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, April 2, 2010

All She Wrote: Murder Ink, RIP

Some very sad news arrived late last night, courtesy of Rob Kitchin: Murder Ink, the crime fiction bookstore on Dawson Street in Dublin, is closing its doors. Run for the last 12 years by Michael Gallagher (right), Murder Ink was always hugely supportive of Irish crime writers, and rarely failed to put a new Irish release front and centre in its windows - at no cost to the writer or publisher, I hasten to add. A combination of the economic downturn and Michael’s failing health contributed to the decision, although the fact that Dawson Street also hosts a Waterstones and a Hodges Figgis meant that it was never easy for Murder Ink to capitalise on its niche appeal. An unfailingly warm and welcoming proprietor, and hugely informative about crime fiction domestic and international, Michael Gallagher will be sorely missed as a supporter of Irish crime writing.
  It really has been a funny old week on ye olde blogge. On Tuesday I covered the death of independent publishers and the revolution in publishing; on Wednesday I had a piece in the Irish Times on the unique relevance of crime writing to modern Ireland; yesterday I featured Arlene Hunt’s launch for BLOOD MONEY at the newly opened Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, and tied that in (with a nod to the impending launch of the iPad) with the availability of CRIME ALWAYS PAYS in a variety of formats courtesy of Smashwords. So I’m feeling a little guilty sitting here this morning, as if I’ve somehow betrayed Michael Gallagher in particular and independent bookshops in general, especially as I haven’t darkened the doors of Murder Ink for about two months now. Sentimental tosh, of course: the industry is a machine designed for one purpose only, and that’s to maximise profit.
  Sentimentality aside, you may have noticed that I haven’t provided a link to Murder Ink, and that’s because the shop didn’t have one. A crucial failing in this electronic age, you’d imagine, although it’s very probably because there was no way Murder Ink could compete on-line with the likes of Amazon. Even so, an on-line presence is at the very least an essential marketing tool as the publishing industry slowly migrates to the web. But it’s not just as a marketing tool that the industry is utilising the web: with the advent of e-publishing, writers are more and more using the tools available to by-pass the traditional model of the industry itself. In the week that Murder Ink announced that it will no longer be doing business, for example, the writer JA Konrath announced March sales of $4,200 from e-books alone.
  The death by a million cuts of the independent bookstore is not just an erosion of the traditional publishing model’s core, and it’s not just a machine-like milling out of diversity and originality in favour of blandly homogenous fare. It’s also a very human tragedy in terms of jobs lost, incomes destroyed and lives ruined. “We are living through a revolution as enormous as the one created by Gutenberg’s printing press,” claimed Sameer Rahim in Monday’s Daily Telegraph, and although it’s unwise to make definitive pronouncements while a revolution is ongoing, it appears that, once the dust has settled, there will be very few independent bookstores left standing. It may also be the case, if JA Konrath is any example, that the newly modelled landscape of this Brave New World will boast tens of thousands, and perhaps hundreds of thousands, of independent booksellers. Or writers, as they were formerly known.


Anonymous said...

Oh no! I loved that shop and bought many fabulous book from there, some that were hard to find. Boo to this.

colin bateman said...

Sad as it is to see any bookshop close, and not wishing to twist the knife unduly, might I suggest that Murder Ink didn't exactly help itself? Seemed to me to overly rely on US imports, it was always deathly quiet, and did hardly any events. It really needed to diversify a bit - possibly along the lines of No Alibis in Belfast, where you get a cup of coffee when you go in, you can sit and chat, attend an event sometimes two or three nights a week? Not always crime related. Far too much jazz, for one thing, but it keeps the people coming through the door and builds a loyal customer base. It may be the equivalent of cinemas making their profit from popcorn, but at least there are still cinemas. And on a personal note, I twice introduced myself to the staff in Murder Ink, and they weren't the slightest bit interested either time and to the best of my knowledge never stocked my books, so OBVIOUSLY they were doomed.

