Friday, August 08, 2014

@*&%!%^%$ Tony Black!

Sure, this Scottish writer's novel Gutted is funny and violent, apt to remind readers of Ken Bruen's Jack Taylor books, though more packed with incident than those (and though the novel's one explicit Bruen tribute I've found is to the Brant and Roberts novels).

Sure, the book is packed with Edinburgh patter (unless Black is taking the piss and titillating we foreigners with made-up slang) and dark observations about the underside of the city's bright, tourist-attracting facade (though the protagonist, Gus Dury, admits a soft spot for some of the attractions.)

No, why I really can't stand Black is that I'll never be able to write a novel set in an incredible shrinking newspaper without being haunted by the thought that Black describes such a milieu better than I ever could:
"The newsroom had been decimated. I remembered the days when this place hummed with activity. Now it was a sorry reflection of its former glory. The staff numbers must have been cut by fifty per cent, padded out a bit by a few kids chasing work experience. I shook my head." 
and
"The paper used to be based in one of the city’s old baronial buildings. They sold it, turned it into a hotel. The office is now housed in one of Edinburgh’s many chucked-up-in-five-minutes jobs. I hear if times get tough the building can be quickly converted into a shopping mall. Forget about the workers that spend all their waking lives in there – best to keep those options open. The way newspapers were going since the web came along, I could see a Portakabin on the horizon." 
© Peter Rozovsky 2014

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35 Comments:

Blogger seana graham said...

If they're anything like Ken Bruen's, I'll get to them.

August 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

You'll notice that Black's Gus Dury is, like Jack Taylor, an alcoholic, and a bad one. But Black does not plunge Dury as deeply into alcoholic funks as Bruen does with Taylor, at least not in this novel. Dury also has a friend on the police with whom he has sometimes testy exchanges that at first reminded me of Jack Taylor and his ex-friend on the force. I believe also that Bruen has said some nice things about Black.

The explicit Bruen nod, by the way, is this:

"He asked for it, so I let him have it. Both barrels. ‘What is it now? Detective sergeant? Chief fucking super? You were padding Leith Walk in uniform before I handed you that … white arrest."

August 08, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Well if I'd been Black's editor or copyeditor I would have pointed out that "decimated" means reduced by a tenth, but just a few lines later he says the staff was cut by "50 percent" .

Surprised you missed that. Strangely emblematic. O tempora etc.

August 08, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

"White arrest" is nice, although I haven't actually gotten to the White Trilogy yet.

I think I've read a Tony Black story or two, probably in a Gerard Brennan anthology for one.

August 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, I'd give him that one. The meaning of that word has changed so much, and the state of most Western economies outside of Norway's, are such that reduction by just 10 percent would not seem like much. I'd rejoice, for example, if my newsroom's, much less the copy desk, which has been singled out as a target for cuts, had been merely decimated in the word's former, pedantic, stick-in-the-mud, thoroughly outmoded sense.

I should mention that my newspaper a couple of years ago sold its "iconic" building and now occupies space in a shopping mall. You'll understand why I read Black's passage with such mingled amusement and dread.

August 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, you would notice a decided kinship between this Tony Black novel and Bruen's Jack Tatlor novels, but my guess is that Black's heart is more aligned with the slam-bang, funny Brant and Roberts novels, of which A White Arrest is the first. (It is available in an omnibus edition with the second and third books, should you with to read them for a reasonable price.)

August 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I am listening, by the way, to a record of early American fiddle music that I bought at historic Williamsburg. Do you know what early American music is? It's Irish folk music. Slip these songs into a set of the Pogues or the Dubliners (at least when Luke Kelly or Ronnie Drew was singing), and no one would be the wiser.

August 08, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Seana, I knew I had read Tony Black's name in connection with Gerard Brennan's. And hey, all, did you see Gerard has signed up for Bouchercon in Long Beach? Have you met up with him on any of your trips, Adrian, or am I the only one in this little group who has hosted a Carlsberg with Gerard?

August 08, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

I dont mind the more casual contemporary use of the word decimation (well, actually I never use it myself or disinterested for uninterested either) but in a paragraph where he actually talks about the numbers and percentages it strikes me as a bit off. Tony grew up in the same school system as me and certainly must have been aware of the Roman policy of decimation - a practice that was carried out in Scotland.

In a novel thats careful with its use of vernacular and its wariness of Americanisms I wonder that so blatant an Americanism can have slipped past everyone's notice.

I've had a few bevvies with Ger over the years. There was one night a couple of summers back with Ger, myself, Stu Neville and Colin Bateman got hammered in - I think - Laverys. Much to my chagrin though I've never met McGilloway or Downey. Gotta fix that very soon.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Interesting observation about Americanisms. I had not realized the casual use of decimate was one such. Perhaps its occurrence in a novel so full of Scottish slang is a sign that the usage has spread beyond America's parochial shores.

Not only have I met McGilloway and Downey individually, I've hoisted a coffee with both at the same time. (Why coffee? Because we were in a supermarket caff.) In fact you and Eoin McNamee are about the only two Irish crime writers whose existence I cannot vouch for based on personal experience.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I hope to get to the White Trilogy, but I have a few more Jack Taylor's to go before that.

Are sea chanteys Irish folk music as well? They seem to have some common themes.

That's interesting that Gerard is signed up. Wonder if he's actually coming.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I suspect he likely is coming, because he signed up only very recently, or at least he announced his attendance just recently. He appeared excited about his first trip to the U.S., so my guess is that he's coming.

