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 25, 2009

“They Say The Fucking Smog Is The Fucking Reason You Got Such Beautiful Fucking Sunsets.”

Andrew Nugent is an interesting man, being a crime fic writer and a monk in Glenstal Abbey, and he had something interesting to say while reviewing Brian McGilloway’s BLEED A RIVER DEEP on the Op-Ed pages of the Irish Times during the week. Quoth Brother Nugent:
“I was so surprised at the frequency of the F-word that I began counting from page 168. From that point there were 55 sightings. Whatever about what real people do or do not say, with such glorious resources of vituperation available to us – especially in Irish – why repeat so obsessively these Anglo-Saxon grunts?”
  Now, the problem with insulting someone in Irish – as gaeilge – is that very few people are going to be offended, unless of course it’s the Irish-speaking few you’re trying to offend ...
  As for the Anglo-Saxon grunts – as Brother Nugent points out, this is how real people speak in the real world, particularly when they’re under pressure, which is how characters in crime fiction tend to be, particularly as the end of a novel approaches. So it’s possible to argue that an author who aspires to realism has no choice but to use foul language, and particularly ‘fuck’, that gloriously adaptable noun / verb/ adverb / adjective.
  You could also argue that foul language has its own poetry, and that there’s a rare joy to be had in reading a master of the profane (cf: the post title, courtesy of Ray Barboni, in the movie version of Elmore Leonard’s GET SHORTY).
  You could also say, ‘Fuck it, I just like the word “fuck”.’ Personally, I also like “shite”, “cunt”, “bollocks” and “me arse”.
  As always, I blame the parents …

Friday, April 24, 2009

THE TWELVE: This One Goes Up To Eleven

Being the ornery kind of cynic who tends to assume that a book’s quality declines in inverse proportion to the amount of hype it generates (THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO being a case in point for yours truly), I’m delighted to say that, having just finished Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE, it’s everything it’s cracked up to be. Which is terrific, not least because I know Stuart, and it’d have been embarrassing if it wasn’t. But – huzzah! – it delivers in spades, right from page one. A tale of an ex-paramilitary killer bedevilled by the ghosts of his victims, it’s a timely offering, a superb revenge thriller that is as tender in parts as it is brutal, and a courageously genre-bending story in the way it deploys supernatural elements. No wonder John Connolly loved it. James Ellroy was impressed too, as was Ken Bruen (see vid below for details).
  What’s a little scary for yours truly – this with my writer’s pork-pie on – is the extent to which Irish writers have stepped up a gear in 2009. We’ve already had Declan Hughes’ finest novel to date, in ALL THE DEAD VOICES (not bad going, when you consider his previous novel, THE PRICE OF BLOOD, is up for an Edgar Best Novel), Gene Kerrigan’s superb DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, Colin Bateman’s funniest novel in years, MYSTERY MAN, Adrian McKinty’s excellent FIFTY GRAND, and Alan Glynn’s forthcoming WINTERLAND, which is tremendous. Ken Bruen’s collaboration with Reed Farrel Coleman, TOWER (due in September) is a whole new departure, and we still have to get a sniff of John Connolly’s THE LOVERS. Brian McGilloway has delivered his best to date with BLEED A RIVER DEEP, and Tana French, Arlene Hunt and Alex Barclay are currently beavering away on their latest projects.
  Maybe 2009 will be seen as an annus mirabilis for Irish crime writing, but somehow I don’t think so – at least half of the writers mentioned above are relatively new to the game, and are still on their second, third or fourth novels. Exciting times, people. Very exciting times …
  Meanwhile, the vid below is the book-trailer for Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE. Roll it there, Collette …

Thursday, April 23, 2009

“Ah, The Roar Of The Sawdust, The Smell Of The Crowd …”

Yours truly tripped the lights fantastic and briefly stumbled into the bright glare of showbiz yesterday morning, courtesy of TV3, which is due kudos for its coverage of Irish crime writing, which has pretty decent for quite a while now, but which has cranked up a considerable few notches ever since Ireland AM announced it was sponsoring the inaugural Irish crime fiction gong at the Irish Book Awards. Shortlisted author Brian McGilloway (yep, it’s Brian McGilloway week on CAP) was interviewed last week, when he revealed that BLEED A RIVER DEEP was titled for an Ed Harcourt song, while another shortlistee, Tana French (right, and shortlisted for THE LIKENESS), got a grilling on Tuesday, although I can’t pretend to know what she actually said, being too distracted at how radiant the lady was looking.
  Thursday morning’s interview lowered the tone a little, as The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman and The Artist Forthwith To Be Known as Some Dodgy Chancer gave it large about crime fiction and the movies, and the best book-to-movie adaptations of all time. My split vote goes to THE GODFATHER, a masterpiece derived from (if memory serves) a not particularly brilliant novel, and DO ANDROIDS DREAM OF ELECTRIC SHEEP? / BLADE RUNNER, which is a novel of uneven pleasures, but a terrific sci-fi neo-noir movie, and genre-bending at its best.
  Clickety-click here for Brian McGilloway
  … here for Tana French
  … and here for Bateman and S.D. Chancer. Roll it there, Collette …

