“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.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Origins: Darragh McManus on EVEN FLOW

“The genesis of my thriller EVEN FLOW lies a fair way in the past. All the way back to 2002, in fact, when I returned from honeymoon with half an idea in my head for a story, or at least its opening scene: a group of yuppie assholes, abusing two call-girls at a stag party. Then three vigilantes blow the door off the hinges and stride into this beautiful apartment, clad in tuxedos and balaclavas, and announce that they’re here to punish the men responsible.
  “The story flowed from there, as the 3W Gang – named for gay icons Wilde, Whitman and Waters – embark on a campaign of terror against homophobes and misogynists. They’re urban guerrillas, violent Situationist pranksters, radical feminists, the children of Baader-Meinhof, the New Man in excelsis. They’re ironic and smart-assed and angry and brave; they’re Gen X with a gun and a willingness to use it. As the blurb puts it, they’re Germaine Greer crossed with Kurt Cobain crossed with Dirty Harry.
  “Except that’s not really where the story began. We have to go back eleven more years, to 1991, when I was a first year student at University College Cork. Around April, rumours started circulating about a spate of so-called ‘queer-bashing’ attacks on gay students by local ignoramuses. This was shocking, first because Cork then was a very safe place – you’d walk from town at any time, day or night, and never see trouble – but also because it so went against the grain of how we thought and felt about homosexuality.
  “I wasn’t gay, and don’t think I knew any gay students, but that didn’t matter: someone’s sexuality was just accepted as a part of them, a thing – an irrelevance unless you personally fancied someone but she didn’t fancy men back, or whatever. It was normal to not give a rat’s ass whether a person was gay or not. It was definitely abnormal to beat them up if they were.
  “Anyway, I remember thinking, half in jest but possibly all in earnest, “You know what’d be cool – if there was a gang of queer-basher bashers. Enlightened men, but considerably tougher than me, who went around selectively punishing homophobes in the kind of language they understand.” So, fast-forward to 2012 and the 3W Gang are, essentially, doing just that.
  “Except … that’s not fully right, either. Because around the same time, I did a module in black American literature, and read Toni Morrison’s great novel Song of Solomon, in which one of the characters, Guitar Baines – love that name – joins a sort of terrorist group which hits back in kind at racist attacks. As in, the KKK kills a black man, Guitar and his guys kill one of the KKK. This is to balance things out, he says. The universe is out of kilter otherwise, if grievous wrong is done with no redress.
  “So there was that too – my vigilantes strive for an ‘even flow’, a rebalancing, an equalisation. But there were more events, other times. Yes, I know this is all starting to sound a bit like the “literary inspiration” version of Inception: an origin inside an origin inside an origin. But that’s how EVEN FLOW came to me, I’m realising now.
  Grunge music, and how it was discordant and loud and muscular, but at the same time gentle and considerate and introspective. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag and all those great, ballsy, pioneering feminist women. Emmeline Pankhurst and the other Suffragettes, who were willing to literally die for their convictions.
  “And more, and more … Mary Wollestonecraft. The Stonewall rioters. David Bowie, Robert Mapplethorpe. The Smiths. Don DeLillo. The journalist Jack Holland. Allen Ginsberg. Robert Graves. REM. Clint Eastwood. Margaret Atwood. Anthony Burgess. Ulrike Meinhoff. Batman. V for Vendetta. James Ellroy, Dashiell Hammett, Andrew Vachss, William Gibson, Alan Moore. Taxi Driver, Falling Down, Point Break, The Crow, Munich, Dead Man’s Shoes, Hard Candy.
  “Where do the origins of EVEN FLOW lie? In the whole progress of my life, I suppose; in all the things I read or saw or heard or pondered or argued or rejected; in the streams and dynamics of the world that preceded me and then shaped me. A world where a simple sense of fair play, for men and women, straight and gay, seemed normal – was normal. A world where ignorance and brutality and hatred and fear were instantly identifiable as fucked up and just wrong. A world where these things still exist, sadly, but less and less, as the decades pass. I think. I hope?
  “A world moving towards a happy time when men like Wilde, Waters and Whitman are no longer necessary.” - Darragh McManus

  For more by Darragh McManus, clickety-click here

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