“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, July 19, 2008

Yep, It’s Another ‘Dear Genre’ Letter

John Connolly reviewed Irvine Welsh’s latest novel CRIME for the Irish Times today (Saturday), making the following point in the process:
Genre conventions offer literary writers both significant advantages (structure, momentum and, frankly, the promise of some hard cash in return for increased sales) and potential pitfalls, the latter usually a result of their failure to take the genre in question seriously. Occasionally, though, their literary credentials liberate such writers from the expectations that readers might have of a more mainstream genre novel, allowing them to create something startlingly different while remaining, for the most part, within the structures of their adopted form.
  Maybe it’s just that I don’t read enough but my most recent experiences of literary authors writing crime – Benjamin Black’s THE LEMUR and Sebastian Faulks’ DEVIL MAY CARE – have resulted in anything but ‘startlingly different’. THE LEMUR, in point of fact, is hugely enjoyable because Black is poking fun at the genre’s tropes, but it’s by no means a radical departure for crime fiction. DEVIL MAY CARE, on the other hand, is utter tripe.
  The last time I read a terrific novel from a literary author writing crime fiction was JULIUS WINSOME by Gerard Donovan. And Donovan would probably explode into a million literary pieces if he heard we were describing his novel as crime fiction.
  Elsewhere in today’s crime-packed Irish Times, Vincent Banville returns – hurrah! – with a Crime File round-up that includes the latest offerings from Jeffrey Deaver, Harlan Coben, Patricia Cornwell, Michele Giuttari, Sue Grafton, Camilla Lackberg and Karin Fossum. Giuttari’s A DEATH IN TUSCANY has been winking at yours truly from near the top of Mt. TBR for some weeks now, and Banville’s review (“a long, absorbing and entertaining read set in a most exotic location”) sends it straight to the summit.
  The Big Question – when will we get to read another Vincent Banville novel? Only time, that notoriously prevaricating doity rat, will tell …

Death, Where Is Thy Sting? Oh, There It Is …

Two true crime releases for you this week, folks. Hachette Ireland publishes LOVE YOU TO DEATH by Sunday Tribune journalist Michael Clifford, which offers a potted history of Irish wife-killers, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
From the recent notorious and horrific murders of Rachel O’Reilly, Dolores McCrea and Siobhan Kearney, cases are outlined as far back as the poisoning of Margaret Lehman in Dublin of the war years, for which her husband was hanged in 1945. A picture is revealed about how little has changed in this area of crime, but also about how society’s attitude has changed towards it, as reflected in court verdicts and sentences. From open-and-shut cases to ones that relied on detailed forensic evidence, the book also examines the aftermath, describing courtroom scenes of high emotion as the bereaved family seek to ensure their former in-law is held accountable for the crime. In its detailed examination of Ireland’s most notorious wife killings from the 1940s right up to present day and the most recent returned verdict in the Siobhan Kearney case, LOVE YOU TO DEATH charts each story from apparently normal marriages all the way to a violent ending and a legal conclusions. A chilling, gripping and at times gruesome read.
Meanwhile, Maverick House republish GANGSTER by the Sunday Times’ John Mooney, which details the life and crimes of John Gilligan. To wit:
GANGSTER is the critically acclaimed biography of John Gilligan, the biggest drugs trafficker to emerge from the Irish underworld. The book is an extraordinarily account of how a young Dubliner became a multi-millionaire criminal. It uses first-hand interviews with Gilligan, his thugs, friends, family, enemies, anti-drugs activists, members of the IRA and the police. It tells of violence, kidnapping, shootings, criminal espionage, drug dealing and how criminal gangs vied for power to control the Irish trade in drugs. Shocking, fascinating and frightening, GANGSTER also tells the story behind the murder of Veronica Guerin, the crime reporter. Fully updated and revised with new photographs.
Can’t say I’ve ever been bitten by the true crime bug, although IN COLD BLOOD is a terrific read. Maybe it’s because the details are too sordid and the evil banal, but mainly I think it’s because although there’s crime and (usually) punishment, which satisfies the basic narrative arc, it generally lacks the sense of redemption – something other, something sacred or hallowed – that good crime fiction delivers. Any thoughts and / or recommendations?

