Thursday, 8 May 2008

Irish crime, and naming characters

I can’t remember a time when Irish crime fiction flourished to the extent that it does today. I’ve almost finished Brian McGilloway’s acclaimed novel Borderlands, and it’s going very well. I was a bit nonplussed to find that his detective hero, Inspector Benedict Devlin, shares a surname with my own lawyer-sleuth Harry. But I discovered, years after I started the Harry Devlin series, that there have been quite a few fictional detectives called Devlin over the years. Why, I don’t know.

The naming of characters is a curious thing, in fact, and it’s something to which I give quite a lot of thought, although sometimes with unexpected results. Many of my characters take their names from Derbyshire cricketers past and present (well, why not?) One day I was contacted by an Anthony Dessaur. He was researching his family and had discovered that The Devil in Disguise has a character called Luke Dessaur. When I explained that I'd borrowed the name of a rather obscure batsman called Wayne Dessaur, he said, 'My son Wayne will be delighted.' And sure enough, Wayne the cricketer got in touch and I supplied him with a suitably inscribed copy. An odd but entertaining encounter!

But I digress, as so often - back to Irish crime. I’ve also received a new paperback by Ken Bruen, called Cross. Bruen has become an international star in recent years; but I haven’t read him as yet. Judging by various rave reviews, it’s a gap that needs to be filled. Declan Burke and Declan Hughes are two more writers whose work sounds appealing.

It’s hard to tell what makes the difference between a steady career and stardom. In the 1980s, I thought that Bartholomew Gill, another Irish crime writer, had the potential to be very successful. Gill (this was a pseudonym for Mark McGarrity) created an interesting cop, Peter McGarr, but he never quite achieved stardom and died young, in 2002. A real shame; I felt his work deserved to be better known. John Brady is a writer of similar vintage who has not produced many books, but writes interestingly; Unholy Ground, which I read more than a decade ago, sticks in my mind as a very capable piece of work. Brady’s series hero is Matt Minogue.


Anonymous said...

I have a copy of Cross to read also, but I'm advised by Norman Price, who has just reviewed it for Euro Crime, that it is best to read the predecessor, Priest, first. (There are also earlier books in this series, but apparently it is OK to start with Priest).
Interesting about the names. My favourite cricketer was Barry Wood, born in Ossett but he played for Lancs not Yorks. I remember reading that one of his winter jobs between seasons was "an umbrella handle putter-onner". (Not much to do with crime, sorry!)

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks for the tip about the Bruen books, Maxine.
I'm delighted by your mention of Barry Wood. He was for a while captain of Derbyshire (and thus qualifies to be mentioned in my books!), though his main fame was with Lancashire and England, and I once had dinner with him. After a drink or two, we discussed the possibility of his writing his autobiography, and even of my assisting him with it. Time never allowed this to become a reality, but it was a fun evening. Barry was a real character.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Martin - At the risk of over-egging the pudding, The Guards (the first of Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor series) is the best place to start. It really sets the tone ... Also, and in terms of contemporary Irish crime, Declan Hughes, Gene Kerrigan, Adrian McKinty and Tana French are of the same calibre as Brian McGilloway. There really is an explosion at the moment. You're spot on in your comments on the slightly older generation of Irish crime writers ... although, if you haven't come across Vincent Banville on your travels, he's superb. I'm blogging at Crime Always Pays if you want to know more ... Cheers, Dec

crimeficreader said...

May I also suggest K T McCaffrey and Andrew Nugent? In the case of the former, I loved his latest The Cat Trap and for the latter, I thought Second Burial was superb.

Martin Edwards said...

Declan, good to hear from you. I've obviously got even more catching up to do than I realised! I haven't come across Vincent Banville.

And, Crimefic Reader, I don't know Nugent and McCaffrey either.

Thanks very much for these recommendations.

Anonymous said...

You're going to be doing a lot of reading, Martin;-)

Do you know, when I wrote my comment I had an idea that Barry Wood played for Derbyshire as well, but I thought I must be imagining it, so did not write that. Glad I was right (though as a Lancastrian by birth I never saw him play there, only at Old Trafford).
He was (is I trust) a lovely man. He once came to tea with us - when Lancs came down to play Oxford University. He was so charming, putting up with my mother and four daughters with great courtesy and patience - and much laughter all round I recall.

Martin Edwards said...

Yes, Maxine, I'm all too conscious that there are hundreds of books I want to read, some of them quite desperately, yet there are novels to write, and all the other things in life. A constant challenge! As for Barry Wood, he's 65 now, but sadly I lost touch with him after the demise of the mutual friend who introduced us.

Euro Crime said...

More lists for you Martin :-) : Irish and Northern Irish crime writers.

Martin Edwards said...

Thanks, Karen!