“Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “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. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Funky Friday’s Free-For-All: How Do We Love Thee, Friday? Let Us Count The Ways …

It’s a Ken Bruen mini-mash-up, folks: there’s an interview over at Pulp Pusher, and a short story – Loaded, from the London Noir anthology – available at The Barcelona Review. Meanwhile, Detectives Beyond Borders is delighted Ken is on his way to Philadelphia to receive the David Goodis Award at Noir Con 2008 (scroll down), and there’s fierce excitement entirely, as they might say in Galway, about his upcoming appearance on Craig Ferguson’s The Late Late Show on July 9. Here’s hoping Ireland’s very own Charlie Bucket crashes through that glass ceiling, Wonkavator-style … In other news, they’re giving away free copies of I Predict A Riot by The Artist Formerly Known as Bateman over at Meet the Author There’s a smashing interview with Hard Case Crime co-publisher Charles Ardai (right) at Murderati, conducted by Mike MacLean, that kicks off with, “Grifters and pimps. Pushers and killers. Dirty angels and righteous whores …” Sigh. Why can’t all interviews begin that way, eh? … If you’re around the Bath area in England on July 5, you could do worse than toddle along to the Jim Kelly reading at the Long Gallery at The Old Palace, organised by Topping Books … Maxine Clarke is kind enough to let us all know, via her blog Petrona, that she’s looking forward to Ingrid Black’s The Judas Heart and the paperback of Tana French’s In the Woods, due in November … which is nice. On to the world of movies, and the word around the Anton campfire is that there’s a rough draft of three hours just begging to be trimmed down to two hours or thereabouts, and the official trailer is on the way – we’ll have it about two seconds after YouTube, people … A humble thank you kindly, ma’am, to Rhian over at It’s A Crime, for bigging-up Crime Always Pays in no uncertain fashion – despite everything … Finally, what better way to ease into the weekend than via some classic noir? Erm, via a pint of Pimms and a snakebite chaser, say the CAP elves. Nonetheless, here’s Fred ‘n’ Babs in Double Innuendo, sorry, Indemnity, to wit: “I wonder if I know what you mean.” “I wonder if you wonder.” They really don’t write ’em like that any more. Enjoy the weekend folks, and y’all take care to come back now, y’hear?

Quirke II: The Quirkening

Brian McGilloway of the rather fine Borderlands fame was kind enough to tip us off that his PanMacmillan stablemate Benjamin Black – forthwith to be known on these pages as Benny Blanco (from the Bronx) – has the follow-up to Christine Falls arriving in November. The Silver Swan features the redoubtable pathologist Quirke investigating an apparent suicide against a backdrop of grey, drab 1950’s Dublin while trying to negotiate a relationship with the daughter he has always denied. Huzzah, say we – although, with apologies to Chekov, it sounds like the kind of thing that should feature a seagull rather than a swan in the title. Or could that be po/mo irony? Hmmm … only time, that notorious tittle-tattler and perennial doity rat, will tell.

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 124: Cora Harrison

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?
Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael’s Penance. I love all of the Brother Cadfael series, but this one is so beautifully written with a slightly mournful elegiac note that it is my favourite. What lends it extra poignancy is that I think Ellis Peters was probably dying of cancer when she wrote it.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’m not sure where the guilt comes – I’m retired and if I feel like reading, I read. I don’t watch much television, which mostly seems to be a lot of boring nonsense to me, and I have no pretensions to being an intellectual, so any book that captures my attention is a worthwhile read for me. My cottage is full of books so there is never a lack of material.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I’m not a wonderful writer, but I think the best thing I did was a final showdown between my detective, Mara, the Brehon, (judge), and the guilty person. I wrote a whole chapter without giving away the identity of the killer and I really enjoyed writing that.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Probably Tana French’s In The Woods – rather disturbing for someone like me who likes her books to be cosy, but undoubtedly very powerfully written.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Would it be terrible to say that I think My Lady Judge would make a great movie? I think the Burren landscape is so unique and so little known, even to many people in Ireland, that I think it would make a wonderful film. If you have a look at www.coraharrison.com you will see what I mean about the landscape.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is how long it takes for a book to get published. I write very quickly and am always ahead of publishers’ deadlines, so when it comes to editing time I’m quite bored with the book and just interested in the one that I am currently writing. The best thing about being a writer is that it gives you a unique opportunity of creating your own world and this, I think, is what I have done in My Lady Judge. I keep thinking how much I would have liked to have lived then and how beautiful and peaceful life was – despite the odd murder.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
I don’t know, but I would guess that it is part of turning himself into a different person so that he can write in a different style. I read once of a woman who wrote under two names, and she used to have two computers, each in a different room, and this helped her to have a distinctive voice for both series.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
History, mystery and romance.

