Severn House early next year (actual house not pictured, right). The book will be published in the UK in March and the US in July, and I’m hugely looking forward to working with the Severn House team, and particularly Kate Lyall Grant.
It’s an exciting time, although there’s an element of sadness involved too, because I’m leaving behind some terrific people at Liberties Press. I’ve had a few wonderful years at Liberties: they published ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL in 2011 when virtually every other publisher passed on it, and I hope the fact that the book went on to win the Goldsboro ‘Last Laugh’ award at Bristol’s Crimefest in 2012 justified their decision to publish. Liberties also published SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, which was subsequently shortlisted for Best Crime Novel at the Irish Book Awards, and the non-fiction title DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS: IRISH CRIME WRITING IN THE 21ST CENTURY. It’s been a whirlwind few years, and I thoroughly enjoyed my time.
I sincerely hope that my time with Severn House will be every bit as productive and enjoyable. I know that I’m joining a stable of very fine writers, and a publishing company with a superb record of putting books into the hands of readers. And really, that’s what this game is all about when it all boils down: putting good books in front of people who love to read.
Speaking of which: if you fancy reading the first chapter of CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, you’ll find it right here …
“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.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Indeed, it’s the self-conscious unreliability of Delahunt as a narrator that gives this charismatic sociopath much of his charm. A historian who has previously published Lives Less Ordinary – Dublin’s Fitzwilliam Square 1998-1922 (Liffey Press, 2011), Andrew Hughes situates this fictionalised account of the historical figure of John Delahunt in a vividly rendered early-Victorian Dublin, but never forgets that his first duty as a novelist is to explore the mystery of character. The structure and tone of the story are reminiscent of John Banville’s The Book of Evidence, and the fictional John Delahunt is both a literary descendant and a spiritual ancestor of Freddie Montgomery. Delahunt is at times a ruthless machine of a man, a cynical misanthropist who feeds on other people’s misery, yet he is capable of great tenderness towards his wife, Helen, and is fully aware of his personal shortcomings, especially in terms of his lack of political or philosophical convictions.
The style, too, is neatly judged. Hughes doesn’t stint on the sights, sounds and smells of Victorian Dublin – a scene where dogs engage in a rat-catching frenzy is particularly toe-curling – but the crisp prose is refreshingly free of stilted, quasi-Victorian phrasing, while the dialogue is delivered in an understated way. In fact, there’s a distinctly modern flavour to the entire story: the deals Delahunt cuts with his Dublin Castle employers, the double-crosses and back-stabbing and ‘confessions’ extracted in subterranean cells, wouldn’t be out of place in a contemporary hardboiled crime novel.
Yet it’s an endearingly old-fashioned novel too, chock-full of the kind of cliff-hangers and reversals of fortune that are to be found in those Victorian stories which were serialised in newspapers and magazines before being bound into novels. These give the story an urgency and tension that might otherwise have been lacking, given that the reader understands from the off that Delahunt must hang. Likewise, the foreboding atmosphere is offset by Delahunt’s bleak sense of humour, which is employed as often as not against himself. It’s a bracing, lurid tale that is as engrossing as it is chilling, and a fascinating glimpse into one of the darker periods in Dublin’s history. – Declan Burke
This review was first published in the Irish Independent.