“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.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Siobhan Dowd RIP

A very sad day, people – today we learned that Siobhan Dowd (right), the author of A Swift Pure Cry and The London Eye Mystery, died on Tuesday after a long struggle with breast cancer. The news came as something of a shock, as we only knew her as a warm, bubbly and funny email buddy, and while she mentioned ‘a touch of exhaustion’ in the wake of the publication of The London Eye Mystery – the novel which had The Times tipping her as a ‘future literary lion’ – she never once complained of illness. Gara LaMarche knew her much, much better than we, to wit:
“I first met Siobhan in 1988 when I was running the Freedom-to-Write Program for PEN American Centre and she was running the International Writers-in-Prison Committee for International PEN in London. Among other things, she kept PEN’s ‘census’ of imprisoned writers on whose behalf members ran campaigns. In those days before the end of the Cold War, there were many hundreds of such writers. I enjoyed our long-distance relationship, and sensed that for various reasons Siobhan was restless for change and challenge, and when I moved on from PEN to Human Rights Watch in 1990, I suggested she move to the U.S. to take over my job, and the switch was made. She was a terrific success in her seven years here, and made many friends who are among the many grieving today. Back in England, she did children’s rights work, edited a book of prison writing, and started writing her own fiction. I read her first book, A Swift Pure Cry, last year. Though it was written for young adults, I thought it was a gem that deserved a wider audience. Perhaps because she was writing against time, given her diagnosis, she was extraordinarily prolific in the last few years, publishing The London Eye Mystery in June and having finished two more novels with a fifth underway at the time of her death.”
Siobhan Dowd, 1960-2007, RIP.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Queen of Harts

A busy week for the CAP roving reporter elves – not only did they meet Brian McGilloway, they also bumped into Erin Hart (right), of Lake of Sorrows fame, whilst canoodling in the Cobblestones pub with Critical Mick (that’s the elves who were canoodling with Generalissimo Critical, not Erin). So, how lovely was she? Lovelier than Forever Changes-era Love doing a cover version of Endless Love doesn’t even start to describe it. “So what’s happening with the follow-up to Lake of Sorrows, Erin?” burbled the elves. Quoth Erin:
“Still writing away, trying to make this new book really worth the wait. The current working title is False Mermaid, and it’s the third in the series, which means Nora Gavin will be travelling back to Saint Paul to re-open her sister’s unsolved murder, leaving Cormac to make amends with his ailing father back in Ireland. I’m anxious to finish because I can’t wait to see how it turns out. You’ll be the first to know when there’s cause for celebration!”
Actually, the elves got totally scundered on the Cobblestones’ patented Groovy Good-Vibe Enhancer and not only forgot every word said during the entire night, but ended up in a bout of bare-knuckle fisticuffs with a bevy of belly-dancing dwarves, thus ending up in Big Chokey for the night. So we had to steal the above quote from Erin’s interweb mail-out thingagummy. Still, it can’t be Pulitzer prizes every week, right?

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Yanks, Paddies And Micks. (Well, One Mick. But He’s Generally Plenty)

Dublin Noir, the series of Dublin-based short stories edited by Ken Bruen, has received mixed reactions since its publication last year, with some Irish scribblers harrumphing loudly at the skewed Yank-to-Paddy ratio. Mind you, the pressure brought out the best in Eoin Colfer, in ‘Waiting for PJ’, to wit:
Little Mike hadn’t the strength to laugh. “I hope you lie better than you tell the truth. Jesus, that was shite. He’ll ride us both with the leg of the table if you tell him that.”
Erm, ‘the leg of the table’? Cheers for the mental image, Eoin. Anyhoo, Critical Mick has applied his unique brand of appraisal to Dublin Noir, concluding thusly:
“Critical Mick says: Ken Bruen has done a deadly job of beating these nineteen dodgy chancers across the knees with tire irons until they coughed up nineteen wicked, enraged original stories. Though few are superstars of today’s Irish crime fiction spree, Dublin Noir introduces hot talent and captures a shade of what Dublin’s darker side is like.”
And if it’s good enough for Critical Mick, it’s good enough for us. He is the yin to our yang, after all. Yes, yes, we said ‘yang’ …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 173: Donna Moore

