“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, July 5, 2007

The Temple Of Doom

Yep, Peter Temple (right) slid the CWA’s Duncan Lawrie Dagger into his entirely metaphorical scabbard for The Broken Shore, voted best crime novel of the year on Thursday night. There’s one in the eye for the bloody Poms, eh? In a doom-laden night for Irish crime writing, neither Declan Hughes or Brian McGilloway managed to get their hands on the New Blood Dagger, Gillian Flynn winning that award, and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, for Sharp Objects, appropriately enough. Worst of all, though, was our belated discovery that our lame pun – y’know, Peter Temple writes the Jack Irish novels – is a non-runner given that Temple’s 'Irish' is actually pronounced 'I-reich'. Buggery … Mind you, we can now blame the man we stole the lame pun from, the one and only Mr After Dark, My Sweet

Funky Friday’s Free-For-All: If Music Be The Food Of Love, Eat On

We don’t know John Connolly (right, in a manner of speaking). Never met the guy, and with the exception of Critical Mick – the exception to every rule, including the rule of exception – we don’t know anyone who has. So why do we love JC so and want to have his Charlie Parker-shaped babies? Because he spaketh thusly to Mojo magazine: “What I love is that people would come up to me and say I went out and bought a Go-Betweens album after hearing them on your CD. You feel like you’ve done some good in the world.” To those not in the know, The Go-Betweens are the finest band ever to come out of the Southern Hemisphere, and rival only The Tindersticks in the tiny little hearts of the Crime Always Pays elves. Anyhoo, moving on … to yet another John Connolly interview! In the New Zealand Herald, no less! Crikey, worse than Uncle Travelling Matt Fraggle, that lad … Anyway, less of the Connolly jive, more of other writers wibbling on about the page-blackening process. To wit, Jason Starr’s funkadelic take on the writer’s choice of POV, Elmore Leonard’s 10 Rules of Writing, and Brad Kelln’s so-crazy-it-might-just-work plot to conquer the free world by publishing a free novel on the free interweb and taking readers along for the free ride, for free. How cool is that? Almost as cool as Ray Barboni from Miami, seen below teaching Gene Hackman a thing or nineteen about hoodlum protocol … the most important rule being that you never say, “Look at me, Ray,” to Ray Barboni. And that’s it for another week, folks – be sure and drop by again next week, y’all.

This Week We’re Reading … The Dead Yard and Half Moon Investigations

The Dead Yard being the second in Adrian McKinty’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, in which Michael Forsythe – Bourne with an evil sense of humour – goes undercover to infiltrate an Irish paramilitary splinter group operating out of New England. A pounding pace, rugged prose and a palette of pop culture references put this one in the Pelecanos bracket, but it’s McKinty’s turn of phrase that marks him out as an original – even if, hailing as we do from the Yeats County, we could have done without the various references to the ‘cow fuckers from Sligo’. Fabulous stuff, and The Bloomsday Dead yet to come: our cup runneth over. Meanwhile, Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer details the adventures of Fletcher Moon, a 12-year-old PI investigating the disappearance of a lock of hair. The rules of underage fiction dictate that there’s a refreshing absence of gore, violence and generalised psychosis, but on the basis of its seamless writing, sly humour and reading-as-pure-pleasure, this tucks effortlessly into Elmore Leonard’s slipstream. Colfer is obviously a fan of Chandler et al, and he has distilled essence of the hardboiled style here, with the emphasis very much on style. Writers will read it and weep; less self-conscious readers will be wearing a smile throughout.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

The Missing In Action

Rejoice, o ye legion-like fans of Paul Kilduff (right) – the city slicker returns to the bookshelves next year with The Missing, in which a motley crew of investigators go in search of mysteriously vanished London lawyers, bankers and their ilk on an odyssey that takes them from London to Germany and on to the hedonistic fleshpots of Marbella. Huzzah! In other news, the former Headhunter is also diversifying into non-fiction with Ruinair, a humorous look at the world of cheap air travel, the title of which has absolutely no relevance whatsoever to any particular low-fare airline, o ye legion-like eagle-eyed lawyers. Anyhoo, you can catch The Missing in action if you jump over here, including all the blurb and an extract from the prologue. Which is nice …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 2,003: Paul Carson

