Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Ha'penny Bridge: covering the cliches

Surely the Ha'penny Bridge in the centre of Dublin doesn't pop up all that often in Irish crime fiction - not within the actual text I mean?

Yet the famous footbridge does appear with an intensifying frequency on crime novel covers. Take the following handful...

Benjamin Black's latest Quirke mystery, due in the shops at the end of May 2015
Joe Joyce's "Echobeat"
Ingrid Black's "The Dead"
Andrew Nugent - you'd think might have used the Four Courts instead?
A vintage Jim Lusby with a slightly different slant
I know. It's a local landmark,  a much loved icon, postcard picturesque, but why the same bridge, over and over and over again?

There are plenty of instances of Ha'penny Bridge covers on novels in other genres - a recent example is Shauna Gilligan's Happiness Comes From Nowhere. Short story and poetry collections sometimes use it too.

But why for so many Dublin-based crime novels? And why for books that in many cases don't even mention the bridge in the pages between their covers?

It's a pity that this bridge, often with a faceless solitary figure walking across it,has evolved into a lazy shorthand for fuzzy ideas such as "Dublin", "rare old times", "intrigue" and "sinister".

I, too, love that little bridge. I even set actual scenes on it in my first novel, Another Case in Cowtown. It opens with two young people standing on the bridge with a couple the love locks that have been added to the railings in recent years.

Yes, a crime novel that actually discusses and involves the Ha'penny Bridge at length - how perverse can you get? - though I thought I'd avoid the cliche of bunging it on the cover too.

  • Thanks to Lucy Dalton of Crimeire for all the cover pics.