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?
Has to be Donald Westlake’s The Hot Rock. I love caper novels and that’s a classic that just makes me laugh every time I read it (which is about once a year).
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
That’s a tough one because for me no reading is a guilty pleasure – if I don’t have a book handy in the loo I’ll read the back of the toilet roll pack (did you know, by the way, that there are an average of 241 sheets in a roll of Andrex and the average total roll-length is 29.76m?). Most of my guilty pleasures come in the form of TV. I was off work for a few weeks recently with a chipped bone in my ankle and I spent all morning watching all the How To Get Rid Of The Crap In Your Attic programmes. I can now spot a Victorian cake-stand at 20 paces.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Winning The Lefty for most humourous crime novel of 2006. I still can’t believe it. My biggest regret though is not thinking for one moment that I would win and hence not preparing a speech. Apparently (and I say apparently because I have no clue what I said) it was the most ridiculous (but, thankfully, short) acceptance speech imaginable.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
One of Ken Bruen’s Jack Taylor series. Either The Guards because it’s the first in the series and I was so excited when I discovered it, or The Dramatist even though it made me cry at Prestwick airport and they sent security to see if I was OK.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
See previous answer. I’d love to see the Jack Taylor series on either the big or the small screen.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best ... so many things – I love it when I have an idea for a character and sit and write a scene and it just all flows out. The encouragement and support of fellow crime writers is heart-warming. It’s all been great fun. The worst – thinking that everything I write is a big pile of steaming shite (can I say that? If not, change it to something less odoriferous).
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Two elderly ex-hookers turned con artists on the run from an Australian hitman are hiding out in Glasgow, fleecing Scotland’s rich and famous out of their hard-earned cash. They hatch a plan to steal a pair of jewel encrusted shih-tzu dogs from a Glasgow museum. Unfortunately, they’re not the only ones.
Who are you reading right now?
Most recently finished was Kevin Wignall’s Who Is Conrad Hirst?, which is about a hitman who has decided to get out of the business. To do so, he thinks the best way is to kill his way out – disposing of the few people who know about him. A wonderful book – a look at the meaning and value of life to someone who is existing, rather than living. Kevin Wignall’s writing gets better and better. Spare, but full of depth and feeling. If this doesn’t propel him into the big time I’ll be exceedingly surprised. It’s one of those satisfyingly perfect books that all way through you are on edge wondering how it’s all going to pan out, and then when you’ve finished it’s so much more than you anticipated.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Well, when my mum read the first chapter of my book, my dad told me she wandered around the house shaking her head and muttering “Weird, weird, weird. My daughter is weird.” So I think I will just go with that – weird, weird, weird.

Donna Moore’s Go To Helena Handbasket is available in all good bookshops

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Judge Not, Lest Ye Be … Oh.

One of Ireland’s foremost judges, Justice Adrian Hardiman, had a fascinating piece in The Dubliner last year on Ulysses as a murder mystery, which we really meant to bring to your attention at the time. But then HR Pufnstuf emerged from the dungeon with his hookah cranked up to 11 and everything got a bit blurry for a month or seven. Still, better late than never, eh? Take it away, Mr Justice Hardiman, sir …
"Ulysses is little thought of as a murder story, or even as a story with murders in it. But sudden and violent deaths abound in the book – deaths by drowning, hanging, stabbing, bludgeoning, poisoning. Best of all, for Joyce, were deaths of the most mysterious sort where murder, suicide and accident competed inconclusively for recognition as the cause, leaving guilt not quite proven or innocence more than a little tarnished.
The first Bloomsday in June 1904 fell right in the middle of what George Orwell called the ‘golden age of English murder’. Ireland, too, contributed some classic cases. Arsenic and strychnine were the instruments of choice for the genteel killers of those days, often family doctors or respectable ladies. The notorious poisoners Frederick Seddon and Mrs. Maybrick claim their place in Ulysses. That lady, like Parnell himself, was a client of the great Irish barrister Sir Charles Russell Q.C. who felt she had been wrongly convicted of murdering her hypochondriac husband by a jury outraged at the fact that she had taken a lover. Mrs. Maybrick features in Molly Bloom’s soliloquy which ends Ulysses: unlike Russell, she had no doubt of Mrs. Maybrick’s guilt, but more than a sneaking sympathy for her.
But our concern is with cases closer to home, each a sensation in the Dublin of its day ..."
For the full text of the piece, jump over to The Dubliner’s archives. Bloomin’ marvellous, it is …

