“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, November 30, 2007

You Don’t Have To Be Madagascarian To Work Here, But …*

News comes a-filtering down the liana-style grapevine that Benny Blanco’s third Quirke novel, THE LEMUR, is to be serialised in the New York Times, starting in January and running for 15 weeks. Quirke, the (oh yes!) quirky pathologist from CHRISTINE FALLS and THE SILVER SWAN, returns to investigate the strange case of a homicidal genius who lures his victims to Madagascar, into the jungle, and then gets them to stand under a tree just so – only for his KGB-trained lemur to strike, looping its stripy tail around their necks and strangling them while they gasp, with their final breath, “Lummee! And there was me thinking it was a blummin’ racoon!” Or maybe not. Anyhoo, if anyone hears a whisper of what THE LEMUR might actually be about, feel free to drop us a line. If you don’t, and we discover you knew all along, we’ll send our rabid wallaby around. Don’t say you haven’t been warned …

* We know. It’s ‘Malagasy’. But that’s even less funny.

Chilli Con Carnival

Hot stuff, eh? Yep, the dress rehearsal for the Crime Always Pays leg of the globe-trotting Crime Carnival went off with a bang last night, with Costume Lady elf Bridget Ni Houlihan and Chief Tray-Bearer elf Alberto (right) getting into the swing of things Hiberno-Brazilian style. All of which flummery is by way of tipping you off that the Crime Carnival baton has been taken from the beautifully manicured hands of the Femmes Fatales and handed to the rather gnarled and tiny fists of the CAP elves (for previous Carnivals, jump over here). The CAP Crime Carnival will be rolling out on Monday, which gives us the entire weekend to get that inflatable Ferris Wheel out of the attic and pumped up. We'll need it - HR Pufnstuf, the doity rat, has only gone and stolen the blummin' bicycle pump for his bong again ...

The Jules In Our Crown

How come we’re always the last to know? Julie Parsons has a new novel for your delectation, folks: apparently I SAW YOU has been adorning the shelves since last month, but – oh, the humanity! – we have yet to see it. Did no one think to get in touch with us? Or is it that the barring order dear Jules had to get against the CAP elves after the unpleasantness with the belly-dancing dwarves is still in force? Anyhoo, never being ones to hold a grudge, we quoth the Macmillan blurb elves hencely:
For ten years, newly retired policeman Michael McLoughlin has been haunted by the case of a young woman brutally murdered and the affection he felt for the victim’s mother, Margaret. A favour for a friend leads him to another woman who has lost a child – her daughter has been found drowned in the same lake her stepfather died in years earlier. Was it an accident, suicide or murder? Margaret thought she could escape her past but the memories of her daughter and of her killer give her no peace and she finally returns to Dublin to face her demons. A chance encounter with a young girl in a graveyard leads her to back to a man she never thought she’d see again and a mother with a grief to match her own. This is a chilling and dark novel of love, revenge and atonement from the author of MARY, MARY, THE COURTSHIP GIFT and THE HOURGLASS.
Jules? If you’re reading this, we just want you to know that all the belly-dancing dwarves have been deported back to Bolivia, along with that nasty marching-powder they were snorting out of the elves’ belly-buttons. Can’t we be friends again?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Better The Neville You Know

A prolific chap, Neville Thompson (right), and one not afraid to take chances. MORE STREETWISE: STORIES FROM IRISH PRISONS is the sequel to STREETWISE, the collection of stories written by inmates in Irish prisons and edited by Thompson, who runs writing classes in his role as part-time prison teacher. Quoth the Killynon House blurb elves:
MORE STREETWISE is an eye-opening collection of stories by inmates from Portlaoise and Midlands Prisons. These insightful stories are inspired by the writers’ own experiences of being involved in crime, while other stories reflect on life in prison and seeking the path to redemption. Their stories give a unique insight into the minds of some criminals who are now serving sentences in Ireland. The prisoners involved in the writing of this book are donating their royalties to Autism Ireland.
Meanwhile, Thompson also has his latest novel to promote. A SIMPLE TWIST OF FATE is a bittersweet, twisted love story, a two-hander told by an Irish man and a Thai prostitute. Back to those overworked Killynon House blurb elves:
Frank is a fat kid growing up on the streets of Dublin. Bullied at school, mollycoddled at home and ignored at work, he decides to leave it all and have a chance at life. Min was born into a happy if poor loving family. Then, tragically, both her parents died and she is forced into working the streets of Thailand to make ends meet. One fateful night, Min and Frank meet on a beach … and it’s love at first sight. But will others be happy to let them find true happiness?
Erm, you’d expect not or it’d be a pretty short book. For more info, toddle on over to Neville’s interweb blog yokeybus

