Saturday, September 3, 2011

Declan Burke

Declan Burke is the author of Eightball Boogie (2003), The Big O (2007), and Absolute Zero Cool (2011). He is the editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Liberties Press, 2011), and hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays.

Last month I asked him what he was reading. His reply:
Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin

Most of my reading these days is work-related, for reviews, interviews, background prep, etc. I do try hard to slip in one non-work book per month, though, as a read for pure pleasure, and this month’s offering is Hell at the Breech by Tom Franklin.

I first came to Tom Franklin via his very fine Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, which is a contemporary crime novel set in Mississippi. What piqued my interest there were the back page blurbs, which featured glowing recommendations from the likes of (if memory serves) Dennis Lehane and George Pelecanos, but also Philip Roth. True enough, the novel was a super read. It’s a very good crime novel, but Franklin has a facility for language that sets him apart from most of his peers.

Hell at the Breech is an earlier novel, from 2003, and also qualifies as a crime novel. Set in rural Alabama in the late 1890s, it opens with the murder of a man by a pair of hooded vigilantes, a murder investigated by Sheriff Billy Waite. It’s early days yet, as I’m still only 30 or so pages in, but already I’m utterly captivated. Franklin’s palpable love of language, combined with a grittily realised setting of time and place, gives Hell at the Breech the feel of an episode of Deadwood written by Cormac McCarthy.

Incidentally, the work-related reading I do is as often as not pure pleasure too, as I’m lucky enough, for the most part, to be able to pick and choose the titles I review. The most recent novel I read for review was Alan Glynn’s Bloodland, and a synthesis of his previous two offerings, The Dark Fields (which was adapted earlier this year for the movie Limitless, starring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro) and Winterland, an excellent example of the conspiracy thriller, which is set in Dublin. Bloodland has a more epic sweep, being set in Ireland, the Congo and New York; moreover, Glynn, as is the case with Tom Franklin, writes novels that are ostensibly crime narratives, but are as ambitious in terms of theme and language as the best kind of novel in any genre.
Visit Declan Burke's Crime Always Pays blog.

The Page 99 Test: The Big O.

The Page 69 Test: Absolute Zero Cool.

My Book, The Movie: Absolute Zero Cool.

--Marshal Zeringue