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, July 7, 2012

BOOKS TO DIE FOR: And So It Begins

“Why does the mystery novel enjoy such enduring appeal? There is no simple answer. It has a distinctive capacity for subtle social commentary; a concern with the distinction between law and justice; and a passion for order, however compromised. Even in the vision of the darkest of mystery writers, it provides us with a glimpse of the world as it might be, a world in which good men and women do not stand idly by and allow the worst aspects of human nature to triumph without opposition. It can touch upon all these aspects of itself while still entertaining the reader – and its provision of entertainment is not the least of its good qualities.
  But the mystery novel has always prized character over plot, which may come as some surprise to its detractors. True, this is not a universal tenet: there are degrees to which mysteries occupy themselves with the identity of the criminal as opposed to, say, the complexities of human motivation. Some, such as the classic puzzle mystery, tend towards the former; others are more concerned with the latter. But the mystery form understands that plot comes out of character, and not just that: it believes that the great mystery is character.”
  So begins the Introduction to BOOKS TO DIE FOR. Co-edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, the book asks 120 of the world’s best contemporary crime and mystery writers which book they believe should be included in the great canon of crime and mystery fiction.
  The response was astonishing, and the list of contributors reads like a veritable Who’s Who of modern crime and mystery authors - Michael Connelly, Sara Paretsky, Elmore Leonard, Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, James Sallis, Mark Billingham, Kathy Reichs, Karin Slaughter, Jo Nesbo, Peter James, George Pelecanos, Dennis Lehane, Sophie Hannah, Joseph Wambaugh, Tana French, David Peace, Laura Lippman, Deon Meyer, Colin Bateman, Megan Abbott, Linwood Barclay, Laura Wilson and John Banville are only some of the names involved.
  The book is published by Hodder & Stoughton in the UK on August 30th, and by Atria / Emily Bestler Books in the US on October 2nd. If you’re on Facebook, you can clickety-click here for daily updates on content, contributors, and plenty of extras.
  Some of the key launch dates on this side of the pond have already been lined up, and I’ll be updating this post on a regular basis to keep you informed as to further developments. In the meantime, if you’re anywhere near any of the venues below, we’d love to see you there …

Monday, August 6 at 6:00 p.m.
South Africa Launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR with John Connolly, Deon Meyer, Mike Nicol and Margie Orford
The Book Lounge
71 Roeland St.
Cape Town, South Africa
RSVP: 021 462 2424 or

Thursday, August 30 at 6:30 p.m.
Belfast launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR (and THE WRATH OF ANGELS by John Connolly and SLAUGHTER’S HOUND by Declan Burke)
The Ulster Museum
Botanic Gardens, Belfast
Tickets Available from No Alibis Bookstore – free event!
44 (0) 28 9031 9601

Thursday, September 6 at 6:30 p.m.
Dublin launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR
Dubray Books Grafton Street
36 Grafton Street
Dublin 2
(01) 677 5568

Friday, July 6, 2012

A Burning Ambition

It’s that time of year again, when the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award shortlist is announced, and this year the boy Connolly done good. For lo! John Connolly’s THE BURNING SOUL is one of the six titles shortlisted for the Peculier, with the full shortlist as follows:
NOW YOU SEE ME by SJ Bolton;
WHERE THE BODIES ARE BURIED by Christopher Brookmyre;
THE BURNING SOUL by John Connolly;
BLACK FLOWERS by Steve Mosby;
  If you’re of a mind to exercise your franchise today, you can clickety-click on the link above, as the Old Peculier is decided in part by a public vote. Which isn’t something I necessarily agree with, I have to say. Democracy is perfectly fine for deciding who gets to run the country, but for the important stuff, such as the best crime novel of the year, I’d much prefer if the decision was taken by an unaccountable elitist cabal. But that’s just me.
  Meanwhile, and sticking with shortlists, Gene Kerrigan’s THE RAGE has been longlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger - a rather impressive achievement, and not the first time Gene Kerrigan has been in the frame for a Dagger. I don’t pretend to understand how the Daggers work - every year they seem to rumble on for as long as the fall of Communism, with novels being nominated in multiple categories, and from different years - but it’s a prestigious place to find your name nonetheless, and I’m particularly pleased for Gene.
  Finally, hearty congrats to Steve Mosby, who was not only shortlisted for the Peculier yesterday, but who last night won the CWA Dagger in the Library. I’m not entirely sure that giving the boy Mosby a big shiny knife is the best idea the CWA has ever had, but there you go, it’s done now and we can only hope it doesn’t give him any ideas. Oh, right …

