“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, March 22, 2008

On Celtic Tigers And Wingéd Elephants

It was bad enough seeing all those pink elephants on Paddy’s Day, but then we started seeing Wingéd Elephants – or one, at least, bearing the welcome news that Gerard Donovan has been beavering away over a hot stove-shaped sheet of paper. Quoth the Wingéd one’s blurb elves:
Gerard Donovan, author of JULIUS WINSOME and SUNLESS, examines the changing face of Ireland in YOUNG IRELANDERS, a stunning and elegiac collection of interrelated stories. In this marvellous volume coming in July 2008, Donovan returns to his home country of Ireland with a passion. The stories in YOUNG IRELANDERS shine a fresh light on the New Ireland and how the Irish are coping with its rewards and pressures: immigration, mid-life crisis, adultery and divorce, a lost sense of place and history, and of course, what to do with all that prosperity.
Erm, not at all well, as it happens, and it’ll be interesting to see how many of Donovan’s stories deal with the explosion in crime that has accompanied the Celtic Tiger. Given that the original Young Irelanders were prone to kicking out the jams once in a while, there’s a strong possibility that Donovan will be preaching some kind of radical social consciousness revolution. There’s also a strong possibility that he won’t. Only time, that notoriously prevaricating doity rat, will tell …

Friday, March 21, 2008

Funky Friday’s Freaky-Deak

It’s Friday, it’s funky, to wit: Peter Rozovsky at Detectives Beyond Borders is kind enough to get in touch to mention that In Reference To Murder is currently mentioning a rather unusual Irish crime fiction project. Quoth IRTM: “The show, written by Irish director and playwright Paul Walker, portrays the seedy underside of 1950s Dublin, when double-talking politicians professed piety but entertained prostitutes on the side. The play was first performed in the bathrooms at a large public park (St. Stephen’s Green), as part of the Dublin Fringe Festival, then later staged as part of the Edinburgh Fringe, where it won the Fringe First Award, and went on a mini-tour of England, playing to sold-out bathrooms in Brighton and Nottingham.” Hmmmm … As Peter says, ‘What I wonder is where the theatre-goers go if they have to use the john during intermission?’ … From the sublime to the ridiculous: “The BGS English Department, in association with the Parents’ Association, is to produce a compilation of new writing inspired and influenced by the work of ex-pupil and famous author, [(The Artist Formerly Known As)] Colin Bateman.” Gawd help us all … Sublime or ridiculous? YOU decide – there’s an excerpt from Benny Blanco’s THE SILVER SWAN available here, along with a video in which Benny holds forth about why he writes crime fiction, although we couldn’t get it to work … Now this is definitely sublime: Gerald So is kicking off a crime fiction poetry blog, with Sir Kenneth of Bruen among the contributors … The Book Witch has a very nice piece on the sadly missed Siobhan Dowd (right) over at her interweb yokeybus, while Carousel has an equally nice piece on the importance of The Siobhan Dowd Trust … Over at Crime Scene Norn Iron, Gerard Brennan has a review of the little-known THE LOST CHORD by Tony Bailie … Not content with wowing the cheeky tyke demographic in Scarborough last week, Derek Landy’s gone and done it again in Doncaster: “Thousands of Doncaster schoolkids voted in the town’s most popular ever book awards and Harry Potter and Alex Rider didn’t even make the shortlist. The winner – by a landslide according to the organisers – was Skulduggery Pleasant by Irish author Derek Landy.” To celebrate, CAP herewith posts a video of Derek waxing lyrical about Skulduggery in an interview with Book Love’s Jano Rohleder at last year’s Frankfurt Book Fair in Germany. Roll it there, Collette …

Hazel, Bigwig And Fiver Expect …

Mr and Mrs Grand Vizier (not pictured, right) would like to thank everyone who has cautiously enquired during the last week as to what the blummin’ hell is taking Baby Vizier so long at emerging into the world, and please be reassured that you will be amongst the first to know when the moment comes to pass – it being the Grand Vizier’s birthday, he for one is hoping for an Easter Bunny Sunday arrival. In the meantime, if anyone has any ideas of how to keep a veritable warren occupied until Baby Vizier arrives to keep them company at what is rapidly becoming something of a Watership Down refugee camp, the Grand Vizier is all floppy ears …

Laugh? We Almost Emigrated. Again.

