“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, December 4, 2014

Publication: DOWN ON CYPRUS AVENUE by Paul Charles

Paul Charles is one of the unsung heroes of Irish crime fiction. His latest offering, DOWN ON CYPRUS AVENUE (DuFour Editions), is a police procedural set in Belfast:
Brendy McCusker had it made when he took early retirement from the Ulster police force with a handsome pay-out. That is until his wife ran off to America with their nest egg, forcing him back to work in Belfast.
  On his first major case, McCusker partners with DI Lily O’Carroll to locate the two missing sons of a wealthy businessman. But before the brothers can be found, McCusker is reassigned to the brutal murder of an American banker staying on Cyprus Avenue. As the detectives delve into their subjects’ pasts, McCusker finds himself juggling his move to Belfast, O’Carroll’s frequent blind dates, his status as a hired-back rent-a-cop, and trying not to be distracted by Belfast’s beautiful women, especially one mysterious woman in particular.
  McCusker and O’Carroll eventually find a person of interest with an air-tight alibi, but only one of the detectives believes it is genuine…
  Sounds good, and the early word is very positive indeed:
“Twist-filled tale of betrayal and revenge.”—Publishers Weekly “Continuously absorbing, with a nice rapport between the hero and heroine.”—Kirkus Reviews
  For more on Paul Charles, clickety-click here
  Review: THE LONESOME HEART IS ANGRY by Paul Charles

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Interview: Cormac James, Author of THE SURFACING

It’s a long way from the Arctic that Cormac James (right) was reared. Born and raised in Ballincollig in Cork – when he was still Cormac McCarthy – Cormac James has lived in Montpellier in France for the past 12 years.
  His first novel, Track and Field (2000), was a historical tale set during the Irish Civil War. His second, The Surfacing, is another historical novel, although this one is set in the frigid wilderness of the far North.
  The story begins in 1850, when we find ourselves aboard the stout ship The Impetus, under the command of Captain Myers and his second-in-command Lieutenant Morgan, as they go in search of the Franklin expedition, which went missing some years previously during a bid to discover the fabled Northwest Passage.
  “I suppose it was always on the radar,” Cormac says when I ask where the obsession with the Arctic came from, “just Boy’s Adventure stuff. Obviously a big Irish contingent went up there, or at least to both Poles – Shackleton, Tom Crean, and so forth.”
  “The setting appealed to me as a novelist in terms of the psychological space, or even as an emotional space, that a character might live in,” he continues. “Somebody like Morgan, who is the main character, he’s someone who withholds an awful lot from the world. So I needed to represent his inner world somehow, and putting him in that space up there, where there’s a constant sense of not only menace and vulnerability, but also the possibility of something radical happening, some kind of breaking through, that that was an ever-present. The situation of having a ship that’s trapped very far from any possibility of refuge, you get to create a domestic situation in an absolutely hostile landscape. And that in itself is an interesting set-up.”
  The ‘domestic situation’ Cormac refers to is created when the male world of The Impetus – now trapped in the shifting ice – is disrupted by a stowaway, Kitty, who is pregnant with Morgan’s child.
  “You have what Morgan sees as a pretty much stable situation where he’s going to be in control,” says Cormac. “You have the ship, its hierarchy, the codified interactions, all of that. And then you have his own version, that he’s almost writing in advance, of the story he’s going to partake in, the role he’s going to play, one of traditional and typical male heroism, epic feats of endurance and this kind of thing. So you have that world, and you drop a pregnant woman into it. And of course, the key thing is that they’re so far away from anywhere, they’re so isolated, that there’s no possibility of communicating with anybody else, and it means that he can’t do what he’s been doing all his life, which is walking away from responsibilities, problems and even possibilities. He can’t walk out the door and slam it.”
  Ultimately, for all the thrilling ‘Boy’s Adventure’ aspects of the story, it’s a novel about becoming a father.
  “I think that’s absolutely what it’s about, with maybe the caveat that fatherhood is also indicative of something else,” says Cormac, who is himself the father of a four-year-old son. “It’s the first crack in the dam, as it were – an opening up to somebody that you are not. It’s a slight step away from centre stage, in terms of being dominated by your own egotism. Certainly the fatherhood aspect interests me an awful lot more than the search for the Franklin expedition or the exploration, which for me was really at the service of portraying a character – or more accurately, portraying a psychological process.”
  It’s a fabulously detailed tale, both in its historical research and its depiction of the savagely harsh landscape, so much so that it comes a surprise to learn that Cormac James has never been to the Arctic.
  “I haven’t, no,” he laughs. “But the fact that everybody asks me that, I’m taking as a compliment.”
  Contrary to the common perception of the Arctic as a uniformly white vast blanket of snow, The Surfacing beautifully winkles out the subtle changes to the landscape as the seasons change and The Impetus remains trapped in its icy vice.
  Given the cliché that the Eskimo people have forty different words to describe snow, I ask if Cormac ever felt the inclination to invent a few of his own.
  “It’s a challenge, like describing Morgan,” he says. “You’re trying to find the nuance, to somehow indicate the repetitiveness, the tedium, but in a way that’s significant. Apparently the thing about the Inuit people’s forty words for snow isn’t quite true. Their language is cumulative, a bit like German, so they’d have, say, ‘the-wet-snow-that-falls-on-the-wind-from-the-west-in-January’,” he laughs.
  I tell him that while I was reading The Surfacing, the news broke that the Canadians had finally discovered one of the ships from the Franklin expedition, which gave the story a somewhat poignant twist.
  “It puts it into perspective,” he agrees, “the fact that they’re only finding it now, 160 years later. It throws a certain kind of backward shadow on the guys that were up there searching at the time. It maybe stresses it even more, that it has taken so long, and taken such advanced technology, to get a first trace of the ships. It shows just how futile it was for them going up there, and in such harsh conditions.”
  Indeed, it’s an epic tale of a quite magnificent futility, so much so that when Morgan and company embark on their final throw of the dice to Melville Island across ‘one white tract … blind ream, to every point,’ you half expect a great white whale to hove into sight on the horizon.
  Cormac laughs at the comparison, and the idea that the story is itself a metaphor for the tortuous business of writing a novel. “Actually, I would have preferred if the island had another name, because you’re inevitably going to get those associations,” he says. “But I’m afraid that’s just an accident of the geography.”

  The Surfacing by Cormac James is published by Sandstone Press.

  This interview was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Launch: UNDERCOVER by Gerard Brennan

Gerard Brennan launches his latest offering, UNDERCOVER, at No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast next Wednesday, December 3rd, with festivities kicking off at 6.30pm. Quoth the blurb elves:
When undercover detective Cormac Kelly infiltrates a ruthless gang bent on kidnapping and extortion, he is forced to break cover and shoot his way out of a hostage situation gone bad. Tearing through the dangerous streets of Belfast with a twelve-year-old boy and his seriously injured father in tow, Kelly desperately tries to evade the gang and reconnect the family with the boy’s mother, football agent Lydia Gallagher. But she is in London, unaware of their freedom and being forced by the gang to betray her top client. As Kelly breaks every rule in the book and crosses the line from legit police officer to rogue cop on the run, the role of dapper but deadly ex-spook Stephen Black means the difference between life and death …
  For all the details, clickety-click here