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?
Farewell, My Lovely. It’s the first Chandler I ever read, and still my favourite. His lyricism was in fantastic form. That scene with Marlowe picking up a bug in the police department office and taking it outside the building was revelatory to me – tough and hard-boiled does not necessarily mean insensitive to even the smallest suffering. Hammett, the outspoken political liberal, enjoyed hunting; Chandler, who sometimes is unjustly and mistakenly labelled a conservative, rescued cats. One reason why Marlowe resonates with me on such a profound level.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I do a lot of vintage comic book reading. I’ve got a conference presentation coming up about comics and classics. Of course, I'd read ’em anyway, but the conference is an excellent excuse.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I love this question ... it puts the pleasure emphasis on writing, not publishing, which is a sort of communal, social-acceptance kind of satisfaction, but not as pure as the kind you get when you write a passage and you’re breathing hard and on the edge of your seat and your palms are sweaty and you can barely get through the line in legible English because your thoughts are moving too quickly for you to get them down on paper and, damn it, your character is aching and so are you, and you don’t even realize you’re crying until you fall back in your stained and creaky chair, and realize you’re alone. Really alone. Because you just finished the damn book. The first draft is always the most satisfying to me, because you get swept away. Editing and revising means stepping back, and you lose some of that bonding, that euphoria.
The best Irish crime novel is ...?
I’d nominate Ken Bruen’s The Killing of the Tinkers. Devastating, lyrical, and a seductive and spiritual odyssey.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any one of Bruen’s Jack Taylor series. For something a bit lighter, Cecil Day Lewis’ Nigel Strangeways’ mysteries – they’d make a good series for television, instead of this constant revision of Agatha Christie.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best things: That incredible sense of creation-elation. Someone reading your work and liking it. Places you can go and people you can meet. Worst thing: Rejection, rejection, rejection. I think we tend to take it personally. And solitude isn’t all that healthy. It’s good to get out of yourself and into a pub occasionally.
The pitch for your next novel is ...?
The sequel to Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping) is finished, but waiting for a final round of revision. The title is Maledictus (Cursed). My books are very character-driven. Mystery plots are nearly always contrived to some degree, so I concentrate on making more than murder happen – and making the reader care about who it might happen to. I also look at my books as more noir than historical mystery, though the history aspects are all as accurate as a lot of research and an M.A. in classics can make them. Maledictus is a noir about a professional curse-writer in Aquae Sulis (Bath) whose curses have an uncanny habit of coming true. Arcturus will get involved in ways he can't fathom or predict. Nightmare Alley and Red Harvest were two big influences on this novel. I’m also working on another short-story prequel to Nox, and researching another series set in 1939 San Francisco.
Who are you reading right now?
There are several books next to my bed at the moment: a Cornell Woolrich anthology (Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories), Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference, and Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life by Jane Gardner. There’s also a Life magazine from 1938 and a volume of Sallust (a Roman historian I’m writing a paper on). Yeah, I know I’m weird.
The three best words to describe your own writing are ...?
Poetic. Visceral. Redemptive.
Kelli Stanley’s Nox Dormienda will be published in July 2008.
“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.