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?
Bangkok 8 by John Burdett.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Any of Colin Bateman’s books.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Having a crisis of confidence after labouring over a first chapter for three months, deciding writing just wasn’t my thing, walking away from PC and sitting down for long re-think. One hour later I came up with idea for prison doctor and Betrayal was born. It flowed like water.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
The Third Policeman by Flann O’Brien.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Ambush, by me. It’s got all the right ingredients and is under evaluation as I write by a major TV/film production company (then again, Scalpel was optioned for about 10 years and never saw the light of day!).
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: it’s bloody hard work and you do have to take the bad reviews on the chin. Best: seeing the books on the shelves and on the bestseller lists.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
Kindest evaluation: to distinguish his literary writing from his more commercially minded book. Lots of writers use this (Martin Waddell pens the most wonderful children’s picture books under his own name and has a separate name for his teenage-audience works). A spiteful and mean-spirited interpretation would be that Banville isn't really comfortable with crime fiction and doesn't want to be so obviously selling his soul. Personally I couldn't give a damn and I suspect he couldn’t give a damn either. Life’s too short to bother with such trivia.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Pacy, racy, spicy.

Paul Carson’s Betrayal is available in all good book shops

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

“Honestly, It Was Nice Just To Be Nom … What’s That? I Won? Take THAT, Peons!”

Poor Siobhan Dowd (right, with her editor David Fickling, righter) was feeling a little poorly in the wake of her launch for The London Eye Mystery (absolutely nothing to do with one glass of frizzy too many, we hasten to add), and we were feeling quite sorry for her – but lo! She’s back! With an award thingamabob! Quoth Siobhan:
“I am still a bit green around the gills but much cheered by having won the Branford Boase Award 2007 for A Swift Pure Cry. It is an award to recognise a debut novel for children/young adults and the author receives £1,000 and the author and person who edited the book both receive a hand-crafted wooden box. It was wonderful! A Swift Pure Cry would need the most generous of interpretations to classify as a crime novel – although there is a crime in it ...”
‘Generous Interpretations’ is our middle name, Siobhan. Actually, we’re thinking of suing our parents. Anyone have any advice?

A Brief And Largely Pointless Exercise In Reverse Snobbery

Now, we’re not likely to quibble with about fifteen eighteenths of Elizabeth Hodgson’s big-up of John Brady’s A Carra King in the Canadian Literature Quarterly, seeing as it runneth thusly:
“For hard-boiled detective fiction, definitely see A Carra King, by John Brady. Brady’s hefty novel is the sixth in his series starring Matt Minogue, a detective with the Dublin police force. Brady’s determinedly authentic Dublin-speak takes some getting used to, as does his terse, laconic style, but the novel is definitely worth the effort. A Carra King is intelligent, sophisticated in its plotting and prose, intensely atmospheric and detailed, and packed with characters whose individuality and humanity are richly satisfying. If a novel is a work of fiction which brings a world to life, A Carra King definitely deserves to be considered a novel first and “detective fiction” second.”
Okay, commence inquibbilating. Like, why a novel first and “detective fiction” second? Why “detective fiction” in those jazzy little inverted commas that suggest the pages were turned with a telescopic tweezers while a clothes-peg remained firmly clamped on the reader’s nose? Why the need to differentiate at all? Could it be that high-brow literature’s superiority complex masks, as it generally tends to do, an inferiority complex? Because as far as we can make out, there’s only one essential difference between well-written ‘literature’ and ‘crime fiction’. Crime fiction sells. High-brow doesn’t. Ask Benny Blanco.

