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.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Maverick Genius Of The Week # 349: David M. Kiely

Just when we finally think we’re getting some kind of handle on the many-backed beast that is Irish crime fiction, up pops a true maverick. Take a bow, David Kiely, author of THE ANGEL TAPES (1997) and much more besides. But first, Mr & Mrs Kirkus on THE ANGEL TAPES, to wit:
The Dublin police are shocked and mystified when a bomb explodes under a busy city street, killing six and injuring many others, this just days before the state visit of the US President. Detective Superintendent Blade Macken, head of the investigation, takes the first call from the bomber, who, in an electronically disguised voice, names himself Angel and threatens more explosions if his demand for $25 million isn’t met. A frantic police search follows, with dogs below the streets hunting for devices planted years ago, along with harried consultations with American Ambassador Seaborg, his CIA man Lawrence Redfern, and police psychologist Dr. Earley. Meanwhile, the calls to Blade keep coming, revealing Angel’s familiarity with officers on the force and an eerie awareness of Blade’s every move. The detective has personal crises to deal with, too, mostly concerning his long-estranged wife Joan, their teenaged son and daughter, and Joan’s live-in lover, Jim Roche, owner of Centurion Security and an electronics gizmo expert. But Blade’s own heavy drinking and wenching habits don’t prevent him from making connections that eventually uncover Angel’s true identity and, in time, also reveal the past events that underlie the carnage. A first novel marked by breakneck pacing, slowed later by too many bloody encounters, too many subplots, and too much electronics babble. Unrelentingly raw language and graphic sex scenes may be off-putting to some, but, still, most readers will stick with this hard-bitten, tumultuous story to the finish. -- Copyright ©1997, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
“Drinking and wenching habits”, eh? Sounds like our kind of man. But David Kiely doesn’t just restrict himself to crime fiction. According to his interweb thingy, he’s currently ‘living in Mexico and working on a novel set in the early part of the 20th century’, AND ‘working on a literary-historical novel – MESOPOTAMIA – set largely in Paris in the 1920s’. Oh, and did we mention the sequel to HUCKLEBERRY FINN? Someone, somewhere, please put us in touch with David Kiely. At the very least we want to pick up a few tips on wenching … Meanwhile, anyone wanting to download the entire novel of THE ANGEL TAPES can go here, where Mr Kiely has kindly provided free downloads. Top bloke, eh?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Funky Friday’s Freaky-Deak

Yep, it’s the ever-irrelevant interweb mash-up, back by popular-ish demand. First off, John Boyne is back in business this year, when he publishes MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY, his take on that most benighted of sailing vessels, in May. Mind you, Simon Trewin, newly ensconced with United Agents, is referring to it as THE KING’S SHILLING. More confusion anon, no doubt … Meanwhile, it’s a belated congratulations to Tana French, given that her IN THE WOODS made the Top 10 Editors’ Picks of Mysteries and Thrillers for 2007 at Amazon US, the news – as indeed all the best news does – coming courtesy of Euro Crime. Not bad going for a debut novel, considering Tana is keeping company with the likes of Laura Lippman, Michael Chabon, Joe Hill, Charlie Huston and Chelsea Cain … Adopted Irishman and very much this season’s Black, PAYING FOR IT author Tony Black gets the nod from the Edinburgh Evening News as one of the city’s ‘rising stars’ for 2008. Actually, there’s tons of stuff going on with Tony Black right now, including a follow-up to the yet-to-be-published PAYING FOR IT (which received a rave from the venerable Sir Kenneth of Bruen) and a brand spanking new website, so we’ll do a proper post on him next week … The Irish Voice brings us the news that crime-writing priest Andrew M. Greeley publishes IRISH TIGER next month, vouchsafing the opinion that, “The unflappable Nuala is more than a match for evildoers everywhere, and her sleuthing skills make for a hugely entertaining new novel.” You had us at ‘Nuala’, people … Over at Edmund’s Saltmines, the news is that Benny Blanco’s THE SILVER SWAN will feature in the March issue of Vanity Fair, in the “Hot Type” column. Which is a pretty big deal, apparently … Finally, it’s time for some hot Irish-Canadian action, courtesy of John McFetridge, whose grainy black-and-white vid for EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE (to be released in July) does not, sadly, have Neil Young on the soundtrack. Boo. Ah well, it can’t be Mills & Boon every day, right? Cue the vid …

