“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.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

“You Dropped Something, Sir. It Appears To Be A Name.”

“It’s always nice to step outside your life for a few days, and Bristol Crime Fest 2008 brought together your humble host’s (right) idea of a perfect storm of good people, strong drink and books. Highlights included:
Peter Guttridge playing The Who’s Substitute during his interview of Ian Rankin, which was fascinating not for Rankin’s insights on Rebus, particularly, but for his willingness to explore the narrative form in opera, comic book, novella, along with an upcoming standalone non-Rebus novel;
  Meeting – all too briefly, sadly – Tony Black, Nick Stone and Martyn Waites in the same fifteen-minute period as they hailed taxis while your humble host was lurking outside the Royal Marriott. Three cheers for the smoking ban, eh?
  Losing out to Ruth Dudley Edwards in the Last Laugh Award during the gala dinner, if only because it allowed us to see the erstwhile Iron Woman of Irish journalism moist-eyed in the aftermath;
  Talking faith and reason with The Hardest Working Man in Crime Fiction™, aka Ali Karim, over a couple of smokes on the banqueting hall’s terrace. Three cheers for the smoking ban, eh?
  Being regaled with entirely inappropriate Celtic FC football songs by Declan Hughes in the ‘Champagne Cocktail Lounge’ at 2am;
  Meeting the effortlessly suave and self-effacing Martin Edwards via the good works of Maxine Clarke, only to discover days later that the modest bugger had a book being launched this week, WATERLOO SUNSET;
  Discovering I was at the same table, during the gala dinner, with the radiant Ruth Downie, who appeared to be on a one-woman mission to rehabilitate the little black number cocktail dress, and succeeding handsomely;
  Receiving, at some blurred point in Saturday’s proceedings, an email via text message that began, “Dear Declan Hughes, I read and enjoyed your PI novel THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD …”
  Sharing a panel, moderated by Peter Guttridge, with Len Tyler, Ruth Dudley Edwards and Allan Guthrie in which the topic under discussion was comedy in crime fiction (seriously, people: comedy on a Sunday morning with the mother-in-law of all hangovers?) in which your humble host managed to insult the Irish ex-taoiseach, Ian Rankin and right-thinking people of good taste everywhere. Like, how’s a man supposed to concentrate with Donna Moore sitting in the third row?
  Scoffing Sunday morning champagne in the company of Ruth Dudley Edwards and Declan Hughes (right, pic courtesy of Rhian), Ms ‘It’s A Crime!’ herself, the lovely Pat and Ruth’s equally lovely agent, who listened very politely, but with the kind of expression you might wear gazing upon a chimp juggling chainsaws, at the story behind THE BIG O’s co-publication with Hag’s Head Press.
  “There were many other brief encounters over the weekend but really Bristol Crime Fest wasn’t about names or particular conversations or panels or insights into the craft and skill of blackening pages. Rather it was the easy ambience, the taking for granted that what you did required no justification or explanation, and knowing that you were highly unlikely to hear the dreaded question, “So – have you any plans to write a proper novel?” It was the delicious indulgence of being able to step sideways out of your life for two or three days and allow yourself to believe that you’re a real writer, not some chancing wastrel who – when lucky – manages to scrape together a couple of hours of words that take so long to hack into some kind of readability that you might as well be using chisel and stone. It was the camaraderie of fellow story-tellers, very few of whom were overly concerned with telling you how wonderful they were, mainly because everyone seemed to think everyone else was pretty wonderful. And if all that sounds a little sickly-sweet and sentimental, then so be it – life just ain’t that way for most writers, and who can blame anyone for wanting to live the dream for one paltry weekend?
  “In fact, the only downside to the entire weekend was being away from Mrs Girl, aka Lilyput (right, with her new best friend, Taff, courtesy of the good works of Rhian), and wondering all the while whether she’d remember her dad when he got back from gallivanting around Bristol. But even that, in hindsight, proved the most positive thing about the entire exercise – one, that I can survive without her for short periods if required, and she me; and two, as of last weekend, that that ‘if’ is a very, very big ‘if’ indeed. Books are wonderful things, as you already know; but they’re no Lilyput. Peace, out.”

4 comments:

maxine said...

Declan, something has happened to Lily while you were away. She Now Looks Like You. (In this particular picture anyway.) I had not seen that before. Make of it what you will.
BTW my review of Waterloo Sunset is on ShotsMag! I liked it a lot. Not as hard boiled as some of you Irish lot, though. But v funny, 12st, 2 eggs and a packet of bullets.

(PS When are you going to write a real book? The cruelty. There aren't really people around like that, are there? The genre is sublime - good enough for Shakespeare and the authors of the Bible, anyway.)

Josh Schrank said...

A real book? hmmm... Dec, lead with a left jab and then come out with a right roundhouse.. She'll never see it coming.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Maxine - A lot of Aileen's friends are saying the same thing ... but I don't know if it's such a good thing that a little girl should look like a grizzled wreck. I'm still chuffed, of course ... over the moon. As for the 'real book' comments ... crime fiction isn't taken as seriously as other genres in this country yet, we've been late bloomers in that respect. But it's still early days ... Josh? Anyone who would use the phrase 'a real book' is (a) obviously a poltroon and (b) taking themselves way too seriously for me to waste perfectly good violence on. Cheers, Dec

bookwitch said...

Don't listen to Maxine. Lily looks, more than ever, like that beautiful lady you sometimes show us pictures of. Your wife, is it?