Cora Harrison’s My Lady Judge is available in all good bookshops now

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

We All Have Skeletons In Our Closets, The Trick Being To Make Them Dance

To be honest, we’re not even sure that Jim Kelly is an Irish crime writer, but with a name like that he’d probably end up captaining the Irish football team under the grandparent ruling were he a ball-botherer. In saying that, the main reason he’s getting a plug is that Penguin UK sent us a couple of freebie books – without us having to ask! Oh, the glamour of it all … Anyhoo, The Skeleton Man (published in hardback on July 5) is the fifth in Kelly’s Philip Dryden series, in which Dryden, a journo, puts his investigative skills to good use whenever a murder crops up on his beat. Meanwhile, last year’s The Coldest Blood takes its paperback bow on the same day, and arrives bearing a “significant new talent” cover blurb courtesy of the Sunday Times. “This is another winner in what has become one of the best British crime series on the market. Kelly should be read as much for his Dickensian atmosphere … and his full-throttle characterizations as for his masterful plotting,” says Connie Fletcher at Booklist, via Amazon.com, where you’ll also find this – “The language Kelly uses is wonderful … The Coldest Blood reads like a very well done true crime story - the people are that real, the motives that true.” – and this – “The mystery is solidly complex ... Kelly’s writing imbues the unforgiving landscape and the cold itself with personality while Dryden’s wry outlook and innate compassion keep it all from being in the least depressing.” Which is nice …

Swedish Crime Fiction? Now There’s A Turnip For The Books

The rather fine Detectives Beyond Borders interweb yokeybus has a neat link to a fascinating piece on Swedish crime fiction in the Toronto Star, which runneth thusly:
The article also traces the current wave of Swedish crime writing to a traumatic national event: the 1986 assassination of Prime Minister Olof Palme, shot dead in Stockholm while walking home from a movie with his wife. Anyone who dismissed crime fiction as trifling might be interested in this passage about the Palme assassination:
“In a way, Sweden has never recovered,” says Swedish author and critic Marie Peterson. “Sweden changed, brutally, on almost every level, but this change was nowhere to be found in literature. No one explored it, analyzed it or wrote stories about it. Except the crime writers, starting with [Henning] Mankell.”
Are there parallels to be drawn with the Irish experience of another assassination, in this case the murder of investigative journalist Veronica Guerin in 1996 and the subsequent explosion in Irish crime fiction? There’s a significant paper to be written here, o ye students of Ireland.

