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, October 5, 2007

The Embiggened O # 2,019: Is There Such A Thing As Too Much Good Karma?

Being the continuing stooooooory of a quack who has gone to the dogs … or our increasingly laboured attempts to get THE BIG O published in America. YOU decide! Anyhoo, the gist is that we’ve been persecuting writers to blurb our humble offering THE BIG O in order to get one toe in the door of the room where they make the bottom rung for the metaphorical ladders of the publishing industry. To date we’ve been fairly overwhelmed by the generosity of the response, with Allan Guthrie, Reed Farrel Coleman and Jason Starr all being kind enough to offer their opinions. Bill Crider went one better: not only did he respond in gratifyingly positive fashion, he even posted his review to his interweb page thingagummy. Bless you, Mr Crider, sir. If you haven’t time to juke over there, the juicy bits runneth thusly:
“THE BIG O is a very entertaining crime novel. It’s fast-moving, it has snappy dialogue, and it’s wickedly funny. It’s told in short chapters that concentrate on the individual characters and their situations. The plot builds and builds, and the climactic scenes really pay off … The book’s not yet available in the U. S., more’s the pity, but I was lucky enough to snag a review copy. Check it out if you get the chance.” – Edgar-nominated author Bill Crider
Bill? Our first-born is yours for the asking …

All The World’s A Stage, And Each Must Write Her Part

Ex-actress and current best-selling author Tana French (right) gets the kind of mild grilling you might expect in a Q&A session over at Penguin, but there’s some fascinating insights on offer nonetheless, not least of which is her assertion that she’s as much an actress when writing as when on stage, to wit:
Q: In addition to becoming an author, you have acquired a strong reputation as an actor. Why do you think IN THE WOODS came out of you in the shape of a novel, instead of a script or a screenplay?
TF: “This may sound strange, but writing IN THE WOODS as a novel was actually a lot closer to acting than writing a script or a screenplay would have been. The book is first person — everything is seen through Rob Ryan’s eyes, filtered through his perceptions and described in his voice. That was my job as an actor for years: to create a character and spend hours a day operating completely from her perspective. Writing IN THE WOODS was just an extension of that process. I played Rob Ryan for almost two years — on paper, rather than on stage, but the mental process was the same. To write the story as a script or a screenplay, I would have needed to work from a much more detached point of view, coming at it as an all-seeing outsider rather than as a character experiencing the story from inside, and I don’t have a clue how to do that. Working from inside is all I know.”
Method in her madness, eh? Stanislavski would surely have been proud …

Thursday, October 4, 2007

“Crucifixion? Second On The Left, One Cross Each.”

Nice to see the Donegal News praising Paul Charles for the authentic feel to the Donegal-set The Dust of Death, especially as the London-based scribe, the creator of Camden Town’s finest Christy Kennedy, originally hails from the neighbouring county of Derry. Mind you, Paul’s local knowledge is hardly surprising given that his wife is a Donegal woman and he’s been sniffing around Donegal as a location for a novel for some time now. Quoth Paul:
“I introduced Inspector Starrett when Christy Kennedy was solving a crime and returned to his native Portrush. I like to keep things factually accurate. I’d wouldn’t like my readers to be scoffing at something in the plot saying “Ah come on, that could never have happened,” so when it went cross-border he had to work in conjunction with Inspector Starrett. It made it much easier to write this first Donegal detective novel because he came to me already fully formed.”
Lovely stuff. Mind you, given that the novel opens with a crucifixion in the sleepy village of Ramelton, maybe we’d best lay off the ‘prophet recognised in his own country’ lines for now, eh?

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Thrills, Tills And Bellyaches