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Bagman Cometh

The redneck wing of Crime Always Pays, The Bagman, aka Patrick Shawn Bagley (he’s Scots-Irish, like), gets in touch to let us know that THE LINE-UP: POEMS ON CRIME has just been published, featuring Ken Bruen, Daniel Hatadi, Gerald So, Sarah Cortez and a host of others. And, yes, we know exactly what you’re thinking – what does Sean Chercover make of it all? “THE LINE-UP is packed with passionate portraits of lust, revenge, guilt, obsession, regret … all the good things in life. Some of these poems will make you smile, others will put a lump in your throat. And some will stay with you for a very long time after you’ve closed the book.”
  Thank you, Sean. Meanwhile, as a sample taster, here’s The Bagman’s contribution, to wit:
110 M.P.H. in a Stolen Pickup
by Patrick Shawn Bagley


When I came to, the world
was a blur—my glasses lost
in the trail of wreckage—
but an orange glow pulsed
right where the hood had been.
When I saw those flames,
I thought my Jesus-freak foster parents
were right and I’d gone to Hell.
When I tried to move, my head felt
like Satan himself had gone upside it
with a baseball bat and then kicked me
in the face for good measure.
When I came to again, I was lying
in a ditch, gravel plastered to my arm
in a sheen of blood, and the back
of my wrist looked like raw hamburger.
When I looked down at my T-shirt,
saw the holes where the spray of battery
acid had eaten through the cloth
but never touched my skin;
when I saw what was left
of the truck; when the EMT pulled
glass from my scalp and said
you’re one lucky little bastard,
then I knew nothing
could ever kill me.

