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, November 8, 2008

The Embiggened O # 3,208: In Which Shots Rang Out

It’s Saturday, so it must be the self-aggrandizing plug for yours truly. Tony Black is one of the busiest men in crime fiction, even when he’s not penning his own novels, so it was nice of him to take time out and Q&A your humble host for Shots magazine, an excerpt from which runneth thusly:
TB: “So far as I can tell, the early reviews for THE BIG O in the States have been very kind. Did you always expect the Americans to get you?”

DB: “The reviews have been terrific. I’m stunned, to be honest with you. Kirkus even gave me a star, and I haven’t had one of those since primary school … No, it’s great. And I didn’t ‘expect’ anything, that’s being straight. The way THE BIG O came about, being co-published and all, everything since has been a bonus, just enjoying the ride. So to get good reviews Stateside … I guess it does make sense in one way, because the influences on THE BIG O are all American. The models for the kind of story it is were Elmore Leonard and the movies of the Coen Brothers … that kind of off-beat comedy crime caper they do so brilliantly. So I suppose it’s hardly surprising that American readers might ‘get’ the story, or the way it’s presented. Mind you, I should probably say that the reviews, they’ve been very kind in that some of them have mentioned Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake and Carl Hiassen … but I think that that has more to do with how few reference points reviewers have in the context of comedy crime capers than the quality of the book.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, November 7, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Michael Dymmoch

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?
MYSTIC RIVER. For some reason it’s still meandering through my head, though I read it years ago.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Odysseus. He was brave, cunning, practical, curious, and human.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

Baroness Orczy , Alexandre Dumas, Zane Gray.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Someone I sent a piece to responded with, “Damn You!” It wasn’t what I was aiming for, but it obviously evoked a strong emotion.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I really loved John Connolly’s THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS although I’m not sure it qualifies as a ‘crime’ novel, and The Crying Game though it’s not a novel. I’m sorry to say I’m not really familiar with Irish fiction – I’m hopelessly behind on reading well-known American writers. BTW – Who do you suggest I read after you?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Guillermo del Toro could do a great job with THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: Sometimes the words won’t come, or when you have a deadline, you get dozens of ideas for other books, none for the book you’re working on. Best: Total strangers come up to you and rave about something you wrote, speaking as if the characters you invented were living beings. (It’s also nice to kill people off in your latest opus when they get on your nerves.)

The pitch for your next book is …?

In 1998, a young man is dragged to death in Boys Town. A victim of malignant homophobia or something else?

Who are you reading right now?

I’m working my way through the stack of books I brought home from Bouchercon, including Barry Eisler, Jason Goodwin, Lynda LaPlante, and Reed Farrel Coleman.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Neither. MY God would certainly know that you can’t write if you don’t read, and would never demand a such a choice. Maybe the devil...

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

Michael Dymmoch’s
M.I.A. is published by St Martin’s Minotaur.

I’m Dreaming Of A White … Oh.

Looks like it’s a spliff Christmas, folks. Quoth the Irish Times:
Three still held after State’s largest cocaine seizure

A forensic examination is to take place today to establish the value of the cocaine haul which was seized onboard a yacht off the west Cork coast yesterday.
  It is believed the seizure is the biggest in the history of the State with estimates varying from €500 million to €1 billion...

Thursday, November 6, 2008

DEAD She May Well Be

Ingrid Black’s latest, CIRCLE OF THE DEAD, is getting a nice little push from Penguin, said push including the publication of an extract from the novel on said flightless bird-type publishing company’s interweb yokeybus. If you ask me, which no one ever does, I’d say that said extract is a bit on the skimpy side, and doesn’t really offer enough for a reader to sink his or her teeth into. Mind you, why would want to bite your monitor screen? And is it even physically possible? Questions, questions …
  Anyhoos, here beginneth the extract:
‘What is it?’ I said.
  ‘Missing person,’ she sighed. ‘Nineteen. Out drinking last night with friends. Left about midnight to make her way home. This morning one calls round to see how she is. Turns out she hadn’t come home all night. Her parents assumed she’d stayed with friend.’
  ‘What’s it got to do with the Murder Squad?’
  ‘The Assistant Commissioner asked me to take a look at it,’ said Fitzgerald. ‘She knows the family. They’re worried. There’s no answer from her cellphone.’
  ‘Do they fear the worst?’
  ‘They’re her parents. Parents always fear the worst.’
  And maybe they were right to do so …
For the rest of the extract, clickety-click here

It Takes Two To Boogie

It appears that Irish crime fiction might be getting its very own Stadler and Waldorf. For those of you who didn’t log on to CSNI yesterday, Gerard Brennan and Mike Stone (right and righter) did a ‘tag-team’ review of mine own humble EIGHTBALL BOOGIE which – the big-ups aside – looks like it could be an intriguing way of reviewing a novel. To wit:
Mike Stone: Hiya, mate. I finished Declan Burke’s EIGHTBALL BOOGIE yesterday. Give it a day or two and the dust will have settled enough for me to do a write-up. Assuming you want one of course?

