Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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.

Friday, September 14, 2007

It’s All McNamee, Me, Me With Him

It’s an oldie but a goodie – we really couldn’t resist this snippet from an interview the Belfast Telegraph conducted with Eoin McNamee (right) a couple of weeks back, to wit:
Q: Are you quite a dark person and difficult to live with when you’re writing?
A: “I draw things very close to me when I write and often emerge blinking into the sunlight. I don’t think I’m difficult to live with but I’ve been told I get quite intense. I remember noticing my six-year-old crawling past the table where I was working, with his leg bent oddly and pushing one foot. When I asked him what he was doing he said he was playing at being a piece of rubbish so he wouldn’t disturb me. I think I took the next month off after that.”
Seriously – we still don’t know whether to laugh or cry …

Funky Friday’s Free-For-All: Being A Cornucopia Of ‘Weekend Ho!’ Interweb Baloohaha

Greetings and salutations to muso-head, glamarama media babe and all-round good elf Sinead Gleeson (right), back on the interweb from blogging’s equivalent of maternity leave at the award-winning The Sigla Blog … huzzah! And felicitations too to Rhian over at It’s A Crime! (Or A Mystery!), back in the blogging saddle (the 'bladdle'?) after way too long away. Nice to have you back, ma’am. Please don’t go away again … Would you get away with murder? Try the quiz over at Quiz Galaxy, which the pesky elves discovered when they were slacking off and perusing The Rap Sheet instead of slaving in the dungeon … Kelli Stanley, who recently stood up to the best that the Crime Always Pays’ interrogation elves could throw at her, has Convivium, a short story in her unique Roman Noir style, available over at the very fine Hard Luck Stories … The Childrens' Books Ireland website had a major overhaul last week; drop by and say hello ... Staying with kids’ books, why not drop by The Third Pig Detective Agency, where Harry Pigg – y’know, the little piggie who was smart enough to build his house out of bricks – is snuffling for truffles on the mean streets of fairytale-land. The elves are bigging him up Irish-style, in the vain hope he’ll one day get around to investigating their abduction and incarceration in the Crime Always Pays palace. Aye, and pigs will … oh. Erm, forget that - here's a sample chapter from Bob Burke (aka Mr Pigg) instead ... Finally, to mark the occasion of the UK release of 3:10 to Yuma, we just felt like an Elmore Leonard fix – check out the first part of World Class Detroiters, wherein Dutch gets interviewed, does a reading, and humbly avoids acknowledging he’s the Greatest Living Writer on the Planet. “When Leonard releases a new book, it’s like Christmas morning.” Amen, brother …

Thursday, September 13, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 697: Charles Kelly

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?
Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis, re-issued in connection with the Michael Caine movie as Get Carter. “Hard-boiled” doesn’t even begin to tell the story. The main character is tough to the bone, the dialogue is chillingly understated, and the bleak atmosphere is perfectly rendered. It’s been called the best thriller ever written, and I agree.
What do you read for guilty pleasures?
My guiltiest pleasure read last year was Men’s Adventure Magazines, a history of men’s adventure magazines in post-war America. It mostly consists of covers and illustrations from the ultra-lurid mags that I used to inhale as a boy: sweating adventurers being attacked by locusts as big-breasted women in skimpy, often torn, garments swoon nearby; gutsy American soldiers gunning down Nazis while big-breasted women in skimpy, often torn, garments swoon nearby; blood-covered pirates repelling boarders while big-breasted … (well, you know).
Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting an e-mail on my PDA saying J.T. Lindroos at Point Blank Press would accept my novel Pay Here for publication. This after writing six novels, having three of them agented, and having none of them sell. I love the Point Blank Press writers – Ray Banks, Allan Guthrie, Duane Swierczynski, and all the others – and it was humbling and thrilling to know I would be joining that select group. Second-most satisfying moment: Walking into The Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookstore in my hometown of Scottsdale, Arizona, and seeing a big, lovely display of about 20 hardcovers of Pay Here.
The best Irish crime novel is. . .?
It’s hard to beat The Killing of the Tinkers by Ken Bruen. But I’m also a big fan of Dublin by Sean Moncrieff. Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman is also great fun.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think Dublin would suit the big screen just fine. It’s got action, drugs and intrigue. Colin Farrell could play the lead, but he would have to develop a pot belly. Don’t know if he’s willing to do that.
Worst/best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing about being a writer is waiting for years (sometimes many years) for the pay-off (the emotional pay-off, that is. Where’s the money in this game?). The best thing is the process, just going into the trance of writing and solving the storytelling problems. Christ, it’s fun!
The pitch for your next novel is. . .?
Old murders die hard. No one knows that better than crime reporter Michael Callan, who’s out to pin one on a friend.
Who are you reading right now?
Jason Starr, Ray Banks and Gil Brewer. Jason was up after me at my recent book signing at The Poisoned Pen, so I got him to sign his latest, The Follower. I’m reading that one and gobbling it up like candy, as I do with all of his books. I’m also reading Ray Banks’ Donkey Punch. Hard-nosed doesn’t get any better. The Vengeful Virgin by the late Gil Brewer is the selection for September to be read by our Hard-Boiled Discussion Group at the Poisoned Pen. Sexual obsession: love it.
The three best words to describe your own writing are. . ?
Too. Damn. Punchy.