© Patrick Shawn Bagley

On Coincidences, Happy Accidents And The Possibility Of Magic

A Grand Vizier writes: “‘And so / The beginning is near / And we face / The opening curtain …’ The uncorrected proofs of THE BIG O arrived in the post from Harcourt yesterday, sparking all kinds of conflicting emotions in the Grand Viz’s heaving-but-manly breast. Delight and pride, obviously, that a life-long dream has inched another step closer to fruition, given that, as with the niche genres of Western movies and jazz music, America is the spiritual home of the crime novel. Yes indeed, I shall – for a moment or two at least, on September 22nd – be a bona fide Yankee doodle dandy.
  “The delight and pride lasted all of three seconds, of course, after which I was assailed by the usual doubts and uncertainties. How will it be received? Are American tables as wonky-legged as Irish tables, and thus in need of a one-size-fits-all book to prop up bockety workmanship? Will the book sell well, badly, or at all? Will Elmore Leonard and / or Barry Gifford sue? Questions, questions …
  “Coincidentally enough – especially given that THE BIG O has its fair share of coincidences – the proof edits of its sequel, currently labouring under the unlikely title of THE BLUE ORANGE, arrived on the same day. The woman behind the metaphorical green pen, the inimitable Marsha Swan of Hag’s Head Press, pronounced herself reasonably satisfied with the contents, declaring that it largely replicates the good things about THE BIG O, only moreso. She has some issues with various aspects, of course, as any self-respecting editor would, but nothing to cause the Grand Viz to throw himself from the battlements of CAP Towers in a veritable tizzy of despair. Happy days.
  “Naturally, once the correction process begins, the entire story will reveal itself as utterly incomprehensible, totally unbelievable, and collapse into a heap of dust. But we don’t have to worry about that until Monday. Huzzah! In the meantime, we’re going to take the fact that the corrections arrived on the same day as THE BIG O’s uncorrected proofs as A Good Omen.
  “That’s not a very logical state of affairs, but then life – and particularly the writing books bit – is rarely logical. That’s not to say that writers are necessarily a superstitious bunch, but most writers are more than pleased to embrace the concept of ‘happy accidents’. As often as not the writing process will involve a blind reaching forward into the darkness in the hope of finding some meaning or cohesion to the chaos and anarchy you’ve established, and only belatedly discovering that you were always aware of where the Eureka! moment lay, you just had to wallow in the bath long enough for it to drift into the front of your brain. The sparkity-spark fusing of synapses, the unnatural juxtaposition of two or three or four factors coming together in a situation you might have found yourself in ten or twelve years ago, that throwaway remark a secondary character made in Chapter 3 – suddenly the cave explodes into light and the paintings on the wall start to dance.
  “A confession: I’m not a good writer. By that I mean, as I’ve said before, that I’m not a naturally instinctive elegant writer. When it’s going well for yours truly, it means that the grubbing out of words, one painful syllable at a time, is progressing at an unnaturally rapid pace – a thousand words in a three-hour session would represent a good day at the desk for the Grand Viz. That micro-writing approach also applies to such fripperies as plotting and narrative arc – although I usually have a general idea of how I’d like things to work out, the plotting tends to run roughly a page or two ahead of the writing. I like it when I’m surprised by something a character might say or want to do, and being curious as to what they’ve cooked up in my absence is one of most powerful draws that brings me back to the desk every morning. That sounds a little infantile, certainly, but here’s the thing – I heard Richard Ford interviewed on the radio once, and he spoke very eloquently about how meticulously he plots his novels before he begins to write. As a callow page-blackener – I’d yet to have a novel published at the time – I thought that I certainly didn’t have any right to argue with Richard Ford. But I also thought, y’know, where’s the blummin’ fun in that?
  “Maybe writing isn’t supposed to be fun. The publishing business is exactly that, a business. And the most successful writers will very likely be those who approach the process of writing in a pragmatic way, asking themselves what the reader wants and delivering exactly that. And good luck to them all.
  “But here’s the other thing. Being an adult with a young child, as yours truly is delighted to be, means becoming something of a machine that benefits from being pragmatic, logical and forward-planning. But even adults with young children get time off, and the Grand Viz gets to spend his time off writing stories. There isn’t a lot of that kind of time available, so the last thing he wants to do is waste that precious time and imagination space being logical and pragmatic. What he does like to do is open himself up to happy accidents, coincidences and the possibility of magic. Which was why he was so delighted when Reed Farrel Coleman (right), so generously quoted on the back of the U.S. edition of THE BIG O, embraced the coincidences in the story so whole-heartedly, and in the spirit they were intended. Because the writing process itself – for yours truly, at least – is heavily informed by those happy accidents, coincidences and the possibility of magic.
  “Yep, that sounds dangerously hippy. But here’s the other-other thing. How the brain – the mind, the imagination – works is still largely a mystery, even to neuroscientists. Why certain synapses should fuse and produce certain emotional reactions, for example, can be explained by chemical secretions as a response to a given situation. But when you go deeper, all the way down to the quantum level that sustains and generates everything we are and can know, what prevails is chaos and anarchy. It may be that we are yet not smart enough to discover the patterns in the apparent randomness, and it may well be that there are no patterns to be discovered. Either way, at least for the time being, yours truly is entirely content to embrace all those happy accidents, coincidences and the possibility of magic.
  “Naïve? Yes. Impractical? You could argue so. Fun? Most certainly.
  “It may not be a very logical way of conducting a writing life, but yours truly will go on not just embracing but anticipating those happy accidents. The day the writing ceases to be fun is the day I hang up the quill. Peace, out.”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE REAPERS by John Connolly

