“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, October 26, 2007

The Geography Of Murder

The Penguin interweb thingy is hosting a fascinating essay by Ingrid Black to mark the publication of THE JUDAS HEART, in which the delectable Ms Black (right) delves into the dark art of ‘geographical profiling’ as a tool for tracking killers, to wit:
“The obsession with geography which inevitably grips any crime writer who claims a city as their own and tries to stamp their own personality on it is not mere self-indulgence or authorly vanity, though. It’s an essential counterpart to what the killer, that invisible and unknown protagonist who haunts the pages of every crime novel – the ghost in the machine of the narrative, as it were – does too. The only person who knows the city as well as the detective is the perpetrator. They match their knowledge of the city one against another. Killers have an intimate and profound relationship with landscape. Think of Jack the Ripper, the Moors Murderers, the Green River Killer, or Moscow’s so-called “Chessboard Killer” who lured all his 50-plus victims to Bitsevsky Park in the city after dark. What strange synchronicity must they all have felt to those dangerous places? Mapping the connections between an offender and the space through which he moves and in which he operates is the ultimate aim of geographical profiling, which, whilst lesser known than the psychological profiling made famous in such films as Silence Of The Lambs, is increasingly being used by police to identify possible suspects.”
So – the Big Question: which fictional killer do you – yes, YOU! – most closely associate with his or her killing ground?

But Lo! What Fresh Skulduggery Is This?

Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah! As not-quite-predicted here on Monday by the Crime Always Pays elves, Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT nabbed a gong on the one-off special Richard and Judy Kids’ Books show on Channel 4 last night, securing a joint first place in the ‘Confident Reading’ section. Given that the show has had ‘the Oprah effect’ on adults’ books, with titles featured selling in excess of 25 million copies in 2004 alone, expect to see SKULDUGGERY on a metaphorical Wonkavator in the coming weeks as it soars upward and outward through the glass ceiling into super-sellerdom. Hurrah! Could it happen to a nicer chap? Wethinks not …

Why I Write # 276: Eoin Colfer

“Once I get a story in my head, it circles round and round in there repeating on itself, like a demented endless row-row-row your boat until I can get it down on paper and give myself some closure. For me, stories are unfinished business that need to be given their due and made real. And characters are worse, they are not as easy to exorcise. You come up with a character, say a teenage criminal mastermind, and then for years you have nowhere to put him. You try to shoehorn him into whatever you have going on, but it’s not right and you both know it. So after a few years you have a light opera’s worth of characters haunting the space behind your eyeballs, distracting you when you’re trying to type. But then that sweet moment comes when your mind twists a few jigsaw pieces around and you see it so clearly and get a shiver down your spine and know that this is where the little bastard belongs. I love those moments. I’ve had about three.
“Of course, the money is nice too ...”

Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY is available in all good bookshops.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

“Why The Hell Have We Been Ignoring …” # 213: Walter Keady

Maybe it’s that the radar is on the fritz, and maybe – more likely – the radar-manning elves have been sneaking hits off HR Pufnstuf’s hookah, but we’ve totally overlooked Walter Keady’s THE DOWRY, which was released last year to a veritable torrent of big-ups and hup-yas. Quoth Publishers Weekly:
“The young people of Coshlawn Crann in rural Ireland simply aren’t marrying and properly propagating in the hardscrabble post-war 1946. It’s all about the economy, and Father Donovan isn’t above using the power of his collar to lean on two locals who can get something done: rich skinflint farmer Tom McDermott and publican Austin Glynn (some of whose wealth comes from bank robberies long ago in the Bronx). Tom’s older son, Martin, the town Lothario, soon finds himself engaged to Austin’s daughter, Aideen, a good-hearted girl with a face ‘like the back of a bus.’ Biking home from popping the question, Martin runs into Barney Murphy’s donkey on the bridge, tumbles into the river and is believed drowned. He quickly decides to stay dead and slips off to London — where he soon wearies of actually having to work and starts dreaming about Aideen’s dowry. Ex-priest Keady (THE ALTRUIST) writes with authority about matters of the church. He’s also a sharp plotter, and his characters shine: from Brideen Conway, the comely schoolteacher Father Donovan loves a little too much, to strap-happy schoolmaster Alphonsus Finnerty, who secretly writes romances as ‘Laura Devon.’ The multiple happy endings may be inevitable, but they’re earned.”
Mmmm, lovely. But lo! There’s more! Booklist chips in with “A vivid, easy-reading period piece,” while Mr and Mrs Kirkus reckon that “[T]his winning effort from former priest Keady ... can be forgiven its clichés. Charming Celtic comedy of manners.” Hurrah! But there’s more! “Keady’s folksy, conspiratorial tone is truly irresistible,” proclaimed the Washington Post, while the Library Journal believes that “Keady is a refreshing new voice in Irish fiction.” Crikey! It’s a cozy Celtic crime frenzy, people …

