Booker Prize-winning novelist John Banville has criticised the raft of violent crime dramas on TV.
The 68-year-old author, whose novels have been adapted into BBC1 noir crime series Quirke, said that too many TV shows featured sexual violence.
Banville told Radio Times magazine: “One thing that worries me about crime series these days is just how violent they all are.
“I mean, they nearly all start off with some young woman being raped and murdered and cut up and thrown in a dustbin.”
TV dramas The Fall, Silent Witness, Ripper Street and Scandinavian crime series The Bridge have all been criticised for their levels of violence recently.
Banville’s comments come after Dame Helen Mirren said that too many victims in crime drama were women, while acclaimed playwright Sir David Hare criticised the mounting “body count” and lack of realism in contemporary film and TV drama.
“I personally can’t stand the body count in contemporary drama. I just think it’s ridiculous,” he said.
Banville said that it was a nonsense to argue that crime dramas, such as Swedish-set Wallander, which features Sir Kenneth Branagh in the British adaptation, was realistic.
“The vast majority of us, we go through life and we never see any violence. We might get mugged or something, but it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever see a murder.
“If the Wallander books were real, the entire population of Ystad would be halved by now.
“But we’re bombarded with images of violence in the news and feel that somehow we’re not living authentically if we’re not in touch with violence. I think that’s what it is. The more ’realistic’ these stories are, the more we love them.”
He added: “Human beings are not expendable. A murdered human being is an extraordinary thing. A tragic thing. And I think crime writers have a duty to observe this.”
Set in 1950s Dublin, the Roman Catholic church features heavily in Quirke, which stars Gabriel Byrne as a pathologist-turned-sleuth.
The drama has been adapted from the best-selling Quirke novels by Banville, who writes detective fiction under the pen name Benjamin Black.
Banville told the magazine: “When I was growing up, the only sin was sexual. You could steal, you could murder, but if you got a girl pregnant...
“The thing is, we didn’t know how much of a stranglehold the Church had on us. We thought we were free and that Eastern Europe was under the jackboot of atheistic Communism.
“We didn’t realise that the Church was our Communist Party. It ran every part of our lives.
“When I was going to primary school with the Christian Brothers, kids would just disappear. No-one would ask, they just weren’t there any more and we knew they’d been sent to an industrial school – they’d been sent to the gulag. For girls it was the Magdalene laundries.
“For adults, it was the asylum. There was a man put into an asylum because his sister was thought to be promiscuous. And the well-heeled middle class of Dublin would get rid of its little mistakes thanks to back-street abortionists.”
The author, whose Booker Prize winning novel The Sea was made into a film last year starring Charlotte Rampling and Ciaran Hinds, said that he had no trouble letting other people adapt his books for the screen.
“I always laugh at people who moan and whine about what’s been done to their work,” he said.
“I just hand it over to the film people and say, ’That’s yours, my job is done.’ Apart from anything else, it would be very bad for your liver if you worried about it.”