“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.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Declan Hughes: Resistance Is Futile

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.

9 comments:

Corey Wilde said...

I don't know why Irish readers would be so resistant to Irish-set crime fic. God knows this Yank can't seem to get enough of it.

seana said...

Well, it's so nice to see that, to paraphrase Mark Twain, rumors of the death of this blog have been greatly exaggerated.

I'm with you, Corey, on a Yank's appreciation of Irish crime fiction. Although in California, we don't tend to think of ourselves as Yanks.

I've read the first Declan Hughes, and really enjoyed it. It's obvious I have to catch up with the rest of those Ed Loys.

seana said...

Oh, and we'll await the explanation for Irish resistance to Irish crime fiction one of these weeks.

Michael Malone said...

Declan, there are very similar attitudes here in Scotland. Rankin aside, the view seems to be if the writer is Scottish, surely they can't be as good as the other writers out there? And in my quest to get published I'm finding that publishers have similar views. They all seem to have their token one or two Scots and don't want anyone else. Whassat all about? Sorry. Rant over and out. Must check out Mr Hughes after all we did blether at Harrogate in the wee hours. About Celtic of all things.

Declan Burke said...

Seana, he gets better with every book. I'm tempted to tell you to jump straight to All the Dead Voices, but it's nice to read them in sequence.

As for the indigenous resistance to Irish crime fic - if I ever work it out, you'll be the first to know. And I'm sure McKinty has a theory.

Michael - I'd have to confess to being resistant myself to Irish crime writing for many years. It wasn't until Colin Bateman and Vincent Banville, and Hughes and Connolly and Bruen, that I started buying into it.

But it can be frustrating as a writer, no doubt. Keep me posted on how it goes ...

Cheers, Dec

Bob said...

It's the same with Irish music. Resistance to anything Irish is an Irish thing, methinks. We've had an inferiority complex for so long that we just don't believe it can be as good as what's produced internationally and pass over it when we see it in the stores. And yes, before anyone mentions U2 and Maeve Binchy, there are always going to be exceptions.

bookwitch said...

Nah, it's just that family is embarrassing. I don't totally get this fascination with Swedish crime writers. They are so ordinary. Not a murder in any vicarages anywhere.

Dana King said...

I was lucky enough to write the frst US review of THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD. I've been in the front car of the bandwagon ever since.

Seamus Scanlon said...

Declan Hughes can certainly write as well as conduct great workshops see http://crimealwayspays.blogspot.com/2009/07/all-led-voices.html