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.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

My Daddy’s Santa Wish-List

“Hi, my name is Lily. My daddy, Ol’ Sillyput, is currently seeing four keyboards and three PC monitors as a result of the ongoing ‘Operation Eggnog’, so he has asked me to wish everyone a very happy Christmas and an even happier New Year. If you’re reading this, Santa, here’s Daddy’s wish-list:
World peace
The Subbuteo Dukla Prague away kit
Two front teeth
An extra hour’s writing time – per day – in 2009
A modicum of talent
Good health and happiness for all Crime Always Pays readers
For each and every Irish crime writer to buck economic and industry trends to become rich beyond their wildest dreams and / or pay the mortgage, depending on which is the more reasonable aspiration
  “And that’s it. Have a good one, people, and we’ll see you all back here again in January. Boopy-doop!”

Sunday, December 21, 2008

God Bless Us, Every One

Just the other day I was wondering how books fared during the Great Depression, in terms of the kind of books being written and their sales. Our Florida correspondent, aka Michael Haskins, sends us Tom Engelhardt’s answer, which comes via the Los Angeles Times. Warning: if you’re a writer, this piece might well ruin your Christmas. To wit:
As for the third factor fostering the illusion of prosperity, it was well known in the business that, during the Depression, books, like movies, had done splendidly. They were an inexpensive distraction, consumable at home at a time when not much else pleasurable was going on. Ergo, books would be no less recession-proof in the next big downturn.
There was no reason to believe otherwise ... unless you happened to focus on just how many dazzling entertainment options had, in the interim, entered the American home at prices more than competitive with the book. After all, most Americans can now read endlessly on the Internet, play video games, download music, watch movies and even write their own novels without stepping outside. The $27.95 hardcover and the $15.95 paperback, meanwhile, are hardly inexpensive. Publishers nonetheless clung to this bit of Depression-era lore for dear life as economic bad times bore down. Wrongly, as it turned out …
  The book remains a techno-wonder that not even the Kindle has surpassed. But it’s a wonder in a very crowded entertainment universe and a world plunging into the worst of times. The chain bookstore, the bloated publishing house and the specific corporate way of publishing that goes with them are indeed in peril. This may no longer be their time. As for the time of the book, it does seem to be shortening as well.
  All of which is pretty gloomy, it has to be said. But here’s the thing: for writers like me, by which I mean someone who isn’t making enough money out of writing to justify doing it, nothing has changed. I’ll keep writing anyway, hoping someone will pick up my next book, and the next book after that. Besides, what else would I be doing with those three spare minutes a day?
  Meanwhile, publishers can’t afford not to support their big sellers, and they can also afford to take relatively cheap punts on the bottom-feeders, hoping that one or two of them will pay off. Which means that it’s probably the mid-listers who are going to get squeezed over the next couple of years. Or am I being excessively pessimistic?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Charlie Williams

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?
I admire tons of books - even worship some - but don’t wish I had written them. However, there’s one by John Franklin Bardin called THE DEADLY PERCHERON that seemed to be successfully doing a lot of the things that I try to do, so I guess I wish I had written it.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Probably a boring, minor character. Most great protagonists are seriously flawed in some way, which is what makes them great but doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness for them. Added to that, my favourite crime novels are the noir ones, where the hero is always doomed. But it would be cool to see a werewolf or a ghost or something, wouldn’t it? OK, Arthur Holmwood from COUNT DRACULA - he gets to help destroy Dracula. Plus he inherits a massive estate during the story.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t feel guilty for anything I read. Books, anyway. I hate the idea of certain genres of books having more worth than others. You know what? I’d rather be seen reading something trashy than the latest Booker-nominated snooze-fest. But sometimes I’m caught looking at things like Hello magazine, so I guess that is the answer.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Any time I have actually laughed at something I’ve just written ... good or bad.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
RILKE ON BLACK by Ken Bruen. Not actually set in Ireland but he’s your boy. I love his other books but this is my fave. Brilliant and underrated.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Probably the above. Amazing that it hasn’t been done yet.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Getting to tell new people you meet that you are a writer. That is both the best and worst thing, depending on who you’re telling it to.

The pitch for your next book is …?
“In the 1970s, David Bowie used to store his urine in the fridge to stop people from stealing it and using it for black magic. What if someone got hold of it anyway? What if that person was Jimmy Page?” Hey, you asked. And no, it’s not really a crime novel in the accepted sense.

Who are you reading right now?
Nothing. this is one of those rare inter-book times. The literary world is my oyster! You know what? I can’t even remember the last novel I read. Can’t have been that memorable.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Hmm ... you need sustenance but you need an outlet too... OK, I’ll say read. And I’ll take up painting or something.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?

Strange. Funny. Compelling.

Charlie Williams can be found right about here

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

With Dark Joy, The Madness

The tiny but perfectly formed feedback to the post below suggests that folks aren’t all that optimistic about the short-term future for books, and particularly sales, but I don’t know. I think bad times can produce more great books than good times ever will. As the Chinese proverb-curse goes, ‘May you live in interesting times …’
  Anyhoo, I’m going to end the year on a up-beat note, for – lo! – I got good news last week regarding a project I’ve thinking about for quite a while now. The idea is for a book of essays, interviews and conversations about various aspects of Irish crime fiction, each chapter being written by an Irish crime writer. The names already confirmed include – although this may be subject to change – Colin Bateman, Gerard Brennan, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, John Connolly, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Reed Farrel Coleman, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Gene Kerrigan, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty and Neville Thompson. Messers, sorry, Messrs McKinty and Brennan are also on board as editors. Some of the writers’ chapters have yet to be confirmed, but the proposed material that has been is, in my entirely biased opinion, seriously interesting stuff.
  Anyway, the good news is that the project has been given the green light by the Arts Council with regard to commissioning funding, which means that we can afford to pay the writers a token gesture, at least. That means we’re over the second hurdle, and there’s only about 198 left to clear.
  The only downside at the moment is that there’s so few women on board. I have approached a few, but they’ve all been too busy to commit, unfortunately; and I’m still waiting to hear back from a few more. Hopefully the finished product won’t be entirely drenched in testosterone.
  Anyway, if the sound of this beeps even your smallest jeep, don’t be shy about letting us know or spreading the word. Oh, and feel free to suggest a title. I was thinking about using “WITH DARK JOY, THE MADNESS”, which is from a line in Liam O’Flaherty’s THE ASSASSIN. But I don’t know, it doesn’t sit right. Any ideas?

Monday, December 15, 2008

And The Award For ‘Most Endearing Blind Optimism’ Goes To …!

“The conventional wisdom in publishing holds that tough economic times are good for books, because books provide more hours of entertainment per dollar, more life-enhancing education and more grist for post-materialistic soul-searching than any other form of purchasable culture …
  “There’s no doubt that escapism pays, especially when there’s plenty to escape from, but great books continue to be published and read, and many of these also provide welcome respite for jittery readers. Remember what it was like to slow down, take the phone off the hook and immerse yourself in a story, true or invented, that made the world around you disappear for hours on end? Or to give yourself the time to understand some important aspect of this world in a deeper and more comprehensive way than any newspaper or magazine can offer?”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, December 12, 2008

The Gospel According To Paul. And Philip.

