Thursday, October 30, 2008

The ghosts of Northern Ireland

Everyone from Crime Scene NI and Crime Always Pays to a couple of hacks named John Connolly and James Ellroy has been heaping hosannas on Stuart Neville's upcoming debut novel. That novel is The Ghosts of Belfast, and now you can read its first two chapters online.

The chapters make chilling and evocative use of both parts of the novel's title, which makes Neville the second Northern Ireland crime writer I've read recently to explore the dramatic possibilities of ghosts.

The first, oddly enough, is Garbhan Downey in a story from his Off Broadway collection – oddly, because it's hard to imagine two moods more different than Downey's and Neville's. (Don't be fooled by Neville's cheerful mien in the photo above. The man can write haunted, and the man can write driven, and he doesn't take many words to do it.)

What is a ghost but a troubling manifestation of the past? That two such different writers chose ghosts as a vehicle to explore Northern Ireland's recent past is a clue to the dramatic riches that past contains. I know that Northern Irish crime fiction has been gathering steam for twelve or fifteen years, but I get the feeling that the boom is starting now.

© Peter Rozovsky 2008

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14 Comments:

Blogger Declan Burke said...

That excerpt is top stuff alright, I'm looking forward to seeing the rest of Ghosts ... Augers very well indeed. Cheers, Dec

October 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This sort of thing keeps up, and I'm going to start finding ghosts respectable.

And yep, that's good stuff. The man knows how to leave his readers saying: "Dang! When do get to read that third chapter?"

October 30, 2008  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

I know that Northern Irish crime fiction has been gathering steam for twelve or fifteen years, but I get the feeling that the boom is starting now.

Hell, yeah!

I read those chapters yesterday as well. Thanks to Dec for providing the link on CAP. Creepy, haunting, gripping... This and McKinty's Fifty Grand are at the top of my must-haves for 2009.

gb

October 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I know that lots of crime writers from NI write about the Troubles and their aftermath, but the conscious decision to have a protagonist (and I assume Gerry Fegan will turn out to be the protagonist) wrestling with ghosts has to be significant. It seems both a declaration that the years of violence are ripe for fictional treatment, and that they're not dead, because they live on in the lives of those affected by them. So post-Troubles crime fiction, if anyone uses that term, does not mean past the Troubles.

October 30, 2008  
Anonymous marco said...

He's Mr.Bean?
But yes,the two chapters look very promising.




My v-word is syneste,a word that sounds very green.

October 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He does look a bit like a scruffy Rowan Atkinson, doesn't he?

October 30, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I think we're all hoping that what happened to Northern Irish poetry in the 70's and 80's is what's happening right now to Northern Irish fiction. I dont think any of us is up there yet with Heaney, Muldoon, Mahon and Carson but give us time and money (but not in that order) and you'll see some fireworks.

October 30, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

It's exciting for me to think of a movement taking shape before my eyes. Despite having advanced a theory about this movement, I shall try not to get dogmatic. I wish you much acclaim, money and time, in alphabetical order.

And now, with the help of poetryfinder.com, I'll build myself a little archive of those Northern Irish poets.

October 30, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Incidentally I assume you saw this article in the New York Times?

And (RE ABOVE) without dissing Philly let me just say that in my town we would have thrown Molotovs at the fire truck.

October 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I had not seen it. An interesting article, though, with the requisite American sneer at touristy places, and the accompanying quest for authenticity.

The touristiness of Fibber Magee didn't stop the Times from publishing a picture of the musicians, though. Nor did it stop Gerard Brennan from recommending the place to me. Nor did it stop any of the Irish folks who packed the place the night I was there, though I admit there were a couple of Englishmen in the place, too.

Maybe your fellow citizens would have thrown Molotovs, but you're from Northern Ireland. Your violence would have been so gritty and authentic.

October 31, 2008  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Ha. You know I thought I would say did you see this "rather snooty" article in NYT, but then I thought no dont give him a spoiler. Actually a snooty post ironic stance is a prerequisite for all Times reporters these days from the sports page all the way through sciene and technology. Again they wonder why the MSM is dying. Hiring Bono wont help

October 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I haven't read the piece carefully enough to discern post-irony, but isn't there room in this world for good, old-fashioned snootiness?

As it happens, the places that I sought out in Dublin and Belfast exemplified a phenomenon more interesting than the sorts of authenticity Times reporters crave: pop music turning into folk music.

I've regarded claims of authenticity as a snobbish, bogus critical trope ever since I read a critic praise David Mamet's authentic Great Lakes bargemen dialogue. How the hell did the critic know?

October 31, 2008  
Blogger Conduit said...

Hey, thanks for the mention and the kind words, Peter. :)

October 31, 2008  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

My pleasure. When does the book get its U.S. release? Of course, I could fly back to Europe to buy a copy, too.

October 31, 2008  

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