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

McGilloway Or The Highway

Brian McGilloway (right): mild-mannered teacher by day, exquisitely-mannered crime writer by night. You don’t want to mess with him, he’ll give you detention … at the school of hard knocks!!! (dum-dum-DUM, etc.). Anyhoos, to celebrate the launch of his latest fine novel, BLEED A RIVER DEEP, Brian had his Top 10 Irish Crime Novels on The Guardian’s blog today. Quoth Brian:
“Crime fiction has taken off in Ireland over the past few years with a number of our best writers winning awards and making an impact on the international scene. If anything marks out the movement it’s the sheer diversity of sub-genres, from PI novels to police procedurals, by way of political satire and screwball comedy. And that’s not including John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series which is absent here only because it is set in the USA. Many of the recent group of Irish crime writers (myself included) cite Connolly as the inspiration that got them writing. As an introduction to this recent growth and range in the genre, here are 10 of my favourites from the past decade.”
  As you might well guess from the fact that I’m featuring said Top 10 on CAP, Brian had the extraordinary good taste to include our humble offering THE BIG O in his list. The Big Question: Did Benny Blanco (from the Bronx) make it? To find out, clickety-click here
  And then come back here and tell us all what novel(s) Brian left out that should have made it in …

The General Reading Public: Morons?

I got a pretty depressing email yesterday, from a guy who is a terrific writer (names not mentioned, for courtesy’s sake), the gist of which ranneth thusly:
“I have pretty much decided to treat fiction writing the way I did before I started making a living at it (appropriate, since I no longer am), which is to just do it for my own amusement, if it gets published and I get a little check once in a while so much the better.”
  Which followed hard on the heels of a very similar email from another terrific writer, who’s pretty down in the dumps about his latest book, which is marvellous, but which he reckons might well be his last, because he’s a grown man with real responsibilities and who the hell can waste time writing brilliant novels when there’s kids to be fed and roofs to be kept over little heads …?
  Meanwhile, the publishing world is agog with rumours that there’s record printings of Dan Brown’s latest waste of a rain forest.
  There’s something not quite right, folks. Either the general reading public are morons, which I very much doubt, being one of said public, or the people running the industry are the morons.
  But I have to say, while writing novels ‘just for my own amusement’ is the best reason in the world to do it, writing novels for fun because no one wants to buy them, while the likes of Dan Brown, that plank Grisham and Waistoid Patterson sell by the barrow-load … Actually, hold on – scratch the paragraph above. The general reading public are morons.
  This blog will self-destruct in 10 seconds. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5 …

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Another Dahlia, Another Dollar

I bumped into Garbhan Downey last summer, at a nice little books festival in Kilkenny organised by Neville Thompson, and a nice bloke he was too, and still is, presumably. More importantly, perhaps, or certainly as importantly, he’s a damn fine and funny writer. His latest, THE BLUE ROSE, looks to be a sort-of follow-up to RUNNING MATES (2007), which is terrific news for yours truly, because I loved RUNNING MATES, even though it was funnier than my own stuff, which is something I generally hate, but which put me in mind of a kind of crime fic Norn Iron Tom Sharpe. Anyhoos, quote the blurb elves:
Who says flower growing is for pansies …?
  A gardening competition in a little country village ends up throwing three governments into turmoil when it sparks an international race to grow the world’s first blue rose.
  Irish premier John Blake is forced to team up with semi-reformed gangsters Harry Hurley and Vic McCormack to stop British and American politicians shanghaiing the Mountrose Prize and walking off with a billion-dollar patent.
  Bugging, burglary, sabotage, murder and sexual deceit – it’s all part of the rose growing business. And the bad guys are even worse …
  So there you have it. Garbhan Downey. THE BLUE ROSE. If it’s not the funniest politically inspired crime fic caper you read all year, I’m a lesser-spotted greenfly.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Publish and Be Damned # 237: Will Hoyle

