“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 22, 2008

What Is This Thing We Call ‘Screwball Noir’?

Yep, it’s self-aggrandizing Saturday, this week courtesy of Lily Courthope over at Amazon.com. Lily, bless her, has taken umbrage at the Publishers Weekly review of our humble tome (right), and takes them to task thusly:
“Don’t you feel sorry for those PW reviewers?”: November 15, 2008

This is not the first time that I’ve marvelled at the staid, moribund quality of a PW review. I’m pretty sure that if an author isn’t named Hemingway, Fitzgerald or Faulkner, they just don’t get it.
  And that’s too bad because author Declan Burke has created a frantically paced comedy of errors that is a lot of fun to read. No, I won’t be writing a thesis any time soon about kidnapper Ray’s probable identity crisis, but when was the last time you read a line as funny as the one (right near the end of the book) in which he at last reveals his true identity? And that line is just the froth on this comic concoction.
  This book reminds me of some of my favourite movies: Libelled Lady, His Girl Friday, and of more recent origin, Snatch. Screwballs, every one of them. Some darker than others, some more romantic, but all of them with wild plot turns and breath-catching scenes that keep the viewer/reader fixed in place, waiting for the next laugh.
  If you’re looking for deep meaning and deathless prose, go check out the latest bestselling, yawn-worthy, overwrought work of ‘literature’ (or even another PW review); if you’re looking for a good time, call 1-800-THE BIG O.
  God bless you, Lily Courthope! So what is this thing we call ‘screwball noir’, people? Examples, please …

Friday, November 21, 2008

Your Daddy’s Gone A-Hunting ...

Herewith be an interview with Arlene Hunt (right; pic stolen from CSNI without so much as a by-your-leave) conducted by yours truly on the occasion of the publication of her latest tome, UNDERTOW. Now read on

