“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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Who Is This Man Joseph Hone?

It’s fair to say that the world - niche as it is - of Irish crime writing never fails to surprise me. Late last week, it came to my attention that Lilliput Press has just published a novel called GOODBYE AGAIN by Joseph Hone, with the blurb suggesting that the novel might - just might, mind, given Lilliput’s predilection for publishing literary fiction - be considered a crime thriller. To wit:
Ben Contini, a disenchanted painter of considerable talent, has just buried his mother. Rifling through the attic of her Kilkenny house he stumbles across a Modigliani nude, worth millions. Determined to learn the provenance of the painting, he and Elsa, a disturbed and secretive woman who accosts him at the funeral, become embroiled in the sinister world of Nazi art theft. But they are not the only one with an interest in the painting ... Together they set off on a frantic journey that leads them from Dublin to France via the Cotswolds, down the Canal du Midi into Italy. The intrigue surrounding the shadowy half-truths about their exotic families becomes increasingly sinister as Ben and Elsa are forced to confront their pasts and their buried demons. Set in the 1980s, this is a fantastic new book from established thriller writer Joseph Hone, who weaves a breathless, galloping intrigue packed with narrative twists and sumptuous evocations of Europe’s forgotten past.
 ‘Established thriller writer’? Surely not, thought I, being so well-versed (koff) in all things Irish crime fiction. But lo! A little investigation - very little, to be perfectly frank - unearthed the following on Wikipedia:
Joseph Hone (born February 25, 1937) is a writer of the Spy Novel. His most famous novels featured a British spy called Peter Marlow. The first of the series was THE PRIVATE SECTOR (1971), set in the Six Day War. Marlow’s story continues in THE SIXTH DIRECTORATE (1975), THE FLOWERS OF THE FOREST (a.k.a. THE OXFORD GAMBIT) (1980), and THE VALLEY OF THE FOX (1982). Today, Hone’s novels are out of print. During his heyday, in the 1970s, however, he was favourably compared with writers such as Len Deighton, Eric Ambler and John le CarrĂ©.
  Impressive enough, but over at the Faber Finds blog, Jeremy Duns waxes rather more than lyrical about one Joseph Hone. Quote:
“A third of the way through THE PRIVATE SECTOR I thought I was reading a beautiful marriage of Orwell’s BURMESE DAYS (in its evocation of profound British colonial torpor) and John Fante’s ASK THE DUST (in its rendering of a hopeless, near-rebarbative love affair). But that is before the spy game truly gets underway, and Hone shifts gears to show his expertise in that department too.”
  Crikey. Elsewhere, Duns quotes a Washington Post review of THE PRIVATE SECTOR:
“There are moments in this book – indeed, whole chapters – where one is haunted by the eerie feeling that Joseph Hone is really Graham Greene, with faint quarterings of Lawrence Durrell and Thomas Pynchon. His tone is nearly perfect – quiet, morbidly ironic, beautifully controlled and sustained, moodily introspective, occasionally humorous and more often bitter, with a persistent undertone of unspeakable sadness and irrecoverable loss.”
  So that’s me and my ignorance well and truly told. Sounds like Joseph Hone might be one of the great lost Irish thriller writers, and that GOODBYE AGAIN is well worth a whirl. I’ll keep you posted …