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?
The Choirboys, by Joseph Wambaugh. I’ve read that book many a time and I still love it (his latest, Hollywood Station, is shaping up to be a right old feast too). The Choirboys contains the single most brilliant line up of characters I’ve ever clapped my beady eyes on. A rag-bag shower of LA cops, like Roscoe Rules, and Waddayamean Dean … Jesus, I’m laughing even thinking about it. But then I get all teary-eyed at the poignancy of the story too. Damn you, Wambaugh!
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
James Herriot and all the vet books, they make me laugh out loud. In Barcelona I had to stop reading them on the metro because I would flail about in hysterics, making those Catalan doobies very nervous indeed.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I’ve spent two days cursing, procrastinating, complaining and glowering at my computer screen about some plot problem or other, only for a cartoon light-bulb to go ‘ping’ over my head. I have been known to shout, “SHEWALLAH!” when that happens, frightening any number of useless animals.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I don’t know, I don’t read a lot of Irish crime, except for John Connolly, so steeped in American noir that I am. However, I intend to rectify that. Ask me again in a few months.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any of mine, hear that producer dudes! Try me, I'm not greedy. ANY OF MINE!
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is working for yourself, answering to yourself and being able to stay in jeans all day long if you want to - and I do. The worst is the fear, the fear that no one will like what you’ve just invested the best part of a year in. I don’t mean critics either, I mean readers. I don’t know what I’m going to drink the day I get an email from a reader saying, “I didn't like your last book nearly as much as the others.” Rum and Coke probably, the non-diet kind. Oh, I’ll go wild.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
Who can say? Maybe he thought folk would ridicule him for trying a different genre. I’m inclined to forgive Banville a lot of things because I liked The Untouchable so much. Indeed, I went about talking just so, and saying things in a clipped faux Eton accent for weeks. But then he came out with The Sea and that made my brow go all funny and furrowed, so this sort of thing really means he’s chapping my hide a bit. And then he does those terrible highbrow reviews where I have to sit with a dictionary in one hand and a stiff drink in the other. It's just not on, you know.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Speedy entertaining pap.
Arlene Hunt’s Missing Presumed Dead is out now
“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.