“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.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Embiggened O: Thus Spake Mr And Mrs Kirkus

You learn something new every day. For example, yesterday I learned that in Kirkus Reviews, ‘a star is assigned to books of unusual merit, determined by the editors’. Which is nice, because they gave our humble offering THE BIG O a starred review, with the verdict running thusly:
Imagine Donald Westlake and his alter ego Richard Stark moving to Ireland and collaborating on a screwball noir, and you have some idea of Burke’s accomplishment.
  Which is nice, especially given last week’s unpleasantness with Publishers Weekly. In fact, it’s a hell of a lot better than nice. I know that a lot of writers say they don’t pay attention to reviews, good or bad, but as a tyro trying to break through with his second novel, I can’t afford the luxury of being that blasé. I’m still at the very early stage where, if you’ll forgive the tortured metaphor, I’m like the first amphibian to take a tentative step onto dry land, and gasping for the oxygen of publicity.
  Given that context, to be mentioned in the same breath as Donald Westlake and his doppelganger Richard Stark is fairly mind-blowing, as you might imagine.
  And given the wider context, which is that THE BIG O was originally a co-published novel in cahoots with Marsha Swan of the tiny but perfectly formed Hag’s Head Press, which in turn involved stumping up half the publishing costs, which in turn amounted to a chunk of mortgage money shortly after I’d lost the job I was working in at the time, the Kirkus review is deeply, deeply satisfying, and a vindication of the leap of faith my wife Aileen took with me at the time.
  Yes, I know I’m making a mountain out of a molehill here. But the good days can be few and far between when you’re starting out as a writer, and it’d be wrong not to celebrate them when they do come along, not least because everyone who’s given THE BIG O and yours truly a little nudge along the way is entitled to share in the good karma. Happy days, people.