“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, August 2, 2007

“HR Pufnstuf / He’s Your Friend When Things Get Rough …”

… especially when we have to write those blummin’ trumpet-blowing puff-pieces. Happily for us, we keep the boy Pufnstuf chained up in the basement of Crime Always Pays Towers and force him to work his magical puffery for us, evil swine-elves that we are. Over to you, HR:
“Ahem. Thank you, evil swine-elves. Well, first off, the ever wonderful Critical Mick is hosting an interview with Chief Evil Swine-Elf Declan Burke, most of which seems to be a load of old cobblers about sharks, Spartans, Francis Wilson reading the Sky weather reports, trading karate kicks with Westlife, interviewing Leonard Cohen, the joys of DIY publishing and how his wife won’t let him have a cat because she’s secretly jealous of them. Then there’s Pulp Pusher, bless their cotton socks, who for some reason best known only to themselves have posted up a piece by the Chief Evil Swine-Elf where he talks a lot about toilet brushes and the difficulty in flushing rejection letters. I ask you, is this literature? Back in my day, we had real writers. And they didn’t talk about toilet brushes. Except maybe that DH Lawrence. And James Joyce liked poo-stains. But other than them, it was ….”
Erm, yes. Cheers, HR - now here’s a hookah, go away and do what you do best …

Lost Classic # 264: Putting The Boot In by Dan Kavanagh

A phlegmatic London PI, Duffy is commissioned by the manager of his local professional football club to investigate a series of unfortunate incidents that seem designed to foil the Athletic’s bid to escape relegation to the Fourth Division. In tandem with that plot runs Duffy’s investigation of himself, as the bisexual detective examines his place in the scheme of things when the threat of AIDS looms large over London’s swinging scene of the early ’80s. Beautifully understated, as you might expect when you learn that Dan Kavanagh – allegedly born in Sligo in 1946 and a Sunday football goalkeeper since his failed trial with Accrington Stanley – is in fact a pseudonym for Julian Barnes, Putting The Boot In (1987) features bone-dry wit (“Nor do I,” said Duffy, though as a matter of professional principle he never put anything past anybody.”), a knowing familiarity with crime fiction tropes and very English kitchen-sink dramas, and a delightfully accurate portrayal of the quiet desperation of both Third Division and Sunday league football. The second of a quartet of Duffy stories, this is long out of print but well worth grubbing around the second-hand shops for – and there is a four-novel omnibus available on Amazon UK.- Michael McGowan

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Gallows Humour: Laughing All The McGilloway To The Bank

The ongoing raves for Brian McGilloway’s (right) Borderlands suggest that people will be taking a more critical squint at the second in his DI Devlin series, Gallows Lane, which will be published by Macmillan next spring to coincide with the mass-market publication of a paperback edition of Borderlands in April. Happily, you can starting squinting now, as Crime Always Pays offers an exclusive-ish extract from the first chapter of Gallows Lane, to wit:
Things reached a peak for James [Kelly] when he took a shine to a neighbour’s daughter, Mary Gallagher, who was seventeen. Their blossoming relationship seemed to keep James on the straight and narrow right up until the day, just a week shy of his sixteenth birthday, when he discovered that Mary was in fact his half-sister, the product of one of his father’s clandestine affairs. Things became further complicated when it transpired that Mary was pregnant with James’ child and, in the manner of parochial Irish towns country-wide, the girl was sent to live with an aunt in England and James became the wandering protagonist in his own personal Greek tragedy. […]
Finally, Kelly had been injured fleeing the scene of an armed robbery just over the border and had been arrested by the RUC, the law in the North before the Police Service of Northern Ireland was established. He had served eight years of a twelve year sentence before allegedly finding God and, the Friday previous to my meeting him, had earned early release for good behaviour. All of this Superintendent Costello had explained to me that Sunday morning in his office. Costello had received word from the PSNI that Kelly had been released from Maghaberry Prison. Since then, Costello had posted someone on the border waiting for Kelly to appear – which he finally did.
‘I don’t want Kelly coming back here, making trouble, Benedict. If he arrives, convince him to stay on the Northern side of the border, eh?’
‘What’s he done?’ I asked.
‘Found Jesus, apparently; that’s why they let the wee shite out.’
‘Maybe he has,’ I suggested.
‘What?’
‘Found Jesus.’
‘I doubt it,’ Costello said. 'If Jesus knew Kelly was looking for Him, He would’ve hid.’
If you haven't already got your grubby mitts on Borderlands, we'd advise you to do so toot sweet. This bandwagon is officially leaving the station ...

