Dr. Banville and Mr. Black

Illustration for TIME by Jeffrey Smith

John Banville is an Irish writer of austere, erudite, literary novels. A Booker winner, he's famous for being relentlessly highbrow. Benjamin Black writes mystery novels; his slender, nasty The Lemur (Picador; 132 pages) appears this month. The funny thing about Black is that he and Banville are the same person.

It's currently chic for fancy novelists to slum it in the lower genres, the way Marie Antoinette used to dress up as a peasant and milk cows. Sebastian Faulks just wrote a James Bond novel; Michael Chabon's The Yiddish Policemen's Union was a noir mystery set in an alternate universe. Some...

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