Go Key West, Young Man

Michael Haskins’ (right) tag over at Crime Space is ‘Irelands32’, and if that wasn’t enough of a reason to give him a big-up on Crime Always Pays, the protagonist of his upcoming novel, Chasin’ The Wind (due in March ’08), goes by the more-Irish-than-soft-rain name of Liam ‘Mad Mick’ Murphy. So what’s the deal with Chasin’ The Wind? Quoth Michael:
“Chasin’ The Wind nails the colourful and often violent action in both Key West, Florida, and Havana, Cuba. It navigates corruption and small town politics in the southernmost city of the United States. It bumps into a scheme to topple Cuba’s communist government and throws Cuban exiles and military deserters, neurotic federal agents, plus a few unique Key Westers, into a brew that promises international repercussions. When officials sworn to uphold the law try to subvert it in Key West, journalist Liam Michael “Mad Mick” Murphy is compelled to react. He and a ragtag group of citizens confront failed justice, but are left with only revenge as an option – except, perhaps, a renegade deal with the Cuban government. Dodging treachery, Mad Mick Murphy goes headlong toward treason, dragging his team of ‘typical’ islanders deeper into the mess they wanted to eliminate.”
For more on Chasin’ The Wind, and an insight into the struggle a debut writer goes through to see his or her novel in print, sail on over to Michael’s blog. And tell him we sent you, and that our t-shirt size is x-large … Meanwhile, you can read Chapter One here. No, don’t thank us, we’re only in it for an invite to the launch party in Key West. And a free t-shirt.

This Week We’re Reading … Who Is Conrad Hirst? and The Bloomsday Dead

Kevin Wignall’s up-coming Who Is Conrad Hirst? (to be published on November 13) is being flagged as a Jason Bourne-style thriller, but while the eponymous anti-hero is a frighteningly proficient hitman, Wignall’s creation is a far more philosophical character – indeed, the whole point of the exercise is for Conrad to answer the question posed in the title. That’s not to say there isn’t plenty of action, because there is, but the page-turning pace is leavened by a more satisfying quality of self-analysis than is generally to be found in straightforward thrillers. Powerful stuff from the author of For The Dogs, and there’s a strong chance it’ll propel him into the big leagues. Meanwhile, The Bloomsday Dead concludes Adrian McKinty’s ‘Dead’ trilogy, with the indestructible Michael Forsythe back home in Ireland to conduct a search for the kidnapped daughter of flame-haired Bridget, Forsythe’s femme fatale nemesis from the trilogy’s opener, Dead I Well May Be. With the plot unfolding over the space of one day – June 16, aka Bloomsday, which honours the hero of James Joyce’s Ulysses – the pace is frantic from the get-go, charging along in an adrenaline frenzy as Michael takes on anyone from Peruvian hitmen to the IRA as he seeks closure on the life he has been forced to live for the last decade. As always with McKinty, the writing is of a superior quality, the graphically etched outbursts of violence shot through with a quirky poetry that mines a particularly dark seam of humour. The only disappointment? That this is touted as the final Forsythe novel. Say it ain’t so, Joe, sorry, Adrian …

From Potter’s Field

Hmmm. Seems we might have been a tad unfair to Mr Books To The Ceiling last week, when we gently rubbished his theory that John Banville turned to writing crime because it was the final and greatest challenge to his Saturn-sized intellect. For lo! T’would appear that one JK Rowling (right) – you may have heard of her Barry Trotter books – is now planning the definitive Scottish crime novel. Quoth the Sunday Times:
Speaking to a reporter at the Edinburgh book festival, [Ian] Rankin told how his wife Miranda had seen Rowling “scribbling away in a cafe recently”. “My wife spotted her writing her Edinburgh criminal detective novel,” he said. He declined to elaborate on how he knew about Rowling’s new direction, but conceded he had not discussed it personally with her. […] Rankin … said her experience of writing fantasy adventure would help with crime fiction. “Her process is classic crime writing - the set-up, the red herrings, the characters who change as they are revealed, the twists and turns, and finally the big line-up at the end.”
It looks like circumstantial evidence to us, folks, but Rankin appears to have a sure touch when it comes to understanding his female peers, especially the bloodthirsty lesbian ones. The clincher? Rowling’s Mr 25% denies all knowledge of a crime novel in the pipeline. An agent playing coy? Now there’s a mystery begging to be unravelled …