Here at Crime Always Pays, I occasionally post an excerpt from an unpublished manuscript, mainly because I’m a parasite feeding off the talent of others. So I’m delighted to announce that a previously CAP-published exclusive will land on a shelf near you early in 2010, as the good folk at Mercier Press have signed up Kevin McCarthy’s PEELER. Nice one, Kevin.
  Anyhoos, on with the post in hand, being an excerpt from Will Hoyle’s (right) TIME AND TIDE. Will Hoyle has previously featured on CAP here or hereabouts, so feel free to clickety-click when you’re done here …
South Boston, MA – 2008:

Guys that look like me don’t do well in prison.
  They just don’t, it’s proven fact. If you’re not one of the blacks or the Mexicans or the skinheads or the chinks, you’re in no man’s land and you might as well kill yourself on the first night because you’d only last two days, maybe a week tops and that’s if you get yourself thrown in solitary. If you’re just an average guy who’s not quite white trash but who’s not exactly white collar either, the only way you even think about taking a long hot shower or eating a peaceful meal at chow time without finding your own dinner fork oscillating in your back is if you’re a degenerate mick convict who at one time worked for my old man, if you’re still loyal to him now. And as blind luck has it, I’m a spitting image of the sonofabitch, the soft-spoken but equally seedy criminal, racketeer, loan shark, gunrunner and convicted cold-blooded murderer.
  Billy Ray Landry.
  I know that his death will mean my death but when you got nothing and when you know he takes away and takes away without ever giving a single thing back, the color of your skin and the status of your prison popularity starts to mean a lot less. When he took away that one thing in the world and came away with a menial forty-five year sentence, up for parole in twenty, the color of daylight, of your own blood starts to mean a lot less to you.
  Leaning against the brick structure of the Kelley’s Pasta Village on the corner of E. 3rd and L Streets, dragging on my Marlboro and slowly working my way into doing what I swore to myself I’d do.
  Still dark, still early.
  The sky a deep blue watery grave, the morning sun a ravenous, reclusive beast. Car horns, ambulances, cop cars screeching and wailing and serenading the city with their monotonous, luminous nocturnes.
  The unmistakable stench of diesel fumes and car exhaust, grime and garbage, dirt and desperation.
  A massive hangover from of a night of blood drunkenness, the smell of Italian food that’s been sitting cold and clumpy throughout the night, forcing my stomach and the world around me to spin against one another like yin and yang.
  I fish my cell phone from my pocket and check the time. Nearly five in the morning, the bitterly cold sea breeze whispering up the port and through the streets, as unseen and unmerciful as the Angel of Death. I stand and wait in this northeastern nebula of a city, crammed and packed into this blue-collar community, this hard knocks haven. Restless, can’t sleep, and honestly who could when you have as much weighing on your mind, your shoulders and your heart as I do? It was a long walk to get here, and I know it’ll be an even longer one into the loving arms of Boston’s finest.
  The brown leather jacket covers the gray wife beater with the frayed edges and the snag and the sweat stains in the armpit and that just barely covers the black Smith & Wesson .44 hiding in the waistline of my jeans. The one Billy Ray gave me, ions ago. Another lifetime ago. The one he used to chase her with down the dark and muddy and lonely Eagle View Road back when I was still a baby. Before I was big enough to actually defend her.
  The one I plan to raise some hell with even though it’s not even loaded.
  Through the thick clouds of cigarette smoke, I squint over at the Exxon across the street, Newhill Plaza opposite the gas station on the corner of E. 3rd. When I cut my eyes back over to the station, I pay close attention to who goes in, and more importantly, who comes out.
  Flailing headlights, the warm buzz of the occasional car and the clunking and roaring and grating motors that propel them, all blazing down L Street ahead of me and all around me. I wait for the cattle to clear the beaten path before I even attempt to cross the street and do what I told myself I had to do.
  What I have to do or I won’t respect myself later tonight or any other night for that matter.
  I run a surprisingly steady hand through the long and unruly dark blond curls on my head and use my dirt-caked fingernails to scratch my dry scalp. I reassure myself it’s just a deep itch and not a nervous tick. I reassure myself that I’m not apprehensive at all because actually getting away with this crime is not something I’m really trying to do anyway.
  I’m the ticking time bomb who will intentionally fail to detonate.
  Now that the sunrise has finally managed to crane its neck up from behind the navy blue skyline of downtown Boston and up from over the top of Southie’s brand new row of condos, I know I look more than suspect as the unrefined, tattooed construction worker type, loitering and staking out the gas station across L Street, the enclave’s main drag. My location is completely intentional but no one else in the world would know that and after I’m apprehended, I’ll probably end up on one of those World’s Dumbest Criminals programs. Maybe I should’ve come later in the day, rush hour maybe when I’d cause a lot more attention. It’s common knowledge that most criminals don’t want to be seen, noticed. But even though I look the part of the lowlife, the grimy and seedy petty crook, I think I’ll just take a seat on the dirty tile floor and light up another smoke and wait until the cops take me willing and grinning to Cedar Junction Maximum Security Prison after I stick-up the Exxon.
  It’s not like I have a deathwish or I’m scared to be a contributing member of society because I have been for the past eight years. It’s just that now she’s gone and she was the only family I had except for Billy Ray.
  I wait and I smoke and I continue to lean against the pizzeria until I see the subtle hints of the sunrise, batting its eye up from behind the John Hancock Tower. That’s when I leave behind any lingering apprehensions along with the shortened cig butt I crush beneath one of my steel-toed Wolverines. That’s when I quickly secure the .44, take a deep breath, wait for the Pest Control van to clunk its way through the yellow light and then cross L Street without waiting for the pedestrian crosswalk sign.
  A jaywalking armed gunman, off to do the Devil’s work.

