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?
I have to say two books here but they’re by the same author: CARLITO’S WAY and AFTER HOURS, both of which I’m completely mad about. Believe it or not, they’re written by a Supreme Court judge named Edwin Torres who as far as I know, still practices as a judge in New York City. The gangster narrator in his books is so credible and vibrant, he just leaps off the page.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Biographies or anything that is not fiction. I feel that a writer has to read a lot of fiction in order to stir the fires of his own imagination. Writing without ever reading other people’s work is like flying a plane that has run out of fuel: you’ll probably be okay for a while but there’s a mountain looming and you need something in the tank in order to soar above it.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I finally nailed the perfect ending for CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL on my sixth attempt, after some dark days when I had serious anguish about whether a satisfying ending was even possible.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Something by John Connolly, possibly THE UNQUIET. My favourite one of his books is THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, although I wouldn’t call that a crime novel.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I haven’t read all that many Irish crime novels, to be honest. Karen Gillece’s book, LONGSHORE DRIFT, is about an abducted child, so if that qualifies as a crime novel, then I’ll nominate that one. I thought it was great.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing as far as I’m concerned is writing to finish a book in time for a tight deadline because then you don’t have time to explore tangents that might lead to something great, or might lead to nothing. But when time is of the essence, then you don’t have the luxury of getting it wrong a couple of times before finally getting it right. And if you’re a slow writer like I am, it means you have to get the basic plot pretty much spot on at the first attempt. But then I stop and listen to myself, and think that I really don’t have much to moan about. There is nothing hard about being a writer compared to say, someone who works in a coalmine, or someone who unblocks sewers for a living. The best thing about being a writer is hearing complete strangers say that my book moved them to tears.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
It’s about three very different people whose lives become intertwined: a magician, an artist and a solicitor and it will make you laugh and make you cry. Needless to say, the lawyer is the evil one.
Who are you reading right now?
Bret Easton Ellis. I just finished LUNAR PARK which was weird and wonderful, and I’ll probably read AMERICAN PSYCHO next.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Unmissable, unputdownable, unforgettable.
CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL is Ronan O’Brien’s debut novel.
“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.