“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, November 1, 2008

As God Is My Witness, I’ll Always Be Hungary Again

It’s been a good week for our humble tome THE BIG O, folks. Not only did it ascend at one point to the nosebleed-worthy heights of 33,128 (whoo-hoo!) on the Amazon.com rankings, but the rumours of foreign translations, in the wake of the Frankfurt bun-fight, grow stronger by the day. For lo! Apparently there’s an Italian publisher showing ‘strong interest’ in foisting THE BIG O on an unsuspecting Italian public, which would be pretty cool given that I have very fond memories of finishing the second-to-last draft of said tome on the Aeolian island of Lipari, this during the holiday that I proposed to my wife. Nice.
  Just as intriguing is the news that there’s ‘very strong interest’ from a German publisher, even though I’ve never finished any drafts of anything in Germany, nor managed even so much as a smooch with a fraulein. Still, crime fiction seems to be coming strong in Germany in the last few years in particular – at least, we presume it’s still coming strong, even though we haven’t heard from our old friend Bernd Kochanowski in ages. Bernd? If you’re out there, buddy, just send a carrier pigeon …
  Finally, it’s been confirmed that a Hungarian publisher will inflict THE BIG O on its nation’s denizens next year, which news is the kind to tickle my always flabber-prone gast. Yes, yes, I appreciate that such developments represent small potatoes to the more established scribes among you, but given that THE BIG O was originally a co-published book put together on a budget of three bent paper-clips and a snapped elastic band, the idea that it’ll see the light in Hungarian is simultaneously hilarious and poignant. Like, Hungary? You’re kidding, right? You’re not? Oh …
  To celebrate, I’m going to run the new and improved ‘book trailer’ devised by Shay Bagnall, the entirely immodest new-and-improved elements being some blurbs that were kindly delivered by John Connolly, Reed Farrel Coleman and Booklist - plus a cute little ‘smoking gun’ add-on the Baggsman threw in for giggles. Hell, smoke ’em if you got ’em, right? Roll it there, Collette …

Friday, October 31, 2008

Roger And Me

I met a lot of cool people during the recent jaunt to the Baltimore Bouchercon, none cooler than Roger Petersen (self-portrait, right), despite his enforcing something of a Bataan forced march on a group of thirsty tourists as they plodded through Baltimore towards the shimmering mirage of Roger’s idea of a perfect bar. Mind you, I am inclined to wonder how cool the horizontally-inclined Rog was the night the Phillies finally won the World Series. Anyhoos, Rog is something of a genius when it comes to ye olde illustrations and comic books, just one example of which cometh below. For more of the same, clickety-click on this

Thursday, October 30, 2008

On The Essential Relevance Of Crime Fiction

Mack Lundy (right) was kind enough to drop by and blow smoke up my fundament re: a recent piece I wrote for Crime Always Pays. Quoth Mack:
“I believe that crime / mystery fiction can be a vehicle for presenting morality, ethics, good, evil, innocence, sacrifice, moreso than Literature with a capital L. I would like to know why you think crime / mystery fiction ‘is inarguably the most relevant and important fiction out there.’ Perhaps you could touch on it in a future post on Crime Always Pays. Your readers would be interested and it would stimulate interesting discussion.”
  Mack, bless his cotton socks, wildly overestimates (a) the number of CAP readers; (b) their ability to stimulate discussion, interesting or otherwise; and (c) the miniscule amount of reaction anything I might have to say might generate.
  Happily, his email coincided with a piece I wrote for the Sunday Independent last weekend, which touched on the importance and / or relevance of crime fiction, and why I believe that if journalism is the first draft of history, crime fiction is its second.
  Even though I don’t touch on this in the piece, I should probably add that crime fiction is the most important kind of fiction out there simply because it speaks to the greatest number of readers. If anyone doubts that, do the math.
  Anyhoos, on with the show …
How Crime Novels Reveal Truths About Our Dark Age

ARGUABLY the most seductive, and perhaps even compelling, aspect of contemporary crime fiction is its relevance. As with the best journalism, the best crime writing speaks to us of where we are now and how we are coping with the indignities that assault our notions of civilisation. Rape, for example, has been with us in fiction since THE ILIAD, although Homer tended to celebrate his triumphalist male protagonists and gloss over how a woman might feel about being subjected to such gross violation.
  It’s in the realms of modern crime fiction that you will find rape’s most authentic documentation …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Come As You Are. Or, Y’Know, As Bogie.

