“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.

Friday, November 2, 2007

How I Write # 247: Cora Harrison

“What inspires me is a map – a very detailed map of the Burren by Tim Robinson. When I started MY LADY JUDGE I was intrigued by the mention of a law school at Cahermacnaghten and so my Brehon, or investigating magistrate, was born. Mara is thirty-six years old, a woman with a past, famous for having successfully conducted her own divorce case as a young lawyer aged sixteen; already a grandmother, but the object of the romantic interest of King Turlough Donn, lord of the three kingdoms of Thomond, Corcomroe and Burren (a real character in Irish history). Then I had to have other people in my story – obviously Doonyvarden had to have a bard living there (bharden is the genitive form of bard – I think!) and there were other place that evoked a character. Then I had to find a spot for my dead body and the idea of finding one in Wolf’s Lair on Mullaghmore Mountain appealed to me. I’ve written three books now and this is how I do it. I look at that very detailed map of the Burren, I select a location and then I weave the story around that location. For instance, for my next ‘Mara’ book I saw that Noughaval, a small settlement in the south of the Burren, has a medieval market cross still in existence. Just a mile down the road is a place marked Lios na nGamhan, the blacksmith’s enclosure. So I opened my story MICHAELMAS TRIBUTE with the fair at Noughaval on Michaelmas day, where Fintan the blacksmith is leading a revolt by the MacNamara clan against the unjust tribute demanded by the new chieftain. Similarly, with book three, STING OF JUSTICE, I was inspired by the words ‘site of medieval silver mine’ marked at the top of a mountain and, not too far away, ‘deserted medieval village’. Then at the bottom of the mountain was Newtown Castle, also built in the late medieval era. These three items slotted together very rapidly and I had the story of a cruel, rapacious mine owner, and silversmith, and his village of mine workers. So what is the future for Mara? Already I am eyeing the ruins of a medieval Cistercian abbey with its strangely beautiful carvings of the exquisite wild flowers of the area. And then there is the gigantic boulder, named on the map, intriguingly, as the rock of the fear Bréige (deceitful man), the site of a medieval flax mill and the traces of a great medieval racecourse. The hundred square miles of the Burren could spawn a hundred stories.”

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