“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, September 28, 2007

“Doctor? I Think We’ve Got A Heartbeat …”

Philip Davison remains one of Ireland’s unsung thriller writers, sadly, his latest being last year’s A Burnable Town, which got the “Part le Carré, part Graham Greene… thoroughly compelling,” treatment from The Independent, and a “Davison never fails to surprise, compel and intrigue with dry philosophy and grim wit,” big-up from the Times Literary Supplement. You can download a taster chapter at the Irish Literary Revival, if you’re so inclined, but the better news is that you can download Davison’s immaculate debut The Book-Thief’s Heartbeat in its entirety courtesy of the ILR’s mission, aka ‘Out-of-print books, returned to the world.’ To resurrect a Heartbeat – how noble is that, eh? Think an entire battalion of Don Quixotes tilting at a world full of windmills and you’re halfway there … Oh, and did we mention that The Book-Thief's Heartbeat is currently selling on Amazon at £45 a pop?

The Unquiet One

Does any crime / mystery writer give better interview than John Connolly (right)? “I wish I had a way for you to see John Connolly talk and answer questions in person,” says Cameron Hughes over at Cinematic Happenings. “He is an extremely charismatic and charming man, full of energy and stories. He talks like he writes …” Yet again Connolly waxes lyrical on a wide range of topics, including Good vs Evil …
“I think there’s a very human evil, which is fundamentally selfish, and which leads to greater harm without, I think, the individual responsible realizing that that is going to be the case. It’s an absence of empathy, which is the single best definition of human evil that I’ve encountered, the unwillingness or inability (which are two separate things) to recognize that others feel pain the way that you do, and that therefore you have a responsibility not to cause pain of any kind, just as you would expect the same treatment from others. Is there a greater, deeper evil at the heart of the universe, from which our own generally inferior version is drawn, like water from a well? I don’t know. The books suggest that there may be. If one believes in God, then does one accept the existence of the opposite of God? I don’t feel any urge or responsibility to provide answers to those questions. It’s enough to raise them, and to consider them in the context of the books.”
… his reasons for setting his stories in America rather than Ireland …
“At the time that I began writing, there weren’t many Irish crime writers. It wasn’t really our genre, for all sorts of reasons. Equally, I was trying to escape my own literary heritage, which I felt was quite suffocating, and came with certain expectations about style and subject matter. It wasn’t a commercial decision to set a book in the US, but an emotional one, I think. Rather than import elements of American mystery fiction, which I loved, I thought it would be more interesting to apply a European sensibility to its conventions. I’m never going to write or think quite like an American. It’s impossible, but I hope that’s what makes my books a little different.”
… Genre vs Literature …
“As for genre and literature, the distinction is muddy. Genre is a relatively recent concept, and most literary fiction incorporates some genre elements too - a romance, for example, or a crime. The difference is that in genre fiction that element is the primary one, whereas in literary fiction it’s frequently a secondary, if crucial, one. I’m not a genre snob, and I’m interested in blending elements of disparate, if related, genres together to create new forms. In fact, the worst snobs I’ve encountered have been in the mystery area. There’s a conservative element that wants to see the genre frozen in aspic somewhere between the birth of the Marlowe novels and the death of Agatha Christie. Those people hate the use of the supernatural in particular, and I suppose they raise my hackles because, as a good liberal, I dislike people telling me that something isn’t permissible, at least in writing. It’s nonsense.”
… and much, much more, including very personal insights into both The Book of Lost Things and The Unquiet. The Unquiet? That’s putting it mildly …

