Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

TOWERing Inferno

Is it just me, or is there a distinctly ’70s vibe emanating from the cover of the Ken Bruen / Reed Farrel Coleman collaboration from Busted Flush? Pretty stark artwork for a stark and not very pretty story, it has to be said, and one that puts yours truly in mind of blaxploitation and funkadelia – neither of which, I should probably point out, feature in the novel itself. Herewith be your humble correspondent’s take on it:
“TOWER goes off like a slo-mo explosion, a raging blast of white-heat light. It’s a compelling study of pathologies, and style, and friendship and fate. Fuelled by tenderness and murderous hate, it’s as tender as it is brutal, tender as a savage wound, ragged and raw. Here be monsters, crippled monsters: Nicky and Todd are the truest angels and demons of our mean streets I’ve read for some time. Be afraid.”
  There’s actually two covers for the book, given that there’s two authors, and what’s fascinating about what’s inside the covers is the very different styles employed for the parallel voices. It’s not the same set-up as the Ken Bruen / Jason Starr collaborations for Hard Case Crime: here you get the same tale of mutual destruction told twice, in a split narrative reminiscent of Jim Thompson, but filtered through radically diverse mind-sets. It’s a fascinating exercise that packs a hell of a wallop.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Ava: A-Va-Va-Voom

Following on from Thursday’s ‘negative and/or crap reviews’ storm in a teacup, Ava McCarthy’s debut, THE INSIDER, isn’t really my cup of Darjeeling. Which is a shame, because I really wanted to like it – the protag, Harry Martinez, is a likeable minx, what with her wilful computer hackery and poker-playing wiles. Anyway, what the blummery do I know, I can’t even snag myself a book deal with Lulu these days …
  Anyhoos, and as always, my opinion is utterly moot, because THE INSIDER is moving through the publishing world like the proverbial dose of salts, with a little birdie telling me that the novel is selling into so many territories they’re thinking of terra-forming Mars just to accommodate the overspill. First, however – drum roll there, maestro – the novel will be conquering China, which is, as a publishing territory, the ultimate in sleeping giants. Well done, that woman.
  Meanwhile, here’s an interview with Ava, conducted by TV3, which has been pretty damn good lately when it comes to supporting the Irish crime fic rabble. Roll it there, Collette …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Gerard Stembridge

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?

DOUBLE INDEMNITY, by James M. Cain. Lean, mean, spare despair. To those who have only seen the splendid Billy Wilder film, you still have a treat in store and a surprise or two.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
George Smiley.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Eric Ambler. Pre-WW2 Europe at its most exotic, fantastic characters, his brilliance on the relationships between high finance, crime and politics set the standard. Favours politics over sex, which may be a downer for some readers, but, overall, if you haven’t yet, do. Now that I think about it, what’s to feel guilty about?

Most satisfying writing moment?
Beginning a rewrite.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
So much good stuff recently I hesitate to choose. While I have favourites right now, I still have a lot more to explore as your blog rather scarily demonstrates, and only time will tell who will survive in the memory. I will mention an earlier book that has stayed with me nearly twenty years on. John Brady’s KADDISH IN DUBLIN is well worth re-visiting both for its insightful contemporaneous portrait of late ’80s Dublin, and that most unusual of cop heroes, the happily married kind.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I want … strong visuals to start, a big juicy character for mains, and a man-size helping of plot with a really BIG Order of tension and plenty of surprise on the side. A big question this, really BIG. Oh I don’t know ... what to choose, what to choose ...

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Choosing when to get up/work/stop working/just think.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Are you joking? Do you want to put the hex on it altogether?

Who are you reading right now?
Recently finished Liam O Flaherty’s strange 1920’s ‘thriller’ GILHOOLEY. Doesn’t really work as a thriller but is of interest for its dark, cynical and occasionally quirky view, of early Free State Dublin. Just beginning TENDERWIRE by Claire Kilroy and really liking it so far.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. Without hesitation. Of course, I assume God will allow me to read anything I write (he said cunningly).

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
No words wasted.

Gerard Stembridge’s COUNTING DOWN is available now.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Watchmen: Who Reviews The Reviewers?