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Blood, Glorious Blood

Christmas hadn’t meant much to me in a long while, but I had always liked Advent, the way the anticipation was so intense it could make you clean forget the inevitable letdown in store, just like a bottle, or a woman. Although when a priest sends for a private detective three days before Christmas, the distinction between anticipation and let-down tends to blur: the only thing you can properly be prepared for is the worst.”
      Declan Hughes, THE PRICE OF BLOOD
Yep, it’s Dublin PI Ed Loy, courtesy of Ireland’s very own Ross Macdonald, Declan Hughes, whose latest Ed Loy novel THE PRICE OF BLOOD hits the shelves in March. The good news? It’s only the third in a proposed five-book series. The synopsis-style gist runneth thusly:
Father Vincent Tyrrell – brother of noted racehorse trainer FX Tyrrell – summons private investigator Ed Loy and then simply gives him the name of a missing man – Patrick Hutton – and expects him to take the case. When an exasperated Loy protests that a name does not a case make, Tyrrell pleads the sanctity of the confessional as an excuse for saying no more, but assures Loy the matter is sufficiently grave to merit an investigation.   Loy takes the case, in part because he is hard up for money, so much so that he is double-jobbing: hired by a young couple to find out who is dumping refuse on the green space across from their house, the trail leads Loy to an illegal dump where he finds the body of a young man; before the Guards arrive, Loy finds a phone number on the body, which also bears a distinctive tattoo. The number links to a prominent Dublin bookie who, in turn, links to FX Tyrrell.
  Meanwhile, a dark-haired beauty called Miranda Hart inveigles herself into Loy’s company, offering information about the Tyrrells and more besides. All the while Leo Halligan, the third and most dangerous of the Halligan organised crime family, is out of jail and on Loy’s trail for helping to send his brother down.
  When a body is discovered in a shallow grave on the Wicklow / Kildare border with the same tattoo as the first, Loy discovers it’s the distinctive tattoo sported by jockeys who ride for the Tyrrellscourt Stables: it all points to the body being Patrick Hutton’s, and to the trail leading to FX Tyrrell himself.
  Against the climactic backdrop of the Leopardstown Racecourse Christmas Festival – four days of racing that enthrall the entire country, from the punter lurching from pub to betting shop to the society ladies dining in private boxes high above the turf – as FX Tyrrell attempts to break the course record for winners, Ed Loy must let the light in on the secrets told in the dark of the confessional; he must uncover the blood spilt and the money spent, all the trading and dealing, the gambling and breeding that make up THE PRICE OF BLOOD.
There’s an actual price on blood now? God be with the days when you could have a pint of blood for a flagon of cider and 20 Woodbine, no questions asked …

Irish Crime Fiction, Eh? Now That Is A Novel Idea …

John Spain, literary editor at the Irish Independent, lamented the State of the Irish Novel back at the end of December, the gist of his piece running thusly:
“In that sense 2007 was another year in Irish fiction when not much emerged that was new or engaged with Celtic Tiger Ireland … It was more of the same misery, sexual unhappiness and navel-gazing. Isn’t it time our best writers got over themselves and started to tackle the Ireland of today? […] Non-fiction writers like historian Roy Foster and economist David McWilliams have been trying to capture the changes of the last 20 or 30 years in their most recent books. But so far our fiction writers – even the gifted [Anne] Enright – have dodged the challenge. It’s time to move on, guys.”
Erm, John? You might want to try, in no particular order, Gene Kerrigan, Ken Bruen, Tana French, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway, Andrew Nugent, Ingrid Black, Sean Moncrieff, Mia Gallagher … Actually, it’s a pretty long list of diverse stories and storytellers, with a common theme being that they’re all investigating what makes the Ireland of today tick. Just thought we’d mention it …