Irish crime fiction covers most of the bases, whether it’s harrowing noir (Ken Bruen), the male PI (Vincent Banville, Declan Hughes), the female PI (Ingrid Black, KT McCaffrey), the male-and-female PI (Arlene Hunt), the literary mystery novel (Liam Durcan, Benny Blanco, Eoin McNamee), the historical mystery (Cora Harrison), the supernatural mystery (John Connolly), the hardboiled pulp (John McFetridge, Seamus Smyth), the policier (Tana French, Brian McGilloway, Gene Kerrigan), the psycho slasher (Alex Barclay), the balls-out tough guy (Adrian McKinty). What we don’t do a lot of is humour, Colin Bateman being the notable exception that proves the rule. Interviewed by Rosy over at Vulpus Libris, Catherine O’Flynn, the author of WHAT WAS LOST, touches on why readers tend not to take humorous books seriously, to wit:
Q. It is a bit of a cliché but it is often said that prizes usually go to bleak books. Do you think that people misunderstand comedy / humour when it comes to things like awards?
A: “I don’t really know what goes on with awards, but perhaps some people feel a conflict between importance and humour. Maybe they feel that a book isn’t making serious points if it makes them smile. I’ve never found that humour in writing detracts from the bleakness or tragedy that might also be there. I think of writers I love like Kurt Vonnegut and David Foster Wallace and see their works combining humour and sadness and more. I’ve just read Joshua Ferris’s THEN WE CAME TO THE END and think it’s another excellent example.”
So, the absence of humour. Is it because crime is still seen as a very serious issue in Ireland? Is it that the psychic weight of Joyce, Beckett, et al means that business of writing is too serious to be taken lightly here? Or is it just that we don’t have a sense of humour? And will Garbhan Downey and Twenty Major sue because we didn’t mention them in tandem with Colin Bateman, in order to make a spurious point? There’s a free copy of Benny Blanco’s CHRISTINE FALLS (yep, we’re still trying to give it away) to the most penetrating insight. Or you could just tell us a joke. The comment box is open, people ...

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The FLIGHT Stuff

Considering she’s due to inherit the earth any day now, Euro Crime’s Karen Meek is surprisingly tolerant of mere mortals in general and very helpful to the CAP elves in particular. Thus it was that she tipped us off about yet another Irish crime fiction writer who had yet to blip across the radar screens of the elves, John McAllister, whose post-Troubles thriller LINE OF FLIGHT (2006) sounds like a potent brew. Quoth the blurb elves:
“Jimmy watched the white van on the television and saw people stream away from the surrounding buildings. The mortars had been found and the Queen was safe, and yet something was not quite right.” Jimmy has spent a lifetime fighting the Republicans who wanted to take over his country, and the politicians who ran it to suit themselves. But old enemies have formed new alliances based on greed, and now, when his deadly skills are needed most, Jimmy is powerless. The only outsiders Jimmy can rely on are an unorthodox policeman, Ian Patterson, and his mortal enemy, IRA killer Mick Quinn. But Ian has divided loyalties and Mick is obsessed with taking his revenge on the SAS. To save the life of the Queen, the three men have to counterattack even as the mortars begin to fly. But first, for the sake of his children, Jimmy must throw away his gun. McAllister’s LINE OF FLIGHT is more than just another thriller; it explores the aftermath of a peace process that has left fear, doubt and loathing to breed under the shiny new skin of reinvestment, forming a volatile cocktail that needs but the barest spark to ignite. McAllister’s skill at capturing the language and nuances of the main factions is impressive, but the warning it provides for those waging a war on terror is terrifying for us all.
They’re coming thick and fast out of Norn Iron now, people: in the last month alone we’ve had David Park’s THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER, Garbhan Downey’s CONFIDENTIALLY YOURS, Sam Millar’s BLOODSTORM and (The Artist Formerly Known As) Colin Bateman’s ORPHEUS RISING, with Seamus Smyth’s THE MOLE’S CAGE to be published in France later this year. For more on the topic, jaunt on over to Gerard Brennan’s distressingly cool Crime Scene Northern Ireland