Erm, I do. Occasionally. Or once, at least. Sometimes a review is so badly put together you just can’t help sticking your oar in. Take The Book Critic’s review of Alex Barclay’s BLOOD RUNS COLD, for example. To wit:
According to the blurb, Alex Barclay is the rising star in the world of crime fiction. With this being her third novel, you’d have thought that she might have got into her stride by now and be displaying the talent that her agent and publishers saw in her.
Sadly, with Blood Runs Cold, this talent is yet to show itself.
  This is a poorly plotted, lumpenly-written novel with about as much verve, sparkle and edge as a damp towel. In a genre filled with the likes of Janet Evanovich, Sara Paretsky, Kathy Reichs and Patricia Cornwell, Alex Barclay needs to do a serious amount of work to do more than make up the numbers.
  The protagonist in this novel is totally unsympathetic and the dialogue is at times laughable, often impossible to follow. As a whole, it didn’t feel genuine or believeable.
  Another negative was the glut of supporting characters, none of whom felt real or sharply-enough drawn to hold the reader’s attention.
  I’m sure somewhere in the book is a semblance of a good plot straining to get out, but it’s mired in clunkiness of the highest order.
  Alex Barclay may be a talent, but on the evidence of this, it’s not clear if it will enough to sustain a career.
There’s an old phrase that runs, ‘If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.’ Another version runs, ‘If you can’t say anything original, fresh or constructively critical, crawl back under your stone.’ To wit:
According to the blog The Book Critic, bertieonrob is the rising star in the world of crime fiction criticism. With this being his umpteenth review, you’d have thought that he might have got into his stride by now and be displaying the talent that his ego saw in him.
Sadly, with Blood Runs Cold, this talent is yet to show itself.
  This is a poorly detailed, lumpenly-written review with about as much verve, sparkle and edge as a failed writer. In a niche filled with the likes of Peter Rozovsky, Glenn Harper, Karen Meek and Gerard Brennan, bertieonrob needs to do a serious amount of work to do more than make up the numbers.
  The critic in this review is totally unsympathetic and the critique is at times laughable, often impossible to follow. As a whole, it didn’t feel genuine or believeable.
  Another negative was the absence of supporting arguments for his case, none of which felt real or sharply-enough drawn to hold the reader’s attention. Or existed, even.
  I’m sure somewhere in the review is a semblance of a good critique straining to get out, but it’s mired in clunkiness of the highest order.
  Bertieonrob may be a talent, but on the evidence of this, it’s not clear if it will enough to sustain a zzzzzzzzz ….
  For those of you interested, here’s a rather different take on BLOOD RUNS COLD.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

