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Kicking The Black Mamba
Life, Alcohol and Death
by Robert Anthony Welch
Publisher:DLT (Darton, Longman and Todd Ltd)
Published:17 September 2012
Irish professor, poet and prolific author, Robert Welch, tells the painful story of his beloved and brilliant son, Egan's, descent into alcoholism, leading to periods in hospital and other institutions, and death by drowning in the river Bann in Northern Ireland in 2007, at the age of 28. The book conveys a lot about the problems in living with and caring for someone with alcohol addiction (and also incidentally a lot about Irish life and legends). It is "a search for meaning in the death of a greatly loved son". What makes the book memorable is the author's unmistakable grief and passionate love for his son, his desperate attempts to halt Egan's decline, and his utter honesty in voicing the fear that he has been complicit in some way in what happened to Egan. It is a love story that is painful to read but will reward the reader. After a year's writing, Welch admits he hasn't found the answer, but then, unexpectedly to me, his final chapter and closing "message" speak of "the hope of resurrection". This is not, "emphatically not", a "religious" book, states the author firmly, but I found in it countless references to the Gospel, and to the death and – especially – resurrection of Christ. What of the book's strange title? You have to wait until nearly the end (page 188) for an explanation. Egan himself made up the expression, when he heard about another alcoholic taking his first drink after a period of abstinence. A black mamba, of course, is a highly venomous snake, whose bite means almost certain death. Egan meant that, by returning to booze, this other person was "kicking the black mamba that will kill him".
Reviewer: Barry Vendy (21/01/13)