All series authors struggle to keep the franchise fresh, with varying results. Some age their characters in real time, some slow the aging process. Some stop it. Books are written out of sequence, telling of events that took place before already released novels. The past year has seen two top-list authors shift focus to their series’ regular sidekick. Last year brought Robert Crais’ award-winning THE WATCHMAN, a Joe Pike story with Elvis Cole in support. This summer unveils John Connolly’s THE REAPERS, featuring Charlie Parker’s friends and abettors Louis and Angel as protagonists; it should be no less successful.
  The story begins by looking back to Louis’ father, burned alive by racists in a redneck town. Nightmares bring the Burning Man to Louis with unnerving frequency, even now that he has retired from THE REAPERS, an elite team of professional killers. A former colleague turned nemesis has returned for vengeance on those he feels wronged him, and Louis and his partner Angel must take action to save themselves and those close to them, no matter how extreme the action may be.
  Louis and Angel will seem more sympathetic to those who have read other Connolly books, where their efforts to do good with their lethal skills show their desire to turn away from Louis’ previous career. Parker’s eyes and troubled sensitivities see how similar their demons are to his and leavens his judgment. Here the darkness inside their personal motivations is more fully explored—especially Louis’—with less benign results.
Connolly keeps THE REAPERS from becoming a nihilistic festival of destruction by counterbalancing them against another bit player from previous episodes, Willie Brew. Sixty, a Vietnam veteran, Willie runs a small auto shop with his friend Arno that operates partly as a front for Louis’ money. Willie has no involvement in Louis’ other interests, their relationship is as deep as Willie’s acknowledgement that Louis bailed him out when he was in danger of losing the shop in a divorce. Willie knows Louis is bad news, just not how bad. He respects Louis for helping him and asking little in return, but knows nothing is free.
  Willie does what he thinks is right, even when he doesn’t want to. He becomes involved in Louis’ plight because he feels an obligation to someone who has been good to him, despite the conflicts what he might have to do to fulfil his self-imposed obligation. Louis kills because it’s what he does; his developing conscience must accommodate killing a relatively innocent man because of a potential future threat, or as collateral damage, because he is too close to an immediate threat, an egg in Louis’s omelette of survival. Willie’s conscience has no such peace. He must choose between possibly killing men who mean him no harm, or abandoning a man who would kill for him. He is swept with increasing rapidity into the maelstrom of Louis’ danger in an effort to return a favour. No good deed goes unpunished in Connolly’s world.
  The second half of THE REAPERS is an extended gunfight on multiple fronts. The ending unfolds through the eyes of several participants, none of whom knows all of what is going on, giving the reader glimpses into the minds and hearts of all. Some bad guys have been swept up almost as innocently as Willie; some of the good guys are there only to kick ass. Connolly’s palette consists of shades of gray that exist only in the mind; some darker, some lighter, with no bright line of separation.
  He pulls it off with elegiac and poetic prose worthy of James Lee Burke. THE REAPERS never disintegrates into operatic carnage. The pace of the writing remains introspective throughout, denying the conventional wisdom of shorter, choppier, sentences to convey action and imply tension. Connolly has all the tension he needs in the dark world his language creates. Humour is plentiful; the usual banter between Louis and Angel lightens the mood when needed while showing the bond between them, two early-middle-aged gay men nagging each other like an old married couple, but with the coarse humour men reserve for their friends. Not the easiest thing to pull off, it’s highly effective when handled by someone with Connolly’s talent.
  Beneath the carnage, THE REAPERS is about commitment and obligation. Angel knows Louis’ plan is based on incomplete information. He goes along because he goes where Louis goes, unconditionally, no matter how much he bitches about it, and he knows their original team is there for the money; only he will look out for Louis. Willie Brew will risk his life for a man he barely knows and fears more than he respects because Louis has been good to him, and he knows Louis would do the same for him, even if their motivations would be completely different. Parker arrives late and makes up for lost time by diving in without any plan at all, because Louis and Angel have been there for him without asking why, or how their contribution fits.
  These qualities are juxtaposed against the selfishness of their antagonists, and contrasted to the good-soldier innocence of some of their opponents, to create a book that is much greater than the sum of its parts, and its parts create a substantial sum. THE REAPERS allows Connolly to look at his characters from outside of their own perspectives and see them as other see them. The supernatural elements that work so well in his other books (especially THE BLACK ANGEL) aren’t needed here; frank examination of good and bad, how they overlap, and how each can be used in the service of the other fills the spaces between the lines. THE REAPERS can be read as one hell of a thriller, but those who read it for that purpose alone are cheating themselves. – Dana King

