Friday, April 17, 2015

The Gun - a thoroughly Americanized Irish thriller

Daithi Kavanagh was born in May 1958 and lives in Trinity, Wexford, Ireland with his wife and two teenage children. He has worked as a musician up until 2012 when due to the recession the work 'dried up'. He then went back to adult education and is now studying for a degree in Irish Culture and Heritage Studies at Wexford Campus. 'The Gun' is his first book in 'The Tadhg Sullivan Series'. He has just completed his second book in the series 'The Brotherhood' and is working on a third book.

Garda Detective Tadhg Sullivan leads a special unit that investigates politically motivated crime. A man known only as The Deerstalker is a cancer who has infected the Irish political system.

Sullivan teams up with journalist Helen Carty, and together they try tracking down the mysterious killer. Carty adds to Sullivan’s problems, when he finds himself falling in love with her. And further complicating things, he starts losing trust in his partner, Detective Pat Carter, who appears to be on the side of the Garda Commissioner, who Sullivan is rapidly falling out with.

Sullivan’s case is further thrown into confusion when a copycat killer, Tommy Walsh, is shot dead by the CIA. When the CIA discovers that they've killed the wrong person, the two agents involved--Simon, who has become disillusioned by his time stationed in the Middle East, and Joey, a psychopath who confuses zealotry with patriotism--are also in pursuit of The Deerstalker.

Sullivan finds himself in a race against time, if he is to arrest The Deerstalker before the CIA take him out, and use his death as a pawn in a political game of chess.

MJN: Would you say that Irish crime thrillers in some way try to mimic their American "siblings"? I noticed that your diction is very American. You use terms like "health freak". Are American crime writers popular in Ireland?

DK: I haven’t read many Irish Crime novels up to now. Any I have read have appeared very Americanized. It’s unavoidable as we all speak English and the same phrases such as “health freak” are used anywhere where the English language is spoken. American crime writers are very popular in Ireland but personally I prefer the Nordic writers such as Henning Mankel.

MJN: The main character's mother captured my attention. She is the toxic matriarch who puts blue rinse in her hair and marches her small family to church, even though to her it's just a socially necessary obligation. Would you say that her behavior is a belated rebellion against the patriarchal values of De Valera's era? It's like she's trying to punish the entire male species for some universal transgression against her "sisters".

DK: Her tyrannical behavior was driven by the poverty she grew up in due to her father’s involvement in the civil war. Then when De Valera came to power (like his predecessor Michael Collins) he turned the guns he’d used against the British on his ex comrades. Due to her father’s alienation after fighting on the republican side, she felt she was left a social outcast, and she carried that throughout her life and into her marriage to a weaker man, who was made to pay for the sins of her father.

MJN: "The North" has been out of the world news in the past years. I write Irish historical novels, so I follow Irish politics to a certain degree. But it sounds like the rest of the world is more preoccupied with what's going on in the Middle East (and Ukraine).

DK: I agree with you, that’s why I tied the Middle East into the novel through the character of Simon Horowitz. These things tend to go around in a circle and I’m sure when the Middle East has run its course, trouble will probably return to Europe, and already has done, as you mentioned, in the Ukraine.

MJN: What is the attitude in Ireland towards American authors who write about Irish history? In your opinion, are they embraced or dismissed? I'm asking as an American writer - not even Irish-American but Russian-American to be precise - who has devoted her literary career to Irish history. A few years ago a British press that contracted my novel ended up backing out of the contract because the Irish distributor balked at the idea of supporting a non-Irish writer. They loved the book, but they hated the fact that I was not "local" or at least "more prominent". Needless to say, I was very sad and disappointed, but I quickly found an American publisher.

DK: I have a strong interest in politics but I think “the troubles” here turned a lot of people off reading about it. That is probably why I tend to read crime novels myself. But my interest in politics pushed me in the direction of putting a political slant on the book. I don’t know if there is a bias against American authors who write Irish history. To be honest it’s a possibility but I’m sure if it were English, French or German writers, the same bias would exist.

MJN: Thank you for having the cover of your novel in blue hues versus green. I think I would've had a Blarney overdose otherwise. Jokes aside, any Irish-themed book marketed to the American audience has some sort of green on the cover, so the "dumb Americans" would make that instant connection. Sure, slap a shamrock! And if a novel has a Russian or Chinese cultural connection, the cover has to be done in bright reds. I find that tactic condescending, but I understand that publishers have to do what they must to sell copies. Nevertheless, I do commend your publisher for sticking with a cliche free color scheme. If I understand correctly, it's not an "Irish thriller" but rather "a thriller set in Ireland". You catch the difference?

DK: I’m glad you like the cover. I chose the colour scheme because I would prefer the book be taken seriously than sell an extra couple of copies by sticking a shamrock on it! I doubt many people think Americans are taken in by such clichés anyway. I tend not to pay much attention to what people think. The world is full of all kinds of people – those who believe the clichés and don’t believe them and that is a fact whether you live in America, Ireland, Russia, China or anywhere else in the world. It is a thriller set in Ireland as you say, but I think the characters are distinctly Irish. I put a number of American characters into the book as well and I hope they don’t come across as clichéd.


  1. Thank you Marina for hosting me and The Gun today! I look forward to some questions or comments.

  2. Great interview, Daithi, and a stellar series!

    1. Thank you Kem! Enjoying every minute of it. Part 3 is on the way!

  3. A very interesting in depth interview Daithi.

    1. Thank you Tee I really enjoyed doing this interview!