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, April 26, 2008

Talent Borrows, Genius Steals

The guys over at The Rap Sheet run an occasional post on books by different authors which use spookily similar art work, but the latest offering from Maverick House may have even them perplexed. First off, here’s Alan Sherry’s THE A-Z OF IRISH CRIME, which was released last October, about which the Maverick House elves had this to say:
THE A-Z OF IRISH CRIME is an in-depth reference book on modern Irish crime concentrating mainly from 1996 to present day, focusing on key gangland figures and murders. The book also focuses on key criminal agencies, weapons of gangland Ireland, drugs, missing persons and all serious crime. An A-Z of Irish crime has not been done before. This should be a comprehensive, original book giving a wide perspective of crime throughout Ireland.
So far, so straightforward. Except now Maverick House have released THE A-Z OF IRISH CRIME: A GUIDE TO CRIMINAL SLANG IN IRELAND by John Mooney and Jean Harrington, about which the blurb elves have this to say:
This book is a highly entertaining introduction to the world of criminal slang. Those who are hell bent on breaking the law have created their own unauthorized and underground language that is often more colourful and vulgar than plain English. If you are interested in speaking the language of the street, or want to converse with fences, street walkers and the army, this book is for you. Forget what you learned in English class, this book is the definitive guide to the ever changing language of the street.
Erm, we call on J. Kingston Pierce to mediate. We’re off for a lie-down in a darkened room …

Friday, April 25, 2008

The Jury Remains Out: THE COLOUR OF BLOOD by Brian Moore

Acclaimed as literary novels, they are steeped in crime – but is it kosher to call them Irish crime fiction novels? YOU decide! Or … don’t! This week: THE COLOUR OF BLOOD by Brian Moore.
Somewhere in an unnamed Eastern bloc country, someone is out to silence Cardinal Bem. Is it the Secret Police, or is it - more shockingly - fanatical Catholic activists who believe that Bem, by keeping the peace between Church and State, has finally compromised himself too far? Narrowly escaping an assassination attempt, Bem is abducted by sinister, anonymous men, and spirited away to a safe-house against his will. Evading his unknown captors, he is faced with a horrifying proposition: no longer sure of whom he can trust, Bem realises that he alone can avert the revolution which threatens to tear his country apart ...

“In the novel THE COLOUR OF BLOOD (1987), Moore continues to exploit the religious theme. Like LIES OF SILENCE, this novel is a political thriller, but on this occasion it is set in Eastern Europe. Like the main protagonists in other novels by Moore, Cardinal Bem’s faith is on trial. Bem himself is portrayed as an honest, reasonable, retiring character. He is not an extremist, unlike those who are pursuing him. From the beginning to the end of the novel, Bem is under threat from assassins but his personal inner strength enables him to continue with his duties as a religious leader. This is an action packed thriller with a distinctly sombre, unexpected ending.” – ‘Brian Moore: Novelist in search of an Irish identity’ /

“Mr. Moore’s novel is a study of this faith under pressure. Almost in thriller form, it is also a wise and illuminating meditation on the labyrinthine forces at work in a Roman Catholic Communist country like Poland (where Mr. Moore served with a United Nations relief group after the war) … Mr. Moore dramatizes issues like compromise and survival with a sure, skilful hand. As usual his writing is lean and to the point … Clearly, Brian Moore wants to keep our attention focused on the central political-religious problem: When does compromise become moral suicide? In this he has succeeded.” - New York Times

New Hope For The Dead

With his acclaimed ‘Dead’ trilogy now complete, where to now for one of crime fiction’s most thoughtful practitioners, Adrian McKinty? Eh? EH?

Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for Michael Forsythe. Released in mass-market paperback in December, THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD (first published in March 2007; to be released in pback on June 12) sounded the death knell for Adrian McKinty’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, which began in 2003 with DEAD I WELL MAY BE.
  For the most part concerned with the indestructible Forsythe’s run-ins with the Irish mob in America, the trilogy offers an irresistible blend of the thriller genre’s traditional hi-octane action and quip-happy protagonist, albeit filtered through the mind of an unusually cerebral and literary-minded thug. Bloomsday, of course, is celebrated on June 16, the day on which James Joyce’s ULYSSES is set. THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD, which gently riffs on ULYSSES throughout, finds Michael Forsythe back on Irish soil for the first time in over a decade, with outstanding accounts due to be settled in blood.
  Born and raised in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, McKinty today lives in Colorado, married with a young family and writing very much in the American idiom.
  DB: Does it make any sense for Irish readers to claim you as an Irish crime writer?
  AMcK: “Yeah, that’s interesting isn’t it. My models were all American writers from the ’30s, Chandler, Hammett, James Cain, and later Jim Thompson, but the world I grew up in, Carrickfergus in the ’70s and ’80s, is so rich with incident and detail that I think every book I write has a bit of that in it. I remember the Hunger Strikes and [the] Enniskillen and Omagh [bombings] like they were yesterday, and the Ulster vernacular and black humour has fortunately dripped deep into my soul. Every time an editor asks me to remove the words craic, sheugh, shite and eggy, I know I’m still operating from an Irish standpoint.”
  DB: Why are Irish crime fiction writers starting to pop up now, all of a sudden?
  AMcK: “It’s the economy and the culture, I think. Crime fiction thrives in an urban environment and expanding economies. Greed, money, power, betrayal – these are all touchstones – some would say clichés – of the genre. Ireland was largely stagnant economically from 1945 to1990 and only in the last decade have we had all of these juicy tropes working so well.”
  Ken Bruen and John Connolly are long established as favourites with the American reading public, but both established their reputations by setting their novels in London and Maine, respectively. Adrian McKinty, despite setting his novels in the United States (with occasional jaunts to Central and South America), is one of a new breed of Irish crime writers (which he dubs, half-seriously, ‘the Celtic New Wave’) that includes Brian McGilloway, Gene Kerrigan, Tana French and Declan Hughes.
  DB: Did you have a sense of yourself as a pioneer when setting out to write DEAD I WELL MAY BE?
  AMcK: “No, Ken Bruen (right) was first. But I did think that Ireland was ready for this genre. Ireland punches above its weight in terms of literary culture and the fact that crime fiction was almost non-existent was a vacuum that needed to be filled. For years people thought of Ireland as a cross between ‘The Quiet Man’ and DUBLINERS. Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon etc. are geniuses, but they didn’t help give us a real picture of a country that is increasingly urban, diverse, young and exciting. Crime writers under forty are in touch with a culture and a society that the older generation, frankly, isn’t.”
  DB: Michael Forsythe, on the other hand, is a veritable treasure chest of pop-culture references, asides and in-jokes, and it seemed like he could keep going indefinitely. What was the thinking behind ending the ‘Dead’ series?
  AMcK: “I never wanted to do a series. It was 50/50 that I would kill Michael at the end of book one, and 60/40 that I would kill him at the end of book three. In fact, if the trilogy ever gets brought together in one volume, I think as an appendix I’ll give the alternative endings for books one and three. I don’t like characters that live in this world and somehow survive everything that’s thrown at them. Most of the hoods I grew up with in North Belfast are either in prison, on parole (i.e. retired) or dead. Fictional characters who take hit after hit in book after book and don’t have nervous breakdowns are hard to take, so Michael either had to die or I had to stop writing about him, or both.”
  DB: How did it feel to wave him goodbye?
  AMcK: “I was depressed. I knew I could do a couple more things with him. I lived in the East End of London for a year and I would have loved to have brought Michael into that environment. I even had a title picked out, ENGLAND, YOUR ENGLAND, which is a riff on that Orwell essay about nuns cycling to Holy Communion through the morning mist. But on reflection I knew I couldn’t sustain my interest in the concept for a whole book. So I suppose ultimately it was relief that I was done with him.”
  DB: Is that how the process starts, with a setting? Or is it a face, a name, an incident – what?
  AMcK: “With DEAD I WELL MAY BE, THE DEAD YARD and THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD, I wrote the last chapter first and worked backwards. I knew the place I wanted to end up and I just had to get there.”
  DB: THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD is the most overt example, but your novels are littered with literary references. How do you respond to the notion that the vast majority of crime fiction is deliberately, and unnecessarily, dumbed down?