All The World’s A Stage And Each Must Write His (Or Her) Part

Better known to the wider world for his stand-up comedy, TV work and acting, renaissance man Sean Hughes recently turned his hand to crime fiction with The Detainees. Which, by our reckoning, makes it Pauline McLynn, Tana French and now Hughes making the leap from full-on thespianism to wilful Irish crime page-blackening. It makes a certain kind of sense, we suppose: actors and writers both need to fully inhabit their characters to make them plausible, and both will go to almost any lengths to ensure they never have to do a decent day’s work. Anyhoo, The Detainees: “Irish comic Hughes loses the comedy in favour of a fairly clever piece of revenge fulfilment,” says one happy punter over at Amazon UK, while another adds, “I was deeply moved by this novel and highly entertained. If this had been printed under a pseudonym people would have been rating it up with the likes of Martin Amis. Totally excellent.” Ah, but what if he’d chosen ‘Martin Amis’ as his pseudonym? Makes you think, no? No? Okay, be like that …

“Smokey, This Is Not ’Nam. This Is Bowling. There Are Rules.”

Good news and better news, people: first off, Will Russell of Lebowski Fest fame publishes I’m A Lebowski, You’re A Lebowski tomorrow (August 3), the tome being the ultimate The Big Lebowski nerd-fan resource (the Crime Always Pays elves being utterly in thrall to the genius of the Coen Brothers in general and the Duderino in particular). The better news? The Lebowski Fest UK rolls into Edinburgh on August 24 and London on August 30. What to expect? Erm, some bowling, a movie party and waaaaaaay too many quotes from the movie. Still, it’s the most quotable movie since Casablanca, so maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Make with your favourite Lebowski quote in the comment box, folks ...

Put The Bleme On Meme, Boys

Hmmmm. Seems we’ve been designated a ‘schmoozeworthy blog’ by Peter over at Detectives Beyond Borders, and thus the honour / duty of nominating five blogs we consider ‘schmoozeworthy’ falls upon our collective shoulders. Pesky memes, eh? Chain letters with cookies, say we. Oh well, here goes:

Critical Mick
It’s A Crime! Or A Mystery!
The Rap Sheet
Petrona
After Dark My Sweet

As for the all-important definition of ‘schmoozeworthy’, quoth Peter:
“I’m not quite sure the creator of the award used schmooze quite correctly. To schmooze, or to schmooze someone, means to engage (someone) in a warm, pleasant conversation. Later, it came to mean to talk to with the purpose of gaining advantage for one’s self – to suck up to, in other words. In any case, I assume that the creator of the prestigious Schmoozeworthy Blog award meant to honour blogs worthy of being talked, or schmoozed, about, which does not quite meet either meaning of schmooze. Yiddish words often get used more for their sound than their sense.”
Over to you, folks …

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Free Books? God Bless You, Andrew Nugent

There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but you could always read to distract yourself from that rumbling tummy. Yep, it’s a Crime Always Pays giveaway courtesy of the lovely, lovely people at Hodder Headline, who are stumping up three copies of Andrew Nugent’s (right) Second Burial, which gets a paperback release on August 23. First, the blurb elves:
“Sergeant Molly Power of the Irish Police Force Murder Squad is on duty when the call comes in. A young African man, Shad, has been attacked and left for dead on the Dublin Mountains. He crawls to the nearest house and raises the alarm, but he dies later in hospital. Shad’s injuries are strange and deeply disturbing. Was he the victim of a racist attack, sadism, a punishment, or some mysterious sacrificial ritual? Inspector Quilligan and Molly Power launch a murder investigation like none they have ever experienced before.”
Oooh, spooky. To be one of three lucky readers who get their hands on a gratis paperback copy of Second Burial ahead of the sweaty posse, just answer the all-important question: What is the title of Andrew Nugent’s debut novel? Vote early and often, people, via dbrodb(at)gmail.com, putting 'Andrew Nugent free books' in the subject line. Oh, and don’t forget to leave an address where we can send the book. The closing date is Friday, August 3.

