Jack Taylor, the alcoholic and literary Irish blackness of Ken Bruen

Photo of actor Iain Glen and writer Ken Bruen: (c)Martin Macguire

Let’s say 8 or 9 days. This is how long it took me to read the only three titles translated and published in this series by the Irish writer Ken Bruens about his detective and antihero jack taylor. The hook, like Taylor to alcohol, tobacco, coke and whatever comes his way, has been explosive.

Luckily, the lack of more “private” literary hers is compensated by the excellent television adaptation who stars Iain Glen, that Scottish actor who was born elegant and exudes style whatever he does and whatever he looks like. So I end the month dedicating this article to them.

Ken Bruens

Bruens was born in Galway in 1951, and that city is one more of his characters in his novels. He served as Professor of English in various parts of the world such as Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia or South America before beginning to publish books in the early 1990s. He has written more than twenty novels among which this series of jack taylor or the R&B call, starring the cops Roberts and Brantamong other.

His works stand out for being short novels (barely 250 pages), of also short chapters and even shorter sentences, incisive and full of irony. In the case of the Jack Taylor series, that irony is much more acidic when narrated in first person by the protagonist. They also highlight their constants musical references and literary quotes. And certainly for a corrosive humor and harsh language in some brilliant dialogues and that abound almost more than the narration.

jack taylor

It is almost impossible to get kicked out of the Garda Síochána (Irish National Police). You really have to work hard to do it. Unless you become a public disgrace, almost everything else is spoiled for you. I had reached the limit. a crowd of



last chances


And still he couldn’t get any better. Or rather, she couldn’t stop drinking. Don’t misunderstand me. Irish policemen and drinking have an old and almost loving relationship. A teetotal policeman is even the object of suspicion, if not total and utter derision, inside and outside the force.

It begins so Lumber, the first title in the series. That is his style and structure that does not change in the other two, The massacre of the gypsies Y The dramatist. And this is how Jack Taylor introduces himself, the prototype of the alcoholic detective, tough, reckless, desperate and fatalistic, who neither seeks nor wants pity, understanding or sympathy.

She is always pulling irony as bitter as it is effective but also always being aware of herself and her emotional precariousness. And always with some good beatings that he takes and from which he does not get rid of in any novel.

taylor around 50, adored his fatherwho was the one who made him fond of readingthe only positive addiction that is recognized.

He got me started with Dickens. Little by little he introduced me to the classics like someone who doesn’t want the thing. Always discreetly, making me believe that the choice was mine. Later, when the tornadoes of adolescence turned everything upside down, he introduced me to the crime novel. He made me keep reading. He also put aside a series of books and then gave me a package with philosophy poetry and the hook: American crime novels. By then he had made me a bibliophile in the true sense of the word. Not only did I love to read, I also liked books as such. He had learned to appreciate the smell, the binding, the print, the physical feel of the volumes.

(Of Lumber).

But he hates his mother as much as she hates him and they maintain a more than cold relationship where one of those secondary characters that cannot be missed in a novel set in Ireland plays an important role: the Father Malachythat typical confidant priest of his mother who is always recriminating Jack’s attitude and life.

Friends are conspicuous by their absence in that chaotic existence of Taylor, except the owner of the usual pub (and the only one where he is allowed in) of Jack, a kind of second father or guardian. And then another pub owner, Jeffwith whom he does maintain a relationship that could be considered friendship.

I felt old. Nearing fifty, every bad year I had lived had been etched on my face. The hangover threw me another five hard years. Jeff asked:


Does the Pope pray the rosary?

-That means yes?

(Of The massacre of the gypsies).

In the middle, Ann Hendersonthe woman who Lumber hires the services of Taylor to investigate the death, supposedly by suicide, of his teenage daughter. Henderson will be the impossible love of his lifewhich will continue to appear in the following novels.

As the scene of the action, the city of Galway that, together with the permanent literary references (each chapter ends or begins with a quote) and music both in the description and in the plot, make up a perfect atmosphere for a series of cases each more intriguing.

However, it is the slight tilt of the balance towards the most human essence of the characters more than the importance of those plots that stands out from this series. And like I said, a pity that they have not continued publishing the rest of the novels that compose it.

“Jack, we thought you had stopped reading,” he said. [Jeff].


(Of The dramatist).

series titles

  1. Lumber (The Guards, 2001)
  2. The massacre of the gypsies (The Killing of the Tinkers, 2002): After spending a year in London, Jack returns to Galway, with a new addiction to cocaine. As soon as he returns he finds a new case. Someone is murdering young nomads whose bodies appear dumped in the center of the city. The chief of a gypsy clan entrusts him with the investigation. And Jack Taylor, despite his addictions, maintains his ability to know where to look and what questions to ask. With the help of an English policeman he will try to solve the case.
  3. The Magdalen Martyrs (2003)
  4. The dramatist (TheDramatist, 2004): Apare Jack is clean, goes out with a mature woman and even admits that he has gone to mass again. But then the deaths of two students whose bodies turn up with a copy of a book by writer John Millington Synge stop looking accidental. Jack begins to believe that there is a killer called The Playwright who will continue to act. But it will be other more personal circumstances that put him on the brink of the abyss in an ending that hits mercilessly.
  5. Priest (2006)
  6. Cross (2007)
  7. Sanctuary (2008)
  8. The Devil (2010)
  9. Headstone (2011)
  10. Purgatory (2013)
  11. Green Hell (2015)
  12. The Emerald Lie (2016)
  13. The Ghosts of Galway (2017)

Jack Taylor on TV

The TV series (can be seen on Netflix) consists of 9 hour and a half episodes of duration. It is based on the books and divides plots that, for example, are two in a novel. Also add characters that are not there or remove others, but basically reflects the novels faithfully to their essence. And above all, the interpretation of Iain Glen.

Exploding style, class and presence that characterize him even though he appears a wreck, this Scottish actor, so well known now for Game of Thronesmark a top job giving his most crushed physique and darkest character to Taylor. It goes without saying that it is more than recommended, whether you know English or not, to see it in the original version.

a pity thatas usually happens in film or television adaptations, there is a moment when the writers start to fuck her with cigarette papers and want to “soften” the hardness of the novels or that character of its protagonists. taylor is the worst in the books and that desire to redeem him or extol his few virtues ends up distorting the character or, at least, not convincing readers who have read all the novels.

Nevertheless, the setting so good in Galway, the plots and the acting from the cast led by the magnificent Iain Glen make the series worthwhile for any serious fan of the genre.

Other Bruen novels

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Jack Taylor, the alcoholic and literary Irish blackness of Ken Bruen

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