  AMcK: “There’s no reason to dumb down anything, especially in Ireland, where people read a lot. I had an editor at Simon & Schuster who always said that we should write for the lowest common denominator, eliminating words and references that the ordinary Joe wouldn’t get. I’ve never understood that. If you miss a reference you generally just skip it and move on, or if you’re curious you look it up. If the LCD rule were true, no one would read Thomas Pynchon and he’s a bestseller.”
  DB: What are the best and worst aspects of writing crime fiction?
  AMcK: “The downside is that you usually always have to kill someone. I’d really like to do a crime book where no one dies. I used to play [the computer games] ‘Halo’ and ‘Doom’ and attempt to get through the levels just by running past the bad guys without killing anyone. It was fun. And I like that French movie ‘Pickpocket’, where no one dies, but it’s still a very tense and exciting movie. And the best aspect of crime writing? You get to kill people! It’s great.”
  DB: Everyone writes with an invisible presence peering over their shoulder at the page. Who’s looking over Adrian McKinty’s shoulder?
  AMcK: “I suppose it would be the Platonic ideal version of myself, a more hardworking, dedicated me urging me on.”
  DB: Who’s the one person, dead or alive, you’d like to ring up and say, “Man, I just read your new book and it’s a hell of a read”?
  AMcK: “There’s a lot. I’d love to call up Jim Thompson and say, “Jim, don’t listen to the critics, or your publishers, or your wife, you’re bloody brilliant.” I’d tell Scott Fitzgerald “Lay off the booze, mate. Fifty years from now all those bestseller types are going to be forgotten but you are going to be more famous than ever.” I just read a book about Cuba that blew my mind, by Reinaldo Arenas, but unfortunately he died of AIDS a few years ago, I would love to have met him. Still alive – if they’d take my call, I’d ring Thomas Pynchon, Salman Rushdie and Ken Bruen.”
  DB: Is there any one book you can remember reading in your youth and thinking, “Yeah, I’d like to be a writer”? Or was it a more gradual process?
  “No, it was much more a gradual process, although Chandler and Hemmingway did get me very excited about the possibilities of fiction.”
  DB: Okay, then – pretend for one moment that you have to be another writer, and assume responsibility for his or her canon of work. Who would it be, and why?
  AMcK: “Cormac McCarthy (right) is such a bad ass. He’s followed his own rules, virtually invented his own genre and especially in his early Tennessee work he showed us a whole rich, complex world of Irish rednecks living in the mountains – people the rest of the US look at with contempt. I like his Texas stuff too, and although I wouldn’t want to appropriate his entire canon, if someday I could write a book half as good as BLOOD MERIDIAN I’d die a happy man. Last year he went on Oprah, which took the edge off his hipness for me, but I think I can blank that from my mind.”
  DB: You teach to earn a living, which – given that you have a young family – very probably involves huge sacrifice on your and their behalf. What are the moments when you feel that that sacrifice is worth it?
  AMcK: “Working for a living and hanging out with the kids when I get back home means that I basically have to write at night. It’s a drag but when I think of Faulkner shovelling coal in a power station or Henry Miller picking cigarette butts off the ground, I realise that I’ve actually got it pretty easy.”
  DB: Ever wonder what your kids will think if they ever read your books?
  AMcK: “Oh my God, the kids are barred from even looking at the covers for at least ten years. Torture, murder and violent death won’t be good for anyone’s sleep.”
  DB: Does a writer have any responsibility regarding the morality (or otherwise) of his or her characters?
  AMcK: “No. As Sam Goldywn said, if you want to send a message, get Western Union. Oscar Wilde demolished the idea that art has to be moral or uplifting. It doesn’t, it just has to be good. I’m much more offended by bad writing than by characters who do bad things. I’m also offended by poor fact-checking. THE DA VINCI CODE is a great example of both problems: ‘He entered Westminster Abbey, a church redolent with history including the marriage of Lady Diana and Prince Charles.’”
  DB: Picture the scenario: a publisher introduces a series in which contemporary writers rewrite the classics for a modern audience. What work would you choose, and why?
  AMcK: “Is Bond a classic? I’d love to do a Bond. I’d also love to do a Sherlock Holmes. It would be great to make Holmes a villain. I imagine him in the ’30s thinking, ‘That Oswald Mosley [notorious British Nazi sympathiser in the 1930s] is a jolly good chap.’ Could be hilarious.”
  DB: Finally, a word or two about the upcoming FIFTY GRAND. What’s the skinny?
  AMcK: FIFTY GRAND came about from an eye-opening visit to Cuba. I went there primarily to see some literary sights connected with Ernest Hemingway (right), Jose Marti and Garcia Lorca but I very quickly got sucked into the landscape and culture. The place really gets into your blood and I found that I couldn’t shake it, so I went back for a longer deeper visit. All island peoples are unique in their own way and coming from Ireland - which has a big neighbour right next door too - I think I appreciated Cuba’s problems without excusing the current regime who seemed to have screwed up the country in a spectacular way. Once I had the context and the geography, the story just flowed from there. I live in the mountains of Colorado so I thought it might be fun to take a Cuban cop and throw him way out of context ten thousand feet up in the snow.”