This review was first published at the New Mystery Reader

A GONZO NOIR: An Internet Novel # 12

A Grand Vizier writes: “Pootled along to see the new Batman flick The Dark Knight yesterday morning, and terrific stuff it is too, an unusually bleak and philosophical movie for mainstream viewing, especially given the cartoonish quality of most superhero movies. It’s chock-a-block with story, so it’s probably not too much of a spoiler to tell you that, among his many outrageous acts (the ‘disappearing pencil’ gag is hilarious), The Joker gets to blow up a hospital. Which is quite the bummer, as A GONZO NOIR is rapidly approaching its conclusion (the penultimate section comes below) with hospital porter Billy / Karlsson poised to – oh yes! – blow up his place of work. Oh well, it can’t be Mills & Boon every day, right? Anyhoo, on with the show …

The story so far: Failed author Declan Burke (right), embittered but still passably handsome, wakes up one morning to find a stranger in his back garden. The stranger introduces himself as Karlsson, a hospital porter who assists old people who want to die and the hero of a first draft of a novel Burke wrote some five years previously. Now calling himself Billy, he suggests a redraft of the story that includes blowing up the hospital where he works. Intrigued, Burke agrees to a collaboration, but things do not go swimmingly …
  For the reasons we’re publishing a novel to the interweb, go here.
  If you want to skip all that malarkey, the novel starts here.
  If you’re one of the 34,014 readers who have been following the story, the latest update can be found here.
  Oh, and as a special treat for Ms Witch, this is the view Billy / Karlsson has from the decking where he and the Grand Viz have their little ‘hospital incineration’ chats …

  Now read on …

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Martin 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?
A FATAL INVERSION by Ruth Rendell. Absolutely brilliant.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Maybe Dr Watson. Quite something to observe genius at such close quarters. I’d have said Paul Temple, but I couldn’t cope with all those dry Martinis.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Agatha Christie and the much less well known Golden Age plotsmith Rupert Penny. Much pleasure, minimal guilt.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Last week (believe it or not) when I was at the CWA Dagger Awards and Lesley Horton announced that I’d won the award for best short story of the year, ahead of the likes of Michael Connelly and Laura Lippman. The stuff of dreams.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I’m not very well read in Irish crime, to my shame, but THE SILVER SWAN by John Banville is a very good piece of writing.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
BORDERLANDS by Brian McGilloway.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: The vagaries of the publishing business, especially the focus on celebrities and the depressing neglect and often abandonment of countless good ‘mid-list’ writers. Best: Readers and reviewers who really ‘get’ what I'm trying to do with my writing.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Dr Crippen tells how it really was
Who are you reading right now?
Simon Kernick’s SEVERED and Andrew Taylor’s BLEEDING HEART SQUARE.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Aaaaaghhh. Write. I think ...
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Entertaining; getting better.

