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, August 30, 2008

For Whom The Bell’s Palsy Tolls

It’s been a busy-busy-busy week for your genial host (right), folks, what with everyday life cranking up a couple of notches, the Electric Picnic gig to prepare for, and Princess Lilyput’s christening to come on Sunday, so apologies for the go-slow on ye olde blogging in the last few days. I’ve also been feeling exhausted, which I put down to the frantic schedule and burning the candle at both ends, but it appears there’s a more sinister reason.
  For lo! I toddled along to the doctor yesterday complaining that my devastating blend of windswept, rugged handsomeness and winsome boyish charm were being undermined a tad by the fact that, during the week, I’d developed a smile akin to that of The Joker. The diagnosis? Bell’s Palsy.
  Now, I don’t know about you, but the word ‘palsy’ gives me the shivering fits. According to the Doc, it’s a relatively common condition caused by the inflammation of a facial nerve, which results in semi-paralysis of the facial muscles. It’s an ‘idiopathic’ condition, meaning that they have no idea why it flares up, and it’s generally a temporary one, providing you diagnose and treat it early enough. So that’s me on a course of steroids for the next week or so, and I’ll probably have to get some physiotherapy on the affected muscles too.
  Bummer, huh? Still, at least it’s not a mini-stroke, which was my first reaction when I caught myself yawning in the mirror. And I’m in good company. Ever wonder where George Clooney’s cute sloppy smile comes from? Yep, it’s Bell’s Palsy. Now all I have to do is get myself properly handsome, steal some talent, become a multi-millionaire and squire half the world’s starlets around the planet, and George and I can hang out on set swapping ‘palsy pals’ gags while the Coen Brothers rush about trying to make THE BIG O as good as George and I deserve.
  It’s only a matter of time, people. You have been warned …

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Embiggened O: Where The Hell Is Lord Lucan When You Really Need Him?

Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah for the PR folk at Harcourt Houghton Mifflin, who have been beavering away behind the scenes jazzing up THE BIG O’s page. Apart from the unseemly blight of the Publishers Weekly review, which is the only negative review THE BIG O has received in the 18 months since its first publication, and that on the basis that it’s not up to Elmore Leonard’s standard (!), the page now features quotes from Kirkus Reviews (starred), Crime Spree magazine, Jason Starr and John Connolly. Which is nice.
  The real bonus, though, is that they’ve also uploaded the first few chapters for your perusal. Which means, given that the chapters are dialogue-heavy and average out at about two pages each, that you could have read the first three chapters in the time it took you to read this load of muck. Anyhoos, the link is here if you’re so inclined, and any and all feedback will be gratefully received …
  Meanwhile, with just under a month to go to the official publication date, I’m wondering if this isn’t as good as it gets. The book is pristine, HHM have created a wonderful cover with which I am well pleased, the advance reviews have been fantastic (PW notwithstanding), and the generosity of various media outlets across the interweb offering promotion opportunities has been well-nigh staggering. In fact, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just go ahead and pull a Lord Lucan and bow out while everything is still going so well. Any pithy words of advice, o sage and all-knowing readership?

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Let’s Get Physical

The three most exciting things to happen around Chez Grand Viz this year are, in order of importance, the arrival of the Princess Lilyput, the publication of THE BIG O Stateside, and this. The Higgs’ Boson vid I stole from Pushed To One Side, a blog that really should have a jib for us all to admire the cut of. Physics is where it’s at, people. Peace, out.

A Funny Thing Didn’t Happen On The Way To The Theatre Last Night …

Off to The Gate for Pinter’s No Man’s Land last night, where I had the very good fortune to find myself sitting beside Barry McGovern (right, realising who he is sitting beside), the finest Beckett actor of his generation and arguably the finest Beckett actor ever. I told him that I had seen him in Romeo and Juliet at The Abbey a few months ago, when he stepped in at the last minute to play Friar Laurence, and did so whilst carrying the book of the play as if it were some holy relic he’d been entrusted with to defend with his life. “I hope that that didn’t spoil it for you,” says he. “Not at all,” says I, “it only gave it an added frisson.”
  Frisson! What I should have said was, “Not at all, sir, it would have been a privilege to be in the same theatre as you even if you were sweeping out the stalls.”
  But I didn’t. When the play was over, Michael Gambon hushed the applause to announce that Harold Pinter himself was in the audience, which provoked a standing ovation. I didn’t get to speak to Pinter, of course, but that’s just as well, because the conversation would probably have gone something like this:
DB: “Alright, Squire? How’re they hanging?”
HP: “…”
DB: “I’ll get my cloak.”
  Ah, the theatre. The roar of greasepaint, the smell of the crowd, etc.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Andrew Nugent: Soul Brother

Our favourite crime-writing monk is back-back-back, folks. Andrew Nugent’s SOUL MURDER hits a shelf near you on October 2nd, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
A riveting crime novel by Irish Benedictine Monk Andrew Nugent, which explores the terrible darkness in our souls. When a house master is found dead at a leading boys’ boarding school in Ireland, Superintendent Denis Lennon and Sergeant Molly Power of the Irish Police Force struggle to uncover any probable motive for this brutal killing. Perhaps it was a bungled kidnapping attempt? Or a revenge attack? Or simple robbery but with extreme malice? But when the existence of a letter from an old boy is discovered, their investigation becomes much more complicated. Something very sinister has provoked this violent bloodshed and, with so much at stake, will the killer stop at one murder?
  Our guess is no. SOUL MURDER is Nugent’s third offering, with the general gist of the verdict on THE FOUR COURTS MURDER and SECOND BURIAL running thusly:
‘An erudite, witty and altogether delightful debut, full of characters laced with eccentricity and Irish charm’ – Kirkus Reviews (starred)