The Embiggened O # 2,307: Damn The Trumpets, We’re Going To Need Flugelhorns

Crikey! Two reviews for our humble offering The Big O in the space of a week? We couldn’t be more spoiled were we face down in a pyramid of Ferrero Rocher at some ambassador’s knees-up. Fra Jones over at Verbal magazine (edited by Running Mates maestro Garbhan Downey, fact fiends) outdid himself with the blush-making prose, offering a lengthy appraisal of The Big O (pictured, Big P pretending he can read and Lil’ Eva loving the back-page blurbio). We’ve had to cut the review down for reasons of space and because Fra was mercilessly efficient at spotting the rather ropey parts of the book too, but as Homer would say, get to the good stuff, to wit:
‘Pulp Fiction with an Irish twist’
“With his debut, Eight Ball Boogie, Sligo man Burke was heralded as an invigorating force for Irish crime fiction. What distinguished his writing was the sharp, whip-crack dialogue and meticulous plotting. Both traits remain much in evidence with The Big O … With all his pieces in place, Burke proceeds to move and manipulate with all the precision of a chess grandmaster … Each has their own unique voice, the multiplicity of perspectives adding real texture to the story … [The] pace is maintained through intuitive, engaging dialogue. There is a sense of wit and liveliness to the speech that fosters a feeling of authenticity, Burke achieving the not insignificant feat of creating characters who speak as people really do, rather than as writers feel they ought … With its precision engineered plot, oodles of incident and moments of rampant hilarity, The Big O displays a particularly filmic sensibility, part film noir, part Pulp Fiction – but totally entertaining.”
Fra? The pints of Pimms are on us.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

And More’s The Pithy

As befits an author coming from a theatrical background, Declan Hughes talks a good game. We particularly liked this exchange from a recent lengthy interview with Kevin Burton Smith in January Magazine, while yakking it up about Dec’s second novel, the Dublin-based The Colour of Blood:
Q: But Ireland’s always had its share of crime. What’s changed?
A: The scale. More people with more money equals more drugs, equals more money to be made in supplying them, equals more turf wars, etc. And second/third generation criminals, high on their own supply. Mental bastards.
Pithily true. Well said, sir.

A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moths

The momentum behind ex-boxer Nick Stone’s (right) King of Swords is becoming well-nigh irresistible, folks. Over at The Rap Sheet they report that Nick’s debut, Mr Clarinet, is making its debut bow in the States courtesy of William Morrow, and that it’s already been nominated for a Best First Novel by the International Thriller Writers crew (winners to be announced mid-July, during ThrillerFest in NY). Meanwhile, Penguin’s UK editor Beverly Cousins is throwing her entirely metaphorical weight behind King of Swords over at Shots Mag, to wit: “It is a masterpiece of crime fiction, rivalling some of the greats of the genre for my favourite thriller of all time.” Criminy! If you fancy catching up on the whys and wherefores of Mr Clarinet before King of Swords appears, Peter Wild interviews Nick over at Book Munch, while Pulp Pusher is threatening to publish a Nick Stone short story in the next issue of its ezine. Where does Nick get the time to shave that beautiful dome, eh?

