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.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

“You Charm Us To Sorrow.” Irish Crime Fiction: A CrimeSpree Appraisal

Last week we wrote a feature article for the Evening Herald to a pretty tight deadline, which was why Reed Farrel Coleman’s reply to our query, in the wake of the Edgar nominations, about why Irish writers are becoming so popular in the US of A arrived a little late. Ditto the answer from Ruth and Jon Jordan of the indispensable CrimeSpree Magazine (right, clutching the prestigious Anthony Award for ‘Cutest Couple in Crime Fiction’), both of whom have been cheerleading for Irish crime writing since God was a boy. Herewith follows their rather generous two cents on why Irish writing is becoming so popular:
“The economic and political status of Ireland today is much in line with that of the time in which American crime classics were written. A poor-to-affluent generation living in a post-violent but pre-pacific time, remembering the religious ironies and icons with equal resonance and enwrapping them in a story like a taco bell quesadilla. The Irish story is updated with generations more of ennui and religious acceptance behind it, the precarious situation that is refracted by words of today flirted with, exposed and uniquely discovered by a group of writers who embrace the crime novel as the way to tell their story for all the world.
  “The talent for words is remarkable and embraced by a United States at once ahead and behind a continent we’ve pretended to understand for three generations. Our story, told with more history and depth. Yet Ireland is unique, as are the people writing of it in crime form. Different voices tell the story and make it stronger, more complete. You charm us to sorrow and make us examine where we are today.
  “The background of many of today’s Irish crime fiction writers includes not only a reading of ‘literary fiction’ but also almost all have found the literary brilliance within American crime fiction, be it recent greats like Lehane, Pelecanos, Connelly, Lippman, Rozan, Paretsky and James Lee Burke (to name a few), or the classics (Chandler, Hammett, Cain). They elevate their novels’ structure from the debut and almost always add a fresh voice to the genre. They don’t want to emulate as much as pay tribute to this often overlooked genre of fiction. Pay it forward and make it better, to use an American phrase. They see the possibilities of one flawed man/woman trying to solve a unique and usually violent problem. The writing jumps off the page and connects with the American reader because Irish authors use the entire environment of the crime and make it resonate.
  “The first author I fell in love with from Ireland is John Connolly, an Irishman who set his fiction in a relatively remote American locale. John has said he loved the work of James Lee Burke and many others. He grabbed a location he knew and made it his own. Last year’s work is remarkable in any time: THE UNQUIET is a true literary novel and I cannot think of many recent reads who express the joy of reading and the possibility it has to soothe, but THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS is a must-read for anyone who has ever loved a book and lost a loved one.
  “From Connolly I went to L. Welch, who strips bare any pretences in her prose to expose the baldness of story, and Declan Burke, whose approach to EIGHTBALL BOOGIE was as refreshing as THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE in its time. Ken Bruen’s arrival on our shores made everyone take notice. From THE GUARDS forward, Ken has infused admiration and anticipation for a writing style so unique it cannot be compared to anyone else writing today. Full of bon mots and cultural references that put you into the being of his characters, only someone so sharp of pen could get away with it.
  “America came full circle with the words of one Declan Hughes, whose third novel [THE PRICE OF BLOOD] is about to launch in the States. Instead of taking an Irish sensibility and applying it to the American detective, he brought an Irishman home who has been an American P.I.
  “The possibilities are just beginning and yet we’ve already come full circle.”


Patricia J. Hale said...

"You charm us to sorrow" - Coleman's reply put into words what is a gut feeling. Nice.

Declan Burke said...

It's hard to disagree with Reed Farrel Coleman, Patricia ... he's looks a right hard nut.