Flick Lit # 131: The Long Goodbye

“The realist in murder,” wrote Raymond Chandler (right) in 1950, “writes of a world in which gangsters can rule nations and almost rule cities . . . It is not a very fragrant world, but it is the world you live in, and certain writers with tough minds and a cool spirit of detachment can make very interesting and even amusing patterns out of it. It is not funny that a man should be killed, but it is sometimes funny that he should be killed for so little, and that his death should be the coin of what we call civilization.” Originally a man of action in taut, streamlined plots in novels such as The Big Sleep (1939) and Farewell, My Lovely (1940), The Long Goodbye (1953) finds PI Philip Marlowe ruminating at length on the relevance of his attitude and philosophy. Plot had never been Chandler’s strength but in The Long Goodbye the plot becomes a rambling, shambolic paean to the tattered grandeur of a man out of time, whose idiosyncratic sense of morality has outlived its usefulness and relevance. Marlowe’s code of honour had always cherished truth and loyalty above all other traits; called upon to help a friend, Terry Lennox, to escape a tricky situation, Marlowe offers his support unquestioningly. When Lennox commits suicide in Mexico, the consequences plunges Marlowe into a complex tale of double-cross and triple-cross; but where the earlier Marlowe would have cut through the bluff with some snappy dialogue and a back-hander to the face, the Marlowe of The Long Goodbye appears hamstrung by a growing realisation of his own ineffectiveness at imposing justice on the mean streets. Bitter and confused, with his precious code of behaviour tarnished, Marlowe retreats to contemplate his own demise, and by extension that of the traditional literary private eye. Abhorred on its release by Chandler purists, Robert Altman’s The Long Goodbye (1973) simply spun the writer’s theme out to its logical conclusion. As played by Elliott Gould, Marlowe is a spaced-out social casualty who is incapable of discovering his cat’s favourite brand of tinned food. The detective’s philosophy, attitude and loyalty have become bad jokes in a Los Angeles where corruption is so endemic as to be irresistible; but while Chandler’s Marlowe was at least aware of his irrelevance, Altman’s Marlowe is reduced to a blinkered, bumbling patsy in Terry Lennox’s great scam. Where Chandler’s novel can be read as the tale of a writer trying to make sense of a mid-life crisis, Altman’s movie cocks a snook not only at the then outmoded genre of the private eye movie, but also mercilessly skewers the pretensions of a bloated, self-important movie industry that was sleepwalking towards the abyss. If the Marlowe of old had raged against an LA that was too often heartless, the new Marlowe can only shrug at an LA that has become spineless, gutless and bloodless. “In Altman’s world,” claims Kevin Hagopian, “every citizen is an inmate, and society is only a way to multiply the psychological infirmities and pathologies of its members.” In The Long Goodbye, LA plays the same role as the military hospital as lunatic asylum in MASH (1970), country-and-western’s ‘lawless frontier’ of 1975’s Nashville, and the deranged Wild West tent show of Buffalo Bill and the Indians (1976). As Altman’s film unfolds, the impression created is that of Marlowe wandering the grounds of a madhouse and peering enviously through the windows. What the Chandler purists objected to most strongly, however, was Altman’s finale. When Marlowe discovers Terry Lennox’s treachery, he pulls a gun on his erstwhile friend and – in a total perversion of Marlowe’s precious code of honour – shoots Lennox dead; in a long, lingering shot, as Marlowe walks away, a tinny version of Hooray for Hollywood gathers strength on the soundtrack. The facile gesture was, for Altman, a mercy shot to conclude the process Chandler had begun; the logical, final nail in the coffin of a code that had long since outlived its relevance.- Michael McGowan

Monday, July 2, 2007

Brought To Book # 213: Seamus Smyth On Ken Bruen’s Cross

Like all gifted writers, Ken Bruen is big on atmosphere. He wallops you with it on page one – not with a character wearing a cross, but with a cross wearing him – and never lets up. And try this for characterisation: “I didn’t enquire how the barman knew my order. I was afraid he’d tell me … You sit behind a pint like that, a pure gift, with the Jameson already weaving its dark magic on your eyes, you can believe that Iraq is indeed on the other side of the world, that winter isn’t coming, that the Galway light will always hold that beautiful fascination and that priests are our protectors, not predators. You won’t have the illusion for very long, but the moment is priceless.” Bruen stalks Galway with the eye of a jackal, scouring the city’s ever-changing cultural and social scene and rancid underbelly, and weaves it into a thought-provoking sleuth yarn which is an indictment on modern-day Ireland. And he’s very visual. You see everything. The ‘half-crouch young people adopt’, the tree in the centre of McSwiggan’s pub reassuring us that the ‘country still has a sense of the absurd’. Bruen adds to the genre a voice that’s as challenging and unsettling as it is original. No genre-writing for this guy. He writes as if he’s sitting over a beer talking to a mate. It’s as subtle a piece of crime-writing as you’re likely to get. Nothing’s forced. It’s a masterclass in pace. Many writers are compared to writers who spawned their own sub-genre. Not Bruen. He’s spawning his own for others to aspire to. How many of us can claim that?- Seamus Smyth, author of Quinn

