Saturday, October 05, 2013

McKinty, Ciaran Carson, and Belfast Confetti

My panel on wartime crime fiction at Bouchercon 2013 got me thinking of the heavy responsibility attendant on writing about war: How does one do justice to the weight of the subject while writing a compelling, entertaining piece of work? How does a writer fulfill aesthetic as well as moral and ethical responsibilities?

Here's how Ciaran Carson does it in "Belfast Confetti," writing about the sort-of-war that was Northern Ireland's Troubles:
Suddenly as the riot squad moved in, it was raining exclamation marks,
Nuts, bolts, nails, car keys. A fount of broken type.
And the explosion
Itself – an asterisk on the map. This hyphenated line, a burst of rapid fire …
I was trying to complete a sentence in my head, but it kept stuttering,
All the alleyways and side-streets blocked with stops and colons.

I know this labyrinth so well – Balaclava, Raglan, Inkerman, Odessa Street –
Why can’t I escape? Every move is punctuated.
Crimea Street. Dead end again.
A Saracen, Kremlin-2 mesh. Makrolon face-shields.
Walkie-talkies. What is
My name? Where am I coming from? Where am I
going? A fusillade of question-marks.
I first heard of Carson through Adrian McKinty, and I found that several of Carson's poems reminded me of the opening chapters of McKinty's novels I Hear the Sirens in the Street and The Dead Yard. And lo, it transpires that the prologue to Dead I Well May Be, the book that got me reading McKinty in the first place, is called "Belfast Confetti." I attached no special significance to that title when I read the novel, however, because I had not read Carson at the time.

Sample Carson's poetry here, read a bit about him, and hear him read "Belfast Confetti."

Troll McKinty's blog or a bookseller's site to read the openings of those three novels and see what I mean about similarities to Carson. Better yet, read the books.

 © Peter Rozovsky 2013

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Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

As ever, an interesting post.

I cannot imagine how anybody could face into writing about war. For thirty years I managed to avoid watching the news coming out of the North of Ireland as the only way of dealing with the frightening reality of what was a physical expression of sheer hatred and miscomprehension between people.

October 06, 2013  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I think many readers and writers similarly avoided Northern Ireland for years. Interesting that many of the fine crime writers from there there these days are 45 and younger. They're worth reading.

October 06, 2013  

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