One of the nicest things about running this blog, and being a freelance journalist, is that you get to meet terrific writers on a semi-regular basis, and ask them stuff you’ve always wanted to know, being an inveterate nosey-parker. In the last week or so alone, I’ve hooked up with Alan Glynn and Gene Kerrigan, and I’ll be meeting with Declan Hughes in the coming week. Which is nice, because you never know the day nor the hour when some of their pixie dust might settle on your own shoulders and turn you into a terrific writer too.
All three regular readers of CAP might be pleasantly surprised to learn that I met with John Banville (right) during the week, John Banville being perhaps better known to readers of this blog as Benjamin Black, or Benny Blanco (from the Bronx). They might also be surprised to learn that he was courteous and cautious to begin with (it was an interview scenario, loosely based around his ‘Being Benny Blanco’), and then became eloquent, funny and considered when talking about crime fiction in general, and Irish crime fiction in particular. There was, to be quite frank about it, a refreshing lack of bullshit about the proceedings (from his side of the table, at least).
Incidentally, ‘Benjamin Black’ was at an early stage ‘Benjamin White’, named for a character from NIGHTSPAWN, Ben White. Man, they really should have gone with ‘Benny Blanco’, shouldn’t they?
John Banville’s reputation as a difficult interviewee precedes him, but I have to say I found him thoroughly entertaining company. Perhaps he was demob-happy, having finished the latest John Banville novel last week, a novel he began in 2004. The good news for Benjamin Black fans is that he plans to complete two Black novels before the year is out.
So – one John Banville novel takes the best part of five years, and two Benjamin Black novels takes eight months (give or take). Does that piss me off? Certainly (although mostly because it takes me eight months to write a first draft). Is it because I think he disrespects crime writing by writing the Black novels so quickly? Not after listening to him explain why he writes them so quickly, and why he can. It helps, of course, that I’ve been a fan of the Banville novels since God was a boy.
Anyhoos, the point of the exercise was for a project I’ve mentioned previously, which is / will be a collection writings by Irish crime authors about crime writing. Originally conceived as a series of essays, it has since broadened out to include interviews and short stories, and will hopefully be something of a Rattlebag of crime writing. The working title is now ‘DOWN THOSE GREEN STREETS … Irish Crime Narratives in the 21st Century’, and the ‘narratives’ aspect will be broad enough to encompass film, theatre and journalism as well as novels. Contributors confirmed include, in no particular order: John Connolly, Declan Hughes, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Alan Glynn, Gene Kerrigan, John Banville, Julie Parsons, Eoin McNamee, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt, Colin Bateman, Gerard Brennan, Neville Thompson, Adrian McKinty, Ingrid Black, Paul Williams, Tana French, KT McCaffrey, Paul Charles, Professor Ian Ross, and Cora Harrison.
A small but perfectly formed commissioning fund has been provided by the Irish Arts Council, and some of the pieces have already started to filter through, not least those from Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan, Neville Thompson and The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman. If the rest of the material is of the same standard, and I have no reason to doubt that it will be, it’ll be a terrific read. I’ll keep you posted.
“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.