Genre conventions offer literary writers both significant advantages (structure, momentum and, frankly, the promise of some hard cash in return for increased sales) and potential pitfalls, the latter usually a result of their failure to take the genre in question seriously. Occasionally, though, their literary credentials liberate such writers from the expectations that readers might have of a more mainstream genre novel, allowing them to create something startlingly different while remaining, for the most part, within the structures of their adopted form.Maybe it’s just that I don’t read enough but my most recent experiences of literary authors writing crime – Benjamin Black’s THE LEMUR and Sebastian Faulks’ DEVIL MAY CARE – have resulted in anything but ‘startlingly different’. THE LEMUR, in point of fact, is hugely enjoyable because Black is poking fun at the genre’s tropes, but it’s by no means a radical departure for crime fiction. DEVIL MAY CARE, on the other hand, is utter tripe.
The last time I read a terrific novel from a literary author writing crime fiction was JULIUS WINSOME by Gerard Donovan. And Donovan would probably explode into a million literary pieces if he heard we were describing his novel as crime fiction.
Elsewhere in today’s crime-packed Irish Times, Vincent Banville returns – hurrah! – with a Crime File round-up that includes the latest offerings from Jeffrey Deaver, Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell, Michele Giuttari, Sue Grafton, Camilla Lackberg and Karin Fossum. Giuttari’s A DEATH IN TUSCANY has been winking at yours truly from near the top of Mt. TBR for some weeks now, and Banville’s review (“a long, absorbing and entertaining read set in a most exotic location”) sends it straight to the summit.
The Big Question – when will we get to read another Vincent Banville novel? Only time, that notoriously prevaricating doity rat, will tell …