Meet a Favorite Author from Northern Ireland: Ian Sansom

I spend a great deal of time reading crime novels, detective fiction and police procedurals.  They’re visceral, engaging on both the intellectual and emotional fronts, the loose ends tie up neatly, and there’s justice for most.  Or at least for some.   While bingeing on some great Irish detective fiction, I stumbled onto the work of Ian Sansom.  I love his books.

Ian Sansom contributes a weekly column to The Guardian, writing book reviews, and essays on contemporary as well as historical cultural figures.  I wish he cranked out novels as quickly.   Check out Sansom’s Mobile Library series—the several novels comprising the series are satirical, hilarious and poignant.  The action takes place in northern Northern Ireland, in an unforgiving landscape of  freezing rain, wind, small villages with terrible coffee, and no libraries.  Our hero is Israel Armstrong, a hapless half-Jewish shlepp from London who, thanks to a misunderstanding,  finds himself driving a mobile library (really an old broken-down bus) in Northern Ireland.  Israel is really a stranger in a strange land, a spoiled city boy who desperately misses his croissants and espressos, his girlfriend, and his daily creature comforts.  What he finds, in abundance, is a population of eccentrics, literal-minded folks who frustrate and surprise Israel on a daily basis.

One emblematic, favorite  moment:  Israel drives the mobile library to a remote village.  A villager climbs into the bus/library, approaches Israel and says, “I’m looking for a book.”  Israel asks for the title.  The guy has no clue.  The author? No clue. The genre?  No clue.  “You’d know it if you saw it.  It’s about this big and has a blue cover.”

In each novel, Israel lands in hot water, from no fault of his own, and must wrestle his way out of trouble.  Israel sometimes looks to his literary guides (Jane Austin, Elmore Leonard) as he wonders how to deal with his neighbors, his landlord, his colleagues or the bad guys.  The Bad Book Affair, the fourth in the series, features Philip Roth’s American Pastoral as the trigger to the mystery that Israel must unravel.   The Bad Book Affair is a lot funnier than American Pastoral.   Visit, and find his books at .  Then tell me what you think.  In the meantime, Ian sent a little something from Northern Ireland for us at Writers Bloc.  It’s about how writing is like walking.  You put one foot in front of the other.  So is mountain climbing, now that I think about it. But Ian makes it sound so easy, and so natural.