It’s looking like we’ll all be artists soon, drawing the dole (ba-boom-tish), but bona fide multi-media artist Ken Lambert has an exhibition which ‘pays homage to the visual composition of film noir, psychological thrillers of the forties and the visual literacy of detective fiction writers such as Raymond Chandler and Ian Fleming’ opening tomorrow night in Dublin – click on the invite for all the details. The guest speaker, by the way, is uber-babe Arlene Hunt, who’ll be providing all the crime fiction context you can handle …

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

God Bless You, Tim Maleeny

One of the nicest memories I took away from the Baltimore Bouchercon was of the panel I participated in on the Thursday, along with Dave White, Michael Dymmoch and Tim Maleeny (right). The title and purpose of it all escapes me now, partly because Jen Jordan was (nominally) in charge, but mainly because I lost all perspective when Jen asked her final question – ‘Who should we be reading?’ – and Tim Maleeny stepped up to the plate and knocked me into the bleachers by bigging up THE BIG O.
  Now, I hadn’t met Tim Maleeny until about ten minutes before the panel started; in fact, I’d had no contact with him whatsoever. So it was a double whammy – one, that he’d heard of THE BIG O, and two, that he liked it enough to give it ye olde hup-ya in such august company.
  I did what little I could to thank Tim by hosting him on Crime Always Pays last week, and I thought that that would be the end of that. But no! For now Tim has tonked the pill out of the ballpark, and very probably knocked the leather off of it in the process, by posting this on his interweb yokeybus:
“Declan Burke writes like Raymond Chandler on crystal meth. This character-driven mystery has the velocity of Lock, Stock, And Two Smoking Barrels or Snatch combined with the stylish prose and effortless dialogue of Elmore Leonard at his best.”
  There are many wonderful aspects to being a writer, not least of which is the validation you get when complete strangers tell you that they like what you do, especially when what you do is you at your most you, if that makes any sense. But there’s something special about getting the nod from a peer, a fellow scribe, an intangible extra that gives you a frisson that can make your day, week and month, particularly when he or she name-checks your two favourite writers in the process.
  Tim? Much obliged, squire. Your reward will come in heaven. Or when GREASING THE PINATA hits # 1 on the NY Times best-seller list. Either way, it’s only a matter of time.

The Neville Will Find Work For Idle Hands To Do, Part II

There’s been some mouthwatering blurbs scribbled about Irish novels of late – Kevin Power’s debut, BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK, for example, was heralded as a blend of IN COLD BLOOD, THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE and WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN – but Stuart Neville (right) is rapidly becoming the name to watch for in 2009, with his debut offering, GHOSTS OF BELFAST, exciting some heavyweight names. James Ellroy described it as “The best first novel I’ve read in years ... It’s a flat out terror trip,” which was enough to get me wondering who the hell Stuart Neville was way back when, but now – courtesy of CSNI – comes John Connolly’s big-up, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“GHOSTS OF BELFAST is not only one of the finest thriller debuts of the last ten years, but is also one of the best Irish novels, in any genre, of recent times. It grips from the first page to the last, and heralds the arrival of a major new voice in Irish writing. I don’t know how Stuart Neville is going to improve upon such an exceptional first novel, but I can’t wait to find out …”
  Mmmmm, nice. For an excerpt, clickety-click on this little yokeybus right here. It’s a hell of a start …

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

His Horse Was Fast As Polished Steel

KT McCaffrey (right) and your genial host have been rapping back and forth, on and off, about crime fic song lyrics, with Townes van Zandt a particular favourite of yours truly, in particular St. John the Gambler and Pancho and Lefty. Herewith be KT’s take on Pancho and Lefty, with which I agree for the most part – although I tend to believe that van Zandt’s version is the definitive one. Take it away, KT …
A SONG FOR KEN

Reading Ken Bruen’s AMERICAN SKIN set me off on the song lyric trail again ... in a roundabout sort of way. Bear with me. You see, Ken and I go back some ways. In 2001, a review for my third book THE BODY ROCK appeared in the Evening Herald, and because it took up half a page and was a particularly good critique, I noted the reviewer’s name: Ken Bruen. I’d never heard of Ken at the time but then I got hold of THE GUARDS and we made contact. We have, over the intervening years, developed a mutual respect for each other's writing. Ken dedicated THE VIXEN to me and worked my name into the text of THE DRAMATIST, while I brought THE GUARDS into the narrative in my last offering, THE CAT TRAP.
  Fast forward to AMERICAN SKIN. Dade is, without doubt, the No.1 bad dude in Bruen’s hierarchy of baddies. Early in Dade’s career, while imprisoned, his cell mate knocks out his teeth, saying, “Don’t need ’em for blow jobs.” Six months later, Dade settles the score by extracting the guy’s eyes with a spoon. Could only have come from the pen of Bruen.
  At one point in the story, Dade, with one eye on the Mexican border, conjures up a line from Pancho and Lefty – ‘All the Federales say ...’ – but can’t remember what comes next. Well, that got me thinking. I unearthed Willie and Merle’s definitive version of the Townes Van Zandt classic and thought I might share the lyrics with y’all.
PANCHO AND LEFTY

Living on the road my friend
Was gonna keep you free and clean
Now you wear your skin like iron
Your breath’s as hard as kerosene
You weren’t your mama’s only boy
But her favourite one it seems
She began to cry when you said goodbye
And sank into your dreams