Et Tu, Brute

A hat-tip to Euro Crime for pointing us in the direction of a smashing interview with Gerard Donovan over at The Book Depository, during which the author of JULIUS WINSOME discourses at length on practically every subject under the sun bar his preferred grassy knoll theory. Our favourite snippet, regarding the brutal reality into which the human ‘moral compass’ is set, runneth thusly:
MT: Your character Julius lives in cabin in the Maine woods with only his dog for company: is that an existence that part of you envies?
GD: “I do lead an existence similar to the lead character’s, on a farm in the woods with a dog and books, though not nearly as many. What interests me thematically in the novel is what kind of moral compass we have as humans, or more directly, what kind of moral compass I have. What would people really do if a beloved dog or indeed companion of any kind were shot and they could exact revenge without legal consequences? This is a question that haunts me. The answer is that I don’t have a moral compass aside from the basic agreements regarding normal behaviour I hold with other humans, but, as I’ve said elsewhere, I don’t quite trust fiction that showcases characters who in the end demonstrate what good people they are. Where is the border between grief and revenge? And who stops at that border, and who continues beyond? Julius Winsome continues, using increasingly archaic English as the violence continues. I envy him that, I envy his ability to pursue, I envy his complete preparation to bring violence ruthlessly to those who have practiced it themselves.”
We’re thinking Vin Diesel for the movie. Any other suggestions?

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 679: Maxim Jakubowski

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?
DARK RIDE by Kent Harrington. It combines the right amount of noir thrills and erotic tension I seek in my own books.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Most French contemporary erotica written by women. Such a strong area of writing right now.
Most satisfying writing moment?
The moment a new novel or even a short story reaches the top of the hill and the downpart of the writing almost happens of its own accord.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series (once it’s collected into a single volume, of course; sorry, I cheated ...).
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any of the Connolly Charlie Parker books, as long as they get both the right screenwriter and director.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst is constant knowledge of my own imperfections and laziness holding me back. Best is that sense of achievement when it’s on the printed page (and the inner glow when I get fan letters from Italian female readers who’ve felt deeply affected by my writing – it’s happened three times and all Italian!!!).
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Cornell Woolrich meets THE STORY OF O meets LOLITA meets anyone else along that road to nowhere.
Who are you reading right now?
Have just started Mo Hayder’s next book, RITUAL.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Romantically personal, noir, erotic. Oops, that's 4 words.

PARIS NOIR, edited by His Eminence Maxim Jabukowski, is published on November 1.

