Irish writer of hard-boiled crime Ken Bruen is just about legendary among fans of neo-noir. His best-selling Jack Taylor series is set in Galway, a city I absolutely love. On the west coast of Ireland situated in one of the nation’s most prominent Gaeltachts — a region where the Irish language never died out — it’s usually thought of among Irish-Americans as idyllic and happy. (But my ancestors are from Cork, so I didn’t know squat about Galway until I went there). Bruen’s work, on the other hand, is hard-edged in the extreme, though I’ve only read his works set in London.
Bruen’s new Jack Taylor, Headstone, came out a couple days ago. There’s a great interview with him by Allen Barra in The Atlantic:
Dr. Ken Bruen—he is surely the first master of crime fiction to have a doctorate in metaphysics—was born in Galway in 1951 and educated at Gormanston College and Trinity College, Dublin (where he earned his PhD). Since then he has traveled the world, holding jobs from English teacher in South America (where he did time in a Brazilian jail) to a security guard at the World Trade Center. His first novel, Shades of Grace, was published in 1993; he has subsequently written nearly 30 novels with titles like Rilke on Black (1996), The McDead (2000), and Dispatching Baudelaire (2004). Bruen’s books are known for their dark, brutal humor laced with a crisp dialogue far more akin to the works of classic American crime writers than those of the more genteel Irish tradition…He is best known, though, for the nine novels featuring Jack Taylor, a hard-drinking former policeman scraping out a living as a private eye in Galway.