Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Another fine opening from Declan Hughes

Declan Hughes began the main body of his first novel, The Wrong Kind of Blood, with one of my favorite opening lines: "The night of my mother's funeral, Linda Dawson cried on my shoulder, put her tongue in my mouth and asked me to find her husband."

His third, The Price of Blood (The Dying Breed in the U.K.) does not get to the heart of things quite so quickly. One has to wait until the end of the paragraph for the comic payoff:

"Two weeks before Christmas, Father Vincent Tyrell asked Tommy Owens to fill in for George Costello, who has been the sacristan at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in Bayview for thirty years until he was rushed to the hospital with inoperable stomach cancer. A lot of Father Tyrrell's parishioners were outraged, to put it mildly, since Tommy was known as a dopehead and a malingerer and a small-time drug dealer, one of the die-hard crew who still drank in Hennessy's bar, and not a retired Holy Joe shuffling about the church in desert boots and an acrylic zip-up cardigan like George Costello, God have mercy on him. And fair enough, the first time I saw Tommy on the altar in cassock and surplice, it was a bit like something out of a Buñuel film."
That's not a bad way to begin a story, I'd say. In fact, it's a little story in itself, complete with buildup and payoff. So far, I can report that the story also involves tangled family secrets, that blood in several senses figures prominently in Hughes' books, and that this book contains at least one dubious priest. Did I mention that Hughes is Irish?

The novel also explores the world of Irish horse racing in some detail. Between Hughes and Peter Temple in his Jack Irish novels, crime writers are proving that there is territory left to be explored in that old sport.

More to come.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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5 Comments:

Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

Peter, I've just finished reading this one and although I haven't as yet read any Ross McDonald, who, by all accounts was a major influence on him, I'm just wondering whether Edgar Allan Poe wasn't also a significant influence.
This more than any other; although looking back, given a certain commonality of theme/storytype, there's a strong sense of the gothic coursing through his books.

I noticed quite a few very critical comments on Amazon, but I thought that this one, especially, was a lot of fun; ludicrously over-the-top at times, or even most of the time, but all the more enjoyable for that
(and I'm just wondering for how long, and to what extent, Declan had his tongue planted in his cheek while writing it?)

There were certain similarities with that first John Banville crime novel I read.
And with Brian De Palma's film of Ellroy's 'The Black Dahlia'.

Of the three Declan Hughes books I've read so far this is the one I could definitely see myself re-reading

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Yep, I have yet to read Ross Macdonald, except for on shot story. And you're right about the gothic influence.

Amazon comments are worth reading for the same reason that comments on online newspaper articles are. After the first one or two, they turn into freak shows.

It would be interesting to speculate on Hughes' tongue-in-cheek. He is thearical by temperament and background, so he might well enjoy going over the top from time to time.

Are you yet to read his two most recent novels, "All the Dead Voices" and "City of Lost Girls"?

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Make that " ... except for one short story," though "on shot" is a thematically appropriate bit of sloppy typing

July 22, 2010  
Blogger The Celtic Kagemusha said...

I've read "City of Lost Girls": you might recall me comparing it to 'womans films-noir' hybrids, such as Ophuls' 'The Reckless Moment', and what seems my general aversion to intermittent serial-killers explanatory voices, in such as this and Bill James' The Lolita Man'.

I've just received my order of Ross Macdonald's 'Sleeping Beauty' so I want to read this next to see just how much similarities I can detect while 'The Dying Breed' is still fresh in my mind, and what about Macdonald causes some to mention him in the same breath as Hammett and Chandler.

btw, although its a fictional location I could quite vividly see the general Tyrellscourt locale of 'TDB', not to mention the type of golf course/resort complex; also my home town had one of those Christian Brothers' 'correctional institutions'.
Also the Ballydoyle stables of legendary trainer, Vincent O'Brien were located a mere 10 miles from my hometown

July 22, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I remember the Ophuls comparison. I had not remembered which Hughes novel you invoked.

I don't know Ireland nearly well enough to judge the authenticity of Hughes' location, but yours is high praise indeed.

July 22, 2010  

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