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

This week’s competition comes courtesy of those wonderfully helpful and generous folk at Penguin (hi, Katya), who are giving away three copies of Ingrid Black’s latest novel in the Saxon series, THE JUDAS HEART, which is officially released on Thursday, November 25. To be in with a chance of winning your gratis copy, just answer the following idiotic question:
Is Ingrid Black …?
(a) Benjamin Black’s daughter;
(b) Benjamin Black’s mother;
(c) Neither, you moron, they’re both pseudonyms.
If you think you know the answer, drop us a mail at dbrodb(at)gmail.com, putting ‘Neither, you moron’ in the subject line, before noon on Monday 29. Bon chance, mes amis …

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Embiggened O # 962: Laugh? We Almost Emigrated

Happy days are here again, particularly for Maxine Clarke over at Euro Crime, who – it would seem – had a good strong quaff of giggle juice before she read our humble offering, THE BIG O. The gist of the review runneth thusly:
“THE BIG O is a fast-paced and very funny book … I don’t often laugh out loud when reading, but I found this book hilarious … Comedy capers are hard to pull off. Most of them spiral out of control or lose their freshness after a few chapters. That isn’t the case here: Burke effortlessly ratchets up the tension, rings the changes of the perceptions of reality between the characters, provides an element of farce, a few choice set-pieces, some neat observations of domestic minutiae, and keeps the laughs coming.”
All of which is entirely lovely, although if we’re honest we’ll point out at this stage that we were actually aiming to write a bleak tale of perversely life-affirming existential deprivation, a la Sam Beckett. Ah well, maybe we’ll get it right next time …

Paul Charles: Number 2 With A Bullet!

A couple of interesting snippets from Verbal’s interview with Paul Charles (right), who’s currently getting plenty of much-deserved oxygen for THE DUST OF DEATH. First up is Paul’s thoughts on plotting, or the lack of, to wit:
Surprisingly, Charles is never sure when he begins a book how it is going to turn out. “That’s part of the buzz for me. Finding out what happens. If I knew whodunnit beforehand I don’t think I would write them at all. It’s more exciting not to know. My method is to ‘find’ the body along with my detective and then go off on his journey with him to work out what happened. I go into his life, just like the reader, and meet all the people he meets and draw conclusions, some erroneous at the start, from those meetings. To be honest, I can’t actually remember writing the first line, or starting the book. It’s a kind of organic process. I mull the idea over for a while and then it comes.”
Marvellous. Heading off at something of a tangent takes us from the sublime to the ridiculous via the American Billboard chart, Verbal then tosses in a lovely piece of trivia.
During the early 1970s Charles was manager, lyricist, roadie, sound-engineer and agent for the Belfast band Fruupp, who were signed to Dawn Records and worked around the UK for several years. Sheba’s Song, one of Charles’s songs from that period (co-written with band member John Mason) has just been sampled and covered by America Rap artist Talib Kweli with Nora Jones guesting on vocals. Eardrum, the album which the song appears on, went to number 2 in America’s Billboard chart this month.
Paul Charles, eh? He’s a little bit rock, a little bit roll, a little bit rap-sample champ. It’ll take a nation of millions to hold him back now …

The Life Of Brian II: This Time It’s Personal

Not content with having a bright ‘n’ shiny website, Brian McGilloway has gone and got himself one of them there newfangled blogging contraptions, courtesy of Macmillan New Writing, the first post of which runneth thusly:
“Hi all – Just thought I should introduce myself: I’m Brian McGilloway and my first novel, BORDERLANDS, was published by MNW in April this year. The follow-up, GALLOWS LANE, will be published on April 4th 2008 alongside the Pan paperback of BORDERLANDS. I’m currently writing the third Inspector Devlin novel, BLEED A RIVER DEEP, which I suspect will feature prominently in future posts on writing and the drafting process.
The Devlin books are being given a series look for the launch in April and now seems as good a time as any to unveil the first of the new covers – this one for the pb edition of BORDERLANDS. Hope you like it ...
And, in between times, Inspector Devlin makes an appearance in a new short story called The Lost Child, which will be broadcast on Friday 2nd November at 3.30pm on BBC Radio 4.”
Go on – scoot over there and leave a comment. It can get lonely out here in the deepest, darkest blogosphere …

