Emily O’Mahony, a Publishing Assistant with 451 Editions, discusses the a new edition of Ferdia Mac Anna’s Cartoon City – specifically, whether crime and comedy can work together.
When writing a Crime/Thriller novel, the last thing many authors would think of pairing it with is comedy, which might risk taking away from a heart-stopping, page-turning plot, keeping the readers hungry for more. Readers, too, might not immediately consider comedy to be compatible with a crime or thriller novel, so the question stands – can an author write a crime novel and splice it with comedy? And furthermore, will the novel be any good?
Ferdia Mac Anna, with Cartoon City, takes the typical thriller and turns it on its head. Mac Anna’s plot features a journalist called Myles, desperate to make it to the big time, a pair of criminals (who are also desperate to make it to the big time), and a whole lot of disaster as a result. While a character’s head may end up in a bowling bag in Sandymount Strand, the horror of the situation is mitigated as a result of the author’s impeccable comic timing. The intensity of dark scenes may not always have the reader looking anxiously over their shoulder because they are juxtaposed with funny, colloquial language and an irreverant Dublin feel you get throughout the book.
But although Myles’s life may seem like a series of lucky escapes, on the other hand, there are vivid scenes of violence that leave us feeling uneasy, such as when a birthday party thrown for Myles’s mother is crashed by a group of vindictive youths, who break windows and attack partiers. Or another where Myles and his crime buddy Black Pat are fighting off an army of “scumbags” who attack them in a park. Although in this case, while it is a violent scene, it’s diluted with hilarious dialogue, with one kid’s mother calling Myles a “terrorist” for defending himself against the seemingly never ending army of “scumbags’”.
So scenes that should shake the reader to their core are delivered with humour and light hearted dialogue – giving it that real Dubliner treatment – meeting hard hitting subjects with laughter, proving that Crime and Comedy can work together to absolute perfection, as long as the author can master it, which in this case, Ferdia Mac Anna absolutely does.
There has never been such an anti-hero as Myles Sheridan, who experiences the horror of gangland violence, but at the same time manages to make us laugh throughout the book so perplexingly that the reader is unsure if they like him or not.
A lot can also be said, too, for the romantic sub-plot, which also blends comedy and violence. Like the genres Mac Anna is working with, Myles’s love interest, Mia, is complicated. For one thing, she has barely met Myles when she introduces him to the prospect of killing her father, Psychodad.
Although for the most part, this seems an insane thing to do, Myles pretends to be a gangster and acts as if he’s up for the idea. This is one of the perfect uses of combining the thriller along with the comedy genres, and makes the reader almost forget that the question she asks of him is genuinely bonkers.
Cartoon City is excellently written as a thriller or a crime novel, yet Mac Anna also perfects a blend of darkness and comedy in a way that keeps us on our toes. It’s an un-putdownable piece of work, with scenes that make your heart beat out of your chest with the mystery of what could possibly happen next – yet also provide some laugh-out loud-humour along the way.
This is not something every writer can achieve, but Cartoon City is masterfully written and definitely captures the true essence of both crime/thriller and madcap comedy in perfect harmony.
(c) Emily O’Mahony
About Cartoon City by Ferdia Mac Anna:
For a classic urban sass novel, cult hit Cartoon City by Ferdia Mac Anna is hard to beat, with its wild cast of misfits, rebels and Dublin denizens. Anti-hero Myles seeks an out from his journo work. When he falls for the redoubtable Mia, however, he is drawn into the heart of Dublin’s underworld with some alarming – and hilarious – consequences. Ferdia Mac Anna’s career has brought him from comic writing to memoir, literary fiction and film direction. This is his third novel, originally published by Headline in 2000. It romps through a comic tale of crime, passion and surreal humour at breakneck pace. With an eye for characterisation and a flair for Dublinese, it pogos along like Flann O’Brien with rock’n’roll. This second edition of Cartoon City from 451 Editions – is now available to coincide with its twentieth anniversary.
Order your copy online here.