A Fat Lady Clears Her Throat

A Minister for Propaganda Elf writes: Our informal and achingly parochial poll on ‘the Irish Edgars’ (top left) continues apace, with a whopping 20 – yes, that’s 20! – votes in at the last count (although we would ask one ‘Brian McGilloway’ to please cease and desist from his attempts to subvert the democratic process by repeatedly voting for Benny Blanco. Where do you think you are, Brian – West Belfast?). Anyhoo, Sir Kenneth of Bruen (right) leads the charge with 55% of the vote, Tana French is a close second with 35%, and Benny Blanco … well, let’s just say it ain’t over ’til the big-boned lady does a duet with Freddy Mercury on Barcelona. For the remaining three CAP regulars who still have to vote, we’d like to gently remind you that there’s only four days left in which to do so (or three days, or two, depending on how far down the page this post is). Either way, make with the mouse-clicks, people. Or, y’know, don’t. We’ll still love you anyway …

“No Way, Guv – I’ve Been Framed.”

THE LIKENESS, Tana French’s sequel to IN THE WOODS, features a rather ornate cover that comes complete with gilt frame, and will be on a shelf near you on July 17th if you’re in the U.S. and August 21st if you’re on the other side of the pond. Quoth the blurb elves:
Detective Cassie Maddox is still trying to deal with the events of IN THE WOODS. She is out of the Murder Squad and has started a relationship with fellow detective Sam O’Neill but is too badly shaken to commit to Sam or to her career. Then Sam is allocated a new case, that of a young woman stabbed to death just outside Dublin. He calls Cassie to the murder scene and she finds the victim is strangely familiar. In fact, she is Cassie’s double. Not only that, but her ID says she is Lexie Madison, the identity Cassie used, years ago, as an undercover detective. With no leads, no suspects and no clues, Cassie’s old undercover boss spots the opportunity of a lifetime: to send Cassie undercover in the dead girls place. She could pick up information the police would never hear and tempt the killer to finish the job. So Cassie moves into Whitethorn House, poses as a post-grad student, and prepares to enter Lexie’s world …
Ah yes, the old riddle wrapped up in a mystery inside an enigma gambit, with a doppelganger tossed in to boot. Strap yourself in for another one of those ambiguous endings, folks …

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Jury Remains Out: THE BUTCHER BOY

Acclaimed as literary novels, they are steeped in crime – but is it kosher to call them Irish crime fiction novels? YOU (via the comment box, natch) decide! This week: Patrick McCabe’s Booker Prize-nominated THE BUTCHER BOY.
“When I was a young lad twenty or thirty or forty years ago I lived in a small town where they were all after me on account of what I done on Mrs. Nugent.” Thus begins Patrick McCabe’s shattering novel THE BUTCHER BOY, a powerful and unrelenting journey into the heart of darkness. The bleak, eerie voice belongs to Francie Brady, the “pig boy,” the only child of an alcoholic father and a mother driven mad by despair. Growing up in a soul-stifling Irish town, Francie is bright, love-starved and unhinged, his speech filled with street talk, his heart filled with pain ... his actions perfectly monstrous. Held up for scorn by Mrs. Nugent, a paragon of middle-class values, and dropped by his best friend, Joe, in favour of her mamby-pamby son, Francie finally has a target for his rage – and a focus for his twisted, horrific plan. Dark, haunting, often screamingly funny, THE BUTCHER BOY chronicles the pig boy’s ominous loss of innocence and chilling descent into madness. No writer since James Joyce has had such marvellous control of rhythm and language ... and no novel since THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS has stunned us with such a macabre, dangerous mind. – Powell’s Books

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE DYING BREED by Declan Hughes

