“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.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

The Mekon Shall Inherit The Earth

Peter Rozovsky (right) denies that he has ‘a brain the size of a planet’, but we’re not so sure given the wealth and depth of information he offers on a daily basis over at Detectives Beyond Borders. DBB, if you haven’t come across it before, is a superb window onto international crime fiction, and Peter is this week hosting the Carnival of the Criminal Minds, which is now in its eighth incarnation. Meet you at the Whack-A-Mole stand, people …

Friday, January 18, 2008

There’s No Business Like Poe Business

The Edgar 2008 nominations are out and up, and it’s a pretty good showing for Irish crime fiction, with Ken Bruen’s (right) PRIEST and Benny Blanco’s CHRISTINE FALLS vying for 'Best Novel' alongside Michael Chabon, John Hart and Reed Farrel Coleman. Meanwhile, Tana French has minxed her way into the 'Best First Novel by an American Author' category on the basis that she was born in Vermont, which seems fair enough to us. For the exhaustive list of categories and nominations, jump over here.
BEST NOVEL
Christine Falls by Benjamin Black (Henry Holt and Company)
Priest by Ken Bruen (St. Martin’s Minotaur)
The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chabon (HarperCollins)
Soul Patch by Reed Farrel Coleman (Bleak House Books)
Down River by John Hart (St. Martin’s Minotaur)

BEST FIRST NOVEL BY AN AMERICAN AUTHOR
Missing Witness by Gordon Campbell (HarperCollins - William Morrow)
In the Woods by Tana French (Penguin Group - Viking)
Snitch Jacket by Christopher Goffard (The Rookery Press)
Head Games by Craig McDonald (Bleak House Books)
Pyres by Derek Nikitas (St. Martin's Minotaur)

BEST PAPERBACK ORIGINAL
Queenpin by Megan Abbott (Simon & Schuster)
Blood of Paradise by David Corbett (Random House - Mortalis)
Cruel Poetry by Vicki Hendricks (Serpent’s Tail)
Robbie’s Wife by Russell Hill (Hard Case Crime)
Who is Conrad Hirst? by Kevin Wignall (Simon & Schuster)

Funky Friday’s Freaky-Deak

Being our slightly jaundiced look back over the Irish crime fiction week that was, to wit: Arlene Hunt’s MISSING PRESUMED DEAD got its paperback release and pole-vaulted into the bestseller list, prompting in no little amount of gadzooking around at chez Hunt: “While sitting here at my desk earlier, chewing the end of a biro to ribbons and pondering the imponderable, namely how in the name of shark-jumping I was going to get John out of the scrape I’d just written him into, my telephone rang. Wearily, blearily, none too cheerily, I got up and went to throttle the offending racket. But gadzooks! Stall the ball! Hold yer horses. For it was news, good news, the sort of news Tuesdays never bring forth. MISSING PRESUMED DEAD is number five in the bestsellers list in Ireland!” Yaaaay! … Meanwhile, no one bothered to tell us that Darren Shan, prodigious and bestselling YA author, is shooting for the adult market when PROCESSION OF THE DEAD is released on February 25 … Ditto for THE INSIDER: THE PRISON DIARIES OF EAMONN BOYCE, which was published by Lilliput back in November. Like, was it something we said, people? Happily, the ever-lovely folk at Hodder Headline Ireland saw fit to pop a copy of Stephen Leather’s latest, DEAD MEN, in the post. It hits the shelves on January 24 … Marshal Zeringue was kind enough to wrassle our humble offering THE BIG O to the ground and Page 99 it until it uncled … Irish Independent columnist Kevin Myers (right) took a pop at gun crime and the Irish political classes, the gist of the piece running thusly: “For we have criminal gun crime for the same reasons that IRA gun crime went on for so long: because our political classes have not been shot, and are too morally inert to have taken the necessary action to have crushed either terrorist or criminal. But just one gangland killing, just one, among the precious 4 and 6 brigade, and by God, policing priorities would soon change. Until then, our political establishment will not really care what happens in working-class housing estates. If it really did, Garda Commissioner Murphy’s head would be on a stake outside Dublin Castle for even daring to promise a mere 2pc drop in crime in exchange for an 11pc increase in resources. Instead, his bonce is still on his shoulders, and the outcry from TDs over the ploddish modesty of his ambitions could have been completely drowned out by the din of tadpoles darning their socks.” Yep, those blummin’ tadpoles, darning while Rome burns … Finally, here’s Oscar-winning director Martin McDonagh introducing the trailer for the upcoming IN BRUGES, which stars Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson and Ralph Fiennes in which looks a lot like an Irish take on an Elmore Leonard-style caper flick. “If I’d grown up on a farm and was retarded, Bruges might impress me. But I didn’t, soooo … it doesn’t.” Maybe not, but the movie impressed Clint at Ain't It Cool News. Roll it there, Collette …

