Review & Excerpt: Five Days on Ballyboy Beach


Five Days on Ballyboy Beach
by David J. O’Brien
Contemporary Romance
Date published: September 2014

officialsynopA startling revelation – the long-time friend you never viewed romantically is actually the person with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.

But what do you do about it?

For Derek, a laid-back graduate camping with college friends on Ireland’s west coast in the summer of 1996, the answer is … absolutely nothing.

Never the proactive one of the group – he’s more than happy to watch his friends surf, canoe and scuba-dive from the shore – Derek adopts a wait and see attitude. Acting on his emotional discovery is further hindered by the fact he’s currently seeing someone else – and she’s coming to join him for the weekend.

As their five days on the beach pass, and there are more revelations, Derek soon realises that to get what he desires, he’ll have to take it. Events conspire to push him to the forefront of the group, and, as unexpected sorrow begins to surround him and his friends, Derek grasps his chance at happiness. After all, isn’t life too short to just wait and see?


Sometimes, life throws stones on you and you are either caught off-guard or you simply see it coming. Either way, the consequences that follows next may not prepare you for the worst thing that could happen. Because life is like that. Unexpected yet inevitable.

Take for example, Derek. He had been friends with Sinead for years, but he never looked at her the way a dashing prince charming does with his princess. But now, things suddenly changed. He had this urge to break it all up with the one he’s currently dating so he could start anew with his bestfriend. But could he finally act on it?

Derek and his friends spent five days camping at Ballyboy Beach. Random topics were discussed, as well as revelations and surprises. But the biggest shock of it all was the untimely tragedy that befell on them. 

I was deeply moved by this book. The characters were realistic, talked about their lives and their future, had their hands on alcohol, drugs and sex, and at the end, they had to be strong for each other as they struggle to accept the tragedy and reality of it all. 

David O’Brien had written a poignant yet touching book that I wouldn’t forget. This is the kind of novel that would pluck at your heartstrings and make you see what’s beyond life. A sad yet truly powerful book!


The sun was going down as we set off, hanging just above the sea and settling into the horizon, its growing redness glowing and burning the water. There are few places better to watch the sun set than the west of Ireland. The weather is perhaps more unpredictable than the west coast of America, and maybe fewer sunsets can be seen perfectly clearly, but the presence of cloud ensures that not only the sea, but the sky, too, is set alight. This was true of that day, and I gazed out to fill my eyes with the picture every so often as we walked, not wanting to miss any change in hue.

When the sun touched the water, I suggested to Sinéad and Bill that we stop and watch the last rays while we waited for Sarah and John to reach us, which they lukewarmly agreed to. The other two had fallen behind and were very slow in catching up. I saw them stopping too, and looking out to sea. We sat on the dry stone wall that separated the road from the elongated field on our right, which twenty yards seaward ended abruptly in the cliff edge. The red ball quickly melted into the horizon and the sea burned. Above, the streaks of cloud were orange and red and pink as the sun disappeared completely, leaving only a dull glow, like a distant fire. We stared at it for a few more minutes, and then, as the last rays of the vanished sun left the highest clouds and their undersides turned from pink to grey, the other two caught up with us.

The light was getting low when we reached Ballyboy. The few streetlights that illuminated the village were already on, and the five or so small boats left in the river were bobbing slowly on the tide. Apart from an old couple walking into The Drowning Duck, there was no sign of human life. However, the very air gave the impression of life, of being alive. Since it was such a small village, the wildlife was never far away.

A small dog made its way down the street towards us, meandering from side to side as it pissed against each major landmark of lamp post and house corner. Two seagulls settled down to roost on top of a pale white dock light, above the swaying mast of a boat called the Aishling. Around the pale glow shed by the streetlamps, a few bats flitted into sight, squeaking now and then as they caught moths attracted by the light. Below the river walls we could hear the murmur of the water in the calmness. From time to time it seemed to splash, as if rats were scurrying and diving along the banks. The mumble of voices inside the pub was the only sound that broke the tranquillity and the feeling that the streets belonged to the animals.

The fire glowed beneath the mantel in the end wall of the lounge of The Scarlet Haddock when we walked in. We got the obligatory stare from most of the patrons as we entered. However, I reckoned that it was getting shorter and shorter each time we went in. They look around to see who has just come in, partly, I am sure, because in a small town the chances are that the person coming in is a friend, neighbour or other familiar acquaintance, and they can call them over for a chat. The other reason is that there is a hobby down the country, among the culchies – what we Dubliners call people who live anywhere outside city limits – I’m convinced, called people-spotting. It’s similar to train-spotting, except instead of people going to a station or a railway bridge, they simply put their heads out their front door on a terraced street, hide behind the curtains in a housing estate, stand at the front gate on a country road or hang around the local pub of an evening. They don’t carry notebooks or timetables. The details are taken down mentally.

Since the arrival of people is much less predictable than trains, they have to be on the job, as it were, more or less full-time – always with an eye out for a new one to pass by. When this happens, the person’s face, hair, clothes, behaviour, way of walking, actions, general direction and probable reason for being in the area are all taken note of and stored, along with the particulars of every other stranger to pass by. This information is stowed away for future use in the unlikely event, not that they’ll pass by again, but that a policeman will require it or even that one day their face will appear on Crimeline.


daveobrienDavid J O’Brien was born and raised in Dun Laoghaire, Ireland. He studied environmental biology and later studied deer biology for his PhD, at University College Dublin. Instead of pursuing his life-long interest in wolves and predator-prey interactions, after completing his doctorate, he taught English in Madrid, Spain, for four years while his girlfriend finished her doctorate in molecular biology. They married and moved to Boston, USA, so his wife could pursue her career and David decided that teaching was a vocation he was happy to continue.

After seven great years teaching Biology at Boston’s Cathedral High School and Zoology at Bridgewater State College, he returned to Spain three years ago so his wife could set up her new research group in her hometown of Pamplona shortly before their daughter was born. He currently teaches English and science in Pamplona, while looking after his daughter and writing.

David has loved writing since his teens. He began with poetry and had one of his first poems published in Cadenza, a small Dublin poetry magazine at the age of fourteen. Since then several more have been published in journals and anthologies such as Albatross, The Tennessee State Poetry League, Poems of Nature and various anthologies of Forward Press imprint in Britain. He began writing fiction soon after and wrote the novella that would later become his first published book, Leaving The Pack at the age of seventeen.

Though his academic writing took precedence for a number of years, and he is still involved in deer biology and management, he kept writing other things in his spare time and has always dreamt of one day being able to do it full time. While living in Madrid, he wrote some non-fiction articles for the Magazine Hot English and while in Boston for the newspaper Dig.

An avid wildlife enthusiast and ecologist, much of David’s non-academic writing, especially poetry, is inspired by wildlife and science, and he sometimes seeks to describe the science behind the supernatural. His second and third novels, Five days on Ballyboy Beach and The Ecology of Lonesomeness were also published by Tirgearr Publishing, and his Young Adult paranormal novel The Soul of Adam Short was published in October 2015 by MuseitUp Publishing. His children’s book, Peter and the Little People will be published early in 2016.

Under the pseudonym JD Martins, he has published two erotic romance novellas, One Night in Madrid and One Night in Pamplona.

David is currently working on the two sequels to Leaving the Pack to complete the Silver Nights Trilogy. He is also plugging away at a long novel set in the pre-Columbian Caribbean, and a non-fiction book about the sociology of hunting.

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