Gerard Brennan: Hey, man. Yeah, I could well use a review of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. Thing is, I’ve only just read it myself. And I’m kind of in the mood to review it too. Not sure what to do. I like to get other opinions on CSNI when I can, but ... hmmm, what say you?
  For the rest of the review, clickety-click here
  Oh, and while I’m on the subject of CSNI – it seems that it was the good work of Gerard Brennan that convinced Tony Bailie to start blogging. As well as being a novelist, Tony’s a poet and journalist, but I don’t hold that against him and neither should you …

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

First The Phillies, Now This …

Quoth the Irish Times:
“Tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.”

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Let It Bleed

Man, but it’s hard to keep up these days. Brian McGilloway’s debut BORDERLANDS has only just been released in the U.S., and already his publishers on this side of the pond are talking up his third offering, BLEED A RIVER DEEP, which appears early next April. To wit:
When a controversial American senator is attacked during the opening of a Donegal gold mine, Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is blamed for a lapse in security. The shooting of an illegal immigrant in Belfast the same day leads Devlin to a vicious people-smuggling ring operating in the city. Then Leon Bradley, the young environmentalist who attacked the senator, is found murdered near the site of the mine. Devlin questions the group of itinerant travellers who have gathered around a nearby river hoping to strike gold themselves, and soon is becomes clear to Devlin that the mine is a front for something far more sinister. BLEED A RIVER DEEP is the new novel from one of the most acclaimed new crime writers on the scene: a labyrinthine tale of big business, the new Europe, and the dispossessed. Politics, industry and the criminal underworld collide in McGilloway’s most accomplished, most gripping and most sophisticated novel yet.
  Gold mines? Is it just me, or does McGilloway’s Donegal get more like Ye Olde Wild West with every book? It’ll be GUNFIGHT AT THE ACH-AYE CORRAL next …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Deborah Lawrenson

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?

A FATAL INVERSION by Barbara Vine (aka Ruth Rendell).

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Charlotte Gray, eponymous heroine of Sebastian Faulks’ wartime novel, for sheer bravery and guts, with a yearly sabbatical as Daisy in THE GREAT GATSBY: how utterly relaxing to be that shallow and careless of others while remaining adored …

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Not who but what: arty picture books of houses in the South of France.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Selling the rights to my fourth novel THE ART OF FALLING to Random House after having published it myself ten months earlier.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE STATEMENT by Brian Moore. Hope that counts. I love the way he writes sparingly yet lyrically, as tension builds.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Well, genuinely, I’d like to see THE BIG O make it. With Billy Bob Thornton as Frank.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: sitting at my desk and realising I’d be better off on a ten-mile run before sad case of Writer’s Bottom becomes irreversible. Best: sitting at my desk for hours playing around with words.

The pitch for your next book is …?
A cycle of interlinked stories set in Provence, exploring themes of age and experience, youth and innocence, reality and imagination - and a cold murder investigation.

Who are you reading right now?
THE LEVANT TRILOGY by Olivia Manning, alongside the biography of Olivia Manning by Neville and June Braybrooke.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Reading – without hesitation.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Evocative, sensuous and derriere-enlarging.

Deborah Lawrenson’s SONGS OF BLUE AND GOLD is published by Arrow Books.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Last Month I Was Mostly Reading …