Two relatively new non-fiction crime tomes for your perusal, folks. First up is Paul Williams, crime correspondent with the Sunday World, and scribe of many non-fiction titles on Ireland’s criminal underworld, the latest of which is CRIME WARS. Quoth the blurb elves:
CRIME WARS is a chilling exposé of Ireland’s brutal underworld from the beginning of the new Millennium. In this powerful investigation Williams reveals the stories behind the gangland warfare that erupted, with devastating results, at the start of the 21st Century. He exposes the godfathers and the stories behind the international drug deals, the murders and the mayhem which have all dramatically escalated since the year 2000. Williams reveals the secret worlds of brutal godfathers Martin ‘Marlo’ Hyland and paedophile, drug trafficker Christy Griffin. He tells the chilling inside story of the ‘cursed’ Finglas murder gang and the blood-soaked McCarthy / Dundons in Limerick. CRIME WARS uncovers the background of the horrific Grand Canal double murder – one of the worst atrocities of recent years – and tells the story of Joey the Lip, a desperate young man who became a vital witness in a gruesome execution case. Williams also follows the trail of the Syndicate, a huge international drug trafficking conspiracy organised by Irish criminals, which led to one of Europe’s biggest drug seizures. CRIME WARS is a terrifying account of organised crime in modern Ireland.
  Tasty stuff. And then there’s Philip Bray’s INSIDE MAN (written with Anthony Galvin), which gives a flavour of what it’s like to be the guy who locks up the less-than-salubrious types. To wit:
Philip Bray joined the Irish prison service in 1977, working in Limerick Prison. At the time prisons were places where pillows, blankets and even food were scarce. Most prisoners were illiterate and luxuries such as television and books were unheard of. Philip's story of the changes in the prison service charts Ireland's first female high-security prison in Limerick, a place where wealthy Englishwoman-come-IRA-operative Rose Dugdale’s pregnancy went unnoticed, while Limerick Prison's cells were filled with leading Republican figures and later notorious feuding Limerick families and the ‘Dublin Mafia’, whose imprisonment fuelled a violent protest. Philip offers a bridge between the Ireland of yesterday and the Ireland of today in this intriguing account of life in the prison service in one of the most turbulent eras in recent history.
  So there you have it – Granny’s stocking-fillers all wrapped up in one quick post. No, don’t thank me. It’s all part of the service …

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In Which The CLOTH Maketh The Woman

Had a bit of a strange albeit pleasant dream last night, in which evil genius Critical Mick descended from his eyrie-style lair to whisper in my shell-like, “Here, what do you make of yon Geraldine McMenamin?”
  “Who dat?” says I.
  “Debut author,” says he – not whispering now, because I’m awake, in the dream at least – “who released THE SAME CLOTH just last month.”
  “Ashamed as I am to admit it,” says I, “but I’ve never heard of her.”
  “You have now,” says he. “Oh, and lay off the cheese before you go to bed. Now go back to sleep and remember to write something about Geraldine in the morning. Or else.”
  “Or else what?”
  “Or the next time I come visit, I’ll be going commando in your Snoopy pyjamas.”
  “Fair go,” says I.
  So – Geraldine McMenamin, THE SAME CLOTH. Quoth the blurb elves:
When Helen Rafferty returns to the village of her childhood in rural Ireland, a chain of events is set in motion that leads her on a chase to discover who has kidnapped her only son. Old childhood friends, haunting images of her past, deep family secrets and the stark reality of her present life are all laid bare as she races frantically to catch up with the kidnapper’s demands. Nothing is as it seems as Helen, submerged in self-doubt and deception, struggles to distinguish facts from hearsay, reality from ruse and trickery. As the truth emerges, so also does Helen’s understanding of who she is and the fundamental lies that have shaped her life. The final denouement is sure to startle.
  Yes indeedy, and I’m reliably informed that the denouement before the final one is a cracker too. Geraldine? If you’re out there, drop us a line – we’d love you to do a Q&A. And if that Critical Mick bloke gets in touch with you, tell him I want my Snoopy jammys back. Ta.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I Can See Clarely Now

The Ennis Book Club Festival in the County Clare has announced its line-up for 2009, and there’s a smattering of interest for Irish crime fiction fiends. Gerard Donovan (right), author of JULIUS WINSOME will be in attendance, as will Aifric Campbell, whose debut THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER appeared earlier this year. Journalist Kevin Myers will also be participating, and no doubt chatting about covering the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’, as detailed in his WATCHING THE DOOR; and Gerry Stembridge, who wrote and directed the recent Irish movie Alarm, which was a Hitchcockian tale of paranoia, stalking and double-crosses.
  Meanwhile, says the press release, students from Trinity College Dublin will stage an exclusive performance of “The Trial of Oscar Wilde” at Ennis Courthouse. Nice thinking, folks. Round up all the Trinity thesps in the courthouse under some suitably ‘orty’ pretext, and then send ’em all down for 30 years.
  Sadly, the whole tone of the weekend will be let down by the appearance of one Allan Guthrie, who’ll be there to blather on in his deceptively quiet and droll way about gore, torture and murder. There’s always one, isn’t there?
  The balloon goes up in County Clare, March 6th-8th. For all the details, clickety-click here

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

O’Toole’s Of The Trade

Irish journo Michael O’Toole (right) is the crime reporter with the Daily Star, and has just kicked off what could well be a very interesting blog, entitled ‘Crime, Ink: The Blog of an Irish Crime Reporter’. Quoth Michael:
“I’m just trying to show what it is like to be a crime correspondent in Ireland today. I want to talk about crime and what it’s like to report on it. Being a crime reporter today is the most interesting, the most frightening, the most exciting, the most rewarding and most challenging of jobs. Read on and I’ll tell you why ...”
  O’Toole was a co-author, with John Mooney, of BLACK OPERATIONS: THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE REAL IRA (2005). The Big Question: Will O’Toole do the right thing and get scribbling crime fiction? Only time, that notoriously prevaricating doity rat, will tell …

It’s Millar Time

It’s happening tonight, so apologies for the short notice, but the Irish Writers’ Centre didn’t tell me about it and Critical Mick only got in touch with the heads up last night. Anyhoo, it’s ‘Crime Story Night’ at the IWC, and the press release burbles thusly:
Masters of crime fiction: Cormac Millar (Ireland) (right) and Marek Krajewski ( Poland) discuss the subtleties of genre noir.
  Cormac Millar (Ó Cuilleanáin) - writer, translator and lecturer at the Dep. of Italian at the Trinity College Dublin. Author of critically acclaimed and extremely popular crime stories, such as An Irish Solution and The Grounds. he is currently working on another Dublin-based crime story.
  Marek Krajewski - the most popular contemporary Polish crime story writer and one of the most frequently published contemporary Polish writers in the UK; lecturer at the Dep. of Classical Studies at the Wrocław University; awarded various prestigious literary prizes in Poland. His books have been translated into 11 languages.
  It all kicks off at The Irish Writers’ Centre, 19 Parnell Square, Dublin 1 at 7pm, and admission is free to all. Yours truly is otherwise engaged, but if anyone gets along, be sure to let me know how it went …

