Monday, December 26, 2011

Brian McGilloway, family man, plus a question for readers

Brian McGilloway is turning into a master of family melodrama.

McGilloway, author of four books about Irish Police Inspector Benedict Devlin and of one standalone novel, has always given Devlin more of a domestic life than most detective protagonists have. That life is on the whole happy, but not at all sentimentally and unrelievedly so.

 In The Rising, the latest Devlin book, especially, McGilloway  brilliantly captures the fragile texture of tense domestic interaction, the well-prepared argument that vanishes when the recipient does not react the way the arguer planned. It's exasperating when it happens in real life but thrilling to read when an author captures it well.

Who else does this? What other crime writers give their protagonists convincing family lives and make those lives integral parts of the story?
The Rising is no mere soap opera, though, and I'll have more in a future post. For now, though, I liked this not so veiled allusion to Northern Ireland's paralmilitaries and their current aims, tactics, and activities now that the Troubles are over:
"‘They’ve started an anti-drugs organization called The Rising. Small fry really, but they’ve learned one good lesson from their previous allegiances: you want political clout in a community, you give the people what they want. They reckon if the local communities see them ‘dealing’ with the drugs problem, they’ll gain some electoral support.’"
© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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Blogger adrian mckinty said...


So many detectives are lone wolves these days. Its nice to see the complications of family, kin etc. intrude into their lives.

I love Brian's books and I think that The Rising might be one of his best. Its certainly an excellent place to start if you havent read any McGilloway before.

December 26, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Right. The lone-wolf thing is so entrenched that I always notice crime writers who include complications of family, as Stuart Kaminsky did in his Abe Lieberman books and as Helene Tursten does not so well in her first book to be translated into English and better in her third.

I think The Rising is the strongest of the Devlin series, in part because McGilloway is as vested in telling family stories as he is crime stories. There's no sense that the family complications are a gimmick.

December 27, 2011  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

The Luis Mendoza procedurals by Dell Shannon (actually, all of Elizabeth Linington's series about cops and lawyers) do that.

If you call Fritz, Theodore, Panzer, Durkin and Cather (and even Keems) part of Archie and Wolfe's family, they're pretty well described, too.

December 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You may have mentioned the Dell Shannon series previously, when I asked a similar question. I thought the question worth asking again, though, because the family concerns are so prominent in the plot of the novel that one might reasonably call it a family drama with a police subplot.

I disqualify Nero Wolfe's gang from this question, though, because it's a more a fanciful, eccentric collection than an approximation of a real family.

December 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Delightful though that eccentric collection is.

December 29, 2011  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Okay, how about The Godfather? ;)

December 29, 2011  
Anonymous I.J.Parker said...

I've always assumed that policemen's families serve to show the stressful nature of the job on the men. Marriages frequently fail (in real life) under that stress. This is one of the aspects of the police procedural that make the novels more realistic and the characters more human.

December 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Linkmeister: That heartwarming tale of a plucky youngest son who trimuphs over adversity and takes over the famil business? That could work.

December 29, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I.J.: You're right, but I sometimes feel when reading such a book that the domestic incident is half-hearted or calculated. McGilloway breaks no new ground in making his protagonist's family life a part of the story, but he does it better and more convincingly than any other weiter of police stories that I can think of.

December 29, 2011  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Indridason portrays the family life of Outrage's chief protagonist, Elinborg, quite well. She has a happy marriage, but problems with teenage angst from her son.

There are several scenes with her family.

Martin Beck's marriage fell apart, partially because his job came first.

Yrsa Sigurdardottir has a family life with her children, although a former spouse.

And, of course, Guido and Paola Brunetti have the quintessential happy family, although teenage issues do arise, as their children go through various phases.

The fact that Paola Brunetti daily makes gourmet meals is not a small contribution to family contentment.

January 07, 2012  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

An essentially happy marriage with a bit of angst thrown in. That sounds like Helene Tursten's Irene Huss. Yrsa's character has a son who fathers a child -- an autobiographical touch, I think. Yrsa may be the youngest-looking grandmother I know.

January 07, 2012  
Anonymous kathy d. said...

Yes, Helene Turstein's Irene Huss has a good family life. Also, she lives with a chef, as well as teenage daughters, who are causing some difficulties, too.

It's the job of teenagers to cause their parents anxiety.

But I'm interested in how the culinary skills of the spouses of Irene Huss and Guido Brunetti -- and the family dinners -- play into the family contentment.

It is nice to read about contented families. And, yes, Yrsa's character, Thora, has a teenage son who is a father: Yikes. That is disturbing.

There are so many dysfunctional families or detectives that it's good to see families that are cohesive, despite teenage angst.

January 11, 2012  

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