  © Will Hoyle 2009

Sunday, April 19, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Mark Billingham

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?

Well as so many people say Chandler, I’ll be awkward and plump for Hammett. Almost eighty years on and THE MALTESE FALCON is still nigh-on perfect. It’s fizzing, fat-free and I sometimes think the key to its longevity and brilliance is the fact that there aren’t really any nice people in it at all.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Oh, Tom Ripley, definitely. Money, fine wine, French cheese, a harpsichord, a deliciously ambiguous sexuality and the ability to murder anyone who gets in your way without a moment’s guilt. What’s not to like?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’m not really guilty about anything I read, though I would probably need a long hot shower if I lost my mind temporarily and accidentally read any Jeffrey Archer. I read a lot of crime fiction, probably way too much, but many good friends are crime writers and I’m going to read their books anyway, because they’re mates. So the crime novel usually wins out if it’s a toss up between that and a slim volume of indescribably moving poetry. Actually, the poetry would make me feel guilty...

Most satisfying writing moment?
Generally, finishing something, or getting some piece of feedback from a reader or a colleague that validates something you’ve tried to do. When I was at school I did something fairly beastly, involving a frog and a cricket bat. Look, I was a KID, OK, and a bigger kid made me do it. Anyway. I used that scenario in a book and a writer called Kevin Wignall, when he read the book, mailed me and said “You did that, didn’t you?”. I was really chuffed that I’d obviously managed to put across the shame and horror of that moment so vividly. Or maybe Kevin just saw through my sad attempt at catharsis. It was a HELL of a shot though ...

The best Irish crime novel is ...?

I think John Connolly is a unique voice (he’ll be REALLY mad at me for saying that) and his are always books that I will rush to read. I’m going to plump for the first, EVERY DEAD THING. I read it while I was struggling with my first book, and I almost gave up trying because EDT was so bloody good.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
John is understandably protective of Charlie Parker, so I’d love to see his stand-alone BAD MEN at the movies, but if he ever does let the rights go, THE BLACK ANGEL could be a wonderful film. And I know it’s not a crime novel, but if Guillermo Del Toro got hold of THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS ...

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best? It’s a close-run thing between the free books and being asked where you get your ideas from. There aren’t too many bad things (let’s face it, it’s a bloody marvellous way to make a living) but I’ve never got used to the creative schizophrenia; the fact that you look at something you wrote the day before and thought you were happy with, and it suddenly appears to be unpublishable rubbish.

The pitch for your next book is ...?
It’s tricky because there are different books coming out here and in the US. They’re a book behind in the states, so they’ll be publishing DEATH MESSAGE, while the newest book, BLOODLINE, will be out in the UK this August. Er ... both will have Tom Thorne in, and a body or two. There may be some country music. And the murder will not be solved by a cat.

Who are you reading right now?
OK, the best thing is actually getting free books that haven’t even been published yet. So, once I’ve finished THE SMOKING DIARIES by Simon Gray (shock, horror: not crime at all, but an attempt to enjoy cigarettes vicariously) I’ll be getting stuck into the forthcoming books by George Pelecanos and the aforementioned Mr Connolly. Can’t wait.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Oh, read, no question. Reading is always an enormous pleasure and sometimes, writing ... isn’t.

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

Better than Archer’s.

Mark Billingham’s BLOODLINE will be published in August.