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.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Is This A Dagger I Don’t See Before Me?

Gosh, but it was a busy old weekend in the world of Irish crime fic letters. John Boyne and Stuart Neville commandeered an entire page in the Irish Times review section to write about Alan Glynn and James Ellroy, respectively (see below), and then Ruth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley Edwards (right) penned a billet doux to Gene Kerrigan, in the Sunday Independent. Gene, y’see, lost out in the Dagger awards, so Ruth (quite rightly) took umbrage, with the gist running thusly:
“As a long-time inhabitant of the crime-writing world, I can report that although his publishers force Gene to make an occasional public appearance, he is one of those self-effacing writers who clearly would rather die than go in for what we in the trade call BSP (blatant self-promotion). Think of the opposite of Jeffrey Archer and you’ve got some idea of Gene Kerrigan as a public figure. He answers questions, tells the truth and then goes home. Heaven forfend that he should hang around schmoozing, or recommending people to buy his books.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Elsewhere in the Sunday Independent, Eilis O’Hanlon (aka one half of the pseudonym ‘Ingrid Black’), took issue with the phenomenon of Book Clubs. To wit:
“Getting beaten up, intellectually at least, is an integral part of the book club experience, as evidenced by the row which erupted last month in the pages of the Irish Times after poet Mary O’Donnell wrote a sniffy piece on “the horror of book clubs”, citing as Exhibit A one woman on The Tubridy Show book group who apparently said she didn’t like to be disturbed by her reading material.
  O’Donnell unwittingly reinforced the impression of the critics of book clubs as elitist snobs who don’t want the hoi polloi storming the gates of literature. She seemed to regard it as a badge of honour for certain writers to alienate readers, and to see the breach as the fault of those readers. That is giving writers too much reverence. Personal intent ceases to matter once the book leaves their hands. The finished work has to fight its own battles …”
  Stirring stuff on behalf of the Wine Clubs, but then O’Hanlon goes further:
“That the vast majority of book clubs are still dominated by women (up to 80 per cent, according to some estimates) is no coincidence. They remain important forums for female friendship and interaction. Fay Weldon’s LETTERS TO ALICE ON FIRST READING JANE AUSTEN is a key text in understanding how women have used books as emotional maps though difficult terrain in their lives.
  But there’s still a suspicion that book clubs, however admirable, have led to a homogenisation of fiction, with preference given to novels which can easily be broken down into their constituent elements, allowing a blander discussion of the various “issues”. Readers can breeze through, ticking off the boxes one by one. It doesn’t make for better books, but it certainly makes for better book club books.”
  So there you have it – book clubs are good for publishers, but bad for writers. Any takers?
  Finally, it matters not a whit in the grand scheme of Irish crime fic letters, but the Crime Always Pays blog passed the ‘200,000 page impressions (aka ‘hits’)’ mark at some point over the weekend, having taken two and half years to get here. Not really a moment for trumpet-blowing, it’s true, but I think I’ll allow myself a faint parp on the ceremonial kazoo all the same, and thank everyone (aka ‘all three regular readers’) who come back day after day to wade through the mindless wittering for the sake of the occasional nugget provided by better writers than I. Much obliged, folks.