“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, September 20, 2008

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Another week, another freebie giveaway. This week your generous benefactors are Hachette Ireland, and they’re giving away three copies of Arlene Hunt’s latest offering, UNDERTOW. First, the blurb elves:
A missing boyfriend … a heavily pregnant girlfriend … just another ordinary case for QuicK Investigations. But the trail they follow suggests something far from ordinary. Who is Orie Kavlar and why has he gone to ground? What is the connection to the body of a dead girl found on waste ground in Sandyford? And what is his relationship to Darren Wallace, ex-gangland criminal? With their personal relationship at a new all-time low, Sarah and John are straining under the weight of their own problems, such as the murder of Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Vic. Vic was a dangerous psychotic, but murder is murder. So why won’t she accept John’s help? In no time John and Sarah’s investigations alert others to their search, and as they dig deeper into Orie Kavlar’s life, one man decides he has too much to lose to allow them to continue. Sarah and John are about to be caught up in an undertow of violence that will suck them into their most perilous case yet.
  Coolio. To be in with a chance of winning UNDERTOW, just answer the following question.
The coolest ‘hunt’ title of all time is:
(a) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER by Davis Grubb;
(b) THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER by Carson McCullers;
(c) THE HUNTER by Richard Stark;
(d) MEMOIRS OF A FOX-HUNTING MAN by Siegfried Sassoon.
  Answers via the comment box, please, leaving an email contact address, as always using (at) rather than @ to confuse the spam-munchkins, before noon on Monday, September 22. Et bon chance, mes amis

Friday, September 19, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Paul Johnston

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?
Difficult. Toss-up between Ellroy’s WHITE JAZZ and Philip Kerr’s A PHILOSOPHICAL INVESTIGATION (I only wish I had the nerve to have a serial killer called Wittgenstein).
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Sherlock H. Rude, brilliant, stoned and nifty with his fists.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
P D James. Don’t agree with her politics and can’t stand the lengthy descriptions, but she gets to the meat of things for all her Golden Age credentials.
Most satisfying writing moment?
If you mean literally writing, it would be nailing the death-bed vision of old Maro in A DEEPER SHADE OF BLUE (soon to be republished as CRYING BLUE MURDER) - after about fifty attempts. If you mean more generally, I’d have to say winning the Sherlock Award (see above) for THE LAST RED DEATH - a novel I literally nearly died writing (thanks to cancer).
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Do you mean written by an Irish person or set in Ireland? If the former, John Connolly’s THE KILLING KIND. The latter, Declan Hughes’s THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD. (They’re two of a ‘kind’...)
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
See above.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst - the first sentence every day. Best - the unexpected appearance of a deeply sneaky plot twist or such like from the subconscious.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Nazis, Satanists and the FBI - who are the scariest of them all?
Who are you reading right now?
Declan Burke (no, really...)
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
If he was paying me for it, read - much easier.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Ideas above (his) station (quote J Connolly).

Paul Johnston’s THE SOUL COLLECTOR has just been published by Mira Books.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Yet Again, We Need To Talk About Kevin