Adrian McKinty’s FIFTY GRAND will be published by Holt later this year.

He Reads Us Poetry That’s Irish And So Black

Ireland’s premier – and possibly only – crime fiction poet / short story writer (although he’s prone to quality versifying in other strains too, if his being short-listed twice for the prestigious Sunday Tribune / Hennessy is any measure), the inimitable Colm Keegan (right) gets in touch to tell us there’s another outing planned for the Shoestring Collective, a night of music, readings, comedy, more music, poetry, photography and yet more music. Full details are available courtesy of yon arty type Uiscebot, with the whole shebang kicking off this coming Saturday night, April 26. Meanwhile, if you’re of a mind to read some crime fiction poetry, why not jaunt over here?

Thursday, April 24, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 1,004: Sara Paretsky

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 POISON ORACLE. Such a sophisticated weaving together of layers of story; Peter Dickinson shows a mastery of linguistics, the Arab world, primate behaviour, and the painful life of his loner protagonist that the book is a tour de force in any genre.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Georgia Strangeways (I’m assuming this is in crime fiction).
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Delano Ames.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I got the author copies of my first novel.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I have to pass on this one because I’m woefully ignorant about Irish crime fiction. I like John Connolly and Ken Bruen very much, but I need to explore some of the other people on Declan’s blog.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
John Connolly’s THE BLACK ANGEL is crying for a film!
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worse thing about being a writer: constant anxiety. The best thing: getting to go to work in your underwear (my last job I had to wear pantyhose -- and a skirt).
The pitch for your next book is …?
The search for a missing man leads V.I. Warshawski back to the turbulent days of the Civil Rights Movement in Chicago and forces her to question her beloved father’s role in some of the most despicable acts of the Chicago Police force.
Who are you reading right now?
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I quit.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Insightful. Witty. Literate.

Sara Paretsky’s BLEEDING KANSAS is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

A hat-tip to the Book Witch for putting us in touch with Sara …

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Embiggened O # 2,001: We’re Coming To America

A Minister for Propaganda Elf writes: Herewith be the cover of the forthcoming U.S. edition of THE BIG O, which hits a shelf near you – providing you’re on the North American landmass – on September 22nd, with which the Grand Viz is tremendously pleased, as it was his favourite of the five options the fiendishly clever cover-art boffins at Harcourt devised. Nice colour scheme, chaps. Quoth the blurb elves:
Karen’s easy life as a receptionist and armed robber is about to change. Rossi, her ex, is getting out of prison any day now. He’ll be looking for his motorcycle, his gun, revenge, and the sixty grand he says is his. But he won’t be expecting Ray, the new guy Karen’s just met, to be in his way. No stranger to the underworld himself, Ray wants out of the kidnapping game now that some dangerous new bosses are moving in.
  Meanwhile Frank, a disgraced plastic surgeon, hires Ray to kidnap his ex-wife for the insurance money. But the ex-wife also happens to be Karen’s best friend. Can Karen and Ray trust each other enough to work together on one last job? Or will love, as always, ruin everything?
  From a writer hailed as “Elmore Leonard with a harder Irish edge” (Irish Mail on Sunday), Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is crime fiction at its darkest and funniest.

