Monday, 7 January 2008

Black by name and black by nature

Benjamin Black is an alternative name for the Irish writer John Banville, adopted for his relatively recent foray into crime fiction. I have just finished the second of his books, The Silver Swan, in what is intended to be a series featuring the Dublin Pathologist Quirk. Banville is best known as a writer of literary fiction, having won the Mann-Booker Prize for his novel The Sea, and his early novels are rare and valuable in good condition.

Both The Silver Swan and the first book in this alternative genre series, Christine Falls, were issued simultaneously in hardback and paperback, the former as always being the more desirable. Banville does not do a lot of signings, and may sign the crime novels both as Benjamin Black or occasionally using his real name (or both, if you are lucky). Further novels in this series are planned – they are superbly written, with very strong characterisation and a fascinating picture of a Dublin and Ireland which is now a part of history, but which Banville clearly knew very well.

I was lucky enough to pick up two signed copied of Christine Falls in a Belfast bookshop, and have just obtained a signed copy of the second novel from a Dublin bookshop. They are not cheerful books, and Quirk is a depressive character (Black as a pen name is very appropriate!), but now is the best time to pick up copies of the early books before the series becomes better known.

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