The Lilliput Press publish Kevin Power’s debut novel, BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK, with the blurb elves outdoing themselves by comparing it to THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE, IN COLD BLOOD and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN. To wit:
On a late August night in 2004, a young man is kicked to death by his team-mates outside a Dublin nightclub and celebration turns to devastation. The reverberations of that event, its genesis and aftermath, is the subject of this extraordinary story, stripping away the veneer of a generation of Celtic cubs, whose social and sexual mores are chronicled and dissected in this tract for our times. The victim, Conor Harris, his killers – three of them are charged with manslaughter – and the trial judge share common childhoods and schooling in the privileged echelons of south Dublin suburbia. The intertwining of these lives leaves their afflicted families in moral freefall as public exposure merges with private anguish and imploded futures. This stark, elliptical tale tells of catharsis and self-examination through the eyes of the narrator and Laura Haines, girlfriend, confidante and catalyst. Akin to Lionel Shriver’s WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN, John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE and Truman Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD, it deals with the unacceptable, and the nature of truth. Like all good fiction, it illuminates a society and transcends its age with the searchlight of a sympathetic imagination. It is a significant debut by an intuitive writer.
  The title is a nod to the classic Spencer Tracy movie, obviously, although it’s been used in an Irish context before – Blackrock, y’see, being a well-to-do area of south Dublin, represents leafy-suburbed affluence in Ireland. Anyhoos, Power’s story appears to be based on a real event from a few years back, and one that exercised the country to an enormous extent at the time, giving rise to much media soul-searching and state-of-the-nation polemics mainly because the perpetrators and the victim hailed from the ranks of the overly moneyed oiks of what passes for Ireland’s aspirational middle-class.
  My initial reaction when I read the blurb was that the story is too parochial to translate to a wider audience, that Power will take all kinds of stick for reopening old wounds (fair play to him), and that the blurb elves were doing a debutant novelist no favours at all by comparing him to John Banville, Truman Capote and Lionel Shriver.
  Then I heard ‘Wilderness Gothic’ on Sunday night, Power’s short-listed entry for the Francis MacManus Short Story Award, and I thought, hmmm, okay, the guy can write …
  Anyone out there know anything more about him?

The Embiggened O # 12,309: In Which A Harper Tugs At Our Heart-Strings

It’s going to look like it was planned this way, but you’ll just have to take my word for it that it wasn’t. I thought I’d love-bombed Glenn Harper at International Noir into submission with my mini-Crime Carnival post, but the guy’s tougher than I thought – not only does he go and republish his original review of THE BIG O without so much as a by-your-leave, he also gives the cover a bejaysus big-up, to wit:
“I don’t know if the new cover is an image photographed specially for this book or came from stock photography (increasingly the source for book covers, as has been noted on several blogs with reference to different books using the same imagery), but the new cover is quite striking—congratulations to all concerned, on the cover as well as the release next week.”
  Incidentally, and while we’re on the subject – Gerard Brennan brings news of an upcoming Elmore Leonard flick based on KILLSHOT, which is news to us …
  Anyhoos, cue the review. Maestro? Trumpets, please …
THE BIG O moves out of the classic pulp-noir territory of Declan Burke’s first novel, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, into a kidnap caper with style and plotting more like Elmore Leonard (or maybe Donald Westlake) than Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler. The narrative is actually mostly dialogue: even the non-dialogue sections, if you look closely, are internal monologues by the various characters. The voices are snappy, and the novel is divided into short sections, each from the point of view of one of the characters. The result is a kaleidoscopic narrative that moves forward at a rapid pace--and the result is also quite funny, in the way that Leonard’s novels are frequently funny: expectations are overturned, characters move inexorably toward an unforeseen climax, and we glide past unbelievable coincidences without hesitation. None of these characters are master criminals, and the attraction of some of them for others is that of ordinary men and women. THE BIG O is, ultimately, a crime farce of the first order. The violence is postponed, riding along with the converging characters and plot lines until the ending that, though impossible to entirely foresee, seems inevitable once you’ve gotten to it. The plotting seems casual, unplanned, with the random pattern of life--but looking back, the story is as tightly structured as a jigsaw puzzle. I may not be making myself perfectly clear, here, but THE BIG O is a lot of fun, hence the earlier mention of Westlake--the elements of the plot lock together as the story moves forward with an increasingly comic effect (as, for example, the plot of Pulp Fiction moves forward), and the “blackout” quality of the short sections and alternating voices adds an additional liveliness. I frequently talk about the settings of crime novels, and this one has a carefully ambiguous setting--sometimes it seems like Ireland, but not clearly or overtly so. Sometimes THE BIG O’s story could be happening in the U.S., except that some idioms are clearly not U.S. English (“chemist” for what would be “drug store” here, among other examples). The ambiguity works effectively with the technique of the novel, though, focusing our attention on the progressively complicated story rather than on a definite setting.
  Y’know, if I was any kind of decent human being, I’d be too modest to write this kind of post. But who can afford to be a decent human being at a time like this?
  Oh, and by the way – Marsha Swan’s book launch for THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC happens today at Toner’s of Baggot Street, Dublin, Ireland, at 6.30pm. All are welcome …

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

And Another Thing: Hurrah, It’s AND ANOTHER THING …!

