“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Irish Crime Fiction: Whither the Traditional Whodunnit?

John Curran reviewed TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) for the Irish Times last weekend, and concluded his review with a glowing recommendation: “[T]his collection can be confidently recommended to anyone who reads any type of crime fiction. They will find something to tease and tantalise their inner detective.”
  However, Curran, one of the world’s foremost scholars on Agatha Christie, pointed out a notable absence in a collection that covers, “with one exception, the entire crime spectrum.” To wit:
“This is a personal disappointment: despite the wide variety of story types here there is no traditional whodunnit. Not necessarily a Miss-Scarlett-in-the- library-with-the-spanner exercise, but is a variation thereon too much to ask?”
  Curran goes on to say that, “Admittedly, there is little or no tradition of this type of writing in this country.” This is true, but given the fact that Irish crime writing is still a relatively new literary phenomenon, the same could be said of virtually every other kind of story represented in the anthology.
  So: whither the traditional whodunnit in Irish crime fiction?
  It’s possible, of course, that some authors commissioned to contribute to the anthology who might have written a traditional mystery chose otherwise, given that the writers were offered the freedom of a blank slate, and some opted to write a different kind of story than they might usually do. It’s also true, I think, that some writers who have recently debuted – Jo Spain springs to mind, as does Andrea Carter – have written novels in the traditional whodunnit vein, and may have contributed that kind of story had they been commissioned.
  Overall, though, I think John Curran makes a very good point: the traditional whodunnit mystery has been largely notable by its absence over the last three decades of Irish crime writing. Is that because, as Fintan O’Toole once suggested, our historically small population and tightly-knit communities lent themselves to an almost immediate identification of a crime’s perpetrator, and thus whydunnits rather than whodunnits? Is it because Irish writers have largely, if not exclusively, tended to look to the American rather than British model of classic crime / mystery fiction? Or is it – a flight of fancy – a post-colonial hangover, and the ingrained, subconscious fear of being denounced as a spy or collaborator for fingering a perpetrator to the perfidious authorities?
  Naturally, it’s very difficult to offer any definitive answers. I’d imagine that very few writers sit down to write a book with the above questions in mind; every book is a personal response to a unique set of motives. Perhaps the traditional mystery story will belatedly come into vogue in Irish crime writing (I would argue that Cora Harrison’s novels already fall into this category), and perhaps Joanne Spain and Andrea Carter are already in the vanguard. If so, it’s a new direction to be welcomed, and one that will add another layer to the depth and breadth of Irish crime writing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

News: the Irish Book Awards’ Crime Fiction Shortlist

White smoke billows, the bells ring out, trumpets parp, etc. – the shortlists for the Irish Book Awards have been announced, and the nominations for the Crime Fiction Award look a lot like this:
Crime Fiction Award
Distress Signals – Catherine Ryan Howard (Corvus)
Little Bones – Sam Blake (Bonnier Zaffre)
Lying In Wait – Liz Nugent (Penguin Ireland)
The Constant Soldier – William Ryan (Mantle)
The Drowning Child – Alex Barclay (HarperCollins)
The Trespasser – Tana French (Hachette Ireland)
  Those of you with long memories will remember that I suggested a shortlist about a month ago; of that list (of five books), there are two books on the actual shortlist – Tana French’s THE TRESPASSER and Liz Nugent’s LYING IN WAIT – but there’s no place for Alan Glynn’s PARADIME, Adrian McKinty’s RAIN DOGS or Stuart Neville’s SO SAY THE FALLEN. I did suggest that Sam Blake and Catherine Ryan Howard might well make the shortlist, although I wrote off William Ryan’s excellent THE CONSTANT SOLDIER on the basis that it’s not a crime novel. As has been the case in recent years, the IBA has made a virtue of shortlisting debut authors (two), and there are three previous winners on the list in Alex Barclay, Tana French and Liz Nugent. As I also suggested on my shortlist prediction, women writers have continued the trend of previous years by dominating yet again, with five of the six nominations. Hearty congratulations to all those nominated, and the very best of luck; meanwhile, commiserations to all of those who weren’t shortlisted: 2016 really was a very strong year for Irish crime fiction.
  Meanwhile, a special mention for Jane Casey, whose brilliantly chilling ‘Green, Amber, Red’ – from the TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS collection – was shortlisted in the Short Story of the Year category. To wit:
Short Story of the Year
Here We Are – Lucy Caldwell (Faber)
K-K-K – Lauren Foley (Ol Society – Australia)
The Visit – Orla McAlinden (Sowilo Press)
Green Amber Red – Jane Casey (New Island)
The Birds of June – John Connell (Granta Magazine)
What a River Remembers of its Course – Gerard Beirne (Numero Cinq Magazine)
  For the full list of shortlists and nominations, clickety-click here

