Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Friday, October 3, 2008

I’m Leaving On A Jet Plane ...

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go
I’m standing here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breaking, it’s early morn
The taxi’s waiting, he’s blowing his horn
Already I’m so lonesome I could die …

Cause I’m leaving on a jet plane
Don’t know when I’ll be back again
Oh baby, I hate to go
 There’s only one downside to this John and Dec’s Most Excellent Adventure road-trip malarkey, and it’s the ‘already I’m so lonesome I could die’ bit – I’ll badly miss the Princess Lilyput while I’m away jollying it up pretending to be a writer, there’s no two ways about it. But I guess it just has to be done, and hopefully she’ll still be saying “Da-da-da” and looking for lots of hugs when I stagger back into Dublin in the wake of the Bouchercon festivities …
  Anyhoos, I’ll be up-up-and-away to Toronto tomorrow lunchtime, and even though John and I intend to blog the road-trip, I’ve no idea how practical that idea is, or how regular the posts will be. We’ll see how it goes … Bear with me; regular service will be resumed all too soon.
  All that’s left to say is thanks a million to everyone who’s contributed to putting me in the position whereby I can fly off on a road-trip through New England promoting our humble tome THE BIG O. It’s a cliché, I know, but it’s true that the people you meet on the journey are far more important than the destination itself. And if the quality of folk I’ve met over the last 18 months are anything to go by, I’m honestly hoping I never actually make it to that destination. Peace, people.

Robert Downey Jnr: An Ideal Holmes?

I’ve never been much of a Sherlock Holmes man myself, but a press release came through yesterday that may be of interest, to wit:
LONDON, ENGLAND, October 1, 2008 – Principal photography is set to begin on location in London for the action adventure mystery “Sherlock Holmes,” being helmed by acclaimed filmmaker Guy Ritchie, for Warner Bros. Pictures and Village Roadshow Pictures.
  Robert Downey Jr. brings the legendary detective to life as he has never been portrayed before. Jude Law stars as Holmes’ trusted colleague, Watson, a doctor and war veteran who is a formidable ally for Sherlock Holmes. Rachel McAdams stars as Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have bested Holmes and who has maintained a tempestuous relationship with the detective. Mark Strong stars as their mysterious new adversary, Blackwood. Kelly Reilly will play Watson’s love interest, Mary.
  In a dynamic new portrayal of Conan Doyle’s famous characters, “Sherlock Holmes” sends Holmes and his stalwart partner Watson on their latest challenge. Revealing fighting skills as lethal as his legendary intellect, Holmes will battle as never before to bring down a new nemesis and unravel a deadly plot that could destroy the country.
  And Jude Law will be going from that set to the “Blitz” set in early 2009, by all accounts …

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Make Mine An Extra-Cheesy Steak

So there I was, with John and Dec’s Most Excellent Adventure looming on Saturday, about to give you a long-winded and maudlin account of THE BIG O’s humble origins and how blummin’ fantastic it is that everything is so blummin’ fantastic, yadda-yadda-ya, when lo! Up popped the lovely people at the Philadelphia City Paper to do it for me. Nice. Better again is the header – ‘Up On Dec’. Carolyn and Char? That’s genius. Sample quote:
“The book was co-published with Hag’s Head Press in Ireland, and they’re what we like to call a boutique publisher — but that’s just code for the smallest publisher in the world. We literally had no money to publicize the book and hence I started up the blog Crime Always Pays to promote both THE BIG O and other Irish crime writers. So in the beginning I was doing 100 percent of the publicity. I don’t know how familiar you are with the crime-writing community, both readers and writers, but it’s the most welcoming, generous and friendly community I have ever come across. At this point they’re almost doing the publicity on my behalf. It’s fantastic, it really is.”
  Did I mention that everything is blummin’ fantastic? Yes? Fine, I’ll get my cloak …

