“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.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Here Comes The Summer


And so we’re back, to a grey and dreary Irish summer. You very probably didn’t notice, but I was away for the last two weeks, on holidays in Northern Cyprus, and a terrific time was had by all. Good food, more-or-less constant sun, fabulous views from the terrace of splendid sunsets (sample pictured, above), plenty of reading time, and plenty of time too to spend with Mrs Lovely Wife and the Princess Lilyput. All told, it was a nigh-on perfect holiday in a place with a fabulously interesting recent history, more of which anon …
  In the meantime, it’s on with the job of this blog, which is to big-up good books for the discerning reader, one of which is the latest from Benjamin Black, A DEATH IN SUMMER. Black - aka John Banville - got the royal treatment in the Irish Times yesterday, with an excellent interview by Sara Keating dovetailing with a review of A DEATH IN SUMMER by John Boyne.
  I know there are crime readers out there who resist Benjamin Black on the basis that John Banville has in the past been - allegedly - snobbish about ‘slumming it’ when he writes crime fiction, but in my very limited experience, while interviewing Banville for the DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS collection, he was entirely candid about the notion that Banville and Black write two different kinds of books, one self-consciously literary, the other self-consciously genre. From yesterday’s interview:
“I suppose some of my John Banville books could have been written by Benjamin Black: THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE, maybe, THE UNTOUCHABLE, because they are to some extent crime books. I am not necessarily saying that one [type of book] is better than the other. They are just two different ways of writing.”
  Meanwhile, John Boyne had this to say in his review of A DEATH IN SUMMER:
“John Banville, a man for whom the term ‘serious literary figure’ might have been invented, often speaks of these books in a slightly offhand way, as if they were of less worth than his ‘Banville’ novels. This brings to mind Graham Greene, a writer who also divided his work into literary fiction and ‘entertainments’, although, when one considers that the entertainments included THE MINISTRY OF FEAR and OUR MAN IN HAVANA, one might think that Greene was doing himself a slight disservice.” - John Boyne
  Set in 1950’s Dublin, and featuring the amateur sleuth Quirke, the Benjamin Black novels have the outward appearance of sepia-tinged cosies. But - and without giving away too many spoilers - the ending of A DEATH IN SUMMER features the most hard-boiled, stomach-churning noir finale to any novel I’ve read this year, bar none.
  I’ve gone on record before to say that I’ll always enjoy the Banville novels more than the Black novels, but if A DEATH IN SUMMER is any indication of where Banville is going with the Black novels, I’m no longer sure that that’s the case. I certainly think that A DEATH IN SUMMER is worth the consideration of any serious crime fiction reader, and that it rewards a patient reading.

1 comment:

Dana King said...

I'll have to give Banville/Black a try. As Greene showed, there's nothing that says art can't be entertaining. In fact, if more "artists" of all disciplines thought a little more about entertainment, everyone would be better off. The public would have more accessible art, and the artist would have more accessible cash.