“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 26, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

“This is the best first thriller I’ve read since THE DAY OF THE JACKAL,” says Wilbur Smith of Tom Cain’s THE ACCIDENT MAN, and a certain Ali Karim likes it too. Due out in paperback on January 28, the blurb runneth thusly:
Meet the Accident Man, Samuel Carver. Carver is a good guy who makes bad things happen to bad people. Drug-baron’s helicopter develops mechanical failure mid-flight: Samuel Carver. Terrorist blown-up in his own bomb factory: Samuel Carver. Ex-SAS, now freelance mercenary, he is the frontline weapon of the ‘Consortium’, a black-ops British government outfit – or is it? Carver is called to do a hit at very short notice. Do this job for us and be paid very well. Refuse and you better run and hide. He believes the target to be a high-ranking Pakistani terrorist. The job is to organise a car crash in a Paris underpass. But Carver is being set up. When he discovers the real identity of his target, and more importantly the identity of the target’s female companion, he knows one thing – his life is over. This is a secret too big to let him live, unless he can track down the real villains before they get to him. Combining the plotting of Robert Ludlum, with the pace and tension of Frederick Forsyth, Tom Cain is a major new thriller writer and THE ACCIDENT MAN is a classic in the making and launches Samuel Carver straight into the top rank of action heroes.
Hurrah! The lovely people at Bantam Press are giving away three copies, and one of them can be yours if you answer the following question:
Is Tom Cain ...?
(a) Abel’s brother.
(b) James M.’s great-grand-nephew.
(c) Neither, you moron, it’s a pseudonym.
To be in with a chance of winning a copy of THE ACCIDENT MAN, send your answer to dbrodb(at)gmail.com before noon on Wednesday January 30, putting ‘Neither, you moron’ in the subject line. Et bon chance, mes amis

Death To THE BIG O

Marshal Zeringue was kind enough to ask us to submit our humble offering THE BIG O to the Page 99 Test, apropos Ford Madox Ford’s dictum, “Open the book to page ninety-nine and read, and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you.” The results runneth thusly:
  The belly, yeah, thickening up, the love-handles running flabby, the stretch-marks like trenches from some abandoned war. But what did they expect, she was fifty-fucking-one, had twins for Chrissakes …

  The kick for Madge wasn’t so much the mellow buzz, the chilling out. No, what Madge enjoyed best was that she, Margaret Dolan, mother of twins, was smoking grass, weed, pot, call it whatever. All the movies she’d ever seen, the hippies rolling up in a haze of smoke, Madge’d wondered, okay, it looks fun but how’s it
feel?
I’ve always liked the Pixies’ style, that quiet-LOUD-quiet dynamic they had, and THE BIG O is organised along those lines: fast-slooooow-fast-fast. Page 99 (the start and finish of which is given above) comes in the middle of one of the slow chapters, in which the ostensibly refined Madge contemplates her recently pierced navel while smoking a joint in a parking lot.
  The chapter concludes with Madge, soon to be divorced, deciding she’s ready for some life-changing action. What Madge can’t know, but the reader already does, is that her life is about to change irrevocably – Madge’s ex-husband, Frank, has arranged for her to be kidnapped, and intends absconding with the ransom his insurance company will pay out.
  The majority of THE BIG O is pacy and dialogue-driven, so page 99 isn’t very representative of the whole. On the other hand, Madge is emblematic of most of the characters, all of whom are trying to break out of their lives of quiet desperation without realising that they’re caught up in a broader narrative that will, despite their best efforts, thwart their ambitions and deflect them away from their hoped-for destination.
  This in turn feeds into the novel’s overarching theme, that of life as black farce which requires constant adaptation and reinvention, especially in the most daunting of circumstances. I suppose it’s because I generally tend to feel that the inability of people, myself included, to accept or even recognise their limitations is in equal measures funny, moving and inspiring.
  In that sense, page 99 is probably as pure a synthesis of what I was hoping to achieve as any other page in THE BIG O. If I’d known I’d be taking this test, though, I’d have included a few explosions.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Creature From The Black Lagoon

John Banville (right) recently unburdened himself to The Age’s Tom Adair, ruminating about the phenomenon that is Benny Blanco, aka Benjamin Black. Sample outtakes runneth thusly:
“Now, looking back I think the invention of Benjamin Black was John Banville’s ploy to find his way out of what was suspiciously like a rut. I took the pseudonym to indicate that the venture was not an elaborate, post-modernist, literary joke. It is straightforward. I simply discovered I had this facility for cheap fiction.”