Gerard Brennan: His Ass Is Officially Grass

Has anyone else noticed the amount of work Gerard Brennan is getting through over at Crime Scene Northern Ireland? The guy must have eight arms, or else he’s repatriated all the elves who abandoned Crime Always Pays for the flesh pots of Santa Ponsa during the summer and never came back. Sob, etc.
  Anyhoos, in the last fortnight alone, Gerard has posted interviews with uber-babe Arlene Hunt (right), Ken Bruen and Neville Thompson; reviewed Brian McGilloway’s BORDERLANDS and Paul Charles’ THE DUST OF DEATH; and posted sundry other Irish crime fic-related bits ‘n’ bobs. And not only that, but he’s gone and half-inched the only regular contributor Crime Always Pays ever had, aka Adrian McKinty, who’s written a very funny review of Julian Barnes’ ARTHUR AND GEORGE. And if that wasn’t bad enough, he gets tons more comments than Crime Always Pays does. Boo.
  What’s to be done? Well, it’s obvious, innit – we’re taking a hit out on the boy Brennan and putting a CAP in his ass. Gerard? It’s pistols at ten paces in a murky Russian dawn. Well, it’s either that or slow down, squire. You’re making us all look bad …

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

The Lone Ranger And Toronto Ride Again

All three regular readers of Crime Always Pays will know that John McFetridge (right) and I are taking a road-trip next week, starting on Sunday in Toronto and meandering down through New England towards Baltimore for Bouchercon, which runs from October 9 to 12. I will, I’m sure, be dining out for many years to come on the fact that I once, even for a shimmeringly brief moment in time, played Tonto to his Lone Ranger, Robin to his Batman, Waldorf to his Stadler, Ginger to his toe-twinkling Fred, etc.
  Anyhoos, the book-signing / reading / event itinerary can be found here, and if you’re in the vicinity of any of the outlets involved, we’d love to see you come along. John, I’m told, is a sight to behold in his diamante-spangled Lone Ranger / Batman / Stadler / Fred Astaire costume ...
  He also writes a mean story or two, which is actually the point of this post, because McFetridge has just collected all his web-published short stories and flash fiction on one interweb yokeybus, the whole shebang entitled ‘The Toronto Series’. If it’s good enough for Elmore Leonard, and it is, then it should be good enough for you. Here’s a taster from ‘Grow House’ to get you started …
Grow House
Steve Barrett had been back from Afghanistan two weeks when he stole his first car, a brand new BMW X5, leather interior, V8. What he did was, he stood around the parking lot of the Vaughn Mills Mall in north Toronto until some woman pulled in driving it and he followed her inside. Then he gave a couple of teenagers fifty bucks to steal her purse and while she was giving the mall security guard shit for half an hour, Steve drove the car to a garage on Dufferin owned by a biker named Danny Mac who gave him ten grand in cash.
  It was the same kind of independent thinking the army sent him home for showing. What the fuck did they expect him to do back home?
  Now, less than a month later, he was driving north on Avenue Road in a Jaguar XJ, British Racing Green, slowing down in front of the Four Seasons, looking for his girlfriend, Summer, and there she is, looking like every other twenty-something blonde in Yorkville; expensive skirt suit with the skirt way too short showing off fantastic skinny legs and a nice ass, the little jacket buttoned up to show her tits spilling out of the push-up bra, sunglasses and a big Holt Renfrew bag over her shoulder. And talking on the phone. She could be just another one of the rich kids with Daddy’s credit card, but when she got in the car saying, “The fuck you talking about Freddie, don’t give me that shit,” there was enough edge to make it real.
  That, and everything in the big Holt Renfrew bag was stolen.
  Steve pulled away from the curb looking at her and she gave him the nanosecond smile and went back to talking to her brother, saying they’d be right there and Steve saying, no we won’t, and Summer saying, don’t fucking worry and Steve saying worry all you want, I’m not helping and Summer saying, “Are you sure they’re dead?” ...
Jump on this for the rest ...