Monday, December 8, 2008

On Bludgeoning Puppies: Yep, It’s The John Banville Interview

Our good friend Peter Murphy posts a quite superb interview with John Banville (right) on his Blog of Revelations (as far as I know, it’s also carried in the current issue of Hot Press magazine), which intros thusly:
Banville the Booker Winner. Banville the Book Reviewer. Banville the master craftsman who fashions beautifully written novels like MEFISTO, THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE and THE SEA, mapping the inner psyches of his protagonists with forensic precision while co-opting neo-classical themes and allusions.
  Banville the cold Nabokovian prose sculptor who couldn’t make us care about his characters if he bludgeoned their puppies to death before our eyes. Banville the pariah of the chattering literati who accuse him of aloofness and arrogance. Banville the highbrow stylist slumming it in the noir genre under the non de plume Benjamin Black to the derision of an Irish crime-writing contingent who maintain he couldn’t plot his way out of a paper bag.
  Banville the hatchet-jobber who’s driven his pen into the hearts of everyone from Nadine Gordimer to Ian McEwan (whose SATURDAY he termed a “dismayingly bad book”). Banville the ungracious victor, who, after scooping the Man Booker with THE SEA in 2005, sniffed something about being glad that the prize went to a work of art for a change …
  Trust me, it’s a terrific piece, and well worth your time, and especially if you think Banville = Blandville …

LaBeouf: No Beef

Good news and bad news for Alan Glynn, people. The bad news is that Shia LaBeouf has had to pull out of the movie version of THE DARK FIELDS. The good news is that Glynn is on the Fox News radar. To wit:
LaBeouf was supposed to star in director Neal Burger’s new feature, “Dark Fields”. Burger, the man behind “The Illusionist” and “The Lucky Ones”, was supposed to start shooting this fall.
  But the shoot was postponed because LaBeouf had smashed his hand in a car accident last July. He had hand surgery, according to reports, and the injury was worked into “Transformers 2”, which was held up for a month while LaBeouf recuperated.
  Burger had signed him for “Dark Fields”, in which the 21-year-old star of “Indiana Jones and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” was supposed to play a man who stumbles on a one of a kind smart pill. The screenplay, by Leslie Dixon, is based on a novel by Alan Glynn.
  But now I’m told that LaBeouf has withdrawn completely, and the search is on for a new leading man. “Shia’s hand is totally shattered, it’s much worse than anyone thought,” says a source, indicating the area around the thumb needs more surgery.
  So stay tuned, as all the young actors in Hollywood line up to take Shia’s place.
  Meanwhile, and staying with Alan Glynn-related malarkey, I’m about halfway through his second novel, WINTERLAND, and it’s living up to all the hup-yas so far

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Embiggened O # 2,039: Whither Setting?

Yep, it’s Self-Aggrandizing Saturday, and your host this week is Doug Levin over at Levin at Large, who was kind enough to review our humble tome, with the gist running thusly:
“It’s a compelling, strange, and original novel … The ending is odd and amusing, combining farcical revelation and viciousness.”
  Thank you kindly, sir, your reward will be in heaven. Doug goes on to make some interesting points about the setting of THE BIG O – or, to be precise, it’s lack of specific setting. To wit:
“Many of the reviews / blurbs peg Burke as an Irish writer, which he is, but THE BIG O is not dripping with the overt markers of Ireland -- in terms of landscape, cultural reference, and so on … I like novels (and films) sometimes that seem as if they could be in any city or town, a generic place that could be almost anywhere. David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), for instance, depends on its weird surreal, small town setting -- and some of its effect would be mitigated if we all thought the action was isolated to a place like Eureka, California, or Roseburg, Oregon.”
  I’m kind of split on this. I’m happy enough reading stories with non-specific settings, but sometimes I get a real hunger for an exotic setting, and usually one with plenty of sunshine splashing around. Anyone have any plans to set a crime novel in the South Pacific?

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Little Nell, Crime Fiction And The Social Fabric

Yours truly tripped gaily along to the theatre last night to see The Old Curiosity Shop. The director, Alan Stanford, who also adapted the novel for the stage, had this to say in the programme notes about Charles Dickens (right, in ‘sultry belle’ mode):
“His novels, his short stories and his articles have become not only a major portion of world literature but also an important record of the social fabric of his own time. He wrote stories, but his stories were a record of the truth. His books tell us of an England and a London at the start of a new age. An age of Industrial revolution – an age of new Empire – an age of new wealth. But it was also an age of unspeakable poverty, suffering and disease. And of those evils, Dickens chose to write. To a great extent, he opened the eyes of his generation to the sufferings of the poor and weak. The tale teller could not only create characters of such size and range as to fascinate and enthral the imagination of the nation but could even make them, occasionally, examine their own consciences.”
  I’m not saying every genre, including the literary genre, can’t do the same. But it strikes me that crime fiction is the genre best placed to do so, and not only because it’s the most popular kind of writing, and thus likely to result in more occasionally examined consciences, but also because it’s the most immediate record of the social fabric of its time. Does that make it an ‘important record’? I think so. But I also think that things are generally only important up until they begin to revel in their own importance. Here’s hoping crime fiction never crawls up its own fundament in search of self-importance.
  Finally, because it is Friday, arguably my favourite piece of literary criticism, courtesy of Oscar Wilde on dismal fate of Little Nell in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP: “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at it.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

All You Need Is LOVERS

Taking the briefest of breaks from bigging up practically every Irish crime writer out there, John Connolly (right) was last Sunday chatting with the Sunday Tribune about next year’s THE LOVERS, which has just gone off to the publishers. Quoth John:
“The new book is a follow-on from my first book where we found out Charlie’s dad, Will Parker, a cop, was accused of murdering two young people in a car before killing himself.
  “It’s something which has hung over Charlie so this book is an examination of what happened. Most of the book is people sitting around in rooms talking about the past and it’s a challenge to make that interesting to readers.”
  “Then again, it would be too easy to write the same book over and over.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Burke And McFetridge, Going Dutch: Part The Second

John McFetridge is telling a story about over at his internet lair how he and I got stuck into some good old-fashioned blagging on the way to the Baltimore Bouchercon. All I’m saying is I never got no Timbits. Quoth John:
I was next in line when Declan came in and stood beside me, saying, “Couldn’t do it here, though, have to stand in line so long there’d be miles of footage,” and he motioned to the camera on the wall behind the cash.
  I said, “Yeah, and these places are always crowded.”
  We ordered, me explaining that a double-double is coffee with two cream and two sugar and Declan saying, “There’s still room for the coffee, then,” and asking for it black with sugar. We also got a box of Timbits.
  Walking back through the parking lot to the car I said, “I wonder sometimes what Tim Horton would have thought about Timbits,” and Declan said, “There’s really a Tim Horton?”
  “People think he’s like Ronald McDonald. No, he was a hockey player. Started the first one of these places with a cop in Hamilton.”
  Back on the road, Declan said, “But there are some places you don’t have to stand in line?”
  The only quibble I have with all this is that 'Declan' is not a cool name for a stick-up guy. Now read on …
  Part 1 is here.
  Part 2 is here.

