Screwed, by Eoin Colfer
Indeed, McEvoy is in many ways everything the crime fiction hero should not be. The legacy of a drunken, abusive father has left him conflicted about his own capacity and appetite for violence. So far is he removed from the bed-hopping, womanising stereotype that he refuses to take advantage of Sofia, with whom he is besotted, on the basis that she occasionally confuses him with her long-lost husband, Carmine. The macho caricature of bad genre fiction is further undermined by the fact that McEvoy’s business partner and friend is the “super-gay” ex-bouncer Jason, while McEvoy’s sharp eye for women’s fashion comes courtesy of his addiction to Joan Rivers’s Fashion Police TV show.
Suffice to say that Dan McEvoy is a complicated man, and Colfer takes great pleasure in drop-kicking him into a story that reads a lot like a Coen Brothers’ take on The Sopranos. Indeed, part of the pleasure of Screwed is Colfer’s awareness of the conventions of the genre, and his willingness to bend them out of shape. The refreshing irreverence is there right from the beginning, when the novel starts with McEvoy explaining how Elmore Leonard has decreed that no story should begin with a description of the weather, “but sometimes a story starts off with weather and does not give a damn about what some legendary genre guy recommends”. Fair enough, but McEvoy then neglects to tell us what the weather is actually doing.
That whimsical quality is probably the novel’s defining feature (“Men have climbed into wooden horses for eyes like that.”) but instead of proving a narrative distraction, the offbeat style is an integral element of Dan McEvoy’s attempt to cope with the way his life appears to be spiralling out of control.
In Plugged, this quality occasionally veered off-course to become self-consciously wacky and zany, but Screwed is noticeably more controlled and direct in terms of its narrative thrust.
It takes a deft touch to weld the darker elements of noir to slapstick comedy, but Colfer’s aim has a laser-like focus and the joins very rarely show. The result is a hugely enjoyable caper that also functions as an affectionate homage to the genre.