“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Big Question: Is Crime Writing Recession-Proof?

A Grand Vizier writes: “You may not have noticed, given that you’re very probably dealing with the fall-out from the global credit crunch and rocketing oil prices wherever you are, but Ireland has recently slipped into recession (Dublin pictured right, yesterday). Which is no mean feat, given that the Irish economy was the third-fastest growing economy in the entire Milky Way only two years ago. Anyhoo, we’re officially heading for Black ’47 all over again if reports are to be believed, and it’ll only take one half-mottled spud to spark a full-scale stampede to the airports and ferries.
“Meanwhile, crime writing tends to flourish in boom periods, when cities and countries are awash with new cash and opportunities to sluice off the overflow. Journalism provides the first draft of history, crime writing the second, and then everyone else piles in with their stories of romance and Martian monsters and floating arks.
“The recent explosion in crime writing here in Ireland has been attributed to two factors – the Celtic Tiger economic boom, and the ending of the 30-year ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and the criminal activities associated with both developments. But what happens when we move into the all-too-familiar depths of recession? Crime itself, obviously, is recession-proof – there’s nothing like a recession and / or depression to increase the demand for illicit substances, prostitution and illegal weaponry, to mention only three aspects of criminality.
“But when things turn depressingly awful, do people really want to read about it in their fiction? Is the appetite for lurid stories sated by a grim diet of rising interest rates, repossessions, unemployment and emigration? And – crudely – can people afford to buy books in the same numbers as when an economy is booming? Not that any writer is getting fat by selling books in Ireland alone. But this appears to be a global recession, with the very distinct possibility that there’s a global depression in the post.
“People won’t stop reading, of course, so libraries may well be due something of a boom at the expense of retailers – and it may be time to club together to open a second-hand bookshop, people. In the meantime, from a writing point of view, we’re nominating THIEVES LIKE US as a depression-era novel to aspire to. Any other suggestions?”