I always thought of sea chanteys as more a British thing, but there is much crossover among Irish and English and Scottish folk music. At least, there has been in recent decades, for performers like the Dubliners, who incorporated Scottish and even English material into their repertoire. And then there's "Banks of the Sweet Primroses," an English song that shared a tune with the Scottish "Peggy Gordon," a sing I first heard in a pub in Belfast and later heard sung by Luke Kelly with the Dubliners.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Oh, well, then he probably is coming. That's great.

Yes, I suppose sea chanteys would pass from one culture to another quite easily at least with a common language. After all, they were on board for months and months without the internet.

Although several people I know have been aboard ships lately, and it doesn't sound like internet access has much improved.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Still, I can't imagine a plaintive rendering of "The Ballad of the Narrow Bandwidth."

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And the sea figures in many songs that are not sea chanteys, "The Irish Rover" and "Yarmouth Town," to name just two examples that I know from Irish singers of recent decades.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I think that ballad remains for a later generation than ours to write, Peter.

Or James Joyce might have done it.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I'll write it, soak the manuscript in lemon juice, singe its edges, and pretend it's centuries old.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I think you have to just start singing it in Irish pubs and pretend you don't know where you heard it.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I heard it from me granda in Galway.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Eoin definitely has a more sturdy corporeal presence than me. In 2008 we did the Kilkenny Festival together . Afterwards I matched him pint for pint until I basically slipped under the table and he had to walk me home with his arm under my shoulder...

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I've acquitted myself well in evenings out with Declan Burke, Stuart Neville, Declan Hughes, and John Connolly, but I suspect none was showing me his best.

August 09, 2014  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Coming to this one very late, but yes, I will be at Bouchercon 2014. I had decided to leave it only a few weeks ago, then changed my mind and signed up late (which cost me an extra 20 bucks so I'm fecked if I'm cancelling and losing more money!). It's been a great year and I figured my first US visit will put the cap on it. This will be the longest I've been away from my kids, though. Ever. That'll be weird.

Oh, and Adrian, I'm pretty sure we were at Bar 12 on Botanic Ave. And I know I ate at a dodgy kebab shop with Stuart then ended up sleeping at my brother's student house. Now , this might be a reach, but if memory serves me, you were on pints of Bass, Colin had Bud by the bottle and I opted for Coors Light, as did Stu. Dave Torrans was there for a while but I don't think he drank.

And yet, I have no feckin' clue where my phone charger is right now.

gb

August 11, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Just a couple of days late. Call the little ones frequently, and send them pictures of da's friends. Provided you can find your phone charger. Oh, and don't forget to bring all the right adapters, of phones need that sort of thing.

Will you travel anywhere else in the U.S.? And how long will you stay? And find your damn charger.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Adapters! Yes, Peter, thanks for the pro-tip. I think I have a few chargers that have been adapted from the American-style plugs. Must put them on the list of essentials. When I find them. I have the phone charger now, though!

It's most likely that I'll only make it to Long Beach this time, though looking at a few flight plan possibilities I might find myself in Philadelphia for a few hours. That counts, right?

gb

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Gerard Brennan said...

Oh, and I'll probably just stay four nights as the travel time will take up the best part of two days (if I count the return trip).

gb

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Philadelphia for a few hours counts. The airport restaurants are better than they used to be,

I am told that the Los Angeles, Long Beach, and Burbank airports are all accessible to Long Beach. (I'll be flying into Long Beach.) If you're not traveling before or after Bouchercon, hope for a clear day of flying, and hope the flight path takes you over the southwestern desert of Arizona and Utah. The view from the plane can be spectacular.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Orange County/John Wayne Airport, too.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I am flying into John Wayne on Thursday if the fates are willing for a fast convoluted trip with my sisters to Oceanside. I don't know if I've ever been inside that one before.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

This may be the first time I have ever associated your name with John Wayne's. I wonder what, if any, presence the airport has beyond his name.

My Bouchercon trip will be first to Long Beach's airport as well as to Phoenix's, where I'll change planes.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I may have mentioned here a similar trip last year where my sister Julie, who you may recognize, and her family and I were going to pick up my other sister at the airport on the way south. We circled around LAX completely baffled at the directions my nephew was giving us over the phone until we realized that we were at the wrong airport. Yes, we were supposed to be at John Wayne. Fingers crossed that we all are headed to the same airport on Thursday.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Julie who learns Japanese? Of course!
I would like a bit more of a chance to explore LAX this time, especially that weird-looking Jetsons building in the middle of it. Yes, I'm flying into Long Beach, but out of LAX.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

I have been to LAX many, many times and I have still not gone to that restaurant. Although I think I did write about it in the trivia book I coauthored. At the very least, I researched it.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Well, I did visit (and love) the Astro Burger at, I think, Melrose and Gower. I was taken by the idea of a restaurant chain whose branches, nonetheless, each have ambiences of their own.

My flight out of LA is late enough this time that I should have time to visit the weird restaurant. Last year I flew out in the morning.

August 12, 2014  
Blogger seana graham said...

Well, do report back. I am also flying back out of LA this time, but I don't think that restaurant is in the cards this time any more than any other time.

August 13, 2014  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

A 10 p.m. flight should leave me ample time for exploration, and maybe a stop to photograph some of the working oil derricks in Baldwin Hills.

August 13, 2014  

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