(Note To Self: Use Terrible “RIVERs Of Babble-On” Pun Here)

It’s still early doors for Brian McGilloway’s third offering, BLEED A RIVER DEEP, which isn’t due until next April, but already I’m reduced to culling second-hand big-ups from CSNI. John Connolly has been a supporter of McGilloway’s Inspector Ben Devlin series from the off, but here he outdoes himself thusly:
“Inspector Ben Devlin is that rare creature: a detective who is not violent or tortured, but who is intensely, movingly human, and it is his humanity and decency that grip the reader and give these novels a searing honesty. The Devlin books are set to become one of the great series in modern crime fiction.”
  Nice. And just in case you think JC was having an off-day (JC? Having an off-day?) when he penned that little love-bomb, here’s Sir Kenneth of Bruen all a-blurb-o on the back of BLEED A RIVER DEEP:
“Devlin is going to join the ranks of Rebus, Resnick, Davenport and Scudder as one of the reference points of character series.”
  So there you have it. Connolly and Bruen united as one voice. How often is that likely to happen, eh?
  Kidding aside, though – Rebus? Scudder? Let’s hope no one compares Our Brian to James Lee Burke. He’d probably just hang up his quill and retire …

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Equal Writes For Wimmin

I recently interviewed four Irish female crime writers – Ruth Dudley-Edwards (right), Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay and Ingrid Black – for the Sunday Independent about being, y’know, crime writers who are Irish and women. Anyhoos, one of the questions was about why Irish crime writing has so far been dominated by men. Quoth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley-Edwards:
“It may be that Irish crime fiction is dominated by men because so far, it has tended toward the noir,” suggests Dudley-Edwards. “Certainly, very many of the most famous names in classical English crime fiction are female: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, Ruth Rendell. Indeed Reginald Hill has a story of being at a cultural event in France where an earnest man rose to ask why most of the writers of the Golden Age [the Thirties] of detection were women. ‘Because,’ explained Reg, ‘all the men were dead.’”
  Oh, and Arlene Hunt is adamant that women no longer need fainting couches. For the rest, clickety-click here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Year of La French

I’m coming to this a little late, I’m afraid, but I can’t let it go unremarked – Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet notes how Tana French’s THE LIKENESS topped the editors’ ‘Best Books of the Year’ picks for 2008. No mean feat, it has to be said, and serious kudos to our Tana. Quoth Jeff:
“I don’t know how reliable’s “best books of the year” picks are anymore, now that most of the knowledgeable editors there have been let go. But for what it’s worth, here are Amazon’s top 10 choices of crime novels released in the States in 2008.”

1. The Likeness, by Tana French
2. Duma Key, by Stephen King
3. The Bodies Left Behind, by Jeffery Deaver
4. Sweetheart, by Chelsea Cain
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
6. The Dirty Secrets Club, by Meg Gardiner
7. The Fifth Floor, by Michael Harvey
8. The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard
9. The Cold Spot, by Tom Piccirilli
10. Blackman’s Coffin, by Mark de Castrique
  Meanwhile, in a not entirely dissimilar vein, here’s the best 10 crime novels, from any year, I read during 2008:
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, John McFetridge (Jan)
LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (Jan)
The Reapers, John Connolly (Apr)
Fifty Grand, Adrian McKinty (m/s) (Apr)
Dirty Sweet, John McFetridge (Jun)
Swap, John McFetridge (m/s) (Jul)
The Dark Fields, Alan Glynn (Sep)
The Snake Stone, Jason Goodwin (Oct)
The Ice Harvest, Scott Phillips (Oct)
When Eight Bells Toll, Alistair MacLean (Nov)
  Please feel free to disparage my taste in crime fiction / post your own Top Tens / ignore this nonsense entirely, all in your own sweet time …

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Purty Dozen

Gerard Brennan over at CSNI gave us the first look at Stuart Neville’s cover for THE TWELVE this week (rather fetching artwork, right), and also Stuart’s depressing reasons for why the previously monikered THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST will be called THE TWELVE for it’s UK release. Buggery, scooped again. Oi, Neville – that’s you and me finito, squire.
  Anyhoo, the reason I bring up THE TWELVE is that John Connolly was among those great-n-good the Irish Times asked for their ‘Books of the Year’ selections for 2008, the full list of which was published yesterday. Quoth JC:
“Meanwhile, this was a good year for Irish crime fiction, with strong additions from Declan Hughes, Tana French, Paul Charles and Brian McGilloway, among others. I suspect, though, that one of the crime novels of the year in 2009 will be Stuart Neville’s stunning debut, THE TWELVE (Harvill Secker, £12.99), which is, I think, the best mystery to have emerged so far from the aftermath of the Troubles. I read it in a single sitting, and it marks a major step forward for the genre in this country.”
  So there you have it. Stuart Neville. THE TWELVE. Remember, folks, you heard it here second.

A TOWER Rose Up In Brooklyn

I first heard about TOWER at the Baltimore Bouchercon, when I met Reed Farrel Coleman (right) walking around wearing a ‘TOWER’ t-shirt. ‘What’s that?’ says I. ‘A collaboration with Ken Bruen,’ says he, ‘out next year with Busted Flush.’ ‘Christ on a motorised mangle,’ says I, ‘that’s genius.’
  Sir Kenneth of Bruen has been writing twisted noir pastiches with Jason Starr for a few years now, of course, over at Hard Case Crime, but TOWER sounds like a different prospect entirely. Quoth David Thompson at Busted Flush:
“Born into a rough Brooklyn neighbourhood, outsiders in their own families, Nick and Todd forge a lifelong bond that persists in the face of crushing loss, blood, and betrayal. Low-level wiseguys with little ambition and even less of a future, the friends become major players in the potential destruction of an international crime syndicate that stretches from the cargo area at Kennedy Airport to the streets of New York, Belfast, and Boston, to the alleyways of Mexican border towns. Their paths are littered with the bodies of undercover cops, snitches, lovers, and stone-cold killers.
  “In the tradition of THE LONG GOODBYE, MYSTIC RIVER, and THE DEPARTED, TOWER is a powerful meditation on friendship, fate, and fatality. A twice-told tale done in the unique format of parallel narratives that intersect at deadly crossroads, TOWER is like a beautifully crafted knife to the heart.
  “Imagine a Brooklyn rabbi / poet — Reed Farrel Coleman — collaborating with a mad Celt from the West of Ireland — Ken Bruen — to produce a novel unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. A ferocious blast of gut-wrenching passion that blends the fierce granite of Galway and the streetwise rap of Brooklyn. Fasten your seat belts, this is an experience that is as incendiary as it is heart-shriven.”
  Sold! TOWER is due next autumn. Stay tooned for further details …

