“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.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Poe Is We, Part II: The Edgar Awards

The more eagle-eyed among you will have noticed that when I mentioned earlier in the week Jane Casey has been longlisted for a CWA ‘Dagger in the Library’ award, I neglected to mention she was also in the running for an Edgar award later this evening.
  Of course, that – in the grand tradition of the crime novel – was a classic case of dissimulation from an unreliable narrator, and not (koff) the schoolboy error it might appear on first glance.
  But I digress. For lo! Jane Casey is shortlisted for an Edgar Award this evening in the Mary Higgins Clark category with THE RECKONING. And that’s not all – Alan Glynn is also shortlisted, this time in the Best Paperback Original category, for BLOODLAND. And – a muted trumpet parp there, maestro – BOOKS TO DIE FOR, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke (and the wonderful Clair Lamb) is up for consideration in the Best Critical / Biographical category.
  So there it is. It’s very satisfying indeed, I have to say, to be nominated for such a prestigious award, and in such august company too. The very best of luck this evening to everyone on the various shortlists, which can be found here.

UPDATE: News just in comes via Jane Casey, who tells me that Hank Phillippi Ryan won the Mary Higgins Clark gong, which was awarded last night. Hearty congrats to Hank …

UPDATE ON THE UPDATE: Woe is we, for lo! The Irish writers came away empty-handed from the Edgar Awards last night – unless we’re prepared to claim Dennis Lehane, who won Best Novel with LIVE BY NIGHT, and James O’Brien, who won the Best Critical / Biography category with THE SCIENTIFIC SHERLOCK HOLMES. Anyway, the heartiest of congratulations to all of the winners at the Edgars – the full list can be found here – and commiserations to everyone else. There is, as they say, always next year …

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Mark O’Sullivan

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
DARK PASSAGE or THE BURGLAR, both by David Goodis. On the surface, his style was typically noir – hard-bitten, compact prose; taut, streetwise dialogue. But that’s just his kicking-off point. The writing is lifted with a quirky take on life, on logic and occasional surrealist touches. A character, for example, can be obsessed with the colour orange – clothes, furnishing, car – to such an odd extent that the novel begins to feel like some kind of surreal hand-tinted noir. Another character has a three-page conversation with a bloodied corpse. And, for me, the last chapter of THE BURGLAR can’t be beaten. An extended metaphor that sums up of all that has gone before, that’s in no way pretentiously literary, and is cinematic in its visual and visceral power.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Bernie Gunther in Philip Kerr’s superb Berlin noir novels.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Football bloggers, particularly those devoted to the team I support, Fulham FC – like
HammyEnd.com. We never win anything but we’re philosophical about the true value of failure and the illusory nature of success (especially Chelsea’s success).

Most satisfying writing moment?
Ruth Rendell has said that ‘the writer’s job is to stay confused for as long as possible’. It’s nerve-wracking but staying confused is the only effective antidote to predictability and lazy writing. The moment when that cloud of confusion begins to lift is more than satisfying – it’s a kind of ecstasy (without the thirst and the hyperactivity).

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sufficiently up to speed on the new Irish crime-writing wave to answer this one – or the next. I very much look forward to playing catch up though.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
As above.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing – If I was a plumber, I can’t imagine anyone arriving at my door and asking me to come take a look at a job they’ve just completed and how they might improve it – for free. Best thing – For some reason, a line from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Going Home’ occurs to me here: ‘He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit …’

The pitch for your next book is …?
A missing Goth girl, a hacker, a Libyan rebel fighter, a gangland casualty, a West Belfast Armenian, a woman betrayed, a mother seeking revenge – and the accidental nature of life and death. Confused? DI Leo Woods is too – but he’s working on it.

Who are you reading right now?
As always I’ve got too many books on the go. Right now I’m re-reading Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen series, which I love. I’m also nearing the end of Edward St. Aubyn’s AT LAST – the final Patrick Melrose novel. The only real freedom is the freedom from delusion, he concludes. Too right. In between times, I’m dodging in and out of John Gray’s STRAW DOGS – forget existentialism, this is real noir philosophy, stark but compelling and best taken in small doses.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
If I can write, I can read, but not vice-versa. Your move, God.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’ve read worse.

