“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, December 6, 2008

The Embiggened O # 2,039: Whither Setting?

Yep, it’s Self-Aggrandizing Saturday, and your host this week is Doug Levin over at Levin at Large, who was kind enough to review our humble tome, with the gist running thusly:
“It’s a compelling, strange, and original novel … The ending is odd and amusing, combining farcical revelation and viciousness.”
  Thank you kindly, sir, your reward will be in heaven. Doug goes on to make some interesting points about the setting of THE BIG O – or, to be precise, it’s lack of specific setting. To wit:
“Many of the reviews / blurbs peg Burke as an Irish writer, which he is, but THE BIG O is not dripping with the overt markers of Ireland -- in terms of landscape, cultural reference, and so on … I like novels (and films) sometimes that seem as if they could be in any city or town, a generic place that could be almost anywhere. David Lynch’s Blue Velvet (1986), for instance, depends on its weird surreal, small town setting -- and some of its effect would be mitigated if we all thought the action was isolated to a place like Eureka, California, or Roseburg, Oregon.”
  I’m kind of split on this. I’m happy enough reading stories with non-specific settings, but sometimes I get a real hunger for an exotic setting, and usually one with plenty of sunshine splashing around. Anyone have any plans to set a crime novel in the South Pacific?

Friday, December 5, 2008

On Little Nell, Crime Fiction And The Social Fabric

Yours truly tripped gaily along to the theatre last night to see The Old Curiosity Shop. The director, Alan Stanford, who also adapted the novel for the stage, had this to say in the programme notes about Charles Dickens (right, in ‘sultry belle’ mode):
“His novels, his short stories and his articles have become not only a major portion of world literature but also an important record of the social fabric of his own time. He wrote stories, but his stories were a record of the truth. His books tell us of an England and a London at the start of a new age. An age of Industrial revolution – an age of new Empire – an age of new wealth. But it was also an age of unspeakable poverty, suffering and disease. And of those evils, Dickens chose to write. To a great extent, he opened the eyes of his generation to the sufferings of the poor and weak. The tale teller could not only create characters of such size and range as to fascinate and enthral the imagination of the nation but could even make them, occasionally, examine their own consciences.”
  I’m not saying every genre, including the literary genre, can’t do the same. But it strikes me that crime fiction is the genre best placed to do so, and not only because it’s the most popular kind of writing, and thus likely to result in more occasionally examined consciences, but also because it’s the most immediate record of the social fabric of its time. Does that make it an ‘important record’? I think so. But I also think that things are generally only important up until they begin to revel in their own importance. Here’s hoping crime fiction never crawls up its own fundament in search of self-importance.
  Finally, because it is Friday, arguably my favourite piece of literary criticism, courtesy of Oscar Wilde on dismal fate of Little Nell in THE OLD CURIOSITY SHOP: “It would take a heart of stone not to laugh at it.”

Thursday, December 4, 2008

All You Need Is LOVERS

Taking the briefest of breaks from bigging up practically every Irish crime writer out there, John Connolly (right) was last Sunday chatting with the Sunday Tribune about next year’s THE LOVERS, which has just gone off to the publishers. Quoth John:
“The new book is a follow-on from my first book where we found out Charlie’s dad, Will Parker, a cop, was accused of murdering two young people in a car before killing himself.
  “It’s something which has hung over Charlie so this book is an examination of what happened. Most of the book is people sitting around in rooms talking about the past and it’s a challenge to make that interesting to readers.”
  “Then again, it would be too easy to write the same book over and over.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Burke And McFetridge, Going Dutch: Part The Second

John McFetridge is telling a story about over at his internet lair how he and I got stuck into some good old-fashioned blagging on the way to the Baltimore Bouchercon. All I’m saying is I never got no Timbits. Quoth John:
I was next in line when Declan came in and stood beside me, saying, “Couldn’t do it here, though, have to stand in line so long there’d be miles of footage,” and he motioned to the camera on the wall behind the cash.
  I said, “Yeah, and these places are always crowded.”
  We ordered, me explaining that a double-double is coffee with two cream and two sugar and Declan saying, “There’s still room for the coffee, then,” and asking for it black with sugar. We also got a box of Timbits.
  Walking back through the parking lot to the car I said, “I wonder sometimes what Tim Horton would have thought about Timbits,” and Declan said, “There’s really a Tim Horton?”
  “People think he’s like Ronald McDonald. No, he was a hockey player. Started the first one of these places with a cop in Hamilton.”
  Back on the road, Declan said, “But there are some places you don’t have to stand in line?”
  The only quibble I have with all this is that 'Declan' is not a cool name for a stick-up guy. Now read on …
  Part 1 is here.
  Part 2 is here.

(Note To Self: Use Terrible “RIVERs Of Babble-On” Pun Here)

It’s still early doors for Brian McGilloway’s third offering, BLEED A RIVER DEEP, which isn’t due until next April, but already I’m reduced to culling second-hand big-ups from CSNI. John Connolly has been a supporter of McGilloway’s Inspector Ben Devlin series from the off, but here he outdoes himself thusly:
“Inspector Ben Devlin is that rare creature: a detective who is not violent or tortured, but who is intensely, movingly human, and it is his humanity and decency that grip the reader and give these novels a searing honesty. The Devlin books are set to become one of the great series in modern crime fiction.”
  Nice. And just in case you think JC was having an off-day (JC? Having an off-day?) when he penned that little love-bomb, here’s Sir Kenneth of Bruen all a-blurb-o on the back of BLEED A RIVER DEEP:
“Devlin is going to join the ranks of Rebus, Resnick, Davenport and Scudder as one of the reference points of character series.”
  So there you have it. Connolly and Bruen united as one voice. How often is that likely to happen, eh?
  Kidding aside, though – Rebus? Scudder? Let’s hope no one compares Our Brian to James Lee Burke. He’d probably just hang up his quill and retire …

