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, May 14, 2011

Tough As Theak

Wot? No Tana French? The Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year longlist was published yesterday, and featured four Irish crime writers: FIFTY GRAND by Adrian McKinty, THE TWELVE by Stuart Neville, WINTERLAND by Alan Glynn, and THE HOLY THIEF by William Ryan. Curiously - or perhaps peculierly - there’s no sign of Tana French’s FAITHFUL PLACE, even though said novel has so far this year been nominated for an Edgar, an Anthony and an LA Times’ gong.
  Anyway, great news it is to see four fine Irish novels so represented, and I’d hate to have to be the one to drive a cigarette paper between them for quality. Best of luck to all concerned; for the full longlist, check out Eoin Purcell’s rather fine interweb lair
  The longlist, by the way, will be whittled down to a shortlist by public voting, with the shortlist to be announced on July 1st. You can vote for your favourite novel here
  Oh, and while we’re on the subject of Adrian McKinty, you can catch an extract from his latest offering, FALLING GLASS, here
  And while we’re on the subject of extracts, there’s a snippet of John Connolly’s HELL’S BELLS to be found here
  Finally, Sean Patrick Reardon was kind enough to host yours truly for a Q&A over at his Mindjacker blog; if you’re interested in yet more half-demented blatherings, you can clickety-click here ...

Friday, May 13, 2011

Irish Laws And Irish Ways

Cora Harrison is one of those writers who seems to slip under the Crime Always Radar, possibly because such new-fangled inventions don’t work for 16th Century novels set in the remote and beautiful Burren of County Clare. Anyway, Cora’s latest offering, SCALES OF RETRIBUTION, got a rather fine write-up from Publishers’ Weekly, which suggests we should be paying closer attention. To wit:
The threat of Henry VIII’s English army looms over Ireland in Harrison’s outstanding sixth historical featuring Mara, “the Brehon” (or judge) for her community of the Burren in the west of Ireland (after 2010’s EYE OF THE LAW). With her royal husband, King Turlough Donn, away battling the Earl of Kildare in Limerick, Mara survives a difficult pregnancy to deliver a premature but healthy boy. While Mara is still recovering from her ordeal, the unpopular local physician, Malachy, whose estranged 14-year-old daughter, Nuala, assisted in the birth of Mara’s son, dies of poisoning. The arrival of a young legal scholar who could handle the inquiry into Malachy’s death gives Mara the chance to step back and regain her strength, but she has misgivings about entrusting the peace of her people to a stranger. Few will anticipate the solution. Harrison combines meticulous period detail with a crafty puzzle and a sage, empathetic sleuth. (June)
  Meanwhile, and despite being busy collecting all kinds of awards for her Young Adult novels, Cora was kind enough to pen a few words marking her contribution to the DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS collection. It runs a lot like this:
“I’ve recently bought a Kindle from and like all new Kindle owners justify my frivolous and impulsive purchases by pointing out all the books which I have downloaded for free or for a few cents.
  “Last week I downloaded James Hardiman’s history of Galway for eighty cents – and despite the strange formatting, with footnotes appearing at random in the middle of sentences, it’s worth a hundred times that. Hardiman was the first librarian at Galway University College and like all good solid Victorians, he didn’t sit around playing the 19th century version of ‘Free Cell’ or ‘Chess Titans’, but in his spare time embarked on a history of his native city and a good, solid, exhaustive job he made of it too.
  “Some of it is dull, but a lot of it is surprisingly interesting and one keeps finding little gems, like the early sixteenth century quote in the title (NEITHER O NOR MAC SHALL STRUT NOR SWAGGER), showing that Galway had its troubles with rowdy behaviour even back in those late medieval times. And then there is the mind-boggling amount of wine imported into the port. Wine was Galway’s main import and ships brought in huge supplies – a single ship from Bordeaux brought in almost 28,000 gallons of wine one day in the early sixteenth century, which, given the tiny size of the city at the time, seems a lot even to a wine drinker like myself. Over fifty years ago, when I was a university student, I can remember the late-night drinking in Galway city and it seems that it was following in a long tradition.
  “In the early sixteenth century, the time of my crime novels, Galway city was ruled by the ‘law of the King and of the Emperor’ - in other words, common law, based on Roman law. The Burren, only twenty miles away and the location of my books, was ruled by Brehon, or early Irish law.
  “The main thing about Brehon law is that it was a law administered with the consensus of the people – in other words there were no prisons, no hangman, no birch, no treadmills. Brehon law was purely concerned with finding the truth and allocating a suitable compensation to the victim, or, in the case of murder, to the victim’s relatives. So a murder committed by a person living on the Burren in the early sixteenth century would have incurred a very large fine – so large that in most cases the clan would have been involved in paying it; whereas a murder committed in Galway would have meant
the death penalty.
  “This was so rigidly adhered to that, according to my friend James the industrious librarian of Galway University College, the mayor of Galway actually hanged his own son for the killing of a young Spaniard in a jealous rage over the Spaniard’s attentions to young Lynch’s girlfriend. The boy was popular in the city and most people believed it was just a young man’s quarrel that had gone wrong. Feelings ran so high that the hangman refused to do his duty, so the boy’s father did it for him.
  “My Mara, Brehon of the Burren, would have sorted that matter out with great tact and mercy.” - Cora Harrison

