Jack Taylor

Created by Ken Bruen (1951--)

"Expect nothing, and by Christ, you're entitled to even less"

-- Jack Taylor in The Devil

Alchohic.

Coke fiend.

Pill popper.

Angry.

Bitter.

A limp.

Scarred.

Broken.

Battered, tattered and tortured.

A man of few joys but many great sorrows.

Loyal to a fault.

And as Irish as a pint of the black.

Ex-cop JACK TAYLOR may not be good at much, but he does seem to have a talent for substance abuse, astounding loyalty for his friends, and finding things. So when his arse is kicked off Ireland's national police force, the Garda Siochna, for his excessive drinking and his tendency to shoot off his mouth, he decides to become a private eye in Galway ("the dirtiest city in Ireland").

Not that alcoholic P.I.s are particularly original, but somehow Bruen manages to not only make the many clichés of the genre come alive all over again, but blow them out of the fucking water in The Guards (2001), Taylor's astounding and audacious debut. They're all here, too: the beautiful client who may be hiding something, the brooding tough but tender P.I. who seeks solace in booze and books and drugs, the missing daughter, the mordant wisecracks, etc.

And that was just the beginning of what's become one of the most original and singular voices in detective fiction.

The fact is that, stereotypes or not, envelope pushing or not, Jack's simply a great character, an often self-pitying, obnoxious drunk overly impressed with his own wit who's almost always way out of his league, and not above using some very questionable methods. He's not even that good a detective, it turns out.

A veritable flood of literary quotations and music trivia spewing from his mouth, he bumbles around, often doing more harm than good, despite his best efforts, as he works the case, not always sure what he's doing. And Jack's harsh, bleek Galway is a far cry from the over-romanticized pastoral paradise described in song every March by a bunch of weepy-eyed fools in green plastic bowler hats in pre-fab and swilling green beer in "Irish" pubs all across North America. There are no Lucky Charms here.

The Taylor books are full of tricky punctuation and a plethora of quotations and digressions that in the hands of a lesser writer would sink them, but Bruen manages to pull it off every damn time, with solid storytelling and spot-on characterization, razor sharp prose that cuts through the fat and reveals the meat (and heart) underneath.

In 2010, TV3 in Ireland aired The Guards, starring a suitably rough-hewn Iain Glen as Taylor, which served as a pilot for a series of television movies based on Bruen's novels and characters. The grimness and bleakness were toned down and slightly sanitized (no mention is made, anymore, of his cop buddy being a lesbian), but even so, there was plenty of grit to chew on. As well as a little bewilderment at them casting a Scot in the lead.

Still, the film proved successful enough that several more were produced. Unfortunately, as the series has progressed, the episodes haveveered further and further from the hard, bitter truths of the novels, replaced with a increasingly mawkish air-sucking sentimentality that would have the real Jack reaching for the bottle. The series may well have jumped the shark in the "Shot Down" episode,with the sappy scene of Glen consoling a young girl by singing her a ballad, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

But that's the TV show, not the books.

Keep your eye on Bruen. He's not a contender; he's a champ. If you're ever in Galway, say hello. And buy him a drink.

According to the Tangled Web, Ken "hails from the west of Ireland and lives in south London. His past includes drunken brawls in Vietnam, a stretch of four months in a South American gaol (and) a PhD in metaphysics." He spent twenty-five years as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, S.E. Asia and South America.

Besides the Jack Taylor series, he's the author of a slew of acclaimed crime novels, including Rilke on Black, The Hackman Blues and Her Last Call To Louis McNeice.

UNDER OATH

  • "An elegiac novel of despair and redemption. Bleak, amoral and disturbing, The Guards breaks new ground in the Irish thriller genre."

-- Irish Independent

  • "Set in Ireland, this is abeautiful, soulful book by a beautiful soulful writer."

-- Don Winslow, June 23, 2017, Entertainment Weeky, "Don Winslow's Five Favorite Police Novels"

THE EVIDENCE

  • "My glass was empty, echoing my heart."

-- Priest

  • "You don't know hell' till you stand in a damp dance hall in South Armagh as the crowd sing along to 'Surfing Safari.'"

-- The Guards (2001).

  • "There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn't wear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated 'informer.' You can get get away weith almost anything except 'telling.'"

-- The Guards (2001).

