they address social issues right along side the whimsical ones. Humankind has always invented Gods, demons, angels of various religions callings, and other spiritual beings over the eons, so it isn’t too surprising to find them a lot like us, with woes like ours, just with a lot more personal power and sometimes even less responsibility.
So come on down to Bulfinche’s Pub. The first drink is on the house…
I really enjoyed this book. Now I have to wait for the next ones to arrive. Didn’t I mention it? There are four more volumes in this series, and look every much as interesting as the first. Happy reading.