Advance Praise for THE BIG O

“One of the sharpest, wittiest, and most unusual Irish crime novels of recent years . . . Declan Burke is ideally poised to make the transition to a larger international stage.” —John Connolly, bestselling author of THE UNQUIET

“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, author of SOUL PATCH

“Faster than a stray bullet, wittier than Oscar Wilde and written by a talent destined for fame.”—Irish Examiner
In other news, the Grand Viz (right) would have it known that he will be callously abandoning his infant daughter Lilyput and the radiant Mrs Viz to attend the Bouchercon in Baltimore, and is planning to travel around the northeast for a week or so afterwards, for the most part in the company of the ever-lovely Kelli Stanley, doing readings and sundry other events designed to keep Princess Lilyput in the style of diaper to which she is accustomed. A number of venues have been good enough to confirm that they will be widening their doors to accommodate the Grand Vizier’s monstrous ego, but any and all suggestions as to interesting venues specialising in crime and mystery fiction would be gratefully accepted. We thank you for your cooperation. Peace, out.

What Would Archie Bunker Do In This Situation?

The Florida wing of the Irish crime fiction crew – aka Michael Haskins (right), author of CHASIN’ THE WIND – was interviewed last week on the eminent private eye blog Sons of Spade, where one of the questions (and its answer, natch) ranneth thusly:
Q: John Rickards came up with the following question: What do you bring to the genre that few others have?
A: “I think each writer brings his/her unique view of life and death and justice and all that’s right/wrong with the world, government, people, to their works. If not, all the stories would be alike. When I was in my early teens, I wanted to write, live in the tropics and sail. I am now out of my teens (a few times over) and I write, live in the tropics and sail. An ex-wife pointed out … that I was the only person she knows who continued working toward a dream throughout his life that didn’t make many changes. I still believe in things as I did years ago; now, that doesn’t mean there haven’t been adjustments in what I believe. But the big picture has remained the same. So, what does all this have to do with your question? I believe I bring strong beliefs to what I write. I am not a formula writer, who sits down and follows a flow chart. I spend a lot of time thinking about the story line, knowing it will take on a life of its own once I begin to pump my blood into it. I want to entertain, as well as bring opinions to my writing and they don’t have to be opinions that I believe in. Think of how much Archie Bunker did to show the world the ridiculousness of bigotry. A really well written bad guy can say a lot about his/her beliefs. I don’t know if that answers your question or not, but I got a lot off my chest …”
Dagnabit. How come it’s always the guys that get things off their chest around here? Eh? Grumblerhubarbrhubarbetc …

Princess Lilyput: The All-Singing, All-Dancing Debut Video

In which Princess Lilyput does damn all, to be perfectly frank, apart from gurgle, pootle, break a couple of windy smiles and generally come the li’l diva in the wake of a tiny but perfectly formed and surprisingly ladylike barf (David Attenborough-style commentary by Mrs Vizier). She may (or may not) also be trying to telepathically communicate with Granny and Grandad Vizier, to let them know the red carpet will be required when she arrives in Sligo for the very first time on Friday. Oh, and Granny Viz? That picture you were looking for can be found by clicking here. Roll it there, Collette ...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Yon Patricia Cornwell’s Got Some FRONT, Hasn’t She?