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Review: TORN by Casey Hill

Casey Hill is the pseudonym of the wife-and-husband writing team, Melissa and Kevin Hill; Melissa Hill is a best-selling author of women’s fiction. Their first novel was TABOO (2011).
  The Quantico-trained, Dublin-based Californian forensic investigator Reilly Steel of the fictional Garda Forensic Unit (GFU) returns for her second outing in Casey Hill’s second novel, TORN (Simon & Schuster), in which a particularly perverse serial killer is dispatching his victims in a series of diabolical murders that have their roots in one of the great works of world literature - Dante’s Comedy, and in particular the Inferno.
  The first victim, for example, is found inside a septic tank, where he has drowned in a rather horrible fashion. He is, perhaps not coincidentally, a journalist …
  As more corpses appear, Reilly Steel and her team, in tandem with Garda detectives Chris Delaney and Pete Kennedy, realise that despite the apparent random nature of the killings, a pattern is emerging.
  On the face of it, it’s not a particularly plausible plot, but despite the cutting-edge technology on display here - at one point Reilly uses an iSPI (Investigative Scene Processing Integration) device to help her reconstruct crime scenes - Casey Hill is in the business of creating old-fashioned mystery stories that have much more in common with the puzzle-solving games of yore than they have with the gritty realists of contemporary crime fiction. In this context, it’s less important to construct an ironclad plot than it is to create for the reader an intriguing puzzle which can be solved by the reading of various clues.
  Indeed, the reader is encouraged to have some fun acknowledging the tropes of the serial killer puzzler. “Are you really surprised that he didn’t take you straight to his home territory so early in the game?” asks a character of Reilly in the latter stages. The authors even allow Reilly a tongue-in-cheek run-through of the serial killer genre’s conventions as she comments aloud on the case in hand: “Meticulously planned murders,” she observes, “no effort too great, lots of research on the victims needed, the method of dispatch excessive, grotesque even …”
  That said, and while accepting that TORN leans heavily towards the escapist end of the crime / mystery spectrum, an existential quality emerges as the story thunders towards its finale. What is the point? Reilly & Co ask themselves. Isn’t catching a killer once the murders are already committed an exercise in stable-door bolting? And who can guarantee the investigators, who put their lives on the line, that the judicial system will vindicate their efforts and not botch the prosecution?
  Given the conservative nature of the crime / mystery novel, this is a quiet but impressively radical departure. There’s little of the usual cant about justice and redemption on show here; in TORN, the punishment very aptly fits the crime. In the guise of ostensibly escapist mystery fiction, Casey Hill asks a valid but rarely asked question: do readers have the stomach for a truly gritty reality, in which some crimes, no matter how terrible, simply go unpunished? - Declan Burke

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

If It’s Broken, Don’t Fix It

It feels a bit odd to be suggesting that Tana French’s latest offering will be a game-changer, given that she’s already a multi-award-winning, best-selling author, but I do believe that BROKEN HARBOUR is going to take her onto a whole new level. In conversations in the last couple of weeks, I’ve used the words ‘majestic’, ‘superb’ and even ‘epic’ about BROKEN HARBOUR, and while that kind of hyperbole generally leaves me cold - for an industry based on words, publishing is rather less rigorous when it comes to praise than it might or should be - I think BROKEN HARBOUR deserves every plaudit coming its way.
  I think it’s a very, very good crime novel, even though I’m generally not all that fussed about police procedurals; and as I’ve also mentioned somewhere else (Twitter, probably), BROKEN HARBOUR is also ‘the great post-Celtic Tiger novel’ the literati has been baying for. There’s even more to it than that, though. Rooted in the banality of suburban life, the story is nonetheless genuinely horrifying; and despite being one of the most fatalistically noir titles I’ve read recently, the story also moved me to tears.
  Of course, my reaction to the book probably says a lot more about me than it does about BROKEN HARBOUR or Tana French’s writing; and maybe I’m just getting soft in my middle age, given that Brian McGilloway’s THE NAMELESS DEAD also had me reaching for the hankies ...
  This isn’t a review per se, because I’m not in a position to review BROKEN HARBOUR, given that - declaration alert - Tana French has been kind enough to write a blurb for my forthcoming book. But you don’t have to take my word for it: Maxine over at Petrona had a very early review of the novel, while Myles McWeeney reviewed it last weekend in the Irish Independent.
  Enjoy, folks.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL: Vote Early, Vote Often*

