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.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Laugh? We Almost Emigrated. Again.

Irish crime fiction covers most of the bases, whether it’s harrowing noir (Ken Bruen), the male PI (Vincent Banville, Declan Hughes), the female PI (Ingrid Black, KT McCaffrey), the male-and-female PI (Arlene Hunt), the literary mystery novel (Liam Durcan, Benny Blanco, Eoin McNamee), the historical mystery (Cora Harrison), the supernatural mystery (John Connolly), the hardboiled pulp (John McFetridge, Seamus Smyth), the policier (Tana French, Brian McGilloway, Gene Kerrigan), the psycho slasher (Alex Barclay), the balls-out tough guy (Adrian McKinty). What we don’t do a lot of is humour, Colin Bateman being the notable exception that proves the rule. Interviewed by Rosy over at Vulpus Libris, Catherine O’Flynn, the author of WHAT WAS LOST, touches on why readers tend not to take humorous books seriously, to wit:
Q. It is a bit of a cliché but it is often said that prizes usually go to bleak books. Do you think that people misunderstand comedy / humour when it comes to things like awards?
A: “I don’t really know what goes on with awards, but perhaps some people feel a conflict between importance and humour. Maybe they feel that a book isn’t making serious points if it makes them smile. I’ve never found that humour in writing detracts from the bleakness or tragedy that might also be there. I think of writers I love like Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace and see their works combining humour and sadness and more. I’ve just read Joshua Ferris’s THEN WE CAME TO THE END and think it’s another excellent example.”
So, the absence of humour. Is it because crime is still seen as a very serious issue in Ireland? Is it that the psychic weight of Joyce, Beckett, et al means that business of writing is too serious to be taken lightly here? Or is it just that we don’t have a sense of humour? And will Garbhan Downey and Twenty Major sue because we didn’t mention them in tandem with Colin Bateman, in order to make a spurious point? There’s a free copy of Benny Blanco’s CHRISTINE FALLS (yep, we’re still trying to give it away) to the most penetrating insight. Or you could just tell us a joke. The comment box is open, people ...


Andrew said...

Good comment by Catherine O'Flynn, I have to say.

To me the most enjoyable crime novels are those with some humour. How can anyone not take people like Elmore Leonard and Joseph Wambaugh seriously? They use humour brilliantly in their books.

Raymond Chandler/Marlowe - full of great one-liners. Genre making humour.

Your books have that mix too. I remember a great French speaking character in one of Arlene Hunt's books too. The contrast between his faux French and metrosexual vanity and the violence and ruthlessness of his actions was the making of that character.

I've got a Bateman here which I must get around to as well.

To me it boils down to the old cliché about how you can't appreciate the good times without the bad. You can't fully appreciate the serious side of crime without some of the lighter side - and there really is a tendency for writers to wallow in the darkness.

Declan Burke said...

Andrew - Arlene Hunt hits the spot, no doubt, and Elmore Leonard is superb ... and Carl Hiassen is a brilliant example of comedy in crime - as is Donald Westlake. You'll enjoy the Bateman book ... and if you do, you might want to check out Twenty Major's debut.

There is a tendency these days to wallow in darkness, and often for the sake of it ... it's getting to the point where there's a pornographic quality to the violence and gore. Not big, not clever ...

The Greeks believed that tragedy was simply underdeveloped comedy ...

Cheers, Dec

Donna said...

You should include yourself on the humourous front Mr Burke. And for me Ken Bruen's books, despite their darkness, have a lot of humour. Or am I just warped? No - don't answer that :o) And there's Ruth Dudley Edwards of course. And what about Zane Radcliffe? I would class them as comedy thrillers.

I love humour in my crime fiction - from dark and warped to lighter, witty stuff. Humourous crime fiction can still deal with serious issues. Even in our darkest moments, we can still raise a smile, and humour is a great coping mechanism. Books without humour feel as though I'm reading an accountancy text book.

I enjoy serious books, but I don't enjoy books which take themselves too seriously.


Declan Burke said...

Hi Donna - Absolutely, humorous fiction can deal with serious issues ... Thanks for the tip-off on Zane Radcliffe, he had never come across my radar before.

As for Ruth Dudley Edwards - how could have I forgotten? She may never allow me to stalk her again ... Cheers, Dec

Donna said...

Oh, and PS, if I win please could you NOT send me a copy of CHRISTINE FALLS. Ta muchly :o)