Harry Rigby

Created by Declan Burke

“Cheers. Who the fuck are you?”
— Harry flashes some of his famous charm


HARRY RIGBY might not be a private eye per se, but he sure as hell acts like one.

A particularly inept one from the detective pulps of the forties, maybe. But Harry drinks like a fish, smokes like a chimney, and has the gift of gab. And just to seal the deal, he’s Irish.

Really Irish. Not American-Irish, but Irish Irish. As in Sligo, Ireland Irish.

When we first meet him in Eightball Boogie (2011), he claims to be a freelance “researcher” (at twelve cents a word), but what he really is is a perpetual shit magnet; a trouble-bound charmer with a weakness for old crime flicks, a quick buck, various substances (legal and otherwise), colourful bursts of profanity, an on-again/off-again girlfriend trying to get sober (Denise), a young son he clearly adores but doesn’t live with (Ben), and a brother that should really be locked up somewhere.

And that’s just his personal life.

In the course of just two novels (Eightball Boogie was followed a few years later by 2012’s Slaughter’s Hound), Harry also gets to tangle with rogue paramilitaries from Northern Ireland, local legbreakers, a mountain of coke, distrusting cops who’d like nothing better than to nail his head to a plank, Motown-loving drug dealers and other denizens of Sligo’s criminal underground, assorted correctional and mental institutions, and of course a number of nasty murders murders in places both high and low.

The screwball plots are all over the place (by Slaughter’s Hound, he’s driving a cab), generously laced with a savagely dark humour, but the main draw is Harry himself. He spins out his yarns in a ragged, jagged first person, cracking wise like a Celtic Groucho Marx on speed, dodging and weaving and yet somehow never quite leaving the narrative rails, careening wildly from incident to accident. It’s an amazing act, watching Burke keeping all those balls in the air, and then wrapping it up, tying up the loose ends with a bow.

Honestly? I’m still not quite sure how he does it. But I’m glad he does…


Besides the Rigby novels Declan Burke is the award-winning author of The Big O (2007), Absolute Zero Cool (2011), and The Lost and the Blind (2015). He served as editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing In The 21St Century and Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers, and the co-editor (with John Connolly) of Books To Die For (2012). He also hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays. But I’m still bummed that The Big O was NOT about Montreal’s Olympic Stadium.


  • “Imelda Sheridan was dead, which was tough cookies on Imelda, but then every silver lining has its cloud. My job was to find out who and why, at 12 cent per word for the right facts in the right order … which is how it all started out, anyway.”
    — Eightball Boogie
  • “I glanced up but he’d already jumped, a dark blur plummeting, wings folded against the drag like some starving hawk out of the noon sun, some angel betrayed. He punched through the cab’s roof so hard he sent metal shearing into the petrol tank. All it took was one spark. Boom . . .”
    — Slaughter’s Hound


  • “I have seen the future of Irish crime fiction and it’s called Declan Burke. Here is talent writ large – mesmerizing, literate, smart and gripping. If there is such an animal as the literary crime novel, then this is it. But as a compelling crime novel, it is so far ahead of anything being produced, that at last my hopes for crime fiction are renewed. I can’t wait to read his next novel… A plot that takes off at a blistering pace and never lets up. The writing is a joy, so seamless you nearly miss the sheer artistry of the style and the terrific, wry humour.” ”
    — Ken Bruen on Eightball Boogie



  • In 2013, the television rights to Harry were acquired by a British production company, but as far as I know, the proposed series never materialized.potential series to be commissioned.
Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith.

Leave a Reply