One or two snippets you might have missed about the Irish YA brigade who have been known to dabble in the dark arts of crime fic, the first courtesy of the BBC:
Children’s author Eoin Colfer [right] has been commissioned to write a sixth instalment of the Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy series.
  MOSTLY HARMLESS, the last Hitchhiker book, was written by its creator, the late Douglas Adams, 16 years ago.
  Now Adams’s widow, Jane Belson, has given her approval to bring back the hapless Arthur Dent in a new book entitled AND ANOTHER THING ...
  Eoin Colfer, 43, is best known for the best-selling Artemis Fowl novels.
  He said he was “terrified” by the prospect of creating a new Hitchhiker book almost a quarter of a century after being introduced to what he described as a “slice of satirical genius” in his late teens.
  Crumbs! Eoin Colfer writing Hitchhiker material? Truly our cup runneth over … Meanwhile, Love Reading 4 Kids brings us the news that Siobhan Dowd has been posthumously nominated for the Guardian’s Children’s Fiction Prize shortlist, with the Guardian’s big-up for BOG CHILD running thusly:
“One of the joys of this book is its willingness to confront big themes . . . BOG CHILD explores political conflict, personal heroism, human frailty, love and death. As a writer, Dowd appears to be incapable of a jarring phrase or a lazy metaphor. Her sentences sing - each note resonates with an urgent humanity of the sort that cannot be faked. BOG CHILD sparkles with optimism and a deep passion for living.” – Meg Rosoff
  The winner will be announced next Wednesday, September 24, and we’re all rooting for BOG CHILD. Finally, news wings our way that Derek Landy’s sequel to SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, the eagerly anticipated PLAYING WITH FIRE, will get all kinds of jazzy, interwebby marketing strategies, in particular a virally marketed game called The Munchkin Army. Does that make Sir Landy the Munchking? Erm, no. Quoth Tom Conway, marketing boffin at HarperCollins Children’s Books:
“With the Munchkin Army we wanted to create an experience that would enrich the world of Skulduggery for our 20,000 registered users, whilst encouraging them to share their passion with potential new readers. We worked closely with Hyperlaunch to create a unique game that continues even after you’ve turned off your computer. The Munchkin Army rewards existing fans with a rich, fun and exciting adventure whilst introducing newcomers to a strange and intriguing new world.”
  Folks? Get Munchkining

The First Item On The Agenda: When’s The Split?

Pat Mullan (right) gets in touch with news for ‘Irish writers of thrillers, crime, mystery, suspense’. Basically, the International Thriller Writers organisation is going, well, international, and Pat is your genial host of the forthcoming Irish chapter. The good news? Membership is free. Quoth Pat:
“Long-term we’d like to see international participation in the growing number of projects ITW is getting off the ground, from anthologies to audio serial thrillers. But, first, we need you to join. Won’t it be a good thing to have our own organization here in Ireland: ITW Ireland?”
Being the helpful type, Pat provides of an example of what ITW membership can achieve, to wit:
“Jassy Mackenzie, a young South African writer, joined ITW and rapidly found her new book written up as an interview with a fellow author, Robert Gregory Browne, in the U.S. You can see the results here ...”
So there you have it. If you want to avail of the benefits that being a member of ITW brings in its wake, you can sign up here. If you have any queries, please feel free to contact Pat Mullan at PatMullan@pmullan.com. Pat? Best of luck with the project, squire - everyone knows that the first item on the agenda of any Irish organisation is, ‘When’s the split?’ …

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Embiggened O: Bee, Where Is Thy Sting? Oh, There It Is …