Flick Lit # 43: The Getaway

In Jim Thompson’s novels, no one gets away. Not even, as in the case of Doc and Carol McCoy, when they manage to escape the forces of law and order and their double-crossed partners to fetch up rich and free in Mexico. “Before Kerouac,” wrote Steven King on Thompson’s legacy, “before Ginsberg, before Marlon Brando in The Wild One or Yossarian in Catch 22, this anonymous and little-read Oklahoma novelist captured the spirit of his age, and the spirit of the twentieth century’s latter half: emptiness, a feeling of loss in a land of plenty, of unease amid conformity, of alienation in what was meant, in the wake of World War II, to be a generation of brotherhood.” Thompson wrote 29 novels, including The Killer Inside Me, Nothing More Than Murder, The Nothing Man and The Rip Off. The fatalistic titles say it all: Thompson was the poet laureate of the long-term loser and the short-con grifter. In The Getaway, Thompson got inside the mind of the amoral psychotic, the charming killer who is as much a product of his society as he is a threat to its illusions of normality. It is the relationship between Doc and Carol, however, that lifts it into the realms of the contemporary classics. “They are terrifying,” wrote psychiatrist Tim Willocks. “As Doc and Carol find themselves pitching their reptilian self-interest – an interest, a commitment, so profound and unquestioned as to approach the force of a biological imperative – against each other, Jim Thompson unfolds one of the most perverse love affairs in fiction.” While the cast of characters ranged against Doc and Carol are lurid contortions of humanity, none are quite so vividly repulsive as the main protagonists. And so it seems quite appropriate that, when Doc and Carol finally make it to Mexico, it is to the living death of having their fortune milked away until they are left with nothing but their own mutually destructive mistrust. Sam Peckinpah was not a director renowned for restraint, as he displayed in the callous blood baths of (among others) The Wild Bunch and Cross of Iron. So it is curious that the director shied away from the more graphic episodes of Thompson’s novel when filming Walter Hill’s screenplay. Indeed, the tone of the 1972 version of The Getaway, starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw, is notable for its downbeat treatment of a quintessential Hollywood staple, the bungled heist. McQueen, never the most lively of actors, plays Doc with a stilted intensity, even when he’s threatening to break a kid’s arm, rabbit-punching a blonde floozy, or slapping around McGraw, then America’s sweetheart. McGraw, meanwhile, appears to be taking her cue from McQueen, and remains virtually comatose throughout (a deliberate attempt, perhaps, to quell rumour of their illicit off-screen affair). Indeed, Peckinpah renders the couple far more conventional than the pairing in Thompson’s novel. Given that the movie starred box office luminaries McQueen and McGraw, and was released in 1972, when the iconoclastic loner ruled Hollywood, it is unrealistic to expect them to suffer in the way the McCoys of Thompson’s novel did: while the traditional Peckinpah conflagration engulfs all the minor parties in a brutal shoot-out, Doc and Carol make good their escape in a patently false feel-good ending with the aid of a chirpy ex-con truck driver. Perhaps that was Peckinpah’s final irony. “The McCoys are natural born killers who do not waste time worrying about their haircuts and tattoos,” wrote Willocks. “They are far too busy charming those who will become their victims should the latter take a single – often innocently aware – step that might jeopardise their goal.” Had Thompson’s Doc and Carol been aided by a chirpy trucker in their bid for freedom, his impulsive generosity would have ensured that he too would have joined the long list of corpses that littered the McCoys’ eternal getaway to nowhere.– Michael McGowan

Monday, June 25, 2007

(Bate)Man With A Camera

Crikey! Someone’s gone and given The Artist Formerly Known As Bateman a camera and set him upon an unsuspecting populace, according to the latest update from his interweb page thingy:
“If you’re in and around my home town of Bangor over the next fortnight, beware – I’m on the loose with a camera, making a 40-minute documentary for BBC1 Northern Ireland. Never really done anything like this before, but am already enjoying it immensely - nearly everyone I’ve approached to take part has agreed, including the likes of Jimmy Nesbitt, Lord Trimble and Laine McGaw (who played Patricia in Divorcing Jack). I’ll be returning to my old schools, Ballyholme PS and Bangor Grammar and talking about the Spectator years, where I trained as a reporter, and we’ve already got a lot of footage we recorded at the Aspects Festival in the town in September. Should be on TV some time in the autumn.”
Rest easy, Maine-folk – that’s Bangor in Norn Iron. A narrow escape, eh?