Our newest VBFs, the chaps and chapesses at The Times, get in touch to let us know that they’re running an extract from Patricia Cornwell’s latest, THE FRONT, the gist of which runneth thusly:
Nana’s Buick shakes and coughs as the engine turns off, and the driver’s door screeches open like a prehistoric bird.
  Win pockets the key, wonders why Farouk the landlord is sitting on the back steps, lighting a cigarette. Since when does he smoke, and he’s breaking his own rule. No
smoking, no lighting matches or grills, not so much as a spark is allowed on the grounds of his nineteenth-century brick apartment building, a former school, impeccably
maintained and rented to privileged people. Or in Win’s case, to someone who earns his keep. It’s past midnight.
  “Either you just started a nasty new habit or something’s up,” says Win.
  “An ugly shorty was looking for you,” Farouk says, a dish towel under him, probably so he doesn’t get dirt on his ill-fitting white suit.
  “She calls herself my shorty?” Win says. “Or is that what you’re calling her?”
  “She say it, not me. I don’t know what it is.”
  “Gang slang for girlfriend,” Win says.
  “See! I knew she was a gangster! I knew it! That’s why I’m this upset! I don’t want peoples like that, try very hard to keep things the right way.” In his heavy accent.   “These peoples you see in your job, they come here, I have to ask you to move out! My tenants will complain and I will lose my leases!”
  “Easy going, Farouk . . .”
  “No! I let you here for this unbelievable good price to protect me from bad peoples, and then they come here, these very ones you’re supposed to keep away!” He jabs his finger at Win. “Good thing no one but me sees her! I’m very upset. Peoples like that show up here, and you let me down. You have to move.”
  “What did she look like, and tell me exactly what happened.” Win sits next to him.
  “I come home from dinner and this white girl come from nowhere like a ghost ..”
  “Where? Here in back? Were you sitting out here smoking when she showed up?”
  “I got very upset and so I go to visit José across the street to have a beer and see if he know anything about the shorty, ever seen her, and he said no. So he give me a
cigarette or two. I only smoke when I get very stressed, you know. I don’t want you to have to move, you know.”
 Win tries again. “What time was it when she showed up, and where were you? Inside your apartment?”
  “I just was dropped off from dinner, so I’m thinking maybe nine o’clock, and you know I always come in from back here, and as I walk up these steps, there she is like a ghost out of a movie. Like she was waiting. I never seen her before and have no idea. She say to me, ‘Where’s the policeman?’ I say, “What policeman,’ Then she says, ‘Geronimo’.”
  “She said that?” Few people know his nickname. Mostly cops.
  “I swear,” Farouk says.
  “Describe her.”
  “It’s hard to see, you know. I should get lights. A cap on, big pants and short. Skinny.”
  “What makes you think she’s involved in gang activity? Aside from my telling you what a shorty is.”
  “The way she talk. Like a black person even though she white. And very rough talk, street talk, said a lot of bad words.” He repeats a few of them. “And when I say I don’t know a policeman named Geronimo, because I protect you always, she cuss me some more and say she knows you live here, and she hand me this.” He slides an envelope out of his jacket pocket. “I don’t want those gang peoples. Don’t need drugs and shootings around here.”
For the rest of the extract, jump on over here

Monday, April 21, 2008

Put The Bleme On Meme, Boys # 134

Eoin Purcell tags the Grand Vizier for an intriguing little variation on the blogging chain letter, aka the meme. The rules:
1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people, and acknowledge who tagged you.
1. The Grand Viz is currently reading THE DALKEY ARCHIVES by the greatest living / dead / yet-to-come Irish writer, Flann O’Brien (see below).
2. The sixth, seventh and eighth sentences runneth thusly:
“The lamplight was soft, agreeable, restful as gaslight, but suddenly he thought he heard a voice say something in a tone that made him start. Beyond a partition on the customers’ side he saw another man serving within the counter further up the shop. He was oldish, thin, slightly stooped, and he wore glasses.”

(A slight cheat: the next three sentences runneth thusly: “Thick grey hair was brushed back from the forehead. Mick’s heart began to thunder. Sweet God, had he found James Joyce?”)
Now for the juicy part – we’re tagging the Book Witch, J. Kingston Pierce, Maxine Clarke, Crimefic Reader and Peter Rozovsky. Sorry, folks ...

The Not-So-Secret Policeman’s Ball

The facts, ma’am, just the facts. Quoth the Blue Raincoat blurb elves:
Where on earth would one find a group of village policemen obsessed with bicycles even going so far as to steal the things themselves to counteract the effects of an atomic theory which holds that through a sort of molecular transfer the owners of bicycles become bicycles themselves and vice versa?
  I have no idea.
  Where would you find a character that has a wooden leg, cannot remember his own name, and is party to a murder and devoted to the musings of an eccentric philosopher named De Selby who believes that the earth is not round but shaped like a sausage?
  Once again, I am at a loss.
  Moreover, in addition and while we are at it. How many policemen do you know who have a device which works by storing loud noises such as shouting and hammering, and later converting them into light when needed?
  I know of no such cohort.
  Would you like to make their acquaintance?
  Indeed I would.
  Blue Raincoat Theatre Company will be staging their production of Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN at venues nationwide during May. You will be introduced to a host of characters and find yourself in balls of laughter.
  THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien. What’s that?
  It is a murder mystery, an hilarious comic satire, a fable of eternal grief, the story of romantic love between a man and his bicycle and a surreal vision of eternity with a cast that includes policemen, a man, his soul, a one-legged gallows maker and bicycles. Described variously as a “ Fantastic production” and a “ heady delight”, Jocelyn Clarke’s adaptation of the famous novel by Flann O’Brien begins a tour of the country on May 3rd.
  Sounds fantastic.
  It is. Visit for more details.
Yes, yes – but is it any good? “Marvellous … and it looked gorgeous,” voted the Irish Times Critics Choice in 2007. “A fantastic production, truly impressive,” reckons The Sunday Independent. “Striking, funny, tragic, entertaining …” says the Irish Times. So there you have it: THE THIRD POLICEMAN. Blue Raincoat. ’Nuff said.