With his first two novels, THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD and THE COLOUR OF BLOOD, Declan Hughes established his series protagonist, Ed Loy, as a private investigator very much in the mould of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer. The novels, set in a fictionalised Dublin, Ireland, are largely concerned with dysfunctional families, and how the sins of the father (and / or mother) are almost inevitably visited on their offspring. There is at times an almost Biblical quality to the way in which Hughes insists that the blood passed on is diseased by deeds which, if not exactly Evil with a capital E, are certainly the venal outworkings of an ambitiously grasping generation infected by the vast sums of newly available cash sloshing around courtesy of Ireland’s ‘Celtic Tiger’ economic boom.
  Hughes returns to this theme in his third novel, THE DYING BREED (aka THE PRICE OF BLOOD for its U.S. release, through William Morrow). Commissioned by a dying priest, Fr Vincent Tyrell, to find a former jockey who has gone missing, Loy has only a name to go on. But Fr Tyrell’s name is in itself evocative: the priest is the brother of the hugely successful racehorse trainer and breeder FX Tyrell. Soon Loy finds himself immersed in the murky underworld of Irish horse racing, with dead bodies piling up as he inches closer to the dark heart of a family that appears to have much in common with the Medicis and the Borgias.
  Hughes, a former playwright, is a veteran at establishing mood, pace and tone at an early stage, and the Christmas period during which the events swiftly unfold is as much a player in this story as any of its flesh-and-blood characters. He’s also very good at weaving together a number of diverse sub-plots, and here touches on a number of hot-topic issues of recent Irish history: corruption in Irish horseracing; neglect and abuse in Church-run industrial schools; the declining influence of the Church when juxtaposed with the inexorable rise of Mammon; the infiltration of all levels of Irish society by illegally amassed wealth. The style, which is of the tough, hardboiled variety, owes as much to Raymond Chandler as it does Ross Macdonald, with Hughes showcasing a deft hand at leavening the grim tone with flashes of mordant wit: “Neither had been a jockey; the plasterer sounded amused at the suggestion, the solicitor mysteriously outraged, as if I’d accused him of being a sex criminal, or a DJ.”
  The plotting, dense and complex, draws the reader further and further into a web so tangled that it becomes claustrophobic, and while the ambition is laudable, there is a sense that Hughes may well have bitten off more than he can comfortably chew. By the denouement, events have turned so complicated that Loy finds himself unable to be in at the death, and so must hear how the climactic finale occurred second-hand, courtesy of his excitable sidekick, Tommy. In saying that, there is also a palpable sense that Hughes has enough confidence in his ability to bend the rules of the first-person narration out of shape, and ironically comment on the limitations imposed by the genre, and in this he is in the vanguard of a number of Irish writers who are testing the limits of the conventional crime novel, among them Tana French, Ken Bruen, Benjamin Black, Brian McGilloway, Gene Kerrigan and John Connolly.
  In the end, all crime novels should be judged on how well they convey their insights into the environment that caused them to come into being, and on that reckoning Declan Hughes has confirmed the promise he has shown with his first two novels. THE DYING BREED is a complex, labyrinthine, gritty, coarse (and, yes, bloody) novel that exudes a brash confidence and an ambition that lies beyond its grasp – a description, it should be said, that could easily be applied to the nation that spawned the novel. It may not be the Great Irish Crime Novel some of us were hoping for, but as a snapshot of modern Ireland, it is a clearly focused picture of our faults and failings, and perhaps even our virtues too. – Declan Burke

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Millar’s Crossing

Crossing over, that is - if the early reviews are anything to go by, it sounds like Sam Millar’s (right) BLOODSTORM could well be the crossover novel that will propel one of Norn Iron’s best-kept secrets into the mainstream, and not a minute too soon. To wit:
“Millar is rapidly building a reputation for pacy thrillers in the crime noir genre. This latest offering, BLOODSTORM, will not disappoint his expanding fan base. Set in his hometown of Belfast, this is a violent tale of murder and revenge told in brutal prose that makes no concessions to the faint-hearted. Millar has a gift for sharp dialogue and a lively imagination to match. He keeps the action rolling from the get-go with a rapid expanding plot that quickly head-butts the reader into submission. Those looking for a comfortable read should be warned. Karl Kane is no gentlemanly Hercules Poirot. Even Sam Spade would be shocked at some of the company Karl Kane keeps and the situations he finds himself in.” – Irish Independent

“Karl Kane takes no prisoners – literally as well as figuratively – in this dark, page-turner of a book. Millar’s ability to tap into the dark recesses of the human mind is brilliantly constructed, page after nerve shattering page. BLOODSTORM is a triumph from a master storyteller. With BLOODSTORM and Karl Kane, Millar has given us his best work since ON THE BRINKS and THE REDEMPTION FACTORY. Highly recommended.” – Irish News