Monday, October 24, 2016

Event: Anthony J. Quinn and William Ryan at No Alibis

Belfast’s dedicated crime fiction bookstore No Alibis will host ‘An Evening with Anthony Quinn and William Ryan’ on November 4th, which promises to be a fascinating event. To wit:
An Evening with Anthony Quinn and William Ryan

Friday, November 4 at 6:30 PM

No Alibis
83 Botanic Avenue, BT7 1, Belfast

Anthony Quinn is an Irish writer and journalist. His debut novel Disappeared was shortlisted for a Strand Literary Award in the United States. It was also listed by Kirkus Reviews as one of the top ten thrillers of 2012. After its UK publication in 2014, Disappeared was selected by the Daily Mail and the Times as one of the best novels of the year. It was also long-listed for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. His short stories have twice been shortlisted for a Hennessy/New Irish Writing award. Anthony will be chatting about and launching his latest Celcius Daley novel, Trespass.

William Ryan is an Irish writer living in London. His first novel, THE HOLY THIEF, was shortlisted for the Theakstons Crime Novel of the Year, The Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, The CWA John Creasy New Blood Dagger and a Barry Award. His second novel, THE BLOODY MEADOW, was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year. William teaches on the Crime Writing Masters at City University in London. His latest novel The Constant Soldier has been described by AL Kennedy as “a nuanced, complex and gripping tale of guilt and love that captures the chaos at the end of World War Two”.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2016 / 2017

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2016 / 2017, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis. To wit:


THEY ALL FALL DOWN by Cat Hogan (July 1)
LYING IN WAIT by Liz Nugent (July 7)
SO SAY THE FALLEN by Stuart Neville (July 7)
BLOOD FOR BLOOD by JM Smyth (July 14)

THE CONSTANT SOLDIER by William Ryan (August 25)
THE BLUE POOL by Siobhan MacDonald (August 26)

THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue (September 8)
TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, ed. Declan Burke (September 21)
BENEATH THE SURFACE by Joanne Spain (September 22)
THE TRESPASSER by Tana French (September 22)

THE CITY IN DARKNESS by Michael Russell (October 3)
HOLDING by Graham Norton (October 6)

TRESPASS by Anthony J. Quinn (November 3)
THE DEVIL’S LUCK by T.R. Croke (November 7)

THE GIRL BEHIND THE LENS by Tanya Farrelly (December 15)



LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey (March 9)
BLOOD TIDE by Claire McGowan (March 23)

A GAME OF GHOSTS by John Connolly (April 6)
HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck (April 6)

BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway (May 18)

WOLF ON A STRING by Benjamin Black (June 6)
UNTITLED NOVEL by Stephen Burke (June 15)
ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley (June 29)

CANDYLAND by Jax Miller (July 13)

CARDINAL WITNESS by Conor Fitzgerald (August 15)

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)

INISHOWEN BOOK 3 by Andrea Carter (October 5)

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Event: The ‘Something Wicked’ Crime Fiction Festival at Malahide

Something Wicked, Ireland’s only standalone crime fiction festival, takes place this year from October 28th – 30th, featuring Alex Barclay, Liz Nugent, Arlene Hunt, René Gapert, Dave Rudden and Sam Blake. Quoth the blurb elves:
Murder comes to Malahide on the October bank holiday weekend in the form of the Something Wicked Crime Writing Festival, which runs from Friday 28th to Sunday 30th. Over the course of the three days, there will be something for all ages interested in crime, crime fiction and children’s books.