Thursday, September 27, 2007

This Little Piggy Went To Market …

Crumbs! No sooner do we stumble across Bob Burke and his inspired creation Harry Pigg – y’know the one, the little piggy who survived the Big Bad Wolf attack – than we discover The Third Pig Detective Agency has been already been signed up by The Friday Project as ‘Nursery rhyme noir’. Quoth Scott Pack of TFP:
“All of us at The Friday Project loved Bob’s book the moment we saw it. He is an extremely funny writer and Harry Pigg is a wonderful character who we hope to see for many more books to come. Imagine Hans Christian Andersen rewritten by Raymond Chandler.”
We’ll buy that for a dollar. Bob? What’s the skinny on The Third Pig Detective Agency, sir?
“It’s my first book and will be published by The Friday Project in Autumn 2008 (press release gubbins is here). Understandably, I’m still getting my head around it but I’m sure things will return to normal sometime in the next 10 years! About myself: I’m a Clareman who (for some awful transgression in a previous life) is living in Limerick. Currently working in IT, I will be finishing up end of September to give the writing a full-time shot (cuz if I don’t I'll always wonder “what if”).”
Well said, sir, and the Crime Always Pays elves wish you fair wind and Godspeed …

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 23: Declan Burke

Editor’s note: Over the last six months, Declan Burke, Irish author of the novel The Big O (Hag’s Head Press), has grilled crime writers from both sides of the Atlantic for his animated blog, Crime Always Pays. Since, as the old saying goes, “turnabout is fair play,” we decided it was time that Burke took a big gulp of his own medicine. So we put the very same queries to him that he’s been nailing other authors on for all this time. He was glad to play along, acknowledging, “You got me, bang to rights.” – J. Kingston Pierce, The Rap Sheet

