Reading the (in)-between-(in) the borderlands of North-West Ulster: Brian McGilloway as literary detective & guide

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Set in the borderlands between Letterkenny and Derry-Londonderry, a landscape scarred by glacier, river and cartographer’s pen, the Ulster crime novelist, Brian McGilloway chronicles the challenges and fears of contemporary society. Following in the footsteps of Nordic and Tartan Noir, McGilloway recognises the importance of the past in trying to reach an understanding of the present. His critique however goes beyond criminal behaviour motivated primarily by politics or religion, allowing a deeper and more meaningful diagnosis of the ‘state of the nation’.

Place and event become especially important in contextualising the liminal in McGilloway’s rural borderland settings. In doing so, McGilloway continues in the rich tradition of the medieval Gaelic filid and the contemporary Ulster poet in trying to both chronicle and rationalise the man-made amidst the elemental, in this land of both Planter & Gael. Ritual, language, and the sacral are all instruments for investigation in helping McGilloway reveal an acute pathology of our times to his readers. Through his choice of chief protagonist, An Garda Síochána officer Benedict Devlin, McGilloway turns detective to critically investigate both the seemingly straightforward and the unseen lurking in the rural Ulster landscape; temporally and spatially, a place of displacement, loss and complicated histories, redolent and entwined with the ghosts of the past.

Turning literary investigators, the authors contend that there is much to learn from this physiography, not just for the borderlands of North-West Ulster, but for the wider countryside and society beyond
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)17-21
Journallo Squaderno
VolumeInterstices, Liminality and Boundaries
Issue number67
Early online date10 Feb 2024
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2024


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