Black Irish

Crime writer’s fiction is as pitch as his pen name

Names are given, not earned. Some names are never grown into, and some barely foretell a person’s talent. John Banville, acclaimed Irish novelist and author of Silver Swan, fits into the second category. Cheeky bloke that he is, Banville upturned the baptismal hierarchy and claimed a beefier epithet: Benjamin Black. We say that’s a name worthy of a switchblade and a prime-time whore.

Like the name, the author’s prose style is distinctive. He writes in a markedly cold and precise manner but streaks his stories with dark humor and philosophical digressions. Black’s writing is kindred to that of Vladimir Nabokov’s in that language often takes primacy over plot. His aim, he says, is to imbue his writing with “the kind of denseness and thickness that poetry has.”

For the non-initiated, Silver Swan — his newest crime novel and the follow-up to Christine Falls — takes place in 1950s Dublin and traces the dizzying reality of a pathologist who’s pulled into a murderous set of circumstances.


Sun., March 9, 1 p.m., 2008
 
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