Better The Devlin You Know

One of the Crime Always Pays roving reporter elves tracked down Brian McGilloway (right) recently, and was struck by how much of himself McGilloway appears to have invested in Borderlands’ family- man protagonist, DI Devlin. Quoth Brian:
“Well, the stereotype, the cliché, is the alcoholic, divorced loner who’s a bit of a maverick and resents authority. And I’m sure there’s some precedent, given the pressures of being a Guard or a policeman or whatever. At the same time, there must be happily married policemen. And I like the idea that Devlin is trying to balance being a father and a husband with being a police officer. I suppose it’s because those were the things that concerned me. I’m married with two young children, and I wrote Borderlands around the time the first child was born. So that obviously was a personal issue … At the start, when [Devlin] sees the girl lying in the snow, naked, his reaction is to put his coat over her to keep her warm, even though she’s dead. And that’s a natural, human thing to do, instead of standing around speaking very dispassionately about it. I can understand why policemen are portrayed that way, why they keep a distance, because they’d go mad otherwise. But there has to be some degree of humanity involved.”
Humanity in crime fiction? These upstart crime writers are losing the run of themselves and no mistake. Next thing you know they’ll be wanting to win literary prizes and suchlike …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 534: Peter Tremayne

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?
Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) by Umberto Eco (1980).
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Edgar Wallace, E.C. Vivian and Leslie Charteris.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Looking at my royalty statements.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
One by Peter Tremayne! (If he’s excluded, I’d choose Ken Bruen’s Priest).
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
One by Peter Tremayne! (and if he’s excluded again then I'll stick up for Ken once more).
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is doing the basic work for my accountant to approve and the best thing is receiving the royalty statements.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
It’s Dancing With Demons and the 17th in the Sister Fidelma series. She’s tackling solving the murder of the High King of Ireland in Tara in AD 670, an actual historical event.
Who are you reading right now?
Dáibhí Ó Cróinín - An Cúigiú Díochlaonadh (The Fifth Declension), Cló Iar-Connachta (1994) - with the aid of a dictionary!
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Characters, background, plot!

