Friday, April 23, 2010

Declan Hughes you can use: All the Dead Voices

Declan Hughes has offered ringing defense of the P.I. novel's continuing relevance, so it's fair to ask how he keeps his own version of the genre fresh.

All the Dead Voices, Hughes' fourth novel featuring Dublin investigator Ed Loy, is peppered with pointed, clever, plot-relevant contemporary references. My favorite is this thoroughly contemporary wisecrack: "The text message is a mode of communication ideally suited to lies. Donna adored it."

Other references and asides mordantly assess Ireland's post-Celtic Tiger economic bust and its tendency, like the boom that had gone before, to benefit bankers.

As a journalist, I like Hughes' jab at the "spontaneous" shrines that get left at sites of unfortunate deaths and to which newspapers and television unaccountably devote valuable picture space and screen time: Bits of police tape "and a few drenched bunches of polythene-wrapped convenience-store flowers propped against a wall were all that remained of the crime scene."

Above all Hughes confronts the P.I. story's hoary conventions and embraces them with even more zest than did his hard-boiled predecessors. Take the set piece about the client, almost always a woman, who surprises the P.I. in his office.

We experienced readers know just as well as the P.I. does that the dame is trouble, but a few laconic words of foreboding and resignation from the narrator/protagonist usually suffice to convey this. Not for Hughes. Here's how Ed Loy's two-chapter meeting with Anne Fogarty ends:
"I could hear the sound of the blood in my ears, breathe her scent deep inside me. Stupid, I told myself, stupid, stupid, but I didn't believe me, or I did, but I just didn't care. Worse still, I allowed myself hope."
Does a Philip Marlowe have an undertone of romanticism? Ed Loy has an entire orchestra, and Declan Hughes has the writing chops to pull it off.

© Peter Rozovsky 2010

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7 Comments:

Blogger Dana King said...

Hughes is a master of the PI form, possibly it's greatest lining practitioner, meaning no disrespect to the many other excellent PI writers out there now.) Ed Loy is a classic and timeless and character, and sidekick Tommy Owens is unique in both his loyalty and unreliability. Add Hughes's gifts as a writer and it's the best series going.

I only wish he'd commit to electrons some of the thoughts he expressed at two panels on the 2008 Bouchercon in Baltimore. The PI sub-genre has no more passionate or eloquent champion. Listening to Declan Hughes speak, or reading his prose, reminds me of why I fell in love with crime writing in the first place, and my belief that the PI novel, when properly done, is the highest form of the crime genre.

April 23, 2010  
Blogger Declan Burke said...

Chaps - The new Ed Loy, THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS, is going to blow your cotton socks off. Dec Hughes has been pretty damn good up to this point, but LOST GIRLS is a whole new league.

Cheers, Dec

April 23, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I enjoy the way Hughes will have a character look at Owens with a mix of affection and disdain. "A mix of affection and disdain" may even be a quotation from All the Dead Voices

As for Hughes' committing his thoughts to the permanence of electrons, I'd welcome this as well. But the reader would miss the flair and thunder with which that man of theater delivers his message. After his 2008 panel on P.I. fiction at Bouchercon 2008, I wrote that

Hughes' passionate theatrics are always a joy to behold, and they did at least as much as the hospitality-suite coffee to jar conventioneers out of their early-morning stupor.

April 23, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan, I loked for The City of Lost Girls at a bookstore last night. Darndest thing, but there was an empty space on the shelf right next to All the Dead Voices.

April 23, 2010  
Blogger Dana King said...

Peter,
We must both have been at that same early Sunday panel. He gave another, briefer, discourse earlier in the conference, but you're right: Sunday morning's speech was better suited for YouTube than a blog post.

April 24, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Dana, I've seen and heard Hughes twice on panels. If I had not known he had a background in theater, I might have guessed that he did.

April 24, 2010  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan Burke said...
Chaps - The new Ed Loy, THE CITY OF LOST GIRLS, is going to blow your cotton socks off. Dec Hughes has been pretty damn good up to this point, but LOST GIRLS is a whole new league.


Yep.

May 02, 2010  

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