Monday, July 13, 2009

Brian McGilloway's Northern Irish Western

Many in Ireland's talented wave of crime writers are forthright about their debt to American (and Canadian) forerunners. Ken Bruen has said: "All my influences are American. That's how to I learned to read. That's how I learned to write." Declan Hughes swears allegiance to Margaret Millar and Raymond Chandler. Declan Burke's Eightball Boogie is a faithful but thoroughly contemporary Chandler homage. And Adrian McKinty explores not one but several of America's seamy underbellies.

I don't know if Brian McGilloway likes Westerns, but the tumbleweeds practically whistle through the opening pages of his second novel, Gallows Lane. A mysterious figure from the past returns to town. A lawman is sent to suggest that he turn right around and head back out. And how about that title:

"(T)he lane along which the condenmed were led — Gallows Lane — still exists. The local kids believe it is haunted. They still claim, in an age when such beliefs are largely forgotten, that on a Halloween night the chains of the condemned can he heard rattling and, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the wails of the accused and the creaking of the long-dead branches."
That's not the only place McGilloway invokes death and myth. But then, the man has an eye for evocative locations, redolent of mystery and myth, even in the midst of a contemporary police procedural. His first novel, Borderlands, opens with a body dumped right on the border between two lands so recently divided. One can't get much more suggestive than that.
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And now, while I go on reading Gallows Lane, you can read my quasi-interview with Brian McGilloway here.

© Peter Rozovsky 2009

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12 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

My sister was reading McG on holiday and she noticed that one of the dedications was to Donal Doherty, Brian's teacher in Derry, who happens to be my sister's best friend. Small world, eh?

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Your reply scared me for a moment. I thought, what is your sister doing reading a pompous Hollywood director on her holiday?

In re small world's, the school where Brian is now head of English has some pretty illustrious graduates.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Hey you can read my quasi interview with Brian, here. And my thoughts on McG the director's pretensions, here..

Good plugging, eh?

Brian and Garv Downey are only a short hike from one another on Shank's mare too.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Plug away. Fook, we're a community here. I will add the plug that both those posts of yours are worth reading. I like what you had to say about the character of Brian's protagonist, Devlin. I'd noticed something similar in my reading of Gallows Lane that I may discuss in a future post.

I had coffee with Brian and Garbhan one afternoon in Derry after Brian's work day. Brian was dressed as the head of English at a boys' school.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

An excellent disguise. I know Brian's school very well and at least he can't complain about the quality of his students.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

He mentioned Brian Freel and Seamus Heaney among the alumni. He also said that the school library banned or restricted access to one of his novels, I think because of a sex scene. This surprised me because that's not a big part of his fiction.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

The opening chapter (or possibly the prologue) of Bleed a River Deep (third Devlin novel) has an even more obvious hat-tip to Westerns. Also a brilliant read.

Nice post BTW.

gb

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Uriah Robinson said...

Peter you missed some great cricket in the last few days!

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Much obliged, and that's a nice tease for Bleed a River Deep. But then, I first read the Western-style opening to Gallows Lane as a teaser included with Borderlands.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

U.R., I'm still not sure I'd know great cricket if I saw it. I did watch some cricket on television during Crimefest. While I could make more sense of it than I'd have done before your tutorial, much still puzzled me.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger R. T. said...

I had the good fortune to read and review another of McGilloway's novels, and I have reprinted the review over at my recently revived blog BOOKED FOR MURDER . The blog was off-the-air for a while because of personal (health) reasons, but once again humbly sharing space on the blogsphere with your superb contribution to detective/crime fiction. I always enjoy seeing what you have to offer, so keep it going.

July 14, 2009  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks for the kind words, and welcome back. I read and wrote about Borderlands some time ago. I haven't read McGilloway's latest, Bleed a River Deep, yet, but I'll want to. An excerpt from that book is included with my edition of Gallows Lane, and it was a well-chosen excerpt from that book included with Borderlands that first drew it to my attention.

July 14, 2009  

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