Thursday, May 12, 2011

A Picture Tells 80,000 Words

As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, yours truly has a novel on the way: ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which will be published by Liberties Press this coming September. Yesterday was one of those very nice days in the pre-publishing process, when three potential covers arrived for my delectation. But which to choose? I’d be happy with any of them, I think, although I’m particularly impressed by one, and I’m keen to know if your opinion - yes, YOUR OPINION - matches mine.
  By the way, and for those of you who aren’t one of the Three Regular Readers, AZC is a black comedy about a hospital porter, Karlsson, who takes it upon himself to blow up ‘his’ hospital. Hence the medical references in the cover art.
  And now over to you, dear reader. Which of the covers below strikes your fancy most, and why? Would any of those covers put you off buying the book? And how important, in the grand scheme of the overall book, is cover art?
Number 1

Number 2

Number 3

  The comment box is open, people …

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Down These Green Streets: Ken Bruen On Declan Burke

Exciting times for DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, folks, with the behind-the-scenes word suggesting that the finished article will be returning from the printers this coming Friday, or possibly Monday. Either way, I’m experiencing those midwife-style thrills of anticipation and pangs of dread: you’re hoping that all goes well, obviously, and that the book is a beauty; by the same token, you’d be happy just so long as it has all its metaphorical fingers and toes.
  Anyway, and continuing the latest of CAP’s erratic series, in which GREEN STREETS contributors nominate their favourite Irish crime novel, Ken Bruen was kind enough to give yours truly a plug. Now, you’ll appreciate that modesty was an issue when it came to running this up on the blog, but hell, it’s Ken Bruen, and he’s earned the right to say his piece. To wit:
“It’s a joy to be spoilt for choice in choosing my favourite Irish crime novel.
Vying for that are
Stuart Neville
Alan Glynn
Brian McGilloway
Seamus Quinn
So here’s a .......... cop out
I’m going for the crime novel that gave me the most hope
back before Irish crime became a world player.
I was sent EIGHTBALL BOOGIE by a new imprint, Sitric, and read the novel with absolute joy.
Here was a new Irish voice.
Smart as hell
Elmore Leonard-ish without any apology
and with a story that moves like Jameson on tap.
I saw the future and wow, has that future arrived with attitude.
Declan Burke ushered in the genre that wiped the dreaded chick lit off the Irish landscape.” - Ken Bruen
  All of which is very nice indeed, and I thank you kindly, sir.
  Meanwhile, in other EIGHTBALL-related news, Seth Lynch took the time to pen a few thoughts about said tome over at Salazar Books, with the gist running thusly:
“It’s dark, it’s gritty, and it’s funny … It feels like reading a novel by Raymond Chandler – had he stayed in Ireland rather than going back to the States … ‘If I fell into a barrel of tits I’d come out sucking my thumb’ – that line alone is worth the entrance fee.” - Seth Lynch
  Said entrance fee, by the way, is $2.99 on Amazon US, or (roughly) £2.50 on Amazon UK. And if you don’t fancy splurging for it sight unseen, you can download a sample of the first few chapters roundabout here
  Finally, David Wiseheart at Kindle Author Blogspot was good enough to afford me the space to waffle on to my heart’s content about EIGHTBALL, the craft of writing and e-publishing in general. If you have five minutes to spare, clickety-click here

