“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “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.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Publication: THEY ALL FALL DOWN by Cat Hogan

THEY ALL FALL DOWN (Poolbeg Press) is the debut novel from author Cat Hogan, a psychological thriller based in a fictional fishing village in Co. Wexford. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ring-a-ring o rosie . . .
  How far would you go?
  Jen Harper likes to play it safe. She is settling into life on the outskirts of a sleepy fishing village with her little boy, Danny. Life by the sea, just how she wanted it.
  When she meets Andy, she feels the time has come to put her baggage and the scars of the past behind her. Then she is introduced to Scott, Andy s best friend, and is stung by his obvious disdain for her. Why is Scott so protective of his best friend? What is the dark secret that threatens all of them?
  In her attempt to find answers, Jen must confront her demons and push her relationships to their limits. By digging up the past, she puts Danny and herself in danger. Will she succeed in uncovering the truth before they all fall down?
  Raw and energetic, They All Fall Down is a fast-paced and addictive novel exploring the depths of flawed human nature, the thin line between love and obsession and the destructive nature of addiction.
  THEY ALL FALL DOWN was published on July 1st. For more on Cat Hogan, clickety-click here

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Books: BOOKS TO DIE FOR To Publish In Trade Paperback

I’m delighted to see that the award-winning BOOKS TO DIE FOR (Atria / Emily Bestler Books), edited by John Connolly and yours truly, will be published in trade paperback later this year, at what I think is a very reasonable price of $17 (I’m biased, obviously). If you haven’t come across BOOKS TO DIE FOR before, the concept runs a lot like this:
The world’s most beloved mystery writers celebrate their favourite mystery novels in this gorgeously wrought collection, featuring essays by Michael Connelly, Kathy Reichs, Ian Rankin, and more. In the most ambitious anthology of its kind, the world’s leading mystery writers come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that reveal as much about the authors and their own work as they do about the books that they love, over a hundred authors from twenty countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Agatha Christie to Lee Child, from Edgar Allan Poe to P. D. James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Lord Peter Wimsey, Books to Die For brings together the best of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and for those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought … I want more!
BOOKS TO DIE FOR will be published in trade paperback on October 25th. For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, July 29, 2016

Books: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS, ed. Declan Burke

I’m very pleased to announce that TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS will be published by New Island Books on September 30th, with yours truly wearing his editor’s hat. It’s a collection of brand new short stories from Irish crime writers, and the blurb runs a lot like this:
Selected and edited by award-winning crime writer Declan Burke, TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS showcases the absolute best in Irish crime writing today. From originators like Patrick McGinley and Ruth Dudley Edwards to global crime megastars like John Connolly and Eoin Colfer, there can be no doubt as to the serious quality of Irish crime writing in the twenty-first century. An absolute must-have for crime lovers! Featuring stories by: Patrick McGinley, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Julie Parsons, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan, Eoin Colfer, Declan Hughes, Cora Harrison, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Niamh O Connor, William Ryan, Louise Phillips, Sinead Crowley, and Liz Nugent.
  TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS will be published on September 30th.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Robert Thorogood

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?

Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy by John Le Carré. I read it (and the subsequent two George Smiley books) from start to finish every couple of years or so and am always captivated by the beauty of the writing and the sense of moral decay it has running through almost every line. When I was younger, I thought it was a ‘whodunnit’ and couldn’t wait to find out who the killer was. Now that I’m older, I realise that the killer is pretty much revealed in Chapter 1, and the greatness of the book is that Smiley also realises who it is from the start. I think it’s Le Carré’s masterpiece.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
 

I know that this is a bit bleak for a 44-year old man with a family and a mortgage, but I think I most want to be Harry Potter. Or at least, there’s still a bit of me that’s waiting for a letter to come through the post that tells me that yes, I am indeed a magical wizard, and now I’ve got to go into an intense period of training so I can become the best wizard in the world.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

Surely there’s no such thing as a guilty pleasure when it comes to reading? However, I’d agree that there are definitely some books that have shorter sentence structures than others, so I’m happy to admit that I’ve always loved a good Techno Thriller. Back in the day, I used to tear through every Tom Clancy, Larry Bond, Stephen Coonts and Patrick Robinson novel I could get my hands on. And I suppose the thing that makes them ‘guilty pleasures’ is that I’ve not dared go near any of them for years. I worry that the stories (and politics) would feel somewhat dated from the distance of the 21st century.

Most satisfying writing moment?