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “Siobhan Dowd, author of the wonderful THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY, has written another terrific young adult novel, this time set in Northern Ireland in 1981. It’s the best novel about The Troubles I’ve read, for adults or younger readers, with a real sense of what it must have been like in that place at that time … The author’s control of all this chaos is astonishing: she’s a very good writer and I hope lots of people, teenagers and adults will read this. A great book,” says Malcolm at Story Time Books of BOG CHILD. Over at The Times, Amanda Craig agrees: “ [BOG CHILD] fuses the tragedy of her prize-winning debut, A SWIFT PURE CRY, and the comedy of THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY into a beautifully achieved whole … It’s a tragic situation, beautifully described in Dowd's lucid, intense prose, yet also shot through with warmth, comedy and humanity that make it tremendous fun to read.” Jeri Cohen of SCLS Reads, meanwhile, is impressed with THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY: “This well-written mystery is by the author of last year’s A SWIFT PURE CRY … The resolution of the mystery may be too easily wrapped up for adult readers, but for the younger teens, it’s perfect.” Liam Durcan’s GARCIA’S HEART gets the big-up from the Literary Review of Canada: “Durcan’s language is sculpted with seemingly effortless precision. His sentences are rich with detail and metaphor, luxurious with reference and allusion, but also lean and raw, getting straight to the point of what he wants to describe.” Over at Mostly Fiction, Mary Whipple likes Gene Kerrigan’s THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR: “In this intriguing police procedural, Kerrigan keeps the action crisp and fast-paced, with plenty of complications to keep the reader busy … Dark and sad in its vision of humanity, even with the bleak humour that is scattered throughout, this dramatic and tense novel questions the relationship between freedom and responsibility, between order and justice, and between principles and expediency.” James Purdon at The Guardian likes Ronan Bennett’s latest: “Bennett has hit on a rich analogy in this lively thriller, set in tsarist Russia and on the chessboard … ZUGZWANG’s hard-boiled noir is an enjoyable addition to the genre.” Back to Mostly Fiction for Sudheer Apte’s take on ZUGZWANG: “This is a very fast-moving novel … While chess enthusiasts will relish this side dish, others can safely skip these descriptions and still enjoy the main course.” John Kenny at the Irish Times (no link) likes Aifric Campbell’s debut: “THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER succeeds nicely on its own terms because, as a novel of ideas, it delivers: it presents a range of frequently surprising ideas and encourages thought.” No harm in that … They’re tumbling in now for Derek Landy, folks: “His characters are broadly drawn, yet precise – like Chinese calligraphy done with a big fat brush dripping with ink. The dialogue is snappy, with some fun deconstructionist bits when Stephanie complains about the way Skulduggery is talking; and the plot is just twisty enough … [Skulduggery] puts me in mind of James Bond, if Clive Owen had gotten the job. Or Indiana Jones,” says YNL at Pink Me of SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT. Jamieson Wolf, on the other hand, likes the sequel: “[SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT] was funny, fun, frantic and incredibly fantastic … PLAYING WITH FIRE is better than Landy’s first offering. Landy manages to write a dark gothic fantasy that is laugh out loud funny and also incredibly original, fresh and new.” Caterina likes Tana French’s IN THE WOODS: “It’s a literary thriller with just the right amount of prosiness and just the right amount of plot. And it’s a great panegyric to the platonic male-female relationship, a girl-boy buddy / police partnership.” A couple now for Ken Bruen: “[BUST] is a sharply written novel with lots of twists, and it’s darkly funny. SLIDE is a follow-up with the same characters but it’s just a little more messed up. Both novels have a lot of Irish humour. I think I preferred the second because the writers let themselves go and had fun with it,” says Iremonger at A