Some of the more lascivious elves here at Crime Always Pays have been lusting after the delectable Claire Kilroy (right) for some time now, although most of the elves tend to celebrate the more cerebral elements of her novels, ALL SUMMER and TENDERWIRE, both of which, if the reviews are anything to go by, are rather thrilling. But does the delectable Ms Kilroy consider herself a writer of thrillers? One particularly eagle-eyed elf (she was genetically engineered in a lab) spotted this exchange from an interview conducted by Declan Meade, editor of the Stinging Fly magazine, and published in the Winter 2006/07 issue, to wit:
Declan Meade: There’s an element of the thriller in both of the books, in how the story is told.
Claire Kilroy: “Certainly when all the reviews came out for TENDERWIRE, they were all saying it was a literary thriller, which I’m not sure about. You’re always a bit cautious to end up in a genre, and I’m not sure exactly what that genre is. The last review I got was in the TLS, and it said the publishers are pushing this as a whodunnit and it’s not. It’s one of those things: you want people to read your book, so if the publishers say calling it a whodunnit means that more people might buy it, even by accident, that’s fine – it’s better than people not buying it at all.”
Hurrah! Stupid thriller lovers send the tills ker-ching buying literary fiction by accident, and everyone’s a winner, especially the delectable Ms Kilroy! Glad that’s settled. Oops, no it’s not …
DM: We’ve spoken about plot and pace but your novels also have some beautiful descriptions and phrases that arrest the reader’s attention. How important is that aspect of the writing to you?
CK: “It means far more than pace. See, to me, the thriller is an inferior form. I’ve never read a thriller – so I shouldn’t say it’s an inferior form (laughs) – but I’m not interested. The one quasi-thriller I did read was MISS SMILLA’S FEELING FOR SNOW, and it started off great, but then it became just a thriller, so what’s the point? Language is the all, and trying to express specific experiences, emotional experiences, through imagery and metaphor, that is what it’s about.”
Erm, yes, possibly - if you’re a poet. The delectable Ms Kilroy appears to have forgotten that language is not in fact ‘all’, but is simply one of the tools available to a novelist telling a story. But lo! The delectable Ms Kilroy hasn’t forgotten that, because her novels are constructed in – shock! – linear narratives in which characters engage in – quelle horror! – criminal acts in order to further the – ooh, the humanity! – story! So is the delectable Ms Kilroy really the self-consciously literary snob she professes herself to be? Or doth the lady protest too much in order to perpetrate a hilarious post-modern double-bluff? YOU decide!

Actually, This Cromwell We Like

There’s a rare treat in the offing for Dublin’s crime flick fans at the IFI this coming Saturday (October 6): not only is there a big-screen showing of the superb LA Confidential, but Captain Dudley Smith, aka James Cromwell (right), will be in attendance for a Q&A with the Irish Times’ film critic, Donald ‘Don the Mon’ Clarke. Actually, truth be told, we’re only uploading this piece as an excuse to show you Don’s short movie, Pitch ‘n’ Putt With Joyce ‘n’ Beckett, which he wrote and directed and is without doubt the funniest film ever to come out of Ireland. Fact.

Crime Spraoi

Crikey! Has Irish crime fiction finally gone mainstream? There was a smashing piece in the Sunday Tribune, brilliantly titled ‘Crime Spraoi’, on the new breed of Irish crime writers, with the gist of the piece running thusly:
It seems we now have writers who have successfully absorbed the lessons of the past masters, and deployed them with an almost clinical skill in response to a society which is rapidly transforming. If anything, the detective novel or thriller is becoming a more accurate measure of what Irish society is now like than any other genre …
Hooray! The grubbikins have landed! The piece name-checks Tana French, Declan Hughes (above right, and Shamus-winner last weekend for Best First Novel), Paul Charles, Arlene Hunt and particularly the Irish crime-writing monk, Andrew Nugent, to wit:
In his latest novel, Second Burial, Andrew Nugent investigates the murder of the owner of a Nigerian restaurant in inner city Dublin, and the effect this has on the victim’s younger brother. Yet uniquely among the current group of crime fiction writers, Nugent is not directly influenced by past masters. Like Tana French, he cites Donna Tartt’s The Secret History as a seminal text, but that’s where the similarity ends. Instead Nugent claims his work as a theologian has had greater impact. Regarding his most recent spiritual book he claims that, “It comes from the same place within myself as the murder mysteries. They’re just two sides of the same coin, being as they are about the growth and development of people.” He is representative of a refreshing distinctiveness in a group of stylistically diverse writers.
Lumme! Crime writing is the new spirituality? That’s an acceptance too far, wethinks. Still, two thumbs up to the Trib for giving Irish crime writing some oxygen, albeit with two little caveats. Firstly, where the hell is Brian McGilloway? Is it ’cos he’s a Nordie? Secondly, on the very weekend the article was published, a certain Ken Bruen (left) was claiming his second Shamus, and a Barry to boot, at the Alaska Bouchercon. Did the Godfather of Modern Irish crime writing get a mention in the Trib piece? Erm, no. Seriously, there are days when we think we’ve only imagined Ken Bruen …

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: The History Of Things by Sean Moncrieff