“Gripping and arrestingly violent, BLOODSTORM is a well-written thriller with its share of disturbing insights into the dark side of the human psyche.” – Irish Mail on Sunday

“Millar whips up a storm in this brilliant, fast-paced thriller. Gritty and gripping, BLOODSTORM, is a real page-turner – and indeed a chapter-turner. Anti-hero Karl Kane, is the most original private investigator to grace a book in years. The promise of more to come from this chilling and dark series should keep Millar’s growing army of fans content - at least for the time being…” – Andersonstown News

“BLOODSTORM is a powerful, relentless page-turner of a book, leaving you gasping for more…” – BBC Radio Ulster
Lovely, lovely, lovely. For the skinny behind Sam’s motivation to write BLOODSTORM, which arrived via Colombia in an American penitentiary, jump over here. And Gerard Brennan’s super-cool CSNI is currently hosting an interview with Sam, wherein our hero threatens lethal force against anyone who dares to touch his signed copies of Cormac McCarthy novels. Can’t say we blame him, to be honest ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

“It’s The Pictures That Got Small.”

David Thompson of Busted Flush Press gets in touch to give us an early squint at the funky new cover art for their U.S. publication of LONDON BOULEVARD, Ken Bruen’s take on Sunset Boulevard, a detail of which (click on the pic) appears to feature Sir Kenneth of Bruen in a dust-up with one of his crime-writing brethren. Could it be – no! – Benny Blanco? Erm, no. Quote David:
“I could not be more excited to announce the U.S. publication of three crime novels by one of today’s greatest crime writers, Ken Bruen. Originally intended to be revealed at the upcoming NoirCon in Philadelphia, my personal favourite of Ken’s stand-alones, LONDON BOULEVARD, will now be released later this summer. With a new introduction by Academy Award-winning screenwriter William Monahan (The Departed), this new edition of L.B. will feature special bonus material, including “best of Ken Bruen” lists by some of today’s top crime talent, and much more. Following later this year will be THE HACKMAN BLUES (with an introduction by Ray Banks), and DISPATCHING BAUDELAIRE (intro by poet/crime writer Pat Mullan). The amazingly talented Jeff Wong -- who designed the Crippen & Landru Ross Macdonald anthology, THE ARCHER FILES -- pays homage to the original SUNSET BOULEVARD film poster with his darkly comic portrayal of “hero” Mitchell breaking the arm of a car-window washer over his leg ... a scene from the beginning of the book. Look closely and you’ll see Mitchell looks remarkably like Bruen himself and the poor vagrant bears an eerie resemblance to fellow crime writer Jason Starr (and Ken’s co-author of three Hard Case Crime novels). There’s even talk of a film version of LONDON BOULEVARD in the works, so keep your ears open for more news later in 2008!”
Hmmmm, a movie version of a po-mo novel about the po-mo movie about movies. This could get interesting … Incidentally, over at Jason Starr’s interweb emporium, he mentions that there’s a script written and optioned for the first Bruen-Starr collaboration. Hollywood or BUST? Our money’s on BUST ...

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. But It Will Very Probably Be Blogged

