Taoiseach, Nazi, soldier, spy
Are southerners entitled to ask why, if Stuart Neville wants to dabble in historical crime fiction, he doesn’t concern himself with Northern Ireland and the Troubles? “Well, I think Adrian McKinty has pretty much sown up the 1980s in terms of the Troubles. And you know, I feel I’ve already written about the Troubles enough at this stage. Further books in the Ratlines series may well overlap with the Troubles, but that’d be incidental to the storylines rather than the actual backdrop.
“It’s hard to know what I’ll write about in the future, of course, but right now I feel like I’ve covered all that ground already, and I think other writers have covered it very well too. I was most interested in the post-Troubles period, the aftermath, but I’ve been to that well enough times already.”
Ratlines is a riveting read, and opens a window on to a fascinating period of Irish history. Can we now look forward to reading about Charles Haughey’s part in the Arms Crisis? “To be honest, I’m not so organised that I’d actually plan ahead that much,” Neville laughs.
“At this stage I really should be writing another Belfast novel, but I’m writing something else entirely. That probably frustrates my publisher, that I keep jumping around from one kind of story to another, but I’ve never been a big reader of crime series. The only series I’ve read to any great extent is John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series.
“I’m more a fan of James Ellroy’s approach of a persistent world with different characters moving through it. I just wouldn’t find it very satisfying to stay on the same route all the way through – it feels right to me to move around a bit. Commercially that’s a difficult proposition, but what can you do?”
Stuart Neville’s Ratlines is published by Harvill Secker
The Troubles they've seen
Following in the footsteps of Eoin McNamee and Colin Bateman, a new generation of Northern Ireland’s crime writers is engaging with the Troubles as a backdrop for their fiction.
* Adrian McKinty has just published a new novel I Hear the Sirens in the Street , which is his sequel to The Cold Cold Ground (2012), which featured a Catholic RUC detective and opens in 1981 in the wake of the death of Bobby Sands by hunger strike.
* Brian McGilloway’s current novel, The Nameless Dead (2012), opens with an investigation by the Independent Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains.
This, in turn, leads to the investigation of a murder during the Troubles – even if Peace Process legislation means the murder can’t officially be investigated.
* Claire McGowan’s sophomore novel, The Lost (2013), features forensic psychologist Paula Maguire as she investigates a number of contemporary disappearances in Newry, which may be linked to similar disappearances in 1985.
* Anthony Quinn’s debut, Disappeared (2012), features another Catholic detective, Celsius Daly, who finds himself dragged into the murky world of Troubles-era spies and spooks as he investigates a contemporary disappearance.