Watership Downer

Interview and / or Sam Millar junkies are advised to plug into Eileen Walsh’s chit-chat with Sam in the latest edition of Verbal, although it’s the rather quirky review of The Darkness of Bones running alongside that caught our eye, to wit:
“I used to love rabbits. Until I read Sam Millar’s latest book The Darkness Of Bones. Seeing little bunnies, and there are plenty of them around at this time of year, now conjures up my worst nightmares. Spring will never be the same again … Loosely based on the Kincora scandal that rocked Northern Ireland in the ’80s, Millar’s novel makes for uneasy reading … This is a deeply chilling tale. Hopefully this book won’t find its way into the travel section of your local bookshop, or Belfast tourism may become a thing of the past.”
Sam? Leave the bunnies alone or we’ll send Woundwort around. You have been warned.

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 412: Eoin Colfer

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?
Any of Ken Bruen’s would do nicely. If I had to chose one, I would take American Skin. Obviously I would be pretty chuffed to have done The Hound of the Baskervilles too. Or The Getaway.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Comic books – I try to justify myself to strangers on trains. Pathetic. I once went to a newsagent with a friend and he got Time, the Financial Times and the Trib. I got Captain America, Creepy and Batman. We never spoke of it again.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I think when I waited outside the general post office in Wexford for the author’s copies of my first book to arrive. Nothing beats holding the first book on your hand. This is the moment when a dream becomes reality and is all the better for it. Also, on a more Celtic Tiger note, the first movie deal with Miramax.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Oh, God. Tough one. I loved Vincent Banville’s Canon Law. Also Brendan Landers’ Milo Devine. But at the moment Ken is king. The Guards is the start of an era.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly - creepy.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Being your own boss, when sometimes you don’t like the boss. There is no one to complain to and the union is shit.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
I imagine to avoid being pigeonholed. Perhaps there isn’t much of an overlap between Banville and Black readers. Of course I am guessing, it probably all stems from a childhood incident on the Wexford coast.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
En-ter- tainment.

Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony is out now

Sunday, July 1, 2007

The Monday Review: Being A Series Of Hup-Ya Snippets Culled From The Interweb Yokeybus

Detectives Beyond Borders seems rather taken with Declan Hughes’ The Wrong Kind of Blood – it’s four posts and counting by now, the gist of which runneth thusly: “One can read the technique as the product of Hughes’ efforts to liven up what in less skilled hands might seem shop-worn … Loy begins to look like an honourable addition to the roster of troubled fictional private investigators,” and “Hughes has a knack like none other I’ve ever seen of blowing away the heaviness with a laugh-out-loud funny line.” Which is nice … “I Predict A Riot careers along at a break-neck pace, keeping us rooting for the dysfunctional cast of characters, and enjoying the cameo roles that hurtle by. The book’s too long by at least 150 pages, but (sorry, sorry), it’s a riot!” reckons Sharon Wheeler of Reviewing the Evidence after perusing The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman’s latest … What of Michael Collins’ The Secret Life of E. Robert Pendleton? “For the well-read there is a lot of literary and philosophical discussion (Nietzsche figures prominently); for the cynics lots of world-weariness; and for the crime lovers a cracking mystery with a completely unexpected denouement,” says Lizzy over at Lizzy’s Literary Life … “Frankly, it would be hard to over-praise [Gene] Kerrigan’s second crime outing. It’s stylish enough to merit comparison with Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane, yet somehow recognisably us. If you’re looking for a terrific holiday read, look no further,” says the Irish Times’ Arminta Wallace of The Midnight Choir … Tom Widger at the Sunday Trib agrees: “Seldom have there been so many good Irish crime writers. Top of the stack, among a handful of others, is Kerrigan.” ... “Awash with hard men and lonely women, 12:23 is impeccably researched and tautly written,” reckons The Independent’s Rebecca Armstrong, while Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet is equally taken with Eoin McNamee’s fictionalised take on Princess Di’s death: “I reckon I could have read the entire book in under two hours, since it’s a rather slim volume in terms of page count; but bloody hell, 12:23 is a big book when it comes to ideas, literary style, and the atmosphere it can conjure in one’s head.” … Fra Jones at Verbal magazine likes Mary Rose Callaghan’s latest: “Billy, Come Home is an often upsetting story, but one not without tenderness and humour. And its heavy subject matter is handled with a sense of surety and the deftness of touch for which Callaghan is renowned.” … What’s a Monday Review without a John Connolly big-up? Bereft, that’s what … “Set in the state of Maine, with impressively accurate atmosphere and topography, [The Unquiet] is not for the faint-hearted. It grips like a hospital blood-pressure pad and might even offer bad dreams,” says Sean McMahon at Verbal … “Little Constructions is about everything that’s nasty in life, but it’s mostly about violence. So it has guns. And retribution. Madness. Paedophilia. Rape. Bruising infidelity. Desperately unhappy marriages. Damaged women and oblivious men. And somehow it all manages to be convincingly comic,” gushes the Sunday Business Post’s Catherine O’Mahony on Anna Burns’ Little Constructions … Finally, and under the rather impressive heading of ‘Best Summer Reads: Crime’ in The Times, comes Marcel Berlins' hup-ya for Brian McGilloway: “The most impressive recent debut was Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands, a tight, exquisitely written, atmospheric account of claustrophobic life around the border of Northern Ireland and the Republic … Inspector Benedict Devlin, of the Garda, a man not without his own secrets, is a compelling investigator.” We couldn’t agree more: Devlin puts us in mind of the late, lamented Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen, which isn’t a comparison to be bandied about lightly.