Pancho was a bandit boys
His horse was fast as polished steel
Wore his gun outside his pants
For all the honest world to feel
Pancho met his match you know
On the deserts down in Mexico
Nobody heard his dying words
That’s the way it goes

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him hang around
Out of kindness I suppose

Lefty he can’t sing the blues
All night long like he used to
The dust that Pancho bit down south
Ended up in Lefty’s mouth
The day they laid poor Pancho low
Lefty split for Ohio
Where he got the bread to go
There ain’t nobody knows

All the federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him slip away
Out of kindness I suppose

The poets tell how Pancho fell
Lefty’s livin’ in a cheap hotel
The desert’s quiet and Cleveland’s cold
So the story ends we’re told
Pancho needs your prayers it’s true,
But save a few for Lefty too
He just did what he had to do
Now he’s growing old

A few grey federales say
They could have had him any day
They only let him go so wrong
Out of kindness I suppose

Yep, It’s The Latest ‘Dear Genre’ Letter

Given the way the global economy is going – not so much a downward spiral as a lemming-like suicidal plunge – we’ll all be reading and writing by the flicker of animal-fat tallow candles in caves this time next year. Well, everyone except those writing genre fiction, apparently. Quoth the Sacramento Bee:
The editors at Forbes magazine know a thing or two about great wealth, if only from reporting on it. The magazine, which bills itself as “the Capitalist Tool”, recently compiled its annual “World’s Best Paid Authors” list. Those making the most dough between June 2007 and June 2008 – via book sales, advances and movie deals – were:
• J.K. Rowling, $300 million
• James Patterson, $50 million
• Stephen King, $45 million
• Tom Clancy, $35 million
• Danielle Steel, $30 million
• John Grisham and Dean Koontz, tied at $25 million
• Ken Follett, $20 million
• Janet Evanovich, $17 million
• Nicholas Sparks, $16 million
  Funnily enough, I’ve only read two of the authors on that list, and one was so bad I had to stop reading after my brain shrivelled up and made a desperate dive for freedom through my left ear. The Big Question: Who’s the worst writer on that list? Over to you, people …

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Embiggened O # 4,034: Never Mind The Quality, Feel The Bandwidth

THE BIG O got all teched up this weekend just gone, folks, although confirmed Luddite yours truly can’t claim any credit. For lo! It came to pass that Critical Mick swung by CAP Towers one day in the recent past and whipped out his microphone-shaped thing and pointed it at your genial host. Well, I had to say something, didn’t I? Actually, I said quite a lot, and the Mickster recorded most of it. The results can be heard at The Writing Show – jump right on this for the MP3 download.
  Meanwhile, a mate of mine called Shay Bagnall laments not being born in Italy, where – apparently – he would have been called the rather more romantic Giacomo di Bagnalli. We call him Baggs. Anyhoos, said Baggsman was the one responsible for lashing together the vid below for THE BIG O, a very generous gesture with which I’m very well pleased. Incidentally, remember that name – El Baggalero is currently putting the finishing touches to his crime fic magnum opus, and should be going looking for an agent / publisher any day now. You have been warned … Roll it there, Collette.
>

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The Name’s Blond, Blond Satan

Wandered along to the new James Bond movie on Friday night, anticipating a very good time on the basis that the reviews were saying Bond had gone psycho while trying to avenge the murder of Vesper in Casino Royale (actually, that bit I didn’t really get, because if memory serves Vesper ratted out Bond near the end of Casino Royale – so why should he give a rat’s fundament? Or wasn’t I paying attention?). Anyway, if you liked Daniel Craig’s first outing as Bond, you’ll probably like this one too. It’s a tad darker in tone, although it’s nowhere as bleakly nihilistic as some folk were reporting, and Craig is probably the most effective Bond yet, Connery included. There’s a beautiful little moment early on in the flick, where, having dispensed with yet another bad guy, Bond pauses to take the guy’s pulse and ensure he’s dead before moving on to search his room. You can believe that quality of sadistic professionalism of Craig’s Bond, his impassive features and ice-blue eyes perfect for the part of Fleming’s (barely) human weapon – watching Craig in the early part of the movie, actually, I was reminded of Hammett’s description of Sam Spade as ‘a blond Satan’. Unfortunately, that little interlude is about the only original or fresh idea in the entire movie. It’s all put together with some style, and the various chase scenes are quite polished – although the editing in the early sections appear to have been done by a team of monkeys deprived of their Ritalin – but the overall sense of the thing is that they’re still chasing the Bourne market with a more downbeat, ruthless Bond, while still hung up on the idea of Bond being a noble character who only wants what’s best for queen and country. It’s all jolly good fun, mind, and it’s a hell of a lot better than most Bond flicks – but you just wish, with Craig in the role, they were prepared to let 007 off the leash, just for once.