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, January 3, 2008

Going Underground-ish

As regular readers (hi, mum) of Crime Always Pays will be aware, we’re big, big fans of Seamus Smyth. Not the elves, obviously – they’re tiny big fans. But we think QUINN was one of the defining Irish crime narratives of the last decade, and we never could work out why Smyth was only big in Japan. Three cheers, two stools and resounding huzzah, then, for those impeccably tasteful French, where – a little mole-shaped birdie tells us – Smyth has recently signed a three-book deal for QUINN, RED DOCK and THE MOLE’S CAGE. Quoth Seamus:
“The best part is, they’re already written. And all three were bestsellers in Japan. Let’s hope the French are as enthusiastic.”
Being, erm, diligent researchers, the elves have winkled out the synopsis to THE MOLE’S CAGE, which runneth thusly:
In July 1972, 17-year-old Michael Hill is arrested crossing the border into the Irish Republic, interrogated and interned in Long Kesh, an ex-RAF airfield ten miles west of Belfast. The compounds (or ‘cages’), some two dozen, house several thousand men. He is put into Cage 5, nicknamed ‘the Moles’ Cage’ because inmates are forever doing what moles do – burrowing. They live in corrugated-iron Nissan huts – ovens in summer, fridges in winter. Conditions are akin, according to the Red Cross permanently stationed outside, to those of a WW2 POW camp. The only way out for Michael is to convince the army he is not IRA. Naturally they believe the IRA when they back him up. Many men are in the same Catch-22. And many of them are known to Michael. For him, walking into Long Kesh is like walking into a pub on the Falls Road – a sea of familiar faces, kids he went to school with, in some cases their fathers. One pal was interned because he had fuse wire in his toolbag, which can be used to make detonators – he’s an apprentice electrician. Another was interned because he delivered bread in Catholic areas and therefore, according to army logic, had to be in a position to know who was in the IRA and what they were planning. Milkmen got the same treatment. It’s a crazy world where justice has been removed and there’s nowhere to go for it. Michael’s forever trying to escape, but the IRA control the escape committees and they want their own men out, not non-members. Countless tunnels cave in because there’s no shoring. After years of fighting for decent food and better conditions, the IRA CO orders the place burnt to the ground. The men survive living out in all weathers for months, under ‘tents’ made from corrugated iron. But the charred remains bring opportunities – they can be used for shoring. A plan is hatched to dig a 200 foot tunnel, for the whole cage to escape, then each cage in turn under the cover of darkness …
Quoth Seamus:
“THE MOLE’S CAGE focuses on the experiences of the thousands of Catholics wrongly interned without charge or recourse to legal representation, not on the IRA. A lot’s been written about the H-Blocks but this story covers the four years before they were built, about which comparatively little has been written. It’s a first-person narrative told through the eyes of a streetwise teenager.”
Bon chance, Monsieur Smyth …