“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.

Friday, July 31, 2009

THE LOVERS: A Many-Splendoured Thing, Apparently

Further to the genre / literary gulf farrago of earlier in the week, here’s the intros to two recent Sunday Times reviews of crime novels. The first is by John P. O’Sullivan, reviewing John Connolly’s THE LOVERS (no link):
Crime thrillers are a guilty pleasure – like a visit to McDonald’s when nobody is looking. These days, we can make gluttons of ourselves as many Irish writers, freed from depicting sexual guilt and rural angst, are taking advantage of the growing market for this genre. Even worthies such as the novelist John Banville (using the pseudonym Benjamin Black) and the playwright Declan Hughes have taken occasional leave of their literary toils to jump on the paddy-wagon.
  The most successful of this new breed of Irish writer is John Connolly …
The second is by John Dugdale, reviewing Thomas Pynchon’s INHERENT VICE:
Set in 1970, Thomas Pynchon’s first venture into crime fiction is a serio-comic homage that wryly mimics the tropes of Raymond Chandler’s novels. Like Philip Marlowe, its hero Doc Sportello is a Californian private eye, pursuing a quest that sees him getting beaten up, becoming a murder suspect himself, clashing regularly with an LAPD cop, escaping captors bent on killing him, and seduced by alluring women he interviews.
  Doc, however, prefers marijuana to bourbon and calls his one-man outfit LSD (location, surveillance, detection) Investigations …
  What I find interesting is that Dugdale doesn’t feel any pressure to excuse, explain or otherwise contextualise Pynchon’s decision to write a crime novel; while O’Sullivan, writing exclusively for the Irish edition of the Sunday Times’ Culture magazine, goes out of his way to make excuses to his Irish audience (“a guilty pleasure”) on behalf of one of the finest crime writers currently plying his trade, who just so happens to be Irish.
  Is it an Irish thing? An inferiority complex buried in the genetic code? A pathological fear of being considered not quite serious? Of being laughed at?
  “Arrah now, shir, yir honir, isn’t grand we do be to be doin’ the spellins at all, atall?”
  O’Sullivan’s verdict on THE LOVERS, incidentally, is that, “Connolly has served up good, solid fare with the occasional piquant surprise. You may not be getting haute cuisine when you read him, but you’re getting gourmet burger rather than McDonald’s.”
  Were he to damn the book with praise fainter, he’d have had to use invisible ink. Meanwhile, here’s some other recent reviews:
You may at times think you are reading a literary novel but then Connolly will remind you he’s just as adept at the violent strategies of the thriller. Either way you will be left shaken by the experience. – Barry Forshaw, Sunday Express

John Connolly, author of THE REAPERS and THE UNQUIET, more successfully mixes the supernatural into the crime novel in THE LOVERS … Connolly is building a solid following here in the States, and his stylish thrillers deserve even wider attention. – Michael Berry, San Francisco Chronicle

The supernatural element in Connolly’s Parker books has always annoyed some fans, who feel it nudges what are essentially crime novels too far into Stephen King territory. It’s present here as an unobtrusive background hum – the perfect complement to Parker’s measured narration. – John O’Connell, The Guardian

“It’s not all crooks and spooks; Connolly is far too skilled a writer to create mere schlock-horror. He’s at his best getting inside his characters’ heads … Connolly’s latest novel is unashamedly gothic, but ultimately manages to be believable and moving too.” Rebecca Armstrong, The Independent
  Finally, and while it’s a bit wearying to get bogged down in this kind of pedantic bullshit … Apropos John Sullivan’s intro to THE LOVERS review, John Banville has published three Benjamin Black novels since his last Banville novel, while Declan Hughes has published four crime novels since last he penned a play. Also – and I do appreciate that this is hardly worth mentioning – both Banville and Hughes were actually quite interested in the crime narrative back in their more worthy days, regardless of whether they were writing literary novels or plays such as NIGHTSPAWN, TWENTY GRAND, THE UNTOUCHABLE, THE WOMAN IN WHITE and THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE.
  The defence rests, m’lud …

2 comments:

Ali Karim said...

Connolly's THE LOVERS is magnificent, magnificent, magnificent - one of the finest novel's I've read this year

Ali

Great peice Declan, post-Banville Debate

Fiona said...

It's always easy for the dubious literary aristocrat to sneer at the worthiness of the meritocrat.
Then again, isn't easy a synonym for facile?

Connolly is a genius.