The Embiggened O # 1,247: “You Like Us, Sorta. You Really, Really Like Us, Sorta!”

Hmmm. We’re still not entirely sure it’s not someone’s idea of a joke, but it appears that THE BIG O has been shortlisted for the Spinetingler Awards. Yes, we pitched camp in Sandra Ruttan’s back garden and threw pebbles non-stop at her window, and certainly, we gave her the old Indian burn until she yelled ‘Uncle!’. But did we expect to be nominated in the Best Novel – New Voice category? Erm, no. Seriously. And you know what? It’s true what they say: it really is wonderful just to be nominated, especially in the kind of company listed below – in other words, we’re about to have our ass kicked, Irish-style. Huzzah! As for Sir Kenneth of Bruen: not content with one nomination in the Best Novel – Legend category, he’s nabbed two, for CROSS and PRIEST. Will he win twice? Will his double nomination fatally split his vote? Only time, that notoriously doity rat, will tell. Anyhoo, those nominations in full:

Best Novel – Legend
Ken Bruen, Cross
Ken Bruen, Priest
James Lee Burke, Tin Roof Blowdown
Laura Lippman, What The Dead Know
Ian Rankin, The Naming of the Dead
James Reasoner, Dust Devils

Best Novel – Rising Star

Sean Doolittle, The Cleanup
Charlie Huston, The Shotgun Rule
Larry Karp, The Ragtime Kid
Rick Mofina, A Perfect Grave
PJ Parrish, A Thousand Bones
Steven Torres, Concrete Maze

Best Novel – New Voice
Megan Abbott, Queenpin
Declan Burke, The Big O
Allan Guthrie, Hard Man
Steve Mosby, The 50/50 Killer
JD Rhoades, Safe and Sound
Duane Swierczynski, The Blonde

Best Publisher
Bitter Lemon Press
Europa Editions
Hard Case Crime
Poisoned Pen Press
Text Publishing

Best Editor
Charles Ardai, Hard Case Crime
Stacia Decker, Harcourt
Alison Janssen, Bleak House
Barbara Peters, Poisoned Pen Press
Dave Thompson, Busted Flush

Special Services to the Industry
Daniel Hatadi - Crimespace
Ali Karim – Shots, The Rap Sheet
Graham Powell - Crimespot
J. Kingston Pierce – The Rap Sheet
Maddy Van Hertburger – 4MA
Sarah Weinman – Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind

Best Short Story On The Web
The Leap by Charles Ardai - Hardluck Stories
Breaking in the New Guy by Stephen Blackmoore - Demolition
Amphetamine Logic by Nathan Cain - Thuglit
The Switch by Lyman Feero -Thuglit
Seven Days of Rain by Chris F. Holm - Demolition
Shared Losses by Gerri Leen - Shred of Evidence
The Living Dead by Amra Pajalic - Spinetingler
Convivum by Kelli Stanley - Hardluck Stories

What Happens Now
Voting is open. ONE E-MAIL PER PERSON ONLY. You cannot send another vote in, even for a different category – multiple votes from the same sender will not be counted. Take the time to consider your votes carefully. E-mails must be received by December 30, 2007 - authors, if you’re putting this in your newsletter make sure you are clear about the deadline for voting. Many recommendations were not considered in the first round because they were sent late.
You may vote for one winner in each category as long as all votes are submitted in one e-mail. Simply state the category and your chosen winner for each of the eight categories. Any votes that contain more than one selection per category may be removed from consideration completely. No ties.
Send your e-mail to sandra.ruttan@spinetinglermag.com with AWARD NOMINATIONS in the subject line. It is not necessary to explain the reason for your vote.

