BRIAN McGILLOWAY’S latet novel, ‘The Nameless Dead, is the fifth Inspector Devlin mystery and follows on from his hugely successful Devlin books, ‘Borderlands’, ‘Gallows Lane’, ‘Bleed A River Deep’ and ‘The Rising’. He spoke to the Journal’s SEAN McLAUGHLIN this week about why he likes his flawed protagonist, the process of writing and plans for his next novel.
The book, the latest instalment in the critically-acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin series, is again set in familiar McGilloway territory - the borderlands which encompass counties Donegal, Derry and Tyrone.
It is a welcome return for Devlin who enjoyed a brief literary sojourn when his creator developed a new lead character - Detective Sergeant Lucy Black - for his last book, ‘Little Girl Lost’.
However, we haven’t seen the last of DS Black with Brian planning to reintroduce her in his next novel which will, as with ‘Little Girl Lost’, be set in Derry.
But, returning to ‘The Nameless Dead’, Brian (38) - who teaches English at St Columb’s College - says he’s glad to have Devlin back.
“Yes, it’s nice to have him back. There’s something quite comforting writing in his voice.
“I never planned to stop writing Devlin books. I just wanted a break from Devlin and, to be honest I wanted to give him a break.
“I always wanted to set a book in Derry and, therefore, I created a different character, Lucy Black, for this. I enjoyed writing in a different voice for ‘Lost Little Girl’ and, in fact, my next book will probably be a Lucy book, again set in Derry. For me, as a writer, the idea now is to alternate between Lucy and Devlin.”
The premise of ‘The Nameless Dead’ is intriguing: Declan Cleary’s body has never been found, but everyone believes he was killed for informing on a friend more than thirty years ago. Now the Commission for the Location of Victims’ Remains is following a tip-off that he was buried on the small isle of Islandmore, in the middle of the River Foyle.
Instead, the dig uncovers a baby’s skeleton, and it doesn’t look like death by natural causes. But evidence revealed by the Commission’s activities cannot lead to prosecution. Inspector Devlin is torn. He has no desire to resurrect the violent divisions of the recent past. Neither can he let a suspected murderer go unpunished.
However, now that the secret is out, more deaths follow. Devlin must trust his conscience – even when that puts those closest to him at terrible risk.
Brian’s passion for writing springs from his own interest in reading crime fiction.
He says he enjoys writing stories he would like to read and which include characters he can understand and admire.
When it comes to Devlin, Brian deliberately wants to “get away from the loner, drinking, divorced cop haunted by the past”.
“I quite liked the idea of a man who loves his family and enjoys spending time with them,” he says.
“I’ve always been fascinated by people like Devlin whose jobs can, at times, be truly awful and yet, they find in them the ability to go home and live a fairly normal family life.
“For example, how do you, on the one hand, deal with discovering the body of someone who’s been murdered, have to break this terrible news to loved ones and, then, go home and read your children a bedtime story?
“How does a person maintain a relatively healthy relationship with those around him while, at the same time, dealing with the terrible things related to their job? It’s these particular aspects of life that have always enthralled me.”
‘The Nameless Dead’ will be launched at Derry’s Central Library on Wednesday, May 9 at 7.30pm.