Friday, September 19, 2014

My Bouchercon 2014 panels: Belfast Noir

It's tough writing about a volume of short stories, since, even more than with novels, one wants to avoid giving away spoilers and narrative twists.

Suffice it to say that Belfast Noir, out in November from Akashic Books, looks like one of the strongest, possibly the best entry in Akashic's "City Noir" series, and I don't say that just because the book's two editors plus one of its contributors will be part of a panel I'll moderate at Bouchercon 2014 in November.

The pieces are well-chosen and the volume intelligently planned. Its four sections recognize not just Belfast's violent recent past, but the realities of its quotidian present. Most of the stories depict no violence directly, but violence, and the possibility or memory thereof, loom always. That's a lot more effective than whipping out a kneecapping or rolling down the balaclavas whenever the action lags.

I especially like Brian McGilloway's "The Undertaking," which opens the collection with hair-raising humor and suspense.  Akashic's Dublin Noir also opens with a comic story (by Eoin Colfer), and that story was the highlight of the volume for me. I don't know if it's an Irish thing, but  comedy is a wonderful against-type way to open a collection of crime stories. Oh, and I'll also want to read more by Lucy Caldwell.
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Belfast Noir's editors, Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville, will be part of my Belfast Noir: Stories of Mayhem and Murder from Northern Ireland panel at Bouchercon 2014 Friday, Nov. 14, at 11:30 a.m.  So will Gerard Brennan, who contributed a story to the collection. See you there.

© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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16 Comments:

Blogger adrian mckinty said...

looks like one of the strongest, possibly the best entry in Akashic's "City Noir" series...

Peter,

Look I know I'm biased but I agree. I havent read ALL the Akashic books but I have read half a dozen of them and I definitely think BN more than holds its own...

September 20, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I have heard the same from a friend who got a preview, and I'm looking forward to mine arriving soon.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Steve Cavanagh said...

Great review. That wee book is quite special to me.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I think the book does a better job than some in the series of striking a balance between the familiar and the not.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, see my comment to Adrian. I remember one story in one of the other Akashic books that was a New Yorker story (in the pejorative sense), except that the characters happened to earn their livings by illegal or dubious means. I took that story as an example of Akashic's going too far in its effort to make the series different from typical crime. Nothing I have read in Belfast Noir does that. At the same time, almost every story is surprising in some way, in its resolution, in its choice of protagonist, etc. The editors chose their contributors well and coaxed good work from them.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Steve Cavanagh said...
Great review. That wee book is quite special to me.


And would you be the Mickey Fuck guy? "The Grey" is a fine post- or para-Troubles story with some good courtroom action that I think North American readers will like. Well done.

And if you're some other Steve Cavanagh, you should read the story.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I've just read Steve's debut novel and really enjoyed it. He's got quite the career ahead of him I reckon.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Thanks. His story plays nicely into a few lines of questioning I have in mind for the panel.

September 20, 2014  
Blogger Steve Cavanagh said...

Peter,

Thanks very much, and yes I'm the Mickey Fuck guy. Glad you liked it. Best of luck for the panel.

Adrian,
Thanks again, you're a very generous man. You shall be rewarded with beer when we finally meet.

September 21, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Steve: That's a coincidence, because I was thinking of rewarding Adrian with beer when we meet in Long Beach.

In re Mickey Fuck, I've always liked the idea of these great freedom fighters and defenders engaging in squalid, everyday crime, a kind of joke at the expense at the image of these folks we have always got in America.

September 21, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, but it always annoys the hell out of me when people, particularly Americans.... refer to Belfast and Northern Ireland as Irish. Both are part of the United Kingdom and therefore NOT Irish.

I'm not wishing to offend or cause an annoyance, although you seem quite happy to annoy people (like me) born in Northern Ireland and continually referred to as Irish! You wouldn't like me referring to you as Canadian would you just because you belong to the same continent.

November 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Anonymous: Thanks for the comment. Here in North America, especially in the United States, ethnic denominations that indicate national origin are common: Italian American, Irish American, and so on. But European society is such that such designations don't exist in Europe, as far as I know, including the UK and Ireland.

In this case, I use "Irish" as an ethnic and cultural rather than a political designation. We do that sort of thing here, and the distinction can be useful. I claim a passing knowledge of Irish history, north and otherwise, as well as a few friends in Northern Ireland. Among these are Protestants who in no way advocate separation from the United Kingdom but consider themselves Irish (in the cultural sense). I also hear tell that soccer fans from Northern Ireland are happy to heap obloquy when the English side comes over for international matches.

So no, I'm not happy to annoy anyone, though you seem quite happy to make assumptions when you might be better off asking questions.

November 05, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I don't think Peter would mind being referred to as a Canadian as much as all that...

November 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Goddamn, how I hate being referred to as Canadian, and everyone does it: my passport, my birth certificate, the occasional commenter here.

Seana, in re Canadians, I suspect you have noticed newspapers increasingly using U.S. as a noun and even as adjective rather than America or American. When my own newspaper made the shift, I seem to recall, it was explained in part as dictated by accuracy: You know, "America" takes in everything from Ellesmere Island to Patagonia. (The real motive, I suspect, was a kind of harmless, mildly idiotic political correctness.)

I am Canadian, and I never felt oppressed by references to people from the United States as "American." Of course, nobody bothered to ask my feelings. Nor did the head of the committee that made the decision bother to respond when I pointed out the error of her assertion that folks from the United States were the only people who had ever called their land America. But then historical accuracy never gets in the way when making everyone feel good is the task at hand.

November 05, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I would never dare to wade into the complex waters of naming anything in Northern Ireland. But I did read an interesting article on the name "America" not too long ago. It was about how South America felt about it.Basically, the article writer told the South Americans to get over it.

As usual, Canadian sensitivities were almost completely overlooked.

November 05, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I shall look into the matter, but Bouchercon reading comes first. I remember being surprised by references, I think in the work of Fray Servando Teresa de Mier
, to "America," meaning Spanish possessions on the American continents. This gave the lie to the assertion that Americans in the U.S. sense were the only people ever to refer to "America."

November 05, 2014  

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