“The hunger strikes were so unbelievably intense,” says author Adrian McKinty. “I remember the week of Bobby Sands’ death and funeral almost minute-by-minute. The city was electric. In one way it was an amazingly fantastic experience, because everybody felt so alive, so immersed in that immediacy – and then, as soon as it was over, I just forgot it. Didn’t process it, didn’t deal with it. And it was years later, when I was telling my wife about it, she said, ‘Y’know, that’s really, really bizarre. None of that is normal.’”For the rest, clickety-click here …
We’re talking about his new series of novels, which are set in Northern Ireland in the early 1980s and feature Sean Duffy, a Catholic policeman in the RUC. The first in the series, THE COLD COLD GROUND, was published last year. Set against the backdrop of the hunger strikes in 1981, it was the first time McKinty the writer had engaged with the traumatic sights and sounds that were an integral part of his formative years.
“The things that happen to you as a child are probably the most important things that are going to happen to you in your life, from a developmental point of view,” he says. “And how else can I possibly talk about my childhood without talking about this craziness that was just terrible?”
Born in Belfast and raised in Carrickfergus, Adrian McKinty was a part of the ‘brain drain’ that left Northern Ireland during the 1990s, first to attend university at Oxford, then to work in the US in bars and on building sites. His first novel, ORANGE RHYMES WITH EVERYTHING, was published in 1998 and told the story of ‘a man breaking out of a New York mental hospital and proceeding on a violent, bloody path back to Ireland’. That could well be the narrative arc of McKinty’s own publishing career.
The critically acclaimed author was for many years reluctant to write about Northern Ireland (“I wrote about New York, and Denver, Mexico, Cuba – I mean, I wrote about anywhere else but Northern Ireland.”) but eventually the character of Sean Duffy proved irresistible.
Perversely, McKinty, raised a Protestant in the staunchly loyal town of Carrickfergus, chose to make Sean Duffy a Catholic in the RUC.
“It’s just so much more interesting to have an outsider in terms of all those different perspectives,” he shrugs. “In terms of class and religion, geography, background – Duffy can look at all these things with a jaundiced eye. Especially if I put him in a Protestant town. There was going to be all these lines of conflict, which is great for a writer. All these fracture lines coming together in this one character. I really had a lot of fun with that in the first book.”
“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. “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.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Down Those Siren Streets A Man Must Go
Adrian McKinty published in the Irish Examiner last week to mark the publication of his latest tome, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET. It kicked off a lot like this: