Meanwhile, I had a short review of Ken Bruen’s HEADSTONE (Transworld Ireland) published in the Irish Times yesterday. It ran a lot like this:
By Ken Bruen
Transworld Ireland (£12.99)
Jack Taylor is probably the least private eye in crime fiction. In Ken Bruen’s novels, Taylor is as well-known on Galway’s streets as Eyre Square itself, and as easy to find. Further, he’s ‘an alkie vigilante with notions above his station’, as one character describes him here.
Would you commission this man to find your wandering daughter?
‘Headstone’ is the ninth in the Jack Taylor series, and Ken Bruen’s 29th novel in total. The plot finds Jack pitched against a neo-Nazi group bent on slaughter, while also trying to track down a priest who has absconded with the funds of an Opus Dei-style organisation.
As always, the plot is incidental. It’s traditional for fictional private eyes to investigate a disappearance, an absence or a lack, in the process shining a light into the dark corners of the culture from which they spring. Jack Taylor tends to ramble around Galway pointing out its shortcomings in his uniquely bleak and lacerating way, occasionally remembering to engage with the job he has been commissioned to do.
‘Mostly what you got was tired,’ he says after one less-than-heroic effort. ‘My limp ached. I even did a Google search. Nope. He had really flown under the radar.’
Bruen, of course, is fully aware of Jack Taylor’s limitations, both as a man and the hero of a series of novels. Taylor is the self-referential, knowing creation of an author with a PhD in Metaphysics, a private eye who not only reads crime novels to restore his equilibrium, but one who falls in love with a crime fiction writer. ‘At my most cynical, I thought I was simply material for her next book,’ he says. ‘A broken-down Irish PI, with a limp and a hearing-aid. Yeah, that would fly …’
Yes, Jack Taylor is an absurd character. As ludicrous as any knight errant tilting at windmills, or Hercules hosing down the Augean Stables of Galway, or Sisyphus flogged up and down his hill time and time again.
Are we meant to take him at all seriously? Probably not. He is, after all, a bottomless well of compassion and rage, and as such is an entirely preposterous creation in contemporary Ireland. Long may he run. - Declan Burke