Hot-Stepping Morris Dancing

Yet more Christmas books flummery from It’s A Crime!, folks. This time out Crimefic rat-a-tatted bullets at the feet of the hot-stepping Roger Morris (right) until he ’fessed up to loving Brian McGilloway’s BORDERLANDS. To wit:
“Like many others, I was impressed by Peter Temple’s THE BROKEN SHORE. The voice is both brutal and lyrical and he writes with a terse precision that at times almost incapacitated me with envy. I also liked the poodles and the distinctly Australian swearin’. But ideally a great Christmas book would be a great read that also happens to be set at Christmas. Brian McGilloway’s BORDERLANDS fulfils both criteria splendidly. There’s an extra dimension of seasonal pleasure that comes from realising that however bad your own yuletide mishaps – fairy-lights not working, turkey a bit burnt on one side – they don’t come close to the unstoppable hell on wheels that is Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin’s Christmas. It doesn’t surprise me that McGilloway is a fan of James Lee Burke (whose PEGASUS DESCENDING provided another highlight of my crime-reading year). McGilloway’s Devlin, like Burke’s Robicheaux, is given a convincing home life, which far from detracting from the twists and excitement of the murder case, adds a thematic counterpoint, as well as a psychological and moral point. In McGilloway’s concern for the domestic we understand what drives Devlin to pit himself against the forces of chaos beyond his front door.”
Beautifully put, Mr Morris sir. Now dance some more. We said DANCE! Please?

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Embiggened O # 1,307: Hope, Like Alice, Springs Eternal

Strewth! Bonzer news from Down Under, people, where Karen Chisholm of the rather fine AustCrimeFiction interweb thingagummy not only read our humble offering THE BIG O all the way through, but managed to stay awake for the duration! Fair dinkum, Sheila! Quoth Sheila / Karen (in excerpt, naturally, to spare you the boring bits about what she didn’t like):
“The style of THE BIG O is slightly tongue-in-cheek, very rapid-fire, slightly wisecracking, slightly brittle and surprisingly vulnerable in some places. There’s a lot of crossing and double crossing of everybody going on; there’s a lot of charging around as you’d expect from a caper style novel … the book clips along at a tremendous pace … the dialogue … is snappy, stylistic and sometimes laugh-out loud-funny, sometimes snicker inducing; and sometimes a bit tear-jerking … it’s one of my favourite styles of escapist reading – the slightly lunatic caper, albeit this time with a twist in the guts at the end.”
Thank you kindly, ma’am. In return, consider our fatwa on Marmite officially cancelled …

More O’Irish Than The O’Irish Themselves

Bandwagon-jumping being about the only exercise the CAP elves get these days, they were visibly palpitating with joy when The Elf They Call Karlos announced, via CNN, that Martin Scorsese has signed on to film Dennis Lehane’s (right) SHUTTER ISLAND with Leonardo DiCaprio in talks to assume eye-candy duties. This, of course, coming on top of Ben Affleck’s brilliant* take on GONE BABY GONE, which is currently burning up a silver screen near you. So why are the elves launching themselves headlong at that runaway bandwagon? Quoth the CNN wallahs:
[Lehane’s] talent is not, he insists, originality of plot, going so far as to say his plots “could be found on an episode of CSI or LAW & ORDER. He’s merely happy to take credit for doing what he does very well, which is to write meaty, morally ambiguous, thought-provoking crime novels centred in the seamiest parts of Boston. No, his explanation for his success is simpler: pure luck. “I am just the luckiest guy on the planet,” he says. (If you suspect he used a more colourful word than ‘guy’, you’re right.) “Because I’m Irish, I keep looking at the sky, waiting for it to fall.”
So, the Big Question: is Crime Always Pays entitled to claim Dennis Lehane as an Irish crime writer now that he’s damned to Hollywood fame? Stick your answers where the sun don’t sign, people.**

* Yeah, we know. Ben frickin Affleck. Who’d a thunk it?
** Erm, that’ll be the comment box, obviously.