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 694: Mia Gallagher

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 LONG GOODBYE by Raymond Chandler.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
John Connolly, John Grisham, Jonathan Kellerman, Lee Child, Patricia Cornwell, Minette Walters, The Preacher graphic novels, any graphic novel by Neil Gaiman, Robert Jordan (fantasy), Marian Keyes.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Reaching the end of a chapter when it’s finally right.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Tough question, there are so many good ones. I recently read Declan Hughes’ THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD and loved it. Very Ed McBain. Claire Kilroy’s TENDERWIRE is also brilliant; not strictly genre crime, but a wonderful tale of suspense and loss. And Cormac Millar’s AN IRISH SOLUTION featured a bad boy villain who I fell completely in love with.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I'd love to see Declan Hughes’ psychopath Podge in the flesh. The Irish actor Owen Roe would play him really well if he squeaked up his voice. If Hollywood did it they could cast Joe Pesci.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Not being able to write / writing.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Still working on it. Something about war, guilt, shame and families.
Who are you reading right now?
A sci-fi writer called Stephen Baxter. His book EVOLUTION is a fictional journey through major evolutionary periods in the earth’s history. Incredible and surprisingly readable. Like a mixture of Meercat Manor and The Sopranos.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Playful. Visceral. Edgy.

Mia Gallagher’s HELLFIRE is available in all good bookshops.

Quote Of The Day # 367: Gabriel Zaid

Hell, we knew life is short, but this – which arrives via Eoin Purcell’s excellent blog – is ridiculous, to wit:
“If not a single book were published from this moment on, it would still take 250,000 years for us to acquaint ourselves with those books already written.” Gabriel Zaid, SO MANY BOOKS
Crikey! 250,000 years? And there we were thinking we could afford to lay off one of the Sherpa-elves currently helping us ascend to the summit of our tottering TBR pile. Guess the Sherpa-elves are back on double-time …

A Burrening Passion

“This charming book could be the start of a million-selling series,” reckoned the Evening Herald in its review of Cora Harrison’s MY LADY JUDGE, and the impending release of the novel on audio, with Caroline Lennon narrating, suggests that the Herald got it spot-on. For those of you wondering what the fuss is all about, here’s the skinny from the blurb elves:
In the sixteenth century, as it is now, the Burren, on the western seaboard of Ireland, was a land of grey stone forts, fields of rich green grass and swirling mountain terraces. It was also home to an independent kingdom that lived peacefully by the ancient Brehon laws of their forebears. On the first eve of May, 1509, hundreds of people from the Burren climbed the gouged-out limestone terraces of Mullaghmore Mountain to celebrate the great May Day festival, lighting a bonfire and singing and dancing through the night, then returning through the grey dawn to the safety of their homes. But one man did not come back down the steeply spiralling path. His body lay exposed to the ravens and wolves on the bare, lonely mountain for two nights ... and no one spoke of him, or told what they had seen. And when Mara, a woman appointed by King Turlough Don O’Brien to be judge and lawgiver to the stony kingdom, came to investigate, she was met with a wall of silence ...
Erm, maybe it’s just us, but practically every Irish woman we’ve ever met has been a ‘judge and lawgiver’. Or is it just us? Answers on the back of used €20 notes to the usual address …

Monday, October 22, 2007

The Embiggened O # 1,012: “Rollin’, Rollin’, Rollin’ / Keep Those Logs A-Rollin’ …”

This week’s big-up for our humble offering THE BIG O comes with a public health warning, people: Adrian McKinty (right), who pens the honey-sweet words below, is a mate of Crime Always Pays’ Grand Vizier Declan Burke, and McKinty’s novels – DEAD I WELL MAY BE and THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD in particular – have been getting serious hup-yas around these-here parts in recent times. The big question: are we guilty of blatant ‘log-rolling’ (as Detectives Beyond Borders’ Peter Rozovsky so delicately puts it), or is there an outside chance the reviews are actually worth the electronic paper they’re printed on? YOU decide! Meanwhile, here’s McKinty’s verdict:
“Declan Burke’s crime writing is fast, furious and funny, but this is more than just genre fiction: Burke is a high satirist in the tradition of Waugh and Kingsley Amis and his stories pulse with all the contradictions of contemporary Ireland. Burke has a deep respect for and understanding of the classic traditions of the hardboiled school but he never forgets that his first duty is to give us a damn good read. A must for fans of Ken Bruen, Michael Connolly and Eoin McNamee.” – Adrian McKinty, author of THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD
Adrian? Ta very much, sir. And while you’re there, there’s an itch just between my shoulder blades I can’t quite reach. Any chance you’d give my back another scratch? Cheers.