Going Underground-ish

As regular readers (hi, mum) of Crime Always Pays will be aware, we’re big, big fans of Seamus Smyth. Not the elves, obviously – they’re tiny big fans. But we think QUINN was one of the defining Irish crime narratives of the last decade, and we never could work out why Smyth was only big in Japan. Three cheers, two stools and resounding huzzah, then, for those impeccably tasteful French, where – a little mole-shaped birdie tells us – Smyth has recently signed a three-book deal for QUINN, RED DOCK and THE MOLE’S CAGE. Quoth Seamus:
“The best part is, they’re already written. And all three were bestsellers in Japan. Let’s hope the French are as enthusiastic.”
Being, erm, diligent researchers, the elves have winkled out the synopsis to THE MOLE’S CAGE, which runneth thusly:
In July 1972, 17-year-old Michael Hill is arrested crossing the border into the Irish Republic, interrogated and interned in Long Kesh, an ex-RAF airfield ten miles west of Belfast. The compounds (or ‘cages’), some two dozen, house several thousand men. He is put into Cage 5, nicknamed ‘the Moles’ Cage’ because inmates are forever doing what moles do – burrowing. They live in corrugated-iron Nissan huts – ovens in summer, fridges in winter. Conditions are akin, according to the Red Cross permanently stationed outside, to those of a WW2 POW camp. The only way out for Michael is to convince the army he is not IRA. Naturally they believe the IRA when they back him up. Many men are in the same Catch-22. And many of them are known to Michael. For him, walking into Long Kesh is like walking into a pub on the Falls Road – a sea of familiar faces, kids he went to school with, in some cases their fathers. One pal was interned because he had fuse wire in his toolbag, which can be used to make detonators – he’s an apprentice electrician. Another was interned because he delivered bread in Catholic areas and therefore, according to army logic, had to be in a position to know who was in the IRA and what they were planning. Milkmen got the same treatment. It’s a crazy world where justice has been removed and there’s nowhere to go for it. Michael’s forever trying to escape, but the IRA control the escape committees and they want their own men out, not non-members. Countless tunnels cave in because there’s no shoring. After years of fighting for decent food and better conditions, the IRA CO orders the place burnt to the ground. The men survive living out in all weathers for months, under ‘tents’ made from corrugated iron. But the charred remains bring opportunities – they can be used for shoring. A plan is hatched to dig a 200 foot tunnel, for the whole cage to escape, then each cage in turn under the cover of darkness …
Quoth Seamus:
“THE MOLE’S CAGE focuses on the experiences of the thousands of Catholics wrongly interned without charge or recourse to legal representation, not on the IRA. A lot’s been written about the H-Blocks but this story covers the four years before they were built, about which comparatively little has been written. It’s a first-person narrative told through the eyes of a streetwise teenager.”
Bon chance, Monsieur Smyth …

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Embiggened O # 1,002: In Which Independence Day Comes Seven Months Early

Nathan Cain flies the flag for indie publishing over at Independent Crime, bless his cotton socks, so we didn’t even have to threaten him with incriminating photographs to get him to review our indie-published humble offering THE BIG O, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“The book’s plot hinges on a lot of coincidences, but it’s not too difficult to suspend disbelief. The characters are sharply drawn, and Burke keeps thing short, never letting any one scene drag out too long. The real treat in THE BIG O is the dialogue, though. Burke has a knack for sharp banter, and it is a rare chapter that doesn’t have a witty exchange between characters.
  THE BIG O has flaws, but Burke is an up and comer. He’s recently made the jump across the Atlantic, landing at Harcourt, the US home of Allan Guthrie and Ray Banks. It’s clear that he’s a writer who deserves a wider audience, and will soon have a well-deserved shot at the big time.”
Thank you kindly, Mr Cain sir. If you ever need an alibi for any Abel-related unpleasantness, you know where to find us ...