Don’t McCall Us, We’ll McCall You

An intriguing prospect from Derry’s Guildhall Press, people – Felicity McCall’s FINDING LAUREN was only published on November 6 and but is already optioned for development by the movie wallahs. Quoth the Guildhall Press blurb elves:
Regina Monteith must ensure two things before she surrenders to cancer in her eightieth year – that the fortune she has quietly amassed is passed on as she wishes, and that she takes the secret which could threaten this to her grave. Across Ireland, her estranged niece, Cordelia Harcourt, stumbles on evidence that Regina’s policeman son, William, fathered a daughter during a clandestine affair and was involved in the controversial killing which overshadows her own life. A conspiracy of blackmail, corruption and family intrigue is about to be exposed as Cordelia sets about ... Finding Lauren.
Oooh, spooky. Meanwhile, the Derry-based publishing house is in the process of expanding and is on the look-out for ‘exciting, innovative works of fiction’, to wit:
Derry publishing house Guildhall Press is expanding its horizons and has plans to compete with the giants of the book industry. And a first step is to attract new creative writing talent and challenge them to produce exciting, innovative works of fiction. To this end, Guildhall Press is inviting writers across the spectrum of literary fiction to submit their work for consideration. We are looking for confident, fresh, spiky writing from authors who have something to say and want to be heard (and read). Please go to [their interweb page yokeybus] first to ensure correct presentation of material.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Not All Spades Are Blond Satans, Sadly

Last week the Sons of Spade were gracious enough to host a Q&A with CAP Grand Vizier Declan Burke (right), simply but elegantly titled ‘Q&A with Declan Burke’. The sordid results come below …

Q: What makes your P.I. Harry Rigby different from other fictional private eyes?
A: I could be literal and say he’s the only one from Sligo, Ireland … This is actually a difficult question for me to answer, because of the way Harry originated, which was as an exercise in style. I never had any intention of writing a full novel – I started out writing a chapter in which a PI meets a potential client for the first time, just to have fun with it. Harry’s a PI who is aware of all the tropes, he’s a fan of the hardboiled movies and books – so while he’s a PI, he’s also aware of fiction’s PI heritage, Marlowe, Archer, et al. It says something that my favourite PI movie isn’t THE BIG SLEEP, it’s Robert Altman’s THE LONG GOODBYE. Which is a roundabout way of saying Harry Rigby is different because he’s so knowingly similar to all his fictional predecessors. Except for the fact that he’s from Sligo …

Q: What are your thoughts on the psycho sidekick in PI novels?
A: I guess if it’s done well then it’s valid, and if it’s not, it’s a clichĂ©. I take every character on its own merits. My instinct is that it could work well as a one-off, if the protagonist has a pyscho sidekick foisted on him, but that it wouldn’t make any sense, if you want your stories to have any kind of realism, for a PI – someone who earns their living through stealth and subterfuge – to associate with a psychotic person for too long. They’d attract too much notice. It’d be like hunting tiger with a hippo in tow.