“No, WE’RE Brian. And So Are Our Lovely Mothers-In-Law.”

Mike Ripley, blogging over at Shots Mag, has some rather (ahem) cross words about crucifixion, to wit:
“Now I hate to be a spoilsport, but by Midsummer Day this year I had already read three crime novels involving crucifixion (Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie and Frenchman Arnaud Delalande, you know who you are.) … I can understand the gruesome appeal of this method of execution, widely attributed to the Roman Empire, although they borrowed the technique from the Greeks, who had in turn stolen the idea from the Persians. But enough is enough. Can’t we just look on the bright side of life for once?”
Mike? You just might want to avert your eyes from Paul Charles’ forthcoming The Dust of Death, and Brian McGilloway’s 2008 follow-up to Borderlands, Gallows Lane. Meanwhile, can anyone out there nail down (ouch) any more examples of crime fiction crucifixions? The comment box is officially open, people …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 394: Scott Mariani

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?
L.A Confidential by James Ellroy.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
M.J. Rose, author of sexy thrillers The Venus Fix and The Halo Effect. One hot lady, and a great writer.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting a letter from a female reader telling me she was in love with my main character Ben Hope.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
That’s a hard one. There are lots of good ones. But I really loved The Grounds by Cormac Millar.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Am I allowed to say my own one? I do have a film producer interested ... Seriously, though, I think The Four Courts Murder by Andrew Nugent has a lot of film potential. I’d want to change the title, though - no offence, Andrew.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst: sitting around, waiting, hoping for publishers to get back to you. The best: when the juices are flowing and you know a really good story is coming together.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Who really killed Mozart? And how is that connected to the brutal murder, two centuries later, of pianist Oliver Llewellyn? Ex-SAS man Ben Hope investigates.
Who are you reading right now?
Nothing. Last thing I finished was another in a long line of John Grisham novels.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
‘Scott Mariani is ...’ Now, if you’d asked for six words, you might have found out something!

Scott Mariani’s The Fulcanelli Manuscript is available in all good bookshops

Monday, July 30, 2007

100 Irish Crime Writers

Okay, so it’s not quite the full ton-up just yet, but when we kicked off our humble blog to promote Irish crime writing, we reckoned we’d be doing well to come up with 20 writers, and perhaps 25 at the outside. Our first surprise was discovering that there were already two Irish crime fiction websites, damn their beautiful eyes – the superbly irreverent Critical Mick and the equally excellent Cormac Millar. Now, four months on, we’re looking at a figure of 93 Irish crime writers, and we’ve barely scraped the surface of the murky world of Irish true crime writing – were we to do so, we’d probably be looking at somewhere in the region of 130 writers in total. Fair enough, some of the scribblers listed down there in the depths of the right-hand sidebar are borderline Irish crime writers – Andrew Pepper, for example, squeezes in on the basis that he lives in Ireland, even though he’s English and his novels are set in London; the likes of Eugene McCabe, William Trevor and Edna O’Brien would very probably cavil at being described as ‘crime writers’, although they’ve all written superb novels based on crime; and a number of Irish crime writers tend to use pseudonyms to explore other crime genres - Jim Lusby / James Kennedy, Eoin McNamee / John Creed, Peter Cunningham / Peter Benjamin and John Banville / Benny Blanco are the most obvious examples. Still and all, for such a relatively small country, that’s a hell of a lot of crime writing, most of which has appeared in the last decade or so. The burning question, then – how come the Ireland of Joyce, Yeats, Beckett, Shaw and O’Brien (himself no stranger to crime novels, it has to be said) has become the Ireland of Bruen, Connolly, Hughes, McKinty, Colfer, French, McCaffrey, Bateman and Landy? We’re all ears, people: make with the pithy insights. The best explanation wins itself a swagtastic haul of Irish crime fiction novels.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: In the Woods by Tana French

