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Author One-on-One: Stuart Neville and John Connolly
John Connolly: To what extent has the end of the Troubles, comparative or otherwise, freed you to write? Could versions of books like The Ghosts of Belfast or Collusion have been written while the Troubles were ongoing?
Stuart Neville: No, I definitely couldn't have written The Ghosts of Belfast twenty, fifteen or maybe even ten years ago. I've long argued that the best fiction, on page or screen, about any conflict doesn't come along until the conflict is over. We didn't get movies like The Deer Hunter and Full Metal Jacket until the Vietnam War was over, for example. In a more practical sense, Ghosts was more about the aftermath of conflict than the conflict itself, and what happens to those who fought when they're no longer needed by the men of power.
Connolly: Collusion was very much a sequel to the first book. Do you think that presented difficulties for readers new to your work?
Neville: Almost all of the comments I've heard have been positive, even for those people who read the books out of order. Collusion is, as you point out, a continuation of the first book, but people seem to be happy to take it on its own terms. I think it works because it's in part a mystery where the protagonist, Jack Lennon, has to figure out what went on in the first book, so if you've not read Ghosts, you follow the mystery with him.
Connolly: Did you perceive a difference in the way the books were received in Britain, Ireland and the U.S.?
Neville: Yes, to my surprise. I think the first book in particular was taken more seriously in the U.S., perhaps seen as a more literary thriller, whereas it was seen as more commercial in the U.K. and Ireland. I've been constantly surprised how universally well the first book was received within Ireland, across all sections of society. I had been expecting some flak from certain quarters because of the politics of it, but that never materialized to any significant extent.
Connolly: You've spoken of the new book in terms of a departure from what has gone before it. In what way does it differ from the earlier novels?
Neville: For Stolen Souls, I really wanted to take a step away from the heavier political aspects of the first two books and concentrate on writing a thriller whose only purpose was to scare the hell out of the reader. I wanted it to be fast, hitting hard from the first sentence and not letting up until the end, which I hope I've achieved.
Connolly: There were obviously elements of Collusion that took place outside Ireland. Do you feel in any way constrained by being regarded as a writer from Northern Ireland? Would you be tempted to look outside the province for plots and material?
Neville: I'll go wherever the story leads me. When I first started writing, I didn't want to write about Northern Ireland, and I especially didn't want to write about the Troubles, but then the idea for The Ghosts of Belfast presented itself, and that was that. My next book, Dweller on the Threshold, mostly takes place south of the border in the Republic of Ireland, which is a small change of location, but its action actually spans Europe because that's what the story demanded. I have plans for a future Jack Lennon novel which may have more international locations, but that won't be for a while yet.
Connolly: Do you feel that you and a handful of other writers from Northern Ireland are essentially creating a genre as you go, given the absence of models for Irish mystery fiction, and mystery fiction from Northern Ireland in particular?
Neville: Crime writers from anywhere other than London, LA or New York tend to get labels put on them, like Tartan Noir for the Scots and Emerald Noir for the Irish. I tried to coin the term Norn Noir for Northern Irish crime fiction, but it didn't stick. I don't really know if they qualify as genres, though. I guess there are stylistic tics that'll separate out writers from one place or another, but does that make it a genre unto itself? Colin Bateman was the trailblazer for Northern Irish crime fiction, but I don't think anyone who followed him has been able to ape his style. Rather, I think writers like Adrian McKinty have carved out their own styles.
Connolly: You're perhaps the best example of an author who used electronic publishing as a way into mainstream publishing. How did that come about? Does it give you a degree of comfort with the changes that are taking place in the industry, or are you concerned by them?
Neville: Technology moves so fast, I think I'm behind the curve already. Yes, it was through blogging and selling short stories to online zines that got my foot in the door. Here we are just three or four years later and everyone has moved on from blogging to Facebook and Twitter. At the same time, there seems to be a lot of fearmongering and panic in certain quarters, and a gold rush mentality in others. Me, I'm going to wait and see.
This is my first Stuart Neville book and I am going back to read his other ones.
I love good mysteries, but it takes a really good one to keep me awake late at night because I don't want to put the book down and go to sleep.
So, this is a very decent, well written book with a good plot and well-developed characters.
When the last major hero/villain died, I thought the story line would have ended. Not so. What sets me back is the level of gratuitous violence and turncoat characteristics... Read morePublished 1 month ago by David Blake
The quality of the writing and the insight into the Irish character kept me reading this series. All three have been great along with this author's Ratlines novel.Published 10 months ago by Judith A. Quinn
This is my second Jack Lennon book and it picked up where the previous one finished...more or less. It is a well written page turner, but I felt Mr. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Banjobreath
I have read all of the Stuart Neville books and like them all. I cannot wait for the rat in the system to be revealed and to get his just desserts. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Anne Mills
A fabulous read from an author that needs more publicity and needs to get me another ASAP. I bought everything he has written as a result I of The Ghosts of Belfast which is the... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Amazon Customer