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Author of the Month

Name: Brian McGilloway

First Novel: Borderlands

Most Recent Book: Bleed a River Deep

'Inspector Devlin is a fascinating addition to the ranks of crime fiction’s favourite detectives and is surely here to stay.'

Synopsis:
When US Senator Cathal Hagan is attacked during the opening of a Donegal gold mine, Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is blamed for the lapse in security. To make matters worse, the gunman turns out to be a young environmentalist - related to an old friend of Devlin's. Then an illegal immigrant is killed near the Irish border and Devlin seizes the opportunity to redeem himself in the eyes of the powers that be. This leads Devlin to a vicious people-smuggling ring.

Then the gunman who attacked the Senator is found dead near the mine and Devlin begins to suspect that the business is a front for something far more sinister than mere mining.

Review:
Organised crime, politics, big business and the world’s dispossessed are all on stage in this latest book from Ireland’s latest literary star. Brian McGilloway works with these disparate strands and knits them into a convincing and affecting tale that stays with you long after you have turned the final page.

Inspector Devlin is a fascinating addition to the ranks of crime fiction’s favourite detectives and is surely here to stay. He has all the elements one expects from the contemporary detective; he’s driven, dogged and has a cheerful disregard for the orders from those in authority. Where he comes into his own is his determination to keep a balance with his wife and young family and his empathy for the victims. Indeed, this humanity is well and truly established when we see his dealings with a young Chechen woman who is raped and put to prostitution by the people-smugglers. His guilt at this woman’s plight gives him an added dimension and will pull even the most judgemental of readers onside.

All you fans of the police procedural should make sure that this writer’s latest book is number one on your shopping list for Bleed a River Deep has barely a word out of place, carries the faint tickle of sly wit and is as satisfying as a long, slow sip of Jamieson’s on ice.

Reviewed by: M.M.

CrimeSquad Rating



Questionnaire

1) What makes a truly great crime/thriller novel?
For me, the best crime novels are those where place and detective are inextricably linked and where both reflect something about the social and historical context in which they are placed. I’m a fan of character series and that sense of location married with detective I find particularly appealing.
2) Now that the crime/thriller genre represents the largest section of fiction sold in the UK, do you think we do enough to celebrate the quality and diversity of the writing?
I think crime fiction is still ghettoized to an extent and certainly isn’t considered to be as worthy as ‘literary fiction’, which to me is nonsense. Well written crime fiction can say more about society, and can reach a much wider audience, than supposed ‘literary’ fiction. In deed, I think the best writers often blur the boundaries between the two.
3) How much of Brian McGilloway is buried in the psyche of Inspector Devlin?
I suspect that every character says something about the writer, in the same way that supposedly every character in your dreams is a version of you. Certainly, Devlin reflects some of my concerns regarding trying to balance work and home life, trying to be a decent father to his children, a decent husband for his wife and finding his position within his society. On a more simplistic level, I gave up smoking when my wife was pregnant with our first child – as a result, Devlin smokes for me; any time he lights up, you can be fairly sure I wanted to smoke in real life. There are, of course, many facets of his character that are nothing like me.
4) Bleed a River Deep touches on a number of important world issues. Do you feel that placing these issues in a crime novel merely enhances our entertainment or do you see it as a way of raising awareness?
I don’t see that these have to be mutually exclusive; I think there is an element of both and good literature should be able to entertain and make you think. The best recent example of this for me is James Lee Burke’s The Tin Roof Blowdown, which matched a riveting crime narrative with his obvious anger at the treatment of the people of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. Ian Rankin likewise marries these two elements in the Rebus books to great effect.
5) What other writers have influenced your own works?
I’m a fan of both Burke and Rankin as might be clear from my previous answer, as well as Colin Dexter, Michael Connelly. I also found John Connolly to be a great inspiration when I started writing. He showed that it was possible for someone from Ireland to tackle the crime genre successfully and bring something new and original to the field. I found that that gave me confidence to try it myself.
6) You have a highly readable, visual style, but still manage to write with intelligence – is this something you deliberately cultivated or was it natural to you?
Thank you. I write the Devlin books in his voice and have found the voice growing stronger with each book, both as I grow in confidence and I become more used to it. Ultimately, I try to write a book that I, as a crime fiction fan, would want to read myself.
7) Do you think that you write with a particularly Irish sensibility? If so, how do you think this colours your books?
I hope that the books are Irish in flavour but appeal beyond Ireland. The border region where the books are set does reflect, to my mind, the state of Ireland today and the duality of the North in particular. In each of the books the police are not always entirely pure or honest which may be a result of events North and South of the border and accusations of collusion with terrorists and illegality attached to the police forces on both sides.
8) What led you to set your novels in recent history? Many readers will know this period well. Does this help or hinder you in telling the story?
The key for me was that the books should not be ostensibly Troubles books, but should at the same time reflect their presence in some level. In Borderlands the only reference is a voice on the phone. But the book itself is how events form the past impact on the present. Gallows Lane contains several characters who mix violent pasts with religious tendencies. I think it helps that people are aware of the area’s recent history, but that the books provide a different angle.
9) In a dream scenario who would you like to direct and star in a film/TV adaptation of your book?
It’s difficult to say. I really liked Kenneth Branagh in Wallander and he is Irish though Devlin is in his thirties in the books!
10) Which is more important, great plot or great characters?
I think both are vital obviously; if I had to choose, I think a great character possibly edges it for me. There are, in every crime series, weaker entries. However, with a strong central figure to hold the reader and engage your sympathies and interest, you’re more likely to forgive plot failings. The best plot in the world will not engage me on a human level in the same way a strong character would. But that’s a personal view.
11) What is your favourite movie adaptation of all time of a crime/thriller novel?
LA Confidential is a stunning version of a dense book. I loved Gone, Baby Gone too; the casting of Gennaro and Kenzie was perfect, I thought, and the moral ambiguity of the ending perfectly captured.
12) What is your favourite crime/thriller novel of all time?
This is too difficult I’m afraid and I can’t narrow down to one. My favourite books would include The Moonstone, Snow Falling On Cedars, Last Car to Elysian Fields, Black and Blue and too many others to list.