Saturday, November 29, 2008

This Month I Was Mostly Reading …

Ye olde reading time was at a premium this month, for a variety of reasons, but while the quantity was low, the quality was pretty good. I gave up on Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO after something like 120 pages, not because the preamble was so tortured, but because I didn’t believe in what appeared to be the two main characters, Mikael Blomkvist and Lisbeth Salander. It just didn’t make sense to me that a wealthy industrialist, who wanted his family’s history explored with discretion and could afford the finest private investigation talents available, would turn to a journalist who had been recently disgraced in a high-profile court case in which he was found to be guilty of a serious error of judgement. The Lisbeth character, meanwhile, came on like a goth Modesty Blaise who was simply too good to be true. It’s a pity, because the overwhelming verdict seems to be that TGWTGT is a modern classic, and Ali Karim reckons it’s sequel is even better. Maybe I’ll come back to it in a few years’ time and try again.
  For some reason I re-read Alistair MacLean’s WHEN EIGHT BELLS TOLL immediately afterwards, and I should point out here that WEBT is one of my blind spots – I must have read it about six times by now. I’m not a MacLean fan, though. I know I read more of his novels in my misspent youth, but none of them stand up the way WEBT does. If you haven’t read it, it’s set amid the Scottish islands and features Philip Calvert as a British Secret Service agent investigating piracy on the high seas, which makes it kind of topical. The ‘Philip’ is a nod to Marlowe, presumably, as the style is a Chandleresque take on the typical Bond story, albeit one grounded in the kind of self-deprecation where Calvert describes himself as a civil servant. Pithy, funny and pacy, it’s a darling read, and I’ve only semi-plagiarised the style with third-rate knock-offs twice to date.
  I went straight from that to MacLean’s THE GUNS OF NAVARONE, because I’m working on something right now that involves WWII shenanigans in the Greek islands. I made it as far as page 17 or thereabouts, which was when MacLean has one of his characters tell how an island in the Dodecanese was invaded by German forces, some of whom were parachuted in. As far as I could tell, the story is set midway through WWII, but to the best of my knowledge the German parachute regiment – the Fallschirmjager – was downgraded to infantry after the debacle that was the airborne invasion of Crete, in 1941, and never went a-parachuting again. I hope I didn’t put away the book on the basis of my getting the timing wrong, but that kind of detail should be important. I can only presume the Allied commandos succeeded in their mission, given that FORCE TEN FROM NAVARONE was a subsequent best-seller, but I’ve never seen the movie and I probably won’t be reading the book again.
  I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I don’t read a lot of women writers. I don’t think it’s a sexist thing, but more to do with the fact that men tend to write the kind of stories I’m interested in. Anyhoos, Mary Renault is one of the rare exceptions, and THE KING MUST DIE was the latest of her novels, most of which are set in classical Greece. It’s a fictionalised version of the Theseus myth, or the first half of it, covering the hero’s journey on the Greek mainland and his coming to recognition as the son and heir of the King of Athens, Aigeus, before he volunteers to be one of the victims sacrificed to the minotaur of King Minos and sails off to Crete to become a bull-dancer. Renault strips away the mythical elements, while remaining true to the quasi-spiritual aspects of the myth, and presents a fascinating tale of the clash of civilisations between the crude barbarians of the mainland Achaeans and the sophisticated culture of Minoa, which would eventually be undone by a combination of indolence, earthquake and ravening hordes from the north. Again, there’s a topical resonance, and Renault is a beautiful writer. Mind you, for a woman she tends to write quite a lot on the quintessentially male topics of war, conquest and glory – Alexander the Great was an obsession of hers – so maybe she’s not really an exception. I think she was a lesbian too, although I’m open to contradiction.
  Speaking of women with a male mind-set, I dipped into Alex Barclay’s latest, BLOOD RUNS COLD, and found myself fascinated by her creation Ren Bryce, a hard-drinking, no-bullshit FBI agent who seems to have more balls than most male characters. So I’ll be reading that next month. I’ll also be reading Donna Moore’s latest, on manuscript, because GO TO HELENA HANDBASKET was screamingly funny, and the first couple of chapters I dipped into there were just as hilarious. Staying with the manuscripts, I was sent an m/s of Alan Glynn’s WINTERLAND, which is due out next year and already claiming all kinds of wondrous big-ups. The first chapter seems to bear them out, so that’s another cracker lined up for next month.
  Back to this month and another female writer, Deborah Lawrenson, whose THE ART OF FALLING was a terrific read. Set in the present day, but driven by a parallel narrative from WWII (Italy this time, rather than Greece), it’s the story of a woman on a quest to lay some ghosts to rest in order to gift herself the peace of mind she needs to be happy. Lawrenson published TAOF herself, before Random House picked it up and gave it the Big House treatment, and I enjoyed it every bit as much as SONGS OF BLUE AND GOLD, which employs a similarly dual narrative, this time steeped in the fictionalised life of a writer who bears a very strong resemblance to Lawrence Durrell, and which I’ve already recommended in these here pages.
  Finally, and for research purposes, I’m about to finish THE RASH ADVENTURER: A LIFE OF JOHN PENDLEBURY by Imogen Grundon, which features a foreword from Patrick Leigh Fermor. Pendlebury was a renowned archaeologist in the period between the wars, a specialist on Egyptian and Minoan culture. His life came to a premature end on Crete in 1941, when he was shot by German forces as a spy while working with the Cretan resistance while operating under the guise of the island’s ‘honorary consul’. His was a life lived to the full, and he seems to have been the classic kind of post-Edwardian renaissance man, and a superb writer in his own right who played a huge part in making the esoteric science of archaeology accessible to the masses. Grundon is also a beautiful writer, her own descriptive work no less evocative than the liberal sprinklings of excerpts taken from Pendlebury’s letters. All in all, it makes for stirring stuff.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Gone Fishin’

