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, August 1, 2013

Well Hello, Dollies

Louise Phillips launches her second novel, THE DOLL’S HOUSE (Hachette Books Ireland), next Wednesday, August 7th, at the Gutter Bookshop. Arlene Hunt will be doing the honours, and festivities kick off at 6.30pm.
  Louise’s debut, RED RIBBONS, was shortlisted for the Ireland AM Irish Crime Fiction Novel of the Year in 2012, and THE DOLL’S HOUSE sees the return that book’s heroine, criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson. Quoth the blurb elves:
People say that the truth can set you free. But what if the truth is not something you want to hear?
  Thirty-five years ago Adrian Hamilton drowned. At the time his death was reported as a tragic accident but the exact circumstances remained a mystery.
  Now his daughter Clodagh, trying to come to terms with her past, visits a hypnotherapist who unleashes disturbing childhood memories of her father’s death. And as Clodagh delves deeper into her subconscious, memories of another tragedy come to light - the death of her baby sister.
  Meanwhile criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is called in to help in the investigation of a murder after a body is found in a Dublin canal. When Kate digs beneath the surface of the killing, she discovers a sinister connection to the Hamilton family.
  What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder?
  Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate.
  And the killer has already chosen his next victim . . .

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Review: SCREWED By Eoin Colfer

You’ll have heard by now, no doubt, that Disney has given the green light to a movie based on the first two books Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, and excellent news it is. There’s no word yet as to when the movie will be made or released, but it might be no harm to start bracing yourself now for Artemis-mania.
  Anyway, I reviewed Eoin Colfer’s adult comedy caper, SCREWED, for the Irish Times last month. It ran a lot like this:

SCREWED by Eoin Colfer (Headline)
When did crime fiction get so serious? The banter between Holmes and Watson, Poirot’s peacock posturing, Philip Marlowe’s zingy one-liners – for some of the genre’s most accomplished practitioners, humour was an essential element when it came to creating fully-rounded characters.
  These days the fashion is for dark, gritty realism. There are crime writers who employ humour to a greater or lesser degree, such as Colin Bateman, Elmore Leonard, Janet Evanovich, Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Brookmyre, but comic crime fiction remains, relatively speaking, a rarity.
  This may well be because many of the genre’s fans refuse to read comedy crime, for the very good reason that murder is no laughing matter. That interpretation, however, is another variation on the canard that comedy is necessarily a more trivial form than tragedy. Raymond Chandler once suggested, rather glibly, that if a writer was ever in doubt as to what should happen next, he should have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand. But whether the man is holding a gun or a custard pie is irrelevant; what matters is the man.
  Humour, and in particular a well-honed appreciation of the absurdity of human self-delusion, has long been a staple of Eoin Colfer’s work. As a best-selling author of children’s fiction, he struck gold with the blackly comic teenage criminal mastermind Artemis Fowl, and also wrote And Another Thing … (2009), the sixth instalment in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Colfer’s Half-Moon Investigations (2006) was a private eye novel, although the quirk there was that Fletcher Moon was a 12-year-old shamus prowling the mean streets of his school’s playground.
  It would have been a surprise, then, and possibly even a criminal waste, had Colfer abandoned comedy for his first adult crime offering, Plugged (2011). That novel featured Daniel McEvoy, an Irish Army veteran who once served in Lebanon and still suffered the psychological scars. A casino bouncer in the upscale New Jersey town of Cloisters, McEvoy got caught up in the murderous scheming of Irish-American mobster Mike Madden, and a ramshackle comedy caper ensued, in a style reminiscent of the late Donald Westlake.
  Dan McEvoy returns in Screwed, now the co-owner of the casino but no less indebted to Mike Madden. Commissioned by Madden to deliver a package of bearer bonds to a New York address, McEvoy understands that he is being set up as a patsy, but is nonetheless sucked into a turf war. The politics of gang warfare mean nothing to McEvoy, who is far more concerned with how the war might impact on his personal relationships. Armed with a unique set of lethal skills, he sets about defending his own tiny patch of turf.
  On the basis of that set-up, you might imagine that any movie adapted from Screwed would probably feature Liam Neeson growling threats into a mobile phone. McEvoy, however, is a decidedly unconventional crime fiction hero. Despite his army training and combat experience, he is a man plagued by self-doubt. McEvoy may well be skilled at killing a man at long or short range, but his thought processes are so tortuous – the novel is told in the first person – that the intended victim is more likely to expire from natural causes before McEvoy makes up his mind about the morality of a necessary murder.
  Indeed, McEvoy is in many ways everything the crime fiction hero should not be. The legacy of a drunken, abusive father has left him conflicted about his own capacity and appetite for violence. So far is he removed from the bed-hopping, womanising stereotype that he refuses to take advantage of Sofia, with whom he is besotted, on the basis that she occasionally confuses him with her long-lost husband, Carmine. The macho caricature of bad genre fiction is further undermined by the fact that McEvoy’s business partner and friend is the ‘super-gay’ ex-bouncer Jason, while McEvoy’s sharp eye for women’s fashion comes courtesy of his addiction to Joan Rivers’ Fashion Police TV show.
  Suffice to say that Dan McEvoy is a complicated man, and Colfer takes great pleasure in drop-kicking him into a story that reads a lot like a Coen Brothers’ take on The Sopranos. Indeed, part of the pleasure of Screwed is Colfer’s awareness of the conventions of the genre, and his willingness to bend them out of shape. The irreverence is refreshing right from the beginning, when the novel starts with McEvoy explaining how Elmore Leonard has decreed that no story should begin with a description of the weather, ‘but sometimes a story starts off with weather and does not give a damn about what some legendary genre guy recommends.’ Fair enough, but McEvoy then neglects to tell us what the weather is actually doing.
  That whimsical quality is probably the novel’s defining feature (“Men have climbed into wooden horses for eyes like that.”) but instead of proving a narrative distraction, the offbeat style is an integral element of Dan McEvoy’s attempt to cope with the way his life appears to be spiralling out of control. In Plugged, this quality occasionally veered off-course to become self-consciously wacky and zany, but Screwed is noticeably more controlled and direct in terms of its narrative thrust.
  It takes a very deft touch to weld the darker elements of noir to slapstick comedy, but Colfer’s aim has a laser-like focus and the joins very rarely show. The result is a hugely enjoyable caper that also functions as an affectionate homage to the genre. – Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Sarah Weinman

