Friday, September 03, 2010

Foreign Forgotten Friday: Austrian noir from Irish-Canadian

Another reprise this week: from the International Noir Archives. The review below is adapted from a 2006 review of a too-little-known crime novel set in Austria (only available in Canada, as far as I can tell, though some copies are available second hand.

About as international as it can be while being set in one small region, John
Brady's Poacher's Road is by an Irishman living in Canada writing about
Austria. Brady, author of the under-recognized Minogue novels set in Ireland, started a new series a couple of years ago (though so far there is not a second entry in the series) featuring Probationary Gendarme Inspektor Felix Kimmel, whose beat is
small-town Austria in the south of the country, near both Graz and the
Slovenian border.

Internationalism is a theme of the novel too--international
crime (smuggling in particular) in the new Europe. Brady's novels are not known
for ratiocination or even so much for solid policework, though he does focus on
policework. His novels are about talk, the flavor of speech and the networks of
communication, ethnicity, and family that the talk both reveals and attempts to
conceal. Poacher's Road is primarily a long, oblique conversation between
Kimmel and a Kripo detective who is both exploiting Kimmel and helping out his
career. The solution to the mystery aspect of the book is almost secondary, as
is the plot. But then in noir fiction, the plot and the resolution of a mystery
are not the primary elements--noir is about surface effects and the depths that
they reveal. Put another way, noir is about interactions among the inhabitants
of dangerous streets, and the unpleasant realities of the society that is the
larger environment of those streets. Most noir is conducted in narrative (first
or third person), though, rather than conversation--narrative of violence,
first person voices or interior monologues of varying degrees of despair or
resignation (noir not normally being the cheeriest or most optimistic of

Brady, though, gets the indirection of real conversation just
right--concealing as much as it reveals, revealing impressions, emotions, and
facts slowly, as if in negotiation among the participants. And his dialogue is
embedded in the region, particularly noticeable in the Irish novels--here he
puncuates the English dialogue with phrases from Austrian rural dialect
(followed by the character saying the same thing in English, which ought to be
irritating but is surprisingly effective--perhaps since dialogue, if realistic,
is repetitive anyway). This novel may be hard to get--only available in Canada
at the moment--but it's worth the trouble, as another example of a very
talented writer's work.

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