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Hair Ye, Hair Ye …

That blummin’ John Connolly, eh? Never happy. Moan this, grouse that, whinge the other. He’s at it again over at his interweb blog thingy, now that his editors have come back with their verdicts on THE REAPERS, which isn’t even due until May 15. To wit:
“Waiting to hear what they think of a manuscript does nothing to contribute to a stress-free lifestyle on my part. As I’ve said before, I have a nagging fear that I’m a bit of a fraud, and that the latest novel will be the one that at last exposes my fraudulence and ineptitude to my editors. That fear is compounded when a book deviates in any way from what has gone before, as THE REAPERS does. It’s not quite an ‘entertainment’, to borrow Graham Greene’s description of his less tortured novels, but it is lighter than, say, THE UNQUIET. As soon as it went out to the editors, and my agent, I think I began tensing for the blow to come.
  As it happens, though, no blows have landed. Both of my editors – and my beloved agent – seem very happy with the manuscript, and have sent it straight into production. That doesn’t mean the book is already rolling off the presses, but it has gone to copy editors, and when the copy-edited manuscripts are returned to me they will have my editors’ comments included. There will be problems to be addressed, questions to be answered, but I won’t have to tear the book apart, and tear my hair out in the process.”
Hurrah! Because if there’s one thing perfect in this tragically imperfect world we inhabit, it’s John Connolly’s coiff. Oi, editor-types – leave THE REAPERS alone, okay? Because the last thing the world needs is John Connolly yammering on about hair-loss. Peace, out.

Shivers Down The Backbone: Yup, It’s The Inevitable Spinetingler Awards Reminder

In all the excitement of being nominated for the inaugural Spinetingler Magazine awards, and being too busy beating drums, gongs and chest on behalf of THE BIG O, which got a nod in the ‘Best Novel – New Voice’ category, we kinda forgot the season that was in it. In other words, a time of goodwill to all men (and women nominees too, natch). So, with Sandra Ruttan reminding us all that the closing date is January 5, we thought we’d take some time out from the Winterval frenzy to spread a little gentle cheer and ask you to open your hearts and spread the love, aka your precious vote. We’re not asking you to vote for THE BIG O, y’understand, partly because that would be unseemly, but mainly because even we know there are far better books in there than ours (we’re voting Allan Guthrie and Ken Bruen, by the way). No, the whole point is to maximise interest and participation on the basis that a rising tide lifts all boats. Quoth Sandra: “Oh, and for those of you who haven’t voted yet? 7 of the 8 categories are still too close to call …” So vote early, people, but not often: ONE EMAIL PER PERSON ONLY to , putting AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. And may the best man split his vote with the best woman, allowing THE BIG O to sneak up on the inside. You know it makes sense …