One of the great things about blogging is the opportunities it creates for cross-pollination and good karma and all that class of malarkey. Last Thursday, for example, I blogged about Gerard Cappa’s debut novel, BLOOD FROM A SHADOW, and noted that it was one of a significant number of Irish crime writing debuts in 2012. Gerard was kind enough to get in touch, to say thanks, but he didn’t let it rest there: the next thing I knew, Gerard had nominated ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL for a GoodReads reading group, which was kindness above and beyond the call of duty.
  Anyway, the voting is now open on that GoodReads reading group, as they vote to decide on what they’ll be reading in July and August. If you’re a member of GoodReads, and you’ve read AZC and think it might be worth their time and effort, your vote would be most welcome here
  And thanks very much, Mr Gerard Cappa.
  In related news, Claire McGowan - author of another debut title this year, THE FALL - was generous enough to review AZC over at her Pains, Trains and Inkstains blog, with the gist running thusly:
“It’s beautifully written and very funny in parts, stuffed with wisdom and acerbic wit. I will definitely read his other novels, hoping to admire more smooth and cutting sentences, barbed jokes like thorns around some real naked pain. It has a great twist ending, and the title is - well - absolutely cool.” - Claire McGowan, author of THE FALL
  I thank you kindly, ma’am. By the way, if you’re new to this AZC thing and you’re wondering what all the fuss is about, there are signed copies cluttering up the shelves at the Liberties Press offices, and they’d only love to get rid of them. To help them out, clickety-click here

  *Vote early, by all means, but only once. CAP Towers can in no way countenance subverting the democratic process.

Monday, July 2, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Eoin Colfer

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?
I would love to have written SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, and not just for all the residuals and royalties, but also because it is a groundbreaker and I think that is a part of what all writers are trying to do; redefine a genre, become the new standard. And I think that is what Thomas Harris did with SILENCE.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I think I would like to have been Doctor Watson. Watson followed Holmes around taking notes, so he was involved in the thrilling adventures but also got to do what I love best: write. Having to fight in the Afghan wars might be a bit of a drawback.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I do occasionally fall back on the big crime writers like Jo Nesbo or Michael Connelly. They are always reliable fun, especially on a holiday. Of course I seethe with jealousy as I read but these guys undeniably put a top class thriller together. John Sandford is another one.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I think when Artemis Fowl was voted the UK’s favourite Puffin Classic ever. In your face, Roald Dahl. Sorry, that was childish.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
That’s a hard one. I do like me a bit of Ken Bruen. I love AMERICAN SKIN. But I would have to throw EIGHTBALL BOOGIE in there, and also an old collaboration novel I really enjoyed called YEATS IS DEAD in which Pauline McLynn and Marian Keyes totally crushed the opposition.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think my last crime book, PLUGGED, would be a good a good movie, but besides my stuff I think MYSTERY MAN by Colin Bateman would possibly be the funniest crime movie ever, in the right hands. It’s probably being made as I type.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is that you are allowed to choose your own music in the office and also build a shrine to your own accomplishments. The worst thing is that there are not many things sadder than a middle aged man looking at pictures of himself when he was for a brief moment cool, while listening to Whitesnake.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s a time travel trilogy where the FBI have discovered a wormhole and are using it to hide federal witnesses in the past.

Who are you reading right now?
I am reading SNOWDROPS by AD Miller, a brilliant evocation of new Russia and the crime that is rife there.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I would have to say read. Otherwise I could only read my own stuff and how shit would that be. Especially since I wrote it.

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

Eoin Colfer’s THE LAST GUARDIAN, the last in the Artemis Fowl series of novels, is published by Puffin.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Art Of Charlie Parker

I interviewed Karin Slaughter last Friday afternoon, and a very enjoyable chat it was too. In the middle of the conversation she began waxing lyrical, unbidden, about how nice a guy is the Dark Lord, aka John Connolly, and how supportive he is of other writers. Which is as true a thing as has been said to me in a long, long time, and no real surprise. What we do tend to forget here in Ireland, however, is that Americans speak of John Connolly in the same breath as bestselling titans such as Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Sue Grafton and Michael Connelly. No mean feat, as they say.
  Anyway, further proof of John Connolly’s generosity, if any were required, is available on his blog, where he’s running a competition for the artists among his readers to mark the imminent publication of the latest Charlie Parker novel, THE WRATH OF ANGELS. To wit:
“Between now and July 31, I invite the artists among you to submit original artwork inspired by the world of Charlie Parker to, for use as an image on one of five postcards to be given away at signing events for THE WRATH OF ANGELS. We will choose five images (one per artist) to reproduce. Winners will be credited on their postcards, and each will receive $250 and a signed first edition of THE WRATH OF ANGELS (as well as a signed set of the postcards). We’ll set up a gallery on the website and post the winners with the best of the runners-up, so everyone can see them.”
  I don’t know about you, but I’m plundering my daughter’s crayon box as you read. For all the details on the Charlie Parker competition, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, John recently posted a video in which he chats about Charlie Parker and THE WRATH OF ANGELS. Roll it there, Collette …