A good month, last month. The highlight was Scott Phillips’ THE ICE HARVEST, not bad going when the company included Jason Goodwin’s THE SNAKE STONE, Cormac McCarthy’s BLOOD MERIDIAN, and John Le Carré’s TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY.
  I sneaked a peak at the first page of THE ICE HARVEST, just to get a flavour, when I got back to the hotel at 1am, this in Philadelphia after meeting Scott Phillips and having the novel warmly recommended by the quasi-mythical Greg Gillespie. Drink had been consumed, and I’d never heard of Scott Phillips or THE ICE HARVEST. I put the book down again at 3am because it was too damn good to read in one go. Scott has a lovely light touch, a dry sense of humour and a sharp ear for wry dialogue. It’s also an exemplary character study, as good as Banville’s Victor Maskell and Thompson’s Lou Ford. Terrific stuff.
  I met Scott Phillips again in Baltimore, actually, which was nice, especially as he spent the entire Friday walking around with a copy of THE BIG O under his arm. I also met Jason Goodwin, this about a week after I’d finished THE SNAKE STONE, which I thought was superb. The day after I finished it I bought the first in the series, THE JANISSARY TREE, which I started reading on the Baltimore-Boston leg of the flight home to Dublin. Unfortunately, I got distracted by a very attractive young lady who wanted to talk about how much she missed her boyfriend, who was just after getting on a flight to Afghanistan, and so I left THE JANISSARY TREE behind on the plane, along with a notebook full of doodles about my road-trip around the States. Still, she was a very attractive young lady.
  BLOOD MERIDIAN was a strange read. A re-read, I started it in September, keeping it beside the bed and dipping into it for five or ten pages at a time. Wonderful stuff, as you already know. Then, around the halfway mark, I ran with it and found myself getting bored. There’s a lot of post-apocalyptic neo-Western slaughter going on, which was absolutely fine, but there’s also a huge amount of traversing bleak and parched terrain, during which not a lot happens. And I didn’t believe in the Judge; so larger-than-life was he that he was literally unbelievable. Maybe he’s meant to be that way, although I can’t for the life of me think why.
  I finally read my first Le Carré novel in TINKER TAILOR SOLDIER SPY, and for a long stretch I wasn’t sure if I believed in Smiley either, or cared about his world. It felt at times like his characters were trying too hard to sound authentic, although at the same time I liked the way the story was rooted in a grey, drab reality. For the first half or so it felt like a Boy’s Own compendium of monochrome adventures, a Rider Haggard take on the Cold War, but even then it was obvious that Le Carré is a fine stylist. I certainly missed Smiley’s world when I finished the story.
  I didn’t miss the world Kevin Power recreated in BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK, which is set in the suburbs of southern County Dublin. Touted as a latter-day IN COLD BLOOD and THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE, it’s a fictionalised account of the death of a young Irish man after a post-nightclub assault, an event that dominated the news headlines in Ireland for many months. On the evidence of his debut offering, Power is a fine writer with a lyrical touch, but his choice of subject matter lets him down as he goes behind the headlines and explores the culture in which the young man was killed, a privileged sub-section of society composed of perennial adolescents in thrall to the cult of rugby and the cultivated aggression the sport promotes. The novel it put me most in mind of was Bret Easton Ellis’s LESS THAN ZERO, albeit with vacuous ambition at its heart rather than soi-bored nihilism. The trouble, I think, is that the specific generation Power so piercingly dissects has no virtues worth mythologizing, or vices for that matter; the writer doesn’t so much lance a boil as pop a bubble. In saying that, I’ll be reading his next novel; I think he’s the real deal.
  HITLER’S IRISHMEN by Terence O’Reilly was a fascinating read, telling the story of those few Irishmen who served in the SS during World War II. They were a motley crew, most of whom were recruited from the ranks of British POWs, but most were about as effective as they were moral. I particularly liked the story about the guy who signed up to be a German spy, underwent rigorous training, then parachuted into Northern Ireland and promptly made his way to the nearest police station to give himself up. O’Reilly is a military historian, and it shows, both in the meticulous detail and the pedestrian pace. I put it down with a hundred pages to go, and will very probably pick it up again to finish at some point in the future, but I thought that the narrative, which advances in a strictly chronological way, would have benefited from a less rigid framework and a more inventive approach to telling the various stories.
  I also read Nick Brownlee’s debut, BAIT, which is set in modern Kenya and has some interesting things to say about the fragility of Kenyan democracy. It’s a solid read, although not particularly innovative; there’s more here if you’re interested.
  Meanwhile, it hasn’t been a great start to this month. I’m 60 pages into THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO, and the more I read, the less I’m inclined to believe in the eponymous heroine – right now she reads like the idealised fantasy of a middle-aged man. I’ll give it 100 pages and see how it pans out, but so far it’s fairly pedestrian stuff.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: PRIDE AND GLORY

You’d have thought – at least, I did – that finding himself amidst the combined talents of Edward Norton, Jon Voight and Noah Emmerich would leave Colin Farrell looking a bit thin, but in fact he’s the best thing about Pride and Glory, a good-cop / bad-cop drama set in New York. Farrell plays Jimmy Egan, married into an Irish-American family with a long and proud tradition of service in the NYPD. Son-in-law to Francis Tierney Snr (Voight), brother-in-law to Francis Jnr (Emmerich) and Ray (Norton), all of whom are flawed but noble characters, Jimmy is a dirty cop for whom the shield is little more than a flag of convenience behind which he operates his drug-related scams. Norton is ostensibly the hero of the piece, as he reluctantly takes on a brief to uncover those responsible for the death of two cops, but Farrell steals the show with a charismatic performance of swaggering venality. The story itself is satisfyingly complex, with a number of sub-plots contributing handsomely to the main tale – the fraught relationship between Francis Snr and his less-favoured but conscientious son Ray; the poignant journey taken by Francis Jnr as he tries to cope with the news that his men are incorrigibly corrupt, all the while supporting his wife (Jennifer Ehle) as she battles cancer. The director, Gavin O’Connor (who also co-wrote), maintains a tense atmosphere for the most part, although the movie does drift away from gritty realism into melodrama for the big finale. While there’s little on offer here that you haven’t seen before – and it’s relatively tame by comparison with The Shield and The Wire, both of which are obviously influences – it’s a strong and sturdy drama that will do Farrell’s career no harm at all.