The redoubtable Allen Pierleoni at the Sacramento Bee does our humble offering THE BIG O proud in a mini-feature in which he reckons readers should “spend time with investigators who toil in foreign countries” and offers 10 recommendations, pithily suggesting that “Burke’s second novel (after EIGHTBALL BOOGIE) is in keeping with the new wave of Irish hardboiled detective fiction (think in terms of Declan Hughes, Ken Bruen and Adrian McKinty)”. Fine writers one and all, and delighted I am to be mentioned in the same breath. Meanwhile, some of his other recommendations come from Denis Lehane, Stieg Larsson, Stuart Kaminsky and Carlos Fuentes ...
  Yep, it’s official – this BIG O lark is getting way out of hand.
  Speaking of which, Jeff Kingston has been kind enough to ask me to guest-blog at The Rap Sheet in the week running up to the publication of THE BIG O, with the first post appearing today. But then, you all subscribe to The Rap Sheet anyway, so I’m probably not telling you anything don’t already know. The first post is a bit on the serious side, but I’ll lighten up after that. By Friday it’ll be a regular giggle-fest, I promise …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Marsha Swan

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?
Leonardo Sciascia’s EQUAL DANGER.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
The baby in Percival Everett’s GLYPH.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Chester Himes, Daniel Pennec, Barbara Kingsolver.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Self-publishing my first novel and seeing a terrifying wall of them arrive from the printers.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE BIG O—it's the only one I loved enough to publish!
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Aside from THE BIG O, you mean? Ken Bruen’s THE KILLING OF THE TINKERS.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
I can’t think about anything properly without writing about it. (Best & worst both).
The pitch for your next book is …?
Two novellas about a young Roma Gypsy and a middle-aged American teacher who move to Dublin, where they quickly find themselves fighting against shadows: a culture they don’t understand and don’t have access to; bullies on the schoolyard and in the staffroom; a mysterious stranger and a mysterious disease.
Who are you reading right now?
Sherman Alexie.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
This question upset me so much it put me off answering the Q&A for a week. I wish I could say read, but it’d have to be write.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Not too long.

Marsha Swan’s THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC will be launched in Toner’s of Baggot Street, Dublin, on Thursday, September 18 at 6.30pm.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Crime Carnival Cometh. Again