Q: What would a soundtrack to your novels sound like?
A: Pretty bleak, probably, although it’d depend on the circumstances – if your protagonist found him or herself in a karaoke bar, say, then the clientele is highly unlikely to be belting out Leonard Cohen songs (although I like the idea, now that I think of it). In general, there’s quite a bit of fatalism in my stories, so the soundtrack would ideally be composed of artists such as The Tindersticks, Leonard Cohen, Antony and the Johnsons, Radiohead, Townes Van Zandt, Jacques Brel … melancholy stuff, glimmerings of hope in the darkness, that kind of thing. Mind you, I have Abba in my car stereo at the moment …

Q: Has your writing changed much since the first novel?
A: I’m probably more aware at this stage of how bad a line is when I write it, but as for my ability to improve that line … I don’t know. No, probably. In saying that, I’m interested in writing in different kinds of styles, so it’s hard to judge. EIGHTBALL BOOGIE (the first Harry Rigby novel) was a homage to Chandler, and was written in that kind of style. THE BIG O was styled as a homage to two American writers I read for pure, unadulterated pleasure – Elmore Leonard and Barry Gifford. And, once I finish the sequel to THE BIG O, I have a story bubbling away on the back-burner that’s heavily influenced by some of my favourite writers from the ’40s and ’50s – David Goodis, Gil Brewer. That probably sounds as if I’m spending all my time ripping off other writers, but that’s only partially true – it’s early days in my writing yet, and I’m happy enough to learn whatever craft I can from studying the writers I like. I don’t have the time to go copying out their novels, the way Hemingway did, so this is the next best thing. That’s my excuse, anyway.

Q: Do you do a lot of research?
A: It depends on the story, really. I wrote a book set on the south coast of Crete that involved a hell of a lot of research – I probably spent longer reading up on the various subjects that went into the story than I did writing it. For the most part, though, my stories aren’t all that high concept. They’re fairly stripped-back, character-based tales about ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, so they don’t need a lot of research. In saying that, I’m generally very particular about detail – I can be quite disappointed if I come across a glaringly wrong detail when I’m reading, it can ruin a story for me. So I try to get it as realistic as possible within the parameters of the story.

Q: What’s next for you and Harry?
A: I’ve written a follow-up to EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, in which Harry witnesses a suicide and is then asked by the dead man’s mother to investigate the reasons why a seemingly happy, well-adjusted person would kill himself. At the moment, though, Harry has retreated to the snug of The Cellars bar and is enjoying some quiet drinking time, because the emphasis is on THE BIG O and its sequel, both of which have been signed up by Harcourt in the US – THE BIG O will be published in the US in Fall ’08.

Q: Do you have any favourite Sons of Spade yourself?
A: I certainly don’t mean any disrespect to any of the names on this fine site, and I appreciate that it sounds a bit old-fashioned, but for me there’s only one son of Spade, and that’s Marlowe – everyone else is competing to be nephews, grand-nieces, etc. I say that in full awareness of Chandler’s flaws in terms of plotting, and all the other flaws attributed to him. But I think what Chandler achieved with Marlowe goes beyond his ability in terms of style. Yes, he was reacting to Hammett, but I think Chandler shaped the paradigm of the private eye to the extent that everyone since has been writing according to his rules – obeying them, bending them, breaking them, parodying them. When you look at the non-crime fiction writers who dabbled as a once-off because they believed the form was worth exploring – Norman Mailer, say, or Hank Bukowski, Ray Bradbury, Jonathan Lethem – the model they reshape is Chandler’s.

Q: In the last century we’ve seen new waves of PI-writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, Macdonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?
A: I’m going to sound biased here because he’s Irish, and because I know the guy personally, but I think Ken Bruen [right] will exert a massive influence on the next generation of PI writers. His Jack Taylor series is genuinely breaking new ground, given that it’s a post-modern appraisal of the notion of the PI and the PI novel – Bruen has gone beyond the conventional three-act investigation of a crime, gone beyond the protagonist as a righter of wrongs, a man or woman who uncovers dirty deeds and precipitates a satisfactory resolution. In Taylor’s world, everyone is equally culpable, and Bruen has inverted the focus of his PI’s gaze so that it’s himself he’s investigating, his morality, the part that he plays in creating the kind of world where good, bad and indifferent all jostle for pre-eminence. What Bruen is doing for crime fiction right now is akin to what Camus and Sartre, in their different ways, did for philosophy sixty or seventy years ago – although a more appropriate, Irish, reference would be that of Samuel Beckett.