Charles Kelly’s Pay Here is available at all good bookstores.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

That Ken Bruen, He’s No Oil Paint … Oh.

So there the elves were, merrily surfing the interweb for elf-porn, and lo! What did they stumble across? None other than Ken Bruen, immortalised in oils on KT McCaffrey’s new interweb page thingy. Quite where Sir Kenneth of Bruen found the time to pose for the portrait is beyond us – according to the rat-face fink canaries in the aviary out back of Crime Always Pays Towers, he’s currently finishing two books to deadline. As in, simultaneously. One with the right hand, apparently, the other with the left … Seriously, though, we fully understand the rush – after all, Ken’s only published Cross and Ammunition already this year, with Slide to come next month. Word around the aviary is, he’s scheduled in some well- deserved breathing time for next Easter … Meanwhile, if you need a quick catch-up to see what Bruen novels you missed out on when you blinked last week, check out Ali Karim’s appreciation over at Shotsmag.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Two-Way Split by Allan Guthrie

“The holdall sat on the bed like an ugly brown bag of conscience.” Fans of classic crime writing will get a kick or five out of Two-Way Split, and we’re talking classic: Allan Guthrie’s multi-character exploration of Edinburgh’s underbelly marries the spare, laconic prose of James M. Cain with the psychological grotesqueries of Jim Thompson at his most lurid. And yet this is by no means a period piece. Guthrie’s unhurried, deadpan style is timeless even as it evokes the changing face of modern Edinburgh, as seen through the eyes of the novel’s most sympathetic character, Pearce – although sympathetic is a relative term, given that Pearce has been recently released from prison after serving a ten-stretch for premeditated murder. The most delicious aspect of the tale is its refusal to indulge in the sturm und drang of hyperbolic gore, despite being couched in the narrative of a revenge fantasy. Instead, and while it fairly bristles with the frisson of potential violence at every turn, Guthrie cranks up the tension notch by notch by the simple expedient of having his characters grow ever more quietly desperate as the pages turn. The result is a gut-knotting finale that unfurls with the inevitability of all great tragedy and the best nasty sex – it’ll leave you devastated, hollowed out, aching to cry and craving more. – Declan Burke

As He Sows, So Shall He Reap

John Connolly always gives his readers full value for money, and not only when they buy his books. His blog offers a rare and fascinating insight into the process of writing, particularly during the creative phase, when Connolly himself isn’t entirely sure of how an unpolished story will turn out. Brave stuff, especially from a best-seller who has nothing to gain from allowing readers a peek behind the curtains. At the moment he’s talking about next year’s The Reapers, to wit:
“Still, at least The Reapers now has a beginning, a middle, and an end that, to be honest, was a little surprising to me. Then again, that’s one of the pleasures of not planning the novels down to the last detail: in the process of writing them themes begin to emerge, so that what might have begun life as an aside in the first chapter becomes, by the end, the basis for the book’s defining moment. Maybe I’m a little more optimistic about the novel than I was earlier in the year. As this draft has proceeded the book, I think, has become more interesting. What began life as a light novel has assumed darker overtones. It will be an odd read, I suspect. I remember a British critic once commenting on Angel and Louis to the effect that she believed I found them funnier than they actually were. In fact, I’ve always been ambivalent about them, and that ambivalence finds its fullest expression in The Reapers. It becomes clear that they, along with Parker, the Fulcis, and Jackie Garner, are damaged individuals, and anyone who enters their sphere of influence believing otherwise is deluded. And so, as the book develops, their banter becomes a kind of denial of reality, a means of distancing themselves from the damage that they inflict upon others.”
The Reapers, due next May and still officially untitled, can be pre-ordered here

