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Stolen Souls (The Belfast Novels) Paperback – September 4, 2012
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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 text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"Stolen Souls is a nightmare story in the most noir place on earth, told by an exceptional talent. Crime fiction doesn't get much better than that."
“Top-notch Irish crime fiction ... one senses a diamond-hard stillness at the heart of Neville's prose, despite the hurtling plot. This leaves us poised between savoring the beauty of his words and reading madly to get to the end.”
—Los Angeles Times
“Stolen Souls offers harrowing, uncompromising suspense.”
"Gripping, compassionate and packed with wonderfully realised characters, this is a book that will stay with you long after you finish it. Just three books in and Stuart Neville is already a crime-writing star."
—Mark Billingham, author of Lazybones
"Stolen Souls is another winner from a man who's rapidly establishing himself as a top-notch thriller writer. Great stuff."
“You read Stolen Souls wincing, in thrall to Neville's brilliance but wishing you weren't.” —Guardian
“A no-frills thriller that barrels along at a ferocious pace.... Belfast looms large as a character in itself, its warren of streets simultaneously offering threat and the hope of salvation in a novel that explores not only the dark heart of the Irish sex trade but also the twisted motivations of the men who so brutally exploit women.”
“If you by chance have never read Stuart Neville’s Belfast Trilogy, it’s time to redeem yourself.”
“Neville excels at conjuring up memorable details.... A gripping excursion into the nightside of humanity, but it is not without its richness and insights. It burrows into your brain like the best dark fairy tales.”
Top customer reviews
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I will be adding Stuart Neville's other works to my reading list!
Overall a thriller.
Nelville is becoming a gifted writer. He keeps the pace up using short chapters that change perspective every two or three pages. He paints a picture of a gritty life below the pretty surface seen in travel guides. The supernatural elements that marked the first two books in the series are only briefly alluded to here, as Neville settles into a fine style of Gaelic Noir. With gripping tales of a tarnished green, Stuart Neville has become a release-day download for my Kindle.
Most recent customer reviews
I look forward to another Neville Lennon book.