Shelf Awareness, Starred review
"All the stories are compelling and well executed...Great writing for fans of noir and short stories, with some tales close to perfection."
Library Journal, Starred review
"[Belfast Noir] zooms in on Northern Ireland's capital city, whose history surely more than qualifies it as a breeding ground for noir."
"The choices made by editors McKinty and Neville celebrate lowlifes, convicts, hookers, private eyes, cops and reporters, and, above all, the gray city at the heart of each story."
"Belfast, with its bleak, murderous history, at last gets an entry in Akashic's acclaimed noir series."
"Belfast Noir is one of the strongest entries in Akashic's admirable City Noir series....all [stories] are of exceptional quality. Anyone with a fondness for noir, an interest in the past, in contemporary Irish writing, or simply an appreciation of excellent prose should snap this one up."
Reviewing the Evidence
"Singapore Noir, like Belfast Noir, once again proves that Akashic Books' noir series is better than any travel guide."
"Belfast Noir equals the high standards set by its predecessors."
"Impossibly hard to put down...Belfast shows its true colors (ie bloodstainds) in this gritty collection."
"It's almost like visiting [Belfast]."
Journey of a Bookseller
"A terrific collection."
Escape Into Life
"I was blown away with what I read...This is a great anthology of modern-day noir."
Mom Read It
Launched with the summer '04 award-winning best seller Brooklyn Noir, Akashic Books continues its groundbreaking series of original noir anthologies. Each book is comprised of all-new stories, each one set in a distinct neighborhood or location within the city of the book.
Reflecting a city still divided, Belfast Noir serves as a record of a city transitioning to normalcy, or perhaps as a warning that underneath the fragile peace darker forces still lurk.
Featuring brand-new stories by: Glenn Patterson, Eoin McNamee, Garbhan Downey, Lee Child, Alex Barclay, Brian McGilloway, Ian McDonald, Arlene Hunt, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Claire McGowan, Steve Cavanagh, Lucy Caldwell, Sam Millar, and Gerard Brennan.
From the introduction by Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville:
"Few European cities have had as disturbed and violent a history as Belfast over the last half-century. For much of that time the Troubles (19681998) dominated life in Ireland's second-biggest population centre, and during the darkest days of the conflictin the 1970s and 1980sriots, bombings, and indiscriminate shootings were tragically commonplace. The British army patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles and civilians were searched for guns and explosives before they were allowed entry into the shopping district of the city centre...Belfast is still a city divided...
You can see Belfast's bloodstains up close and personal. This is the city that gave the world its worst ever maritime disaster, and turned it into a tourist attraction; similarly, we are perversely proud of our thousands of murders, our wounds constantly on display. You want noir? How about a painting the size of a house, a portrait of a man known to have murdered at least a dozen human beings in cold blood? Or a similar house-sized gable painting of a zombie marching across a postapocalyptic wasteland with an AK-47 over the legend UVF: Prepared for PeaceReady for War. As Lee Child has said, Belfast is still 'the most noir place on earth.'"
About the Author
Stuart Neville's debut novel, The Ghosts of Belfast (published in the UK as The Twelve), won the Mystery/Thriller category of the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and was picked as one of the top crime novels of 2009 by both the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times. His subsequent three novels have been short-listed for various awards, including the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year, and the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award. The French edition of The Ghosts of Belfast, Les Fantômes de Belfast, won Le Prix Mystère de la Critique du Meilleur Roman Étranger and Grand Prix du Roman Noir Étranger. He is the coeditor, with Adrian McKinty, of Belfast Noir.
Read an Excerpt
The Noirest City on Earth
Few European cities have had as disturbed and violent a history as Belfast over the last half-century. For much of that time the Troubles (1968–1998) dominated life in Ireland's second-biggest population centre, and during the darkest days of the conflict—in the 1970s and 1980s—riots, bombings, and indiscriminate shootings were tragically commonplace. The British army patrolled the streets in armoured vehicles and civilians were searched for guns and explosives before they were allowed entry into the shopping district of the city centre.
A peace process that began in 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement has brought a measure of calm to Belfast, but during the summer "Marching Season" rioting between Catholic and Protestant working-class districts often flares up to this day.
Belfast is still a city divided. East Belfast is a largely Protestant working-class district. South Belfast is a prosperous middleclass enclave centred around Queens University. West and North Belfast, where Catholic and Protestant working-class districts jut up against one another is the area of greatest conflict and where the fracture lines are at their most raw. So-called "peace walls" have been built to separate adjacent streets of Protestant and Catholic families, with more having been added since the peace agreement of '98.