It’s not a conventional crime novel by any means, and there’s a strong chance that Sean Moncrieff (who has previously published the crime novel DUBLIN) didn’t set out to write crime fiction with THE HISTORY OF THINGS, but this is nonetheless a fascinating tale rooted in criminality. What is most interesting is that there’s no murders, rapes, gory tortures or bank jobs gone wrong on offer here: the criminality is of a low-level but persistent variety, the kind that doesn’t make it into the headlines but remains an integral part of many people’s lives. When the Irish-born film director, Tomas Dalton, relocates from London to Dublin in the wake of his divorce, he moves back to his childhood stomping ground in north inner-city Dublin. Half-expecting to be hailed as a returning hero, and quickly disappointed, Tomas soon becomes the target of pranks perpetrated by a trio of juvenile delinquents, the eldest no more than 10 years old. Tomas, applying his brand of logic to the situation, retaliates in kind, and soon the practical jokes take on a much more sinister tone, as the tit-for-tat spirals down into threats, destruction and actual violence. Meanwhile, Tomas is trying to come to make sense of his life and the world around him, specifically in terms of the function of memory, all the while painfully aware that his powers of recall are diminishing by the day. Very much a slow burner of a novel, THE HISTORY OF THINGS rewards patience. Traditionally, the private eye investigates the era and culture as much as he or she probes a given case, and Dalton is very much Moncrieff’s avatar as he casts a cold eye on the post-Celtic Tiger landscape of modern Ireland. The personification of Ireland's unwillingness to confront its recent past, and a classic unreliable narrator even to himself during his stream-of- consciousness ramblings, Dalton is one of the most intriguing protagonists to emerge from mainstream Irish fiction in quite some time. – Declan Burke

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Embiggened O # 9,012: Some Weeks Are Better Than Others

Yep, it’s feast or famine here at the coal-face of independent publishing, folks. Not only did Reed Farrel Coleman give us a serious hup-ya yesterday, but Bill Crider has been kind enough to plug us on his blog – we’ll bring you the gory details when modesty prevails – AND the latest issue of Crime Spree Magazine has weighed in with a review, courtesy of uber-fox Jennifer Jordan (right). The juicy bits runneth thusly:
“It takes some big cojones for a writer to slap a title like [THE BIG O] on a piece of crime fiction. With Declan Burke, there is no lack in the cojones department. For those that have partaken in Burke’s EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, this book is utterly different. Burke has grown as a writer and THE BIG O is everything fans of dark, fast, tightly woven crime fiction could want … What could be an overly complicated and confusing book is well structured and well paced. By using clearly marked narrative separation, Burke skilfully lets the reader know what is going on with the entire cast, event by event. He does this seamlessly and with mordant humour. As each scene unfolds, tension mounts and hilarity ensues. And guess as the reader might, there is no way to predict how the finale will unfold.”
Jen? If we weren’t already married, you’d be applying for a restraining order right about now. Meanwhile, two of the generous souls over at Shots Mag – aka Ali Karim and Tony Black – have seen fit to post up a feature about our humble offering over at their interweb page thingagummy, lobbing us into the middle of some distinctly dubious-looking company that includes Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Cathi Unsworth and Robert Ferrigno. Consider our gob well and truly smacked. As for our gast, well, it’s never had a flabbering quite like it …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 549: Seth Harwood

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?
The answer’s got to be THE LONG GOODBYE. Other top choices would be THE GRIFTERS or MONA, aka GRIFTER’S GAME, by Lawrence Block.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I read a lot of non-fiction for the classes I teach, so sometimes it feels like the crime I read is my guilty pleasure. But lately I’m reading Denis Johnson when I feel like I’m supposed to be reading more crime novels. So Denis Johnson, I guess. He, Junot Diaz, and Ray Carver are still my favourite writers.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Without a doubt, my most satisfying writing moments have come on the days when I’ve finished the first draft of a novel. Those are the only days where I feel like, Damn, I need to go out and celebrate. Usually I take myself out to lunch. Once revision starts, nothing ever feels finished. Also, the day Jeremy Robinson agreed to publish JACK WAKES UP on his Breakneck Books label. I’m already getting excited about this coming Palm(s) Sunday, March 16th, the day it comes out. That’ll be pretty satisfying.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Ummm ... this is where I confess as to how woefully unread I am on Irish crime writers. Ken Bruen’s on the shelf close to my bed, and Al Guthrie tells me great things about THE BIG O. Seriously. But my favourite Irish writer has got to be Frank O’Connor. His THE LONELY VOICE is the best book about writing I’ve read. Period.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst? Sometimes just having to stick to your guns, wait out the world, and hope that everything will work out. Sometimes the hope is all there is. Best? The days I finish writing and don’t feel like there’s more to do, the days I actually feel good enough about how everything’s going that I get out and take the dog for a good walk in the sun. Those times, those are the gold. But I guess that’s more about the “having written” than about the writing. Best thing about the writing? Getting lost in it and totally pulled into the story I’m creating. This, when this happens and the story actually comes along and surprises me ... those moments are awesome!
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Jack Palms is back in San Francisco and an SF cop just got killed. When a few young Russian sex slaves start turning up dead, Jack has to find the connection and stop who’s responsible before any more girls--or cops!--get bumped off.
Who are you reading right now?
Denis Johnson’s TREE OF SMOKE, Cornell Woolrich, and whatever I get in the mail from Hard Case Crime.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Talk, act, shoot.