Being Benny Blanco

Ice Box Films turned in an excellent documentary on RTE during the week, the subject being Benny Blanco from the Bronx, aka Benjamin Black, aka John Banville. Produced by Clíona Ní Bhuachalla and directed by Charlie McCarthy, ‘Being John Banville’ was one of those rare pleasures, unafraid to present one man talking about writing unadorned by gimcrack editing or flash-whizz-bang pyrotechnics to jazz things up. The vid has Banville rubbishing the first draft of THE SILVER SWAN, dissing Benny B and explaining his metamorphosis into a potentially soul-destroying popular genre writer, complete with – oh yes! – that all-important Mephistophelian reference. If you’re good, we’ll bring you some more next week …

Thursday, January 17, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 1,413: Steve Mosby

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?
That’s an easy one for me, assuming I can get away with a thriller: GREEN RIVER RISING by Tim Willocks. I love everything about that book, from the set-up to the characters and the journey they go on. From about the fifth chapter to the last, it’s almost non-stop action and violence, and yet it also creates a really powerful emotional connection between the reader and the characters involved. It shows the best and worst of people in a setting that rapidly descends into hell, and it’s one of the few books I can read again and again. Superb stuff. Although, like most books I really admire, I tend to think ‘there’s no way on earth I could ever have written that’.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t really have anyone for this, mainly because I’ll read anything I think looks good and I never feel guilty about it. If there’s pleasure from reading, there shouldn’t ever be guilt. The closest I can come is really trashy horror: stuff like Rex Miller’s SLOB, or Edward Lee’s BIGHEAD, or even some of Richard Laymon’s stuff. Books where the violence is almost pornographic, but you keep reading either despite or because of that. I don’t feel guilty about it though.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I realised I could write full-time. I was working for a research group at Leeds University for several years, but I was temp staff and eventually the funding ran out and I got made redundant. I took a small pay-off and just thought ‘I’ll write for a couple of months, then get something else’, and a week later I sold some foreign rights which meant I could keep going. It won’t last forever but in the meantime it’s changed my life and means I can do what I always dreamed of. Nothing could really be better.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
This is where you have to get the rubber hose out, because I haven’t got a clue. I never pay attention to nationalities of writers. They’re all just books to me. I may have read hundreds of Irish crime novels without even realising. But assuming I can get away with an Irish writer, I guess it would be John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING. But, as I just said, it might not be. Actually, stretching the definition to absolute breaking point, it could be Dennis Lehane’s MYSTIC RIVER, but I know I’m pushing my luck there.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Well, I’ve always thought John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING would look pretty good on the big screen ... (cough).
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing for me is being able to do something I love, especially on the days when it’s all going well. There’s not much that can compare with being paid to do something you’d do anyway, especially when so many people hate their day jobs. In that light, ‘worst’ doesn’t really figure, although I guess you could say writing is sometimes really, really difficult, but not in a way you can complain about. I can’t say to my friends “work is really stressful at the moment”, because they’d just say “you sit at home and imagine stuff – shut up”. Or maybe the answer to both questions is the weird moment when you first see your book in a shop. You think ‘wow!’. And then you see the sixty thousand books crowded around it and think ‘hmmm’...
The pitch for your next novel is …?
The next one is out in May, and it’s called CRY FOR HELP. The book’s about a guy who doesn’t kill people, but ties them up in their homes and leaves them to die of dehydration, then taunts the friends and families who didn’t care enough to check up on them. Beyond that, it’s difficult to say much. But it involves conjuring, drug dealers, psychic debunkers, extreme violence, love, ex-love, mobile phones, guns, more extreme violence, and then the twists start.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading John Rickards’ latest, BURIAL GROUND, at the moment (which is great so far), and looking forward to crime novels by Kevin Wignall, R. J. Ellory and John Connor, and also some sci-fi from Richard Morgan and Simon Logan. And I have Ken Bruen’s PRIEST to read, as well, which is one I do know is Irish.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Dark, cruel and emotional. Other people might not be so kind ...

Steve Mosby’s THE 50/50 KILLER has been short-listed for a Spinetingler Award.

“As God Is My Witness, They’re Not Going To Lick Me.”