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

On Putting The ‘Boo!’ Into TABOO

I had an article on female crime writers published in the Irish Times last week, which gloried in the title ‘Why Women Writers Rule the Crime-Ridden Night’. Oooh, spooky. Anyway, it kicked off like thusly …
Casey Hill is a marketing dream. TABOO, the debut novel, presses all the commercial buttons: it’s a police procedural featuring a feisty young woman, the forensic investigator Reilly Steel, who travels from her native California to the mean streets of Dublin only to find herself the target of a resourceful serial killer, the tale given a frisson of sexual tension via Reilly’s relationship with Garda Detective Chris Delaney.
  So far, so good, but Casey Hill has more to offer. ‘Casey Hill’ is the open pseudonym of husband-and-wife writing partnership Kevin and Melissa Hill. Young, attractive and media-friendly, the pair have an unusually strong publishing platform for debutants, given that Melissa Hill is the (self-described) author of eight best-selling chick-lit novels.
  So what’s a chick-lit author doing dirtying her hands with crime fiction gore?
  The easy answer to that question is, ‘Capitalising on her established audience.’ That may sound perverse, given that the perceived wisdom of commercial publishing is that when it comes to genre fiction, women prefer books that feature pink sparkly covers and kitten heels, whereas men tend to go for mayhem and murder.
  The perceived wisdom couldn’t be further from the truth …
  To get to the truth, or at least my version of it, just clickety-click here
  If you can’t be bothered doing that - and really, who could blame you? - you can find an extract from TABOO here

Monday, May 9, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Andrew Pepper

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?
RED HARVEST by Dashiell Hammett – the original hard-boiled crime novel and still the best. David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet – four astonishing novels that made me feel physically ill by the time I’d finished them (in a good way). THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow is a thing of awe and wonder – visceral, finger-chewing stuff and the last word on the lamentable ‘war on drugs’ and the limitations of American power. Anything bleak and angry that asks the right questions but knows not to try and provide answers. Newton Thornburg’s CUTTER AND BONE is another novel I’d loved to have written. Failure and despair are all but inevitable but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. And each time I read the part where Cutter tries to ‘park’ his car I weep with laughter.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Chief Bromden played a cagier game than McMurphy and managed to side-step the lobotomy.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Student essays.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Whenever you know you absolutely should be doing something else and yet you still feel somehow compelled to sit in front of the screen and type away – and before you know it an hour, two hours, four hours, have passed since you last thought to check the time.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE ULTRAS by Eoin McNamee. It’s spare, terse, poetic; it disorientates you and never lets you settle; it delves deep into minds of its characters but never gives you the answers you expect; it tells a gripping and gut-churning story about complicity and state violence without succumbing to political posturing or cliché.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
WINTERLAND by Alan Glynn – I see Richard Gere channelling his best ‘Jackal’ voice for the part of Paddy Norton and Julia Roberts reprising her star turn from ‘Mary Reilly’ in the role of Gina Rafferty.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: Monday 10.37am – everything is great, you’re great, what you’re writing is great, not just great, it’s going to blow every other crime novel ever written out of the water. Great is a word, daring is another, because what you’re doing is ripping up the genre into tiny little pieces and letting them fall where they may on the page …

Worst: Monday 12.13pm – you’ve spent the last half hour picking up those pieces of paper and carefully sellotaping them back into some kind of recognisable order. The result is a piece of writing so dreary and predictable, so utterly moribund, that it could creosote Alan Shearer’s shed and still have time to put in a full shift at the call centre. Not only does it suck, you suck, you’re a fraud, and worse, a coward, and just when you think you can’t sink any lower you’re watching a repeat of ‘Bargain Hunt’ which you know is a repeat because you’ve seen it before …

The pitch for your next book is …?
I slip into the leather booth and when the movie producer asks this same question, I lean across the table and whisper, “Karl Marx meets ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’.” The producer smiles to reveal teeth as white as Belfast (circa 1997) and says, “I saw a Karl Malden movie once.” Not listening, I reply, ‘He was German.” He says, ‘In ‘On the Waterfront’?” I grimace a little and remember to thank him for the first-class flights and the suite at the Chateau Marmont. “Who’s going to play the Marlon Brando role?” says he. I frown. “It’s a searing indictment of the ills of global capitalism.” He checks his phone. “Have you thought about Justin Bieber?”

Who are you reading right now?
Jonathan Franzen’s FREEDOM. I always feel uplifted when I read proper literature.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
First I’d ask God to do his Morgan Freeman impression. Then I’d ask him about the Old Testament and what happened to his sense of humour. Then I’d select the latter option. Anyone can write. Reading is for the chosen few.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Be. Less. Shit.

