Declan Hughes

CriticismReferences

Life
[1963- ]; ed. TCD, attracted by Dublin Players; associated with Pauline McLynn, and directed plays with Lynn Parker; co.-fnd. Rough Magic with them, 1984; opened with Tom Kilroy’s Talbot’s Box; appt. artistic director and afterwards writer in residence; wrote I Can’t Get Started (1990), presented at Dublin Theatre Festival, and joint winner of the 1990 Stewart Parker New Playwright Award; also Digging for Fire (1991); Hallowe’en Night (1993); Twenty Grand (1998), and Shiver (2003), his last play before turning to fiction;
 
his stage adaptations incl. Farquhar’s Love in a Bottle (1991), Wilkie Collins’ The Woman in White (1996), and Molière’s Tartuffe, set in Ireland of the 1970s, premiered at the Abbey in Dec. 2000; began writing in the noir tradition of crime-fiction of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler; secured a three-book deal with The Wrong Kind of Blood (2006), featuring Ed Loy, a hard-boiled private detective in modern-day Dublin; followed up with The Colour of Blood (2008), and The Dying Breed (2008);
 
issued All the Dead Voices (2009), in which Eddie Loy is summoned to investigate a fifteen-year old murder; Hughes lives in Dublin and continues to serve on the advisory council of Rough Magic while also mentoring the SEEDS project inaugurated in 2001 as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival Fringe; many of his plays have been published by Methuen Drama; issued City of Lost Girls (2010), a novel set in Los Angeles.

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Works
Original plays
  • I Can’t Get Started (Project Arts; Dublin Theatre Fest., 1990);
  • Digging for Fire (Dublin Theatre Fest., 1991; pub. in Methuen Frontline Intelligence, 1 1993);
  • New Morning; Hallowe’en Night; New Morning (Bush Th., London; Rough Magic, 1993);
  • Twenty Grand (Abbey Th., 1998);
  • Boomtown: A City Comedy (Meeting Hse. Square, Dublin, 1999)
  • Shiver (Rough Magic, 2003).
Adaptations
  • The Woman in White (1996) - after Wilkie Collins’ novel;
  • Love and a Bottle (1991) - after George Farquhar;
  • Tartuffe (2000) - after Molière.
Collected plays
  • Digging for Fire & New Morning (London: Methuen 1994), 112pp. [orig. pub. sep.]
  • Plays: 1, intro. by the author (London: Methuen 1998), 301pp. [contains “Digging for Fire”; “New Morning”; “Halloween Night”; “Love and a Bottle”, after Farquhar].

Also “Digging for Fire”, in Frontline Intelligence 1: New Plays for the Nineties, ed. and intro. by Pamela Edwardes (London: Methuen 1993) [with April de Angelis, Hush; Judith Johnson, Somewhere; Edward Thomas, East from the Gantry].

Fiction
  • The Wrong Kind of Blood (London: John Murray 2006), 350pp.;
  • The Colour of Blood (London: John Murray 2008), 368pp.;
  • The Dying Breed (London: John Murray 2008), 320pp.
  • All the Dead Voices (London: John Murray 2009), 316pp.
  • City of Lost Girls (London: John Murray 2010), 313pp.
Reviews (sel.)
  • ‘This book will break your heart’, review of Room by Emma Donoghue, in The Irish Times (7 Aug. 2010), Weekend, p.8 [see under Donogue, supra].
  • ‘Visceral Force and Haunting Lyric Beauty’, in The Irish Times (Wed. 27 April 2011) [see under Thomas Kilroy, infra].
Articles (sel.)

‘Who The Hell Do We Think We Still Are? Reflections On Irish Theatre and Identity’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2000), pp.8-15.

See also Rough Magic: First Plays (Dublin: New Island Books, 1999).


  • The novelist has a website at declanhughesbooks.com.
  • For casting, production and publication details of plays, see Doollee “Declan Hughes” [online].
  • For details of his fiction, see HarperCollins website [online].
12.09.2008; additions 03.07.2011

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Criticism
Ryan Tubridy [interview], in Theatre Talk: Voices of Irish Theatre Practitioners, ed. Lilian Chambers, Ger Fitzgibbon, Eamonn Jordan, et al. (Blackrock: Carysfort Press 2001), pp.181-94; ‘Thrills not unalloy’d’, interview, Books Ireland (Summer 2010), p.13.

See also interview in Declan Burke, ed., Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Dublin: Liberties Press 2011).

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Commentary
Anne Enright, ‘Hard-boiled in Dublin’, review of The Dying Breed, in The Guardian (26 April 2008): ‘One reason for the recent increase in Irish crime fiction may be the increase in Irish crime. Another may be the successful ceasefire in Northern Ireland; the killings of the previous decades having made guns, for the duration, a lot less fun. But a boomtown loves crime fiction, especially hard-boiled crime fiction. Declan Hughes’s Dublin recalls Hammett’s San Francisco and Chandler’s 1940s LA - hot money towns in which the social wax was not yet set. What hard-boiled does best is portraying the moment a society turns respectable, or tries to; when the politicians fess up and the criminals take to property speculation as the women do to Botox. Ireland has come to it late - this myth that money makes all your sins go away - but being Catholic, we have so many sins to play with. The Dying Breed is based in the world of horse racing, but the plot slices through the murk of adopted children and regretfully sadistic priests that Ireland has always done so well. This time, however, a new music runs through it: the lovely, clinking sound of money. [/.../] It is a rich mix, and the book’s conclusion owes as much to Greek tragedy as to Chandler - “loy” is an Irish word for “spade”, don’t you know. Hughes is not afraid to take his references and run with them, he is not afraid to have a good time. Above all, he is not afraid of writing well.’ [For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Reviews”, infra.)

