(If you were one of the unlucky people who missed part one go HERE and be delighted and amazed.)
Part Deux ...
Me - Back
to your man, Harry. One of the many things in Eightball Boogie that fascinated me was his
relationship with his psycho brother. Tell us where that came from.
Declan - Another
tough question. The honest answer is that I don’t know - if I did, I probably
wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of writing a book about it. But these
things tend to be buried pretty deep in our psyches, and take quite a bit of
all the ostensibly bad guys in my books - Rossi in THE BIG O, Karlsson in
ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL - I have a lot of sympathy for Gonzo, who is Harry’s brother
in EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. He’s an exaggerated version of the milder kind of
sociopath that people tend to meet in their lives - the bullying boss at work,
the aggressive moron who lashes out at the end of the night after one too many
beers, the passive-aggressive manipulator we’ve all met at some point in our
lives. Gene Kerrigan makes the point that most criminals aren’t all that
different to law-abiding citizens, they simply want to pay their mortgage off
quicker, and are prepared to do whatever it takes to achieve their goals. To a
certain extent, Harry and Gonzo are two sides of the same coin, brothers who
grew up the hard way and whose lives were directed down slightly different
paths by their individual experiences. Harry, possibly belatedly, discovers a
brake on his impulses at a particular time in his life; Gonzo doesn’t, and
feels free to do whatever he needs to do in order to get what he wants. He’s a
typical bully, a borderline sociopath who doesn’t have the ability to empathise
with other people. Given that EIGHTBALL is a crime novel, it was inevitable, I
suppose, that Gonzo would at some point end up with a gun in his hand, but
that’s not what was interesting to me. What I was interested in was why Gonzo
became that bully in the first place, in the factors that created his
BOOGIE is told in a first-person narrative, and Harry is a freelance
journalist-cum-private investigator (he calls himself a ‘research consultant’)
as a nod to Chandler’s Marlowe, so it’s Harry’s story; but the epigraph I used
at the start of the book, from Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME, is dedicated
in my mind to Gonzo: ‘Yeah, I reckon that’s all unless our kind gets another
chance in the Next Place. Our kind. Us people. All of us that started the game
with a crooked cue, that wanted so much and got so little, that meant so good
and did so bad.
is Harry’s doppelganger, in a way, his alter-ego. But I suppose too that both
Harry and Gonzo are aspects of my own personality. In a parallel universe, I
turned out like Gonzo; in another parallel universe, I ended up like Harry.
Happily, I live in this universe, and don’t have to be either.
Me - Another pleasure for me in Eightball Boogie is your
facility for the bon mot, the wisecrack and the banter. Go on make me jealous -
does this come naturally to you or do you have to work at it? And part 2 of
this question - did you feel you had to add the humour to leaven the darker
Declan - Well,
you’re very kind, sir, and I appreciate the good word. To be honest, at this
remove, I think there’s probably too much wise-cracking in EIGHTBALL - there
are times, I think, when it distracts from what’s happening. I’ve written a
sequel to EIGHTBALL called THE BIG EMPTY, and Harry is less inclined to crack
wise in that one, although there’s no pretending that he doesn’t have a smart
mouth. But when THE BIG EMPTY opens, Harry’s just out of prison after doing
five years, and that’s an experience that’ll teach even the smartest arse when
to keep his mouth shut.
same token, he’s just a slightly subdued version of the Harry we meet in
EIGHTBALL - my sense of humour tends to veer towards the absurd and the
surreal, which is probably why I enjoy Chandler’s one-liners so much. And most
of the humour in EIGHTBALL is in there because I was writing an homage to
Chandler, in part, and I did deliberately over-egg the pudding because I wanted
people to know that I wasn’t just trying (and failing miserably) to imitate
Chandler’s style, I was trying incorporate that kind of style into a
contemporary Irish setting - which is itself, of course, an absurd thing to do.
afraid that the answer to your first question is yes, that I find comedy easy
to write - or far easier, I should say, than writing consistently serious
material. I’ve tried in the past to write a serious novel, but it either flops
miserably, or it twists itself into something funny. It’s probably a failing of
mine that I can’t write anything without raising an arched eyebrow above it,
but then, the crime novel these days verges on self-parody as it is, so all I’m
doing is giving the conventions a bit of a tickle once in a while. Maybe some
day I’ll run out of gags, and then I’ll get to write a proper, serious novel.
It’d be a nice change of pace, if nothing else.
said, I’m a big fan of the notion peddled by the ancient Greeks that tragedy is
simply underdeveloped comedy, although they had a different interpretation of
‘comedy’ than we do. Still, I can’t see why you shouldn’t write a novel that
has something serious to say, and not leaven the darkness in the process, as
you suggest. Elmore Leonard, Kurt Vonnegut, Spike Milligan, Colin Bateman, Carl
Hiaasen, Barry Gifford, Chandler himself - there’s a very good reason why I’ve
read virtually everything those writers have written. Eoin Colfer’s PLUGGED,
incidentally, is a welcome addition to those ranks.
Me - A
wee birdy (well, your blog) tells me you're bringing to market a book about
this new and exciting wave of Irish Crime Fiction. Tell us about that.
Declan - DOWN
THESE GREEN STREETS: IRISH CRIME WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY is a collection of
essays, interviews and short stories written by Irish crime writers about the
phenomenon that is the current explosion in Irish crime writing. And it’s not
simply a case of quantity, as the roll-call suggests: John Connolly, Tana
French, Eoin McNamee, Adrian McKinty, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Arlene Hunt, Gene
Kerrigan, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Colin Bateman, John Banville, Declan
Hughes, Niamh O’Connor, Alan Glynn, Brian McGilloway, Alex Barclay, Ken Bruen …
they’re all writers who can hold their own in any company, crime or otherwise.
It just seemed to me that a whole generation of writers was coming through at
the same time, all writing during a period of time in Ireland that has proved
convulsive - from the murder of Veronica Guerin and the IRA ceasefires in
Northern Ireland in the mid-1990s, through the rise of the Celtic Tiger
economic miracle, and then the decline and fall into economic meltdown - and I
thought it might be an interesting exercise to have the writers themselves
explore the reasons - personal, political, commercial, literary - why they
chose to write crime fiction.
Hopefully it’ll appeal to crime fiction fans all
over the world, though, because the writers mentioned above have already proven
that Irish crime writing can compete with the best the international stage has
Me - Now
I'm going to do to you what you do to your victims, sorry guests on your own excellent blog (If you're not a follower, get your butt over there pronto) CRIME ALWAYS PAYS - God dictates
you can only read OR write, which do you go for?
Declan - Read.
Read, read, read, read, read. Don’t get me wrong, I love to write, and God
knows I get like a hungover bear if I don’t get to write when I need to. But if
I had to make a choice, and being all too aware of my own limitations as a
writer, and all too aware of the fact that there are writers out there that I
couldn’t match in a thousand years of trying, then I’d be happy to sit back and
read until my eyesight fails.