Andrew Pepper’s BLOODY WINTER is published by W&N.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer

Eoin Colfer, as they say, has form. Best known for his young adult series of novels featuring the teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl, Colfer has also written HALF-MOON INVESTIGATIONS (2006), in which 12-year-old Fletcher Moon is a pre-teen private eye who mimics the iconic heroes created by Raymond Chandler and Ross Macdonald.
  In the same year, Colfer made his first foray into adult crime fiction, contributing ‘Taking on P.J.’ to DUBLIN NOIR (2006), a collection of short stories edited by Ken Bruen.
  Colfer’s first adult crime novel, PLUGGED, concerns itself with Dan McEvoy, an ex-Irish Army sergeant who is a veteran of peacekeeping tours of the Lebanon. Now living in voluntary exile in Cloisters, New Jersey, McEvoy’s life as a casino bouncer is shattered when his on-off girlfriend Connie is murdered in the parking lot on the same day his best friend Zeb, a cosmetic surgeon, goes missing from his surgery. Forced to kill in self-defence when confronted with a knife-wielding gangster, McEvoy taps into his soldier’s survival instincts as he races to stay one step ahead of a posse composed of corrupt cops, a vengeful Irish-American mobster boss, and a megalomaniac lawyer with homicidal tendencies.
  Colfer dedicates the novel to Ken Bruen, and PLUGGED is in part an homage to the author credited with a radical reimagining of the role of the first-person protagonist in the contemporary crime novel. Colfer goes so far as to adopt some of Bruen’s narrative strategies, including an anarchic and frequently implausible plot, surreal flights of fancy, and a story that blends frenetic action sequences with an internal monologue that regularly digresses into the realms of the absurd.
  The result is a gloriously ramshackle comedy crime caper; as a narrative vehicle, the story is a getaway car careering downhill and losing wheels at every corner. Colfer, however, is too experienced a storyteller to get carried away himself. The propulsive chaos masks a palpable appreciation of the crime novel itself, not simply in terms of his playful subversion of the genre’s tropes, but also in Colfer’s willingness to warp the parameters of what is essentially a conservative narrative form. Successfully blending the sub-genres of comedy crime caper and hard-boiled noir is no mean feat, as those who have read Donald Westlake’s pale imitators will confirm, and Colfer’s exuberance in this respect will delight the connoisseurs jaded by crime novels which insist on adhering to an established and predictable norm.
  Colfer isn’t the first Irish crime writer to incorporate comedy, of course. Ruth Dudley Edwards, Garbhan Downey and Colin Bateman are among those who sugar the pill for appreciative readers, and PLUGGED has more than its fair share of gags, puns, prat falls and punchlines. Colfer works from a particularly dark palette throughout, such as when he parodies the genre’s penchant for the verbose antagonist:
“Thank God for grandstanding killers. Back home my squad were once brought in to hunt for an IRA kidnap squad who had crossed the border. We only caught them because they delayed a scheduled execution so they could film it from a couple of angles. Everyone wants their moment.” (pg 82-83)
  The county of Sligo, incidentally, previously lampooned in AND ANOTHER THING … (2010), Colfer’s contribution to the Hitchhiker’s Guide the Galaxy series, takes another lick here when Colfer sidesteps a sexist joke “that there is no place for in the modern world, except perhaps in County Sligo, where they love a good mysognism.”
  Humour aside, and given that the novel unfolds as a first-person narrative, the story stands or falls on Colfer’s ability to convince us that Dan McEvoy is a man worth following. Here Colfer has an unerring instinct for the genre’s most conventional hero, the good man doing the wrong thing for the right reasons. McEvoy ticks all the boxes in this respect, yet he is sufficiently deranged, and simultaneously conscious of his foibles, to make him a character worth the reader’s investment of time and emotion.
  Scabrously funny, furiously paced and distinctively idiosyncratic, PLUGGED ultimately comes to a belated reconciliation with the genre’s conventions, but only after a titanic and entertaining struggle that suggests Colfer’s first adult crime novel will not be his last. - Declan Burke

  This review first appeared in the Irish Times.

  Meanwhile, Eoin Colfer had a chat with Barry Forshaw over at Crime Time, where he explains his reasons for writing PLUGGED, with the gist running thusly:
“PLUGGED is a slice of modern noir fiction where I have tried to genre-bend a little by introducing a Walter Mitty internal monologue and large sections of black comic humour. What I am trying to achieve is a sense of ‘pleasant surprise’ in the reader where they get a little more than they had expected. So perhaps the reader expects a straightforward ‘gorgeous dame walks into a PI’s office’ yarn and they get something slightly more frenetic. Of course, what you don’t want to do is give the reader an unpleasant surprise where they really wanted the dame/P.I. yarn and you have ruined their day - so the humour is built around a standard noir skeleton where a guy’s girlfriend is murdered and the finger is pointed at him because of his past.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here