On Friday October 28th a panel of bestselling authors will discuss how they write about murder and violent crime. The panellists are Alex Barclay (Darkhouse, Blood Runs Cold), Sam Blake (Little Bones) and Liz Nugent (Unravelling Oliver, Lying in Wait) and will be hosted by Bert Wright (Administrator of the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards). The event will be held at Malahide Lawn Tennis Club at 7:30pm. Tickets €12.50*/€15 (*early bird)

‘Malahide Murder Morning’ takes place on Saturday Oct 29th. This is a forensics and crime scene workshop where participants will witness the procedures and protocols following the discovery of a dead body. They will also learn how to write authentic crime fiction. The workshop will be led by Forensic Anthropologist René Gapert, Deputy State Pathologist Linda Mulligan and Garda Vanessa Stafford, with actor and screen writer Paddy C. Courtney acting as host. Award winning crime novelist Arlene Hunt (Vicious Circle, The Chosen, The Outsider) will complete the line-up, as she discusses how to incorporate the panellists’ information into a crime novel. The three-hour workshop takes place in the Malahide Parish Centre at 10am. Tickets €20*/€25 (*early bird)

Manor Books on Church Road will be the venue for ‘Killer Kids’ at 11am on Sunday October 30th. Bestselling author Dave Rudden (Knights of the Borrowed Dark) will host a workshop for children, who will learn the art of storytelling through the medium of crime fiction. Tickets €5.
  For all the details, clickety-click here.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Event: Writing the Crime Novel with Declan Burke

The lovely people at the Irish Writers’ Centre have been in touch to ask if I’d be interested in facilitating a one-day course on writing the crime novel. It takes place on December 3rd in Co. Tyrone (details below), and I’m very much looking forward to it. To wit:
All great crime fiction stems from the fact that character is mystery. From whodunits to psychological thrillers, via private eyes and police procedurals, we’ll uncover the crucial elements that make for a memorable crime / mystery novel. Embracing plot and character, the authorial voice, style and language, setting and tone, this course employs classic and contemporary crime writing to illustrate the way forward for authors seeking to hone their craft and maximise the impact of their writing.
  Declan Burke is an award-winning author of six novels, and the editor / co-editor of two non-fiction titles on crime writing. He is the editor of the short story anthology Trouble is Our Business (New Island).

Saturday 3rd December
Time: 10.30am – 4.30pm
Duration: 1 day
Venue: Ranfurly House, Co. Tyrone
Cost: €67/£60
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Publication: IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET by Eoin Colfer

I’ve spent the last few weeks harping on about the diversity of Irish crime fiction and the way in which Irish writers are happy to explore every nook and cranny of the genre, but it’s fair to say that Eoin Colfer – in this respect, as in most other things – is out there on his own. To date Eoin has penned one of the all-time best-selling YA series with his Artemis Fowl novels; written an instalment in Douglas Adams’ increasingly improbable Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy trilogy; a pre-teen private eye novel; books for young children; and comedy caper crime thrillers for adults.
  To cap it all – for now, at least; no doubt there’ll be even more maverick offerings from the Wexford man – Eoin publishes IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET, in which the Marvel superhero comes to Ireland. To wit:
Tony Stark is known as many things: billionaire, inventor, Avenger, but mainly for being the invincible Iron Man! People expect strength and pizzazz from him at all times and he’s not about to let them down. But when he heads to an international eco-summit, he detects an anomaly off the coast of Ireland. Stark decides to investigate and that’s when the party really starts. Find out how he tackles both inner and outer demons in this all-action adventure from Eoin Colfer, the best-selling author of Artemis Fowl.
  So there you have it. For an excerpt from IRON MAN: THE GAUNTLET, clickety-click here

