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.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Better The Devlin You Know

Here’s a Big Q that’s not very relevant in the grand scheme of things … Can an author’s voice change the way you read his or her books? I’m not talking about their authorial voice, but their actual, y’know, voice. If Lee Child, say, had a fey, high-pitched tone with a lisp, and you heard him giving a reading, would that impact on how you ‘heard’ Jack Reacher when reading his novels?
  I ask because Brian McGilloway is on RTE’s Arena arts show tonight (Wednesday, May 12th), yakking it up about his latest offering, THE RISING. Now, Donegal-based Brian is a mild-mannered teacher by day, and an equally mild-mannered crime writer by night, and his series protagonist, Inspector Benedict Devlin, is for the most part a mild-mannered Donegal cop. As it happens, I don’t hear Brian’s voice when I’m reading the Devlin novels, but it would be entirely appropriate if I did. Having heard James Ellroy perform in Belfast last year, on the other hand, will dramatically impact on how I ‘hear’ his characters next time I dip into an Ellroy novel.
  Anyone have any glaring mismatches between an author’s voice and how their characters sound?
  Meantime, there’s some nice reviews of THE RISING here, here and plenty more here. If you haven’t caught up with Brian McGilloway yet, THE RISING is the perfect place to start …


Gerard Brennan said...

I find that Adrian McKinty's voice doesn't quite serve as the perfect match for his Cuban character Mercado in Fifty Grand, though the rhythm in the writing more than makes up for this.

On the other hand, great writing aside, since hearing him read from The Dying Breed at No Alibis, I ALWAYS hear Declan Hughes' voices when I read his Ed Loy novels.

And yeah, Brian's is a great match for Devlin.



Declan Burke said...

Oi, Brennan - leave McKinty alone. I find his firm-but-feminine tones perfect for the Mercado character ...

Cheers, Dec

Photographe à Dublin said...

There were letters to the BBC recently when John le Carré read his own work on radio. I think this is a personal taste matter.

It is often very difficult to explain why one person's voice is pleasant to many and others not.

Worth a blog post, perhaps?

Peter Rozovsky said...

Gerard, that may really be Declan Hughes' voice you hear at this moment. The man's got volume to carry across great distances.

Declan, you may have a point about Ellroy. I read him before I heard him, but I'd say the man talks like he writes, writes like he talks, or both.
 Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Declan Burke said...

PaD - Interesting, certainly. Leonard Cohen's voice is like catnip for me, but it sends other people screaming up the walls. Same with Tom Waits. And I could listen to Stewie from Family Guy all night ...

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Peter - I believe what you're trying to say is that Declan Hughes 'projects'. It's very probably a habit from this theatre days. My only piece of advice to aspiring writers is, "If you ever find yourself on a panel with Declan Hughes, get your reading in first."

Cheers, Dec

Michael Haskins said...

Dec I am reading The Rising now and while I don't hear voices (usually) I do read Devlin as mild mannered and more an inward man than an outgoing shouter, though he goes out of character when he punches the ex-husband of his old partner. Good scene because it took him out of character, but showed he was more than what we see on the outside.

Peter Rozovsky said...

I believe what you're trying to say is that Declan Hughes 'projects'. It's very probably a habit from this theatre days.

That's precisely what I guessed. In Dun Laoghaire, whether because of the room's acoustics or because I wasn't hearing well, I wished the panelists had spoken louder or used more amplification -- except Declan Hughes. I sat toward the back of the room, and he projected, all right.

In Baltimore, according to one Detectives Beyond Borders:

"Hughes' passionate theatrics are always a joy to behold, and they did at least as much as the hospitality-suite coffee to jar conventioneers out of their early-morning stupor."
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"