It was one of those summer Tuesday afternoons when you begin to wonder if the earth has stopped revolving. The telephone on my desk has the look of something that knows it’s being watched. Traffic trickled by in the street below, and there were a few pedestrians, too, men in hats going nowhere. (Excerpt from The Black-Eyed Blonde by Benjamin Black, a.k.a. John Banville)
William John Banville was born in 1945 in Wexford, Republic of Ireland. He’s worked as sub-editor, chief sub-editor, and literary editor for The Irish Times and The Irish Press before both publications succumbed to financial collapse. He has reviewed for the New York Review of Books, as well as New Republic. His first published novel, Nightspawn, he describes as “crotchety, posturing, absurdly pretentious” (The Guardian).
Banville has written trilogies, one of which is on great men of science, Doctor Copernicus and Kepler that he calls “a great waste of time” in an interview with The Elegant Variation at MarkSavras.com, despite the fact that he speaks almost fondly about the process and his level of engagement. His novel The Sea won The Man Booker Prize in 2005, though he says, “I suspect that an awful lot of Booker Prize books are bought simply as Christmas presents,” but “yeah, it’s a bit of an insult if (one’s book) doesn’t even get on the bloody shortlist.”
In 2006 with the release of Christine Falls, Banville took on the pen name Benjamin Black and began to crank out his crime fiction. His “Quirke” series has been called “intricate” and “psychologically complex thrillers.” His wife describes him—during the writing process—as being like “a murderer who’s just come back from a particularly bloody killing” (Goodreads). He is “recognized for his precise, cold, forensic prose style, Nabokovian inventiveness, and for the dark humour of his generally arch narrators” (Marie Arana/Washington Post).
On Friday, March 7th, Banville will discuss and sign his new book The Black-Eyed Blonde: A Philip Marlowe Novel at Vroman’s, which will feature a dramatic reading by “great actors,” followed by a question and answer period.
“I had always felt that this advice about ‘write what you know’ was bad advice. I always felt that you should risk.”
John Banville Writing as Benjamin Black
Friday, March 7th, 7 p.m.
Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena 91101