Books

The Burning Ground

United States edition
W W Norton & Company

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British edition
Bloomsbury

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A masterful debut short story collection from the award-winning, critically-acclaimed poet Adam O’Riordan.

In these eight stories, an English writer focuses his gaze on America’s West Coast, moving from fractured lives in remote, sun-scorched towns to the charged hum of Venice Beach.

A man visits his long-distance lover in Los Angeles and forges an unexpected bond with a fellow traveller on the way; a teenager interviews a businessman for his school newspaper and their paths continue to cross, throughout life; the foreman of a desert building project embarks on a journey down the Pacific Coast Highway and into California’s underworld when his employer’s daughter goes missing; a lonely widower reflects on the past and confronts a disturbing and long suppressed memory; a divorced father tries to reconnect with his son on a hunting trip; an artist finds peace in exile after the disintegration of an affair; and itinerant Brits discuss love and acting in downtown LA.

Written with an outsider's keen eye, this collection of stories paints an intimate portrait of diverse lives, in a work of remarkable beauty and poignancy.


‘Wonderfully lyrical and bittersweet’ Observer
‘Stylish, sensitive and surprising’ Daily Telegraph
‘Elegant and greatly accomplished’ Guardian
‘Witty and raw’ Daily Mail
‘A wonderful, beguiling collection of short stories. Written with a cool, knowing lyricism they haunt and enthral’ William Boyd

‘Quietly excellent … Short story writing in the mode of William Trevor or John Cheever’ Adam Foulds, Guardian
‘Exquisitely observed … These rich and varied slices of life ought to bring O’Riordan fresh admirers’ Daily Telegraph
‘The landscape of California fills this lush, lyrical debut short-story collection … The emotional temperature of these evocative stories is often scorching’ Observer

‘This assured and elegant collection is interested not in answers but in questions, in ambivalence: passing moments, frozen in time as if by a photographer’s keen eye, a lens catching light’ Philip Womack, Financial Times
‘The stories linger in the mind as strong impressions, simultaneously complete and unresolved … You are never in doubt that you are reading the work of an elegant and greatly accomplished writer whose future promises much’ Adam Foulds, Guardian
‘The depiction of his youthful characters is witty and raw, but what is startling for someone of his age is the way he gets inside the minds of his older characters, as they are forced to confront the loss of their younger selves’ Daily Mail
‘Adam O’Riordan’s stories have an uncanny ability to draw us into the lives of characters who are at once self-possessed and vulnerable … As ambitious in its reach as it is concentrated in its vision of human behaviour’ Andrew Motion
‘Adam O’Riordan’s misfits provide ideal company the next time you find yourself mooching along the boardwalk … Wilfully mines the less glossy side of LA, and ordinary lives gone wrong, with haunting effect’ GQ
‘An impressive range of stories that run from the reflective to highly dramatic, and O’Riordan’s verbal polish as a poet shines throughout … Echoes of Ian McEwan and Graham Greene … Haunting’ Irish Times
‘A fine writer … His poetic talent for simile and image is certainly transferred intact to prose. Perhaps the biggest revelation is that he’s also an admirable humorist’ LA Review of Books
‘The loneliness of the long distance traveller whispers through this impressive debut collection’ RTE
‘A book that stands artistically in line with the likes of the Rolling Stones’ country songs, or Hockney’s LA paintings’ Caught by the River
‘Seeing a story so full of grace these days is a rarity’ Storgy Magazine

In the Flesh

United States edition
W W Norton & Company
( December 2015 )

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British edition
Chatto and Windus
July 2010

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Adam O’Riordan’s remarkable first collection traces the hidden paths from past to present, from the lost to the living, seeking familiarity in a world of ‘false trails and disappearing acts’. Here relatives, friends and other absences are coaxed into life and urgently pressed on the reader as they surface, in the flesh.

Journeys begin with indelible detail and open into new and astonishing landscapes of the head and the heart. Whether in graceful elegies for the dead or the charged lyrics of love and desire, poems cross space as well as time, from the ‘blackened lung’ of Victorian Manchester and the fateful events of the Derby of 1913, to enter a modern era of satellites and late night searches for lost lovers. At the heart of the collection lies the sonnet sequence ‘Home’, a slant look at the lives of William and Dorothy Wordsworth, intersected by more recent, sometimes unsettling, personal portraits.

In language both clear-eyed and sensuous, these are poems linked by a strong sense of place and presence, longing and loss; of history captured in an irrevocable moment. In the Flesh is a startling debut from one of our finest young British poets.


‘Precise and attentive. O’Riordan has the painter’s eye for detail and the pianist’s touch for sounding the right notes’ Simon Armitage
‘These musical, deftly patterned poems are the products of a supple susceptibility and a determined intelligence. They make for a convincing and sustained debut’ Adam Foulds
In the Flesh is an auspicious debut, full of unforgettable lines and hard-won insights. Adam O’Riordan is the real thing.’ Hugo Williams