“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Friday, July 25, 2008

If You’re Irish, Come Into The Parlour. And Get A Cap In Yo Ass

The Mystery Readers’ Journal goes forty shades of green for its summer issue, as ever-radiant editor Janet Rudolph brings together a veritable Who’s Who of Irish crime fiction to celebrate the current boom in dubh noir (three of the usual suspects pictured, right – yours truly, Ruth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley-Edwards, and Declan Hughes). The magazine is for the most part subscription, but there’s a few free tasters available web-side, among them Glenn Harper’s ‘Ordinary Decent Criminals: Irish Noir Fiction in the 21st Century’, which kicks off with a few names unfamiliar to yours truly. To wit:
“There are a couple of literary thrillers from the last decades of the 20th century worth mentioning in passing because they approach noir in distinctive ways. M.S. Power’s CHILDREN OF THE NORTH is an intense, complex trilogy on the so-called Troubles in Northern Ireland, in a dark, Graham Greene vein and with a rich sense of both tragedy and comedy. Another novel on the Troubles, THE PSALM KILLER by Christopher Petit, has an eerie quality of being both a documentary novel about the convoluted politics of Northern Ireland and a brutal thriller that has some common ground with SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. It’s also worth mentioning a few noir-ish late 20th-century Irish novels that aren’t exactly crime novels: Hugo Hamilton’s HEADBANGER and SAD BASTARD (featuring a cop and a noir atmosphere as well as considerable black comedy) and Seamus Smyth’s QUINN (featuring a career criminal and a lot of even blacker comedy).”
  Glenn? I love you like a mother from another brother, etc., but I have no idea of how Hugo Hamilton’s Pat Coyne tales, and that of Seamus Smyth’s QUINN, ‘aren’t exactly crime novels’. Hamilton, you could argue, offers a crude but quixotic protagonist raging against the world at large, and one who could just as easily be a middle-management figure as an Irish police detective tilting at the windmills of Irish justice or lack of same. But QUINN (1999), a first-person account of a killer-for-hire, is one of the defining Irish crime fiction novels of the current outpouring. Jump here for Ken Bruen’s verdict.
  Anyhoo, Tana French also features on the freebie list, and here ponders on why Irish writers took so long to embrace crime writing:
“Ireland had a deep, passionate resistance to bringing its problems out in the open. Maybe because of centuries of living under British rule, this country had an intense culture of secrecy: whatever you say, say nothing. Anything shameful or dangerous belonged tightly under wraps, unmentioned. To write about a murder, even a fictional one, would have gone very strongly against the grain. That mentality comes through even in one of the few pieces of Irish crime writing I can think of from before about 1990: John B. Keane’s powerful play The Field, in which a couple of local men kill an outsider for trying to buy a field that they feel belongs to them, and the community covers up the murder. Even the absence of crime writing can tell you a lot about a place.”
  Aye, sure we were all too busy slaughtering each other and starving to death to bother our collective arse writing about it. But lo! No more! For yea, verily, the full list of the MRJ’s contents runneth thusly:
• Shadows of Guilt: Ireland in the 1950s by John Banville, aka Benjamin Black
• Distance Lends Perspective by Colin Bateman
• Billy Boyle Goes to Ireland by James R. Benn
• An Irish Heroine by Rhys Bowen
• Crime Pays—On the Page by Declan Burke
• No, Not the Blarney Stone by Ken Bruen
• An Irishman's Lot by Doug M. Cummings
• The Importance of Being Irish by David Dickinson
• When Irish Writing Roots Are Showing... by Carole Nelson Douglas
• Where Fact Meets Fiction by Garbhan Downey
• Killing the Peace Process by Ruth Dudley Edwards
• The Roots of Murder by Tana French
• Rachel O'Reilly's Murder by Jenny Friel
• Josephine Tey and Nuala Anne McGrail by Father Andrew M. Greeley
• Finding Mythic Ireland by Lyn Hamilton
• Foxes, Cabbages & the Ancient Laws of Ireland by Cora Harrison
• Stumbling on a Body in the Bog by Erin Hart
• How the Irish Created My Civilization by Jeremiah Healy
• I Owe My Life to an Irish Criminal by Eoin Hennigan
• Irish Soul by Tobsha Learner
• A Literary Tour of One Dublin Author by Stephen Leather
• The Irish in P.I. Frank Johnson's Debut Outing by Ed Lynskey
• Casting a Cold Eye on the Gloss of Modern Ireland by K.T. McCaffrey
• Irish Connection by John McEvoy
• Patrolling the Border by Brian McGilloway
• The Absence of Death by Cormac Millar
• Writing and Ireland by Pat Mullan
• The Elusive Irishman by Teagan Oliver
• An Arresting Tale by Ralph Robb
• The Irish in Me by Les Roberts
• Balancing the Book by ZoĆ« Sharp
• Lark and the Quaker Connection by Sheila Simonson
• Interwoven Irish by Therese Szymanski
• Irish Crime Writing: Truth Sells Better Than Fiction by Neville Thompson
• Sister Fidelma, 7th-Century Supersleuth by Peter Tremayne
Hmmm, colour us impressed. Meanwhile, the Macavity Award nominees have been announced, and John Connolly and – oh yes! – the ever-radiant Tana French are among the front-runners. To wit:
Best Novel
SOUL PATCH by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House)
THE UNQUIET by John Connolly (Hodder & Stoughton*/Atria)
BLOOD OF PARADISE by David Corbett (Ballantine Mortalis)
WATER LIKE A STONE by Deborah Crombie (HarperCollins)
WHAT THE DEAD KNOW by Laura Lippman (Morrow)

Best First Mystery
IN THE WOODS by Tana French (Hodder & Stoughton*/Viking)
HEART-SHAPED BOX by Joe Hill (William Morrow)
THE SPELLMAN FILES by Lisa Lutz (Simon & Schuster)
STEALING THE DRAGON by Tim Maleeny (Midnight Ink)
THE COLLABORATOR OF BETHLEHEM by Matt Beynon Rees (Soho)
  So there you have it. Irish crime fiction – we finally pulled our heads out of the sand and thumbs out of our asses and started talking about what’s really happening in modern Ireland. Sure aren’t we only marvellous all the same?

3 comments:

adrian mckinty said...

Its just like high school when no one picked me for football.

bookwitch said...

You just want to be seen in the company of famous authors, don't you?

Declan Burke said...

Sorry, that's Adrian who now?

Ms Witch - it's an undercover op to find out who charged all that booze to your room in Bristol ... ssssh, don't tell anyone. Cheers, Dec