When he sat down to write his third novel, however, the recently released STOLEN SOULS, Neville was aware he could well be painting himself into a corner.What say you? Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE (aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST) made a huge impression when it first appeared, and Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND has been garnering all kinds of wonderful reviews since it was published earlier this year. But is it the case that Norn Iron and its ‘Troubles’ are a turn-off for most readers?
“Well, COLLUSION is probably the most political of the three books,” he says, “and STOLEN SOULS is very much a reaction against that, a move away from that. Because there is the danger that you could get bogged down in the Troubles, and post-Troubles politics, and all the rest of it. And it’s true, with my commercial head on for a moment, that the Troubles aren’t the most commercial topic in fiction these days (laughs). So if I want to be purely mercenary about it, then it’s a good idea to move away from the politics.”
Neville is in the vanguard of a number of authors who are engaged in writing about the newly transformed Northern Ireland, a cohort that includes Colin Bateman, Adrian McKinty, Eoin McNamee and Gerard Brennan.
“I know other writers are working in different directions on this,” he concedes. “I’ve just finished reading Adrian McKinty’s new book, THE COLD COLD GROUND, in which he dives headlong into the thick of the Troubles and the hunger strikes, which is admirable, I think. I do think the Troubles will be quite fertile ground for writers the further we move away from them, and the freer we are to write about them with a more dispassionate gaze.”
More to the point, perhaps: should writers give less than a fiddler’s fandango for what readers want, and simply write the books that need to be written?