The north of Ireland has always been a slightly different place than the south. For centuries Ulstermen and -women have been blessed with a unique accent, a mordant sense of humour, and a taciturnity unshared by most of their countrymen in the rest of the island. Attempts have been made to explain the province of Ulster's singularity by laying the blame at the door of thousands of dour Scottish planters who began arriving in the northeast of Ireland in the early 1600s. Of course the Ulster plantation changed the religious complexion of the north, but well before then "the land beyond the Mournes" revelled in its exceptionalism. Ulster was the most Gaelic and least English province of Ireland in the early seventeenth century, and further back into the mists of prehistory the story of the Táin Bó Cúailnge was that of Cuchulain, champion of Ulster, battling the forces of Erin.
Belfast was little more than a village for much of this time. The name probably derives from the Irish, béal feirste, which means river-mouth, and for centuries it was an uninteresting settlement on the mudflats where the River Lagan joined Belfast Lough.
In the nineteenth century shipbuilding, heavy engineering, and linen manufacture led to Belfast's exponential growth, and by 1914 a tenth of all the ships and a third of all the linen clothes made in the British Empire were coming from the city. Belfast was Ireland's boom town and Dublin the mere administrative capital.
But World War I, the 1916 Easter Rising, and the Irish War of Independence (1919–1921) led to the creation of a border that separated the six counties of Northern Ireland from the twenty-six counties of the Irish Free State. Post-partition Northern Ireland suffered from an inferiority complex. Cut off from cultural developments in Dublin and London, Belfast became something of a provincial backwater. Belfast was heavily bombed by the Luftwaffe in World War II and postwar reconstruction was piecemeal at best.
International literary trends tended to pass Ulster by, and Northern Irish fiction itself went through a lean period until well after the end of World War II. A rare cultural highlight was F.L. Green's Odd Man Out, which led to Carol Reed's extraordinary film noir adaptation starring James Mason.
But the decline of engineering, shipbuilding, and linen manufacture had a devastating impact on Belfast and it was a gloomy, depressed, unfashionable Victorian city that encountered the years of conflict and low-level civil war known euphemistically as the Troubles.
What began as a series of peaceful marches for civil rights for Northern Ireland's Catholic minority in the late '60s quickly morphed into street violence and random sectarian attacks. As the crisis in the north intensified, the British government deployed the army and suspended Northern Ireland's parliament. Direct rule from London did not allay the fears of the Catholic minority and the Provisional Irish Republican Army began to recruit volunteers for their campaign to violently overthrow the British. In reaction to the IRA bombings and shootings, successive British governments panicked: interring IRA suspects without trial, flooding Northern Ireland with yet more soldiers, and strengthening the local police—the Royal Ulster Constabulary.
And of course violence spiralled into more violence. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) reformed to counter the Provisional IRA, and the Ulster Defence Association (UDA) became an umbrella group for various Protestant factions. Of course the majority of those killed were innocent civilians on both sides.
A depressing three decade–long cycle of atrocities and massacres had begun.
By this time much of Northern Ireland's writing talent— intellectuals such as Brian Moore, C.S. Lewis, and Louis MacNeice—had left the province to ply their trade under brighter lights, and Belfast languished culturally until the early 1970s when in the midst of the Troubles the city became the focus of an extraordinary group of poets who went on to attain world renown: Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, Derek Mahon, Ciaran Carson, Michael Longley, Tom Paulin, among others. Based loosely around Queens University, these young poets produced the greatest body of Irish literary work since the Gaelic revival. As the violence worsened, ironically, Belfast grew in cultural confidence, kick-started by this incendiary poetry, which in turn provided the kerosene for the other arts. By the late-1970s Northern Ireland saw a boom in playwriting, screenwriting, songwriting, and finally in novel writing.
Bernard MacLaverty's Cal (1983) was one of the first and best crime novels to address the complexities of life during the Troubles, and the Belfast-set Lies of Silence (1990) by Brian Moore established the city as a labyrinth of twisting allegiances and blind alleys. Eoin McNamee's Resurrection Man (1994) is a portrait of Belfast as a city of the abyss in which sociopathic Protestant serial killers stalk the streets looking for random Catholic victims. Resurrection Man was based on the true story of the Shankill Butchers.
Also in this period, a series of "Troubles Trash" airport thrillers were published by British and American authors seeking to cash in on Belfast's infamy, some becoming best sellers and Hollywood films that were largely derided in Northern Ireland for their didacticism and unsophisticated analysis of the situation.
In the 1990s a native series of Belfast police procedurals appeared, written by the witty Eugene McEldowney, and homegrown satirist Colin Bateman began his long run of novels that mined the rich vein of dark humour that has always been one of the city's defining characteristics.
Finally in 1998 a peace deal was reached between Protestant and Catholic factions and a new legislative assembly set up at Stormont. The uneasy truce established on Good Friday 1998 has held, for the most part, for a decade and a half.
