Ian Cochrane, novelist: born Ballymena, Co Antrim 7 November 1941; died London 9 September 2004

IAN Cochrane's was a distinctive voice in modern fiction. In a series of novels, by turns uproariously funny, bawdy, blasphemous, touching and sad, he gave expression to the feelings of the marginalised: the young, the unemployed, and people living close to the borders of sanity and respectability.

Their clashes with parents, priests, bosses and officials reveal all the absurdity, selfishness and hypocrisy of their supposed betters.

Though the books' titles, such as Jesus on a Stick (1975) or Ladybird in a Loonybin (1977), have a jokey craziness, their humour is dark, and their endings often tragic.

Thus the antics of the lads in F for Ferg (1980) who hang around the factory gates looking for ways to have fun, and who decide to involve the boss's son, the Fergus of the title, in a romantic hoax with someone else's girlfriend, start off in a comic vein but have horribly fatal consequences. The group of Portobello wasters in The Slipstream (1982) who attempt to rob the poor-box in the local church while one of their number distracts the priest, likewise end up reaping more than they thought they were sowing.

The characters may be often feckless, but they are treated with sympathy and humanity, through their creator's ear for dialogue.

Cochrane was born and grew up in rural Antrim.

"We lived in a little house right out in the country, " he recalled, with "seven of us sleeping in one bedroom.

But I don't think I realised we were living in poverty."

Later the family was moved into one of the new council houses built after the war.

His first novel, A Streak of Madness, was published in 1973 and his second, Gone in the Head (1974), was a runner-up for the Guardian Fiction Prize. Though out of print now, all Cochrane's novels were well received and there must be a case for bringing some of his work back into the public domain.