It sometimes seems like St Patrick’s Day in New Zealand is yet another excuse to overindulge in beer – and green beer at that. Not a good idea as far as I’m concerned. Do you celebrate St Patrick’s Day? Do you know if you have Irish ancestry?
Before you join the ranks of the green beer drinkers you can find out if you have Irish in your family tree by visiting our great online resources like Find my past Ireland and the British Newspaper Archive.
For a small country, Ireland has had a great influence across the world as the Irish diaspora has spread through many countries. Music and language are the great passions of Ireland and from this has come a great stream of writers, lawyers, politicians and musicians both traditional and popular.
Though I claim no Irish roots, I’ve always loved the traditional music that has been popularized by such great groups as the Chieftains. So perhaps instead of green beer I’ll celebrate St Patrick’s Day by listening to the Chieftains, reading a poem by Yeats and having a laugh with the black humour of Colin Bateman.
Irish crime is considered the latest big thing in publishing circles and on its way to match the Scandinavians. This development has been fomented by the rapid social change and increasingly serious and widespread crime in Ireland, something which has been blamed on the Irish Tiger phenomenon.
It is a lot less easy to quantify than Scandinavian crime, being much more varied in style and content. It stretches from cosy crime to the sort of tough (and violent) noir that I associate with best-selling American crime authors.
The biggest names in Irish noir are Declan Hughes, Ken Bruen and Neville Stuart.
- Declan Hughes has been compared to Raymond Chandler, Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake, and admits to being influenced by all of them. His PI Ed Loy, both comic and dark, fits well into the classic noir tradition.
- Ken Bruen features a hard living detective called Jack Taylor. He is known for both his gritty stories and his poetic language.
- Stuart Neville’s first book “The Twelve” about hard man and ex-IRA killer Gerry Fegan was hailed – both as crime of the hard boiled variety, and as literature.
- Tana French, a multi-award winning writer of books which combined police procedural and psychological suspense.
- Brian McGilloway whose skillful writing is full of social ambiguity and a cast of characters who are the part of the inherited history of a troubled society.
- Gene Kerrigan, whose characters are often honest Garda at war with a corrupt system. His stories tend to be as much a portrayal of contemporary Ireland as they are crime stories.
And then there’s Benjamin Black, actually Booker prize winner John Banville. His well-reviewed series features a consultant pathologist in the Dublin City morgue. Quirke is a hard drinking loner, more at home with corpses than living people, but is driven to find out the truth.
What these books have in common is that they treat Ireland as such an integral part of their stories that they give a view into a modern Ireland with which many of us would not be familiar. In this they perhaps mimic the appeal of the Scandinavians, introducing us a to a new and yet familiar social milieu.
There is quite a lot of cosy Irish crime as well, some of it very witty and all of it good reading, but it tends to be more generic and won’t tell you as much about either the Irish, or Ireland.
You’ll find all of these and more in our booklist of Irish crime.
If you’re looking for some new crime authors give them a go and have some happy St Patrick’s Day reading.