NOVELS

SHORT STORIES

  • "The Dead Room" (2005)
  • "All the Swans Are Dying" (2009)
  • "The Galway Hooker" (2011)

COLLECTIONS

Three Jack Taylor stories, with a an introduction by Gary Phillips, and illustrations and an afterword by Phil Parks.

TELEVISION

  • FIRST SERIES...Buy DVD Set 1
  • THE GUARDS
    (2010, TV3/Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: August 2, 2010
    Based on the novel by Ken Bruen
    Teleplay by Tom Collins, Anne McCabe, Ralph Christians
    Directed by Stuart Orme
    Executive producer: Ralph Christians
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    With Aine Ni Mhuiri as Mrs Taylor
    Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy
    and Frank O'Sullivan as O'Clancy
    Also starring Ralph Brown, Tara Breathnach, Barry Cassin Ö Sean, Aoife Bell, Frederico Betti, Zoe Cafferty, Megan Conneely, Peadar Cox, Eamonn Cunniss, Colmcille Donnelly, Gerry Ferguson, Ken Fildes, Clodagh Freeman, David Heap, Seamus Hughes, Darren Killeen, Tom Latchford

  • THE MAGDALEN MARTYRS
    (2011, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: April 10, 2011
    Based on the novel by Ken Bruen
    Teleplay by Marteinn Thorisson
    Directed by Stuart Orme
    Executive producer: Ralph Christians
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    With Nora-Jane Noone as Garda Kate Noonan
    Killian Scott as Cody Farraher
    Aine Ni Mhuiri as Mrs Taylor
    and Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy
    Also starring Liam Carney, Neil Malik Abdullah, Stella McCusker, Muireann Bird, Orla McGovern, Nick Lee, Darine N'Dhonnchadha, Maggie McCarthy, Nick Lee, Sarah O'Toole, Eoin Thornton

  • THE PIKEMEN
    (2011, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: July 10, 2011
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Teleplay by Marteinn Thorisson
    Directed by Stuart Orme
    Executive producer: Ralph Christians
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    With Killian Scott as Cody Farraher
    Nora-Jane Noone as Garda Kate Noonan
    Aine Ni Mhuiri as Mrs Taylor
    Nick Lee as Detective Kavanagh
    Paraic Breathnach as Father Malachy
    and Frank O'Sullivan as Superintendent Clancy
    Also starring Tara Breathnach, Moya Farrelly, Dessie Gallagher, Stuart Graham, Ann Marie Horan, Sam Keeley, SÌghle NÌ Chonail, Paul Valentine, Camille Yourell

  • SECOND SERIES...Buy DVD Set 2
  • PRIEST
    (2012, Magma Productions)
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR

Uh-oh. They're no longer basing the films on actual novels, except in passing.

  • THE DRAMATIST
    (2013, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: March 3, 2013
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR

  • SHOT DOWN
    (2013, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: December 1, 2013
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR

The nadir. You know you've left the Brueniverse when Jack starts singing an Irish ballad to console a young girl, accompanying himself on acoustic guitar.

  • THIRD SERIES...Buy DVD Set 3
  • CROSS
    (aka "Blood Cross")

    (2016, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: December 17, 2016
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Written by
    Marteinn Thorisson
    Directed by
    Stuart Orme
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    Also starring
    Siobhan O'Kelly, Erin Gilgen, Alan McKee, Ross McKinney, Shane Robinson, Lalor Roddy, Killian Scott, Elva Trill, Sinead Watters

  • HEADSTONE
    (2016, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: December 24, 2016
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Written by
    Marteinn Thorisson
    Directed by
    Stuart Orme
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    Also starring
    Christopher Fulford, Ian Beattie, Fiona Bell, Diarmuid Noyse, Roisin O'Neill, Peter Campion, Simon Boyle

  • PURGATORY
    (2017, Magma Productions)
    Original Irish Airdate: December 31, 2016
    Based on characters created by Ken Bruen
    Written by
    Marteinn Thorisson
    Directed by
    Charlie McCarthy
    Starring Iain Glen as JACK TAYLOR
    Also starring
    Laura Aikman, Rory Fleck Byrne, Christopher Fulford, Eva-Jane Gaffney, Sarah Jane Seymour

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith. Pictured is Iain Glen as Taylor.


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