“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.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Neville Will Find Work For Idle Hands To Do

I interviewed Stuart Neville (right) last week, and a very pleasant experience it was too, not least because Stuart is in a very good place these days. Recently married, he’s on the shortlist for tonight’s LA Times’ Mystery / Thriller Book Awards with COLLUSION, a gong he scooped last year for his debut novel, THE TWELVE, aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. Could he possibly win two years running? It’s a big ask, as they say, particularly given the quality of the opposition: our own Tana French, for FAITHFUL PLACE; Kelli Stanley for CITY OF DRAGONS; Laura Lippman for I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE; and Tom Franklin for CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER, which is the best novel I’ve read this year to date (although my current read, IRON HOUSE by John Hart, is running it close).
  Meanwhile, Stuart is also gearing up to the release of his third novel, STOLEN SOULS, which he describes as ‘a much more streamlined, ticking-clock kind of thriller’, influenced by classic ’70s thrillers such as William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN, and the early novels of Thomas Harris. Sounds tasty. For more on STOLEN SOULS, clickety-click here
  Anyway, I asked Stuart in passing if he’d like to nominate an Irish crime title to recommend to readers, to which he responded thusly:
“The new Gene Kerrigan book, THE RAGE, is absolutely terrific. It captures that sense of Ireland on the down-slope of the rollercoaster, he’s done that very, very well. But also, his journalistic background makes it seem like there’s almost a documentary feel to it. You feel like you could be reading an actual description of a crime in it, as opposed to a fictional crime. It has a real core of authenticity to it. It’s very impressive. I’d hope that the Irish Book Awards win last year, and the CWA nomination, will help raise his profile. He’s a terrific writer.”
  That makes Stuart’s nod the third very positive recommendation for THE RAGE I’ve heard in the last couple of weeks. It isn’t released until June 2nd, but already it seems set to catapult Gene Kerrigan into the stratosphere. Here’s hoping.
  What I love most about Gene Kerrigan’s books, I think, is the ring of authenticity Stuart refers to, which is very probably derived from his years spent as a court reporter. Not for Kerrigan the demonising of criminals, little or otherwise. I never tire of repeating the line Kerrigan used during a conversation on crime writing a few years ago, when he suggested that the typical criminal isn’t all that different to law-abiding folk. “This guy will babysit your kids on a Friday night,” he said, “then go to work on Saturday morning with a gun in his pocket.”
  I always get an image of some uncle-type babysitter driven demented by an unruly brood who refuse to go to bed on time, whose shoulders straighten the next morning as he leaves the house, checking the safety on his Glock before he slouches off, some rough beast, headed for the mean streets to be born again …

UPDATE: Tom Franklin’s CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER won the LA Times’ Book Awards Best Mystery / Thriller last night, and while I’m disappointed on behalf of our own Stuart Neville and Tana French, there’s no disputing the fact that Franklin’s is a wonderful novel. Here’s the review I wrote back in February as part of that month’s Irish Times column:

Set in rural Mississippi, Tom Franklin’s CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (Macmillan, £11.99, pb) opens with the shooting of small town mechanic Larry Ott, a semi-recluse who has long been suspected of the abduction and murder of a local girl some decades before. Local deputy Silas Jones is reluctant to lead the investigation into the shooting, as he and Larry were childhood friends before an ugly racial incident drove them apart, but the disappearance of another young girl overrules Silas’s personal distaste for the case. Ostensibly a police procedural, Franklin’s third novel deploys the genre’s narrative conventions as a framework for a much deeper exploration of the psychology of small-town America and its recent racist past. Both Larry and Silas are superbly drawn and fully fleshed characters, their personalities and conflict chthonic to rural Mississippi but luminously relevant, in Franklin’s hands, to any locale on the planet. Factor in a mesmerising evocation of rural Mississippi, language of sinuous and shimmering elegance, and a finely tuned ear for the nuances of dialogue, and you have a novel that is an early contender for one of the great novels of the year. - Declan Burke

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