Thursday, June 01, 2006

The International Association of Crime Writers just gave its Hammett Award (for "a work of literary excellence in the field of crime writing by a U.S or Canadian author”) to Joseph Kanon’s Alibi. The other nominees were impressive: Martin Limon’s The Door to Bitterness; Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men; Don Winslow’s The Power of the Dog; John Brady’s Islandbridge.

What makes Islandbridge an unusual case is that it has had no U.S. publication as yet. St. Martin’s Press and a house called Steerforth Press published the first six books in Brady’s excellent series about Dublin police officer Matt Minogue, to strong reviews, but so far this seventh outing has no U.S. home.
Could it be that the current taste for ultra-violent Irish fiction – a subgenre headed up by Ken Bruen – has left no room for a more cerebral kind of Celtic copper? There’s certainly plenty of action in Islandbridge, including a corpse which apparently fell from an airplane into someone’s backyard and an attempt on Minogue’s life when he threatens to awaken some almost-dead criminal dragons. And there’s a lovely, ironic lilt to the banter between Minogue, now struggling through some Euro-bureaucracy brand of police work, and his former crime-fighting colleagues.
Minogue talks about himself and his former boss as suffering from “Oisin I nidaidh na Feinne,” a Celtic phrase Brady translates as “a great longing for former times and company.” Earlier, Minogue asks us, “To be hunting down a killer, to be staying awake and half-raving even, for forty hours… How could any man in this day and age justify that shameful excitement to anyone, to his wife and family especially, or even to his own waking self?”
Before there was Matt Minogue, there was a top Dublin cop named McGarr, the creation of the sadly late Bartholomew Gill. The Death of a Joyce Scholar is his best book, and reading Islandbridge might make you wonder what would have happened to Irish crime fiction if Gill hadn’t died in an accident.