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?
The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler. “I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.” Life-changing moments are few and far between, and it’s even rarer that you appreciate them as such at the time. Reading the first paragraph of The Big Sleep was one of those moments; I honestly did know that nothing would ever be the same again. I rate Chandler as Hemingway with a sense of humor. If I can sneak in a second, it’d be any of Elmore Leonard’s novels, preferably Get Shorty. Hell, why not sneak in a third? Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. And Alistair McLean’s When Eight Bells Toll. Is that five? No? OK, The Wild Life of Sailor and Lula, by Barry Gifford.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
It’s not so much “who” as “what”--I love classic kids’ novels. My favorite novel of all time, actually, my Desert Island novel, would have to be--appropriately enough--Peter Pan. It’s a work of genius, written by a man at the very peak of his powers. The whimsical tone is perfectly pitched and disguises what is quite often a dark and profound story. I also love Treasure Island, Watership Down, and The Wind in the Willows. My wife and I are expecting our first baby next spring, and already I’m all a-quiver with excitement at the prospect of re-reading all those stories out loud in the years to come. I’ve got quite a mini-library of kids’ classics just waiting to go.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I’d written a couple of drafts of my first novel, Eightball Boogie [2003], which is about a private eye operating in Ireland’s northwest, when I first stumbled across Ken Bruen’s The Guards. I was devastated--not only had this Bruen bloke got there first, with the kind of story I couldn’t imagine anyone else trying, he’d done it with the kind of style I couldn’t even dream of pulling off. Fast-forward about three years, when Lilliput [Press] have agreed to publish Eightball Boogie, and I’ve just finished another of the Jack Taylor series. I put it down wondering what Ken Bruen might make of Eightball, if he ever read it, and two days later Lilliput forwarded me the blurb Ken had written for it, in which he declared me “the future of Irish crime fiction.” I thought my head would explode. Sadly it didn’t, and it’s been all downhill since then.
The best Irish crime novel is ...?
I’m going to offer a few options, if I may. Patrick McCabe might flinch if described as a crime writer, but his novel The Butcher Boy is a fabulous story very much in the mold of Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me. Similarly, I don’t know if John Connolly’s The Book of Lost Things qualifies as a crime novel, but it’s a stunning piece of work, a virtuoso example of what John Gardner once called the “vivid, continuous dream” of fiction. The best this year, so far, I think, is a tie between Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome and Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands; and Adrian McKinty’s Dead I May Well Be took Irish crime fiction onto another level a couple of years back (even though McKinty, the thieving Norn Iron bugger, stole a title I’d intended using for myself). I think the softest spot in my heart in terms of Irish crime fiction, though, is Quinn, by Seamus Smyth, which was way too far ahead of its time when it was first published. Someone should pick up it again, it’s in the same league as Paul Cain’s Fast One. Does Charles Ardai read The Rap Sheet?
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’d LOVE to see Jack Taylor up on the big screen, I think he’d be on a par with my favorite movie private eye, Elliott Gould playing Marlowe in The Long Goodbye. The Book of Lost Things will make a great movie, it was signed up earlier this year, as will Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant. I’d love to see someone with a flair for lateral thinking take on Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman, and ditto for John Banville’s The Untouchable. For a classic private-eye movie, though, a producer could do a hell of a lot worse than take a look at Vincent Banville’s canon of work, and preferably [1995’s] Death the Pale Rider.
Worst/best thing about being a writer?
There’s no worst thing about being a writer--the only problem I have is finding a few hours every day, which isn’t easy when you’re a freelance writer. Other than that, it’s all jam. It’s fantastic, of course, when someone tells you they like your book, that they’ll be telling their friends and family. But by a mile the best thing about writing is the physical process of putting one word in front of the other, and watching a story come alive, seeing characters flesh out before your eyes. Being honest, I started out as a teenager wanting to be a writer, because I thought it had to be the best job ever (I still feel that way). A few years later, I narrowed that ambition down to having one book published. Now that I have two books out there, I don’t want to be a writer as much as I want to write. If God was to appear tomorrow and offer me three hours writing a day for the rest of my life, with the kicker being that none of it would ever see a bookshelf, I’d gladly take him up on it.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
It’s very possible his publishers believed a crime-reading audience wouldn’t buy anything by “John Banville,” given that Banville’s novels aren’t overly endowed with pace, plot, and action. Two-thirds of the way through The Book of Evidence, in which the narrator is on the run after committing a murder, Banville has him say: “The least I had expected from the enormities of which I was guilty was that they would change my life ... that there would be a constant succession of heart-stopping events, of alarms and sudden frights and hairsbreadth escapes.” There isn’t, sadly--Banville’s too austere for such frippery, although he’s not above mocking the reader who might expect it. Mind you, I’m very probably wrong--as Declan Hughes pointed out recently, Banville is an admirer of Donald Westlake, so it’s possible he’s paying homage, and not only to Westlake but to Kingsley Amis, Cecil Day Lewis, et al.
The pitch for your next novel is ...?
Jack’s got nothing to lose. Honey’s got it all to live for. A pregnant woman, a dying man, a stolen gun ... and the placid Greek islands lying out there in the sun, just ripe for the picking.
Who are you reading right now?
Right now it’s David Goodis’ The Wounded and the Slain, courtesy of Hard Case Crime, and Daily Life in Palestine at the Time of Christ, by Henri Daniel-Rops. I’ve just finished Gil Brewer’s The Vengeful Virgin (bit of a Hard Case Crime kick going on at the moment) and Allan Guthrie’s Two-Way Split, both of which were brilliant. In the TBR pile is Tana French’s In the Woods, Ross Macdonald’s The Moving Target, Nick Stone’s King of Swords, Declan Hughes’ The Colour of Blood, Benjamin Black’s Christine Falls, and Peter Rabe’s The Out Is Death. Oh, and Colin Bateman’s I Predict a Riot. Bateman is a riot. He never disappoints.
The three best words to describe your own writing are ...?
Emperor’s. New. Clothes.

Declan Burke’s The Big O fits all wonky table-legs or your money back, guaranteed.