Seth Harwood. JACK WAKES UP. You know it makes sense, people …

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “The writing of Irish crime novelist Declan Hughes captures much of Raymond Chandler’s mean streets’ poetry. Harder edged than the lyricism of James Lee Burke. With the possible exception of compatriot John Connolly, no one sets a mood better than Hughes … THE PRICE OF BLOOD [aka THE DYING BREED] continues Ed Loy’s progress into the first rank of contemporary mystery protagonists,” says Dana King at New Mystery Reader. Over at the LA Times, Sarah Weinman agrees: “[He] owes a literary debt less to Hammett and Chandler than to Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books, family melodrama disguised as P.I. fiction … If anything, THE PRICE OF BLOOD – Hughes’ third go-round with private eye Ed Loy – tips its narrative hat to Sophocles and other purveyors of Greek tragedy.” Lovely. Over at Soapstone’s Studio, Soapstone likes Ronan Bennett’s ZUGZWANG: “The villains and allies seem complex in their intersecting schemes, but in a way, they begin to seem like clones of each other, crossing and double-crossing everyone like the round robin tournament that is the backdrop. But at least they are competent, respectable villains … I wholeheartedly recommend ZUGZWANG, especially for (adult) chess players.” They’re still coming in for Twenty Major’s debut: “The humour in THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX PARK is gleefully silly in the manner of cult comedy The Jerk … Throughout, the Major has irreverent jabs at numerous targets (including Hot Press, the bloody upstart) and keeps the story moving at a brisk pace. Overall, a highly entertaining read,” says Paul Nolan at Hot Press (no link). Max Warman at the Sunday Telegraph is bigging up Eoin Colfer’s latest, AIRMAN: “The “megaselling author” tells a Boys’ Own adventure that Biggles would be proud of … The only drawback is that in rushing to find out what happens next, it can be a struggle to read every word on every page.” Nice … “[David] Park’s soulful story about buried secrets, tangled lies and manipulated memories may be a little abstract for readers who didn’t follow the Troubles, but this powerful fiction both humanizes and universalizes the civil war that gripped Ireland for so long,” says Publishers Weekly (via Powell’s Books) of THE TRUTH COMMISSIONER. They’re in broad agreement at the Irish Voice: “Park’s beautifully written new book vividly reminds us that the war on the streets may have ended, but it endures in hearts and minds, and we’d be foolish to ignore the fact.” But hold! What news of Benny Blanco’s THE SILVER SWAN? “Although Black is a beautiful writer, with characters as vividly drawn as any in fiction, as a crime novelist he falls a bit flat. Coincidence plays too big a role in the plot … Ultimately, such plot failings may not matter. Black has created a wonderful protagonist in Quirke,” says Clea Simon at the Boston Globe. “A bit dark, a bit gruesome, but really good literary mystery,” says Bluestocking LA. “I don’t ordinarily read mystery novels, but THE SILVER SWAN is no ordinary mystery. Banville’s command of prose is arresting, and though this is a difficult book to put down because it is so expertly plotted, it is also impossible not to savour,” reckons Tessa at Powells’ Staff Picks. Meanwhile, Susan Illis at New Mystery Reader likes CHRISTINE FALLS: “Quirke is not only a deeply flawed but an untrustworthy protagonist. It’s hard to believe that the same island that brought us chick lit also produces these endlessly dyspeptic mystery and suspense novels that are absorbing on such a different level.” Upward and onward to Catherine O’Flynn’s WHAT WAS LOST: “This book is splendid in so many ways. A page-turning, compelling story, as well as witty, touching, and altogether wonderful … My only complaint is that the ending felt a little rushed, and the solution to the mystery a little contrived; the build-up was better than the resolution. But when the build-up is this good, that is a small complaint,” says Leena at Vulpes Libris. Yet more hup-yas for Sir Kenneth of Bruen: “It takes only a couple of hours to read AMMUNITION, and for fans of James Ellroy or Elmore Leonard, they are hours agreeably spent. In fact, Bruen continues to revere Ed McBain, and even opens the novel with a sort of homage to the master, who died between the composition of CALIBRE and that of AMMUNITION. For the hard-boiled cop novel, the beat goes on,” says Lection. Over at Revish, Mack Lundy likes CROSS: “The writing in CROSS is lean and finely honed. His observations on the Irish and the Church are trenchant and often wryly amusing as always … If you do have a tolerance for despair and seeing a man about a step away from the abyss and like a finely crafted story, then you can’t get better than these.” Here at Crime Always Pays, Colman Keane cast an approving eye over Gene Kerrigan’s LITTLE CRIMINALS: “The story unfolds at pace and the author’s skilful storytelling had me hooked. I’ve rarely read a book that has me turning the pages to reach the conclusion swiftly, whilst at the same time regretting the approach of the last page.” Over at Tonight, Peter Sullivan is just about in favour of Julie Parson’s I SAW YOU: “Michael McLoughlin is an endearing detective, one with many faults, but a certain doggedness. The book’s action is not fast, but keeps the reader’s interest.” Finally, and sans links, a trio of big-ups for Sam Millar’s latest, BLOODSTORM: “Millar is rapidly building a reputation for pacy thrillers in the crime noir genre … this is a violent tale of murder and revenge told in brutal prose that makes no concessions to the faint-hearted,” says the Irish Independent. “Millar’s ability to tap into the dark recesses of the human mind is brilliantly constructed, page after nerve-shattering page. BLOODSTORM is a triumph from a master storyteller,” reckons the Irish News. And the Irish Mail on Sunday is no less impressed: “Millar whips up a storm in this brilliant, fast-paced thriller. Gritty and gripping, BLOODSTORM is a real page-turner … The promise of more to come from this chilling and dark series should keep Millar’s growing army of fans content – at least for the time being.” What time is it, people? Yep, it’s Millar time …

