Molly Interviews Adrian McKinty for Seventh Street Books

Post by Molly

Adrian McKinty has been one of my favorite noir authors ever since I picked up The Cold, Cold Ground, the first volume of his acclaimed Troubles Trilogy, and finished the three books in the next week. For those who, like me, loved In The Morning, I’ll Be Gone, McKinty’s explosive conclusion to the trilogy, yet wanted more of Detective Sean Duffy, I am pleased to announce that McKinty has written a fourth Duffy novel, Gun Street Girl. Seventh Street Books, an amazing publisher, gave me, along with some other die-hard fans, a chance to interview Mr. McKinty, and now I am pleased as punch to show off said interview.

Here’s a short excerpt from the interview:

Ziskin: The opening of The Cold Cold Ground is one of the most hauntingly beautiful passages I can recall reading. Can there be poetry in the tragedies of Northern Ireland?

 

McKinty: Wow, thank you for saying that. Poetry can definitely exist in that environment. Theodore Adorno’s apocalyptic remark that there could be no poetry after Auschwitz is contradicted by people like Primo Levi who argued that, in fact, that there was poetry even during Auschwitz. I’m in no way comparing the two situations (!) but I will stress that even in the darkest times there is the opportunity for beauty.

 

Molly: One of the things that initially drew me to Detective Sean Duffy was his outsider status as one of the only Catholics in the Carrickfergus police force. I am always drawn to outsider narratives, and Duffy’s clear-headed (when not smoking hash or drinking to distraction) appraisal of both sides of the law draws on his inability to fit neatly into any presupposed category himself. What was your thought process in creating such an outsider perspective?

 

McKinty: I loved putting a Catholic in a Protestant housing estate, making him a cop, making him come from a slightly different class, giving him a different accent, making slightly better educated and then just sitting back and letting the sparks fly. It was actually pretty fun for me to have him be in the middle, not quite at ease in either community and it’s a terrific authorial trick because you can exploit all these interesting fracture lines and explores the friction.

Click here to read the full interview.


Copies of McKinty’s latest are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Review: GUN STREET GIRL by Adrian McKinty

gun street girlPost by Molly
When I finished reading Adrian McKinty’s Troubles Trilogy last year, it was with a heavy heart. The Cold Cold Ground, I Hear The Sirens In The Street and In The Morning I’ll Be Gone together formed the greatest noir trilogy and one of the best trilogies, period, that I have ever read. I was so sad to say farewell to Detective Sean Duffy, with his Catholic-policeman-in-Northern-Ireland outsider perspective and his (very noir) ability to take everyone’s punches and still get his in the end. After finishing up his Troubles Trilogy, McKinty took some time off from Northern Ireland to write the excellent historical thriller The Sun Is God, set in the 1890s on a remote island taken over by (possibly murderous) opium-drinking sun-worshipers.

Lucky for me, McKinty decided to bring Duffy back to the page in his explosive new sequel to the trilogy, Gun Street Girl. McKinty sets Gun Street Girl in 1985 against the backdrop of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, Margaret Thatcher’s attempt at easing hostilities between Great Britain and Ireland that quickly sparked riots and demonstrations by Ulstermen in response to the new spirit of cooperation.

McKinty truly believes in the “starts bad, gets worse” definition for noir. Duffy spends the first few pages of the novel up all night, dealing first with a botched arrest for gun smuggling, then a fight at a bordello, and after a couple hours of sleep, a jurisdictional fight over the right to investigate a double murder. Duffy’s colleagues immediately peg the wealthy family’s wastrel son as prime suspect, but Duffy has his suspicions. The wealthy couple’s scion ends up dead of an apparent suicide, quickly followed by the seemingly self-inflicted suffocation of his girlfriend. Duffy soon finds himself embroiled in an increasingly convoluted case with difficult-to-arrest suspects and more cover-ups and incompetence than the Nixon Administration.

McKinty’s signature juxtapositions – local and global, Catholic and Protestant, police and paramilitaries, austerity and excess – are all present in Gun Street Girl, where McKinty continues to astound me with his ability to demonstrate the interconnected, tangled relationships and blurred lines between perceived opposites. Gun Street Girl also continues to demonstrate McKinty’s penchant for complex plots, caustic dialogue, and devastating conclusions.