Pleasant Valley Monday

We told you ages ago about Derek Landy’s hook-up with the Richard and Judy Show’s Best Kids’ Books bunfight, and now it’s coming time to start chucking around the custard-topped muffins. Yep, the awards will be announced this coming Thursday at 8pm on Channel 4 (UK), with the terrific SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT nominated in the ‘Confident Reading’ section. If you happen to find yourself near a TV today around 3.30pm (GMT), you can catch Derek having a chin-wag with Richard and Judy on Channel 4, where he’ll no doubt be explaining how he came to (ahem) flesh out the bare bones of his skeletal hero. And if you can’t get to a TV, check out the promo vid below – we’re loving the tag-line “He’s Coming. A Little Thing Like Death Won’t Stop Him …”

The Monday Review

The Bruen / Starr combo has been beeping Mostly Fiction’s not inconsiderable jeep recently, to wit: “While writers Ken Bruen’s and Jason Starr’s collaboration in BUST is a farcical comic success, with plenty of dark humour and quite an ensemble of screwy characters, the result is a fascinating, enjoyable read,” reckons Hagen Baye, before continuing with “SLIDE is another masterful writing effort by these two skilled (and uninhibited) writers, who know how to create and bring to life bizarre characters and unusual plots … this is another outrageous, out-of-control, comic success of Bruen’s and Starr’s.” Lovely. Upward and onward to MURDERING AMERICANS, and Mary Elizabeth Devine is impressed over at Reviewing the Evidence: “First let me say that my role models are the Red Queen from Alice’s adventures in THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS and Baroness Jack Troutbeck from Ruth Dudley Edwards’ series. The Baroness is so deliciously politically incorrect that she makes Maggie Thatcher look like Mary Poppins.” Crikey! Yet more big-ups for John Connolly, to wit: “THE UNQUIET introduces its plot and characters, and then steps back and lets everything unfold neatly. It is a bit more of a linear tale than THE BLACK ANGEL was, and everything seems to jibe more evenly. Almost like the story wrote itself, actually,” gushes Bookins via Amazon reviews, where you’ll also find this - “The story is still dark, gruesome, at times scary and has a large body count. But it is also atmospheric, lyrical and completely enthralling.” – and a host of others. Meanwhile, over at Tonight, Roland Solomon is somewhat more restrained: “Well-crafted and well-paced, with a contemporary theme of child abuse and paedophilia. Connolly’s writing has more depth and beauty than the average quick-read of the genre.” The Builder’s Book Site quite likes Gerard Donovan’s JULIUS WINSOME: “It’s a brilliant meditation on revenge that completely draws the reader into Julius’ orbit and has one alternately rooting for and against his tragic quest. Ignore the terrible cover art, this is a book worth savouring.” As for Paul Charles’ THE DUST OF DEATH, Alan Geary at the Nottingham Evening Post is predicting, erm, tourist trips: “This is a page-turner: you do actually want to know whodunit and why … The scenery in Donegal is breath-taking so perhaps in a decade there’ll be tourist trips to Starrett Country.” Finally, recent Shamus winner Declan Hughes gets the huppiest of hup-yas from Hell Notes for THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, to wit: “Irish Noir is a genre all to itself, with a dark, horrific side that keeps readers coming back for more. If you’d like a taste, Declan Hughes is the place to start.” Don’t let anyone tell you size doesn’t matter, people – Dec is the man who put the ‘huge’ into Hughes …