Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Reviewing 101: Don’t Mention The War (#7)

There are bad reviewers, atrocious reviewers, and then there are reviewers who should be strapped to the mast and flogged with a cat o’ nine tails woven from their own entrails. Consider Geoffrey Vine’s (‘Dunedin journalist and Presbyterian minister’) take on Declan Hughes’ ALL THE DEAD VOICES at the Otago Daily Times:
“All three seem to have links with warring factions of the IRA and Loy discovers there are matching factions within the police and security forces, all just as much at war, as the collection of wounds Loy accumulates testify.
  “Most of us outside Ireland may wonder why it is so necessary to again rake over the coals of an awful civil war.
  “Both the fact (that Hughes has written a book which alternately glorifies the Troubles and condemns them) and the fiction (the book’s plot) stir up tensions we might think best left alone.”
  A couple of things need to be said here. First off, “Don’t mention the war” is a Basil Fawlty joke, not an acceptable argument in a book review. Secondly, dissident Republicans murdered two people in Ireland shortly before the publication of ALL THE DEAD VOICES, which at the very least suggests that Declan Hughes is not the only man in Ireland capable of ‘stirring up tensions’ amongst Irish paramilitaries. Thirdly, I’ve just bore a small hole in my skull scratching my head at how Vine managed to take from the novel the notion that Hughes was ‘glorifying’ the Troubles, when one of the main themes of the novel is the extent to which former murderous paramilitaries have infiltrated modern Irish business and political life.
  Yes, yes, I know it’s the Otago Daily Times, and maybe we shouldn’t expect too much. But at the very least Declan Hughes is entitled to have his book reviewed by someone who can understand basic English. Like here, for instance ...
  As for Geoff’s abhorrence of stirring up tensions – God help him if anyone gives him a copy of Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE to review …