“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 29, 2008

On Politics In The Irish Crime Novel, Or Lack Thereof

Our German friend Bernd Kochanowski from International Crime adds an interesting coda to the comment he left on the post On Publishing and Being Damned, to wit:
BTW: He (the reviewer) is also unhappy that the new Irish crime fiction is almost apolitical and doesn’t reflect the events that shook Ireland for years.
  The reviewer in question was casting a cold eye over Tana French’s IN THE WOODS, and is presumably referring to what we in Ireland like to euphemistically refer to as ‘the Troubles’.
  In other words – and we’re taking Bernd’s word for this – said reviewer is disappointed that Irish crime writers aren’t dealing with the consequences of the 30-year conflict that involved the Provisional IRA, the INLA, the British Army, the RUC (latterly the PSNI), the Gardai, and more Loyalist paramilitary armies than you could shake a cat-o’-nine-tails at.
  To which we reply, ‘Tosh, piffle and balderdash, sirrah!’
  Case for the Defence # 1: Adrian McKinty’s protagonist Michael Forsythe is an ex-British Army soldier. In THE DEAD YARD, he goes undercover to break up a gang of renegade Republicans. In THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD he engages with (and generally vaporises) any number of ex-paramilitaries on his return to Belfast.
  Case for the Defence # 2: Sylvester Young’s SLEEPING DOGS LIE, in which ex-IRA men travel to the U.S. and become embroiled in a complex plot involving a number of security agencies.
  Case for the Defence # 3: Ken Bruen’s AMERICAN SKIN, in which an ex-IRA man wreaks mayhem in the U.S.
  Case for the Defence # 4: Declan Burke’s EIGHT BALL BOOGIE, in which former paramilitaries diversify into more prosaic criminality, specifically coke-trafficking.
  Case for the Defence # 5: David Park’s THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER, in which former paramilitaries and an ex-RUC officer find themselves called to account for their actions twenty years previously.
  Case for the Defence # 6: Colin Bateman.
  Case for the Defence # 7: Sam Millar.
  Case for the Defence # 8: Authors such as Peter Cunningham, Jack Holland and S.J. Michaels, who were writing about ‘the Troubles’ as far back as the late ’80s and early ’90s.
  I could go on, but hopefully the point is made. Besides, and pertinently in the context of the reviewer’s comments being made during a review of IN THE WOODS, Tana French’s novel had a political subtext that perhaps was too subtle for the reviewer to pick up on. The novel opens on an archaeological dig, where the body of a young girl has been found, said dig being conducted hastily on the basis that the bulldozers of the property developers are due in the very near future.
  In Ireland, many such developments are highly controversial and politically charged, the most obvious example being that of the M3 motorway, currently planned to run through the Tara Valley (right), an archaeological complex dating back to 2,000 BC.
  Furthermore, the ongoing tribunals of investigation were initially set up to investigate the links – if such could be proved – between property developers and politicians, specifically to discover if politicians had been bribed to facilitate the rezoning of land in favour of property speculators. Among the many politicians to find themselves under serious scrutiny at these tribunals, to put it mildly, were two former taoisigh, or Irish prime ministers, Charles Haughey and Bertie Ahern.
  To suggest that IN THE WOODS is an apolitical novel is to deliberately ignore, or be utterly ignorant of, recent Irish history. Here endeth the lesson. Peace, out.