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

On Equal Writes For Wimmin

I recently interviewed four Irish female crime writers – Ruth Dudley-Edwards (right), Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay and Ingrid Black – for the Sunday Independent about being, y’know, crime writers who are Irish and women. Anyhoos, one of the questions was about why Irish crime writing has so far been dominated by men. Quoth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley-Edwards:
“It may be that Irish crime fiction is dominated by men because so far, it has tended toward the noir,” suggests Dudley-Edwards. “Certainly, very many of the most famous names in classical English crime fiction are female: Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers, PD James, Ruth Rendell. Indeed Reginald Hill has a story of being at a cultural event in France where an earnest man rose to ask why most of the writers of the Golden Age [the Thirties] of detection were women. ‘Because,’ explained Reg, ‘all the men were dead.’”
  Oh, and Arlene Hunt is adamant that women no longer need fainting couches. For the rest, clickety-click here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Year of La French

I’m coming to this a little late, I’m afraid, but I can’t let it go unremarked – Jeff Pierce at The Rap Sheet notes how Tana French’s THE LIKENESS topped the Amazon.com editors’ ‘Best Books of the Year’ picks for 2008. No mean feat, it has to be said, and serious kudos to our Tana. Quoth Jeff:
“I don’t know how reliable Amazon.com’s “best books of the year” picks are anymore, now that most of the knowledgeable editors there have been let go. But for what it’s worth, here are Amazon’s top 10 choices of crime novels released in the States in 2008.”

1. The Likeness, by Tana French
2. Duma Key, by Stephen King
3. The Bodies Left Behind, by Jeffery Deaver
4. Sweetheart, by Chelsea Cain
5. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
6. The Dirty Secrets Club, by Meg Gardiner
7. The Fifth Floor, by Michael Harvey
8. The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard
9. The Cold Spot, by Tom Piccirilli
10. Blackman’s Coffin, by Mark de Castrique
  Meanwhile, in a not entirely dissimilar vein, here’s the best 10 crime novels, from any year, I read during 2008:
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, John McFetridge (Jan)
LaBrava, Elmore Leonard (Jan)
The Reapers, John Connolly (Apr)
Fifty Grand, Adrian McKinty (m/s) (Apr)
Dirty Sweet, John McFetridge (Jun)
Swap, John McFetridge (m/s) (Jul)
The Dark Fields, Alan Glynn (Sep)
The Snake Stone, Jason Goodwin (Oct)
The Ice Harvest, Scott Phillips (Oct)
When Eight Bells Toll, Alistair MacLean (Nov)
  Please feel free to disparage my taste in crime fiction / post your own Top Tens / ignore this nonsense entirely, all in your own sweet time …

Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Purty Dozen

Gerard Brennan over at CSNI gave us the first look at Stuart Neville’s cover for THE TWELVE this week (rather fetching artwork, right), and also Stuart’s depressing reasons for why the previously monikered THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST will be called THE TWELVE for it’s UK release. Buggery, scooped again. Oi, Neville – that’s you and me finito, squire.
  Anyhoo, the reason I bring up THE TWELVE is that John Connolly was among those great-n-good the Irish Times asked for their ‘Books of the Year’ selections for 2008, the full list of which was published yesterday. Quoth JC:
“Meanwhile, this was a good year for Irish crime fiction, with strong additions from Declan Hughes, Tana French, Paul Charles and Brian McGilloway, among others. I suspect, though, that one of the crime novels of the year in 2009 will be Stuart Neville’s stunning debut, THE TWELVE (Harvill Secker, £12.99), which is, I think, the best mystery to have emerged so far from the aftermath of the Troubles. I read it in a single sitting, and it marks a major step forward for the genre in this country.”
  So there you have it. Stuart Neville. THE TWELVE. Remember, folks, you heard it here second.

A TOWER Rose Up In Brooklyn

I first heard about TOWER at the Baltimore Bouchercon, when I met Reed Farrel Coleman (right) walking around wearing a ‘TOWER’ t-shirt. ‘What’s that?’ says I. ‘A collaboration with Ken Bruen,’ says he, ‘out next year with Busted Flush.’ ‘Christ on a motorised mangle,’ says I, ‘that’s genius.’
  Sir Kenneth of Bruen has been writing twisted noir pastiches with Jason Starr for a few years now, of course, over at Hard Case Crime, but TOWER sounds like a different prospect entirely. Quoth David Thompson at Busted Flush:
“Born into a rough Brooklyn neighbourhood, outsiders in their own families, Nick and Todd forge a lifelong bond that persists in the face of crushing loss, blood, and betrayal. Low-level wiseguys with little ambition and even less of a future, the friends become major players in the potential destruction of an international crime syndicate that stretches from the cargo area at Kennedy Airport to the streets of New York, Belfast, and Boston, to the alleyways of Mexican border towns. Their paths are littered with the bodies of undercover cops, snitches, lovers, and stone-cold killers.
  “In the tradition of THE LONG GOODBYE, MYSTIC RIVER, and THE DEPARTED, TOWER is a powerful meditation on friendship, fate, and fatality. A twice-told tale done in the unique format of parallel narratives that intersect at deadly crossroads, TOWER is like a beautifully crafted knife to the heart.
  “Imagine a Brooklyn rabbi / poet — Reed Farrel Coleman — collaborating with a mad Celt from the West of Ireland — Ken Bruen — to produce a novel unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. A ferocious blast of gut-wrenching passion that blends the fierce granite of Galway and the streetwise rap of Brooklyn. Fasten your seat belts, this is an experience that is as incendiary as it is heart-shriven.”
  Sold! TOWER is due next autumn. Stay tooned for further details …