It’s always the same, whether I’m writing episodes for DEATH IN PARADISE on TV, or if I’m writing the stand-alone novels: it’s the moment I get to write ‘The End’ for the first time. In truth, I tend to do a mad dash on the first draft of anything, so writing ‘The End’ is never even close to being the actual end of the writing process, but I always feel an overwhelming sense of relief and release when I know that, for good or for ill, I have in fact managed to get to the end of the story.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
 

I remember living in a filthy flat in London with friends back in the 1990s. We’d just left University and were all on the dole or doing temp jobs for next-to-no cash. Whenever someone found a good book, it used to be passed from person to person, and I remember DIVORCING JACK by Colin Bateman coming into the house and it going off like a grenade. It was so flip, so sarcastic and off-the-cuff, and we all devoured it. It seemed to combine the glib wit of a PG Wodehouse with the filth and punch of a James Ellroy. I loved it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Okay, so it’s not quite a crime novel (although there is a murder of sorts at the end), but I’ve been wanting to see a movie of THE SEA by John Banville ever since the day I was working as a script reader at Miramax and I was asked to write a report on the novel. The story is so wonderfully cinematic – centring on a lone man in a seaside cottage who’s trying to come to terms with the decisions he’s made in his life while the ghost of a mysterious woman and child visit him. The big cheeses at Miramax didn’t want to take things further, but it’s a beautiful, haunting novel, and I’m still convinced it would make a beautiful, haunting film.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?

The worst thing about being a writer is that you’re on your own all day. From the moment you turn your computer on in the morning to the moment you turn it off at night. It’s just you. In a shed. And, as the years pass, I find I’m increasingly unable to function in the real world. I’m distracted at the school gates when I pick up the kids. Or I’m baffled by our lovely Postie trying to talk to me as he delivers an item too large to fit through the letterbox. Or I’m terrified by a phone ringing from an ‘unknown’ number. Spending so much time on your own with only imaginary characters for company isn’t exactly a very healthy way to live.

The pitch for your next book is …?

When the owner of a coffee plantation is found murdered inside a farm building, Detective Inspector Richard Poole and his team have to work out which member of his family killed him, why, and—even more impossibly—just how the killer managed to escape from the locked room afterwards.

Who are you reading right now?

I spent the weekend at the Harrogate Crime Festival, and was really impressed with how Ruth Ware talked about her writing. The brilliant things about crime festivals is that the panelists’ books are always for sale in a ‘pop up’ bookshop on site, so I was able to buy her first book, IN A DARK, DARK WOOD. So far it’s everything I hoped it would be: a modern-day murder mystery with a brooding sense of menace and a real mastery of tension.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?

The only sane answer is ‘read’, because for all that I love writing, I love reading more. I think that as long as I’ve got a pile of novels by my bedside, I could pretty much put up with everything else I had to endure in life.

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

Fun. Comic. Thrilling.

THE KILLING OF POLLY CARTER by Robert Thorogood is published by Harlequin Mira.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Books: THE CONTEMPORARY IRISH DETECTIVE NOVEL, ed. Elizabeth Mannion

It’s nice to see that the Irish crime novel is getting some academic love: Palmgrave Macmillan has just published THE CONTEMPORARY IRISH DETECTIVE NOVEL, which is edited by Elizabeth Mannion and promises to ‘open new ground in Irish literary criticism and genre studies.’ To wit:
Irish detective fiction has enjoyed an international readership for over a decade, appearing on best-seller lists across the globe. But its breadth of hard-boiled and amateur detectives, historical fiction, and police procedurals has remained somewhat marginalized in academic scholarship. Exploring the work of some of its leading writers―including Peter Tremayne, John Connolly, Declan Hughes, Ken Bruen, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Tana French, Jane Casey, and Benjamin Black―The Contemporary Irish Detective Novel opens new ground in Irish literary criticism and genre studies. It considers the detective genre’s position in Irish Studies and the standing of Irish authors within the detective novel tradition. Contributors: Carol Baraniuk, Nancy Marck Cantwell, Brian Cliff, Fiona Coffey, Charlotte J. Headrick, Andrew Kincaid, Audrey McNamara, and Shirley Peterson.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Books: BENEATH THE SURFACE by Jo Spain

Jo Spain publishes her second novel, BENEATH THE SURFACE (Quercus) in September, and it appears that Inspector Tom Reynolds, whom we first met in WITH OUR BLESSING (2015), is becoming a series protagonist. To wit:
Did I know it would come to this? That I was playing Russian Roulette? I would give anything to turn back time and to be with my girls. There is no shot at redemption. I am going to die. The gun is in my eye-line as the second bullet is fired. That’s the one that kills me.
  Late at night, two powerful men meet in a secret location to discuss a long nurtured plan about to come to fruition. One is desperate to know there is nothing standing in their way - the other assures him everything is taken care of. Hours later, a high-ranking government official called Ryan Finnegan is brutally slain in the most secure building in Ireland - Leinster House, the seat of parliament. Inspector Tom Reynolds and his team are called in to uncover the truth behind the murder.
  At first, all the evidence hints at a politically motivated crime, until a surprise discovery takes the investigation in a dramatically different direction. Suddenly the motive for murder has got a lot more personal … but who benefits the most from Ryan’s death?
  BENEATH THE SURFACE will be published on September 22nd. For what it’s worth, I thought WITH OUR BLESSING a very impressive debut – reviewing it for the Irish Times, I had this to say: “In a very strong year for Irish crime-fiction debuts, Jo Spain’s With Our Blessing is among the most assured . . . an old-fashioned mystery harking back to Agatha Christie . . . The apparently cosy tone is only skin deep, however: With Our Blessing picks at the scabs of recent Irish history to reveal raw and gaping wounds.”