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?
IN A LONELY PLACE by Dorothy B. Hughes, which is my favourite crime novel of all time. I still marvel at the way she conveyed her main character’s narcissism and self-delusion while revealing the truth about him to readers, and how women end up prevailing and overcoming a stereotypical role of victimhood. I’ve read the book many times and it remains fresh and new to me with each revisiting.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I had to think long and hard about this but I keep coming back to Valancy Stirling, the heroine of LM Montgomery’s THE BLUE CASTLE, who overcomes timidity and passivity through a fluke diagnosis and emerges as the mischievous, adventurous, idiosyncratic woman she was always meant to be (and ended up with the best man for her in the process.)

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Oliver Potzsch’s HANGMAN’S DAUGHTER series, which is unabashedly entertaining and fun, though I don’t feel terribly guilty about that.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When I finished the first short story that I was comfortable to send out for publication. Plots With Guns published it ten years ago.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
THE BLUE TANGO by Eoin McNamee, though ORCHID BLUE is also incredible.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
GRAVELAND by Alan Glynn.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: being in the zone, coming up with that sentence which sings. Worst: agonizing when I cannot write an opening paragraph after twenty tries.

The pitch for your next book is …?
I’m not sure yet!

Who are you reading right now?
I’m trying to catch up on the backlists of all the authors in TROUBLED DAUGHTERS. I’ve succeeded with some; others are way more prolific. So about to start BEDELIA by Vera Caspary.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Women with issues.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Wee Danny Boy

Gerard Brennan – “A unique voice among contemporary Irish writers,” according to no less an authority than Stuart Neville – returns to the fray with WEE DANNY, a novella spin-off from WEE ROCKETS. Quoth the blurb elves:
Incarcerated in a home for young offenders, Wee Danny Gibson has learned how to act in front of his teachers, his educational psychologist and the institute’s supervisors. And if he continues to keep his nose clean, he could be rewarded with a day-trip to Castle Ward.
  But good behaviour is no easy task when his fellow inmates are determined to get in his face. Then there’s Conan ‘The Barbarian’ Quinlan, a gentle giant who Danny feels compelled to look out for.
  Friend or liability? Danny can’t be sure, but he knows he needs to stay focussed on that little taste of freedom.
  For all the details (and for regular updates on developments in crime writing in Northern Ireland) clickety-click here