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 198: Reed Farrel Coleman

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?
Wiseass answer: I’ve already written it, The James Deans. Won the Shamus, Barry, and Anthony Awards and was nominated for the Edgar, Macavity and Gumshoe. Wise answer: For a long time I would have said The Long Goodbye or Red Harvest, but lately I’ve come under the spell of Daniel Woodrell and think Winter’s Bone might be the choice.
What do you read for guilty pleasures?
Pop song lyrics. For years, I’ve been trying to figure out the irony of Cher’s Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves. If you read the lyrics carefully, you’ll note that the female narrator (singer) is complaining that she and her family are thought of as nothing but scum by the local townspeople, that they are perceived as nothing but crooked gamblers, alcoholics, prostitutes and con men. Then she proceeds to describe her family as nothing but crooked gamblers, alcoholics, prostitutes and con men. I’m like …Yeah!
Most satisfying moment as a writer?
I was sixteen and saw my name in print in the high school literary magazine. It was for a poem called Monopoly about unrequited love. What else would a sixteen year old boy write about, for fuck’s sake? That’s when I knew I had the bug.
The best Irish crime novel is…?
Ulysses. Sorry, I couldn’t help myself. I’m partial to Ken Bruen here, so I’d go with either The Killing of the Tinkers or Rilke On Black.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Either of the above.
Worst/best thing about being a writer?
The worst is dealing with the small indignities to which writers are exposed to at every turn. The stuff that when added up makes you wonder why on earth you put up with it. The best is when you write that perfect sentence, phrase or paragraph. When you read it and know no one else alive who ever lived could have written that same phrase the same way or done it more effectively.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
Usually I feign ignorance. Here I claim it.
The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
Out of print. Sorry. Philosophical, hard-boiled, emotional.

Reed Farrel Coleman’s Soul Patch is the sequel to his multi-award winning The James Deans

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Tenderwire by Claire Kilroy

Dublin writer Claire Kilroy has been drawing favourable comparisons with Patricia Highsmith for this, her second novel – a recommendation that isn’t undeserved in the slightest. The parallels between both authors’ styles are obvious: Tenderwire boasts an unreliable, emotionally unstable narrator – professional violinist Eva Tyne – a whirling dervish of irrational jealousy, grief and obsession whose composites all vie for prominence. Eva’s compulsive acquisition of what might be a stolen Stradivarius violin, bought from a bunch of vaguely menacing Chechens whose speciality is racketeering in priceless antique violins smuggled out of Europe, takes her on a frenetic, often addled journey through Manhattan, to Germany and eventually to Dublin. As with a Highsmith novel, expectations are overturned by the denouement and tensions are finely wrought between characters – and there are plenty of memorable ones, like Alexander, an illegal Chechen, who’s “a giant of a man and as blond as a child,” and Claude Martel, a seemingly disingenuous, overbearing luthier (violin maker and repair expert). Loss, ambition and the descent into warfare brought on by soured female friendships are recurring themes that Kilroy weaves into the novel with depth, precision and lyricism. – Claire Coughlan

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Monday Review: Because No One Puts Baby In The Corner

