A rather interesting few hours was had by your genial host last evening. The venue was RTE, the Irish state broadcaster, and the occasion was Ryan Tubridy’s (right) The Tubridy Tonight show, Ireland’s equivalent of the David Letterman yak-fest. The object of the exercise was to talk about Ireland’s obsession with crime in the company of crime fiction scribe Declan Hughes and the Daily Star’s crime correspondent, Mick O’Toole, co-author with John Mooney of BLACK OPERATIONS: THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE REAL IRA. I was there masquerading as an expert in Irish crime fiction.
As it transpired, there was very little in the way of chat about crime fiction, with the conversation concentrating on true-crime cases, and particularly the stories of Madeleine McCann, Farah Noor and Rachel O’Reilly. Not being an aficionado of true-crime writing, my contribution was limited to suggesting that the Irish fascination with crime – I reckoned ‘obsession’ was a bit strong, and has morbid connotations – is a positive thing. Take the Farah Noor case, aka the ‘Scissors Sisters’ story. If the dismembered body of a man turned up in a canal and didn’t provoke appalled fascination, then serious questions would have to be asked about the emotional well-being of a society that could be so callously indifferent.
I also suggested that Ireland, despite its rapidly growing population, is still a relatively small country, which gives its high-profile crime cases a potent immediacy and intimacy. That’s not to say we’re a village where everyone knows everyone else, but if there’s a murder in such-and-such pub, say, there’s a good chance you know someone who drank there, or you were on that street three weeks ago, or you know someone who lives in the area.
There’s also the largely unremarked fact that while the Republic of Ireland went about its business blissfully and / or wilfully ignorant of its burgeoning criminal class until the investigative journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered in 1996, less than a hundred miles to the north there were regular (on occasion daily) outbreaks of violence, murder and bombings being visited on Northern Ireland’s population.
The bad news is that last night’s Tubridy Tonight was a ‘dry run’ pilot for the forthcoming series, so it won’t actually be screened on TV. Boo. Still, it was interesting to see how that kind of show is put together, and it’s another story for the grandkids.
Most interesting of all was the pre-show conversation in the Green Room, where Mick O’Toole gave myself and Dec Hughes the inside skinny on some of Ireland’s more high-profile crime cases, most of which wasn’t fit to print at the time and won’t be repeated here for fear of finding my pert little ass sued off. But it does beg the question – given the terrific examples of Gene Kerrigan’s grittily realistic novels, when are Ireland’s crime correspondents going to start writing crime fiction?
“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.