Monday, July 11, 2016

Books: BLOOD FOR BLOOD by J.M. Smyth

All three regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Seamus Smyth and his ferocious debut novel QUINN (1999). We’ve been waiting quite a while for a follow-up, but – a trumpet parp there, maestro, if you will – it’s finally arrived. To wit:
‘Care’. There’s a word if ever I heard one. I looked it up in a dictionary once. It had a lot of definitions – but not one that applied to me and Sean ...
  Red has survived the barbarity and abuse of the orphanage. His twin brother Sean has not been so lucky. With a sworn oath to avenge his brother’s murder, Red kidnaps a policeman’s daughter and leaves her to be brought up in care, to suffer like he and Sean did. But this is just the first part of Red’s plan for revenge against all those who took their freedom.
  Now, twenty years later, the time has come. The kidnapped girl has grown up and left the orphanage, never knowing who her real parents are or the part she’ll now play in Red’s shocking revenge. And for those who have been living their lives in peace, with faded memories of twin boys who were put into care years ago, life is about to descend into hell.
  But with the criminal underworld, the police and an unexpected serial killer on the scene, sometimes even the best laid plans go awry…
  To read a sample from BLOOD FOR BLOOD, clickety-click here

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Review: PARADIME by Alan Glynn

Alan Glynn’s fifth novel opens with Danny Lynch, ex-military and a veteran of two Iraq tours and recently returned from Afghanistan, struggling to cope with anxiety and dread as he tramps the streets of New York. Unemployed, suffering the symptoms of PTSD, Danny’s relationship with his girlfriend Kate is on the rocks. Unable to remember any specific detail about his time in Iraq, Danny is haunted by vivid memories of a horrific incident witnessed in Afghanistan. ‘It’s just that I really, really don’t want to remember them – wholesale, retail, it doesn’t matter.’
  That glancing reference to Philip K. Dick evokes the recurring theme of paranoid conspiracy that has run like a seam through Alan Glynn’s work since the publication of his debut, The Dark Fields, in 2002. His subsequent novels, the ‘globalisation trilogy’ of Winterland (2009), Bloodland (2011) and Graveland (2013), were set in that shadowy vector where capitalism corrupts democracy, and Paradime continues in a similar vein. When it appears that Danny is planning to blow the whistle on Gideon Logistics, the contractor operating at the Afghani military base where two service personnel were murdered during a riot, Danny is threatened with public disgrace, financial ruin and a prison sentence. It’s a scenario familiar to any fan of the classic ’70s tales of paranoid conspiracy – Three Days of the Condor, The Parallax View – but it’s at this point that Glynn introduces his joker in the pack, when Danny meets Teddy Trager, a billionaire tech visionary and Danny’s doppelgänger. Danny becomes obsessed with Trager, mimicking his dress and speech – a man with nothing to lose fixated on the man who has it all.
  It seems like an odd narrative gambit at first, the timeless motif of the doppelgänger – which has its roots in ancient Egyptian folklore – initially a jarring presence in Danny and Trager’s gleaming, futuristic world of Manhattan’s Silicon Alley. It’s a gamble that pays off handsomely, however, as Glynn emphasises the Gothic horror of being confronted with the ‘billion-to-one’ shot of your perfect double, with Glynn evoking Edgar Allan Poe and Dostoevsky’s The Double as Danny struggles to come to terms with a life lived in the mirror, darkly. Traditionally, in literary terms, a paranormal harbinger of doom, the appearance of his doppelgänger initially appears to be a stroke of outrageous good fortune for Danny, although soon he is contemplating the existential nightmare of seeing himself reflected in, and refracted through, his awareness of his own essential truth.
  An enthralling psychological thriller-cum-tragedy on a personal level, then, Paradime is also a blackly comic tale as Danny finds himself swimming with the sharks who dominate the highest echelons of power and finance. The illusion created by extraordinary wealth is that the one-percenters are different, special, superior – but if any old Tom, Dick or Danny can play the part (treated as a genius and guru, Danny finds himself meeting Bill Clinton and George Clooney, and being interviewed on Charlie Rose) then the edifice is built on even shakier foundations than even the cynical, suspicious and mentally unbalanced Danny could have suspected …
  As with all great novels, Paradime raises more questions than it answers. Is Danny, our Everyman, a ‘puppet with a soul’ plodding along in a noir-ishly predetermined universe? Or is he that most fascinating of literary creations, the character bound by Fate but determined to rebel, regardless of personal cost, against the chains that bind? All told, it’s a pulsating tale from one of the most inventive practitioners working in contemporary crime fiction, a novel that pounds to the rhythms of the conventional thriller but employs the thriller’s tropes to divert its protagonist, and the reader, down some very unusual dark alleyways. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.