Sean Duffy is still mixing together more alcohol and pharmaceuticals than an Irvine Welsh character, still solving cases for his own satisfaction rather than any trust in the legal system, and his Northern Irish context still breathes new life into the tired convention of the alcoholic detective risking all to solve a case. Adrian McKinty’s work is reminiscent of the 1940s and 50s classic P.I. novels. I make this comparison not based on shared subject material, but because first, Duffy has the impeccable taste and snide intellectualism of Raymond Chandler’s Marlowe, and second, McKinty’s novels are, in my mind, already elevated to canonical status.

McKinty’s work is a formidable defense of the continuing relevance of genre fiction. McKinty takes the time-tested conventions of the mystery genre and builds a narrative utterly unique and compelling over them. He uses the structure of crime fiction as a spur to his own creativity and as set of limiting factors that condense the sprawl of Northern Irish history into a series of tight, interconnected narratives with no loose ends. In short, McKinty has learned from the masters, and in my opinion, now is one.


You can find copies of Gun Street Girl on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. For an interview with the author, check up on our page later on this week.

MysteryPeople Review: THE SUN IS GOD, by Adrian McKinty

the sun is god

-Post by Molly

If you’ve been keeping an eye on the MysteryPeople blog, than you might have heard mention of the Northern Irish author Adrian McKinty in regards to his outstanding Troubles Trilogy, finished up earlier this year with the concluding volume, In The Morning I’ll Be Gone.  McKinty has written fourteen previous novels, and now he has another book out. This one’s set far from Northern Ireland in the 1980s.

McKinty’s latest, The Sun is God, is set in the corners of European empires in the dawn of the twentieth century. This is a story about the limits and consequences of empire, and bears some small resemblance to Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. The novel begins in South Africa at the tail end of the Boer War, then moves quickly over to New Guinea, and then to a remote island off of an already remote shore. On this island lives a colony of sun-worshiping German nudists, subsisting on a diet of coconuts and liquor infused with Bayer Chemical’s new “non-addictive” heroin, and convinced their special diet will grant them immortality. When more of the colonists die off than even their atrocious diet would seem to indicate, the only man around with police experience is summoned to the task of first, detecting foul play, and second, solving any crimes he may stumble upon.

McKinty’s protagonist, former military police officer Will Prior, is haunted by his memories of wartime atrocities but otherwise living well on a plantation in a German colonial enclave. The German colonial administration has different plans for Will than just a quiet retirement, however; he must instead go to the island of the sun-worshipers and search for wrong-doing. Unfortunately for Will, nightmares, opium, and beautiful naked noblewomen keep getting in his way.

McKinty, while writing in less personally familiar territory than his previous novels, has clearly done his research, and the novel is full of interesting tidbits about colonial and indigenous cultures in the early twentieth century. Even the cult of the cocovores (so named for their dietary obsession) did in fact exist, although given the conditions, it did not last particularly long. As historical fiction about cults, The Sun is God tackles a subject generally reserved for true crime books. The plot is as driving as any of McKinty’s novels, and the author’s research is seamlessly incorporated into the narrative and only adds to the mounting strangeness and horror as Will gradually discovers how crazy the cult members are. The Sun Is God, at its conclusion, sets the scene for a century of confusion and horror, and continues the themes of colonial disintegration set up by McKinty’s previous novels. I can’t wait to see what he writes about next.


Copies of The Sun is God can be found on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

International Crime Fiction: Adrian McKinty’s TROUBLES TRILOGY

adrian mckintyPost by Molly

Adrian McKinty wrapped up his Troubles Trilogy earlier this year with his novel In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, thus concluding some of the most thought-provoking, historically well-grounded, and satisfying crime fiction trilogies ever written. For this month’s international crime fiction post, we have decided to profile McKinty’s trilogy but with a special emphasis on his recent concluding volume.