Brought To Book: Michael Haskins on Dead I Well May Be

"DEAD I WELL MAY BE is the first in Adrian McKinty’s trilogy about transplanted Irishman Michael Forsythe. To escape the Troubles in Belfast, Forsythe finds his way to New York City and its surrounding boroughs. Still young in years, but old in life’s hard experiences, Forsythe finds survival in the Irish underworld of New York not much different from life in Belfast. McKinty’s raw and gritty writing captures the seediness of New York’s ghetto streets and the struggling mixture of diverse people as well as any writer has done today. Forsythe’s youthful plunge into love as a safe haven from the weariness of daily survival is so well written that the surprise ending sneaks up without warning. Along the way, Forsythe cultivates a credo for himself based on loyalty to friends and love for a woman, so strong that his overcoming a series of excruciating experiences is believable; maybe because we would all like to think, under the same circumstances, we would be as faithful to our beliefs. McKinty’s take on what he sees and writes about in America brings a refreshing look at the backside of the country, because it avoids the high-tech tricks that are used today to move a story along. McKinty does this the old-fashioned way, by making us uncomfortable with what we know is the truth."

Michael Haskins’ CHASIN’ THE WIND will be published in spring 2008

On A Clare Day You Can See Forever

Here at Crime Always Pays, we’re particularly fond of Cora Harrison (right). Maybe it’s because her new novel, My Lady Judge, is set in the Burren in the beautiful County Clare, and we have fond memories of a childhood holiday spent in the Burren, when we leapt from one haystack onto another and only got semi-impaled on a buried pitchfork. Ah, those were the days. Or maybe it’s just because the rather lovely Ms Harrison is rather lovely, and lovely people are becoming a rarity these days. More importantly, Sarah Weinman seems to like Cora Harrison too, if her review in the Baltimore Sun is anything to go by:
“This enchanting historical mystery was first released in the United Kingdom last spring to rave reviews, which will only be echoed here. Harrison, a veteran novelist for children, steps into the adult realm with a confident voice, a strong heroine in the form of the eponymous Mara and an unusual-for-mystery realm in the form of an enclosed medieval kingdom off the coast of Ireland. The bloodthirsty justice administered by the barbaric English doesn’t apply as Mara educates her young charges in more civil applications of the law. That is, until her trusted assistant Colman disappears and is later found dead on the top of a mountain, and the kingdom’s seeming indifference reveals the victim’s duplicitous nature and the community’s web of secrets. Mara – who at 36 is both a grandmother and the object of romantic intentions – sifts through truth and lies with a combination of feminine intuition and well-reasoned deduction. The old-fashioned appeal of Harrison’s prose opens up a new world while harkening back to the way writers like Ellis Peters fashioned their historical mysteries.”
Very nice indeed, especially as it comes hard on the heels of the rather lovely Ms Harrison being nominated a ‘notable’ September release by the American Booksellers Association. Feel free to jump aboard, people – there’s a rather lovely bandwagon leaving these here parts …

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 546: Neville Thompson

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 THE CAVEMAN by David Dawes Green. I love it. I love the whole description of the caveman and the madness of what goes on in his head and then the reality that its not that mad after all. I was disappointed with his next book THE JUROR but CAVEMAN was pure pleasure.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I love Irvine Welsh, and although his last few novels are crap I still go out and buy everything he does. For guilty pleasures PORNO is hard to beat. I laughed out loud at the stuff he came up with in that. TRAINSPOTTING is a read over and over again book and it never loses its appeal. FILTH (apart from the snake bit at the end) is very clever and possibly the most hateable lead character ever.
Most satisfying writing moment?
For me it is always the latest project, when you get excited about where the story is going and you just stay up writing for hours. Nothing beats it ... well, some things do but you know what I mean. I like writing stuff that will catch the audience out. There’s a guy called Hippo and another called Fing in my latest book and I loved writing them.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Haven’t a clue, was THE CRYING GAME a novel? Is it crime? If it is, then that. Irvine Welsh is living here now, isn’t he? If that’s the case, FILTH!
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I should have read all these first, shouldn’t I? THE CRYING GAME! I always thought my own JACKIE LOVES JOHNSER was a model to be made into a film but the only ones who wanted it were foreign. It’s due to be made into a French film this year.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best is doing what you want to do as a job. Worst is every fucker you meet telling you should write his story.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Fat guy from Dublin goes to Thailand and falls in love with a prostitute ...
Who are you reading right now?
Reading a book on how to make a micro-budget film ’cause I want to make a film of a script I wrote and no one will touch it with a barge pole ’cause it’s politically incorrect.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Modern, funny, real.