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE DARK FIELDS by Alan Glynn

Given Wall Street’s current woes, I couldn’t have picked a better time to read THE DARK FIELDS. With the help of the ‘smart drug’ MDT-48, Eddie Spinola goes from being a dysfunctional bottom-feeder to master of the financial universe in just a few months, playing a crucial role in brokering the biggest corporate merger in US history.
  Of course, there are side-effects to taking MDT-48, an as-yet unproven experimental drug. Eddie suffers from blackouts, during the course of one he may or may not have assaulted a woman badly enough to put her in a coma. And coming off MDT-48 doesn’t just result in a bad case of cold turkey – it’s lethal.
  Told in a deceptively casual conversational style, Alan Glynn’s debut is assured, inventive and polished. Its occasional sci-fi touches are reminiscent of Philip K. Dick or William Gibson, although the depth of cynicism to Glynn’s dystopian vision doesn’t reveal itself fully until the last page. The novel was first published in 2001, but given the events of the last eight years, it can now be read as black farce, chilling prophecy, or a combination of both.
  Glynn’s subtle touch extends beyond a deft way with plot and characterisation, however. THE DARK FIELDS swaggers like a crime novel, and it has its fair share of criminals, violent deaths, illicit dealings and rampant paranoia, but the criminality is subservient to the narrative. MDT-48 is not a proscribed substance, for example, so Eddie is not breaking any law by taking it, nor by prospering as a result. And, given his black-outs, and the first-person narration, the reader is never entirely sure as to whether Eddie is responsible for the violent assault that charges the narrative.
  Eddie does engage in overtly criminal acts as the story moves towards its climax, but taking these explicit crimes out of the story would by no means render it pointless. Further, there’s a palpable sense of ambition at play here, an application of crime fiction’s tropes to a philosophical end, crystallised when Eddie cuts to the nub of the story: “If human behaviour was all about synapses and serotonin, then where did free will come into the picture? Where did personal responsibility end and brain chemistry begin?”
  A beautifully written thriller that is a compelling and at times profound exploration of the human condition, it’s no surprise that THE DARK FIELDS is prefaced with a quote from THE GREAT GATSBY. The novel represents my kind of holy grail, that quality of storytelling that erases the artificially contrived and / or supposed differences between genre and literary writing. Erudite, thoughtful and entertaining, it is a novel to be treasured. – Declan Burke

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

This week’s super soaraway freebie thingy comes courtesy of the generous folk at Brandon Books, who have given us three copies of Paul Charles’ latest, THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF SILENCE, to pass on to you. Yes, YOU! First, the blurb elves:
In the ninth DI Christy Kennedy mystery, Kennedy investigates the murder of a colleague whose ‘the ends justify the means’ work ethic created numerous enemies. An annual Halloween Bonfire goes horribly wrong when a body is spotted in the middle of the fire’s glowing timbers. Identifiable only through his dental records, the victim is retired police Superintendent David Peters, an ex-colleague of DI Christy Kennedy. As Kennedy and his team settle down to a painstaking search through Peters’ cases, they soon discover that for the superintendent the means justified the end in solving them, and each case they review throws up another suspect.
  Coolio. To be in with a chance of winning a copy, just answer the following question.
Was Paul Charles’ last book, THE DUST OF DEATH, set in:
(a) London;
(b) Dublin;
(c) Donegal;
(d) Oh for pity’s sake, just give me a blummin’ free book for once!
  Answers via the comment box, please, leaving a contact email address (using (at) rather than @ to confused the spam-munchkins), by noon on Tuesday, October 7. Et bon chance, mes amis

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Charles Salzberg

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?
There are so many of them--anything by Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler, especially THE BIG SLEEP, or Ross MacDonald. They were really the inspiration for writing SWANN’S LAST SONG. And maybe an unlikely candidate, DESPERADOES, by Ron Hansen, about the James, Dalton and Younger gangs.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I try to think of myself as a fictional character, it gets me through the day – and night. But if pressed, I suppose it would have to be one of those detectives, like Sam Spade or Phillip Marlowe, who always seemed to know what they were doing, even if they didn’t know why.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Well, I don’t think of reading anything as doing something guilty. We all do enough guilty things during the course of a day. I actually think of reading anything today, with all the diversions there are – the internet, TV, movies – as virtuous. But I guess I’d have to say the New York Post, a tabloid here in America, especially Page 6, the gossip page.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting a book published, especially one like SWANN, which I first wrote nearly thirty years ago. But I’ve got other unpublished manuscripts in my drawer and getting one of them published would certainly be a satisfying moment.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I could probably google myself to death to come up with what I’d consider the best Irish crime novel, but then I’d be guilty of lying, so I’m going to tell the truth and unmask myself as a terrible impostor because I read very little crime fiction, though I’ll see every crime movie ever made.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Again, I’ll have to demur here. Besides, what great book ever makes a great movie?
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing: you don’t have to go out when the weather’s inclement. Worst thing: having to actually write.
The pitch for your next book is …?
I’m planning a sequel to SWANN, where’s he’s gotten out of the business and become a cable TV installer, but is dragged back into “the game”, and becomes involved in the stealing of and selling of rare books.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading a book of short stories by Bruce Jay Friedman called THREE BALCONIES, and a non-fiction book by Jerome Groopman, called HOW DOCTORS THINK, as well as trying to catch up with a bunch of New Yorker magazines lying around. I’m an inveterate magazine reader.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. Hands down. It would be a way to avoid writing, which every writer worth his or her salt wants to do.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …
Varied. Conversational. Character-driven.