The Times recently made Tana French’s (right) IN THE WOODS a readers’ book-group pick, with Alyson Rudd mediating, and the verdict – or mixed verdicts – are coming in thick and fast over here. As part of the piece, Rudd had a quick Q&A with Tana, to wit:
AR: Knocknaree – is this an imaginary place?
TF: “Imaginary, but unfortunately there are a lot of places in Ireland that fit the general description: hugely important archaeological sites destroyed by development. Ireland’s at a very strange point – over the past ten years the economic boom has hit us with decades’ worth of changes, and we’re still trying to assimilate them and find a way to balance past, present and future.”
In a nutshell, Ireland today could be summarised by a couple of news stories that just won’t quit rumbling on: the impending demolition of the 5,000-year-old Tara, seat of the ancient Irish high kings, to make way for a motorway (‘Knocknaree’ translates from the Irish as ‘the Hill of the Kings’); and the (totally unrelated) appalling vista of an taoiseach Bertie Ahern’s regular attempts to explain to the Mahon Tribunal where all the cash payments came from way back when, the Mahon Tribunal concerning itself with the possibility of improper influence exerted on politicians in matters of planning and development. Sure isn’t it all great craic all the same?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Crime Poetry: It’s The New Black

We’re not worthy, etc. The venerable Critical Mick gets in touch to give us a heads up on a rather intriguing event planned by the Shoestring Collective, the gist of his communiqué running thusly:
“Just thought I’d help a buddy out and forward on word about this funky forthcoming event. Colm Keegan [right] is not only a poet, he also pulls off the grittiest accounts of Dublin scumbaggery that I have read. Nice little crime pieces about punching gardaí in nightclubs, drinking by the canal, racing rings around the M50 on cocaine ...”
Said Colm Keegan, who has twice been short-listed for the prestigious Sunday Tribune / Hennessy Short Story Award, being just one element of the Shoestring Collective, which features jazz, comedy, film and traditional Irish music. Oh, did we mention Ireland’s first and possibly only ever crime poet, Said Colm Keegan? To wit:
One Kick

One kick, one tiny flick
Of his two year old foot
And I was hooked
No matter what
His mother did
My chubby, soccer-mad little kid
Would feel my care
Forever
But I never,
Saw a day like this
When his broken mother’s courtroom kiss
Would be all he’d have
For the next ten years
No sun-filled summers,
No glittering careers
Just tears
And regret
For the man he bet,
And the way
one flick
One drunk and deadly
too strong kick
Can crush a skull
The Shoestring Collective goes down on Saturday, January 19th at the James Joyce Centre, 35 North Great George’s Street, Dublin 1. Tickets available on the night at the James Joyce Centre. Doors open at 7.50pm. Price €10. Strictly no admission after 8.25pm. Show ends 11pm. For further information contact: Stephen Kennedy 087 4196365 or Sandra Adams 085 111 3740.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Super Furry Animals

The fantastic folk at Fantasy Book Spot bring us the first sighting of Benny Blanco’s THE LEMUR, the follow-up to THE SILVER SWAN, which is currently being serialised in the New York Times on Sundays. The first paragraph, which suggests Blanco has updated the series a tad from 1950’s Ireland, runneth thusly:
“The researcher was a very tall, very thin young man with a head too small for his frame and an Adam’s apple the size of a golf ball. He wore rimless spectacles, the lenses of which were almost invisible, the shine of the glass giving an extra lustre to his large, round, slightly bulging black eyes. A spur of blond hair sprouted from his chin, and his brow, high and domed, was pitted with acne scars. His hands were slender and pearly pale, with long, tapering fingers — a girl’s hands, or at least the hands a girl should have. Even though he was sitting down, the crotch of his baggy jeans sagged halfway to his knees. His none-too-clean T-shirt bore the legend “Life Sucks and Then You Die.” He looked about 17 but must be, John Glass guessed, in his late 20s, at least. With that long neck and little head and those big, shiny eyes, he bore a strong resemblance to one of the more exotic rodents, though for the moment Glass could not think which one.”
We’re betting it’s Mickey Mouse. For the rest, jump over here

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 1,072: Ruth Dudley Edwards

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?
Reginald Hill’s ON BEULAH HEIGHT.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t have guilt about anything I read, though I’ve plenty about what I haven’t read. Since crime is not my day job, much though I love it, I haven’t time to read much of it.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Realising that although I thought I wanted to write straight novels, and wondered why the jokes kept coming, what I really was cut out for was satire.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I haven’t read many (see above) but I’m very impressed by Benjamin Black.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Black’s CHRISTINE FALLS.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is that is for most of us, it doesn’t pay. The best is the crime-writing world, which is full of exceptionally agreeable people.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
A satire about contemporary art – provisionally called KILLING THE EMPERORS - in which I will slay gallery owners and critics as well as the creators of talentless, pretentious rubbish.
Who are you reading right now?
In crime, when I get a chance, Mike Ripley, who is a hilarious writer about the London low-life scene.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
It’s a phrase: ‘subverting political correctness’.