The Monday Review II: What Fresh Skulduggery Is This?

We’ve never seen anything like it before, folks – the reviews for Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant are coming in like late votes in a Belfast by-election, so we’ve had to give him a separate Monday Review. To wit: “Snappy dialogue, ridiculous action sequences and a cheery, refreshing flippancy make this highly readable,” says Deirdre Baker at The Toronto Star … “Skulduggery Pleasant targets the young adult market but its humour, character complexity and charming dialogue make it an enjoyable experience for the adult reader as well,” reckons Books For A Buck … “It delivers just the right amount of witty dialogue, sarcasm and humour – mixed with equal portions of fright, horror and imagery – to keep children laughing and cringing from one page to the next. Adults also will be reading this book long after the wee ones have gone to bed,” according to Simon King at kidsread.com … “A fun and enjoyable read, Skulduggery Pleasant has something for everyone,” says Lindsay Beaumont at Blog Critics … “It’s an action movie of a book,” claims Leila Roy at name-of-the-day Bookshelves of Doom. “All that really matters is whether or not it’s fun. It is … It’s very violent – you’ve got your torture, your multiple murders – deaths galore, really. That said, I think there are a lot of middle school boys out there who'll like it a whole lot. Specifically Artemis Fowl fans …” Crikey! It’s even getting the Artemis Fowl comparisons … “Skulduggery Pleasant is an exciting adventure with a fun plot, well drawn characters and a great sense of humour … like Harry Potter, but with more humour and far less angst … If you can get hold of it, do read it – it’s such fun!” says Michele at Scholar’s Blog … Finally, Jessica at Active Voice breaks out the cupcakes: “Skulduggery himself is delightful, as a witty, urbane Irish skeleton detective sorcerer in a good suit almost has to be … Skulduggery Pleasant gets five cupcakes. I absolutely loved it, and can’t wait until the next one comes out!” All of which would be very nice indeed if it wasn’t already so wonderfully Pleasant …

The Embiggened O # 998: Bee, Where Is Thy Sting? Oh, There It Is …

We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. There we were, scrolling down through a very enjoyable John Connolly interview in the Sacramento Bee, when we stumbled upon this:
Q: Until recent years, Ireland hadn’t produced many crime novelists. Now there seems to be a surge, led by Declan Burke [right], Ken Bruen and Adrian McKinty. What’s changed to allow that?
A: Ireland’s (historic) genre fiction was fantasy. We were predominantly a rural society, while crime fiction is about urban life …
Erm, exqueeze us? There’s a surge now? And we’re leading it? Is it dangerous? Will there be pints of Pimms? And how come we’re always, always the last to know? Grumble, rhubarb, etc.