Charles Salzberg’s SWANN’S LAST SONG is published by Five Star.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Monday Lynx

Being a round-up of mildly interesting stuff-‘n’-such discovered by Jinx the Lynx (right) on his weekly prowl around the interweb. To wit:
John Connolly is interviewed over at Me and My Big Mouth.

Gerard Brennan has interviews with Neville Thompson and Ken Bruen.

Adrian McKinty is running a competition to win a copy of THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPERS.

Tana French tells The Guardian about her ‘Top 10 Maverick Mysteries’ …

… while her second novel, THE LIKENESS, gets reviewed at the Irish Independent.

Garbhan Downey talks journalism and crime writing at Detectives Beyond Borders.

Back to The Guardian for James Lasdun’s review of Benny Blanco’s THE LEMUR.

And this was the saddest news of the weekend …

The Embiggened O # 31,461: We’re Not In Kansas Anymore, Toto. Oh, Hold On …

And I know / It ain’t gonna last …” warbled the Mercury Revsters at one point, so I’ll make hay while the sun shines and / or post up the reviews of our humble tome THE BIG O as they arrive. The weekend just passed was a particularly good one, with the generous folk at Booklist leading the way, to wit:
“Burke has married hard-boiled crime with noir sensibility and seasoned it with humour and crackling dialogue … fans of comic noir will find plenty to enjoy here.” – Booklist

“Burke’s the latest – and one of the best – bad-boy Irish writers to hit our shores … the pieces of THE BIG O fall flawlessly into place. Burke’s characters are as unpredictable as stray bullets and the dialogue is nothing short of electric. This caper is so stylish, so hilarious, that it could have been written by the love-child of Elmore Leonard and Oscar Wilde.” – Killer Books

“A noir hybrid of murder and merriment … as if Quentin Tarantino and Buster Keaton had a love-child who could write … There have been few novelists who could plot tightly, create well-developed characters and write laugh-out-loud dialogue – Burke is a welcome new addition. ” – Mystery on Main Street
  Finally, Leslie McGill at the Kansas City Star did us proud, not least because THE BIG O was her Pick of the Week over such luminaries as Kate Atkinson, Michael Connelly and Ian Rankin, the gist of the review running thusly:
“Delightful … darkly funny … Burke’s style is evocative of Elmore Leonard, but with an Irish accent and more of a sense of humour … Here’s hoping we see lots more of Declan Burke soon.” – Leslie McGill, Kansas City Star
  All of which is very, very nice indeed. Folks? We thank you kindly, one and all …

Sunday, September 28, 2008

“In The Desiccated Murk Of A John Banville Novel …”

Declan Hughes reviewed Benny Blanco’s THE LEMUR for the Irish Times yesterday, and I choked so hard on my cornflakes I needed a good Heimliching from a 300-pound gorilla. To wit:
“This is not Banville writing as Black, this is Black writing as Banville, and John Glass is that familiar figure: Banville Man. Banville Man, furrowed brow wreathed in smoke, forever caught between a swoon and a sneer; Banville Man, the rumpled aesthete whose exquisite nerves are ever besieged by the crass and the vulgar (“For God’s sake, Louise. The ‘chopper’!”); Banville Man, whose loathing of the hell that is other people is surpassed only by his loathing of himself.
  “And in the desiccated murk of a John Banville novel, where no one expects much by way of character or action, where a bogus back-story is the least you might imagine a man to have, that’s all par for the course.”
  I actually liked THE LEMUR, on the basis that I thought it was good fun to read Banville playing around with the genre conventions. But this is much more fun – we haven’t had a good old-fashioned writers’ spat in, oooh, never. And what gives this one a frisson is that Banville used to be the literary editor-type with the Irish Times.
  Ding-ding, gentlemen, seconds out …

