“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 9, 2009

Hurls At Ten Paces In The Misty Russian Dawn: Cuddly Duddly Vs Benny Blanco, Round 4-Ish

Misquoted, traduced and wounded by the ricocheting fall-out from Banvillegate, Ruth Dudley Edwards (right) isn’t taking it lying down. Not content with having her say last week on Crime Always Pays – and let’s be honest, even I’m not content with having my say on CAP – she’s gone for the jugular courtesy of the Sunday Independent. To wit:
“I published my first crime novel in 1981 and was short-listed for the British Crime Writers’ Association’s Best First Novel Award. Since then I’ve published another 10, I’ve performed at innumerable crime conventions and crime bookshops in Britain, Ireland and the US, I’ve been on the committee of the Crime Writers' Association, I love the good-natured, egalitarian crime-fiction world and have great friends among writers and readers.
  “I am, if anything, more proud of my Last Laugh Award than of the James Tait Black memorial prize for biography.
  “Under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, John Banville published his first crime novel in 2006. At the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival, which we both attended last month, he annoyed most of his audience, yet he had the brass neck to patronise me in The Guardian …”
  For the rest – and it does get a bit salty – clickety-click here

13 comments:

bookwitch said...

I'm beginning to enjoy this. Well done, Ruth!

Corey Wilde said...

Yowzah! She's earned her sobriquet, all right.

I.J.Parker said...

Not all that well done by Ruth, I think. Much too wordy. But it was very entertaining. Poor Banville. I'm beginning to feel sorry for him.

John McFetridge said...

The key to this for me is here:

Ruth Dudley Edwards: "I was the moderator of a panel called Emerald Noir, which displayed the considerable talents of four Irish crime writers including our very own Gene Kerrigan, whose brilliant Dark Times in the City will educate you eye-poppingly about the gang culture of post-Celtic Tiger Dublin."

John Banville says his alter ego, Black: "cannot get interested in a sentence."

So, she talks about substance and he talks about style.

You need both, of course, but they have to fit together. Of course, selling so many Black books will always give him the last laugh. Oh well.

Uriah Robinson said...

To write good crime fiction you have to love the genre and enjoy the writing process. Banville clearly regards crime fiction as beneath him and that is possibly why I did not like his Silver Swan that much.
Well done Ruth Dudley Edwards who not only went for the jugular but the carotid and the aorta as well.

seana said...

I am trying to think of an American setting where this kind of squabble would get any kind of print space. Unless the quarrel was between Oprah and, well, anybody, it would probably get no play at all.

Not saying whether that's a good thing or a bad thing--just saying.

crimeficreader said...

One point: I wonder why RDE continues to refute the reporting of her comments (as misleading & inaccurate) but does not clarify exactly what they were?

Banville stood out for me for one reason, at Harrogate. He didn't mingle informally and socially with the punters. Crimefic writers do. Hell, I even know one who claimed life as a recluse as the norm, but he made it into the party.

That aside, it takes a foolish or a brave man to enter the lion's den. I'll give credit to Banville on the latter. He may wear a summer hat - Fedora possibly - but he has a steely spine.

RDE said that Jake Kerridge got the wrong end of the stick. I think it's possible that all might get the wrong end of the stick. Having sat through that session, it was in no way as controversial as reported.

Declan Burke said...

Worst case scenario, let's assume that John Banville, his protests to the contrary, thinks crime fiction is rubbish, and he's only in it for the money. Okay?

Then look at the Benjamin Black books. Even if they're not your cup of tea, you can't deny that they're well written. For a man who writes in a hurry when writing crime fic, Ben Black can still craft a fine sentence.

Now let's look at the books written by James Patterson and his best-selling ilk. If anyone was to ask me who, among the crime writing fraternity, has complete contempt for his audience, I'd point to James Patterson.

If we're going to start hammering people for their attitude to the genre, rather than the books they produce, I propose we start with Patterson, Dan Brown, John Grisham, et al.

If any of those three could write as well as Banville, or Black for that matter, the genre would be a hell of a lot better off.

Cheers, Dec

John McFetridge said...

I'm not sure what pedantic means, but I'm afriad I'm headed in that direction - oh well. Grisham, Patterson and Brown all write fantasy-thrillers. I really think it's a different genre. It's not based in any kind of reality (okay, in a minute McKintey may show up saying that some Russian guy was murdered with poisoned sushi and another guy was killed by umbrella, so I admit that kind of stuff does sometimes happen, but it's so very rare).

A lot of crime fiction is a lot closer to literary fiction in that it lives in the real world.

seana said...

And I'll risk getting completely off topic, because that is what I do best, and say that the main thing Grisham, Patterson and Brown have in common is that they all happen to have written extremely lucrative bestsellers. And, I suppose in the case of Grisham and Patterson, another link is that they have found successful formulas, enough so in Patterson's case that he can actually get someone else to do a lot of the writing for him. Which irritates the hell out of our main buyer, but doesn't particularly bother me. Nice life if you can get it, I say!

But Grisham is interested in at least writing about important issues, like the death penalty and the power of insurance companies. I haven't read all that much of him, but I actually thought that The Rainmaker was very good on many levels.

Based on what his fans have told me, I am pretty sure that the key to Patterson's success is that he writes extremely short chapters that make him easy to pick up and put down. I haven't read him, just seen an Alex Cross movie or two.

Dan Brown is the one who I personally find unreadable, partly because stylistically, he does write pretty awfully, but mainly because I can't summon up the required suspension of belief to buy into his 'esoteric history'.

It's interesting to think about mysteries as being a form of fantasy in many cases, though. Thanks for that, John.

John McFetridge said...

Yes, I admit I'd forgotten that Grisham writes about big issues. I've only seen a couple of the movie versions, A Time to Kill which I guess is sort of To Kill a Mockingbird lite with far more obvious emotional manipulation than Harpeer Lee would ever have considered. And the one about lawyers working for the mob.

The movies, of course, are all about easy answers and I admit that's influenced my view of the books. It shoudn't and I should read them before commenting.

seana said...

Well, The Firm is exactly what you would have thought it was, and I believe A Time to Kill was actually an early novel that got published after he got everyone's attention, but I think he probably grew as a writer as he went along.

I'm sure he wouldn't presume to compare himself to Harper Lee, though. They're still very commercially driven novels when all is said and done.

Death Becomes Them said...

Following recent discussion here regarding literary fiction v. genre fiction the current issue of Newsweek (Aug 10th) carries an essay on literary authors crossing the barrier to crime fiction writing.

In the piece, Death Becomes Them, (p. 50-52) the author maintains that literary authors tend not to make the transition that well.

He also feels the crime fiction literary fiction divide is disappearing and that noir as a genre is disappearing (which surely is incorrect).