“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.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Hera City: A Herstory

THE POLKA DOT GIRL (Roundfire Books) is Darragh McManus’s second novel, following last year’s EVEN FLOW. In tone it has its roots buried deep in the classic hardboiled tale, as the blurb elves’ wibbling suggests:
Madeleine Greenhill was rich, beautiful, reckless … now she’s dead, dumped in the water. Her mother Misericordiae is the most feared woman in Hera City, which puts added pressure on investigating detective Eugenie Auf der Maur. Gutsy, smart and likeable, ‘Genie’ thought she knew the strange, all-female world of Hera inside-out. She was wrong, and gets drawn into a labyrinth of sex and money, power and religion, double-cross and corruption. Nothing is at seems and nobody can be trusted as she becomes obsessed with finding the girl’s killer. Hard-edged and soft-hearted, THE POLKA DOT GIRL combines a serpentine plot, bristling dialogue and shadowy, sensuous atmosphere to create a classic noir-style mystery: Sam Spade in lipstick and a dress. In Hera City, the female of the species really can be deadly.
  What makes THE POLKA DOT GIRL unique, as far as I’m aware, is its setting, Hera City. Quoth the press release:
“I thought it would be interesting to take the macho environment of a noir detective story (a la Chandler, Hammett and co.), instantly recognisable to all of us, and make all the players women. So you have the iconic, almost stereotypical, noir characters –world-weary detective, cynical coroner, self-destructive victim, assured femme fatale, psychotic killers, etc – and they’re women, every one. They act and talk like these characters always do – tenderly, violently, bitterly – but they’re women. There is an intriguing tension between the darkness and edge of noir, and the fact that the protagonists are female.
  “The story takes place in Hera City, a hermetically sealed fictional universe. There is no historical background, no quasi-scientific explanation for how a society of women can evolve, have children etc. The place just is. Men aren’t mentioned or ignored or conspicuous by their absence: there are no men, there never were, the issue is irrelevant. Similarly, while characters in a relationship are by necessity with another woman, there’s no homosexuality per se, because there’s no heterosexuality, because there are no men. Hera is a Gotham City-type place, murky and glamorous and evocative, outside of time and geography.
  “Stylistically THE POLKA DOT GIRL is more lyrical and reflective than hard-boiled. It’s partly an homage to classic mystery fiction, but with its own aesthetic and distinctive voice. It is its own book and its own world.” – Darragh McManus
  So there you have it – yet another maverick Irish crime fiction voice playing with the genre’s conventions and bending the parameters. Is it experiment for its own sake, or does McManus’s unusual take on the crime / mystery novel have something important to say about the genre? Only time, that notoriously loose-lipped canary, will tell …

1 comment:

seana graham said...

It's an interesting premise, at the very least.