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, December 7, 2012

Ryan’s Slaughter

I mentioned a few weeks ago that Stuart Neville’s latest offering, RATLINES, is due in January, and that it’s a terrific read, and I’m delighted to see that I’m not alone in believing that its protagonist, Albert Ryan, will be with us for the long haul. For lo! The early word is in, and it’s very impressive indeed. To wit:
“Thrilling ... Readers will hope to see more of Ryan, a formidable yet damaged hero.”—Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Wildly entertaining, RATLINES is a superb mystery but in addition, a spotlight on a slice of Irish history largely ignored.”
—Ken Bruen, Shamus Award-winning author of The Guard

“Another moody winner mixes Nazis into Neville’s usual Irish noir.”
—Kirkus Reviews

“Stuart Neville’s books just get better and better and RATLINES is simply superb.”
—Mark Billingham, bestselling author of Rush of Blood

“RATLINES is a belter: fast, furious, bloody and good.”
—Ian Rankin, New York Times bestselling author of Exit Music
  Sweet. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.

A note from the killers is found on the dead German’s corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: “We are coming for you.”

As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.
  So there you have it. With Adrian McKinty’s I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET and Stuart Neville’s RATLINES both appearing in early January, I think it’s already safe to say that 2013 will be a very good year indeed for Norn Iron crime fiction …

Thursday, December 6, 2012

I Hear The Bandwagon In The Street

Adrian McKinty has been receiving very fine reviews for many years now, but it appears that the Sean Duffy series of novels are moving him onto another level entirely, and not a moment too soon. His forthcoming opus, I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET, is the second in the Duffy series, and bears a couple of very short but very sweet encomiums. To wit:
“It blew my doors off.” - Ian Rankin

“I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET is one hell of a story.” - Daniel Woodrell
  Nice. Herewith be the blurb elves:
Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close. Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood - however faint - that always, always connects a body to its killer. A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance. So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat ...
  So there you have it. SIRENS is released on January 10th, which means you have plenty of time to pick up the first Sean Duffy novel, THE COLD COLD GROUND, before it arrives. For what it’s worth (two cents, actually), here’s my two cents on said tome.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Vote Early, Vote Fowl

You will remember, no doubt, all that hoo-hah about the Irish Book Awards last month, which largely involved dressing up in our best frou-frou frocks (right), air-kissing our way around the RDS, and not winning very much. Boo, etc.
  Anyway, one consequence of the IBA Awards is that all the winners from the various categories on the night are now all in contention for the Irish Book of the Year gong. These include John Banville’s ANCIENT LIGHT, Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR, Donal Ryan’s THE SPINNING HEART and Maeve Binchy’s A WEEK IN WINTER, but given that Eoin Colfer was the only soul brave enough to wear a cravat on the night of the IBA Awards, we’re going to recommend that you vote for ARTEMIS FOWL: THE LAST GUARDIAN, which was the winner in the senior Young Adult category.
  For all the details - it’ll take about ten seconds - clickety-click here

Monday, December 3, 2012

On Good Readers As The Greatest Reward

I’m quite fond of the notion that a book is only half-written by its author, and that it only begins to come alive when someone turns the first page and starts to read. It follows, then, that a book is only as good as its readers allow it to be - although it’s also true, as a kind of corollary, that an especially attentive and receptive reader may make a book better than it actually is.
  Such is the case, I fear, with the reviews SLAUGHTER’S HOUND picked up during the past week, with three readers picking up on different aspects of the novel. To wit:
“This is a dark tale, and it gets progressively darker as it goes along. In the middle, it reminded me a bit of Ross Macdonald, and also of his Irish literary descendent, Declan Hughes, with its tale of doomed families and the ruin that attends them. But there is a kind of go-for-broke quality to this book that I haven’t really found in the aforementioned illustrious writers’ work, and it took me till nearly the end of the book to realize that Burke has laid it all out for us in the very title of the work, and in a helpful author’s epigram, in which he notes that the great warrior Cú Chulainn’s name really means Hound of Ulster and that he owned a number of war hounds called archú, who were known for their love of slaughter … It is a tale steeped in the tradition of the Irish myth cycles, where deeds are great, but, well, bloody.” - Seana Graham

“This novel is a tragedy, which takes place in a town called Sligo, a location that could be Thebes or any other place in the world where the frailties of good men and women are exploited by the eternal cynics and they become the playthings of the gods, where a man can sleep with his mother without knowing she is his mother or kill his father without knowing whom he is killing, and be punished as if he had knowingly committed the two heinous crimes. As he twists and turns in the nets that have been set for him, the hero’s every good intention or action goes wrong, and Harry Rigby reminds you at times of Job and at other times of Oedipus. His every decent human trait, such as loyalty or friendship, is exploited by the people around him and each betrayal plunges him a little further into the circles of hell … Highly recommended.” - John J. Gaynard

“SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is yet another ‘How the hell does he do that?’ offering from author Declan Burke, whose book ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL has already secured a spot on my Top 10 Reads of 2012 list. More than just a crime fiction / noir novel, SLAUGHTER’S HOUND vividly brings to life the post-investment boom hangover much of Ireland is experiencing, personified by the Hamilton family. Once obscenely wealthy, the family is now teetering on financial ruin and, as Rigby learns, also has some incredibly dark secrets stashed away in the closet along with the skeletons. Lead by its ice princess matriarch, Saoirse, the Hamiltons add a Shakespearean level of drama, complete with a conniving attorney.
  “The story which unfolds is a beautiful balance of tremendous heart and horrific violence.” - Elizabeth A. White
  As you can imagine, that’s all very pleasing indeed.
I was certainly aiming, with SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, to splice together aspects of modern noir and classical tragedy, not least because the forms have so much in common. As Seana and Elizabeth point out, I was riffing on the motif of ‘doomed families’ that feature in the work of Ross Macdonald and Declan Hughes, although I’d be the first to say that SH comes up very short by comparison with both. Seana also mentions the epigram at the beginning of the book, and its reference to the Irish myth cycles, and I was conscious of that historical narrative too; but for a very long time, as John Gaynard detected, the epigram for SLAUGHTER’S HOUND came courtesy of Horace Kallen, from his intriguing THE BOOK OF JOB AS A GREEK TRAGEDY, which I wrote about here last January.
  So there you have it. Apologies for the trumpet-blowing, folks, but there are days, many days, when writing offers precious few tangible rewards. Good readers, on the other hand, are the greatest reward any writer can hope for.