Guest Blogger: Tony Black
I don’t have a blog. I don’t do Twitter. Or Face-ache. Truth is, I’m far to busy making a living, writing, and updating – occasionally – Pulp Pusher. But, I’m all for penning the odd post for the likes of Paul …
”Come down to my blog, Tone,” he goes … ”write a few words on owt you like, can even be blatant self-promo!”
Well, tempting as that sounds, I figure discerning blog readers would see through it … So, in a more subtle attempt at bumming myself up – and basking in the reflected glory of a more popular, far more prolific, and bollix it, much nicer author, I’m gonna write about one of my influences.
I can honestly say if it wasn’t for the Guvnor, Ken Bruen, I wouldn’t be writing crime fiction today. Which means I’d still be writing the kind of wanky crap that makes most self-respecting crime readers cringe. Yeah, stuff without a story. Stuff without direction. Stuff without pace. Or heart. Or soul. What Bruen showed me very early on (I read Rilke on Black as far back as the 90s) was that genre fiction can be every bit as cutting edge, intelligent, wise, learned, erudite and polished as any of the so-called literary gems on award lists. Way he does it, it’s even better. No question.
Bruen, I clocked very quickly, was a genius. His prose sparkled, jumped off the page. His characters burned into the imagination and their woes wretched the heart out of you. Here was a writer that had an uncanny ability to get under his readers’ skin … and stay there. It wasn’t, for me, the story – not the story alone, anyway – but the sheer power of the writing. It was like being engulfed by a tsunami of talent – a writer with so many skills that the pages, every one of them, contained moments of breathtaking beauty, flights of linguistic gymnastics and … real heart.
Bruen is a writer of enormous heart. The players that populate his fiction may be on the edge, but he never forgets to show us how they got there. Often, it’s their journey – on paths taken long before the narrative begins – which illuminate so much of the human qualities the writer clearly understands so very well. When I wrote my first novel, Paying for It, Bruen was among the earliest readers – whilst most commented on the drama and the grit, it’s hardly surprising that Bruen spoke of its ”moving and compassionate” qualities. Traits not normally associated with crime fiction, but something this Saint of Galway knows all about.
When Bruen writes of Jack Taylor’s trials and tribulations he never forgets to fill us in on how he reached such a low. The loss of a much-loved father, the battle-axe mother and the career sacrificed to a fiery temperament and the demon drink play their role in fleshing out a truly human character – one we know and understand as fully, if not more so – than any other in modern literature. What Bruen teaches us about characterisation is that what he, as a writer, doesn’t know, isn’t worth knowing.
Through two crime series, a stack of standalones, numerous awards and – as of next year – a bundle of new movie and TV adaptations Ken Bruen has soared to the point where his name is synonymous with artistry and achievement. 2010 deserves to be the year the wider world – beyond the crime genre – wakes up to the man himself’s work. They say a prophet is never recognised in his own time, but I’ve got my ticket booked for the unveiling of the statue to Bruen in Galway, Ireland … the flight is taxiing, we’re ready for take off.
Bio: Tony Black is the author of the classic crime novels PAYING FOR IT & GUTTED as well as being the editor of the cushty PULP PUSHER MAGAZINE.