My introduction to books as a child was in the crowded and cramped Galway City library. It occupied the second floor of the court house complex built by the British in the nineteenth century. On the portico high above street level the British gave it the ultimate imprimatur by installing a Royal coat of arms carving, featuring the lion and unicorn on either side of the great shield, which looked down on the colonized peasantry of Galway.
Many prisoners were taken from there for the short journey across the Corrib to the City Gaol and then onto the even shorter journey into infinity – hanged at dawn and buried in the goal precincts. The bodies were disinterred in the 1960s when it was demolished to make room for the ostentatious Galway Cathedral. A marginal improvement some would say.
To get to the library on the second floor I had to negotiate a phalanx of prisoners in handcuffs and chains, prison warders, Gardai, lawyers, solicitors, relatives of the victims and accused and a blue grey haze of cigarette smoke that penetrate your cloths as you pushed your way through the crowds and then up the long wooden staircase to the haven of the library. Hence my early and abiding interest in crime fiction was born.