The crime novel is a fiction that is a truth for our times, and it’s certainly true that Arlene Hunt’s novels are nothing if not timely. Her last offering, MISSING PRESUMED DEAD, generated controversy for its subject matter when it appeared shortly after Maddy McCann went missing. That was a coincidence, of course, but it’s a poignant example of the symbiotic relationship between crime fiction and the world it describes.
  “I wrote of a child disappearing in 1980,” Arlene says, “and reappearing almost thirty years later – gun in hand. But because I used a toddler, and she happened to be female and blonde, some people automatically thought, ‘Oh, Maddy McCann’. In fact, I had written the first chapter – which dealt with a toddler disappearing on a beach – many months before that poor child ever visited Portugal. I think people like to look for controversy where none exists.”
  Her latest offering, UNDERTOW, published by Hachette Ireland, also digs into the seamy underbelly of modern Ireland.
  “The book opens with some low-lives smuggling vulnerable women into Ireland,” she says, “one of whom is coldly dispatched when she is deemed too sick to be of any use. We also meet Stacy, a heavily pregnant teenager who hires Sarah and John, my intrepid detectives, to find her boyfriend Orie, little realizing that he is connected with people-smuggling and has very good reasons to have dropped below the radar …”
  UNDERTOW is the fourth novel to feature ‘QuicK Investigations’, a Dublin-based private investigation bureau run by Sarah Kenny and John Quigley, a pleasingly normal pair of detectives who bicker, fall out and flirt – even if all the flirting comes from John’s side. I’m showing my age, but the first thing that springs to mind is the old Bruce Willis / Cybill Shepherd TV show, Moonlighting …
  “You’re not the only one!” Arlene laughs. “It’s not intentional, I promise. I think with John being something of a charming smart-arse and Sarah his relative straight-man, it’s unavoidable that people draw comparisons. Plus, there is the unmistakable whiff of attraction in the air. John has more hair than David (Bruce Willis) though. And Sarah would never wear shoulder pads.”
  Born in Wicklow, and currently living in Dublin, Arlene is nonetheless far more influenced by American writers than their Irish or even European counterparts.
  “I’m an American crime junkie and have been for years and years. Robert Crais, James Lee Burke, Denis Lehane, James Ellroy and my personal favourite, Joseph Wambaugh, are just some of the gentlemen I like to spend an afternoon with. Wambaugh writes the sort of book that stays with you for a long time after. THE GLITTER DOME and THE CHOIRBOYS moved me to tears and yet also had me howling with laughter.”
  So why is it that Irish crime writers tend to look to the States for inspiration?
  “Perhaps because they ‘do’ crime so well, and we can really relate to the great characters they somehow manage to create. I think we ‘get’ American drama better than we get other countries. Some of my earliest memories are watching The Rockford Files and Hawaii Five-O and Kojak with my foster-mother, Kitty. We couldn’t wait for Hill Street Blues to start every week. ‘Book ‘em Danno!’ ‘Who loves ya baby?’ ‘Let’s be careful out there’ … we just never tired of it. These days The Wire and The Shield have tickled my fancy tremendously. I adore Vic Mackey, even though he’s as crooked as a country mile. He is such a terrific character, crooked yet loyal, fierce, soft, vicious, hard, tormented and conflicted.”
  Arlene Hunt is something of a contradiction herself. Young, attractive and impeccably dressed, you’d probably peg her for a chick-lit scribe rather than a ‘crime junkie’ if she told you she’s a writer. So how come she’s poking around in the gory entrails of Irish crime and violence?
  “Ha, I’m blushing now … I’m not really sure what to say about that! I don’t know, people can be anything on the surface, be it attractive, sunny and charming or gruff and shy, but it makes little or no difference to the internal rumblings of that person. It’s funny, but I can be quite cheerfully plotting a murder scene while doing the most mundane things, like shopping in Superquinn, trimming the dog’s wretched nails or when I’m out running. Actually, I think of murder a lot when I run. So if you see me pootling along somewhere with serene smile in place, I’m probably mentally hacking someone to little pieces or super-gluing a character’s nostrils closed ...”
  In American crime writing, the setting of a particular city is very important to the story. How big a ‘character’ is Dublin in Arlene Hunt’s novels?
  “A pretty big one. Dublin is my home. It’s where I’m at my most comfortable, so it was important for John and Sarah – especially for Sarah – to be city-dwellers too. I grew up in Wicklow, I lived in Spain, but Dublin is where I feel happiest. It adopted me as easily as I allowed myself to be adopted. I was born in Clontarf, where Sarah lives for much of the books, and my husband and I frequent Wexford Street a lot where ‘QuicK Investigations’ keep their office. I like that my real and fictional worlds conflate and criss-cross.”
  Finally, there’s a lot of sexual tension between Sarah and John. Will they or won’t they?
  “Hah, you’ll have to wait and see …!”

Arlene Hunt’s UNDERTOW is published by Hachette Ireland.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

All For One And One For The Road. Hic.

The good news, for me at least, is that I’m back writing after a new baby-inspired hiatus. The bad news is that something’s gotta give, time-wise.
  Loath as I am to add another blog to your daily load, methinks it’s coming time to separate the wheat from chaff at Crime Always Pays. As all three regular readers will know, CAP is but one weapon in Declan Burke’s arsenal as he bids for world domination, or a half-decent income from writing fiction, whichever comes first – the coverage CAP affords to other Irish crime writers is, of course, a fig leaf to disguise his contemptible ambition.
  Anyhoos, the plan is to set up another blog, this one dedicated to Irish crime writing of all hues (working title: Crime Writing Ireland), much in the way CAP already is, albeit devoid of the shameless plugs for THE BIG O in particular and Declan Burke in general. The format will be pretty much the same, with daily updates and whatnot, although I’m hoping that most of the material will be, y’know, actually useful. And there’ll probably be a bit less smartarsery, which I intend to save for Crime Always Pays.
  The big issue from my point of view, you won’t be surprised to learn, is that a new blog would create something of a strain on an already overloaded schedule, which is why the whole point of the proposed blog is to open it out to other writers. I’m perfectly happy to do the job of editor and keep the thing rolling along on a daily basis, but in terms of generating material, I’d be looking to other writers / bloggers / reviewers / readers to contribute. In other words, if we can get 10 or 12 contributors pitching up a post once per fortnight, or thereabouts, we should be okay. And the more the merrier.
  If you’re interested in taking part and creating a kind of community forum jobbie for Irish crime writing that benefits everyone, leave a comment or drop me a line. Oh, and I’m well into the idea of inclusivity – you need to be Irish about as much as I’m a writer, which is to say, not really. If enough people are interested, then we’ll take it forward from there, hopefully kicking off early in the New Year. All messages of support and advice are welcome. You know where to find me, people …

