John Banville has written 22 novels so far under the name of John Banville. And he’s got another 13 to his credit under the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Now, in 2022 he has gone back to using the name of John Banville saying that the pseudonym phase has passed that he is who he is. After awhile he realized he can write pretty much the same way under either name so he dumped the Black back in 2020 and published his mystery book under the name of Banville.
By John Banville
Read by John Lee 8h 22m
Rating: A-8 / literary mystery
I tend to agree. I loved the old John Banville, author of The Sea and The Book of Evidence and The Infinities. I tried Christine Falls his first under the pseudonym Benjamin Black back in 2006 or so and “No,” that was just not for me.
Banville seemed to be using his Booker Prize winning style in who-done-its. Huh? Why? To make money? (It didn’t do a lot of that.) I guess he just wanted to see if he could do it. ???
Imo the reason it didn’t work is because who-done-its and thrillers need the emphasis on the plot or readers get bored – in the 21st Century anyway. The emphasis in literary fiction. at least until recently, should almost always on the narrative, its themes and metaphors, allusions, conceits and even structure.
This is why I rate crime fiction differently from general fiction. Tension building is hugely important in true-to-genre “mystery’ writing but it’s not to be considered in rating good old-fashioned literary fiction becuae it’s not important (see The Years by Virginia Woolf).
So prior to 2020, “Snow” would probably have been published under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, but Banville says he doesn’t need that “rascal” anymore. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/01/books/john-banville-snow-benjamin-black.html (Great article)
And here: https://www.theatlantic.com/culture/archive/2020/10/snow-john-banville-detective-fiction-reality/616636/
But although there are few writers who can pull off grabbing both golden rings, Umberto Eco and Charles Palliser for instance, I really didn’t think that John Banville could do both. But it turns out that with 10 years and 11 books he’s become quite good with mysteries and then went on to write more using his own name. (The author’s identity was never a secret – it was simply to distinguish between the two types of novels he was writing.)
In the case of Snow Banville used a character from the Banville books named St John (Sinjin) Strafford, a Protestant police detective in Dublin circa the 1950s. A Catholic priest is found dead and mutilated at the home of an aristocratic family who call the Dublin police which is where Detective St John Strafford enters to figure out the whole complex situation. It’s fun but don’t expect a thriller – it’s just a very good mystery story. And Strafford plays the lead character in Banville’s two subsequent mysteries, April in Spain and The Lockup.