Q: Ed Lynskey, writer of the Frank Johnson novels, came up with this question: “Would you have the patience and grit to work as a PI?”
A: Definitely not. The reality of PI work is bone-numbing drudgery spent checking facts and figures, and endless hours wasted in surveillance, more often than not with no positive result. The wastage of time would drive me insane in a week. I’m also quite a private person. The notion of prying into other people’s lives – knowing that your prying will very probably have a devastating effect on their lives – offends my sense of mutual respect. In other words, if I don’t pry into your life, and you don’t pry into mine, all will be well. Of course, that’s the diametric opposite of the dynamic that propels the PI narrative …

Q: Is it absolutely essential your writing is published, and why?
A: No, and for two reasons: One, there’s far too much rubbish on the shelves already. Two, I need to write every bit as much as I like to write, and I’ll keep on writing long after it’s decided that I’m no longer worth publishing.

Pretty Fly For A White Guy

Eoin Colfer? He’s flying right now. Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox isn’t due until next July but in the meantime Colfer is up, up and away on a whole new adventure. AIRMAN, due out on January 3, is the first of what will very probably be a million-selling series – the Artemis Fowl books have already sold over eight million copies in 40 countries. Talking with John Spain in the Irish Independent last week, Colfer offered an insight into his inspiration for his new hero. Unsurprisingly, it all goes back to his childhood reading and experiences, to wit:
“I loved the impossible tasks set for the hero and the appalling badness of the villain. AIRMAN is high adventure to the hilt of its various swords.” Colfer says that he has always had an interest in history (his father is a historian) and when he was a child the family spent every summer on Hook Head. “Our caravan was situated between a medieval castle and the oldest working lighthouse in Europe. I loved climbing the nearby castle and imagining the grand romantic adventures that could have taken place. Standing on top of the parapet of Slade Castle, it was very easy to pretend that you were part of some perilous undertaking, and I remember thinking that if the king’s guards were closing in on me, the only way to escape would be to fly.”
Blummin’ king’s guards, eh? A ruddy pest they are, and no mistake …

Monday, November 26, 2007

Jeepers, Creepers, ’Tis The Cover Of The Reapers

John Connolly is at it again, being modest and effacing and generally annoying the hell out of all those self-aggrandising writers who have barely a tenth of his talent and none of his self-restraint (say, for example, CAP Grand Vizier Declan Burke). The occasion? He’s just sent THE REAPERS off to his editors (it’s due on May 15th) and is concerned that the future multi-million-seller isn’t quite up to scratch. Quoth John over at his bloggathummy:
“I always experience a vague sense of unease at this point, a nagging suspicion that the book may not be very good and my editor is, at this very moment, struggling to find a diplomatic way to tell me, one that won’t send me off the deep end and have me looking longingly at high cliffs, jars of pills, or razor blades and bathtubs. I don’t want to deliver a bad book, and I don’t think that I have, but, then again, I’m a very poor judge of my own work. I keep waiting to be caught out, to be branded a fraud. Like a lot of writers, I think, I’m always alert to the knock on the door from someone who has been sent to inform me that a terrible mistake has been made by my publishers and, as I have always suspected, the people who hated my work were right. At that point, my furniture will be seized, my house repossessed, and proceedings set in train to get back all of the money that has been paid to me in error. I tried to explain some of these fears to my editor when last she was in Dublin. They’re pretty constant, although they’re not crippling. Nevertheless, they may contribute to the fact that my pleasure at completing and dispatching a novel never lasts very long. Relief is a feeling that dissipates quickly.”
Hmmmm. We have a little prayer we say every night, it runs like this:
Dear Lord, please take away all John Connolly’s talent, discipline, charm and good looks, and give them to us. Amen.’
Think we’re muppets, just because it hasn’t happened yet? Ha! It only has to work once, people …