You say po-tah-to, etc. “As Poe-esque a dog’s breakfast of a novel as one could imagine. A good part – if not quite three-fifths – is sheer fudge. That is to say, it is sensational, campy, and somewhat absurd genre trash … And yet, despite having a trash factor score that even Poe might have envied, this is an oddly compelling novel,” says Good Reports of Michael Collins’ The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton. But Cathy Staincliffe at Tangled Web leans towards po-tay-to: “A wicked parody of the campus novel and a great debunker of the study of literature and the hallowed halls of academia, this is also a satisfying and very funny whodunit.” Meanwhile, Bob the Wordless likes John Connolly’s latest: “If you like a little bit of horror with your noir, read any of his books. Dark, suspenseful, disturbing, lyrical, emotional. That’s all you need to know about his latest Charlie Parker book, The Unquiet.” Gene Kerrigan’s The Midnight Choir gets the hup-ya from Mostly Fiction: “Dark and sad in its vision of humanity, even with the bleak humour that is scattered throughout, this dramatic and tense novel questions the relationship between freedom and responsibility, between order and justice, and between principles and expediency,” says Mary Whipple. Over at the Irish Voice, they’ve been perusing Running Mates: “[Garbhan] Downey has a talent for writing vivid dialogue in the Irish vernacular that makes this outrageous caper work on its own terms,” says Cahir O’Doherty. We humbly concur … “It may sound odd to suggest that a murder novel could be ‘charming’ but this second book by a remarkable Irish author has a warm humanity about it that goes with the nature of the writer … The denouement is extraordinary, but little more can be said … except to hope that Andrew Nugent will continue to produce such splendid and memorable books,” says Tangled Web of Second Burial, while Mary Fister at Mystery Scene Magazine chips in with, “The book is funny, fast-moving, generous and touching, offering convincing evidence that evil respects no borders, but seeking justice can be a multicultural effort.” Very nice indeed … The Sunday Trib likes Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands: “Some great dialogue and a convincing portrait of small town claustrophobia,” say they … Tangled Web has a belated review of Ken Bruen’s Priest: “Bruen eloquently articulates an outsider’s view of his own country, and channels the anger of a nation betrayed by its church. There’s sharp, black, humour here too and moments of heartbreak. A dark and bitter read – perfect for those who like their crime noir.” No arguments here … Over at Euro Polar, Claire Gorrara casts the glad eye over Cormac Millar’s The Grounds: “Comedy and tragedy are kept in a delicate balance … it will be a pleasure to see where next Millar points the spotlight on Irish society,” while Euro Crime’s Maxine Clarke is flippily-floppily impressed by Paul Carson’s Betrayal: “A rattling good read if you are prepared to suspend belief. It is also a quick one: it will take only an hour or two. But don’t expect depth or reflection: what you’ll get is escapist, lightweight action that does not bear too much scrutiny.” Damned with faint praise? Try Literary Illusions on Benjamin Black’s opus: “Christine Falls is not your traditional thriller novel, though it does have plot twists that will surprise and perhaps even shock you. However, the most disturbing part of the book is the lack of empathy that is felt for Quirke … By the end, I felt a supreme sense of loathing for him, and I am sure I am not alone.” Crumbs! No such reservations for Declan Hughes’s debut, The Wrong Kind of Blood, at Detectives Beyond Borders: “The Hughes [series] looks as if it will be a convincing take on the private-eye noir, complete with a randy femme fatale, a missing relative, money, lawyers, and a wisecrack now and then … wryer and darker than the usual run of the species …” says Peter Rozovsky. Which is nice …

Cry Fowl, And Let Slip The Imps Of War

Chastised by Ann via the comment box last week on the basis that we haven’t been linking kiddie-crime supremo Eoin Colfer on Crime Always Pays, we had two choices: we could slink away to a corner with a pointy hat on, or we could plug Eoin’s latest, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony, and then make with the whole corner-‘n’-pointy-hat deal. So here goes: The Lost Colony is the fifth in the Fowl series, and finds Artemis battling the twin evils of homicidal imps and puberty. Naturally, it’s been garnering the usual raves, to wit: “The cinematic scope of the cycle of stories is only added to here with the high action, time-bending finale … I’m twenty years older than the target audience, but to me and the more expected reader, Artemis Fowl is rollicking entertainment,” says John Lloyd over at The Book Bag, while Kay Weisman of Booklist, via Amazon.com, is equally impressed: “As always, Colfer delivers not only continuous action but also witty wordplay and dialogue, understated humour, and plenty of magical technology and gadgetry. A must for kids who have enjoyed Artemis’ previous escapades.” Okay, that’s us away to the corner for the day. Damn pointy hat … it’s such a good fit.

The Embiggened O # 1,293: Time For Some Ambidextrous Trumpet-Blowing, Wethinks

‘Declan Burke’s compelling caper’ is how Peter Rozovsky headers his very generous hup-ya of our humble offering The Big O over at Detectives Beyond Borders, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“The pace of events in this kidnap caper may remind readers of Bust, that hilarious novel that [Ken] Bruen wrote with Jason Starr … [but] … there is something sweet and gently introspective about most of this novel … each character takes time for some humorous introspection, which makes the story a fast-moving caper built up of leisurely episodes … the deliciously complicated plotting, the wry dialogue and the sympathy Burke engenders for his cast of characters made this one of the most fun and purely pleasurable reads I’ve had in a while.”
Mr Detectives Beyond Borders, sir? You had us at ‘Declan’. Thank you kindly.