Martin Edwards’ WATERLOO SUNSET is published by Allison & Busby

“The Beatles And The Stones / Sucked The Marrow Out Of Bone …”

The Grand Viz puttled off to the theatre on Monday night, as is his wont, to see Big Love by Charles Mee at Dublin’s Peacock Theatre. Big Love is based on Aeschylus’ (right) The Suppliants, plus fragments of the second and third part of a trilogy since long lost, which allowed Mee a large dollop of artistic licence. Anyhoo, the general gist is that 50 Greek brides are coerced into marrying their cousins, and agree a pact to murder all 50 husbands rather than submit to force. Racy stuff, no doubt, and something Quentin Tarantino is no doubt looking into as you read.
  But what caught the Grand Viz’s attention was the programme notes, in which Mee ventures a rather radical idea thusly:
‘There are those who take their Greek tragedy very seriously – so seriously that they believe if this trilogy [The Suppliants] of Aeschylus had survived, rather than his Oresteia, that the world today would be an entirely different place, with a foundation myth that would have made us much better off. The story of the Oresteia is that a dreadful act is committed and a cycle of revenge put in place, brothers murdering nephews, fathers murdering their children, children murdering their mother – until finally the goddess Athena comes down to earth and convenes a trial, renders a verdict, and a system of justice is established, and the cycle of revenge is ended.
  ‘The story of the trilogy of The Suppliants is that, after an immense bloodbath, Aphrodite appears, and absolves the homicidal 49 brides-to-be of their crime – suggesting that, as dreadful as their acts had been, no purpose was served by a cycle of revenge or even by a system of justice. Rather, the brides-to-be should be forgiven. The world should be governed not by the principle of ‘justice’ but by the principles of mercy, forgiveness, compassion and social love.’
    The world would be a better place if the consequence of murder and rape was compassion and forgiveness? To the Grand Viz’s way of thinking, this is – not to put too fine a point on it – balderdash. Or is the Grand Viz simply conditioned by 2,500 years of patriarchal programming? And here’s a thought – would Mee be so free and easy with his mercy and social love if the original play had been about fifty brides-to-be who slaughter their prospective husbands? And – lawksamussy! – what would happen to the crime-and-punishment narrative of crime fiction were notions such as justice and revenge to become obsolete?
  Personally, the Grand Viz tends to think that all that ’60s peace-‘n’-love and social justice is a very good idea, but only in theory and with the benefit of hindsight, too much dope and a soundtrack of The Beatles and The Stones. His emotional reaction to issues of crime and misdemeanours, on the other hand, harks back a couple of thousand years, predates Aeschylus, and can be gisted thusly: an eye for an eye.* The question then becomes what kind of society you want to live in, one governed by logic or emotion.
  A final question – is it possible to write a crime novel according to Charles Mee’s suggestion that, ‘The world should be governed not by the principle of ‘justice’ but by the principles of mercy, forgiveness, compassion and social love’?
  Answers on the back of a used fifty in the usual box, please. The vid, by the way, is of the House of Love doing The Beatles and The Stones. Roll it there, Collette …
* It doesn’t make us all blind, by the way. It leaves us keeping an eye on one another.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

The Big Question: Is Crime Writing Recession-Proof?

A Grand Vizier writes: “You may not have noticed, given that you’re very probably dealing with the fall-out from the global credit crunch and rocketing oil prices wherever you are, but Ireland has recently slipped into recession (Dublin pictured right, yesterday). Which is no mean feat, given that the Irish economy was the third-fastest growing economy in the entire Milky Way only two years ago. Anyhoo, we’re officially heading for Black ’47 all over again if reports are to be believed, and it’ll only take one half-mottled spud to spark a full-scale stampede to the airports and ferries.
“Meanwhile, crime writing tends to flourish in boom periods, when cities and countries are awash with new cash and opportunities to sluice off the overflow. Journalism provides the first draft of history, crime writing the second, and then everyone else piles in with their stories of romance and Martian monsters and floating arks.
“The recent explosion in crime writing here in Ireland has been attributed to two factors – the Celtic Tiger economic boom, and the ending of the 30-year ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland, and the criminal activities associated with both developments. But what happens when we move into the all-too-familiar depths of recession? Crime itself, obviously, is recession-proof – there’s nothing like a recession and / or depression to increase the demand for illicit substances, prostitution and illegal weaponry, to mention only three aspects of criminality.
“But when things turn depressingly awful, do people really want to read about it in their fiction? Is the appetite for lurid stories sated by a grim diet of rising interest rates, repossessions, unemployment and emigration? And – crudely – can people afford to buy books in the same numbers as when an economy is booming? Not that any writer is getting fat by selling books in Ireland alone. But this appears to be a global recession, with the very distinct possibility that there’s a global depression in the post.
“People won’t stop reading, of course, so libraries may well be due something of a boom at the expense of retailers – and it may be time to club together to open a second-hand bookshop, people. In the meantime, from a writing point of view, we’re nominating THIEVES LIKE US as a depression-era novel to aspire to. Any other suggestions?”

