Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

There’s No Coke Without Ire

Being whimsical types, the elves were struck by the lead editorial in Saturday’s Irish Times. The context of the piece is the increase in drug-related gangland crime in general, and cocaine-related deaths in particular. Three high-profile deaths associated with cocaine abuse occurred in Ireland last week, two happening after students ate damp cocaine, while a post-mortem on model and socialite Katy French (right) revealed that she had consumed the drug in the hours before her death. In the inevitable navel-gazing that followed, the former Old Lady of D’Olier Street, the paper of record for Ireland’s middle-class, weighed in with the following:
The cocaine culture
Cocaine kills. So does heroin. And so do the gangland suppliers of these illegal drugs. Yet the consumption and supply of potentially lethal substances continues to increase without any forceful public reaction to the undermining of social and community values and the rule of law. Recent cocaine-related deaths and gangland murders underline the need to shake ourselves out of this waking nightmare.
  President Mary McAleese addressed the issue last month. The only way to stop gangland criminals from flourishing, she said, was for people to refuse to buy the illegal materials they sell. It wasn’t an original insight. But it placed responsibility for vicious gangland murders and the devastation of communities where it ultimately belonged: on the heads of those citizens whose personal decisions prop up the criminal underworld.
  That is an uncomfortable reality, particularly for those middle-class people who behave as if their personal social habits are somehow disconnected from the rest of life. Drug users choose not to think about the gun-feuds and murders that form the backdrop to their cocaine supply. They blank out deaths from overdoses and adulterated materials. If they are young, they think they are bullet-proof and that the negative consequences of drug-addiction will happen to others.
  The past 10 years of unprecedented economic growth have made the Republic wealthy beyond its dreams. With that wealth has come lifestyle changes and a diminution in social responsibility. Drug abuse has spread out of working-class neighbourhoods where – lamentably – we have been prepared to accept and tolerate it. Yet a common code of values that links us all and encourages personal commitment is at the heart of a healthy society. We need to recognise and give effect to such a social contract if crime gangs are to be challenged and illegal drug use controlled. […]
  Government policies haven’t worked. Its initiatives lacked resources and sufficient urgency. That must change. We are experiencing a wave of illegal drug-taking that is swamping all sections of society. Young people are dying. And the crime bosses are growing more powerful and dangerous. Their corrupting influence is spreading. In this situation, we all have a responsibility to make hard choices.
If anyone can come up with a better manifesto for Irish crime fiction, we’re all ears. And if that sounds a tad cynical, then bear in mind that the crime writers, along with the first drafters of our grubbier history, the tabloid journalists, have been pretty much saying what the Old Lady said on Saturday for well over a decade now. Meanwhile, our sincere condolences to the French, Doyle and Grey families.

1 comment:

John McFetridge said...

"If anyone can come up with a better manifesto for Irish crime fiction, we’re all ears."

Not cynical at all, that's what fiction's for. If that's what dominates crime, then it should be in the crime fiction, too.

For too long now it seems that crime fiction (at least in North America) has been dominated by serial killers and and other murders. Crime fiction really is murder-mystery, which is too bad because it's disconnected from the culture.