“Yes, in a curious way, it’s something I can’t explain, I feel more estranged from the work of John Banville than from the novels of Benjamin Black. I’ve a certain pride in the Benjamin Black books. Those by Banville I hate and loathe and they embarrass me. They stand there, like a set of awful, unforgiven sins.”

So who sells better? “I couldn't tell you,” he says. “I don’t ask. It’s like asking your bank manager about your bank balance. It’s always a shock — or a disappointment.” Then he relents: “Black, in paperback I’d reckon, outsells Banville. But then, THE SEA — because of the Booker win — sold superbly. My great ambition,” he adds, “is for Black to win the Booker and later on to pick up the Nobel.”
Said with tongue, no doubt, very firmly wedged in cheek. The vid below is taken from the end of the excellent documentary screened on RTE recently, Being John Banville, which was directed by Charlie McCarthy for Ice Box Films, in which Benny may or may not have inadvertently hit the why-writers-write nail squarely on the head …

Reed All About It

Writing a newspaper feature on the Edgar nominees earlier this week, we asked a few people why they thought Irish crime fiction was becoming so popular in the US. Reed Farrel Coleman’s (right) answer came back a little late to meet the deadline, but given its generosity to Ken Bruen, a fellow nominee and theoretically a rival for the Edgar ‘Best Novel’ category, we thought we’d bring it to your attention. Quoth Reed:
“Ken Bruen and I have actually spent hours discussing this. I think Irish writers have a gift for lending soul and depth to darkness. It’s one thing to write dark, to write violence. It’s quite another thing to write it in a way that cuts through the intellect and defences we’ve built up to protect ourselves. I think the Irish writers have the hot knife that cuts through that stuff. It’s why I’m so honoured when Bruen asks if I don’t possess an Irish soul.”
The Big Question: How come crime writers are always so blummin’ nice to one another all the time?

Thursday, January 24, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 2,023: David M. Kiely

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?
THE DYING OF THE LIGHT by the great and unfortunately late Michael Dibdin.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Ted Dekker. It’s writing by numbers but it’s dark and lunatic.
Most satisfying writing moment?
My first favourable review.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE UNQUIET by John Connolly, his most mature to date.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Why, THE ANGEL TAPES, of course! Would need updating though.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Evaluating your own work is perhaps the worst thing. It’s also the best thing.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
The Faust legend reworked for c21.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m behind. JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL by Susanna Clarke. A staggering feat of imagination.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Varied, European, mercenary.

David M. Kiely’s THE ANGEL TAPES is a lost classic of Irish crime fiction.

The Pith and the Pendleton

Ho-hum. The debate as to what is and isn’t crime fiction rumbles on, for the most part between elves who really should be too busy polishing the Grand Vizier’s opal-encrusted codpiece for such flibberty-gibbet hair-splitting. Anyhoo, Michael Collins (right) (LOST SOULS, THE RESURRECTIONISTS) is considered by many to be more of a literary writer than a genre one, despite the fact that his novels often employ crime fiction tropes. In the vid below, Collins gets to the pith of what constitutes ‘genre-blending’ in the context of THE SECRET LIFE OF E. ROBERT PENDLETON (aka THE DEATH OF A WRITER) …

The Big Question: Should we get out more?