Seth Harwood’s JACK WAKES UP will be published in March 2008.

Monday, October 1, 2007

The Embiggened O # 491: Holy Moly, It’s Reed Farrel Coleman!

Being the latest adventure in our continuing odyssey adrift on the perilous seas of independent publishing … You may or may not recall that we’ve been persecuting various writers to give THE BIG O a bit of a hup-ya, the better to improve our paltry chances of getting our humble offering published in the USA. Anyhoo, we dropped Reed Farrel Coleman a line, slavered a little, doffed the cap we’d bought specially for the occasion, and then asked if he’d mind reading our grubby little tome. And lo! He did! What’s more, he actually blurbed the hell out of it, to wit:
“No such thing as coincidence? Don’t tell that to the glorious band of cast-offs and misfits that populate the pages of Declan Burke’s uncanny THE BIG O. With a deft touch, Burke pulls together a cross-genre plot that’s part hard-boiled caper, part thriller, part classic noir, and flat out fun. From first page to last, THE BIG O grabs hold and won’t let go.” – Reed Farrel Coleman: Shamus, Barry, and Anthony Award-winning Author of THE JAMES DEANS
All of which is lovelier than Nicole Kidman guesting on trumpet break in a Forever Changes-era Love cover band. But the best thing(s)? Reed Farrel Coleman owes us nothing, needs us for nothing, and can gain absolutely nothing by doing us a favour. Better still, THE JAMES DEANS is one hell of a read, and Moe Prager – for those in the know – is the realest of private eye deals. So are we happy? To paraphrase Leonard ‘Laughing Lenny’ Cohen, we haven’t been this happy since the end of World War II ...

