March 2015
With today's release of GUN STREET GIRL--an exciting fourth Detective Sean Duffy novel--Adrian McKinty's "Troubles Trilogy" has happily morphed into an ongoing series. We felt this marked the ideal time to investigate further, so we asked three die-hard series fans to quiz the author on whatever they want to know about the journey he's taken with this compelling character and complex setting. 



Meet our interviewers:


James W. Ziskin is a linguist, freelance writer, and the author of the Ellie Stone mysteries Styx & Stone, No Stone Unturned, and the forthcoming Stone Cold Dead.


Molly Odintz works at MysteryPeople, the store-within-a-store for crime fiction lovers at BookPeople, a wonderful independent bookstore in Austin, Texas. She blogs about international crime fiction and radical noir on the MysteryPeople blog.


Chris Faatz is a bookseller and blogger with Powell's Books, one of the world's great bookstores, with five locations in the Portland, Oregon area, as well as one of the world's most successful online bookstores.






Here's what they asked author Adrian McKinty about his Detective Sean Duffy novels:




Ziskin: The opening of The Cold Cold Ground is one of the most hauntingly beautiful passages I can recall reading. Can there be poetry in the tragedies of Northern Ireland?


McKinty: Wow, thank you for saying that. Poetry can definitely exist in that environment. Theodore Adorno's apocalyptic remark that there could be no poetry after Auschwitz is contradicted by people like Primo Levi who argued that, in fact, that there was poetry even during Auschwitz. I'm in no way comparing the two situations (!) but I will stress that even in the darkest times there is the opportunity for beauty.


Molly: One of the things that initially drew me to Detective Sean Duffy was his outsider status as one of the only Catholics in the Carrickfergus police force. I am always drawn to outsider narratives, and Duffy's clear-headed (when not smoking hash or drinking to distraction) appraisal of both sides of the law draws on his inability to fit neatly into any presupposed category himself. What was your thought process in creating such an outsider perspective?


McKinty: I loved putting a Catholic in a Protestant housing estate, making him a cop, making him come from a slightly different class, giving him a different accent, making slightly better educated and then just sitting back and letting the sparks fly. It was actually pretty fun for me to have him be in the middle, not quite at ease in either community and it's a terrific authorial trick because you can exploit all these interesting fracture lines and explores the friction.


Ziskin: I agree: Sean Duffy is a classic outsider. It's a brilliant dynamic, setting him up for constant conflict, both with his comrades at the constabulary and the Protestants among whom he lives. Can Sean Duffy ever fit in, or is he doomed to walk alone?


McKinty: I think he's doomed to walk - largely - alone. The Northern Ireland of 2015 is still a divided society so Duffy's not got much chance of getting really comfortable back in 1985 when things were much much worse. Poor chap.


Molly: You do such a fantastic job in your novels of contextualizing the immediate and urgent concerns of the Northern Ireland locale with wider historical events. What was your thinking in placing Duffy in both a smaller and larger context?


McKinty: The macro and the micro are essential. Most people in their daily lives are not thinking big picture but instead are concentrating on bread and butter issues. But in Northern Ireland in the 1980's there were so many big pictures moments: The Hunger Strikes, The Maze Escape, The Collapse of De Lorean, The Attempted Assassination of Margaret Thatcher etc. that I couldn't avoid having my characters in and around these events and reacting to them. You have to balance micro and macro to make the book work.


Ziskin: In these novels, the RUC soldiers on despite an almost fatalistic acceptance of the inconsequence of their efforts to stem the bloodletting during the Troubles. So many of the peelers and ordinary citizens talk of escape "over the water." You went over the water yourself. Can you talk about the aspirations and hopelessness that you paint so compellingly?


McKinty: It was extraordinary back then. Almost every week in my primary school someone would announce that they were emigrating to Australia, South Africa, Canada, NZ, the USA or England. There was a real sense that there was no point remaining in N. Ireland as there were no jobs and there was no hope, everything was spiraling down in a predictable death fugue. The only jobs were basically civil service jobs or the police. I admire people like Duffy who stayed to make things better but I got out after school by choosing to go to university in England and then staying there. Things did get better at the end of the 1990s but that was largely due to utter exhaustion than a Nelson Mandela moment or anything like that.


Ziskin: You write a lot about music in these books. Eighties new wave, Sean Duffy's radio and mix tapes, Saint Saёns, and even Italian opera. It helps to set scenes and provides a soundtrack to Duffy's daily life. Can you talk about your musical tastes and what you have against Brahms (possibly my favorite composer)?


McKinty: I like Brahms but Duffy hates him because of his piano lessons. He also has bad memories of Chopin for the same reasons, but I like him, too. I have a pretty large record collection on vinyl (somewhere above 2500 albums I think) and sometimes Duffy's tastes will coincide with mine but not always. Duffy hates hates hates The Smiths, for example, but I like them. We both agree though that U2 are overrated wankers.


Faatz: How about an Adrian McKinty question, rather than a Sean Duffy one: What author(s) do you turn to most often for inspiration or sustenance in your work and life?


McKintyJG Ballard, Angela Carter, Philip K Dick, Patrick O'Brian, Jane Austen among many many others! When I'm really down I turn almost exclusively to poetry: Philip Larkin cheers me up every time.


Molly: The Troubles Trilogy is quite possibly the best-concluded trilogy I have ever read, and yet I was so excited to see Sean Duffy's return to the printed page. What do you envision for Duffy's future?


McKintyYeah, I dug the ending of book 3 too! In fact I only agreed to write a fourth book when I knew that I could come up with an ending that was as good (in my eyes) to the ending of book 3. When I was satisfied with the ending I was ok with writing the book. As for Duffy's further adventures  . . . well, I don't know if he'll have many more adventures, he's been very lucky so far and his luck has to run out at some point.


Faatz: Okay,I'm completely enamored of Sean Duffy and his adventures. Will there--and I await your answer with bated breath--be a fifth?


McKinty: I honestly don't know. I have some ideas but nothing is pressing and I certainly don't want to force myself to write a book that isn't completely compelling to me. I never sign long term contracts, preferring to sign book contracts after the book is actually written so there's no pressure or contractual obligation for me to write another book. It may happen, it may not, that's all I know at the moment!




Thank you to James, Chris, Molly, and Adrian McKinty for this Det. Sean Duffy conversation. We hope it inspires you to start this series if you haven't already or to get GUN STREET GIRL if, like our interviewers, you fell in love with Duffy and couldn't bear to see the series end.



To immerse yourself in Detective Sean Duffy's world (including listening to some of his favorite music and seeing video of his stomping grounds!) visit Duffy online.


There's no better way to treat yourself this St. Paddy's Day than by joining Duffy in Northern Ireland with a vodka gimlet, or Guinness, in one hand and a book in the other. 



"McKinty's novels are. . . shot through with a smart, crackling humor
that manages to be both dark and witty. . . . Each book is a solid standalone,
but it's even better to ride the entire. . . roller coaster."



"Don't miss any of the four."

NANCY PEARL, NPR commentator and bestselling author


"When it comes to Northern Irish crime fiction, Adrian McKinty forged
he path the rest of us follow. The Sean Duffy series is the culmination
of a career spent examining our darkest moments, and McKinty is the
only crime writer who can do justice to our singular history."

 STUART NEVILLE, author of The Final Silence

Like us on FacebookFollow us on TwitterFind us on Pinterest 

Browse Our Online Catalog