Mark O’Sullivan’s CROCODILE TEARS is published by Transworld.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Queen Of Kings

I had a review of Alex Barclay’s YA novel CURSE OF KINGS (HarperCollins Children’s Books) published in the Sunday Business Post a couple of weekends ago. It ran a lot like this:
“Envar was a land of twelve territories and its northeasterly was Decresian.”
  Alex Barclay’s career as an author of adult crime thrillers began with Darkhouse (2005), a novel set partly in Ireland and partly in New York. In recent years she has set her novels, which feature the FBI agent Ren Bryce, entirely in Colorado; but from the very first line of her latest offering, the young adult title Curse of Kings, we find ourselves even further from home, albeit in a place and time very far removed from the mean streets of the mystery novel.
  That’s not to say Curse of Kings wants for mystery, as the main storyline centres on young Oland Born’s quest to discover his true identity. We first meet Oland working as a servant for the vicious usurper Villius Ren, a sadist who murdered his friend and the former king, Micah, some 14 years before the story proper begins. In a pacy opening, Barclay establishes Oland’s plight as he is physically and verbally abused by Villius Ren and his cabal of dark knights, in the process dropping significant hints that Oland was not born into such a lowly status. Soon Oland finds himself in mortal danger, and he flees the kingdom of Decresian in search of the truth about his destiny. On his travels he meets Delphi, an unusual young woman who is herself in search of answers about who she is; together they find the wherewithal to face down the cruelties of Villius Ren and overcome the many trials they are forced to endure.
  There well may be a PhD out there for some enterprising student interested in discovering why so many Irish crime writers have published young adult fiction: Alex Barclay follows in the footsteps of John Connolly, Cora Harrison, Adrian McKinty, Colin Bateman and Eoin McNamee in writing for a younger audience. Perhaps the appeal lies in leaving aside for a while the crime genre’s demands for gritty realism. Here we find ourselves in the quasi-Mediaeval world of Envar, a misty, mythical place of castles and black princes, swords and shields, noble blood-lines and uncompromised morality. The back-page blurb references Tolkien but the book reads much more like an adventure-fuelled variation on Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, or the minor stories of the Arthurian legends.
  That said, the novel has very contemporary resonances. Oland Born is essentially a bullied child who refuses to accept his fate, and Barclay eschews the easy option of allowing him access to magic, spells or fantastical devices that might ease his passage to freedom. Instead Oland and Delphi are forced to rely on their wit, courage and determination to succeed, which renders them all the more vulnerable and accessible to the reader, and enhances our engagement with their struggle.
  Or struggles, rather. Events unfold at a very rapid pace, and the story is jammed to the margins with incident, reversals of fortune, surprise reveals and confrontations. Indeed, there are times when the adult reader might be a little overwhelmed by the relentless buffeting Oland and Delphi experience, although the target audience of younger readers will very probably remained gripped throughout.
  The first of a planned trilogy, Curse of Kings is a handsome achievement, not least in terms of its creation of a new world that comes fully terra-formed with a unique history, religion, geography and civilisation. There is darkness here, and monsters both animal and human, but Barclay never loses sight of the fact that our folktales and fairytales were constructed to facilitate our instinctive desire to believe that no matter how bleak our lives appear to be, a better world is ours for the taking. – Declan Burke
  This review first appeared in the Sunday Business Post

Monday, April 29, 2013

Blade Frontrunner

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that Jane Casey has been a very busy woman indeed, and that her new book, THE STRANGER YOU KNOW, will be published in July.
  Well, things are about to get even busier for Jane, because she’s been longlisted for the CWA’s ‘Dagger in the Library’ award.
  Quoth the CWA:
The thirteen authors in contention this year are Belinda Bauer, Alison Bruce, S.J. Bolton, Peter May, Gordon Ferris, Tania Carver, Elly Griffiths, Christopher Fowler, Michael Ridpath, Jane Casey, Phil Rickman, Alex Gray and Frances Brody. The shortlist will be announced at Crimefest on 31st May, with the eventual winner being revealed at the Daggers Gala Dinner on 15th July.
  Happy days. Hearty congrats to Jane Casey, and the very best of luck to everyone on the longlist. For all the details, clickety-click here