“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.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

John and Dec’s Most Excellent Adventure

I’ve mentioned once or twice in passing that I’ll be heading to the good ol’ US of A for the Baltimore Bouchercon (October 9-12), flying over a week early and into Toronto to take a road-trip with one John McFetridge, he of the ‘Canadian Elmore Leonard’ fame (rough itinerary, right). The basic plan is to meet as many crime fic readers and writers as possible, and generally accumulate some stories to tell the grandkids. It may be a cliché, but it’s been an ambition of mine to drive through New England in the Fall ever since, as a young boy, I came across a book called ROBERT FROST’S COUNTRY (published as ROBERT FROST’S NEW ENGLAND in the States), which juxtaposed snippets of Frost’s poetry with superb photography. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.
  It’s very early days yet in terms of planning, especially as John and I are about as organised as writers tend to be, but even before we’ve officially announced the trip, David Lampe-Wilson of Mystery on Main Street, in Brattleboro, Vermont, has signed us up for a reading event on Monday, October 5. Which is very, very nice indeed.
  I don’t want to overstate the significance of the trip, but here’s the truth – if I could somehow go back in time 25 years and tell that spotty, angsty, wannabe writer Declan Burke that he would one day be standing in a Vermont bookstore talking about books and writing, and specifically his own book, which had just been published in the U.S., and particularly in the company of a writer as fine as John McFetridge, then that poor unfortunate 14-year-old would very likely spontaneously combust in a paroxysm of joy. So it’s just as well I can’t.
  The point being, and again it’s a cliché, but the forthcoming trip to the States, to promote THE BIG O, is literally a dream come true.
  If all of that sounds embarrassingly naïve and gauche, I do apologise. But it would be dishonest to pretend to be cool about all of this. I spent my entire youth, and a goodly portion of my adulthood, striving to be cool, as most people tend to do. But now that I have the opportunity to live out a life-long dream so precious that for years I couldn’t even tell anyone about it? Screw cool.
  Anyhoos, the basic itinerary is in place – Toronto, Montreal, Boston, Brattleboro, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore. If you’re a crime fic fan and you’d like to suggest an interesting venue where John and I might find a few sympathetic ears, we’d love to hear from you. If you’re a bookstore owner, ditto. And if you’re neither, but simply want to suggest some interesting book-related diversions off the beaten track, please feel free.
  Finally, a word from Mr Frost, aka ‘stories to tell the grandkids’. And, yes, it’s another cliché …
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a road and I ––
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.