Banks, Ray 1977-
Banks, Ray 1977-
Born 1977, in Kirkcaldy, Fife, Scotland; married; wife's name Anastasia. Education: Attended university.
Home—Newcastle-upon-Tyne, England. E-mail—[email protected]
Writer. Has worked in retail, as a wedding singer, a salesman, and a croupier.
CRIME NOVELS; "CAL INNES" SERIES
Saturday's Child, Harcourt (Orlando, FL), 2006.
Donkey Punch, Polygon (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2007, also published as Sucker Punch, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (Boston, MA), 2009.
No More Heroes, Polygon (Edinburgh, Scotland), 2008.
The Big Blind, PointBlank (Rockville, MD), 2004.
Gun (novella), Five Leaves Press (Nottingham, England), 2008.
Contributor of short stories to anthologies and Web sites. Contributor of articles to Noir Originals, Crimespree, Mystery Circus, Crime Scene Scotland, and Bulletin.
Ray Banks is a British crime novelist best known for his noir series of books featuring ex-convict Cal Innes who finds a new calling out of prison working as a private investigator, or PI. Writing for Crime Scene Scotland, Russel D. McLean remarked, "Ray Banks is one of the best writers to emerge in recent years." McLean further noted: "He's one of the new breed of noir writers who are taking the British crime novel back down into the gutters where it belongs. His characters can hardly be described as likeable and yet they are compelling in their own ways…. His grimy take on modern Britain reflects the true nature of the darker facets of our modern urban existence."
Banks's first novel, The Big Blind, was a stand-alone work and a "diverting noir debut," according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. The book features Alan Slater, a salesman of double-glazed windows (an oc- cupation Banks once had) whose staid life suddenly spins into chaos after he kills a pet dog. He thereafter falls under the control of another salesman whose life is far from dull. Slater's young girlfriend becomes his port in the ensuing storm of violence.
In the 2006 Saturday's Child, Banks introduces his protagonist Innes, who has just been released from Strangeways prison. Something of a loser and low-life, Innes sets up shop as a PI in Manchester, England. His attempt at going straight, is, however, made more difficult by the local crime chief and Innes's one-time employer, Morris Tiernan, who is adamant that the ex-con do one more job for him. Tiernan wants Innes to find a card dealer who has run off with his teenage daughter and also with a large pile of Tiernan's money. Tiernan's crazy son, Mo, no friend to Innes, complicates matters, as does Innes's parole officer who thinks the PI has committed a crime. A Publishers Weekly reviewer termed Saturday's Child a "tough and assured crime novel." The same reviewer concluded that Banks "is updating the noir novel with an utterly original sensibility." Similarly, Booklist contributor Keir Graff referred to the novel as a "skinned-knuckle crime story," and further called it a "two-fisted read, full of blood, beatings, and hangovers." A Kirkus Reviews critic likewise noted, "Let the squeamish stick with Tony Soprano; this is real tough stuff." The same critic also called Saturday's Child "British noir at its darkest and meanest."
Banks continues his series featuring Cal Innes in Donkey Punch (published in the United States as Sucker Punch), which takes Innes, now addicted to pain killers, to Los Angeles as part of his job as caretaker for a local gym. He has given up for the time on his dream of being a PI and goes as the chaperone of a young amateur boxer, Liam, who has chances of turning pro and is looking forward to his first major competition. It all looks like an easy job of babysitting, until Cal gets a whiff of a fix in at the boxing tournament and then ends up on the wrong side of a gun barrel. The second installment of the series was greeted with general critical praise. A reviewer for the Noir Soapbox called Donkey Punch "a must read." McLean, writing again for Crime Scene Scotland, praised Banks for "producing an incredible sense of LA, not simply as a physical location but as a state of mind." For McLean, Donkey Punch "is more than a contender." McLean added: "It's a complex character study that has a fearsome energy and a dark heart. There's a wit and intelligence running through the narrative that never obliquely reveals itself, but rather hides in the words and actions of Banks's characters." However, ReviewingTheEvidence.com contributor Sharon Wheeler was less enthusiastic about the title, commenting that it was "not bad, but just not that remarkable." Wheeler further remarked of the protagonist, "Cal's a total loser, so it's hard to have much sympathy for him."
In No More Heroes, Cal has got himself a job evicting residents for a Manchester landlord, Donald Plummer. It is one hot summer, and the local skinheads, the English National Socialists (ENS), are making times tough for anyone who does not look extremely white. Cal, on the job, witnesses a firebombing and rushes to save an Asian youth from the burning house. Plummer now hires Innes as an investigator to see who is responsible for the fire and for other threats he has been getting. Is it the ENS or a group of radical students? Subplots include Cal's continuing dependence on painkillers and a journalist on his tail, eager to get a story. Guardian Online reviewer Cathi Unsworth had high praise for this third series installment, noting that Banks "is on fire with this hard-hitting, page-turning, soulful stomper of a book."
Speaking with McLean, Banks noted early on in the Innes series that it would not go on ad infinitum: "It is a finite series. Because if I didn't make it a finite series he would end up like so many PIs being cranked out again and again and again and eroding what made the earlier books so much fun, … and I don't want to be one of those writers, all fat and comfortable and lazy." In an interview with Spinetingler Magazine contributor Sandra Ruttan, Banks elaborated on his choice of genre: "I love my association with private eye fiction…. Some of the best writers working today have written PI fiction. But I'm not going to get hung up on what's expected of a ‘private eye novel’, because that's not my job. My job is to write a book that I can be proud of. It's the marketing department's job to pin a genre to it. Then it's the critic's job to ascertain whether that genre was a comfy fit, and whether the book is of any value to strangers."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, November 15, 2007, Keir Graff, review of Saturday's Child, p. 22.
Kirkus Reviews, October 15, 2007, review of Saturday's Child.
Publishers Weekly, December 20, 2004, review of The Big Blind, p. 41; October 1, 2007, review of Saturday's Child, p. 37.
BooksfromScotland.com,http://www.booksfromscotland.com/ (September 2, 2008), Allan Guthrie, author interview.
Crime Scene Scotland Web log,http://crimescenescotlandreviews.blogspot.com/ (September 2, 2008), Russel McLean, reviews of Donkey Punch and Saturday's Child.
FantasyBookSpot.com,http://www.fantasybookspot.com/ (September 2, 2008), "Solitary Confinement: Ray Banks," author interview.
Guardian Online,http://www.guardian.co.uk/ (September 2, 2008), Cathi Unsworth, review of No More Heroes.
Mostly Fiction,http://www.mostlyfiction.com/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.
Noir Soapbox Web log,http://noirsoapbox.blogspot.com/ (September 2, 2008), reviews of Donkey Punch and No More Heroes.
Polygon Books Web site,http://polygon.birlinn.co.uk/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.
ReviewingTheEvidence.com,http://www.reviewingtheevidence.com/ (September 2, 2008), Sharon Wheeler, review of Donkey Punch.
Sons of Spade Web log,http://sonsofspade.blogspot.com/ (September 2, 2008), "Q & A with Ray Banks."
Thrilling Detective Web site,http://www.thrillingdetective.com/ (September 2, 2008), author profile.