Where did the Ulster Noir explosion come from?

Why does N.I have so many great crime fiction writers right now? 

(I’m not including myself as part of this group by the way!)

Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Gerard Brennan, Adrian McKinty, Steve Cavanagh… the list goes on and on.

We’ve now got New York Times bestsellers, multiple award winners, and bona fide crime fiction heavyweights. But why all of a sudden?

Firstly, I think it is simply that there are a lot of good writers here. We didn’t ever have only C.S Lewis anyway, and the whole island of Ireland has always had a rich wealth of literary talent. We have also had crime fiction written here before too, Maurice Leitch, for example in, decades past. Like the tourist post-Troubles boom, perhaps it is in part that writers are just having the opportunity to be ‘discovered’ much more easily. The massive increase in book publishing and e books of course is relevant too. But Northern Ireland has always had many highs for a small country- look at shipbuilding, sports, music.

I think that there is a lot of interest in Northern Ireland right now, and it is not so much about The Troubles anymore. Most of the recently successful writers are not focused on paramilitaries and I certainly have no interest in writing about them either. I think they always cast a shadow, but it is more interesting to use Northern Ireland as an interesting scenic and cultural backdrop, just like any other place. We have the usual type of crime like anywhere else too! Sometimes I get reviews that seem genuinely surprised that I write about crime, but not specifically Troubles-related crime. There is also the factor that during the seventies and eighties, there was a substantial amount of fiction set here, but written by people from the outside. This was not always very successfully done. Maybe the public are fed up of reading about it.

Is it just another flash in the pan? Is Northern Ireland just like Liverpool in the sixties, or Seattle in the nineties? I don’t think so. I hope that this is just the start of a continued appreciation of local writing talent. Perhaps it will continue to grow until it is on the same scale of the huge trend of Nordic Noir. Look at Iceland- small, cold, wet, great settings, under exposed and recently punched above its weight in football! Sound familiar?

What do you think?

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