“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.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Review: THE WING-ORDERLY’S TALES by Carlo Gébler

Carlo Gébler’s The Wing-Orderly’s Tales (New Island), set in the fictional Loanend Prison in Belfast, is comprised of a series of anecdotes about Harold ‘Chalky’ Chalkman’s fellow prisoners, with Chalky’s position as orderly and go-between making him a confidante of both prisoners and prison guards. The narrative form is unusual, lying somewhere between a short story collection and a novel (the stories are closely linked but self-contained), as Gébler details the sad, quirky, blackly funny and tragic events that befall a host of characters, all of them known by their prison nicknames (‘Eskimo’, ‘Smurf’, ‘Sweet Gene’, ‘Magic’). In the past Carlo Gébler was a creative writing tutor at the Maze and writer-in-residence in Maghaberry, and he invests these stories with a gripping verisimilitude, not least when outlining the perverse unofficial rules that apply in prison – one character, for example, is brutally punished for hating the paramilitaries who killed his mother. It’s a slim but powerful book that subtly explores the early causes and life-long consequences of criminality, its underlying theme summed up in the advice the recidivist Chalky is offered – “It may be a jail, but that doesn’t mean you have to act like it’s one.” – but ultimately rejects. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times as part of April’s crime fiction column. Other titles reviewed are: MAESTRA by LS Hilton, THE TRAP by Melanie Raabe, BLOOD WILL OUT by Walter Kirn and SIX FOUR by Hideo Yokoyama.

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