Ruth Dudley Edwards’ MURDERING AMERICANS is available now

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “If you don’t know either Bruen or Starr’s writing, they’re both masters of thinking up the most degenerate shit to put people through and then getting it on the page … These guys are among the reigning kings of the darkest of dark noir. And it’s not just because they’re so twisted … they really do tell a damn fine story,” says Rob at 52 Novels of SLIDE. Over at Book Reporter, Joe Hartlaub is equally impressed with BUST: “This is a dark, gritty and inappropriately hilarious cautionary tale – exquisitely conceived and flawlessly written – about getting what you think you want and regretting it, and the endless consequences of evil deeds.” Nice … Mack Lundy at Mack Pitches Up likes Ingrid Black’s THE JUDAS HEART: “I really enjoyed this book and rate it one of my top reads of 2007,” and so does Max at Revish: “THE JUDAS HEART is one of the best crime thrillers I read in 2007 … This is a good, fast-paced story that pulled me in from the beginning and kept me interested throughout … a cracking good read.” Strangely Connected dives into Adrian McKinty’s back catalogue to consider HIDDEN RIVER: “As in his first book, McKinty’s prose is sharp, well-paced, and compelling. But I think I like DEAD I MAY WELL BE better because it was bleaker, more noir, and its Michael Forsyth was somehow more real than Alex Norton.” They won’t stop coming for Benny Blanco: “Further novels in this series are planned – they are superbly written, with very strong characterisation and a fantastic picture of Dublin and Ireland before the Celtic Tiger was even a cub,” says Trapnel at Books to Furnish a Room of CHRISTINE FALLS and THE SILVER SWAN. Harriet Klausner at Genre Go-Round Reviews agrees: “This sequel to the superb CHRISTINE FALLS is an excellent investigative thriller that grips the audience … THE SILVER SWAN is a great Irish whodunit,” while John Dugdale at the Sunday Times (no link) chips in with, “Although it recalls the 1930s London of Graham Greene or Patrick Hamilton, Black’s 1950s Dublin is more poisonously village-like, intensifying the sense of everyone watching everyone else.” Which, presumably, is a good thing … Dugdale also liked Ronan Bennett’s ZUGZWANG: “It’s an enjoyable brainy caper … with Buchanesque derring-do, Pynchonesque blending of politics and cultural trends, and sex scenes a la The White Room – there’s a feeling of the whole exercise being a literary version of role play.” Over at the Mail on Sunday, Eithne Farry got her hands on an early copy of Ronan O’Brien’s CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL: “Author Ronan O’Brien has a fine sense of drama, marrying the minutiae of everyday life to the extraordinary, with spirited aplomb.” Finally, Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT showed up in Terri Schlichenmeyer’s Best Books of 2007 for the Argus Observer: “Great for adults as well as kids, this gentle mystery with a magic skeleton detective was fun and it made me laugh. What more could a kid — of any size — want?” Quippe at Live Journal agrees: “The latest children’s / YA book to inherit the title ‘The Next Harry Potter’, this comes a lot closer than most. Landy’s experience as a scriptwriter really shines through in the dialogue of this novel, which snaps and crackles with wit and whilst there’s a curiously old-fashioned feel to the narrative, it’s very easy to buy into and reflects the world he’s created.” Snaps, crackles and damn near pops off the page, ma’am …

If It Ain’t Fixed, Don’t Broke It


Where’d you get a gun like this? he said.
At the gittin place.
  Cormac McCarthy, ALL THE PRETTY HORSES (1992)

Where’d you get that pistol? she called.
At the gettin place.
  Cormac McCarthy, NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2005)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

And Now A Quick Huzzah For The Short-Term Benefits To Society Of Violent Crime

There’s an interesting piece by the ever-lovely Nadine O’Regan (right) in the Sunday Business Post about the correlation between of on-screen violence and real-life violent crime – or, we should say, the apparent absence of any correlation. Quoth Nadine:
“[I]t came as an absolute delight this week to read the results of a new American study, which suggests that films like the bloody but brilliant No Country for Old Men and Eastern Promises might be – far from what the doomsday psychologists have prophesied – exactly what people need to keep them away from dangerous behaviour of an evening. According to the figures in the survey, in the last decade, screenings of violent films in the US have decreased assaults by an average of about 1,000 a weekend. ”In the short run, if you take away violent movies, you’re going to increase violent crime,” Gordon Dahl, the study’s co-author, an economist at the University of California, San Diego, has said. Dahl and his co-author, Stefano Della Vigna, an economist at the University of California, Berkeley, are not claiming that violent films are never a problem – they make clear their studies do not address the long-term effects of exposure to violent images.”
For the full paper, jump on over here