As befits these recessionary times, Crime Always Pays has gone on a go-slow, paring back all output to a one-day week. But the news that Declan Hughes (right) has been nominated for yet another Shamus is more than enough to get yours truly back at the keyboard, given that this year’s nomination – full list here – is his third Shamus nom on the bounce: he won the debut section in 2007 for THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, was back in harness in 2008 with THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, and has just been nominated for 2009 for THE PRICE OF BLOOD (winner to be announced at the Indiana Bouchercon, October 16th). Now, without having the patience or time to go through the history of the Shamus awards, I’m sure there have been other writers who have been nominated for three awards in a row – but for their first three novels?
I know that the news itself is a little stale at this stage, given that the nominations were announced last week, but given that a high percentage of this blog’s readers are Irish, and there remains a resistance among Irish readers for Irish-set crime fiction, it’s certainly worth repeating – Declan Hughes is one of the best PI writers in the world.
Quite why Irish readers are resistant to Irish-set crime fic is a story for another day, but it’ll be interesting to see what kind of turn-out Hughes gets for his crime writing workshop next month, which kicks off the crime fiction element of the Books 2009 Festival (Dublin, September 12th). If there’s any justice in the world, they’ll need cattle-prods to keep the crowds at bay.
In a not-unrelated digression, I was at the recent Flat Lake Festival in Monaghan, where I was ‘Who’s he?’ guy in a line-up of yours truly, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway and Eoin McNamee. The conversation largely concerned itself with why literary fiction is generally considered superior to crime fiction, although what bugs me about those kind of conversations is the presumption that people only read one kind of story – crime or literary fiction, or sci-fi, or chick lit, or whatever you’re having yourself. I always feel a bit guilty at times like that, because I’m a complete magpie – I’ll read anything once it’s well written, or has a great plot, or terrific ideas. And if you can give me all three at the same time, I’ll come and be your Filipino house-boy for the rest of your life (I’m being rhetorical, McKinty).
Anyway, the gig finished up with Dec Hughes reading a passage from his latest novel, the fifth Ed Loy, which Dec Hughes has very recently finished (the name escapes me now). When he was finished, Eoin McNamee said, ‘Well, that’s put to bed the idea that crime writers can’t write literary fiction.’ Or words to that effect.
Perhaps it’s because Hughes takes for his inspiration Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and – particularly – Ross Macdonald that his prose has a lushly gorgeous style, and perhaps it’s that the PI of crime fiction – that eternally wounded romantic – lends itself to the kind of first-person monologue that allows the writer’s imagination to flourish. Either way – and this is for those resistant Irish readers – Declan Hughes is a wonderful writer. And all of the foregoing doesn’t even take into consideration his best novel, in my opinion his latest, ALL THE DEAD VOICES, which won’t even be nominated for a Shamus until this time next year.
There’s a bandwagon leaving town, people. Its name is Declan Hughes. My advice to you is to be on it when it pulls out.
“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. “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.