The Monday Review

Let’s just get the inevitable John Connolly review out of the way early, shall we? “Connolly has a knack for creating the worst kind of bad characters, and the baddies in THE UNQUIET are no exception … A triple-layered terror cake with blood cherries on top,” says Natalie Lubbe over at The Citizen … Sophie Hannah predicts Tana French will be a star of the future up yonder at The Scotsman, to wit: “Her first novel, IN THE WOODS, is out already and her second (I hope) will be out next year. IN THE WOODS is stunning.” Which is very nice … “The old-fashioned appeal of Harrison’s prose opens up a new world while harkening back to the way writers like Ellis Peters fashioned their historical mysteries,” purrs Sarah Weinman of Cora Harrison’s MY LADY JUDGE at the Baltimore Sun … “I loved this book! It’s my favourite book in the Artemis Fowl series so far … The ending was crazy; I can’t wait for the next book in the series!” reckons Rose of Malice of Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY … Staying with a younger audience, Hurrah4Books rather liked Siobhan Dowd’s THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, to wit: “I loved this book. It’s a gripping read - definitely recommend it.” Meanwhile, Maxine Clarke at Maxine’s Book Reviews is keen on Gene Kerrigan’s latest: “I loved everything about this book. THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR is truly bleak, at times violent and disturbing, but always brilliant. The way in which the plots overlap and sometimes merge in a horridly inevitable cause and effect is masterly.” Mistery Scream concurs: “It’s Kerrigan’s firm control of the procedural genre and the breathtaking twist he gives his plot that show him to be a master of the form. Gripping crime fiction in which the setting is unequivocally the protagonist.” Loverly jubberly … Keiran at The Book Crowd is impressed with 12:23: “[Eoin] McNamee’s ability to portray the inner nuances of so many different characters creates a rich and plausible cast. Even if you don’t like the topic, you will be entranced by the atmosphere created,” quoth Keiran. Claire Kilroy’s debut novel, ALL SUMMER, gets a belated big-up from Murder By The Book, to wit: “John Kenny’s review in The Irish Times summed up the unsettling but unputdownable quality of this book well: “Kilroy has strikingly combined a poetic sense of language with a commitment to the narrative thrills of good storytelling …We have here an unusual phenomenon: a novelist who knows the occult powers of descriptive language.” If you like your mysteries neat and tidy, you may want to give this one a miss, but if you enjoy the unexpected and unusual, this one will make you shiver.” Meanwhile, Susanna Yager at The Telegraph likes Ruth Dudley Edwards’ MURDERING AMERICANS: “The story veers between farce, which is often hilarious, and the deadly serious. Judging by the rapturous quotes on the cover, Americans, at least those who reviewed the book, make up for any other shortcomings with a good sense of humour.” Finally, and appropriately enough given that he’s just scooped a second Shamus Award, among others, Crime Spree Magazine are on a bit of a Ken Bruen splurge. “AMMUNITION is another Inspector Brant novel and it rocks … Great read again. Hail Mr. Bruen,” says Jon here, before following it up with hup-ya for the latest Bruen / Jason Starr collaboration, SLIDE: “Bruen and Starr have delivered another great book that crime fictions fans can rally around, pure fun on every page. Over at Bookgasm, Rod Lott is of a mind to agree: “Like those miscreants who populate Elmore Leonard novels, SLIDE’s characters are the slimiest of the slime, yet somehow an utter joy to follow … For a crude, rude and tastefully tasteless trip with society’s underbelly, SLIDE is the ride of the season.” And so say all of us …

The Man Who Put The ‘Huge’ Into ‘Hughes’

Is it just us, or is it starting to look like some kind of Irish crime writing invasion over in the U.S.? Ken Bruen nabbed an impressive haul of awards at the Alaska Bouchercon over the weekend, but he wasn’t the only Irish page-blackener to pilfer a gong. Step up Declan Hughes, who won a Best First Novel Shamus for THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, as reported to us first by The Rap Sheet. Characterised as an Irish Ross Macdonald, Hughes has the follow-up, THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, already published, with a little Declan Hughes-shaped birdie whispering that there’s a third written and ready to rock ‘n’ roll. Our advice? Batten down the hatches for declanhughesmania. And, yes, we’ve just invented that. Just trips off the tongue, don’t it?

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bruen Up A Perfect Storm

Well, it was almost perfect – Sir Kenneth of Bruen didn’t exactly sweep the boards at the Alaska Bouchercon, but he gave them a damned good polishing. First he picked up the Barry Award for Best British Novel for Priest, then went one better by claiming the Shamus (again!) in the Private Eye Writers of America’s competition, for The Dramatist. Not content with that, he then scooped a Crime Spree Magazine gong for American Skin in the, erm, Best Ken Bruen Book of the Year Award. Not bad for a Galway lad, eh? And leaving aside the semi-mythical '2nd Shamus' win, the fact that Bruen won awards for separate titles would have been a marvellous achievement in itself, except for the fact that he was nominated – along with Jason Starr – in yet another category, Best Paperback Original in the Barrys, and for yet another title, Bust. Which makes it even more wonderful than marvellous, if such a thing is possible. The big question: could it have happened to a nicer guy? We think not … The bigger question: will the achievement warrant a mention in the Irish media? Again, sadly, we think not … Meanwhile, full details of winners and losers in all categories are available at The Rap Sheet.

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Tana French’s In The Woods has been this year’s Irish publishing phenomenon, the ex-actress garnering a veritable rain-forest of big-up reviews on her way to pole-vaulting onto the New York Times best-seller list earlier this month. The good news is that In The Woods goes into mass market paperback release this week (jazzy new cover, right), and the better news is that Crime Always Pays – courtesy of the ever-lovely people at Hodder Headline Ireland – have three copies to give away. To be in with a chance of winning one, just tell us if the sequel to In The Woods will be called …
(a) The Similarity
(b) The Likeness
(c) The Virtually Indistinguishable Clone-Like Replication
Drop us a mail at the address in the top right of the blog, putting ‘Tana French competition’ in the subject line. And remember, people – if you’re not in, you can’t lose …