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Remembering John Banville’s 1970 debut


Our recent feature about debut novels includes Nightspawn by John Banville.

Now Banville is an interesting case as Nightspawn is actually his second book. He made his publishing debut with Long Lankin in 1970.  Long Lankin is a collection of short stories and is sadly rather forgotten these days. It contains nine stories of everyday life where people are influenced by the strongest emotions.

Banville keeps a low profile even though he is a past winner of the Man Booker Prize (2005 for The Sea). His titles are moderately collectible but could never be compared to rare Salman Rushdie books. Bag-End Books in Saskatoon, Canada, offers a signed first edition of Long Lankin – something of a rarity in the world of modern firsts.

Greg Foley, from Bag-End Books, offers these thoughts on Banville. “He was born in Ireland and follows in the tradition of so many other great Irish writers,” said Greg. “Though he is not as high profile as other UK writers, he has a committed following. At the Hay Festival in 2013, which I had the privilege of attending, his fans were very knowledgeable and enthusiastic.  The large crowd was extremely appreciate of Mr. Banville’s wit and erudition. Why did he begin his career with the short story? Many writers feel intimated by the immensity of a novel when they first begin writing and try their hand at short stories.”

Famous examples would be Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov who both began their writing careers with short stories.

Of course, Banville – who has worked as a sub-editor on The Irish Press and The Irish Times – is also Benjamin Black, the name he uses for his murder mystery books. He has written seven novels as Black and 16 under his real name.

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Richard Davies

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