The Day The Music Was Massacred

Hodder Headline Ireland publish The Miami Showband Massacre this week, the events of an infamous episode during the Troubles narrated by survivor and ex-band member Steve Travers (right), and the blurb elves have been grinding their quills down to stumps thusly:
In the early hours of 31 July 1975, The Miami Showband was stopped at a military checkpoint. As they were held at gunpoint outside their WV minibus, a bomb that – unknown to the band members – was being loaded on to their bus exploded prematurely destroying the bus and catapulting the band members into a nearby field. As Stephen Travers lay seriously wounded in the field he listened to the cries of his friends as they were mercilessly gunned down and the steps of the gunmen getting closer … Here is his story. What is it like to survive such an atrocity? To live when those around you die? Now Stephen Travers remembers the highs and lows of being in one of the most successful showbands of the 1970s and how it all ended in a terrifying moment. In a moving and honest quest for truth and reconciliation, he tries to come to terms with what happened as he looks for the answers as to why his friends were killed. Stephen wants to understand but will he find the answers when he meets the men responsible for the massacre face to face?

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Embiggened O # 944: Yet More Evidence For The Prosecution

Just when we thought we were out, they drag us back in … Yep, ’tis another hup-ya for our humble offering The Big O, this time courtesy of those wonderful people at Reviewing the Evidence. We know you’re busy and don’t have time to read all the negative comments Sharon Wheeler made, so for your convenience we’ve hacked out the couple of big-ups at the start and end, to wit:
“A polished, sharp as a tack and witty caper novel … If you’re a fan of the likes of Steve Brewer and Carl Hiaasen, you’ll devour The Big O. It marries a mastery of the caper novel with the sharp writing of a Ken Bruen. Declan Burke is undoubtedly a writer to watch.”
Sharon? Flattery will get you everywhere. Or to Bali, at least. A return ticket is going in the post as you read …

Monday, September 10, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 347: Declan Hughes

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?
It’s a toss-up between The Glass Key by Dashiell Hammett and The Galton Case by Ross Macdonald. Hammett’s book, the first crime - as opposed to detective - novel, remains a marvel for its style, its complex, cynical grasp of urban politics and its deft exploration of manners, a crucial area for the hardboiled as much as the cosy side of the house. The Galton Case is The Great Gatsby of crime novels, with its inquiry into the father-son legacy, personal self-reinvention and the limits of the American dream; Macdonald squared the circle of hard-boiled action and social /psychological comment with masterful plotting. I honestly believe he’s still The Master; no-one else has even come close.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Edmund Crispin’s Gervais Fen books. They’re absurdly snobbish, deeply silly, clever-clever Golden Age mysteries (although written in the late forties/ early fifties) laden with literary quotation, facetious humour and pretty much everything I don’t generally enjoy in a crime novel, but there’s something about them I find immensely comforting, particularly when you’ve just delivered a new book and are a) totally wrecked, and b) terrified to read anyone you normally would in case you remind yourself of just how good they are, and thereby of your own inadequacies.
Most satisfying writing moment?
One of them was the opening night of my first play, I Can’t Get Started – based on the life of Dashiell Hammett – at the 1990 Dublin Theatre Festival. The dawning realisation that the audience wasn’t going to walk out in boredom or fury, that they would in fact stay and applaud at the end, that a full house of people who wouldn’t have been at all upset if they’d hated it (Dublin audiences can be tough) apparently enjoyed an evening based on words I’d written ... there was pretty good drinking that night.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I think I’ll stick with the dead, just to be on the safe side. Raymond Chandler could have played for Ireland in the Jack Charlton years: his mother was from Waterford. But that would be way too cheeky. But we can certainly claim C. Day Lewis, writing as Nicholas Blake – The Private Wound is set in the west of Ireland just before the second world war. Lots of dubious priests and ex-IRA malarkey.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
The Private Wound. It was in the works for a while, because I once had a meeting with the producers. I think Ronan Bennett did a screenplay – he did them all for a few years – but it doesn’t seem to have gone any further.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is the solitariness, and eventually the hours. But they can be the best things as well, although obviously the hours are a lot nicer when you’re happily starting a book than they are when you’re desperate to finish it. And while you don’t get to meet people at work, or leave the house, it’s nice some January mornings as the traffic backs up on the M50 and the sleet carries in on the wind to know that your commute to work is the arduous trek from the kitchen to the study.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
I wonder if it started as a hat-tip to Richard Stark AKA Donald Westlake, whom he has long admired. It strikes me that Benjamin Black is having a whale of a time writing crime. The question might well, be, will he ever use his John Banville nym again?
Who are you reading right now?
What The Dead Know by Laura Lippman is a stunning piece of work: psychologically complex, laced with shrewd wit, it draws you in delicately, without showing its hand; when the major revelation finally comes, it’s all the more shocking because you haven’t been entirely aware you were reading a thriller. And like everyone else, I’m loving Peter Temple: The Broken Shore is an absolute classic. At the moment, I’m in the middle of the second Jack Irish book, Black Tide. Great stuff. Jack Irish? We can claim him, can’t we?
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
John Connolly tends to have better words than most. Three he used to describe my first book were: Witty, violent and moving. I may blush, but who am I to argue?