Mi Casa, Su Casa: KT McCaffrey

The continuing stooooooory of how the Grand Vizier puts his feet up and lets other writers talk some sense for a change. This week: KT McCaffrey (right) on catching the crime fiction bug.

The Butcher(ed) Boy


Why, you might ask, would a writer choose to take crime fiction as his or her subject? At what point does an author say, yep, that’s what I’m going to write about? Moi? I think I was about nine years of age when I got the bug. This would have been about the time I got to know an old-style cop named John Duffin from my home town of Clara, in County Offaly. Think ‘Heartbeat’ rather than ‘The Bill’, a time when local Gardai, like the parish priest, the bank manager and the school headmaster, were held in high esteem. A friend of the family, Garda Duffin liked nothing better than to chat about his involvement with local ne’er-do-wells.
  One of the darker stories he told concerned a local murder that had taken place in 1941. This would have been a decades or so before I was born. It kicked off in a somewhat comical manner.
  Bernard Kirwan, who lived with his younger brother Larry on a small farm in Rahan, five miles from Clara, took a notion to do a spot of armed robbery. With minimum preparation, he took a hacksaw to the double barrels of his shotgun, donned a mask, and held up the local postman. Through a contact in the post office sorting room he’d learned that the postal delivery included registered mail containing cash. Bernard could have shot the postman to facilitate his escape but decided instead to blast the bicycle’s tyres with both barrels, an action he hoped would achieve the same objective. He was caught of course (the postman recognised his voice) and was given seven years ‘hard’ in Portlaoise Jail.
  His time inside proved uneventful except for the fact that he learned the skills of butchery while there, a factor that would play a major part in subsequent events. Conditional release was granted four years later. He returned to the farm, intending to take charge, but his younger brother Larry had other ideas. Hostilities broke out and a struggle for supremacy ensued.
  Larry refused to give Bernard food or a wage for his work on the farm. Bernard, with no means to sustain himself, began to steal food and money. Fist fights, and even a knife attack, marked the brothers increasing bitterness. When it seemed like things couldn’t get any worse, Larry went missing. His girlfriend became worried when he didn’t show for a date. Friends who had expected to see him became concerned when he failed to show. When Bernard was questioned about his brother’s unexplained disappearance, he claimed Larry had gone to visit an aunt in Kildare. Inquiries took a little longer back then but within a few days it was established that Larry had never gone to his aunt.
  Foul play was suspected.
  Neighbours, aware of the brothers’ hatred for each other, noticed smoke coming from Kirwan’s boiler house twice in as many days. This they considered odd due to the fact that no cooked meal had been fed to the pigs. When it became known that Bernard had learned butchery skills, the Garda decided to investigate. He fobbed them off, saying he’d been burning rubbish, but he now found himself subjected to round-the-clock surveillance. One of those assigned to cover his movements was my friend Garda John Duffin.
  Knowing he was being watched, Bernard undertook long bicycle trips to the neighbouring towns of Kilbeggan, Moate, Tullamore and Mullingar. John Duffin, who carried quite a bit of weight, was forced to get on his bike and follow the suspect to each location and back again. At journey’s end, Bernard would wave cheekily to the fully uniformed and totally exhausted Duffin. Prefiguring The General many years later, Bernard liked nothing better than to cock a snoot at the law.
  Eventually, men working on a bog, less than a mile from the Kirwan farm, dug up a human torso. With what forensics existed at the time they were able to establish that it was the remains of Larry Kirwan. Bernard stood trial, accused of using his butchery skills to kill his brother, hack off the limbs, burn them, and then bury the torso.
  He was found guilty and hanged in 1943.
  I wasn’t the only person that John Duffin told this macabre tale to; he also related it to playwright Brendan Behan, who used it as the basis of his 1954 play THE QUARE FELLOW. I’ve never seen the play but then, I have no need to see it. As a young impressionable lad, I’d heard it first hand – related in far more graphic detail than outlined above – something that insured I would retain a fascination for the darker aspects of the human psychic for the rest of my life. I suppose I should consider myself lucky to have channelled this interest into my writing rather than anything, shall we say, more malevolent. – KT McCaffrey