Monday, December 31, 2007

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “IN THE WOODS by Tana French complements an evening by the fire perfectly. Irish author French expertly walks the line between police procedural and psychological thriller in her brilliant debut,” reckon the folk at Amazon’s Kindle Blog. “French does a great job of ramping up the tension … I had seriously mixed feelings about the ending (though it was entirely suitable), but I read the whole thing in one sitting so it gets a B+,” says Word Nerdy. Meanwhile, Sarah Weinman confers her not-inconsiderable imprimatur thusly: “It could stand to be cut by 100 pages, yes, but it’s clear to me [Tana French] has plenty of talent to burn and refine in subsequent novels.” Onward to Claire Kilroy’s TENDERWIRE: “Claire Kilroy’s writing is dramatic and lyrical by turns and the exotic features are just colourful background for a good and substantial yarn,” says Alice Fordham at The Times … Staying with The Times: “It is the rich characterisation that makes [I PREDICT A RIOT] worthwhile, in particular a litigious prostitute and a carrot-cake-induced coma victim,” says John Cooper … “Another new series of note comes from Brian McGilloway, the first novel being the wonderful BORDERLANDS. How good to have a setting with a difference and a policeman whose major priority in his personal life is his family and not seeing the bottom of a bottle of spirits,” reckons Crime Fic at It’s A Crime!Shadrach Anki likes Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT: “The title character is a walking, talking, fire-throwing skeleton. You don’t get much spiffier than that, seriously. When you throw in snappy dialogue, fast-paced action, and more magic than you can shake a stick at, it only gets better.” Lovely … “The fact that everything is just slightly over the top, and the cast of characters are all such complete losers, is what makes this book so darkly funny … The body count is reminiscent of HAMLET, but the plot twists are more like a Coen brothers movie. Not for the squeamish, the sensitive or the literal, this book would be great for fans of Elmore Leonard and Quentin Tarantino,” says Rainbird at Ketchikan Public Library of the Ken Bruen /Jason Starr collaboration SLIDE … Ready for the obligatory John Connolly hup-yas? “THE UNQUIET is so literary in themes it cries for the author to be the next Jonathan Lethem inductee into the hallowed halls of literature that appeals to the masses,” says Ruth Jordan at Central Crime Zone. “There is something about the way that Connolly writes without giving way to the usual horrors. His stories are undeniably dark but he has created a brooding darkness implicated more by what his characters represent than what they actually do,” reckons Adam Shardlow at A Walk in the Dark Woods. Meanwhile, Sally Roddom at Reviewer’s Choice like’s Andrew Pepper’s THE LAST DAYS OF NEWGATE: “He has succeeded in conjuring up in my mind the time, place and history of the story. If you like historical mysteries, and don’t mind gore, then this book is worth a read.” Bicko at the Review Column goes for an overview of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, to wit: “As with the Harry Potter series, one thing I noticed was that as the series progressed, the themes of the books become more and more mature. Having read the entire series, I can safely say that the unique setting would draw the interests of both the young and old into the very possible scenario that we are not the smartest beings on this planet.” Donna Mansfield at Living With Books includes Adrian McKinty’s THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD in her 2007 Top 10: “McKinty is an extraordinary writer mixing scenes of violence, keen observation of Ireland today and lyrical soul-searching as Michael questions his life and years in exile.” Back to Sarah Weinman, via the ECW Press, for her verdict on John McFetridge’s DIRTY SWEET: “McFetridge describes a Toronto of opportunists, seedy deals, and double-crosses not unlike Elmore Leonard’s Detroit of James Ellroy’s Los Angeles, but his books are distinctly rooted in his home city’s rhythms and flavours.” Finally, they’re still coming in for Benny Blanco, aka Benjamin Black. First, CHRISTINE FALLS, via Faith McLellan: “A broodingly atmospheric period piece and a credit to its author, John Banville, who needn’t have used a pseudonym,” snooty-snoots William Grimes at the New York Times. “Quirke … is an endearing sleuth, not least because of his jaded eye and damaged soul. His struggles … are particularly poignant. Unique and deeply atmospheric,” says Cath Staincliffe at Tangled Web Reviews of THE SILVER SWAN. And Tom Adair of The Scotsman comes down on the side of big-up, just about, thusly: “You sense that Banville / Black found it easy and wrote it quickly, wrote it with relish – one of the reasons you enjoy it, despite a nagging feeling of hunger for something meatier on the inside.” Nothing worse than a heap of relish and no meat to spread it on, eh?

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Books Of The Year # 8: TWO-WAY SPLIT by Allan Guthrie

Being the continuing stooooooory of our ‘2007 Round-Up Of Books Wot My Friends Wrote’ compilation, by which we hope to make some friends for 2008. To wit:
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