Filed Under:

Sleuthing Around Dublin's Darkest Corners

Play associated audio

"If you are going to write noir fiction, Dublin in the '50s is absolutely perfect," novelist Benjamin Black tells NPR's Philip Reeves. "All that poverty, all that fog, all that cigarette smoke, all those drink fumes. Perfect noir territory."

You may know Black better as Irish writer John Banville, winner of the 2005 Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sea. Banville writes his crime fiction under the name Benjamin Black. His novels star an oddball sleuth named Quirke — a bachelor in his early 40s who works as a consultant pathologist in a Dublin morgue.

"He has a very dark and troubled past," Black explains. "He was an orphan. When he looks back to his earliest years, he sees only a blank, which is I think what drives him. What drives his curiosity. His itch to know about other people's lives, other people's secrets."

If you're looking for a savvy investigator, you won't find it in Quirke. "In these books, nothing is ever resolved," Black says. "The baddies are not put away. Poor old Quirke is as dumb as the rest of us, you know. If you wanted the exact opposite of Sherlock Holmes, Quirke would be your man. He just stumbles along as we all do."

Like his protagonist, Black's Dublin setting is flawed, but full of character. "I suppose I love this place," Black says. "I feel very odd saying it. In a way, it's the cheapest thing you can do. It's like saying, 'I love my mother,' or 'Apple pie is nice.' But I suppose I love this place in a strange, embittered kind of way, which is the best way to love somewhere I think."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Encore: 'Future Shock' 40 Years Later

Future Shock by Alvin Toffler was a huge sensation when it was published in 1970. The book perfectly captured the angst of that time and prepared society for more changes to come.
NPR

In Prison, The Passion That Drove A Yogurt-Maker To Arson Still Burns

The yogurt entrepreneur who set fire to his factory remains in prison, but he's in better spirits now. "He's dreaming again," says his wife.
NPR

Prohibition-Era Gang Violence Prompted Congress To Act On Gun Control

In the 1930s, the United States government was absorbed with a different kind of gun violence: prohibition-era gangsters using fully automatic weapons of war, with civilians often caught in the crossfire. NPR looks back at how the U.S. Congress, at the urging of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, passed the nation's first firearms legislation, which still holds today.
NPR

'Future Shock' Author Alvin Toffler Dies at 87

Toffler's warnings about 'information overload' and the accelerating pace of change in modern society made his seminal 1970 book a best-seller in the U.S. and around the world.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.