This is the kind of debut novel that would turn the average would-be scribe as green as the lush countryside it describes – Tana French writes like a sparkier, Irish Donna Tartt. And, with a nod to Tartt’s The Little Friend, which is also about an unsolved child murder, but set in America’s Deep South, French asks more than she answers and isn’t afraid of taking a risk with an ambiguous ending. In the Woods’ beginning is just as nuanced. The multi-layered plot starts in 1984 when three 12-year-olds go missing in a wood outside Dublin; only one is found alive – the other two vanish. Fast-forward 20 years and the same wood is the site of a massive archaeological dig – it’s about to be turned into a motorway, even though locals, archaeologists and concerned citizens alike are outraged that a natural enclave which has held spiritual, political and botanical significance since the Bronze Age is being paved over. In the last days of the archaeologists’ dig, a 12-year-old girl’s body turns up on a Druidic sacrificial altar and Detective Rob Ryan, the child who returned, now grown up, jumps on the case in order to lay his ghosts to rest, without revealing his personal connection to the first disappearances to his superiors. In the end though, Ryan’s single-mindedness in investigating both cases turns out to be no match for the primeval pull the wood has over him. This book has elicited extreme reactions for its ending, and I’m no exception to that – I loved its elliptical twists, unexpected turns and lack of facile explanations.– Claire Coughlan

Anton: We Could Tell You How Good It Is, But Then We'd Have To Shoot You

Much as we hate to be the instigators of scurrilous unfounded rumours, the sight of full-time bon vivant-about-town and sometime Anton producer Pat McArdle (right) kicking ass and taking names in the editing suite suggests that the Crime Always Pays elves have defied that court-imposed barring order yet again. Sheesh, will those elves never learn? Anyhoo, the good news for anyone who couldn’t download last week’s DiVX post is that the trailer for Anton – directed by Graham Cantwell, and set during the ’70s around the badlands of Cavan, where IRA-types do their best to lure our eponymous hero into a life of rural accents and really bad haircuts – is now up on YouTube. Huzzah! Roll it there, Collette …