Walking through Belfast city centre today, you'll see the same range of chain stores and restaurants that can be found in just about any part of the British Isles. Some might argue that the evidence of Northern Ireland's economic growth—the peace dividend, as it's known—has robbed the centre of Belfast of its character, but few citizens miss the security turnstiles, the bag searches, the nightly death of the city as it emptied out. Most feel the homogenisation of Belfast is a price worth paying for the luxuries other places take for granted. It might seem a cynical observation, but the truth is, those comforts—the restaurants, the theatres, the cinemas, the shopping malls—are the things that probably guarantee that the peace will hold. Only the most hardened individuals would feel a return to the grey desolation of the '70s and '80s is a sacrifice worth making for whatever political ideals they're too embittered to let go of.
The most visible sign of Belfast's transformation is the Victoria Square shopping centre, a glittering network of walkways, escalators, and staircases that traverse enclosed streets, a temple of much that is crass and shallow in the modern world, yet a strangely beautiful image of rebirth. Had anyone tried to build such a place in the Belfast of the '80s or early '90s, it would have been irresistible to the men of violence. If such an architectural bauble had ever been completed, it would have been bombed within days of opening. The people who planted the bomb would have claimed it as an economic target, a blow against capitalism, a crippling of Belfast's business life. Or perhaps it would have just been nihilism: at the time many felt that when the bombers destroyed the Grand Opera House, the ABC Cinema, the Europa Hotel, and other landmarks, it was simply because they couldn't bear the thought of Belfast's citizens having anything good, anything decent, anything shiny to brighten the drudgery of their lives.
For all the shimmer and shine of the new Belfast, you can still walk a mile or two in almost any direction and find some of the worst deprivation in Western Europe. Those parts of the city have not moved on. While the middle class has enjoyed the spoils of the peace dividend, working-class areas have seen little improvement. The sectarian and paramilitary murals are still there: crude memorials to the fallen "soldiers" of the conflict, to heroes and martyrs still revered. For a small outlay, you can tour these murals in a black taxi with a knowledgeable guide at the wheel, ready to tell you who died where. You can see Belfast's bloodstains up close and personal. This is the city that gave the world its worst ever maritime disaster, and turned it into a tourist attraction; similarly, we are perversely proud of our thousands of murders, our wounds constantly on display. You want noir? How about a painting the size of a house, a portrait of a man known to have murdered at least a dozen human beings in cold blood? Or a similar house-sized gable painting of a zombie marching across a postapocalyptic wasteland with an AK-47 over the legend UVF: Prepared for Peace—Ready for War. As Lee Child has said, Belfast is still "the most noir place on earth."
Despite its relative newness as a city, Belfast has a rich psychogeography: on virtually every street corner and in nearly every pub and shop something terrible happened within living memory. Belfast is a place where the denizens have trained themselves not to see these scars of the past, rather like the citizens of Beszel in China Miéville's novel The City & the City.
This volume contains fourteen brand-new stories from some of Belfast's most accomplished crime and literary novelists and from writers further afield who have a strong connection to the city. The stories take place in all of Belfast's four quarters and in a diverse number of styles within the rubric of "noir."
We have divided the book into four sections—City of Ghosts, City of Walls, City of Commerce, and Brave New City—which we think capture the legacy of Belfast's recent past, its continuing challenges, and a guess or two at where the city might go in the future.
We believe that Belfast Noir is an important snapshot of the city's crime-writing community and indeed represents some of the finest and most important short fiction ever collected on contemporary Northern Ireland. We hope that this book will serve as a record of a Belfast transitioning to normalcy, or perhaps as a warning that underneath the fragile peace darker forces still lurk.
Adrian McKinty & Stuart Neville July 2014(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Belfast Noir"
Copyright © 2014 Akashic Books.
Excerpted by permission of Akashic Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsTable of Contents
Foreword by David Torrans
Part I: City of Ghosts
“The Undertaking” by Brian McGilloway (Roselawn)
“Poison” by Lucy Caldwell (Dundonald)
“Wet with Rain” by Lee Child (Great Victoria Street)
“Taking It Serious” by Ruth Dudley Edwards (Falls Road)
Part II: City of Walls
“Ligature” by Gerard Brennan (Hydebank)
“Belfast Punk REP” by Glenn Patterson (Ann Street)
“The Reservoir” by Ian McDonald (Holywood)
Part III: City of Commerce
“The Grey” by Steve Cavanagh (Laganside, Queens Island)
“Rosie Grant’s Finger” by Claire McGowan (Titanic Quarter)
“Out of Time” by Sam Millar (Hill Street)
“Die Like a Rat” by Garbhan Downey (Malone Road)
Part IV: Brave New City
“Corpse Flowers” by Eoin McNamee (Ormeau Embankment)
“Pure Game” by Arlene Hunt (Sydenham)
“The Reveller” by Alex Barclay (Shore Road)