‘It would take an iron will not to find oneself swept along by the pace at which the story is told’ – The Irish Times

‘Excellent ... Nugent deploys all the intellect and linguistic brilliance required of his former profession, coupled with the deep humour, understanding and genuine interest in his fellow human beings essential to his vocation’ – The Guardian
  Come on, admit it – aren’t you just the teensiest bit intrigued as to how a Benedictine monk would go about writing crime fiction?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mad About The Boyne

I bumped into yon John Boyne this morning. He was in terrifically good form, which was unsurprising given that was standing in the foyer of the cinema which had just preview screened the movie of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, with the added bonus that the movie is a smashing version of the book. I personally prefer his most recent novel MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY to THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS, but the movie really cuts to the heart of what made the latter a multi-million selling phenomenon.
  David Thewlis turns in an excellent performance as the epitome of the banality of evil in his role as a concentration camp commandant, and the father of Bruno, the flawed hero of the piece who meets the strange boy in the striped pyjamas who lives on a farm behind barbed wire. It’s young Jack Scanlon as Shmuel who steals the show, however – with his rotten teeth, shaven head and potato-shaped skull, the emaciated little boy is a heartbreaker, and Scanlon’s naturalistic performance is the stand-out.
  Fans of the novel will be pleased to hear that the downbeat ending has not been altered so as not to offend the sensibilities of the mainstream movie audience, but while the finale makes perfect sense in terms of the story’s narrative arc, I still have my reservations about the direction of its emotional thrust, and would have preferred to see the emphasis placed on Shmuel rather than Bruno. Not that I told John Boyne that, of course, mainly because to change the emphasis would make a farce of the narrative arc that had gone before. And it would have been rude.
  Anyhoos, the official word from Chez Grand Viz is that John Boyne is a charming and surprisingly understated bloke for a multi-million selling author, and I’d be surprised if the movie of THE BOY IN THE STRIPED PYJAMAS didn’t sell another multi-million of the novel. While you’re in the bookshop? Buy MUTINY ON THE BOUNTY too. You won’t be disappointed.

Four Readings And A Christening

It’s a busy time at Chez Grand Viz, folks. Princess Lilyput (right) will be christened this coming Sunday, and has insisted her minions rush about “just, like, doing stuff” between now and then, and loath we are to disobey. We’re looking forward to it, though. I remain unconvinced about the religious / spiritual aspect of the ceremony, but I’m loving the idea of officially introducing the little girl to our extended families, our friends and the community at large. A manly tear may well be shed …
  Before we get to Sunday, however, there’s Saturday’s Electric Picnic gig to be negotiated, during which yours truly will be chairing a panel on Irish crime fiction in the company of Declan Hughes, Julie Parsons and Brian McGilloway. I’ll be doing a follow-up post in the aftermath, so if there’s any questions you ever wanted to ask of any of the trio, now would be a good time to let me know.
  The weekend after that is the crime writing series as part of the Books 2008 festival, where I’ll be participating on two panels in the company of John Connolly, Dec Hughes, Tana French, Gene Kerrigan, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt, and sundry other ne’er-do-wells from the Irish crime writing scene. It should be a blast, not least because blogger non pareil Peter Rozovsky is travelling to Ireland to take a gander at the Irish crime writer in its native habitat, and may even consent to partake in a ceremonial dry sherry to mark the occasion.
  Once the dust settles on that particular Donnybrook, there’s a two-week run-in to the official publication of THE BIG O in North America, during which I’ll be typing my delicate little fingers down to stumps in a bid to secure as much coverage for our humble tome as is humanly possible. Any and all offers of even a single atom of publicity oxygen will be very gratefully received. Your reward will be in Heaven. Peace, out.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Michael Joseph / Penguin are the metaphorical Magwitch-style benefactors of this week’s giveaway comp, and they’re offering you – yes, YOU! – the chance to win one of three copies of Kevin Lewis’ latest novel, FALLEN ANGEL. First, the blurb elves:
DI Stacey Collins has seen the darker side of humanity all too often. A single mum and former child from the grim Blenheim estate, she knows only too well what terrors the world can hold. But even her jaded eyes have never witnessed a crime of such unspeakable horror. A body, broken and lifeless, is found in the gloom of a London church. Kidnapped and horrifically murdered, young Daniel Wright never knew his tormentor. And it is only the beginning. Soon Collins finds herself both haunted by the demons of her past and battling in the name of innocence itself. Some angels never find their path to heaven ...
  So there you have it. To be in with a chance of winning a copy of FALLEN ANGEL, just answer the following question.
Is the best movie ever made with ‘angel’ in the title:
(a) Angels With Dirty Faces;
(b) Angel Heart;
(c) Der Blaue Engel;
(d) Tupac Shakur: Thug Angel;
(e) The Angel, The Bicycle and The Chinaman’s Finger?
  Answers via the comment box, please, leaving a contact email address (using (at) rather than @ to confuse the spam-munchkins), by noon on Tuesday, August 26th. Et bon chance, mes amis