A Grand Vizier writes: The idea behind ‘Mi Casa, Su Casa’ is to give guest bloggers the few molecules of oxygen of publicity Crime Always Pays can provide, in the process offering some fresh perspectives on crime fiction in general and Irish crime fiction in particular. And so, with minimum fanfare – a tiny tootle there, please, maestro – here’s Sam Millar (right) on the inspiration behind BLOODSTORM.
The Colombian Connection
The day wasn’t too bad, despite a deep depression biting through my arse. A voice called to me in soft broken English, mixing with the lilt of Spanish. Melodic. Seductive. Like rum being poured over dark chocolate. Ah, if only it had been a woman …
“Irish. Why walk alone? You have many friends. Remember always.”
My parents christened me Sam, but to him and the rest of the Hispanic population I was ‘Irish’, the guy from Be-fast.
He was from Colombia. Carlos his name. Drugs his game. Despite his notoriety in the penitentiary – oh, I did mention I was in an American penitentiary? Sorry. Must have slipped my mind – anyway, I always found him to be a gentleman, and will forever be in his debt for introducing me to Cormac McCarthy’s books and plays.
Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that the penitentiary can be pretty grim (there’s an oxymoron for you), but he helped alleviate some of my anxiety. Admittedly, there were times when I wasn’t the most communicative – knowing I was probably never going to be released or ever see Ireland again, can quickly kill the craic in a man – but he refused to allow me to wallow in self-pity.
“You hear about the women prisoners on the news last night?” he asked, his handsome face turning ugly.
“Yes. Horrendous …”
Over a three-year period, a group of Hispanic women in the nearby women’s prison had been systematically abused and raped by the screws, culminating in the death of one of the women. Had her death not happened, only the devil knows how long the abuse would have continued unreported for? Such is justice …
“You get out – you write. You tell people in Be-fast and Air-land what happens to Hispanic women in these prisons. Okay?”
“I’m never getting out, Carlos. There isn’t much chance of writing other than the prison news-sheet.”
“You write. Okay?”
“Okay,” I agreed, knowing it was never going to happen.
Two weeks later, the strangest of things did happen. Bill Clinton pardoned me, and sent me back to Air-land. If you believe in God, you would possibly suspect the old miracle cabinet had been opened. A friend summed it up much better, a few months later: “You were always a jammy bastard. Some people were born with a horseshoe up their arse, but you were born with an entire stable!”
And so to the publication of BLOODSTORM, a fictionalised account of how I perceived the women victims of prison barbarity would have wanted justice to be implemented. Despite the fact the story is based in Ireland, and Belfast in particular, its theme is universal and could be any country in the world. It’s a dark tale of revenge, served very cold indeed … - Sam Millar
Sam Millar’s BLOODSTORM is published on March 4.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.