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.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yet Again, We Need To Talk About Kevin

The Lilliput Press publish Kevin Power’s debut novel, BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK, with the blurb elves outdoing themselves by comparing it to THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE, IN COLD BLOOD and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. To wit:
On a late August night in 2004, a young man is kicked to death by his team-mates outside a Dublin nightclub and celebration turns to devastation. The reverberations of that event, its genesis and aftermath, is the subject of this extraordinary story, stripping away the veneer of a generation of Celtic cubs, whose social and sexual mores are chronicled and dissected in this tract for our times. The victim, Conor Harris, his killers – three of them are charged with manslaughter – and the trial judge share common childhoods and schooling in the privileged echelons of south Dublin suburbia. The intertwining of these lives leaves their afflicted families in moral freefall as public exposure merges with private anguish and imploded futures. This stark, elliptical tale tells of catharsis and self-examination through the eyes of the narrator and Laura Haines, girlfriend, confidante and catalyst. Akin to Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE and Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD, it deals with the unacceptable, and the nature of truth. Like all good fiction, it illuminates a society and transcends its age with the searchlight of a sympathetic imagination. It is a significant debut by an intuitive writer.
  The title is a nod to the classic Spencer Tracy movie, obviously, although it’s been used in an Irish context before – Blackrock, y’see, being a well-to-do area of south Dublin, represents leafy-suburbed affluence in Ireland. Anyhoos, Power’s story appears to be based on a real event from a few years back, and one that exercised the country to an enormous extent at the time, giving rise to much media soul-searching and state-of-the-nation polemics mainly because the perpetrators and the victim hailed from the ranks of the overly moneyed oiks of what passes for Ireland’s aspirational middle-class.
  My initial reaction when I read the blurb was that the story is too parochial to translate to a wider audience, that Power will take all kinds of stick for reopening old wounds (fair play to him), and that the blurb elves were doing a debutant novelist no favours at all by comparing him to John Banville, Truman Capote and Lionel Shriver.
  Then I heard ‘Wilderness Gothic’ on Sunday night, Power’s short-listed entry for the Francis MacManus Short Story Award, and I thought, hmmm, okay, the guy can write …
  Anyone out there know anything more about him?


John McFetridge said...

Nope, don't know anything about the guy, but I do think the story is universal.

Sounds like it could be really, really good.

adrian mckinty said...

Spencer T. only had one arm in that film, now thats method acting.

Uiscebot said...

I know Kevin Power a little, he is a brilliant writer, and this will be a much talked about debut. As well as Wilderness Gothic on RTE he also had a short story in the Hennessy New Irish Writing Awards which should still be up on the Sunday Tribune's site.

Roomie said...

Being a writer is all Kev has ever wanted to do. I was worried that the subject matter of this first novel would blow up in his face. I'm so glad to see that it likely won't and that people love the book as much as I did. He's got a lifetime of books in him and he's exactly the kind of writer to refresh our collective sense of a well-written novel.

noc said...

Yep. The book's great. Couldn't put it down. I had the same feeling as you had about it being irritatingly parochial and rehashing the same old, same old the journos were coming out with at the time of the real event. But he writes it from an interesting perspective and I think the story is universally relevant. The editors did a pretty sloppy job though. There are a few mistakes and contradictions that detract a little from the book, which is unfortunate but still, I was very pleasantly surprised by this book and the writer deserves his praise.