The Dead School is a titanic clash between the forces of modernism and tradition in 1970s Ireland. Raphael Bell, an old style national school teacher, whose life is haunted by images and memories from his past, has devoted his life to upholding all that is traditional, pure and wholesome in the Ireland of Eucharistic Congresses. On the other side stands Malachy Dudgeon, a first-year teacher and one of the new breed about town, where rock music and American movies are king and rules are made to be broken.
Two men, a generation apart, begin to plummet in Dublin. Their descents are oddly parallel, notwithstanding their age difference; and yet they intersect, once, twice. One is a headmaster; the other a teacher. Events from their childhoods gestate, percolate and perhaps ultimately destroy. Their histories make them both time bombs.
When these two men come together, chaos is only round the corner. As in The Butcher Boy and Breakfast on Pluto (both nominated for the Booker Prize), Pat McCabe demonstrates his ability to pinpoint the exact moment when ordinary minds take flight into madness. Equally compelling, equally heartbreaking in its impact, The Dead School has established McCabe as one of the most celebrated writers of literary fiction today.