And so to the County Hall in Dun Laoghaire for Books 2008 and the first of the Irish crime writing panels, which featured Tana French, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan and Declan Hughes talking up ‘Heroes and Villains’, with Paul Johnston (right) in the moderator’s chair. Good stuff it was too, with Enid Blyton’s children’s mystery stories being cited as an early inspiration to more than one writer, Alex Barclay talking about charting ‘the evolution of a serial killer’ from child to adult, Tana French chatting about her fascination with what makes a person kill, Ruth Dudley Edwards touching on her fascination with what makes a person a victim, and Gene Kerrigan being intrigued by the kind of ordinary guy who ‘will babysit your children and then go to work the next day with a gun in his pocket’.
Afterwards, a young girl called Lily went around collecting the autographs of every writer present. It took the combined persuasion of John Connolly and Alex Barclay to convince her that the dubious-looking guy skulking by the door was, in fact, an author. “You know I’m not famous or anything,” I told her. “I don’t care,” she said, “if you’re a real writer.” I believe the children are our future, etc. I told her that my daughter’s name is Lily too. She was pleased about that. “Tell her I’m Lily Conlon,” she said. I will.
Eats and drinks were the order of the night in the aftermath, during which I discovered that Paul Johnston is (a) a top bloke and (b) the story I’m currently working on will need to be either reworked dramatically or scrapped entire. Which is a bit of a bummer, because I’ve been working on it for five or six years, on and off, and written close to half a million words. Still, Paul didn’t tell me anything I haven’t been secretly suspecting myself for quite some time now. And I did manage to postpone the nervous breakdown until I left the restaurant. So that was good.
Anyhoos, it’s upward and onward to this morning’s 11am panel, with Critical Mick waving the baton. The topic? ‘Real Fiction, Real Ireland’. Except when I was writing THE BIG O, I was very deliberately writing a story with a non-specific setting. Plus it’s a comedy crime caper that bears very little relation to reality. Should be fun …
“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. “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.