THE LOST AND THE BLIND: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. SLAUGHTERS HOUND: “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL: “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. THE BIG O: “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. EIGHTBALL BOOGIE: “One of the sharpest, wittiest books Ive read for ages.” – Sunday Independent.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Troubles We’ve Seen

Following on from Friday’s post on Anthony Quinn’s post-Troubles, Northern Ireland-set debut novel, and at the risk of giving the impression that anything approaching consistent thought goes into this blog, I had an interview with Stuart Neville published yesterday in the Irish Examiner, during the course of which Stuart spoke about Northern Ireland as a setting, and how ‘the Troubles aren’t the most commercial topic in fiction these days’. To wit:
When he sat down to write his third novel, however, the recently released STOLEN SOULS, Neville was aware he could well be painting himself into a corner.
  “Well, COLLUSION is probably the most political of the three books,” he says, “and STOLEN SOULS is very much a reaction against that, a move away from that. Because there is the danger that you could get bogged down in the Troubles, and post-Troubles politics, and all the rest of it. And it’s true, with my commercial head on for a moment, that the Troubles aren’t the most commercial topic in fiction these days (laughs). So if I want to be purely mercenary about it, then it’s a good idea to move away from the politics.”
  Neville is in the vanguard of a number of authors who are engaged in writing about the newly transformed Northern Ireland, a cohort that includes Colin Bateman, Adrian McKinty, Eoin McNamee and Gerard Brennan.
  “I know other writers are working in different directions on this,” he concedes. “I’ve just finished reading Adrian McKinty’s new book, THE COLD COLD GROUND, in which he dives headlong into the thick of the Troubles and the hunger strikes, which is admirable, I think. I do think the Troubles will be quite fertile ground for writers the further we move away from them, and the freer we are to write about them with a more dispassionate gaze.”
  What say you? Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE (aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST) made a huge impression when it first appeared, and Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND has been garnering all kinds of wonderful reviews since it was published earlier this year. But is it the case that Norn Iron and its ‘Troubles’ are a turn-off for most readers?
  More to the point, perhaps: should writers give less than a fiddler’s fandango for what readers want, and simply write the books that need to be written?


adrian mckinty said...


No one's interested in the Troubles. Not in England, not in America, not anywhere. Not even in Northern Ireland. If I was giving advice to young writers, I'd say learn German and write about the Nazis. Alan Coren used to say that you'll never lose money in England publishing a book about Nazis or dogs. That was 30 years ago but I still think it holds true today.

Stuart Neville said...

Adrian - It is fortuitous, then, that my next book is about Nazis.

Dec - A proper reply tomorrow.

Darlynne said...

That makes me an enthusiastic minority of one, I guess. I look for books set in Northern Ireland; I search out crime novels and fiction set in Belfast and environs, particularly those that include the Troubles. Thanks to the internet and digital publishing, I can purchase more books from all over Ireland than I dreamed possible when I worked at a mystery bookstore many years ago.

Why am I interested? My goal is to learn, my hope is to understand and my preferred delivery system is fiction. Even if I never understand, I can continue to learn.

These books--your books--are important to me. Maybe time and distance will make a difference for other readers, I don't know. I do know that I hope you continue to write the books that are meaningful to you because I want to read them.

Monica J. said...

I'm likely an odd-ball, but I've really enjoyed every Troubles book I've stumbled across. And I'm looking for more. There's nothing like reading a book and feeling like I learned something without it being dry and boring.

Do I seek them out? Not on purpose. I've hit the Celtic wave hard, so I seek those out. If they've written a Troubles book, I'm not going to turn my nose up. In fact, Cold, Cold Ground is one of the best books I've ever read. Period. I was immersed in a place and time, that as a Californian, I wouldn't be able to understand otherwise.

I try to get my friends interested, but they're not reader so much. And it's sad. Is it because of the subject matter? No. They just don't have the time or inclination to read. Cause trust me, I'm trying to get all my friends to read any of the authors mentioned. :)

I will echo Darlynne, in that these books are important to me and I hope you guys keep writing them. Even if they're about Nazis or dogs. ;)

Peter Rozovsky said...

What authors need to write are the books that I want to read. In recent years, a number of these have concerned the Troubles, to one degree or another: "Collusion," "The Cold Cold Ground," "Resurrection Man" etc.
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