Peter Tremayne’s Dancing With Demons is published on September 6

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Monday Review

A pithy beginning to this week’s round-up: “Dark stuff, but extremely entertaining,” reckons the Sac Bee’s Allen Pierleoni of Ken Bruen’s Ammunition, while Eric at Genre Fiction Addiction concurs: “Ammunition doesn’t break any new ground either in the Brant series or for Bruen. Do I care? Not really. I loved it anyhow.” Meanwhile, there’s a host of reviews already posted on Jason Starr’s interweb page for the up-coming Slide, which he co-wrote with Bruen. Booklist’s verdict? “Bruen and Starr have concocted a wild … and very funny ode to mindless violence, drugs, down-and-dirty sex, and self-delusion … There’s good reason to believe Bruen and Starr had as much fun writing Slide as crime fans will have reading it.” Which is nice … Euro Crime’s Maxine Clarke goes in for Gene Kerrigan’s latest in a big way: “This is a wonderful book, superbly well written. The promise of Kerrigan’s previous book, Little Criminals, is more than fulfilled in this elegiac novel of corruption in Ireland … I loved everything about this book. The Midnight Choir is truly bleak, at times violent and disturbing, but always brilliant.” Over at Reviewing the Evidence, Sharon Wheeler likes Nick Stone’s King of Swords, to wit: “Stone’s writing is sharp, vivid and utterly impossible to get out of your mind … he can also create the most stunningly memorable characters that I guarantee you will never be able to forget … if you thought the marvellous George Pelecanos was out there by himself as the king of race-ridden US cities and of crime fiction that drilled to the heart of society, think again. Stone is a magnificent talent.” Yummy … Meanwhile, there was a sudden outbreak of Christine Falls reviews this week, beginning with Iain Rowan over at Litorally: “It’s always interesting to see how a writer from outside the genre approaches things. In Banville’s case, he does it fantastically well: this is one of the best crime novels I’ve read in the last couple of years. There’s very little about it which isn’t excellent – a compelling plot, a wonderfully described setting of Dublin and Boston in the fifties, a memorable protagonist and supporting cast, and an at times very moving exploration of emotion and the human heart.” Over at The Book Bag, Sue Magee is very much in agreement: “The plot is a real page-turner. I read the book in the course of a day, not because I had the time, but because I simply had to know what happened next. There’s real pace, accompanied by the imagery which so characterises Banville’s mainstream writing. It’s the sort of book which you wish you hadn’t read so that you might still have the pleasure of discovering it. If you enjoy Ian Rankin and his Inspector John Rebus books then you should buy this book. I wouldn’t even want to say that Rankin still has the edge: this book is that good. He’s better than Michael Dibdin, even at his best. I’m afraid other crime writers pale into insignificance.” Crikey! Mind you, Glenn Harper at International Noir is a tad more circumspect: “It’s a tightly packed, involving, beautifully written, and somehow not quite adequate crime novel. Banville’s brother Vincent wrote a few detective stories that satisfy as such, though perhaps without the literary heft of the Benjamin Black tome … I’m looking forward to the next Quirke book … partly to see if he’s more tightly in control of the structures that he’s borrowing from the nature and history of the crime novel in future efforts.” Back to Sharon Wheeler at Reviewing the Evidence, for her verdict on Glenn Meade’s The Devil’s Disciple: “The whole book strains credulity, but it’s a definitely a page-turner. There’s a gothic horror feel to it, although it does at times threaten to teeter into romantic suspense territory.” Glenn Meade a romantic? Who’d a thunk it, eh? Onwards for the inevitable Eoin Colfer / Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony big-up, to wit: “The overall plot is somewhat irrelevant, as, much like, say the James Bond series, it’s all about the action and the dialogue. If you are looking for a breezy series that has action and excitement, and is ultimately not too violent, or scary or too full of adult themes, you’ll be hard pressed to do better than this. Start from the beginning of the series and work your way through; careful readers are rewarded,” reckons Paul at I Just Read About That. Meanwhile, over at the Sunday Trib, Tom Widger is of the opinion that Arlene Hunt’s Missing Presumed Dead is a winner: “An escalating thriller …” he coos, “ … a remarkably prescient read.” Finally, the In The Woods bandwagon shows no signs of slackening pace, with Glenn Harper – a busy lad this week – at International Noir suggesting that, “While there is a sophisticated structure underlying the book, I didn’t get the sense that it was condescending to the genre … I liked the book much more than I anticipated, and followed it closely through a long-ish 400+ pages without it seeming too long.” Over at our old friends Reviewing the Evidence, Sharon Katz is even more enthusiastic: “In The Woods is author Tana French’s first book and it is wonderful … When this well over 400-page book ended I was left wanting more. A wonderful thriller and top-notch first book, [it] should not be missed.” Lovely, lovely, lovely ...

The Unbearable Likeness Of Being

The word around the pastry table is that the rather sultry Tana French (right) is whipping up a tasty dessert to complement her meaty debut In The Woods. Quoth Glenn Harper of International Noir:
“Unlikely as it may seem (to anyone who has read Irish writer Tana French’s In the Woods), French is working on a sequel or maybe a series. The next volume, titled The Likeness, is due out next spring, featuring the female partner (Cassie) of Ryan, the detective narrator of In the Woods. Cassie has her own dark past (to match Ryan’s childhood secrets), both in her college years and in her undercover work prior to joining the fictional murder squad. I have to say I’m intrigued ...”
‘The Likeness’, eh? Could the title be a tongue-in-cheek nod to all those writers who simply replicate the formula of their first success? Only time, that notoriously doity rat, will tell …

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Embiggened O # 497: Yep, It’s The All-Important Euro Crime Hup-Ya

And there was us thinking all the, erm, fuss had died down. But lo! Euro Crime has taken it upon itself to review our humble offering, The Big O, in the process flabbering our gast thusly:
The Big O has a wonderfully tight and convoluted plot that plays out like a movie … It’s very cleverly done. The action is fast paced and leaves the reader breathless – partly because the book is split into short scenes, each told from the point of view of a different character. Each character has a totally different voice and they are all completely believable. The bad guys are endearing, the good guys are wicked. All of them made me smile. The writing sparkles and some of the dialogue is hilarious. A kidnap caper that is very funny, exhilarating, violent and snappy. A cheeky little feel-good book that will make me smile for months to come whenever I think of it. A hell of a lot of fun.
Which is nice. If you’re wondering what all the, erm, fuss is about, jump over to the Hag’s Head Press interweb thingy for Chapter One. And then tell us via the comment box exactly why Euro Crime got it wrong …