IN one sense, it’s a shame that Gene Kerrigan hails from this parish, because you’re going to think I’m biased when I say that, with DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, he has written one of the finest crime novels set in Ireland.So there you have it. For an appetite-whetting Chapter One, clickety-click here …
Initially the story of Danny Callaghan, a Dublin ex-con who instinctively interferes in a gangland hit and suffers the consequences, DARK TIMES is a novel that gets under the skin of post-boom Ireland. The various settings are for the most part those urban wastelands by-passed by the boom, where people live cheek-by-jowl with the criminal fraternity, and where the notion of law and order is a sick joke.
And yet, as with Kerrigan’s previous novels, LITTLE CRIMINALS and A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, the issues are not black-and-white, and the lines drawn are not between good and bad, or law and disorder. Kerrigan is more interested in exploring the concept of power, its use and abuse, and how those at the bottom of the pecking order, regardless of which side of the thin blue line they stand, are powerless -- physically, financially and morally -- when confronted with the juggernaut of power corrupted absolutely.
Written in a terse, economical style studded with nuggets of black humour, the novel is unflinchingly cynical about the cause-and-effect cycle of poverty, mis-education, hopelessness and violence that provides an unending flow of willing volunteers for gangland life.
Kerrigan the journalist is apparent in the novel’s relevance, as three or four narrative strands that could easily have jumped off yesterday’s front pages coalesce into a splendid page-turner. But it’s Kerrigan the novelist that lifts DARK TIMES above the realms of the conventional crime novel, with his detailed and often poignant depiction of the truth behind the headlines.
His characters are never ‘scum’ or ‘thugs’; they don’t labour under ridiculous nicknames; they’re fully-rounded individuals who can tug on your heart-strings on one page, and force a man to dig his own grave on the next.
Cruelly authentic, the novel refuses the simplistic pieties of either the genre’s form or society’s wishful thinking. DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is a very fine crime novel, but it’s also one of the very few novels of any stripe to hold up a mirror to the dark heart of modern Ireland’s boom-and-bust.
“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. “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.
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
DARK TIMES’ Bright Prospects
Time being not so much a cruel mistress as a vengeful dominatrix these days, I gave Gene Kerrigan’s (right) nomination for the CWA Gold Dagger only a cursory mention on Monday. It’s worth mentioning again, though, because I think DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is a terrific read – for those who have read and enjoyed LITTLE CRIMINALS and A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, it’s an entirely new gear altogether. Here’s my two cents, in a review for the Sunday Independent (where Gene Kerrigan is a columnist) from last February: