Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Irish-canadian-austrian noir novel

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, known for his Minogue novels set in Ireland, has started a new 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 genres). 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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