“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.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Crime Fiction: The Second Draft Of History # 341

I’ve mentioned before how the Irish Times has been bucking the global trend by increasing its books coverage, with a ‘Book of the Day’ review on the Op-Ed pages supplementing its traditional coverage in Saturday’s Review section. It’s a ballsy move, and they’re not above getting down ‘n’ dirty with the crime fic crew either. Ava McCarthy’s debut THE INSIDER got a rave two weeks ago, and this week it was Gene Kerrigan’s turn, with Kevin Power reviewing DARK TIMES IN THE CITY. To wit:
“Kerrigan, no slouch, is alert to the possibilities of the thriller form. This is a novel that uses a beautifully spun crime narrative to say something interesting about Ireland in the here and now. (It’s strikingly up to date: Kerrigan has, I think, written the first Irish novel that manages to take account of the global financial crisis – doubly impressive when you remember that most Irish writers haven’t even caught up with the boom years yet.)”
  DARK TIMES … is strikingly fresh as a snapshot of Ireland’s crumbling fa├žade, but it’s not the only novel to capture the current mood and tone. Declan Hughes’s ALL THE DEAD VOICES is not only mired in economic failure, it also dared to predict the recent upsurge in murderous dissident Republicanism. Alan Glynn’s forthcoming WINTERLAND is similarly pessimistic about Ireland’s economic future, in a story which quite literally lays bare the shaky foundations of the boom years as politics, business and gangland conspire to hoodwink Dublin’s denizens. And Ken Bruen has been writing about the decline and fall for a couple of years now, as Jack Taylor notes how Galway’s glossy party rep gets duller by the year.
  Being a pompous windbag, I’ve said before that if journalism is the first draft of history, crime fiction is its second. I’m generalising, of course, and as always, but crime fiction does seem to me to be the most relevant kind of writing out there. Is it because writers need to keep up with the always innovative criminals? Does the form itself have an immediacy that lends itself to the now? Is it simply a matter of recycling the classic three-act structure and filling in the gaps with tomorrow’s headlines? Or a more cynical case of today’s taboo being next year’s best-seller?
  Over to you people. Comment is free …

2 comments:

Glenn Harper said...

Declan: Your comment about crime fic as the second draft of history is a good one, and you're right that the immediacy of the genre is part of what keeps it relevant (as well as keeping up with the criminals). I've just gotten a copy of Dark Times in the City so I can't comment on his impressively up-to-date crime fiction, but I think crime fiction generally is more concerned with social interaction than a lot of other forms of writing, which frequently are more focused on the family or the individual. And as social interaction evolves, crime (and crime fiction) quickly evolve to take advantage...
Thanks
Glenn

Declan Burke said...

"I think crime fiction generally is more concerned with social interaction than a lot of other forms of writing, which frequently are more focused on the family or the individual."

You may well be on to something there, squire ... Even when it focuses on family or the individual, crime fic tends to be about the consequences of criminal acts for society at large. At least, the good stuff does. DARK TIMES ... is an excellent example, I think.

Cheers, Dec