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE SILVER SWAN by Benjamin Black

In THE SILVER SWAN, Benjamin Black, aka John Banville, manages to put right every flaw that marred his crime fiction debut, CHRISTINE FALLS. Although the latter made compulsive reading, its pace and ‘baddies’ unfortunately stumbled into what seemed like a rushed ending. But Black has got the hang of this crime malarkey and the result is a superbly written, paced and characterised novel. The narrative follows three linear strands, told from the points of view of Quirke, the pathologist from CHRISTINE FALLS who’s now abstaining from alcohol and typically gets personally involved with this case; his niece/daughter Phoebe, who also gets involved in the action; and the eponymous Laura Swan, whose body is washed up on the rocks of Dalkey Island off Dublin. Did she kill herself or was she murdered? There are no prizes for guessing which, as THE SILVER SWAN is low on the ‘whodunit’ element – the villains reveal themselves early on – and high on telling a dark, sad story, gradually building its pace and wringing it to a dramatic denouement. The depiction of the setting itself is remarkably evocative and the shabby glamour of 1950’s Dublin presides over the story like a grande dame, as it did in CHRISTINE FALLS. – Claire Coughlan

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 2,014: Darren Laws

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?
MISS SMILLA’S FEELING FOR SNOW [by Peter Hoeg]. Not a typical crime novel, but like most Scandinavian authors, Hoeg manages to portray a great sense of brooding atmosphere, and develops truly flawed characters with gusto. I love the oddness of this book.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Chuck Palahniuk. I love this guy. Met him in London a few years back and he is one of the funniest and most charming authors I have met.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Typing the words ‘The End’, it is like lighting a cigarette after making love …
The best Irish crime novel is …?
John Connolly, EVERY DEAD THING.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
A novel into movies is always tricky. I think movies are more suited to good short stories.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: writing. Worst: never having enough time to write.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Plain mad. 1940’s noir sci-fi thriller set in New York and Mexico, supernatural, human trafficking, biological plague, love story … and I’m not kidding.
Who are you reading right now?
My reading list is depressing because it keeps growing but waiting to be read includes: Richard Dawkins’ THE GOD DELUSION, Chuck Palahniuk’s HAUNTED, Michael Connelly’s THE POET, Steven and Bannon’s BOOK OF POISONS, plus around 20 other novels and books.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Oh my god!

Darren Laws’ TURTLE ISLAND is published in paperback on February 4.

Ghosts In The Machine

So there we were, all ready to give Colin Bateman’s (right) – oops, sorry, Bateman’s – latest the big-up hup-ya, when news arrived via a distinctly dishevelled carrier pigeon that the opus will not, after all, be called GHOST TOWN. Boo. Quoth Master Bateman:
“Those many, many hundreds of thousands of you feverishly waiting for the next novel, GHOST TOWN, may tear up your cheques and cancel your Amazon orders. Fear not though – it’s only a change of title. All the way through writing it I called it ORPHEUS RISING and it was only on delivery that my publishers thought that was a bit unwieldy and we came up with GHOST TOWN instead. So ever since that’s what it has been – I actually have the cover for the book in the house (will that be worth something on Ebay? £5? Maybe £10) – but now for reasons which are a bit complicated, and at a very late stage, at least in publishing terms, we’re back to ORPHEUS RISING. Actually – and this has nothing to do with the title change, because it would actually have been quite helpful – the new film from Ricky Gervais, his first leading role, is also called GHOST TOWN, also set in America, and has quite a similar plot. I was looking forward to the confusion this would have caused, because he is an international superstar and comedy genius, and I still play five-a-side.”
And modest too, eh? ORPHEUS RISING (GHOST TOWN cover slightly modified by the elves after a hard night on the Elf-Wonking Juice™, right) enters the stratosphere on March 6, with the hard-pressed elves blurbing thusly:
Michael met Claire when she was dragging Paul de Luca, detective novel writer and owner of a porn shop, out of the sea after he’d lost his feet in a shark attack. Claire was living with local hard man Tommy, a Gulf War vet, at the time and Tommy was not impressed with Michael’s interest in his girl. When Tommy leaves town to be a roadie for a band playing a six-week stint on a cruise ship, Michael falls in love with Claire, they marry and he writes his novel. But then Claire is killed in the bank raid. Ten years later Michael returns to the scene of the crime to exorcise the ghosts of the past and try to write his second novel. But he discovers the grim truth behind his wife’s murder and encounters the strangest of small-town behaviour ...
The subtitle? ‘Love, Rockets and a Bloody Great Fish’. All together now: “We’re gonna need a bigger bookshelf …”

