“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.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Deceptively Simple Art Of Murder

There’s been a lot of talk recently about whether Irish writers are engaging with modern Ireland, a conversation begun by Julian Gough and continued in the Irish Times recently by Eileen Battersby and Joseph O’Connor. Despite the fact that most Irish crime writers tend to be as contemporary in terms of storyline and setting as the business of publishing will allow, said writers are noticeably absent from the conversation. Caroline Walsh, the Literary Editor at the Irish Times, was good enough to suggest that I write a piece rectifying that state of affairs, and the piece is published today, with the opening following below.
  I honestly think there’s something important at stake here. It’s not simply an issue of relevance in terms of writing about contemporary subject matter, as I say in the piece; it’s about the relevance of literature itself, and the function of a body of literature in relation to the culture it springs from. At the risk of sounding a complete plank in quoting myself, I have this to say: “Making a distinction between crime and literary fiction in Ireland today is … redundant, unless it’s to suggest that contemporary Irish crime authors are producing a canon of work that’s equally important as that of their literary counterparts.” To paraphrase Raymond Chandler from The Simple Art of Murder, crime writers are taking the Irish novel out of the drawing room and dropping it in the alley, where it belongs.
  Have on, James, and spare not the horses …
We always take great pride in our writers – except for our crime writers, who, despite being feted abroad, get little recognition here. Strange, given that they seem to be the ones tackling the burning issues, writes DECLAN BURKE

THE ASSASSINATION in 1986 of the Swedish prime minister Olaf Palme sent shockwaves through Sweden in particular and Scandinavia in general. One consequence was the emergence of an indigenous crime fiction, a phenomenon taken very seriously by cultural commentators in Sweden and Norway. Today, writers such as Henning Mankell, Stieg Larsson and Jo Nesbø are household names across the world.
  The then Irish minister for justice, Kevin O’Higgins, was assassinated on his way to Mass in July, 1927. In 1928, Liam O’Flaherty published The Assassin, a political thriller set in Dublin about the murder of a prominent politician. Its staccato rhythms, spare style and bleak tone, the psychological study of a disturbed criminal mind, was practically a blueprint for the hard-boiled crime writing produced in the following years by American writers Dashiell Hammett and James M Cain, yet Ireland has had to wait until the past decade for a comparable outpouring of crime writing ...
  For the rest, clickety-click here

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Nice job in the Toimes today

Michael Malone said...

beautifully said, Dec

bookwitch said...

Olof!!!

Julian said...

Great piece, Declan. I'll be mending my ways, and catching up on a few of the fellows you mentioned.

Well written, well argued, well done.

kevin said...

well said Declan--totally agree with your citing of O'Flaherty as influence on US hardboiled, pulp tradition--the Assassin is really an underrated classic