Barbara Fister (right), the ever-radiant mastermind behind the Crime Carnival concept, was kind enough to get in touch about a month ago to ask if I’d be interested in hosting another Crime Carnival. My reply ran thusly:
“I certainly wouldn’t mind hosting the carnival again, although I’d probably do a different kind of job on it ... I think the concept has probably exhausted most of the crime fic sites out there. Maybe phase two could be about generating discussion and debate on the merits or otherwise of crime fic blogs and sites, get us asking one another what it is exactly we’re trying to achieve ... and how best to achieve it?”
  Barbara thought that that was a good idea, in principle at least, and so here we are …
  The problem now, of course, is that I have to back up my initially whimsical suggestion with some hard facts and examples. I think the first thing to be said is that every blog and site is different, a diversity which is in itself one of the joys of the crime / mystery fic community. It further needs to be said that the notions I outline below don’t apply to all blogs and sites, on the basis that most of us have a set of well-defined parameters we work within, and are quite happy to keep on doing so.
  For example, Crime Always Pays is for the most part dedicated to Irish crime fiction, but I’m always delighted to feature non-Irish crime writers on it. Further, I tend to broaden the parameters on a whim, and in the last couple of weeks have blogged about quantum physics, Lawrence Durrell and Marsha Swan’s new book, all of which have nothing whatsoever to do with crime fiction. Further again, anyone familiar with Crime Always Pays understands that I blog about Irish crime fiction in general in order to promote my own writing in particular – it’s not about the hard sell, but it would be disingenuous of me to suggest otherwise.
  In other words, different blogs have different objectives, and the last thing I want to do is offend anyone by suggesting that their work doesn’t come up to a certain standard or mark. That is most definitely not the point of this exercise.
  So what is the point? Well, it’s about where crime fiction itself is going, and what blogs and sites can do to help it get there. For the most part, as you well know, crime / mystery fiction has not, historically, been taken as seriously as it should be by the gatekeepers of the traditional media. Those gatekeepers also tend to man the portals of the various awards available to fiction writers, which is why there was such a furore recently when Tom Rob Smith’s CHILD 44 breached the Booker Prize defences.
  With a few notable exceptions, crime / mystery writing tends to get short shrift in the mainstream press, and as often as not finds itself shoehorned into a review ghetto, wherein five or six titles will be briefly assessed in the same kind of space that would be given over to single, more ‘literary’ title. That very fact, of course, is one of the main reasons for the proliferation of crime / mystery fiction blogs and sites available on-line, and in a perverse way, it should be celebrated for inadvertently creating such a dynamic and vibrate on-line crime / mystery community.
  By the same token, many mainstream commentators have suggested that the blogging format doesn’t lend itself to the quality of commentary available in mainstream media. To a certain extent, this is true. The blogging paradigm lends itself to shorter, more direct forms of communication than that of the traditional mainstream press. Further, most bloggers are not being paid to read and review books, and are for the most part doing it as a labour of love in their spare time. Another factor involved is that to be a ‘successful’ blogger – i.e., to achieve the kind of exposure that makes your time and effort worthwhile – it is necessary to blog on a regular basis, or at least far more regularly than the traditional media reviewer needs to review. For all these reasons, and more, the on-line community lacks the resources (but mainly space, time and money) that has allowed the more literary community build up a corpus of critical work on literary novels.
  That’s not to say that there isn’t superb critical work available. There is, and there’s plenty of it. By comparison with the literary corpus, however, which has not only colonised the traditional media and its prize-giving off-shoots, but also the libraries and campuses, and which has a head-start on crime / mystery fiction that can be measured in hundreds of years, the critical work on crime / mystery fiction is very much in its infancy.
  One point, before we go further: I am NOT saying that crime / mystery fiction should strive to be taken seriously by the literary establishment. They do what they do, and good luck to them; my personal reading habits involve quite a lot of what would be considered literary fiction, and I have no beef with what they do or how they do it. By the same token, and speaking only for myself, the last thing I need or want is a pat on the head from the literary establishment. What I AM saying is that the critical work on crime fiction needs to develop of and through its own metier, that the Johnsons of the crime / mystery community require their Boswells, and that I believe heart and soul that crime / mystery fiction needs and deserves the kind of widespread, top-to-bottom critical work that would in turn inspire the writers to strive towards ever-higher standards of work.
  Here I need to hold my hand up and admit that Crime Always Pays does not offer the kind of critical work that I’m talking about. In mitigation I plead that (a) the blog was always intended as an information resource, (b) I blog in those precious few cracks I can find in my daily schedule, and (c) I’m nowhere near as smart as I’d need to be in order to raise my game to that standard. I’m sure that most bloggers would say the same thing, excepting (c).
  But here’s the thing – crime / mystery fiction is the most popular genre on the planet, it is inarguably the most relevant and important fiction out there, and that’s why I believe it deserves more. It deserves more from me, certainly, than reviews that run along the lines of, “This is a great book because I liked it and I liked it because it’s a great book.” It deserves the kind of dynamic, rigorous, extensive and constantly evolving critical work that the interweb is perfectly placed to provide, and it deserves to be critiqued, justified and praised not by the kind of commentator who will suggest that a particular novel has (koff) ‘transcended the genre’, but by those who understand that good crime / mystery fiction is simultaneously scourge and balm, panacea and drug, a fiction for the world we live in that is also its truth.
  I’m going to leave you with an example of the quality of work I’m talking about, and I sincerely hope I haven’t offended anyone’s sensibilities with what has gone before, or by mentioning only one blog. It’s Glenn Harper’s outlet at International Noir – when I dropped by today to check it out, this is what he had to say for himself
Classical Unities and Crime Fiction
“I’ve just finished Peter Craig’s HOT PLASTIC, published a few years ago. The novel shares a good deal with Jim Thompson’s great THE GRIFTERS, but I didn’t like HOT PLASTIC very much. I’m wondering why it didn’t satisfy, though I usually find grifter novels appealing. One thing that occurred to me is that it violates a modern version of the classical unities, while THE GRIFTERS does not. Aristotle said that tragedy should not violate three rules, unity of action, unity of place, and unity of time. That is, one main action or plot with few subplots, one setting, and a time-frame of no more than 24 hours. Obviously, the modern novel violates those rules in all but a few cases (ULYSSES, for example), and some forms of the novel (the picaresque, for example) violate all the rules most of the time. But keeping those rules in mind nevertheless provides focus for fiction as well as drama, but crime fiction actually adheres to the rules more closely than a lot of so-called mainstream fiction (think of those family dramas covering four generations and three continents). The biggest difference between THE GRIFTERS and HOT PLASTIC is that Thompson maintains enough of the unities to give the novel a sharp, while Craig’s novel is more of a picaresque or romance, following several characters through a number of adventures that don’t follow a common plot though they eventually lead back to a kind of repetition of the original situation. HOT PLASTIC has more of the structure of a mainstream novel, following the relationships of the characters more than any coherent story. Fine, if that’s what you’re after, but to me it suits the crime genre less well. Even when a crime novel covers a large-ish frame of time; to use just two famous examples, ROSEANNA by Sjöwall & Wahlöö or FACELESS KILLERS by Mankell stretch a police investigation over a considerable time and numerous false leads, but the doggedness of the investigator and the concentration on a single crime maintain a unity of story or action. Adrian McKinty’s THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD obviously derives its unity of time from Ulysses, but many other crime novels, from the famous FAST ONE by Paul Cain onward, adhere to a tight time-frame. And when subplots seem to be more important or as important as a main plot in a crime novel, there’s a coherence provided by those plots moving toward a common endpoint or in their relation to an investigation or a crime (as in false leads). Unity of place is possibly the most adhered to of the rules in the kind of crime fiction that I like best (that is to say, localized stories rather than globe-hopping thrillers). So what do you think: Are crime novels Aristotelian? Or should they be?”