Another Day, Another $195.36

Linkmeister (we’re not worthy, etc.) very kindly brings our attention (via comment here) to the fact that our humble offering THE BIG O is currently retailing on Amazon.com for the princely sum of $195.36. Yep, that’s right - $195.36 (plus $3.99 post + packaging). And, while it’s nice to know the elves at Amazon.com are every bit as capable at getting it wrong once in a while as the elves here at CAP, even we’d be pushed to justify that kind of extravagance. So, purely as a public service announcement, we would like to gently direct you to the Hag’s Head Press website, where a spanking new copy of THE BIG O is available at a significantly cheaper and – let’s face it – far more plausible cost-to-worth price. No, don’t thank us, we’re only doing our job …

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “I have to say this is a memorable first novel and definitely a real page-turner … A brilliant debut novel and a book with such a deep psychological insight into life’s disappointments and missed opportunities that it left me a bit drained at the end,” says Uriah Robinson at Crime Scraps of Edgar-nominated Tana French’s IN THE WOODS. Gav at Next Read agrees: “French has created a well-crafted story with a believable, if highly fictional set events, told with strong compelling voice. A strong performing and haunting debut. I’m looking forward to seeing what she does next.” As does Kathy at For Your Consideration: “IN THE WOODS, by Tana French, is a gripping and involving thriller.” Meanwhile, Patricia Rainsford’s A SECRET PLACE gets the big-up from Alex Meehan at the Sunday Business Post thusly: “While A SECRET PLACE uses the conventions of the genre when it suits the plot, Rainsford isn’t afraid to chart her own course either. A confident and entertaining read.” Happy days for Limerick’s finest … Onward to Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY: “Colfer is in his own way just as inventive as J.K. Rowling was in the beginning of the Harry Potter series. He took the old stories about fairies and elfish creatures and gave them a funny new twist. He also introduced a cast of original, interesting and likeable characters,” says Sandra at Everybody Lies. Yes, but can we be certain she’s telling the truth? “You definitely can’t go wrong with an Artemis Fowl book. This one has to be one of my favourite ones to date, and featured an excellent addition to the cast of characters with a female rival for Artemis. These books are constantly clever, funny and highly enjoyable, and this was no exception,” says Hayley at her Live Journal. C.B at Ready When You Are, C.B. likes Edgar nominee Benny Blanco’s latest: “Mr. Banville uses a pen-name here, but CHRISTINE FALLS is certainly nothing to be ashamed of. CHRISTINE FALLS is a tightly written psychological mystery/thriller equal to the best of them. Benjamin Black may be the heir apparent to P.D. James’ throne … I’m giving CHRISTINE FALLS by Benjamin Black five out of five stars.” Over at Reviewing the Evidence, Nick Hay comes down in favour of Cormac Millar’s debut: “AN IRISH SOLUTION is a very considerable achievement … on finishing it I wanted to re-read it, and that makes it a rare mystery.” Finally, yet another Edgar nominee, Ken Bruen (in harness with Jason Starr) gets a serious hup-ya from David Montgomery at Mystery Ink: “Original, yet solidly within the classic noir tradition, [BUST] is one of the top guilty pleasures of the year.” Glenn Harper at International Noir, meanwhile, enjoyed AMMUNITION: “The Brant series is my favourite among Bruen’s books – though the Jack Taylor series is more serious and dark in tone, the Brant stories are funny, violent, and quick.” The only problem with Bruen is, the books go by too bloody quick …