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Sue Leonard, review of The Dying Breed, in Books Ireland (Sept. 2008) - an Ed Loy novel in which the detective connects a dead boy in an illegal rubbish tip in Co. Wicklow with the missing jockey whom a priest has asked him to find, and traces the murder the to corrupt Tyrrell family, headed by “FX”: ‘This is a complex fast-moving story, told in a robust style. There’s plenty of violence, but Loy is great at giving as good as he gets. After betting the better of a gang of criminals, he muses, “They won’t forget this in a fucking hurry. And fool that I was, I felt stupid bloody pride in my victory, suppressing the ache that, worse than any physical pain, warned me that maybe the only way the Halligans could properly settle this was to kill me.”’ Finds the strength of the novel in the characterisation of Loy, an interesting protagonist who cannot resist the lure of not to good women and is non-judgemental but regrets the switching of point of view away from Loy into the head of the killer towards the end.

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Quotations
Who the Hell Do We Think We Still Are?: Reflections on Irish Theatre and Identity’, in Theatre Stuff: Critical Essays on Contemporary Irish Theatre, ed. Eamonn Jordan (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2000): ‘Too often when I go to the theatres, I feel like I’ve stepped into a time capsule: even plays suposed to be set in the present seem burdened by the compulsion to … well, in the narrow sense, be Irish […]. Irish drama needs to show more guts: the guts to stop flaunting its ancestry, to understand that the relentless dependence on tradition collapses inevitably into cannibalism. The village will eat itself.’ p.13.)

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Arminta Wallace, ‘Out with the auld, in with the new’ [on literary Dublin], in The Irish Times (12 March 2011), Weekend, p.1: In terms of a book’s location the crime writer is, according to Declan Hughes, the author of the Ed Loy series, in a different position to the literary novelist. There is a kind of obligation, but it’s demanded by the genre itself. “The kind of crime fiction I write – hardboiled crime fiction – centres around the detective and the city,” Hughes says. “If you look back to Dashiel Hammett with San Francisco, or Raymond Chandler with Los Angeles, the city is a character in the novel. I have been quite conscious about trying to use Dublin in that way.” / He has also, he says, tried to show the way in which Dublin, like Los Angeles, has sprawled outwards over the past 10 years. “People used to say, ‘Oh, Dublin’s like a village – everyone knows each other.’ Well, I think that’s only true now in the sense that Washington’s like a village and everyone knows each other. The 500 journalists and lawyers and politicians and rich people know each other. But after that ... you don’t know everyone who’s driving on the M50 at 6.30 in the morning, do you?” (For longer extract, see attached.)

 

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Notes
All the Dead Voices (2009): Eddie Loy is a private eye in the classic mode, a troubled outsider willing to cut corners and make personal sacrifices in search of the truth, crossing the Garda and various criminals along the way. This time he is asked to reinvestigate a fifteen year-old murder case by the victim’s father. The problem is that the Cold Case Unit has already re-opened the file and are happy with the original finding. Loy finds three new suspects: a wealthy property-developer, an ex-IRA man, and Loy’s old nemesis George Halligan - while Loy turns to his long-standing friend DI Dave Donnelly to help in a plot plot that weaves the past and present and uncovers the dirty side of the Celtic Tiger. In his fourth Ed Loy novel, set like the others in the murky underworld of Dublin. Hard-hitting prose and harsh the dialogue. (See Books Ireland, May 2009, p.123; also COPAC online; accessed 20.04.2011.)

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City of Lost Girls (2010): A serial killer in Los Angeles is killing kills young and rootless girls in threes. Ed Loy, happy in a new relationship in Dublin, suspects his old friend Jack Donovan, a film director friend with a turbulent personal history who is now filming Night Town in Dublin. When two young women disappear from the set - echoing events on a Donovan set in LA ten years earlier - Loy flies to LA to liaise with the LAPD about an earlier treble murder and, when he unearths the truth, he returns to Dublin save the last of the lost girls. But the killer has now changed his pattern and threatens Loy where he is most vulnerable. (See ‘Thrills not unalloy’d’, interview, Books Ireland, Summer 2010, p.131; also COPAC online; accessed 18.04.2011.)

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Rough Magic: - vide Shakespeare: ‘But this rough magic / I here abjure, and when I have required / Some heavenly music - which even now I do … I’ll break my staff / Bury it certain fathoms in the earth, / And deeper than did ever plummet sound / I’ll drown my book.’ (The Tempest, Act. V, i, 56.)

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