Sort of Homecoming. Over at Ketchikan Public Library, Rainbird is impressed with CROSS: “I’ve just finished Ken Bruen’s fourth Jack Taylor novel and the story has left me feeling a little depressed and bleak, as though I should be lashing out at someone. I also feel like I’ve stumbled across an amazing writer whose prose is so intriguing that it sucked me into reading a genre of book I don’t ordinarily enjoy: gritty realistic crime fiction.” A quick brace for Catherine O’Flynn’s award-winning debut: “WHAT WAS LOST is both very funny and very moving. Catherine O’Flynn captures perfectly the ferocious seriousness of childhood, and the heart-breaking emotional void below this child’s detective role-playing … In the end, it also becomes a love story,” says JMG at SCC English. Miss Jen B goes one better: “It’s probably the best book I’ve read since SUITE FRANCAISE and thus makes it onto my little list of ‘really awesome books’ … Seriously addictive and really well written.” RTE gives Twenty Major’s debut the hup-ya: “Sick, twisted, weird, politically incorrect, foul and brilliant, THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX PARK is a guilty pleasure that makes pot noodles look like porridge … this a great read and a fine accomplishment for his first novel.” Finally, a quartet for Declan Hughes’ latest, THE DYING BREED (aka THE PRICE OF BLOOD): “The story is character-driven, and Hughes once again shows his background in drama: the characters are individually well drawn, but come to life especially in their interactions with one another … Loy’s voice as narrator is solid and believable: he’s lively, without being overtly clever or glib like some crime narrators, to keep the reader on his side. And the rhythm and flow of Hughes’ prose style is rare eloquence in the field of crime fiction,” says Glenn Harper at International Noir. Merrimon Crawford at likes it too: “If you are looking for a unique read and one that stands out from all the books out there, in either suspense or literature, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is brilliant! Although tragic, THE PRICE OF BLOOD is hauntingly innovative.” John Boland at the Irish Independent is equally impressed:
“Here and elsewhere you feel you’re in the presence of a cut-price Philip Marlowe … but it’s a measure of Hughes’ command of plot and pacing and of his feel for character, tone and locale that you soon become absorbed in his narrative and cease to care about its hybrid origins.” And Claire Kilroy at the Irish Times overlooks some plotting issues to declare, “It is in his observation of Irish society that Hughes is at his most incisive … His keen ear for the demotic, his sharp eye for the damning detail, makes THE DYING BREED a vivid, gripping, and occasionally chilling read.” Buggery. There goes our ‘Killjoy Kilroy’ headline …

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

The Florida wing of the Irish crime fiction brigade – aka Michael Haskins – gets in touch to suggest that we run a competition giving away three copies of his debut novel, CHASIN’ THE WIND, and we’re only too glad to give Josh Schrank another chance to off-load that pesky case of Glenfiddich. First, the blurb elves:
When government officials sworn to uphold justice attempt to subvert it instead, journalist Liam Michael Murphy and a group of local citizens take over the responsibility. When their efforts seem doomed to failure, revenge becomes the next option: an option with dire consequences. Murphy and his co-conspirators must outwit local cops, federal officials and murderous Cuban army deserters during their crusade. Seeking help from the Cuban government, Murphy considers the possibilities of treason as he meets with Cuban police in Havana. Treason, treachery and justice collide as Murphy’s campaign comes to an explosive end ...
To be in with a chance of winning a signed (woo!) hardback (wee-hoo!) copy of CHASIN’ THE WIND, just answer the following question, as suggested by Mr Haskins:
What Cuban revolutionary’s grandmother was from Ireland and what was her maiden name?
Answers in the comment box below, please, with an email contact address (please use (at) instead of @ in your address). All correct answers go into the Grand Vizier’s turban, the winners to be drawn at noon on Tuesday April 22nd. Et bon chance, mes amis