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE by John McFetridge

Easy now. This is the good stuff. Too much and you’ll be reeling around the room, blissed on the possibility of how good John McFetridge might get. Set in Toronto, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE features an ensemble cast from both sides of the law, most of them spokes radiating out from Sharon, a single mother operating a low-level dope-growing operation. Gangs of Italians, South Asians and Angels, all grafting for a heavier slice of Toronto’s new prosperity; a Native American cop and his recently widowed partner investigating an apparent suicide while sitting on the powder keg of an internal affairs probe about to blow the Toronto force apart; Ray, a new face on the scene with an offer Sharon can’t refuse; Richard, the old flame now a power broker in the world of Canadian crime. A heady brew, but McFetridge marshals all the elements in a fluid tale that weaves in and out of various narratives in a manner akin to Elmore Leonard with a brevity of delivery that is almost an abbreviated form of style: “Canada, so generous to take them in. Thran’s father and his two uncles looking like scared refugees in front of the nice white people, got right to business doing exactly what they’d done back home. Pretty soon they had a nice little distribution network up and running. Didn’t even have to kill that many people.” But it’s the backdrop that makes the story. Toronto, much like the novel itself, is rapaciously ambitious, swaggeringly assured, brash beneath its cultured veneer, ripe with opportunity and tottering on the brink of anarchy. Sharon, her city and her country are in a state of flux that mirrors the ever-changing and ever-challenging nature of criminality itself, which the crime novel by necessity mirrors in its turn. For those with eyes to see, EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE is a shining moment of clarity in our confused grasping after some purpose in the chaos. – Declan Burke

Disclaimer:
It would be entirely remiss of us not to mention that EVERYBODY KNOWS THIS IS NOWHERE is being published in the US later this year by Harcourt, as is Declan Burke’s THE BIG O. The ugly spectre of bias thus raising its head, we direct you to Sarah Weinman for a second opinion. The simple fact of the matter is, as with Allan Guthrie and Ray Banks, who are also published by Harcourt, John McFetridge is a brilliant writer.

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Dying was the easy bit. It was during my life after death that things started to go wrong. A conspiracy of coincidences perhaps or else maybe some higher power was having a laugh at my expense. But when I returned from the other side I brought something fearful back with me …”
So beginneth Ronan O’Brien’s CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL, which sounds to us like an intriguing premise and vaguely reminiscent of the crime / supernatural crossover work of one John Connolly. Happily, the ever-lovely folk at Hodder Headline Ireland are offering three copies of said opus free, gratis and for nothing so that you don’t have to depend on our shoddy opinions, and all you have to do to get your grubby mitts on one is answer the following question:
If an angel falls in the forest and there’s no one around to hear its confession, does it:
(a) evaporate in a puff of celestial smoke;
(b) make like a tree and hope there’s a logger nearby;
(c) schlep out of the forest all the way to Ronan O’Brien’s house and dictate its memoirs to his secretary?
Answers to dbrodb(at)gmail.com before noon on Wednesday January 23, putting ‘Milton me arse’ in the subject line. Et bon chance, mes amis ...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Yes Sir, We Can Boogie

Jochem over at Sons of Spade was kind enough to review our original humble offering, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, although we reckon he might have been slightly biased in his opinion given that one of the main characters is called Dutchie. Or maybe not. Anyhoo, the gist of Jochem’s review runneth thusly:
“It could take you some time to get used to the Irish slang and setting but if you do you’ll enjoy this, edged with humour as black as the plot itself. Harry[Rigby] is a Guinness-soaked Philip Marlowe who gets in so many great wisecracks and one-liners this novel would’ve been the one to win the Best Wisecracks 2007 if it hadn’t come out years earlier. A lot of the charm from this book comes from the fact Harry feels like such a ‘regular’ kind of guy. He shows enough grit and smarts to be a satisfying protagonist, making sure you won’t mistake him for a cozy amateur sleuth, but the entire reading you’re not quite sure if he’s really going to make it out alive. A great book if you dig Ken Bruen’s stuff!”
Criminy! Ken Bruen? Truly our Guinness-charged cup over-floweth …