Welcome To Decland

A Grand Vizier writes: “The ever-radiant Janet Rudolph (right) at the Mystery Readers Journal announces the publication of the ‘Irish mysteries’ issue of the MRJ, the gist of her editorial running thusly:
“Fill your glasses with Guinness or Bailey’s Irish Cream and toast another great issue of Mystery Readers Journal. Irish Breakfast tea, my favorite, will work, too. Irish mysteries proved to be a very popular topic, as you can see by the length of this issue. Although I first conceived of this issue as focusing on mysteries set in Ireland, I expanded the topic to include Irish detectives and characters living and operating in other countries.
  “I want to especially thank Declan Hughes for spreading the word to his Irish author friends. Declan has a great blog that you shouldn’t miss: Crime Always Pays. Thanks, too, to all the Irish small presses that contacted their authors for me. The Author! Author! section is such a unique part of the Mystery Readers Journal, and I know you’ll enjoy reading the Irish mystery authors’ essays. It’s almost like being in the bar with your favorite writers.”
“Erm, Declan Hughes? Blummin’ typical – the Grand Viz does all the hard work, yon bowsy Hughes (right) gets all the credit. For the last time, people – Declan Hughes is the good-looking, successful one who writes the Ross Macdonald-styled Ed Loy series of private eye novels, while Declan Burke is the other Declan, who may or may not be a tad-less-than-crafty pseudonym for Declan Hughes. Are we clear on this now? No? Buggery.
  “Here’s a thought – maybe Declan Burke should think about getting himself a psuedonym. Right now we’re leaning towards ‘Stryker Ramoré’. Peace, out.”

Monday, July 14, 2008

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE LIKENESS by Tana French

A Grand Vizier writes: “Of the many swingeing changes made by the Princess Lilyput on her accession to the Crime Always Pays throne, the decision to give the elves a holiday was probably the most radical. And not only have the little buggers scarpered, very probably never to be seen in these here parts again, but Princess Lilyput has declared that all regular contributors to CAP – such as Adrian McKinty, KT McCaffrey, Claire Coughlan, et al – are to be upgraded from elf status to Honorary Associate Members, with immediate effect. They still won’t get paid a red cent, happily enough, but they are now entitled to call themselves CAP HAMs. Which is nice.
  “Anyhoo, here’s Claire Coughlan’s take on Tana French’s new offering …”
THE LIKENESS, Edgar-winner Tana French’s follow up to IN THE WOODS, is a hypnotic look at post Celtic Tiger Ireland in all its consumerist, property-obsessed glory. French herself grew up abroad and, as with IN THE WOODS, the novel is nuanced with an outsider’s acute powers of observation. Set between Dublin and the lush Wicklow countryside, which is richly evoked, and narrated by Detective Cassie Maddox – who appeared in IN THE WOODS as a main character – the plot involves Cassie being called upon to go undercover when a PHD student is murdered. The victim had been using an alias, ‘Lexie Madison’, that Cassie herself invented several years earlier on a previous job. Somewhat implausibly and unethically, Cassie also happens to be ‘Lexie’s’ apparent doppelganger, which enables her to slot unnoticed into her life, passing herself off as the murdered girl to her strange, close-knit group of housemates in order to find the murderer, while Lexie is, in fact, dead.
French spins a complex narrative web which unfortunately wears thin and snaps towards the story’s denouement, when she appears to be too eager to provide an antithesis to the ambiguity which defined the ending of IN THE WOODS – some elements of the tying up of narrative strands might have remained better left unsaid, in this instance. Overall though, THE LIKENESS is a make-you-late, often very funny read, from start, not-quite-to-finish. – Claire Coughlan
“That Claire Coughlan, eh? Never blummin’ satisfied. Sherryl Connelly at the New York Daily News, however, was rather more impressed with THE LIKENESS this weekend, declaring that it's “ … a book even better than the first, which was very good indeed.” Nice. For the full review, jump on over here