If The Hollywood Hills Won’t Come To Mohammed …

It’s a busy week for Colin Bate – oops, sorry, for Bateman (right), folks. First off he has a documentary on his home town of Bangor screening tonight, Monday, on BBC 1 Northern Ireland at 10.35pm, which is imaginatively titled ‘Bateman on Bangor’. Featuring Jimmy Nesbitt and Lord Trimble, the documentary takes a look at how growing up in Bangor turned Bateman into the globe-bestriding colossus he is today. Meanwhile, the rather more imaginatively titled MOHAMMED MAGUIRE, with Bateman on writing and directing duties, inched a little closer to the silver screen this week. Quoth the Batemeister:
“We’ve now launched a standalone website for the movie version of MOHAMMED MAGUIRE if you would all care to take a look. The script is written, the director is signed up – that’s me, obviously, I have a certain pull in these matters – and all that’s now required is some cigar chomping bigwig to come in and finance the damn thing. Go here …”
If the tasteful poster below is anything to go by, this one should be pulling in an Oscar roughly about six months after they get the Middle East sorted out …

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “With an ensemble cast, multiple plot lines and absolutely lethal staccato prose, AMMUNITION is [Ken] Bruen at his mordant best … As you read you keep trying to convince yourself that things really aren’t that bad. But then you pick up the newspaper or watch the news and you begin to think, maybe this Celtic lunatic is onto something after all. Not to worry, however, on its most basic level AMMUNITION is another high-octane romp through the mean streets of Southeast London with one of the most entertaining tour guides working in the genre today,” raves Mean Streets … Meanwhile, over at I’ve Been Reading Lately, Levi Stahl likes the latest Bruen / Jason Starr collaboration: “SLIDE, though a lot of fun, reads like a slighter sibling [of BUST]: aside from Max Fisher … the other characters are less vibrant than those of the first novel, and their desires less intricately intertwined. The M.A.X., however, is so funny that he almost single-handedly redeems the book: his mixture of arrogance, incompetence, and brutality are hideously hilarious.” … Ed Cumming at the Camden New Journal is impressed by Paul Charles’ latest: “THE DUST OF DEATH is engaging and satisfying. When a man so obviously enjoys writing his novels, it is difficult not to find them the more enjoyable to read.” … Kim at Si, Se Puede! is bigging-up Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, to wit: “I loved this tale. The original premise was refreshing … If you or a tween you know is looking for a fast-paced mystery/fantasy that’s sprinkled with humour, this is the book.” Thank you kindly, Kim … As for Landy’s nemesis, Eoin Colfer, Halo 92 likes ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY: “Colfer really does seem to be enjoying his work. He’s getting every last ounce of use from the other four books: building on relationships, exploring situations, dealing with loss, and generally driving characters up the wall, using fantastic combinations of humour and fact, excitement and tension. Another winner from the boy genius.” The boy genius being Artemis rather than Eoin, we presume … The hup-yas are still pouring in for Ronan Bennett’s ZUGZWANG: “There are a few flaws in structure, and at times the author veers from the dramatic to the melodramatic. Still, ZUGZWANG is fresh and different enough to warrant your time,” says Michele Ross at Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer. Over at the New York Times, Marilyn Stasio agrees: “In this desperately cunning match, it’s exciting to simply be a pawn,” reckons she. As does Patrick Anderson at the Washington Post: “All this is beautifully told by Bennett … This is a compelling portrait of a highly civilized society as it approached one of history’s great upheavals.” Onward to Declan Hughes’ latest: “Just finished Declan Hughes’ THE COLOUR OF BLOOD. His third thriller / mystery and he can do no wrong. It’s hard-boiled Irish, so can we be calling this the potato genre?” asks Revenge of the Castanets. Erm, no. Staying with THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, and Ibjana at the San Diego Country Library Reader is a fan: “I really like these books, I’m always amazed at how thrashed Ed gets and yet he won’t give up until he solves the cases … Always entertaining, I sometimes got lost in the sea of characters but I enjoyed it nonetheless.” … But what of Andrew M. Greeley’s THE BISHOP AT THE LAKE, I hear you cry? Book Mom, the stage is yours: “This is not my first (and won’t be my last, I hope) Greeley book. His characters are always bold, bright and full of life. The books seem to end too soon and the glimpses into the families’ lives are true, just and usually full of love. I have been a huge fan of this author’s works for years and have never been disappointed.” … The big-ups just won’t quit for Benny Blanco’s latest, to wit: “THE SILVER SWAN is a defter and more complex book than its predecessor, which occasionally found plot development smothered under the weight of Banville / Black’s always ravishing prose. The new novel boasts a neat whodunnit plot and a delightful command of suspense, but there’s also a kind of mordant, near-surreal playfulness about the characters’ appearance and actions this time, and the constricted dance that they undertake,” says Tim Martin at the Independent on Sunday, and Fachtna Kelly at the Sunday Business Post agrees: “While THE SILVER SWAN is not as overtly poetic as the novels Banville writes under his own name, it is no less beautiful for that. Banville uses language, both lyric and lachrymose, to paint emotionally haunting scenes … Adorned with Banville’s bone-dry wit and crepuscular humour, THE SILVER SWAN is a dauntless powerhouse of a novel by a master stylist at the top of his game. In Quirke, a man of ‘‘incurable curiosity’’, he has created a figure who could enliven the ranks of crime fiction for years to come.” From the sublime to the sublimer, and Jack Higgins’ THE KILLING GROUND: “And so an operation is mounted, Colts and Walthers bang away at targets endlessly available, body bags fill – can any other thrillmeister equal the Higgins corpse-per-page count? – and finally there’s the obligatory OK Corral variation, during which, for the sake of us all, Dillon & Co. must nail the Hammer. Higgins’ 37th: You get what you get,” asserts the pithily pedantic Mr and Mrs Kirkus, via Barnes & Noble … Finally, CAP’s current stalkee, Ruth Dudley Edwards, gets the hup-ya from Publishers’ Weekly, again via Barnes & Noble: “Dudley Edwards wittily satirizes political correctness in this fast-paced academic romp,” say they, and Bernard ‘Shining’ Knight is of no mind to disagree over at It’s A Crime!: “Though a rumbustious and often farcical tale, there is no doubt that Ruth Dudley Edwards is using the story to grind a damned great axe and I loved every paragraph, as it accorded with my own view of this awful Western World.” Cuddly Dudley Edwards wielding an axe? Yea, verily, the mind boggleth …

