“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. “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.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Better The Evil You Know

I finished Patrick McGinley’s BOGMAIL during the week, and a very fine read it is too. Republished by New Island Books as a ‘Modern Irish Classic’, it is neither a ‘whodunit’ nor a ‘whydunit’ – we know from very early on who killed the barman Eamonn Eales, and why. But BOGMAIL’S pleasures lie elsewhere, not least in its beautiful descriptions of its rural Donegal village setting and mountainous hinterland, the whimsical humour and linguistic gymnastics that echo Flann O’Brien, and the occasional foray into philosophical conundrum.
  At one point McGinley touches on something intrinsic to the crime / mystery novel, which is the existence of evil. I’m not noticeably religious myself, and I don’t believe that Evil exists as a force of nature in the same way as, say, gravity does – although there’s no doubt that there are people and acts that can be described as evil. Anyway, McGinley offers this, during a conversation between his main characters, Roarty and Potter:
  ‘It’s good to be confronted with evil if only because it reminds you of the residue of good within you.’
  ‘Why call it “evil”? Why not “disorder”? Use the word “evil” and you are swamped in theology.” (pg 213)
  Is evil a necessary by-product of theology? An old-fashioned superstition? Or is it out there somewhere, a physical force lurking in the unseen and unknowable dark matter of the universe?
  Answers on a used twenty to the usual address.


lil Gluckstern said...

I believe in the existence of evil. Today, we call those people who embody it psychopaths and sociopaths, narcissistic, etc. But every time there is a lie told or someone hurts someone else intentionally that is evil. I'm not sure if that's about religion for me or just some universal truths about moral behavior, but there is evil in the world. I have Bogmail waiting for me on my shelf

seana graham said...

I read Bogmail many years ago and enjoyed it. Just read another one of his, Goosefoot, not that long ago. He has an odd mind, that Patrick McGinley. I plan to read more.

Declan Burke said...

Sounds good, folks.

I've been reading Patrick's new book, Cold Spring - very interesting. In the same vein as Bogmail, but more serious in intent, I think - Cora Harrison might well enjoy it, given its references to Brehon law.