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.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

“Democracy Is Coming / To The IBA …”

Editor's note: The public vote for the Irish Book Awards closes on Sunday, November 18th. Here’s a post from a couple of weeks back, in which I suggest a couple of books and writers that I think are worth your hanging chad …

I’m not hugely enthralled, I have to say, with the idea that the prizes in the Irish Book Awards will be decided, in part at least, by a public vote. I do appreciate that a public vote means raising the profile of the Awards, and by extension that of all the writers involved, and that this can only be a good thing; and God knows the publishing industry in Ireland, and all who sail in her, could do with all the help they can get right now.
  That said, it just doesn’t feel right to harangue people to vote for your book. For starters, I’m not very good at asking people for favours. If I was, I wouldn’t have retreated into a silent room to fabricate fantastical versions of reality; I’d have gone into politics, and told the whole world any old lie they wanted to hear.
  It’s also true that anyone who spends any time on Twitter or Facebook, et al, is badgered on a daily basis to vote for people and things they’ve never heard of before, which rather undermines the whole basis of the award process in the first place. Literary awards aren’t some kind of Olympic Games, in which there’s only one clear winner; but even allowing for the inevitable intrusion of taste, opinion and prejudice, a literary award should aspire to reward quality rather than quantity. I don’t believe it should become a popularity contest, especially as we already have the bestseller lists as a reasonable guide to a writer’s popularity (or - koff - lack of same).
  And even if you confine your ‘Vote for Me-Me-Me!’ requests to those people who have already read and liked your book, that’s a bit much too. You’ve already asked people to pay good money for the book, and to devote their precious reading time to your tome. To ask any more is a little rude, I think.
  Mind you - and this may sound perverse, or even hypocritical - I do like the notion of the various shortlists being established by public vote, with a panel of judges then deciding which of the shortlisted offerings is the best. Does that make any sense? Or is it just replicating the issues outlined above, but at an earlier stage in the process?
  Anyway, I won’t be asking you to vote for my own book this year, but given that the system is what it is, I’m more than happy to point out some shortlisted books that I’ve read and enjoyed, and which you might well enjoy too if you haven’t already. To wit:
In the Popular Fiction category, Marian Keyes is nominated for THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE, which is a very funny take on the private eye novel but one that’s pretty dark and poignant too. Incidentally, Melissa Hill is shortlisted here as well, for THE CHARM BRACELET; I haven’t read it, but I was surprised that Casey Hill’s TORN didn’t make the Crime Fiction shortlist.

Over in the Novel of the Year category we have Keith Ridgway’s HAWTHORN & CHILD, another crime-influenced tome, albeit a crime novel in which all the conventional narrative gambits have been excised. A very interesting offering. I’ve also read Kevin Barry’s DARK LIES THE ISLAND, which I’d be inclined to vote for out of sheer devilment, simply because it’s collection of short stories shortlisted for novel of the year.

In the Crime Fiction category, I’ve gone on record many times to say that Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR is a superb piece of work, and well worth your time. Part police procedural, part psychological thriller, it’s easily the most terrifying book on any of the shortlists this year. Also in contention is TOO CLOSE FOR COMFORT by Niamh O’Connor, a writer I’ve huge admiration for.

I haven’t read any of the titles in the Sports Book of the Year category, but if Keith Duggan’s surfing tome THE CLIFFS OF INSANITY is half as good as his weekly columns in the Irish Times then it’s probably an instant classic. Also, it rips its title from THE PRINCESS BRIDE, which means Keith Duggan should be conferred with sainthood in time for Christmas.

In the Children’s Book of the Year category it’s very difficult to see past Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LAST GUARDIAN, which is a stonking good read, very funny, and a satisfying climax to the Artemis Fowl epic cycle. I loved it.

Finally, the Bookshop of the Year category features ye olde Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar, Dublin, which has hosted more book launches of mine than I care to remember (two, to be precise). A fine emporium, and well worth your patronage.
  So there you have it. The Irish Book Awards - vote early, folks, but not often

Sunday, November 11, 2012

BOOKS TO DIE FOR: The Washington Post Verdict

I’ve mentioned before how busy it is at CAP Towers these days, but really, that’s no excuse for my not mentioning the lengthy review BOOKS TO DIE FOR received from Michael Dirda in the Washington Post a couple of weeks ago. The gist runs thusly:
“There are 119 contributors here, from 20 countries, and the general standard of the essays is high, most of them arguing for the depth and sophistication, the literary quality, of their chosen book or author … In short, BOOKS TO DIE FOR is, even given its biases, as good a collection of short essays on crime fiction as one is likely to find.” - Michael Dirda, Washington Post
  As you can imagine, we were, and remain, very pleased with that. Of course, as with virtually every other reader of BOOKS TO DIE FOR, Michael has his quibbles with some of the contributions, and even more quibbles with some of the classic crime / mystery novels that didn’t make it into the book. For the full review, clickety-click here
  This coming Friday, November 16th, I’ll be hosting a conversation with some of the contributors to BOOKS TO DIE FOR as part of the Red Line Book Festival in Tallaght. Co-editor John Connolly, Mark Billingham, Niamh O’Connor and Declan Hughes will be discussing their favourite crime / mystery novels of all time, and chatting about the elements that make up the great crime / mystery stories.
  The Red Line Festival bods have been kind enough to issue yours truly with five pairs of tickets for the event, and to be in with a chance of winning a pair, just answer the following question:
Of all the great crime / mystery novels ever written, which one do you love the most?
  Answers via the comment box below, please, leaving a contact email address (using [at] rather than @ to confuse the spam monkeys) by noon on Wednesday, November 14th. Et bon chance, mes amis