A couple of new offerings from the seemingly bottomless pool of Irish writers, folks. First up is Norn Iron’s resident evil genius Gerard Brennan (right), he of CSNI fame, with the opening to his novel PIRANHAS. To wit:
The streets of Beechmount stank of wet dog. The effect of drying rain in early summer. Light faded from the West Belfast housing area. Joe Philips yawned and slumped against the redbrick alley wall. Half past ten at night. He wanted to be in bed, cosy and watching a DVD until he drifted off to sleep. But he was the leader. The rest of the gang expected him to be there.
  At least it was holiday time. No school to mitch in the morning. He popped his head around the corner and glanced down the avenue.
  “I see one,” he said.
  They all looked up to him. Literally. In the last few weeks he’d taken what his ma called a growth spurt. He’d use his share of tonight’s money to buy longer trousers. Too much white sock showed between his Nike Air trainers and his Adidas tracksuit bottoms.
  “Anyone else about?” Wee Danny Gibson asked. He snubbed a half-smoked fag on the alley wall and tucked the butt behind his ear.
  “No, just the aul doll. Easy enough number.”
  Wee Danny nodded and the rest of the gang twitched, murmured and pulled hoods up over lowered baseball caps. Ten of them in all, not one above fourteen years old.
  “Right, let’s go,” Joe said.
  They spilled out of the alley and surrounded the blue-rinse bitch like a cursing tornado. She screamed, but they moved too fast for the curtain-twitchers to react. Broken nose bleeding, she dropped her handbag and tried to fend off kicks and punches. Wee Danny scooped it up and whistled. They split in ten different directions. The old granny shrieked at them. They were gone before any fucker so much as opened his door.
  Nice. For the rest, clickety-click on Allan Guthrie’s Noir Originals.
  Meanwhile, Peter Murphy’s JOHN THE REVELATOR will be published next February by Faber and Faber, with the book-trailer looking a lot like this. Roll it there, Collette …

Thursday, November 27, 2008

“It’s Time To Put On Make-Up / It’s Time To Come Ye Back …”

If you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. It’s been a tough week, folks, but the vid below fair cheered me up. Although Adrian McKinty may want to avert his eyes … The Big Question: Is ‘Danny Boy’ beyond parody?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Burke And McFetridge, Going Dutch

In case you missed the linky-poo on Monday, John McFetridge (right) is writing a meta-fiction-y short story in which he and I go on a crime spree during our pre-Bouchercon road-trip. To wit:
When I wrote my novel, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE, I used Elmore Leonard’s Ten Rules of Writing, and I’m pretty sure that Declan Burke used them when he wrote his novel, THE BIG O, so it was natural when we teamed up to pull armed robberies on our way to Bouchercon in Baltimore, we’d use Elmore’s Ten Rules for Success and Happiness from his novel SWAG.
  In both cases we had to make minor changes to the rules. For one thing, grocery stores and bars never have much cash on hand anymore and one exclamation point for every hundred thousand words? Come on, these are crime novels, people getting robbed and beaten up yell ...
  It’s all true, by the way. Except for the bit where I call Elmore Leonard ‘Dutch’. For the rest, clickety-click here

Now this is what I call the Big Time

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Tom Bale

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?
Anything by Graham Greene – BRIGHTON ROCK perhaps, as it’s set in my home town, but even the books he classed as “entertainments” are beautifully written. I am in awe of his talent and versatility.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jack Reacher. Tall, strong, fearless, morally certain and irresistible to women. It doesn’t get better than that.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
For the most part I think reading anything can be instructive, although I suppose Frederick Forsyth would fall into this category for me. The early books are very well-constructed thrillers, but his worldview doesn’t exactly coincide with mine, to put it mildly!

Most satisfying writing moment?
When Tif, my wonderful agent, rang me to say we’d had an offer from Preface. That was the moment when I realised I would be able to earn a living from writing. It was all the more gratifying because we were skint at the time, and because my editor, Rosie de Courcy, offered me the deal on the strength of my proposal for a very substantial rewrite. It was an incredible show of faith on her part.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I don’t feel I’ve read widely enough to comment fairly. I have Benjamin Black and Ken Bruen on my TBR pile, and after reading about Stuart Neville on your site I checked out the opening of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST and thought it was excellent. And he’s not strictly a crime writer, but I think William Trevor is one of the finest writers alive.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Another question I have to dodge, I’m afraid! Often the books you most expect to translate to cinema prove to be a disappointment.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?

It seems ungrateful even to contemplate the worst aspect of what’s always been my dream job, but I do miss the camaraderie of working amongst other people. Daytime TV is a poor substitute. The best part probably comes towards the end of the rewriting phase, when all the hard work is done and you’re just going over and over the manuscript, trimming it, making it tighter and better with each pass.

The pitch for your next book is …?
“DIE HARD on Sandbanks.” And as someone who’s always had trouble reducing my ideas to a snappy one-sentence pitch, I’m pleased that I’ve finally been able to do so with this book. The provisional title is TERROR’S REACH, about a criminal gang who take control of an exclusive island off the Sussex coast, intent on much more than just robbery.

Who are you reading right now?
Gregg Hurwitz, Adrian Magson, Brett Battles and I’m also re-reading John Sandford’s fabulous “Prey” series.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
That’s not a deity I could believe in. But I’d have to choose reading, as so much of the desire to write springs from the thrill of reading.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Fast, thrilling, satisfying – I hope. It’s for others to say whether I succeed.

Tom Bale’s
SKIN AND BONES is published by Preface.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Stop The Press: Crime In ‘Doesn’t Always Pay’ Shocker!

News just in folks – your humble scribe (right) has just heard that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has declined to publish the sequel to THE BIG O, said sequel being the now rather ironically titled CRIME ALWAYS PAYS. Damn you, hubris! Details remain sketchy as to why, but it’s either (a) the new editor assigned to the book didn’t fancy it; (b) the global economic downturn is hurting in places I didn’t know I had places; or (c) said sequel is complete tosh. Or maybe it’s all three. As soon as I hear, you’ll be the first to know. Unless it’s (c), of course, in which case I’ll pretend it’s a combination of (a) and (b). Oh well, I guess it’s back to the turnip-thinning for yours truly. It’s been nice knowing you people, you’ve been a wunnerful audience …

Now this is what I call a cheer-me-up

UPDATE 2: In comedy, it’s all about the timing

Now Is The WINTERLAND Of Our Discontent

Don’t be fooled by his boyish good looks and cherubic charm – Alan Glynn (right) is something of a criminal mastermind. Yours truly was well impressed with his debut, THE DARK FIELDS, and there’s a rather impressive buzz building around his second, WINTERLAND, which is due early next year and appears to have nailed the second-rate circus that is contemporary Ireland. To wit:
“This is the colossus of Irish crime fiction – what MYSTIC RIVER did for Dennis Lehane, WINTERLAND should do for Alan Glynn. It is a noir masterpiece, the bar against which all future works will be judged … It’s as if Flann O’Brien wrote a mystery novel and laced it with speed, smarts and stupendous assurance.” – Ken Bruen

“Both a crime novel and a portrait of contemporary Ireland caught at a moment of profound change, WINTERLAND seems set to mark Alan Glynn as the first literary chronicler of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Timely, topical, and thrilling, this is Ireland as it truly is.” – John Connolly

