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?
I don’t know if I’d like to have written it, because then I’d never have had the pleasure of discovering one of the most damned amazing books I ever read, but perhaps James Ellroy’s LA CONFIDENTIAL. When I read, I read for voice ... and Ellroy has voice.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I’d have to say Parker from Richard Stark’s novels. He’s my total antithesis - cool, in control and utterly ruthless. And yet ... as cruel as he is, there’s something to admire in him for all that.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Since I don’t really “get” the fantasy - as in more high fantasy - genre (although I love urban fantasy, SF and horror works) I think that makes my guiltiest pleasure Scott Lynch’s League of Gentlemen Bastard series (LIES OF LOCKE LAMORA and RED SEAS UNDER RED SKIES). The books were forced on me by a fantasy specialist I used to work alongside and while I was extremely dubious, I figured I’d read them as a favour more than anything. Damned if they didn’t defy every expectation that I have with the genre. So yeah, they probably count as a guilty pleasure - or at least something I wouldn’t normally admit to reading.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting that first book deal. I had to take the cool at work on the shop floor and tried my best to remain calm. Actually grabbed one of my colleagues for support. Then when I hung up on my agent I walked calmly into the back-shop and gave out an almighty holler as I danced a dance of joy. A beautiful moment. Although maybe not for anyone observing.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Oh, but youse guys are putting out some of the best writers of the moment. I have to pick just one? Oh ... let’s say McKinty’s THE DEAD YARD, which just ... wow, it blew me away. I love the way McKinty can tell a powerful, action packed story and still imbue it with smarts, subtlety and some genuinely hard questions/themes. This is what a crime novel should be like.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’d dearly love to see a well done adaptation of John Connolly’s Parker novels up there on the screen. But they’d have to be done with a great deal of thought and deliberation; the books are a lot more subtle than a mere surface skim might imply. But if we’re talking novels set in Ireland, then let’s see McKinty’s THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD, perhaps. Again, you’d need a damn fine script and director, but do it right and you’d have that rare thing: a thinking man’s action movie.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing is realising that all your scribbling is about to be up for scrutiny. Best thing is knowing that all your scribbling is up for scrutiny. I reckon you only realise the difference when you get there.
The pitch for your next book is …?
A missing girl. A shady ex-investigator. Dundonian PI J McNee is heading for dark places when he goes in search of a LOST SISTER.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m near finished Stieg Larsson’s THE GIRL WHO PLAYED WITH FIRE. Really ups the stakes from THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO and Lisbeth Salander is an absolutely fascinating character.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Moments like this would make me sway from agnosticism to full on atheism just so I could tell the Big Man to get lost and leave me my free will intact. But regardless ... I’d probably say, as long as I had some other creative outlet (maybe I’d go try and follow up those old dreams of being an actor) I might read. Because a writer is nothing if he doesn’t read, doesn’t understand how a reader’s mind works.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Ray Banks called me, “tight, sleek and controlled” and who am I to argue with that?
Russel McLean’s debut novel is THE GOOD SON. He can be found at These Aye Mean Streets
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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.