Yours truly had a very enjoyable Saturday morning last weekend, largely due to the good folk at Dublin City Libraries, who organised a Readers’ Day for representatives of 130 Book Clubs that centred on crime fiction. Kathy Reichs was the main attraction, and very attractive she was, too, as she answered the questions posed by Myles McWeeney, crime fiction reviewer for the Irish Independent and friend to Irish crime writers. The readers were polite enough to stay in their seats for the subsequent panel, which was hosted by poet Theo Dorgan (we do such things posh in Dublin, see) and featured the ever-radiant Niamh O’Connor, true-crime writer Barry Cummins and your humble host discussing the topic, ‘Crime Writing - Stranger Than Fiction’.
It was a strange and enervating panel to be on. Niamh has published true-crime books and crime fiction, Barry writes true-crime books (his latest, WITHOUT TRACE, has just been released), and I write crime fiction. Given that Barry’s books deal with missing persons, women for the most part, some of the conversation was poignant at best, and often harrowing. Meanwhile, Niamh was talking about how some of the true crime stories she comes across with her journalist’s hat on would be laughed out of her publisher’s office if she had the temerity to pitch them as fiction. Which got me thinking - out loud, unfortunately - about Bertie Ahern and The Curious Case of the Missing Bank Account.
There’s been a lot of waffle in Ireland recently, mostly among the literary establishment chatterati, about the absence of the Great Celtic Tiger Novel (I’d humbly suggest that Alan Glynn has already written it, in WINTERLAND, but that’s a conversation for another day). Anyhoo, the point I made was that the Great Celtic Tiger Novel, if it is yet to come, will almost certainly be a crime novel. How could it be otherwise when an entire nation was scammed out of its children’s and grandchildren’s future by an elite Golden Circle of thieves, chancers, bluffers, rip-off merchants and corrupt politicians, the entire process overseen by Chief Chancer and Greatest Living Irish Wastrel, Bertie Ahern, aka the Indian in the Cupboard, who, as leader of the country, and former Minister for Finance, and a qualified accountant, managed to negotiate his entire adult life and professional career without ever feeling the need to open a single bank account.
Now, the mystery is not where the money went, or where those betting slips Bertie claimed to have won all that cash on went to (betting slips!), but what to do with the raw material. In other words, is the story of BERTIE AHERN AND THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MISSING BANK ACCOUNT a tragedy or a farce? Is it crime fiction or comedy? Not that I want to be flippant about it, because the stringent cut-backs in front-line services means that old and sick people will die sooner than they might have due to Bertie Ahern’s wilful spend-spend-spend philosophy when he was in power; some people will die young for the want of emergency services who might well have lived long and fruitful lives; and then there’s the silent epidemic of suicide sweeping Ireland at the moment, as those despairing of their future and convinced of their uselessness finally take the advice Bertie Ahern offered when he was being warned of the dangers of overheating a property bubble, and have gone off, as Bertie suggested, and killed themselves.
It so happens, by the way, that Bertie Ahern, aka The Indian in the Cupboard, is contemplating running for the presidency next year. If I had my way, he’d be running for his life at the head of a pike-wielding mob, or at the very least on the run from the long arm of the law, on a trumped-up charge of economic treason. But that’s just me.
Anyway, folks, let me know what you think: should BERTIE AHERN AND THE CURIOUS CASE OF THE MISSING BANK ACCOUNT be a crime fiction novel or a comi-tragic farce? Hardboiled noir or fantasy-speculative fiction? Hell, maybe we could turn it into a musical. Over to you …
“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.