Reading the great Sallis, James Sallis, his Difficult Lives: Jim Thompson, David Goodis, Chester Himes, I found an intertextual quotation by André Guide about detective novels, noir in majority, describing them as a narration in which “each character tries to deceive each other and truth appears little by little through the fog of deception”. Moreover, reading an interview following on his previous novel, the author from Carrickfergus, Adrian McKinty, what struck me is a kind of popular saying from the Celtic lands in Northern Ireland, “whatever you say, don’t say anything”. And just to put the tin lid, there are some movie scenes coming to my mind from one of my favourite cult movies (personally speaking) about Northern Ireland and his most famous conflict, In the name of the Father. The scene, for example, of two guys both playing with sticks and imitating a forgotten guitar player standing on the roof, and cops confounding them with snipers. It was pump city. Barricade across the street, women, children, men, dogs and all living things born in Ulster preventing the police to do what they had to. The two guys run away around secret passageways, with the help of the entire neighbourhood, and finally questioned by the leaders of the revolutionary movement. It is perfect. Now it is time to put all these quotations, all these scenes and all these sayings together in the same narration. We can add a crime, one of the best crimes, a ‘motherfucker bloody‘ crime, and we will have I hear sirens in the street. Adrian McKinty.
The first time we meet the protagonist, inspector Sean Duffy, we notice that it will be not easy for the story, I mean. Catholic policeman in Belfast, imagine! That is to have… Catholics hate him for being a policeman, and both policemen and Protestants hate him for being a fenian. Also for independent in acts and life. Joy Division, Neil Young, New Order, Robert Johnson or Ella Fitzgerald, the soundtrack of his life which is self-sufficient to make any of his colleagues feeling out of place, and an instinctive smell for calling the danger, and anybody else. McKinty is giving an overview of his literature, what the reader is going to find during more than four hundred pages of ficticious reality, a three-dimension portrait of what Ulster was at the end of the seventies and the beginning of the eighties. So we can get an idea of what kind of sirens we are going to hear in the streets of Northern Ireland.
There is a crime, certainly, like in almost all worthy good black novel. A terrifying one, in a suitcase, withour arms, without legs, without head, but with a tatoo. But subjectively, McKinty uses the key element of the noir to lead an argument much further the pure and estrict detective genre. Cruelty of life in those years in Northern Ireland is cannon fodder for the author, who are not mincing his words, or his pen, reporting fictionally a corrupt complicity between the two sides, a hidden economy financing the territorial spite, and a bloody hatred between ideologies, putting the moves on each other with guns, Molotov cocktails, and multi-coloured insults. Duffy (and by default, McKinty) will deal cynically with a very dramatic situation, in which deception covers the truth up, and once it was revealed, little by little, (oh! André Guide, I am just getting to like you) it will hide behind the proud shade of political corruption and of power.
The investigation carried out by inspector Duffy shows different points of view. Maybe the sentence “live your life, stay out of mine, but just follow the rules” has a strong presence as an interpretation of a situation that is crossing the line between clandestinity and truth. McKinty introduces a story in which there are established rules, but morality is preferable to being alive. The author is also persistent on the idea of a flight. “This place is dead, flee to America, England, or wherever, here one cannot live” is a massive feeling against which the main character will fight day by day. With the help of alcohol, the good music (this soundtrack unknown by his closest), and his professional attitude, maybe sui generis, Duffy will transmit a patriotic feeling during the whole novel, with the climax at the end, when this point of view would be increased. As we can see, McKinty colours black a drastic situation, with realistic touches, not necessarily because of crimes, but of a degenerative spiral of corruption, discomfort, hatred, honesty, and terrorist confrontations which will make cohabitation something impossible. Though people hear sirens.
Fast literature, with direct words to sentence, but with an intellectual way going to ulterior motives. McKinty proves his original narrative mixing a soft verbal alcoholism with black humour, colloquial, a little bit insulting, cutting much more the cord between the noir with reality of acts in narration. They are sirens what you are hearing, whatever the page you read. A deranged anxiety moved to paper with an Anglo-Saxon elegance, and always the place you are from in your mind. Adrian McKinty. I will use the adverb again. Subjectively, a great actual European black-novel writer. I hear sirens in the street.
I hear sirens in the street
UK: Serpent’s Tail
US: Seventh Street Books