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

You know the score, folks. They give us free copies, you make with the funnies, three people get a free book – but everyone’s a winner. This week it’s the turn of Brett Battles, whose THE DECEIVED is currently parachuting onto a shelf near you, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
As a professional ‘cleaner’, Jonathan Quinn disposes of bodies and ties up loose ends. Doesn’t get his hands dirty, no wet work. But when he discovers he’s been hired to vanish all traces of Steven Markoff, one of his best friends who just happened to work for the CIA, his job suddenly hits too close to home. This time, it’s personal. Quinn is determined to get justice for Markoff. Plus, now, Markoff’s girlfriend Jenny, who had been an assistant to an ambitious Congressman, has also disappeared. Racing from the corridors of power in Washington to the bustling streets of Singapore - along with his smart, eager apprentice Nate and brilliant, beautiful Orlando, his closest friend who’s saved his life more than once - events quickly spiral dangerously out of control. With an addictive momentum and fascinating characters, THE DECEIVED takes us on a thrilling, nerve-wracking journey.
Lovely. To be in with a chance of winning a copy of THE DECEIVED, just answer the following question. Was Brett Battles’ debut novel called:
(a) THE CLEANER;
(b) THE CHARWOMAN;
(c) THE FILIPINO WHO COMES TWICE A WEEK;
(d) ACTUALLY, MY HUSBAND DOESN’T EVEN NOTICE DIRT SO I DON’T BOTHER THAT MUCH, REALLY.
Answers in the comment box please, with an email contact address (using (at) rather than @ to confuse the spam munchkins) before noon on Wednesday, July 16. Et bon chance, mes amis

Sunday, July 13, 2008

“War (On Drugs) / Good God, Now / What Is It Good For? / Absolutely Nothing / Say It Again …”

“There is huge technical development happening in drugs. We are only just around the corner from memory-enhancing drugs. Middle-class parents will be looking for them to dope up their children to enhance their points. We are also close to safe euphorants and drug users won’t be reliant on peasant farmers.
“The future is much more dangerous than the present. Prohibition can’t handle the present. It certainly won’t be able to handle the future.”
A Grand Vizier writes: “That may sound like the blurb for an undiscovered Philip K. Dick novel, but no – it’s the conclusion to a superb interview conducted by the Irish Times’ legal affairs editor, Carol Coulter, with Dr Paul O’Mahony and published on Saturday. Dr O’Mahony has just had THE IRISH WAR ON DRUGS: THE SEDUCTIVE FOLLY OF PROHIBITION published by the Manchester University Press, and has some perceptive things to say about why the war on drugs is unwinnable, and why that has always been the case.
  “Personally, I’d argue that the decriminalisation / legalisation of heroin, ecstasy and coke, et al, would be a very bad idea indeed, as it’d blow a huge hole below the waterline of the good ship S.S. Criminal Motives for most of the crime writers I like to read. But that’s just me. And right now I’m out of my box on some grade-A Purple Ninja, which kicks like a mule with five legs, albeit so subtly I can’t remember if it was a spliff, a microdot or a stiff belt of poitín. So I’m probably not the most qualified person in the world to comment. You, on the other hand, are …”