Declan Hughes’ The Colour of Blood is available everywhere they appreciate good writing.

Let’s Talk About Text, Baby

John Baker (right) has been running a fascinating exercise over at his blog for the last month or so, asking a host of writers to document their personal experiences of ‘Creating a Text’. Borderlands author Brian McGilloway’s contribution can be found here, while Declan Burke’s humble offering is skulking way back here, muttering manically to itself and blushing furiously if anyone so much as glances in its direction. Baker describes his blog as ‘the reflections of a working writer and reader’. Working writer? Okay, we’re fine with that. But we particularly like the idea of a working reader …

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, let’s roll. “[Declan] Hughes seems bent on doing the same thing for Dublin that Ross Macdonald did for the Los Angeles area … [He] twists and turns his characters and events so much that even a close reader has to stay on his toes in order to keep that. And the writing is packed with detail, emotion, and history. This is a gifted storyteller at work,” reckons Mel Odom of The Colour of Blood over at Blog Critics … Let’s get the inevitable John Connolly review out of the way early this week, eh? “Gimmicks aside, complex hero Parker is the chief draw in The Unquiet — he’s got a revenge-inspired evil streak to him, but metes out justice freely to those who truly deserve it. B,” says Tanner Stransky at Entertainment Weekly … They’re still coming in for Gene Kerrigan’s The Midnight Choir: “A ripping crime tale, impressive in scope and crackling with energy, as well as a fascinating portrait of contemporary Ireland,” says Mr & Mrs Kirkus, via Barnes & Noble … Frank Wilson at the Philly Inquirer likes Benny Blanco’s Christine Falls: “There’s mystery aplenty, but if you’re looking for fast-paced excitement, look elsewhere. Christine Falls offers a subtler, deeper satisfaction than just finding out whodunit.” Lovely … Be warned that it’s subscription only, but the Romantic Times has given Cora Harrison’s My Lady Judge a four-star review … “The suspense makes this a page-turner until the climax, as Collins’s plot combines academic satire, philosophical speculation and tragedy,” reckon Mr & Mrs Kirkus of Michael Collins’ Robert E. Pendleton, via Barnes & Noble Brace yourself for another flood of Derek Landy / Skulduggery Pleasant big-ups, beginning with Christina over at her Live Journal: “The essential seriousness of the quest is nearly (but not quite) lost in the humorous episodes and witty quips; I often found myself laughing out loud. This was a very quick, enjoyable read.” Wyvern Friend at Library Thing concurs: “Interestingly complex, the characters aren’t always just black and white and betrayal is a strong motif. The idea of an animated skeleton as hero is interesting too.” Meanwhile, Sheila at Wands and Worlds goes above and beyond the call of duty: “Skulduggery Pleasant is one of those books that you just can’t put down. It’s exciting, it’s funny, and it’s filled with interesting characters doing interesting things … a fun, fun book that will appeal to kids and adults who love adventure, excitement, magic, and humour.” Can’t say fairer than that … A couple of reviews courtesy of the Irish Aires interweb page, first for Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome - “Narrated by the unforgettable voice of Julius himself – at once compassionate, vulnerable and threatening – it reads like a timeless, lost classic.” And then for He Who Must Be Called Bateman’s I Predict A Riot: “Colin Bateman’s hugely witty new novel will take you to the darker corners of a city bursting with intrigue, extortion, greed, love, murder, carrot cake and every twist, turn and outrage of human behaviour in between.” Upward and onward with Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and The Lost Colony, via Tyler at Avoir Lu: “In the penultimate Artemis Fowl book, the series manages to get even weirder than before. The story is just as lively and interesting but a little disturbing with Artemis’s switching digits and gaining magical abilities.” Finally, yet more hup-yas for Adrian McKinty’s The Bloomsday Dead, via Powell’s Books: “Bullets fly and Joycean literary references ricochet everywhere,” purrs the New York Times; “Reading any of McKinty’s novels is a verbal treat, a contact high of an experience,” yodels the Rocky Mountain News, while the Booklist chips in with a starred review that runneth thusly, “Michael Forsythe is a virtuoso mayhem machine — except when it comes to handling his fatal attraction to Bridget Callaghan, the ex-girlfriend turned New York Irish mob boss who’s been trying to kill him for a decade ... Raise a glass; young Forsythe will be missed.” And so say all of us.

