Friday, June 02, 2006

“He Writes Like the Devil Himself”

Most Americans, even those who read quite voraciously through the crime-fiction stacks, probably aren’t familiar with the name Ray Banks. But that’s likely a short-term problem only.

Certainly, this young British novelist’s leap from penning short stories to composing novels (first The Big Blind [2000], and then the recently released Saturday’s Child) is destined to pump up his profile; so, too, might his clever, personal, and surprisingly frequently contributions to Mystery Circus. He’s already won over some serious tastemakers on both sides of “the pond.” Critiquing Saturday’s Child, the first novel-length appearance by Banks’ poseur private eye, ex-con Cal Innes, Martyn Waites (The Mercy Seat) writes: “If you’re looking for a polite, middle-class mystery perhaps about professional people committing adultery in lavish surroundings or even something with cats or cooking, look elsewhere. If you want your worst fears about Blair’s Britain confirmed, and be hugely entertained in the process, this is for you.” Adds blogging queen and January Magazine contributor Sarah Weinman: “Let’s make this official then: Saturday’s Child is not only an excellent book, but it manages to do something which is damn near impossible to pull off: keep straight two first-person POVs written in different tenses and completely different dialects. Wait for the cricket bat, but the real gems are the incredibly strong voice, Cal’s further descent into hell and how profoundly screwed up families can really be.” And no less than the Irish noirist Ken Bruen declares that Saturday’s Child “is already the best UK novel of the year and I’d love to read what tops it.” High praise, indeed.

But as we discover from a freshly posted interview with Banks in Crime Scene Scotland, this novelist hasn’t yet become so full of himself that he’s unable to see the faults in his own work, or so jaded that nobody else’s prose impresses him any longer. Over the course of his discussion with editor Russel D. McLean, Banks talks about the challenges that come from giving the archetypal American P.I. a British makeover, the value of romantic tension, his visceral dislike of guns, his plan to write only five Innes novels, and his thoughts on making fictional violence credible.

After reading the interview, you might want to find a copy of Saturday’s Child yourself. Be prepared, though, to devote some significant time to the novel, for as Kevin Burton Smith opines in his Thrilling Detective Blog, “The book kicks off with an assault by toilet and just gets better. And better.”

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