Declan Burke said...

Ah. The Curse of Bateman. That would explain a lot.

I agree with a lot of the points you make, squire, although Murder Ink was / is a fairly small space, and doesn't really lend itself to hosting events ... I did mention that to Michael at one point.

Cheers, Dec

Acuppa Tae said...

Murder Ink will be sadly missed by many keen crime fiction readers, as will Michael Gallagher's quiet charm. The shop was always a quiet haven for browsing and frequently yielded a surprising new source of exciting fiction.

Kieran Shea said...

Only been once, but that just plain sucks.

Naomi Johnson said...

It breaks my heart to hear of yet another indie going under.

Terrie Farley Moran said...

How sad. I bought books there every time I visited Dublin in the past decade. Unfortunately I was only there three or four times, still Dawson Street was a definite stop.

Mr. Gallagher also supported American mystery writers and for that we are grateful.

God bless.


Ali Karim said...


Every time i'm in Dublin I always visit Micheal, and he has been a very loyal supporter of the genre, so this news is devastating


seana said...

This is a carryover from the last post, isn't it? I tried to respond to that, but Google ate my words. I think the fate of bookstores is in a precarious position at this point--not just indies, but all bookstores, and maybe not just bookstores but storefronts in general. I do lament the gradual disappearance, but I don't think that's the writer's burden. Maybe when someone reaches some kind of megasales following they have a different role, but up till then, they should just do what they must to generate sales and interest.

If we as the reading public think ebooks are going away, we are naive. People are reading novels on their Iphones now. I'd say, as an indie bookseller, that your support for bookstores comes in the way of visiting them and buying books, oh, and maybe doing an event or something if asked. But don't as writers tie your fate to them. They are not on an identical path. And as writers, yours is to stay true to the writing and get the work out there where others can read it.

seana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seana said...

Sorry--double post.

Fiona said...

I'm sorry for the people involved, but as a bookshop, the space was too small, the aisles too narrow, the location just a smidge off the beaten track. I went in once and spent €50 or so, but it wasn't a "must buy" thing. I'll not specify any more clearly. As a notional bookshop, I understand what they were at, but it seemed far too low-key and understated to compete with the big, close neighbours. When I asked specific questions of the person in charge of till on my sole visit, they seemed to soar over her head with a "whooosh"-type feeling. I'm sad to see the bookshop fail, and hope it will arise, phoenix-like, from the ashes.

On a related, but irritated, topic Costa-flaming-Coffee is still alive on the moribund top-floor of Hughes & Hughes & Hughes & Hughes in Dun Laoghaire. Walked the East Pier today (well, a little bit) with family and then toiled up to the darkened premises and up the stairs. Deeply depressing. A sandwich amidst dead books. Sheesh. Branding?

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

Ah, that's a shame. I was treated with exquisite courtesy on my one visit there, even had the store opened up after hours for my shopping pleasure when I'd stopped by just to see what its hours would be the following day.

Here's a photo I took of one of the store's two front windows. Seems to me it offered a nice mix of domestic books and imports, and not just from the U.S.

On the other hand, institutions can fail to keep up with the times, so maybe Mr. Bateman is right. On yet another hand, he has dubious musical taste; it's hard to have too much jazz.

So now I invite you all to patronize my three favorite crime-fiction stores: No Alibis, Sleuth of Baker Street in Toronto, and Murder by the Book in Houston.
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"

Stuart Neville said...

This is bad news, regardless of the reasons for the shop's closure. I think Colin makes a fair point, but still, it's a sad turn of events.

Bronagh said...

This is awful news; this was my favourite bookshop in Dublin, I rarely left there empty handed!

Seoman said...

Am very sorry to hear that Murder Ink will be no more. It filled a niche in the bookselling world but as you pointed out was always up against it with two giants on its doorstep.

Read your excellent article in The Irish Times. A real call to arms on behalf of crime fiction.