Being of Irish descent I cannot help but be attracted to the writings of my fellow countrymen and women. So I was genuinely interested to start following the career of novelist Adrian McKinty some time ago – and no, it was nothing to do with the corresponding Mc prefix!
McKinty was born in Belfast, read law at Warwick and Politics and Philosophy at Oxford and like many Irish before left the country to settle in America. He now lives in Australia. His genre is crime fiction and young adult fiction and apparently he fits quite neatly into the Celtic wave of crime fiction. That will go with all the other new waves of course from Norway, Sweden and so on.
He has quite a reputation and I thought his style was interesting as it is quite stylized. The work of Elmore Leonard springs to mind, or even James Ellory. His work can be violent, which personally I have no issue with, although others have complained. But then when you consider his subject matter it would be unrealistic not to outline what went on in Belfast during the Troubles. When I dealt with people trafficking in The Uncounted I did not think the level of unpleasantness in my novel was inappropriate; a writer has to record what happens in crime fiction – that’s what is expected.
McKinty has been called a master of contemporary ‘noir’. This must be because he uses typical ‘noir’ constructs of revenge and betrayal which he cleverly employs to wander through his characters’ minds. In this way he explores what can only be described as an existential quest for some kind of sense in this tough world. It’s not only that, however, otherwise he would join the ranks of many writers. McKinty is also very lyrical which gives his work an added dimension I find really attractive. Yes, the world is bleak but it is many layered and McKinty peels back some of them and give us a thoughtful reveal. McKenna tries hard to do the same!
He has been compared to Dennis Lehane and others who also join him in this ‘new wave’ tag like Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes and others such as John Connolly. McKinty is prolific and I admire him for that; he has managed to pen a dozen novels half of which are part of two trilogies. I like them and I am not alone. He has picked up numerous awards too and I am sure he will go on to win more.
I am about to settle down to read his latest novel which I am itching to do but don’t seem to have much time at present as I am spending most of it shut away in my study struggling with some thorny issues within my new novel The Unwanted. But when I do take a break I shall settle down to ‘I Hear The Sirens In The Street’ which sounds really gripping.
This title completes a trilogy of thrillers based in Belfast and is rooted very firmly in northern Irish crime fiction which explores the region’s history as violence was beginning to reduce. Interesting how it erupted once more when the decision not to fly the union flag became such a massive issue recently.
The novel centres round the character Sean Duffy back in 1982. He is Catholic and is a detective in the largely protestant RUC – only 15% of officers at that time were Catholic. That immediately sets up an interesting tension. It is interesting that in the past Belfast youth had three options: ‘Be a policeman a terrorist or emigrate.’ Duffy chose the first.
In I Hear The Sirens In The Street Sean Duffy finds a body in a suitcase and the only clue there is to go on is a tattoo and there begins his obsession which allows him to forget the trauma of his personal life and the growing self-doubt which comes with age. The story travels between country and city and Duffy sniffs out trouble wherever he goes. It does sound really gripping and I have to stop myself from settling down to read instead of writing myself!
I also thought of another interesting Belfast saying: ‘Whatever you say, say nothing.’ It would make a great title for another novel and I have already scribbled it down in a notebook.
I hope you will enjoy reading The Unwanted when it is published sometime in the summer. Meanwhile you could read The Unseen and The Uncounted. Better get back to it I suppose.
Books by James McKenna can be downloaded at http://tinyurl.com/c9ultl3