KT McCaffrey’s THE CAT TRAP is published by Robert Hale.

Saints, Scholars, Cops And Killers

Given that it’s Paddy’s Day (hic), and we’re supposed to be celebrating Irishness in all its wonderful manifestations (the lovely caílín, right, being a prime example), Crime Always Pays would like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to some Irish crime writers that we believe were woefully neglected in years gone by. To wit, and in no particular order:
Seamus Smyth: “This is not just a great crime novel, it’s one hell of a novel, full stop. QUINN should be THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE for this decade, it’s that good and fresh and innovative.” – Ken Bruen

Eugene McEldowney: “The novel was a reaction to some of the awful books that had been written about Northern Ireland and which made no effort to place the political violence in any kind of context.” – Dublin Quarterly

Vincent Banville: John Blaine was the original hardboiled Irish private eye. He may yet sue Declan Hughes for being younger and thus better placed to capitalise on Ireland’s newly minted mean streets.

Philip Davison: “Part le Carré, part Graham Greene … thoroughly compelling… cracking dialogue.” – The Independent. “Each word in this bleakly humorous novel promises to explode and bring light to the shadows … Davison never fails to surprise, compel and intrigue with dry philosophy and grim wit.” - The Times Literary Supplement

TS O’Rourke: “History is written in stone. I know that history is also written by the victor, but the truth, the whole story of these terrible times, is now emerging and I have tried to present at least a small picture of what the Civil War was like for a foot soldier, a volunteer, in Dublin City.” – Dublin Quarterly
There’s many more, of course, but right now we’re blogging from the pub and some amateur has just spilled a pint of green beer onto our laptop and fhizz signal seems to be crrssshsprcklefrtz … Arrah, bollocks. Hic. Another bucket of porter there, Jamesey, and don’t shpare the horshes …

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Devil Has All The Best Toons

We’ve had crime fiction novels and short stories here at CAP Towers, and we’ve even had crime fiction poetry courtesy of Colm Keegan, but crime fiction funnies? We like Eolaí at American Hell, people …

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

The third volume in Declan Hughes’ Ed Loy series, THE DYING BREED (aka THE PRICE OF BLOOD, which follows on from THE COLOUR OF BLOOD and THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD), hits a bookshelf near you on April 3rd, and the ever-lovely people at William Morrow are offering to give away an advance copy to three Crime Always Pays readers (of which, happily, there are only three). Quoth the blurb elves:
Even the best private eye needs more than a name to find a missing person, but that’s all that Father Vincent Tyrrell, the brother of prominent racehorse trainer FX Tyrrell, will offer Loy when he comes to him for help. A dwindling bank account convinces Loy to delve into the deadly underworld of horse racing, but fortune soon smiles on him: while working another case, he discovers a phone number linked to FX on a badly beaten body left at an illegal dump. Loy’s been around long enough to know that there’s more to the Tyrrell family than meets the eye -- and then a third body appears. At Christmastime, on the eve of one of Ireland’s most anticipated racing events, the intrepid investigator bets his life on a long shot: finding answers in a shady network of trading and dealing, gambling and breeding.
To be in with a chance of winning a free copy of THE DYING BREED, just answer the following question:
Is Ed Loy:
(a) distressingly obsessed with blood;
(b) not in the slightest bit obsessed with blood, but it with he;
(c) Lew Archer with a perpetual hangover?
Answers to dbrodb(at)gmail.com, putting ‘One Declan is a coincidence but two is rather unfortunate’ in the subject line, and including your address in the body text, before noon on Tuesday, March 18. Et bon chance, mes amis