Sunday, September 14, 2008

TV Or Not TV, That Is The Question

A rather interesting few hours was had by your genial host last evening. The venue was RTE, the Irish state broadcaster, and the occasion was Ryan Tubridy’s (right) The Tubridy Tonight show, Ireland’s equivalent of the David Letterman yak-fest. The object of the exercise was to talk about Ireland’s obsession with crime in the company of crime fiction scribe Declan Hughes and the Daily Star’s crime correspondent, Mick O’Toole, co-author with John Mooney of BLACK OPERATIONS: THE SECRET WAR AGAINST THE REAL IRA. I was there masquerading as an expert in Irish crime fiction.
  As it transpired, there was very little in the way of chat about crime fiction, with the conversation concentrating on true-crime cases, and particularly the stories of Madeleine McCann, Farah Noor and Rachel O’Reilly. Not being an aficionado of true-crime writing, my contribution was limited to suggesting that the Irish fascination with crime – I reckoned ‘obsession’ was a bit strong, and has morbid connotations – is a positive thing. Take the Farah Noor case, aka the ‘Scissors Sisters’ story. If the dismembered body of a man turned up in a canal and didn’t provoke appalled fascination, then serious questions would have to be asked about the emotional well-being of a society that could be so callously indifferent.
  I also suggested that Ireland, despite its rapidly growing population, is still a relatively small country, which gives its high-profile crime cases a potent immediacy and intimacy. That’s not to say we’re a village where everyone knows everyone else, but if there’s a murder in such-and-such pub, say, there’s a good chance you know someone who drank there, or you were on that street three weeks ago, or you know someone who lives in the area.
  There’s also the largely unremarked fact that while the Republic of Ireland went about its business blissfully and / or wilfully ignorant of its burgeoning criminal class until the investigative journalist Veronica Guerin was murdered in 1996, less than a hundred miles to the north there were regular (on occasion daily) outbreaks of violence, murder and bombings being visited on Northern Ireland’s population.
  The bad news is that last night’s Tubridy Tonight was a ‘dry run’ pilot for the forthcoming series, so it won’t actually be screened on TV. Boo. Still, it was interesting to see how that kind of show is put together, and it’s another story for the grandkids.
  Most interesting of all was the pre-show conversation in the Green Room, where Mick O’Toole gave myself and Dec Hughes the inside skinny on some of Ireland’s more high-profile crime cases, most of which wasn’t fit to print at the time and won’t be repeated here for fear of finding my pert little ass sued off. But it does beg the question – given the terrific examples of Gene Kerrigan’s grittily realistic novels, when are Ireland’s crime correspondents going to start writing crime fiction?