Few trilogies are able to take a set of characters and a few plot twists and slowly add on all the world’s cares until you a have a sweeping condemnation of an entire society. Phillip Kerr’s Berlin Noir Trilogy did this for Germany in the thirties. John Le Carré’s Smiley Trilogyconsisting of Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, The Honourable Schoolboy, and Smiley’s People, did this for the winding down Cold War in the 70’s. And Adrian McKinty’s Troubles Trilogy does this for the height of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland in the 80’s.

McKinty’s three Detective Sean Duffy novels seamlessly integrate multiple aspects of Northern Ireland’s troubles to provide a narrative that demonstrates all the intransigence and complexities of the conflict. His first novel in the series, The Cold Cold Ground, takes place in Northern Ireland at the height of the hunger strikes. Detective Sean Duffy is put on the case of what appears to be a serial killer targeting gay men, and may turn out to have larger political implications. McKinty’s second novel in the series, I Hear The Sirens In The Street, follows the mysterious case of a tanned torso found in a trunk, bringing the political intrigue to the fore. His third, In The Morning I’ll be Gone, follows Duffy on a quest to find an old classmate escaped from jail against the background of the Falklands conflict.

McKinty carefully designs his detective, Sean Duffy, to have an outsider perspective. Duffy is one of the few Catholics in a Protestant dominated police force. His minority viewpoint serves as a moral challenge to his generally bigoted and lazy coworkers, who view their prime purpose as backing up the British soldiers rather than solving crimes. Sean Duffy is also possessed of a manic curiosity that refuses to let him leave well enough alone, and constantly gets him in trouble for asking too many questions. He has a fairly realistic trajectory to his character arc over the trilogy, in keeping with the brutal realism of a Northern Irish setting.

In each book, he battles with his superiors over his right to solve politicized crimes in an apolitical way, and by the start of McKinty’s third book in the trilogy, Duffy has been busted down to patrol officer and no longer spends his days solving murders, but instead engages in mini bursts of violence with the IRA all over the six counties. Luckily for Sean, an old classmate escapes from prison and some oh-so-secretive Brits promise Duffy temporary reinstatement as detective inspector if he agrees to hunt his old friend down.

Duffy gets fairly reflective over the symbolism of such a search – his classmate had turned Duffy down when he tried to join the IRA right after Bloody Sunday, and in the parallel universe where Duffy did join, then they would have ended up as comrades instead of enemies. Instead, Duffy stayed out of the IRA just long enough to get sick of their tactics and join the police instead, and now he checks for car bombs daily instead of making them. This third book is not only a search for a parallel Duffy that could have existed, but also a confrontation with those parts of Sean’s mind that have never felt comfortable being a part of an oppressive occupying force that discriminates against him. A third part of Duffy, the part of him that loves confiscated hashish and the company of a good woman to the background soundscape of Lou Reed, is just happy to once again do a job that challenges him. Sean’s apolitical ability to excel is the aspect of the novel that really helps to provide perspective on the conflict. Duffy’s consistent inability to find a non politicized space for his talents represents the true tragedy of a sharply divided country.

Sean Duffy goes from valued member of the police force to Judas in three novels, through no fault of his own. The way that the British secret service manipulates Duffy into killing his old friend stands for the impossible choices of a troubled nation. McKinty certainly writes with a plague on both your houses mentality, and one gets the sense that he, too, must have felt the shackles of choosing sides in his youth. The British, however, come out looking worst of anyone. Duffy’s handler delivers a chilling speech at the end of the novel summarizing the entire conflict, and it’s no disservice to the rest of the novel to quote a little bit here:

“I’ll tell you a little story. After victory in the Franco-Prussian war, an adjutant went to General Von Moltke and told him that his name would ring through the ages with the greatest generals in history, with Napoleon, with Caesar, with Alexander. But Moltke shook his head sadly and explained that he could never be considered a great general because he had ‘never conducted a retreat.’…That’s what we’ve been doing since the first disasters on the Western Front in the First World War. Conducting as orderly a retreat as possible from the apogee of empire. In most cases we’ve done quite well, in some cases – India, for example – we buggered it.” (307)

For fans of:

Stuart Neville
John Le Carré
Jean-Claude Izzo
Philip Kerr

Follow the MysteryPeople blog to find our monthly posts profiling the best in international crime fiction.