Sunday, November 25, 2007

“Mr Pot? Your Kettle Is Waiting.”

The Rap Sheet, bless its cotton socks, brings our attention to the John Banville (right) essay Criminal Odes in the current issue of Book Forum, in which Benny Blanco’s alter ego throws the eye over THE BLACK LIZARD BIG BOOK OF PULPS, edited by Otto Penzler. “It’s a good piece overall,” comments The Rap Sheet’s Grand Vizier J. Kingston Pierce, “though Banville tries a bit too ardently to prevent the grit of this genre’s untidy roots from getting under his nails.” A case in point, perhaps, being Benny’s appraisal of Ray Chandler’s work, to wit:
“On mature reflection, I consider the Marlowe books forced and even a touch sentimental, for all their elegance and wit and wonderful sheen … Chandler perhaps laboured too long and too hard at effecting the transmutation of life’s raw material into deathless prose.”
Take that, damned Pot! Feel the wrath of the Mighty Kettle! For lo! here’s Benny holding forth on the writing process in last week’s Irish edition of the Sunday Times, to wit:
For one thing, these days Banville is revelling in the freedom afforded by his guise as a crime novelist. “On the brink of old age, I’m suddenly having fun,” he says. “I didn’t realise writing novels as so easy until I became Benjamin Black – you just sit there and make it up as you go along. I mean, John Banville will work on a sentence for half a day; Benjamin just goes, ‘Bugger it, that’ll do.’”
No labouring too long and too hard for ol’ Benny Blanco, eh? Because that deathless prose malarkey is only for serious writers. Except Ray Chandler, obviously.