“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, November 24, 2010

The North Will Rise Again, Again

Apologies to all Three Regular Readers for the intemperate outburst regarding Irish politics yesterday, a post I had to take down on the basis that it was attracting all kinds of bizarre comments, most of them even more radical in terms of visiting violence on Irish politicians than my own. Normal service is hereby resumed …
  I’ve mentioned Eoin McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE on these pages more than once in the last few weeks, but it really is a terrific read. If you don’t believe me, check out John Burnside’s review in The Guardian last week. The gist runneth thusly:
“Northern Ireland, 1961. The body of a young woman, stripped naked, brutally beaten, stabbed and finally strangled, is discovered in a stubble field after a dance at Newry Orange Hall. Though the police have nothing to go on other than the most circumstantial evidence, the whole town agrees that the killer is a young bodybuilder and ne'er-do-well named Robert McGladdery …
“It is this sense of how the defining moments come to be agreed – of how they are essentially defined by the ruling class – that illuminates ORCHID BLUE, so that what begins as a crime thriller gradually builds not only into a political novel of the highest order but also that rare phenomenon, a genuinely tragic work of art.” - John Burnside
  Nice. Meanwhile, I was delighted to see Stuart Neville’s very fine COLLUSION reviewed by Marilyn Stasio in the New York Times at the weekend, although it has to be said, it was less of a review and more of a synopsis. To wit:
The violence in Stuart Neville’s novels about Northern Ireland is about as nasty as it gets in noir crime fiction. But while the bloodshed in Neville’s first novel, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, was viewed from the perspective of a professional killer named Gerry Fegan, in COLLUSION (Soho, $25), a law enforcement officer is drawn into the brutality, which only adds to the sense of despair. Detective Inspector Jack Lennon, a Belfast policeman with an unsavory past, has a chance to redeem himself by coddling an informant with intelligence on local gangsters doing business with a Lithuanian mob. But in the process Lennon learns of more serious criminal collusion involving “the cops, the Brits, the Irish government, the party” — not to mention the mob bosses.
  This corruption can be traced all the way back to the Troubles and to one particular bloodbath that made fugitives of Lennon’s estranged lover and daughter. In his frantic efforts to find them, the detective turns to Fegan, the assassin, who is his only hope of finding out why that old atrocity is being revisited. What he doesn’t hold out any hope for is an end to the cycle of violence — not in Northern Ireland, where even today, in the midst of peace, organized crime is relentlessly intruding. - Marilyn Stasio
  Now, I’m sure Stuart Neville isn’t exactly complaining, but I was left scratching my head as to the point of a ‘review’ like that. Maybe I’m being obtuse, but if I hadn’t read the novel, I’d be no wiser as to if it was actually any good, and if so, why. Which is the point, is it not, of a review?

6 comments:

C. N. Nevets said...

Sounds like a book report from the 3rd grade.

Michael Malone said...

I've just finished Orchid Blue - on your recommendation - and would have to agree it is an outstanding book.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

It does read like one of the many versions of plot synposis' that agents usually require. This being the two paragraph plot version, i guess.

lil Gluckstern said...

I think that Marilyn Stasio writes with the notion that if she mentions the book, it is worth reading. She does her reviews like a reporter rather than a reviewer, as such. I read The Ghosts of Belfast and Collusion and found them both difficult, and gripping. I think some of us here in the States are a little naive, and certainly underinformed, about the "Troubles." I have been reading more and more Irish novels which give much more information and the atmosphere of those times, than we would see on TV, and in the movies. On to Orchid Blue. By the way, I think a Kindle is going to show up here soon, and the first book I looked up was CAP.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Lil - Much obliged, ma'am ... Keep me posted on how CAP treats you.

Cheers, Dec

Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

You can ensure comment moderation for one or several days, which is useful.

Most spammers seem to come out at night and are a bit under the weather.

Having live through "The Troubles", albeit at a safe distance, I cannot get up enough energy to read accounts of more violence.
However, the writers who carry the flame for the North are brave and worth supporting.

Here's to a peaceful New Year.