999: The Mark Of The Feast

Yep, it’s ‘Post # 999’ for Crime Always Pays. I don’t know about you, but that one caught me broadside and shivered me timbers when I realised how much time I’ve been spending on ye olde blogge. If every post is only 200 words long (and most of them are at least that), and bearing in mind that my novels come in around the 75,000-word mark, I’d have had the best part of three novels written for the same amount of time and effort invested over the last 18 months. A scary thought …
  Mind you, I don’t begrudge a second of it. It’s been terrific fun, I’ve met a veritable horde of brilliant people, and CAP has put me in regular touch with some of the best writers of their generation. Nice. And not only that, but Crime Always Pays has taken our humble tome THE BIG O from its lowly status as a co-published novel with the tiny but perfectly formed Hag’s Head Press in Ireland to within two weeks of a hardcover release in the U.S. courtesy of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
  Anyhoos, to celebrate the impendingness of both CAP’s one thousandth post and THE BIG O’s release in the U.S., I’m running a BIG O-style ‘Best Things In Life Are Free … Books’ competition this week. And not only that, I’m tossing in a copy of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE to boot. First, the blurb elves, aka THE BIG O’s back-cover big-ups:
“Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is one of the sharpest, wittiest, and most unusual Irish crime novels of recent years.” – John Connolly, author of THE UNQUIET

“Declan Burke’s THE BIG O has everything you want in a crime novel: machine-gun dialogue, unforgettable characters, and a wicked plot. Think George V. Higgins in Ireland on speed.” – Jason Starr, author of THE FOLLOWER

“No such thing as coincidence! Don’t tell that to the glorious band of cast-offs and misfits that populate the pages of Declan Burke’s uncanny THE BIG O. With a deft touch, Burke pulls together a cross-genre plot that’s part hard-boiled caper, part thriller, part classic noir, and flat out fun. From first page to last, THE BIG O grabs hold and won’t let go.” – Reed Farrel Coleman, author of THE JAMES DEANS

“It’s hard to praise THE BIG O highly enough. Excellent writing, great characters, superb storytelling – all played out at a ferocious tempo. By turns it’s dark, funny, moving, brutal, tender and twisted. A book that makes one hell of an impact. More Declan Burke, please.” – Allan Guthrie, author of SAVAGE NIGHT

“Declan Burke’s crime writing is fast, furious, and funny, but this is more than just genre fiction: Burke is a high satirist in the tradition of Waugh and Kingsley Amis, and his stories pulse with all the contradictions of contemporary Ireland. Burke has a deep respect for and understand of the classic traditions of the hardboiled school but he never forgets that his first duty is to give us a damn good read.” – Adrian McKinty, author of THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD
  So there you have it. To be in with a chance of winning one of three copies of THE BIG O and EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, just answer the following question. Exactly how cute is the Princess Lilyput (right)?
(a) Cute;
(b) Very cute;
(c) Wow, she’s gorgeous;
(d) Hey Dec, that’s a good-looking child – are you sure she’s yours?
  Answers via the comment box, including an email contact address that uses (at) rather than @ to confuse the spam munchkins, before noon on Tuesday, September 16. Et bon chance, mes amis