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

You Can’t Spell ‘Killarney’ Without ‘Kill’

You live a little, you learn a lot. Not only has it belatedly come to our attention here at CAP Towers (yep, all the elves finally straggled back from their summer sojourn to Santa Ponsa) that Atlantic Books are issuing a ‘Classic Crime’ series, and that said series includes Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, but they’ve also tossed us something of a curveball in Gerald Griffins’ THE COLLEGIANS, which is – apparently – a classic Irish crime fiction title, first published in 1829. Who knew? Apart from the folks at Atlantic, obviously. Quoth The Bookseller:
The series will begin on 1st November with a four-strong launch comprising Gerald Griffin’s thriller THE COLLEGIANS, Sapper’s detective novel BULLDOG DRUMMOND, RAFFLES by E W Hornung, and Charles Dickens’ BLEAK HOUSE, which Atlantic describes as “the first detective novel”.
  Thereafter, the publisher will launch a book every month—including titles by Edgar Allen Poe, Arthur Conan Doyle, Sheridan Le Fanu and G K Chesterton—until at least the end of 2009.
Nice. Meanwhile, here’s the blurb elves on THE COLLEGIANS:
This romantic melodrama set in rural Killarney in the early 19th century was based on a real case of 1829. Its impressive Irish locations, thrilling characters, complex plot involving love, rivalry, secrecy, betrayal, and impressive denouement made it into one of the most successful thrillers of its day. Recently home from college, young Hardess Cregan rescues poor but striking Eily O’Connor and her father from an unruly mob in the street, with the help of his hunchback foster-brother and sidekick, Danny Mann. Although he is courting his wealthy cousin, Anne Chute, he is smitten by Eily’s beauty. And to complicate matters further, his friend and fellow collegian, Kyrle, is also in love with Anne - and vying hard with him for her attentions. He secretly marries Eily, but her unsophisticated ways soon begin to anger him. And - arrogant and full of roguish self-confidence - when his mother starts to push him into the very advantageous marriage with Anne, he starts to reconsider his choices ... Married to one, engaged to another: can Hardess extricate himself from this impasse? It seems he’s trapped - until Danny suggests that perhaps if Eily were to ‘disappear’, his problems would be solved ...
  You just don’t get many hunchback foster-brother sidekicks to the pound these days, do you?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Alex Barclay

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?
Jim Thompson’s THE KILLER INSIDE ME.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Ooh … Jeeves. Bertie Wooster is priceless.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
No guilt for me … whatever I read, I love, so I’d never feel guilty about doing something I love.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When everything comes together. Because I don’t write chronologically, I have files of separate scenes waiting to be arranged. When I can put them together in way that surprises me and it works out well, it feels great.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Any of Declan Hughes’.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any of Declan Hughes’.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Solitude / solitude.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s Colorado, it’s below-zero, an FBI Agent hunts the killer of a colleague and starts to unravel her colleague’s life … and her own.

Who are you reading right now?

David Sedaris – WHEN YOU ARE ENGULFED IN FLAMES.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. It’s an addiction. And I couldn’t do rehab. Too much sharing, too many group hugs.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Fuelled by coffee.

Alex Barclay’s BLOOD RUNS COLD is published by HarperCollins.

The Devil Wears Prada. And A Red Dress, Apparently.

