Just wanted to stir up some pre-release publicity for Gallows Lane and the Pan paperback of Borderlands, which will be on sale from 4th April.
In addition Shots Magazine are running a feature on the books here.
Finally, Declan at Crime Always Pays has allowed me to guest blog. My first posting follows and deals with the obligation to tell the truth in crime fiction. I’m interested to know what non-crime writers think about this? Do you feel a similar obligation in your particular genre (if you are a genre writer) to tell the ‘truth’?
‘The Obligation to Tell the Truth’
This past week in Strabane, a twenty seven year old man was abducted, taken just over the border, shot twice in the chest, and left to die outside a small Catholic church. The man’s murder caused outrage and rumour in equal measure in the local area.
Twenty miles away, a man having served eight years of a sixteen year sentence for the rape of a 91 year old woman who died two weeks later of a heart attack perhaps precipitated by her ordeal, was released from prison and moved into a small farmhouse near a community with a number of lone, aged females. Those in the surrounding area have no control over who has moved into their midst. Some argue that the man has served his sentence. Others argue that his seeming lack of remorse and refusal to comply with police procedures make him unsafe in such a community.
These two events have unsurprisingly featured highly in our local media this past week. However, on a more personal level, in recent days, over a dozen of my colleagues have smiled knowingly at me and said; ‘That’s the plot of your next book taken care of then, eh?’
Whilst the comment was, for the most part, intended in a good-humoured way, and I’m not in the least egotistical enough to see a link between the two things, it did set me thinking. Firstly, I found the recent shooting both shocking and deeply frightening. Strabane/Lifford is a small, fairly tight-knit community. Murders happening in large cities are somehow more anonymous, though none the less horrible for that. In a small community though, it’s perfectly possible that the man who pulled the trigger that killed the 27 year old Strabane man, or who raped a 91 year old spinster, could be standing behind my wife and children in the corner shop, could be the person who drives the bus into town, offers you the Sign of Peace in Church. Someone who thought little of taking another person’s life in such a brutal and violent manner.
Secondly, the quip about the Devlin books also gave me pause for thought. As I started drafting book 4, The Rising, I found myself questioning the use of violence and crime in the books I write and those I read. In a time when Hollywood seems preoccupied with violence as the new pornography, is there something deeply flawed in using crime for entertainment?
But that, to my mind, disregards the purpose of crime fiction. I wrote my first novel around the time of the birth of my first son. I am convinced that that event was at least a catalyst in my writing. Nothing creates an awareness of the threats of the world quite as much as a new-born child. Particularly in post-Troubles Ireland, where a mixture of the Ceasefire and increased affluence has, paradoxically, seemed to create more criminal activity. And as the cases of this week show, all too often justice is not done, or those who commit crimes not necessarily brought to justice in a manner most people would like.
Yet crime fiction allows that to happen, imposing some form of morality and order on a world that seems increasingly lacking in both. Our detectives in books achieve clearance rates massively above the average in Ireland. And perhaps offer us some vicarious hope that good will always triumph. The books themselves allow us to safely face our fears, safe in the knowledge that some form of resolution will be imposed in a manner unlike real life, much as the ancient Greeks experienced catharsis watching dramatic tragedies.
Whilst I wouldn’t claim that crime fiction necessarily matches Greek Tragedy, its purpose and its appeal in raising difficult issues to a wide reading public far outstrips most literary novels. James Lee Burke argues that it is the artist’s obligation to ‘tell the truth about the period he lives in and to expose those who exploit their fellow man.’ I believe few genres are as well placed to do this in modern Ireland than the crime novel and so, as I started writing The Rising today, I did so, not with a voyeuristic use of violence, but a dedication to deal truthfully with issues that affect myself, my children, and those who live in Ireland in 2008. In this I believe I am no different from any other writer named in this blog over the past year.
And I am proud to be among their ranks.