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


It’s been a busy couple of weeks since TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) was launched, and the reaction – happily – has been pretty favourable to date.
  First off, hearty congratulations to Jane Casey, whose story ‘Green, Amber, Red’ has been longlisted for the Short Story of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Sponsored by Writing.ie, the shortlist will be announced on October 25th, and if Jane’s chilling story isn’t on it then there’s something very rotten in the state of Denmark.
  Staying with Writing.ie, Hubert O’Hearn writes a very nice appreciation of the anthology, with the gist running thusly:
“Trouble is our Business is a uniformly excellent selection of twenty-four crime stories written by two dozen Irish writers. Not all of them are murder mysteries per se, although some are; not all are identifiably Irish in speech or setting, although again some are. Each one though polishes a different facet of the whole crime writing genre and just as with the wine sampler mentioned above, by the time you are finished reading this anthology you will certainly have discovered at the very least several writers you’ll list for future enjoyment.”
  Over at the Sunday Independent, Hilary White is also very positive about the book, describing it as “One of the essential literary fiction compendiums in Irish publishing this year.” I haven’t found a link to the review to date, but I’ll hoist it here when I do.
  Meanwhile, to coincide with the publication of TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, there’s been a few pieces published about Irish crime fiction in general. RTE’s new Culture website hosts an imaginatively titled piece called ‘Crime Spraoi’, the Irish Times hosts another on why ‘Irish crime writers are a law unto themselves’, and The Journal.ie interviews John Connolly, Louise Phillips and yours truly on why Irish crime writing is having ‘a killer moment right now’.
  Finally, if you’re in the mood to sample a couple of the stories from TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, the Irish Times carries Gene Kerrigan’s ‘Cold Cards’, while the RTE Culture website carries Sinead Crowley’s ‘Maximum Protection’. We do hope you enjoy …

Monday, October 17, 2016

Debut: THE GIRL BEHIND THE LENS by Tanya Farrelly

Tanya Farrelly’s debut, THE GIRL BEHIND THE LENS (Killer Reads), is a dark psychological thriller which will be published as an e-book on October 28th and in paperback on December 15th. Quoth the blurb elves:
When every word’s a lie …
  A picture is worth a thousand.
  Oliver Molloy never meant to hurt his wife. It was an accident, not his fault. A respected lawyer, he needs to make sure no-one finds out the truth. But there’s someone watching him, waiting for him to slip up.
  Photography student Joanna Lacey has always been close to her mother. But when Rachel Arnold turns up on her doorstep, Joanna’s world falls apart. The father she never knew has been found in the canal – a married man, now dead.
  Joanna and Oliver’s paths cross when they meet at the funeral. Convinced everyone she loves is lying to her, Joanna turns to him for help. But Oliver is the most dangerous liar of all.
  Can she uncover the truth before the past destroys them both?
  For Tanya Farrelly’s essay on ‘The Fruits of Perseverance’, clickety-click here

Friday, October 14, 2016

One to Watch: HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck

You’re likely to be hearing a lot about Haylen Beck over the next few months, the debut author of the psychological thriller HERE AND GONE (Harvill Secker), which will be published in April 2017. To wit:
Harvill Secker has acquired a “heart-stopping” standalone psychological thriller Here and Gone by Haylen Beck. The book, said to appeal to fans of Paula Hawkins and Gillian Flynn, is set to be Vintage’s lead thriller next year and will publish in April 2017. It begins on a desolate road in Arizona where Audra is fleeing her abusive husband in the family car. Her children, Sean and Louise, are buckled up in the back. Desperate not to draw attention, Audra is petrified when she is pulled over by the local sheriff. What happens next is every parent’s worst nightmare: one minute her children were here, the next they were gone.
  So why the big fuss about Haylen Beck on a blog dedicated to Irish crime fiction? Well, as the picture above suggests, ‘Haylen Beck’ is none other than our own Stuart Neville. To wit:
The book is said to mark “a thrilling new direction” for Stuart Neville, for whom Haylen Beck is a pseudonym for novels inspired by his love of American crime writing. A second standalone Haylen Beck novel will be published in 2018.
  Nice work, sir. For all the details, including those of the sale of the film rights option, clickety-click here
  For more on Stuart Neville, clickety-click here