“A thrilling novel of suspense from a new prose master.” – Adrian McKinty

“WINTERLAND is crime fiction of the highest order – smart, vivid, meticulously crafted, and highly entertaining. Alan Glynn has written a flat-out classic.” – Jason Starr

“WINTERLAND is a powerhouse of a novel whose pacy, character-driven narrative scrutinises Ireland’s underbelly, offering new meaning to the notion of corruption in high places. Glynn’s grasp of the big picture is as immaculate as his attention to detail. This is an exceptional and original crime novel, convincing at every level.” – Allan Guthrie
  Mmmm, nice. So what’s it all about then?
The worlds of business, politics and crime collide when two men with the same name, from the same family, die on the same night – one death is a gangland murder, the other, apparently, a road accident. Was it a coincidence? That’s the official version of events. But when a family member, Gina Rafferty, starts asking questions, this notion quickly unravels. Although she’s devastated, especially by the death of her older brother, Gina’s grief is tempered, and increasingly fuelled, by anger – because the more she’s told that it was all a coincidence, that gangland violence is commonplace, that people die on our roads every day of the week, the less she’s prepared to accept it. Alan Glynn is a Dublin-based writer whose first novel, THE DARK FIELDS, is soon to be filmed, starring Shia LaBeouf.
  All that, and depressingly zeitgeist-y too

Saturday, November 22, 2008

What Is This Thing We Call ‘Screwball Noir’?

Yep, it’s self-aggrandizing Saturday, this week courtesy of Lily Courthope over at Lily, bless her, has taken umbrage at the Publishers Weekly review of our humble tome (right), and takes them to task thusly:
“Don’t you feel sorry for those PW reviewers?”: November 15, 2008

This is not the first time that I’ve marvelled at the staid, moribund quality of a PW review. I’m pretty sure that if an author isn’t named Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Faulkner, they just don’t get it.
  And that’s too bad because author Declan Burke has created a frantically paced comedy of errors that is a lot of fun to read. No, I won’t be writing a thesis any time soon about kidnapper Ray’s probable identity crisis, but when was the last time you read a line as funny as the one (right near the end of the book) in which he at last reveals his true identity? And that line is just the froth on this comic concoction.
  This book reminds me of some of my favourite movies: Libelled Lady, His Girl Friday, and of more recent origin, Snatch. Screwballs, every one of them. Some darker than others, some more romantic, but all of them with wild plot turns and breath-catching scenes that keep the viewer/reader fixed in place, waiting for the next laugh.
  If you’re looking for deep meaning and deathless prose, go check out the latest bestselling, yawn-worthy, overwrought work of ‘literature’ (or even another PW review); if you’re looking for a good time, call 1-800-THE BIG O.
  God bless you, Lily Courthope! So what is this thing we call ‘screwball noir’, people? Examples, please …

Friday, November 21, 2008

Your Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting ...

Herewith be an interview with Arlene Hunt (right; pic stolen from CSNI without so much as a by-your-leave) conducted by yours truly on the occasion of the publication of her latest tome, UNDERTOW. Now read on

The crime novel is a fiction that is a truth for our times, and it’s certainly true that Arlene Hunt’s novels are nothing if not timely. Her last offering, MISSING PRESUMED DEAD, generated controversy for its subject matter when it appeared shortly after Maddy McCann went missing. That was a coincidence, of course, but it’s a poignant example of the symbiotic relationship between crime fiction and the world it describes.
  “I wrote of a child disappearing in 1980,” Arlene says, “and reappearing almost thirty years later – gun in hand. But because I used a toddler, and she happened to be female and blonde, some people automatically thought, ‘Oh, Maddy McCann’. In fact, I had written the first chapter – which dealt with a toddler disappearing on a beach – many months before that poor child ever visited Portugal. I think people like to look for controversy where none exists.”
  Her latest offering, UNDERTOW, published by Hachette Ireland, also digs into the seamy underbelly of modern Ireland.
  “The book opens with some low-lives smuggling vulnerable women into Ireland,” she says, “one of whom is coldly dispatched when she is deemed too sick to be of any use. We also meet Stacy, a heavily pregnant teenager who hires Sarah and John, my intrepid detectives, to find her boyfriend Orie, little realizing that he is connected with people-smuggling and has very good reasons to have dropped below the radar …”
  UNDERTOW is the fourth novel to feature ‘QuicK Investigations’, a Dublin-based private investigation bureau run by Sarah Kenny and John Quigley, a pleasingly normal pair of detectives who bicker, fall out and flirt – even if all the flirting comes from John’s side. I’m showing my age, but the first thing that springs to mind is the old Bruce Willis / Cybill Shepherd TV show, Moonlighting …
  “You’re not the only one!” Arlene laughs. “It’s not intentional, I promise. I think with John being something of a charming smart-arse and Sarah his relative straight-man, it’s unavoidable that people draw comparisons. Plus, there is the unmistakable whiff of attraction in the air. John has more hair than David (Bruce Willis) though. And Sarah would never wear shoulder pads.”
  Born in Wicklow, and currently living in Dublin, Arlene is nonetheless far more influenced by American writers than their Irish or even European counterparts.
  “I’m an American crime junkie and have been for years and years. Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Denis Lehane, James Ellroy and my personal favourite, Joseph Wambaugh, are just some of the gentlemen I like to spend an afternoon with. Wambaugh writes the sort of book that stays with you for a long time after. THE GLITTER DOME and THE CHOIRBOYS moved me to tears and yet also had me howling with laughter.”
  So why is it that Irish crime writers tend to look to the States for inspiration?
  “Perhaps because they ‘do’ crime so well, and we can really relate to the great characters they somehow manage to create. I think we ‘get’ American drama better than we get other countries. Some of my earliest memories are watching The Rockford Files and Hawaii Five-O and Kojak with my foster-mother, Kitty. We couldn’t wait for Hill Street Blues to start every week. ‘Book ‘em Danno!’ ‘Who loves ya baby?’ ‘Let’s be careful out there’ … we just never tired of it. These days The Wire and The Shield have tickled my fancy tremendously. I adore Vic Mackey, even though he’s as crooked as a country mile. He is such a terrific character, crooked yet loyal, fierce, soft, vicious, hard, tormented and conflicted.”
  Arlene Hunt is something of a contradiction herself. Young, attractive and impeccably dressed, you’d probably peg her for a chick-lit scribe rather than a ‘crime junkie’ if she told you she’s a writer. So how come she’s poking around in the gory entrails of Irish crime and violence?
  “Ha, I’m blushing now … I’m not really sure what to say about that! I don’t know, people can be anything on the surface, be it attractive, sunny and charming or gruff and shy, but it makes little or no difference to the internal rumblings of that person. It’s funny, but I can be quite cheerfully plotting a murder scene while doing the most mundane things, like shopping in Superquinn, trimming the dog’s wretched nails or when I’m out running. Actually, I think of murder a lot when I run. So if you see me pootling along somewhere with serene smile in place, I’m probably mentally hacking someone to little pieces or super-gluing a character’s nostrils closed ...”
  In American crime writing, the setting of a particular city is very important to the story. How big a ‘character’ is Dublin in Arlene Hunt’s novels?
  “A pretty big one. Dublin is my home. It’s where I’m at my most comfortable, so it was important for John and Sarah – especially for Sarah – to be city-dwellers too. I grew up in Wicklow, I lived in Spain, but Dublin is where I feel happiest. It adopted me as easily as I allowed myself to be adopted. I was born in Clontarf, where Sarah lives for much of the books, and my husband and I frequent Wexford Street a lot where ‘QuicK Investigations’ keep their office. I like that my real and fictional worlds conflate and criss-cross.”
  Finally, there’s a lot of sexual tension between Sarah and John. Will they or won’t they?
  “Hah, you’ll have to wait and see …!”

