BOOK CHEWING: My interview with Adrian McKinty, author of I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET


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I have been a fan of Adrian McKinty ever since I picked up DEAD I WELL MAY BE. I knew he had me hooked the moment Michael Forsythe began listening to Nirvana’s Nevermind on a New York Subway Train. I’ve always had a soft spot for Irish writers but that book took my breath away and I’ve eagerly awaited every book since and loved them all. But, there is something special about the Sean Duffy trilogy that he is creating. I think the trilogy will go down as one of the absolute classics of the crime genre. These books are why I love the crime genre. It goes places other fiction rarely dares and it takes you there from different perspectives while thoroughly entertaining you at the same time. THE COLD, COLD GROUND knocked my socks off and I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREETS did the same.
Adrian was kind enough to answer a few questions for me on the release of the book in Australia:

I Hear The Sirens In The Street returns to Belfast in the early 1980s. Why did you decide to set your trilogy then and there?

N. Ireland in the Troubles was  a subject I had been avoiding for years. I’d be semi unofficially discouraged from witing about it by agents, publishers etc. who said that no one was interested in that topic, but eventually it nagged away at me so much that I had to write it.

What techniques and source did you use to recapture Belfast of thirty years ago?

To be honest much of it was from memory. Once I started writing the book the memories just keep pouring out. Nabokov has a book called Speak, Memory for me it was more like Yell Memory as impressions, images, recollections tumbled one after the other onto the page: the security barriers round Belfast, the army patrolling the streets and pointing loaded rifles at people, the bombs, the aftermath of bombs, the constant drone of army helicopters, etc. etc. I also had to do copious research on the period and spent many days in the National Library of Victoria reading up source materials and books.

Where did the idea for the character of Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective in the Protestant police force, come from and what research did you do on the life of policemen in Belfast 1981/2?

I loved the idea of putting a Catholic, slightly better educated, slightly more middle class cop in a Protestant working class police station because it would increase the fracture lines, the potential for trust, and allow all the characters to grow together. Only 15% of all policemen in the RUC at that stage were Catholic so he would effectively be an outsider and outsiders are a wonderful noir staple.

Each of the three titles in the Sean Duffy trilogy are taken from Tom Waites songs; The Cold, Cold GroundI Hear The Sirens In The Streets and In Then Morning I’ll Be Gone; what is the connection or are you just a massive fan?

Just a massive fan and I loved the idea that eventually Tom Waits (who is highly protective of his material and very litigious) would at some stage have to give his personal approval, even if it only took him two seconds, he’d still have to have the read the title and concept of the book and approved.

You have had many different jobs in many different countries. What inspired you to become a writer?

Basically it was just an accumulation of material. I was teaching high school English in Colorado. I was about 33 or 34 and I’d lived in a lot of countries and done a lot of jobs (especially blue collar jobs) and by that stage I’d just met hundreds of really interesting characters who’d come off with a lot of free, interesting dialogue I’d either remembered or wrote down!

What drew you to writing crime fiction?

Crime fiction was my first love! I grew up in the school system in Northern Ireland so we studied high Victorian literature – Trollope, George Eliot, Dickens, Thomas Hardy – and when I discovered a Raymond Chandler novel in the central library in Belfast it was like a bolt from the blue. I read all of Chandler in a week, moved onto Jim Thompson and have been in love with crime fiction ever since….

You’ve been living in Melbourne for the last few years; will we see an Adrian McKinty novel set down under?

You know, I still dont think I’ve quite captured the Australian idiom just yet. I’m still being surprised by things that people say and I’d hate to make a huge mistake. Saying that though St Kilda is such an interesting place there really is not shortage of material.

Which book of yours do think would make a great film or TV series (and is anyone planning on doing so)?

Dead I Well May Be was optioned for about 5 years but nothing ever came of a movie. The Cold Cold Ground has recently been optioned but I’m skeptical much will happen. But we’ll see.

What other writers have inspired you?

So many! Evelyn Waugh, JG Ballard, Angela Carter, Raymond Chandler, Cormac McCarthy, Jim Thompson, Dashiell Hammett, Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, PG Wodehouse etc. etc.

What have you been reading lately?

A wonderful history book called Thinking The Twentieth Century by Tony Judt which is basically just conversations Judt had as he was dying, but his mind is so lively and inventive its a joy to read….

ISBN: 9781846688188
ISBN-10: 1846688183
Classification: Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
Format: Paperback (234mm x 153mm x mm)
Pages: 256
Imprint: Serpent’s Tail
Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
Publish Date: 10-Jan-2013
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

3 thoughts on “BOOK CHEWING: My interview with Adrian McKinty, author of I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET

  1. Thank you Jon and Adrian for the great interview! “The Cold, Cold Ground” was arguably the best book I read last year and I can’t wait to get stuck into “I Hear the Sirens in the Street” (I’m still wading through the awesome but long “Under the Dome”). As a 33 year old English teacher whose lived overseas, who loves writing and has so many stories to tell, Adrian’s response has given me hope and inspired me to just do it. Great stuff!

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