Saturday, May 24, 2008

Brian McGilloway talks about the personal, the political and the police

I've pondered in recent posts Brian McGilloway's interesting choice of a police officer, or Garda, from the Irish Republic as protagonist of his two crime novels, both set along the border between the Republic and Northern Ireland. I've also wondered about the place in the books of the North's bloody sectarian Troubles.

McGilloway, who grew up in Derry in the North, sent a thoughtful reply to my posts that reminded me of what Matt Rees likes to say when asked if he plans to include Israeli characters in his novels set in the Palestinian territories. No, Rees says, because to do so might lead to unseemly and distracting side-taking.

McGilloway's novels are Borderlands and the new Gallows Lane. Without further ado, here's what their author has to say about the personal, the political, the police and the hero of the books, Inspector Benedict Devlin:

"I know you've been questioning the issue of a Northern Irish writer setting his hero in the Republic, then working with the North's PSNI (Police Service of Northern Ireland). The main reason for it, I suppose, was to avoid the political. During the time of writing, policing was still a hot issue in Northern Ireland. I was aware that, as a Northern writer, people would rightly or wrongly look at the books for a political angle on the presentation of the PSNI. By filtering their presentation through Devlin's eyes, it allows Devlin to direct, to some extent, the reader's reactions and makes his response to the PSNI a personal rather than political one. I hope that makes sense.

"In addition, the PSNI was changing so much that, by the time the book would have been published, their presentation would have been out of date. Some Northern Irish politicians still complain if it's discovered that Guards are coming into Northern Ireland — on the ground it's happening much more frequently than people expect, I imagine. I thought that was an interesting and unique angle from which to approach a police procedural.

"And of course the Guards over here have had their own problems recently — considered more fully perhaps in the second Devlin book, Gallows Lane.

"As for the Troubles — I wanted to write a non-Troubles book but, around the Border, it would be unrealistic to assume that they're not there somewhere — thus the only representation of the Troubles in
Borderlands is the disembodied voice, talking about the past. It's there, but increasingly insubstantial. Or that was my intention, at least."
© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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3 Comments:

Blogger John McFetridge said...

One border that almost never gets mentioned in crime fiction is the US-Canada border. I wonder why that is?

I've heard many rumours of the DEA working quite openly in BC and they were certainly involved in the arrest of "Prince of Pot," Marc Emery in Nova Scotia.

May 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's probably all that damned good will and concord between the two countries. And one used to read newspaper stories every so often about cigarette smuggling across the border. Maybe that smuggling happens on too small a scale to interest crime writers.

And I'm not sure there's sufficient crime drama in Montreal suburbanites underdeclaring the value of their purchases when they return from shopping trips to Burlington and Plattsburgh.

May 24, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

John, this does not involve crossing borders, but it would make a good Canadian comic thriller nonetheless: http://www.nationalpost.com/news/story.html?id=541872

May 30, 2008  

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