Always Judge A Book By Its Judge

Keep a weather eye on Cora Harrison, people – her debut novel, My Lady Judge (released in the US on September 18), which centres on the medieval Irish Brehon judge Mara, has been nominated as a ‘notable’ September release by no less august an outfit than the American Booksellers Association. Cora, as you might imagine, is rather pleased by the development, to wit:
“The first time that I knew My Lady Judge had been picked by the American Booksellers Association for their September list of twenty ‘notables’ was when my agent in UK emailed me to say that he had just seen it on a magazine called ‘Publishers’ Lunch’. I must say that I was pretty excited. Although I am only nineteenth out of the twenty recommended books, it still was quite unexpected – especially given the number of books published every day in the States. The book will be out in a week’s time and then we’ll see how it goes. The American publishers, St Martin’s Press, are playing up its Irishness very much, with a Celtic-mist-type cover and a subtitle of ‘A Medieval Irish Mystery’. However, the book may not be what an American audience regards as ‘Irish’. Mara, my main character, is no Irish colleen, but a tough, practical woman with a degree of education which would be way beyond what is expected of lawyers nowadays. One of Queen Elizabeth 1’s fact-finders reported of the Brehons that they spoke Latin ‘as if it were their native tongue.’ I keep wondering how the intricacies of Brehon Law, and the fact that the judge is a woman, will go down in America. Personally, I think that Brehon Law is fascinating, especially with its emphasis on the rights of woman. One of my readers on Amazon UK said that she loved the bit where a woman could divorce her husband if he got too fat! Perhaps this would not be popular in America. However, I did see that the Poisoned Pen Mystery Bookshop wrote: ‘You have to read [My Lady Judge] to get the full impact of its charm. I predict a big US hit in September so beat the rush.’ It would be lovely if that comes true.”
And only slightly less lovely than the delightful Cora Harrison, if the truth be told.

The Popcorn Interlude # 246: 3:10 To Yuma

Based on the 1957 Glenn Ford / Van Heflin original as much as it is on the Elmore Leonard short story, 3:10 to Yuma sees Russell Crowe and Christian Bale go head-to-head, struggling rancher Bale trying to get charming bad egg Crowe onto the train that’ll take him to Yuma and a scaffold. A dirty, sweaty, hairy western, this offers a fine psychological battle leavened by good old-fashioned shoot-em-’ups, with Ben Foster and Peter Fonda among the supporting cast, the former Crowe’s psychotic gay lieutenant, the latter a grizzled Pinkerton agent with a somewhat less than spotlessly clean conscience. The tension is built up nicely by director James Mangold as the various clocks tick towards 3:10, a la High Noon, but the overall impact is a little spoiled by the last ten minutes, when Crowe’s previously impeccable ruthless streak gets a miraculous overhaul for no apparent reason. Still, if you’re into the whole horse opera revival, this one is up there on a par with Open Range. **** Michael McGowan