Neville Thompson’s A Simple Twist of Fate is available now.

Monday, September 24, 2007

The Embiggened O: Karma-Karma-Karma Chameleon

Following on from last week’s karma-tastic Embiggened O post, in which we outlined our reasons for persecuting award-winning writers to big-up our humble offering THE BIG O, Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year winner Allan Guthrie has been gracious enough to offer his opinion, to wit:
“It’s hard to praise THE BIG O highly enough. Excellent writing, great characters, superb storytelling – all played out at a ferocious tempo. By turns it’s dark, funny, moving, brutal, tender and twisted. A book that makes one hell of an impact. More Declan Burke please.”
Which is lovelier than a trumpet break from Forever Changes-era Love. A caveat, however: the sharper-eyed observers among you might have noticed that the Crime Always Pays reviewing elves have recently swooned about Guthrie’s TWO-WAY SPLIT, so much so that Guthrie was moved to plug the review on his interweb page thingy. So – is the above plug a simple case of mutual appreciation from a shit-hot award-winning writer with nothing to gain from lending a fan-boy blogger a hand, or a sordid example of the cynical you-scratch-my-back blurbing that plagues the industry today? YOU decide!

Gone To Iraq And Ruin

“IT WAS THE PERFECT KILLING GROUND. As the rounds slammed into my Toyota I knew that the ambush site was chosen with precision and deadly cunning. The insurgents had waited until all our security vehicles had stopped around the stranded front five trucks before they then unleashed their main weapon -- a Russian-made PK heavy machine gun set up on the roof of a two-storey building to our left. The instant that machine-gun opened up, it began to cut our convoy to pieces. We were now taking heavy fire from three sides.
The civilian drivers were either dead or dying. I can only guess but there must have been 50 or 60 insurgents surrounding our convoy and their fire was withering.
I was trying to return aimed fire -- but it was hard because I’d been shot in the right elbow. By now, my fatigues were covered in blood which was pouring from my elbow wound and from my bare arms which had been shredded as I combat-crawled along the glass-covered roadway …”
Sounds like an extract from a Jack Higgins novel, but Padraig O’Keefe’s Hidden Soldier is the real deal – Corkman O’Keefe served with the French Foreign Legion in a variety of hot-spots around the world, including Cambodia and Sarajevo, before heading to Iraq as a ‘security specialist’, where the attack described above happened. Headlined ‘There is nothing like the loneliness of realising that you’re the only one left alive on the battlefield’, the Irish Independent has a nice splash on Hidden Soldier, which is published by the O’Brien Press.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Unaccustomed As They Are To Public Speaking …

Brandon Books is celebrating its 25th anniversary in some style, mainly by dragging its writers out of their dank little cells and thrusting them blinking into the limelight, and if you’re around Dublin city centre on Thursday 27th you could do a lot worse than toddle along to Waterstones on Dawson Street, where Sam Millar (right) and Paul Charles will be yakking it up in a chat, reading and Q&A session. Paul’s plugging The Dust of Death, the first of a new series set in Donegal which is published this month, and there’s a pretty decent chance Sam’ll offer a taster from his forthcoming Bloodstorm, to be published in December. Full-ish details of the tour runneth thusly:
27th September in Waterstones Dublin
29th September in Hughes & Hughes, Stephens Green, Dublin
30th September in Easons, Belfast
1st October in Waterstones, Belfast
11 October in Hughes & Hughes, Dundalk
Just be gentle with them, folks – these are shy and sensitive creatures, liable to leap back into the undergrowth at a single harsh word or prolonged stare …