“Just A Perfect Day / I’m Glad I Spent It With Youse …”

I don’t generally have much truck with Kilkenny, this on the basis that its hurlers knocks the stuffing out of Wexford on an annual basis, but yesterday, at the invitation of organiser Neville Thompson (right), I headed down country for the inaugural Castlecomer Writers’ Festival. A fine day it was too, with the sleepy hamlet bathed in sunshine and none of the locals inclined to boast that their county’s hurlers are the finest specimens of the art known to mankind, and are therefore the finest sportsmen ever to grace the planet.
  Anyhoos, I did my best to ruin the convivial atmosphere by injecting some crime into proceedings but no one seemed to take it personally, and the morning’s crime writing workshop went off without a hitch, apart from the fact that I was unforgivably late. It being Castlecomer, no one was rude enough to point out this fact, and it was only afterwards I realised it. Folks? Sincere apologies …
  Bizarre as it was to be asked for my advice on how to write (“Erm, I dunno – rip off someone good, like Elmore Leonard …?”), it was a terrific experience. Because the truth is that I’m about a half-a-rung up the publishing ladder from the folks who are currently struggling to piece their first novels together, which made the whole process a fairly chastening reality check. Mind you, the highlight of the morning was the nun who recounted how she’d taught a hardened prisoner the meaning of the acronym ‘fuck’.
  Upward and onward to lunch, where I met James Lawless, whose novel PEELING ORANGES sounds like a good one. To wit:
PEELING ORANGES tells the story of Derek Foley, who, while sifting through his late father’s diaries and his mother’s correspondence with an IRA man, discovers that Patrick Foley, a diplomat in Franco’s Spain, was not really his father. Derek’s mother, who is ailing, is unwilling to discuss the past, forcing her son on a quest that will plunge him into the early history of Irish diplomacy, taking him to Spain and later to Northern Ireland, until he discovers who his real father was – with tragic consequences.
  PEELING ORANGES is a novel full of personal and political intrigue, fraught with ideology, as it intersects the histories of two emergent nations – Ireland and Spain. It is also a beautiful and lyrically written love story of childhood sweethearts – the apolitical Derek and the passionate nationalist, Sinéad Ní Shúileabháin. “A book to lose oneself in. I highly recommend it.” – Gabriel Byrne.
  I also – finally – got to meet Garbhan Downey, who followed me outside when I slipped out for a post-prandial smoke. “I recognised you from the cigarillo,” says he. A top bloke. After lunch we co-hosted a workshop on journalism, during which I felt like a total fraud. I tried to buy a copy of OFF BROADWAY, his Damon Runyon-inspired collection of short stories, but apparently my money is no good in Castlecomer. “If I never wrote another book,” he said, handing it over, “this is the book I wanted to write.” Always nice to hear a scribe say that …
  Back into the Vizmobile, then, and off to Dublin, where I took part in a discussion on the sudden popularity of Irish crime fiction on Newstalk 106 hosted by the ever-radiant Sinead Gleeson. Tana French and I were in the studio, with Paul Charles on the line from London. The verdict? Irish crime fiction is suddenly popular because there’s a whole heap of terrific authors writing crime fiction. Here endeth the lesson.
  Back into the Vizmobile again and hey-ho for Arklow and the afters of a wedding reception, where I got quietly and very pleasantly drunk to the soundtrack of a covers band knocking out pretty decent versions of offerings from The Stones, The Monkees, The Beatles and Joe Dolan. Nice. Mind you, I did make a faux pas when I told one of Mrs Viz’s cousins that I really liked her shoes. What – aren’t married men supposed to notice women’s shoes anymore?
  Anyhoos, back home and off to Sleepytown, not neglecting to give the Princess Lilyput a little cuddle before my pillow finally claimed me for its own. A perfect day? Damn close …