Sunday, July 29, 2007

The Monday Review: Yet More Hup-Ya Baloohaha From The World Wide Interweb

Another Monday, yet more raves for Ken Bruen, to wit: “Bruen’s [American Skin] is a visceral, visionary masterwork; underneath all the graphic bloodshed and drug-induced chaos, however, are deeply profound, darkly poetic themes that will surely affect everyone who reads this extraordinary and truly unforgettable book. An instant noir cult classic,” says the Barnes and Noble editor’s review. On the same link, you’ll find the Publishers’ Weekly big-up running thusly: “Noir master Bruen effortlessly moves his story line back and forth in time, all his trademark pop culture references in place, the banshee of existential agony wailing loud,” while Kirkus Reviews won’t be found wanting for hyperbole: “Bruen’s fans will know that monsters lie in wait. There are the usual rewards in terms of style, pace and, yes, flashes of mordant wit, but be warned: this is Bruen beyond noir into full-out stygian.” Meanwhile, over at Crime Scene Scotland, Russel McLean reviews Cross: “So it goes in the world of author Bruen, where noir is not just a word but a way of life … With writing like Bruen’s, of course – punchy, rhythmic, dark and affecting – we wouldn’t have it any other way.” Lovely stuff … On to Declan Hughes, with Karen Chisholm reviewing The Colour of Blood over at Euro Crime: “The book roars along at a rapid pace with revelation and resolution overlapping themselves at every twist. There’s also a great sense of irony, of gentle humour and the cast of characters certainly help with that … None of these humorous touches are overdone but they balance the brutality of many of the other aspects of the novel.” … The author of Black Order, James Rollins, seems to like Pat Mullan’s The Root of All Evil, to wit: “A razor blade down the spine. So fast-paced, expect whiplash. This is Irish noir with a hero whom you’ll want at your back in any gunfight. Grab a copy and clear your schedule!” Mmmm, nice … Yet more big-ups for Tana French’s In The Woods, courtesy of Powell’s Books: “[French] sets a vivid scene for her complex characters, who seem entirely capable of doing the unexpected,” says the New York Times. “A mystery?” queries Book Reporter. “Yes. But In The Woods is much more than that … It is as exquisitely told as it is wondrously plotted. Why does one read? To experience novels like this. Not to be missed.” Finally, a happy punter does the decent thing and posts a review: “What most of the reviews neglect is that at the gravitational centre of In The Woods is one of the most disturbing characters in recent fiction, a study in psychopathology. That’s in addition to the extraordinary power of French’s writing, the intricacy of her plot, the convincing reality of her characters, the assured command of forensic procedures, and more. Definitely five stars,” asserts ‘Threefab’. Erm, we presume that’s five stars out of five, yes? … Love Reading likes Alex Barclay’s The Caller: “This is packed with characters nursing physical and psychological scars, each carrying around guilty secrets, but who is guilty of what? Barclay keeps you guessing until the final pages. Gruesome, gripping and fast paced. A great thriller writer to keep an eye on.” … And what of Benny Blanco’s Christine Falls? “What Banville has done is write a comforting novel – not comforting in the sense of warm fuzzies, but in the sense of living up to expectations. The paradox of Banville’s experiment is that it is not experimental,” claims The Little Professor Onward with the obligatory John Connolly hup-ya: “The Unquiet, an oddly intriguing amalgamation of crime novel and horror thriller, makes a fine summer read not for the beach, but for an isolated lake cabin on a stormy night … The only downside to The Unquiet is a somewhat predictable solution to the mystery, but getting there is creepily entertaining,” says Kathy Kerr at the Montreal Gazette. Pat Austin broadly agrees over at Euro Crime: “It’s well written and contains Connolly’s usual gamut of interesting characters, some of whom we have met before … I wouldn’t recommend this book as a jumping on point for the series, as it does refer a lot to previous books, but taken as a whole this does add considerably to the momentum of the series, moving Parker along in interesting ways.” Finally, what’s a Monday Review without Eoin Colfer? “What follows is complex and convoluted and enormous fun. Lyrics from the opera Norma sneak into a demon’s monologue, kids make neutrino jokes, and readers have a great time. This is the kind of book kids take to bed with a flashlight. It kept me up till two,” says Children’s Literature of Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony via the Barnes and Noble site, while Voya reckons that it’s “Fast-paced, funny, and wholly enjoyable … an action-packed thrill ride through fantastic worlds and a must-have for every library collection.” The last word we’ll leave to 14-year-old Ariel, to wit: “Colfer is witty, inventive and articulate, and his prose rolls along, with cliff-hanger chapter endings. Although the book has some time-worn clichés, most of the book is superbly surprising. The ending was sweet and leaves you begging for another book! I can’t wait for the next one!” Eoin? Your public awaits. Do the decent thing, man …

The Unusual Suspect

Those canny bods over at Maverick House have been quick off the mark in the wake of the recent guilty verdict for Joe O’Reilly, who was convicted of murdering his wife, Rachel, at their home in north Dublin in 2004. The Irish true crime specialist publishing house will release The Suspect next month to capitalise on Ireland’s fascination with Joe O’Reilly, who positioned himself at the centre of the murder investigation to the extent that he went on national TV with Rachel’s mother to plead for help in discovering the killer, despite the fact that he was the self-confessed prime suspect from day one. Written by journo Jenny Friel, who covered the case for the Irish Mail on Sunday and interviewed O’Reilly shortly after Rachel’s murder, The Suspect hits the shelves on August 13. For more, scoot over to Maverick House PR guru Gert Ackerman’s blog