Arlene Hunt’s UNDERTOW is published by Hachette Ireland.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All For One And One For The Road. Hic.

The good news, for me at least, is that I’m back writing after a new baby-inspired hiatus. The bad news is that something’s gotta give, time-wise.
  Loath as I am to add another blog to your daily load, methinks it’s coming time to separate the wheat from chaff at Crime Always Pays. As all three regular readers will know, CAP is but one weapon in Declan Burke’s arsenal as he bids for world domination, or a half-decent income from writing fiction, whichever comes first – the coverage CAP affords to other Irish crime writers is, of course, a fig leaf to disguise his contemptible ambition.
  Anyhoos, the plan is to set up another blog, this one dedicated to Irish crime writing of all hues (working title: Crime Writing Ireland), much in the way CAP already is, albeit devoid of the shameless plugs for THE BIG O in particular and Declan Burke in general. The format will be pretty much the same, with daily updates and whatnot, although I’m hoping that most of the material will be, y’know, actually useful. And there’ll probably be a bit less smartarsery, which I intend to save for Crime Always Pays.
  The big issue from my point of view, you won’t be surprised to learn, is that a new blog would create something of a strain on an already overloaded schedule, which is why the whole point of the proposed blog is to open it out to other writers. I’m perfectly happy to do the job of editor and keep the thing rolling along on a daily basis, but in terms of generating material, I’d be looking to other writers / bloggers / reviewers / readers to contribute. In other words, if we can get 10 or 12 contributors pitching up a post once per fortnight, or thereabouts, we should be okay. And the more the merrier.
  If you’re interested in taking part and creating a kind of community forum jobbie for Irish crime writing that benefits everyone, leave a comment or drop me a line. Oh, and I’m well into the idea of inclusivity – you need to be Irish about as much as I’m a writer, which is to say, not really. If enough people are interested, then we’ll take it forward from there, hopefully kicking off early in the New Year. All messages of support and advice are welcome. You know where to find me, people …

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Can’t Spell ‘Killarney’ Without ‘Kill’

You live a little, you learn a lot. Not only has it belatedly come to our attention here at CAP Towers (yep, all the elves finally straggled back from their summer sojourn to Santa Ponsa) that Atlantic Books are issuing a ‘Classic Crime’ series, and that said series includes Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, but they’ve also tossed us something of a curveball in Gerald Griffins’ THE COLLEGIANS, which is – apparently – a classic Irish crime fiction title, first published in 1829. Who knew? Apart from the folks at Atlantic, obviously. Quoth The Bookseller:
The series will begin on 1st November with a four-strong launch comprising Gerald Griffin’s thriller THE COLLEGIANS, Sapper’s detective novel BULLDOG DRUMMOND, RAFFLES by E W Hornung, and Charles Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, which Atlantic describes as “the first detective novel”.
  Thereafter, the publisher will launch a book every month—including titles by Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sheridan Le Fanu and G K Chesterton—until at least the end of 2009.
Nice. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb elves on THE COLLEGIANS:
This romantic melodrama set in rural Killarney in the early 19th century was based on a real case of 1829. Its impressive Irish locations, thrilling characters, complex plot involving love, rivalry, secrecy, betrayal, and impressive denouement made it into one of the most successful thrillers of its day. Recently home from college, young Hardess Cregan rescues poor but striking Eily O’Connor and her father from an unruly mob in the street, with the help of his hunchback foster-brother and sidekick, Danny Mann. Although he is courting his wealthy cousin, Anne Chute, he is smitten by Eily’s beauty. And to complicate matters further, his friend and fellow collegian, Kyrle, is also in love with Anne - and vying hard with him for her attentions. He secretly marries Eily, but her unsophisticated ways soon begin to anger him. And - arrogant and full of roguish self-confidence - when his mother starts to push him into the very advantageous marriage with Anne, he starts to reconsider his choices ... Married to one, engaged to another: can Hardess extricate himself from this impasse? It seems he’s trapped - until Danny suggests that perhaps if Eily were to ‘disappear’, his problems would be solved ...
  You just don’t get many hunchback foster-brother sidekicks to the pound these days, do you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Alex Barclay

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?

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Ooh … Jeeves. Bertie Wooster is priceless.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
No guilt for me … whatever I read, I love, so I’d never feel guilty about doing something I love.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When everything comes together. Because I don’t write chronologically, I have files of separate scenes waiting to be arranged. When I can put them together in way that surprises me and it works out well, it feels great.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Any of Declan Hughes’.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any of Declan Hughes’.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Solitude / solitude.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s Colorado, it’s below-zero, an FBI Agent hunts the killer of a colleague and starts to unravel her colleague’s life … and her own.

Who are you reading right now?


God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. It’s an addiction. And I couldn’t do rehab. Too much sharing, too many group hugs.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Fuelled by coffee.

Alex Barclay’s BLOOD RUNS COLD is published by HarperCollins.

The Devil Wears Prada. And A Red Dress, Apparently.

I mentioned a couple of days back that Niamh O’Connor has a new non-fiction tome out about Sharon Collins, aka ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, and now arrives news of Abigail Rieley’s take on the same story, THE DEVIL IN A RED DRESS, courtesy of Maverick House. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ireland has been gripped by the story of a housewife from County Clare who, when her millionaire partner refused to marry her, googled a hitman and arranged to have him killed. Over the course of almost two months, the story of Lyingeyes and Hire_hitman unfolded in a flurry of emails. The website, might have looked amateurish and carried a disclaimer but it attracted serious interest. One person who was interested was Sharon Collins, the ‘devil in the red dress’. Desperate to get her hands on a share of her partner’s fortune, she took drastic action. She turned to Google to solve her problem. A Mexican marriage certificate was obtained but wasn’t enough. On 8 August 2006, she contacted and started to arrange the hit. This is one of the most bizarre stories to ever appear before an Irish court. Filled with intrigue, betrayal, sex, money and would-be murder, it has all the ingredients for a best-selling thriller. This book will prove to its readers that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
  Or that the truth is, indeed, at least as interesting as a good Patricia Highsmith novel, whichever is more likely to tickle your fancy ...