Writer Banville enjoys new lease on life as Black

Tue Jul 12, 2011 5:04pm EDT
 
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By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Irish author John Banville has been lauded as one of the greatest literary stylists of his generation but his recent kick as a crime writer, churning out a murder mystery every year, has him giddy with excitement.

"I am in my 60s with a new lease on life. It's fun," Banville said in an interview to promote "A Death in Summer," written under Banville's pen name Benjamin Black and published in the United States on Tuesday.

The book finds dour, bumbling pathologist Garret Quirke trying to get to the bottom of the apparent suicide of a Dublin newspaper owner. Banville tells readers, only partly in jest, to expect an "absolute masterpiece of crime fiction."

The story unfolds in 1950s Dublin, the time of Banville's childhood when he thought the Irish capital was an exotic place -- a setting he says he is still transported to in his mind every time he smells the whiff of diesel from a passing bus.

In his latest page-turner -- the fifth book written under the Black name in as many years -- Quirke's assistant David Sinclair has an affair with his daughter Phoebe.

"There is a childish pleasure in it. It's like playing with toy soldiers," he said. "When I wake at four in the morning, instead of thinking about death, or sex, or my bank balance, I think, 'What will I do with Phoebe or Sinclair?'

"I am making up stories," Banville said. "This is the great pleasure of writing .... It's the making of yarns, which I was never interested in before."

Banville makes it sound like childish fun, but critics are smitten. Janet Maslin wrote in The New York Times that "his Black persona has been such a success that he looks increasingly like the Superman to Mr. Banville's more literary Clark Kent."   Continued...