A starred PW review of Dublin Dead by Gerard O'Donovan
Why I love writing about Dublin - Gerard O'Donovan
One of my great pleasures is writing about Dublin. I’ve lived all over the world and sure, there are more exciting, more dangerous, more colourful places – and just about everywhere else on Earth feels like it has less rain. But Dublin is unique – a city that has changed enormously over the last twenty years of boom and bust, yet which remains essentially the same; a welcoming city whose people so often look out towards the wider world and not always in upon themselves.
The well known Irish literary novelist Colm Toibin was asked recently why Dublin, where he lives, features so rarely in his work. “Perhaps it’s because I feel I’ve never lost it,” he said. That’s a sentiment that resonates strongly with me, as my desire to capture and replicate the cityscape and atmosphere of Dublin in my fiction comes from a similar emotional source – the fear of “losing” the city that I grew up in, went to school and university in, worked in for years before leaving to pursue my career in journalism. I don’t live so far away now, and in this era of mass communications and transport the distance is easily and regularly closed. But in my heart I miss living in the city where my family and so many of my friends still live, and for me, writing about Dublin is a way to bring the city alive in my imagination and bridge that emotional gap.
As such, Dublin is more than a background for me. It is an excuse to stay in touch, to dig my nails into the fabric of the city and refuse to let go. People in Ireland have gone through so much change in recent years – the appalling clerical abuse scandals, the boom and bust of the Celtic Tiger years – and I’d like to think that my efforts to understand and come to terms with those changes through my writing make Dublin come all the more alive on the page. Because in life where people live – and their economic circumstances – really does affect the way they behave. That’s why I ended up with two main characters when writing my first novel The Priest because I felt thatb to di justice to Dublin it had to be looked at from inside and out. For that reason Detective Inspector Mike Mulcahy is a cop who’s been away and returns to the city with broader horizons and an outsider’s eye, while Siobhan Fallon, a tabloid journalist is the ultimate Dublin insider, a woman whose job it is to know everybody’s secrets.
In Dublin Dead Mulcahy and Fallon explore the seamier side of the city, and Ireland more generally: the drug gangs and criminal sub-culture that never get talked about in the tourist brochures but which are all too regularly splashed across the newspapers’ front pages. I’ve always loved novels with a strong sense of place and I do my utmost to imbue my own books with that quality. From this point of view, I’m lucky that Dublin has it all. In its people, pub culture, grit and wit the city is endlessly inspiring; in its urban energy and atmosphere, a crucial element in so many good crime novels, Dublin really is very hard to beat. Gerard O'Donovan