I mentioned a couple of days back that Niamh O’Connor has a new non-fiction tome out about Sharon Collins, aka ‘Lyin’ Eyes’, and now arrives news of Abigail Rieley’s take on the same story, THE DEVIL IN A RED DRESS, courtesy of Maverick House. Quoth the blurb elves:
Ireland has been gripped by the story of a housewife from County Clare who, when her millionaire partner refused to marry her, googled a hitman and arranged to have him killed. Over the course of almost two months, the story of Lyingeyes and Hire_hitman unfolded in a flurry of emails. The website, hitmanforhire.net might have looked amateurish and carried a disclaimer but it attracted serious interest. One person who was interested was Sharon Collins, the ‘devil in the red dress’. Desperate to get her hands on a share of her partner’s fortune, she took drastic action. She turned to Google to solve her problem. A Mexican marriage certificate was obtained but wasn’t enough. On 8 August 2006, she contacted hitmanforhire.net and started to arrange the hit. This is one of the most bizarre stories to ever appear before an Irish court. Filled with intrigue, betrayal, sex, money and would-be murder, it has all the ingredients for a best-selling thriller. This book will prove to its readers that truth is, indeed, stranger than fiction.
  Or that the truth is, indeed, at least as interesting as a good Patricia Highsmith novel, whichever is more likely to tickle your fancy ...

Monday, November 17, 2008

Laugh? We Nearly Emigrated. Again.

Irish producer Adrian Devane has re-launched a nationwide search for new Irish comedy scripts to produce through his Ardmore Studios based production company 2000AD Productions.
  “What we are looking for are commercial, funny, character driven scripts,” says Devane. “We have been approached by a well known studio in Los Angeles to find and co-produce a great comedy script by an Irish based writer. I have read over sixty scripts in the last four years from Irish-based writers; three were good, and none of them are writing good comedy.”
  The new comedy scripts should be copyright protected by the writer, written in the proper script format and be between 90 and 100 pages. The films should be funny, commercial and aimed towards a production budget between $6-8million. Devane suggests titles like ‘You Don’t Mess With the Zohan’, ‘Napoleon Dynamite’, ‘Juno’, ‘Little Miss Sunshine’, ‘The Wedding Crashers’, ‘American Pie’ and ‘The Wedding Singer’ as a guide to the type of films he is looking to produce.
  “If anyone feels that they can’t write a script but have a good idea then put a synopsis or treatment together and send that in but we are more looking for scripts that are fairly close to shooting,” states Devane. “The best advice I can give is to ask yourself three questions; ‘Will your script or idea make money to cover the cost of its production? Would you go and see it? Does it make you laugh when you read it? If you are unsure of any of those three answers then forget it, you are in the wrong business.”
  Adrian Devane has produced features films, documentaries, short films, commercials, music videos and TV since 1998.
  After two years of film courses at the Galway Film Centre, Adrian worked went on to work with Edwina Forkin at Zanzibar Films, Paul Holmes at Red Rage Films, Brian Willis at Igloo Films and Ned Dowd, a veteran of film making at Ardmore Studios. A graduate of the TV Business School run by the MEDIA programme Adrian has attended many film courses for producers in Ireland and abroad. ‘Veronica Guerin’, ‘Reign of Fire’, ‘Short Order’, ‘King Arthur’, ‘Apocalypto’, ‘32A’ and ‘Speed Dating’ are just a few films that Adrian has been involved in.
  To submit a synopsis go to 2000 AD submissions.

Argue & Phibbs, At Law


The Writer's Curse: if you made this up, no one would ever believe you …

Sunday, November 16, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Jeremy Duns

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?
ENDLESS NIGHT by Agatha Christie. It’s a late novel of hers, and oddly reminiscent of the Angry Young Men novels. It’s beautifully crafted, haunting, with a killer ending.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
James Bond - he lives well, saves the world, and survives.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Dennis Wheatley’s Gregory Sallust spy thrillers.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Coming up with the title for my first novel: FREE AGENT. I wanted something that was very simple, in the vein of Geoffrey Household’s ROGUE MALE, but that would also reveal another layer once you’d finished the book. I just felt a great burden had been lifted and it acted as a kind of mini-tone poem guiding the rest of the book.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Not exactly a crime novel, although it features plenty of crimes, Joseph Hone’s THE SIXTH DIRECTORATE, part of the superb Peter Marlow spy series, sadly long out of print. Gripping plot, beautiful prose.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE BIG O, of course!

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is the mental strain of putting it all together. The best thing is being paid to do what you love.

The pitch for your next book is …?
1969: a British spy on the run in Biafra has to confront his past.

Who are you reading right now?
George Blake’s memoirs, NO OTHER CHOICE.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Spare, gripping, sweat-inducing.

Jeremy Duns’s FREE AGENT will be published in May 2009 by Simon & Schuster.