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.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A 51st State of Mind

When I was putting together DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, I thought Declan Hughes would be a shoo-in for an essay on the history of the crime narrative in Irish theatre. Dec Hughes was, of course, a critically acclaimed playwright before he turned to writing the Ed Loy series of novels, and there are many - yours truly among them - who hope that he might yet be persuaded to return to the craft, just so long as it doesn’t interfere with his writing novels.
  Anyway, Dec Hughes declined to write about the Irish theatre and crime, preferring instead to pen an essay on the American influence - and particularly the troika of Hammett, Chandler and Ross Macdonald - on the contemporary Irish crime novel, and fascinating reading it makes too. The essay is up on Scribd, with the opening running a lot like this:
Irish Hard-boiled Crime: A 51st State of Mind
By Declan Hughes

Irish people can be especially prone to magical thinking, to put it at its kindest. We seem extremely reluctant to relinquish our belief in phenomena that neither experience nor reason will justify. The most notable and poignant example of this is our relentless credulity regarding the existence and quality of the Irish Summer.
  Although year after year, a solitary sunny day is followed by unending weeks of overcast skies and squally rain, hope springs infernal. In my case, this belief, or “superstition”, took root when I was thirteen, during the (genuinely) long hot summer of 1976. Every morning I would assemble a lunch and spend the day on Whiterock beach in Dalkey, alone or with friends. I swam and read and looked longingly at girls in bikinis and wondered how that, and everything else, was going to go. And that’s pretty much how I spent my subsequent teenage summers, often in delusional defiance of the weather. I never got a job, because I didn’t drink back then, could get all the books I needed from the library, experienced a certain amount of success in finding out more about those mysterious bikini-wearing creatures, and didn’t want anything else money could buy as much as I wanted to be on the beach and in the sea, even if the rain fell and an east wind tested your faith in the Irish summer to the limit.
  There was music in the air during that time, of course, and for all that punk rock had happened and post punk followed in its wake, and for all that I had developed a ferociously puritanical line in rock snobbery which permitted me to like virtually nobody except the Clash and Bruce Springsteen (which was convenient, since I could barely afford their records, let alone anyone else’s), the soundtrack I still associate with Whiterock during those years was the Eagles’ Hotel California. (You didn’t have to buy Hotel California: in the late ’70s in South Dublin, it played for free from every shop doorway and bedroom window). Cowboy boots and flared Levis and plaid and cheesecloth shirts and droopy moustaches and long hair were the order of the day for the half-generation ahead of me, and their musk of patchouli oil and dope smoke seemed like an intoxicating promise, a hazy benediction from alluring adepts of a laid-back cult I longed to join. The cult did not just dream of America, and more specifically, California; it seemed to believe it was already living there. And as I gazed out to sea on whichever blue sky day I could find or recall, I knew I was worthy of confirmation in their faith, for that was where I believed I was living too. The Ireland that presented itself to us day-to-day in the ’70s was still run by priests and nuns and decrepit old bogmen in tweed suits, and claimed by murderous bigots intent on shooting and bombing everyone who disagreed with them into a fantasy vision of the glorious republican past; nobody who dreamt of truth, beauty, youth and love could tolerate either as a reality ...
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, those of you who missed the podcast of Declan Hughes and your humble scribe shooting the breeze about GREEN STREETS on RTE’s Arena programme should clickety-click here

UPDATE: Richard L. Pangburn reviews DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS over at Little Known Gems, suggesting that the book is, “An anthology … filled with brilliant ideas and surprising points of view, an examination of Irish crime literature by those who now write it, packed with verve and humour that sparkles, a treasure chest of emerald noir.” With which we are very well pleased. We thank you kindly, sir …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

1 comment:

Peter Rozovsky said...

That essay is my favorite part of the book so far.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"