For Those About To Write, We Salute You

Over at the Guardian blog, AL Kennedy has a word or two of advice for her creative writing students – and wannabe writers of all hues, your humble correspondent included – during the course of which she hammers quite a number of nails just above the cuticle. To wit:
“They want to write, they have application and vigour, they’ve all come on since I read them last and yet ... it would be unfair not to remind them of how horrible their futures may become. If they’re unsuccessful, they’ll be clattering through a global Depression with a skill no one requires, a writing demon gnawing at their spine to be expressed and a delicately-nurtured sensitivity that will only make their predicaments seem worse – and yet somehow of no interest to anyone else. If they’re successful, they still may not make a living, will travel more than a drug mule, may be so emotionally preoccupied that they fail to notice entire relationships, will have to deal with media demands no sane person would want to understand and may well wear far too much black …
  “Naturally, I don’t believe anyone will be deterred by my mad-eyed rantings. Once somebody wants to write it’s almost impossible to stop them without also killing them to some significant degree … And if you think you might actually be doing some good, amusing someone other than yourself – making them less lonely, more alive, more informed – well, you’re just not going to chuck that over in favour of crafting, long walks and a quiet life. Hence the number of regimes and leaders who have discovered that killing writers until they are entirely dead is a highly effective method of slowing literary output. And may angels and ministers of grace preserve the students and indeed myself from any shades of that. We may feel hard done by, but we’re not doing that badly – for individuals trapped in a society intent upon eating its own tongue.”
  With two books published, a sequel to the second novel declined, and a fourth novel currently under consideration – which is a lot like sending your child along to an audition for Perverts on Ice – I’m about half-a-rung up from the average creative writing student. Which is pretty close to the floor, on a ladder half-inched from the Seven Dwarves.
  Will I stop writing? Well, right now I’m getting up at 5.30 am to get 90 minutes worth of genius prose written, this so my head doesn’t explode during the rest of the day while I rush about trying to fend off the Hydra-headed monster of Recession. At this point I so badly need the escapism that I’m about 30,000 words into a story set on the south coast of Crete, tentatively working-titled THE GODMAN OF LOUTRO, during the course of which the hero – who is, in fact, your humble correspondent – goes to Crete to research a novel and becomes said godman. About five thousand words ago, accepting the reality that there isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell of the story ever being published, I decided to give the hero – YHC – amnesia, just so he can forget a few salient details, the most relevant one being how dire are the straits in which the publishing industry finds itself, so that YHC can continue scuffling about the Cretan mountains in search of a story, despite the fact that there’s a good chance it will never be published.
  In effect, I’m reduced to writing a novel about the fact that the novel I’m writing will never see the light of day.
  Will I stop writing it? Can I stop writing it? And what would it matter in the grand scheme of things if the answer to both questions was yes?
  At 5.30 am, “crafting, long walks and a quiet life” – perhaps even an extra 45 minutes of comatose oblivion – is a very tempting alternative to what amounts to shouting down a well. I’ll keep you posted.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE PARIS ENIGMA by Pablo de Santis

Set against the backdrop of the World’s Fair of 1900, THE PARIS ENIGMA sees the world famous brotherhood of the Twelve Detectives come together for the first time to exhibit their craft and discuss their cases. As every great classical detective requires a Watsonlike familiar, their assistants are present as well. Sigmundo Salvatrio, assistant to Argentinian detective Renato Craig, narrates what happens when one of the famous sleuths is found murdered at the foot of the EiffelTower.
  A journalist and editor of comic magazines, Argentinian Pablo De Santis is the author of a number of young adult books. This, his first foray into adult fiction, blends telling historical detail, faux naif humour and a touching homage to classic works of crime and mystery writing, with nods to Edgar Allen Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and the epitome of 19th-century crime writing, the ‘‘locked room’’ mystery.
e goes behind the scenes of the detective-assistant relationship, poking fun at the clichéd arrogance of the sleuth and the presumed ignorance of his Everyman sidekick. ‘‘Observe everything carefully,” the Pole Arzaky tells Salvatrio. ‘‘Any comment that occurs to you, make it: there is no greater inspiration for a detective than the frivolous words of the hoi polloi.”
  De Santis, however, has more to offer than simple parody or pastiche, and asks philosophical questions about the very nature of crime writing and, by extension, fiction writing of all hues and stripes. ‘‘Was I finding a puzzle to solve in behaviour that wasn’t mysterious in the least,” asks Japanese savant Sakawa, ‘‘in people who were fated from birth to their unique deaths? I don’t have nightmares about crime; I dream about the blank page, I dream that I am the one who draws the ideograms where there was nothing, where there should always be nothing.”
  Later, a minor character echoes the sentiment: ‘‘Our minds always search for hidden associations. We like things to rhyme. We can’t accept chaos, stupidity, the shapeless proliferation of evil.”
  This is a sumptuous offering from De Santis, an elegantly styled novel of ideas coloured by self-deprecating humour that also boasts a page-turning mystery. But the author has yet another string to his bow. Salvatrio, to the horror of his fellow assistants, utters the ultimate heresy when he admits that he, from a working-class family, has aspirations of becoming a gentleman detective himself.
  For devotees of crime fiction, the character of Salvatriopre figures the democratisation of the mystery narrative in the early decades of the 20th century when, to paraphrase Raymond Chandler, protohard boiled writer Dashiell Hammett took murder out of the drawing room and dumped it back in the alley, where it belonged.’
  And yet De Santis has his detectives, those rationalist devotees of reason and forensic detail, the forerunners of today’s fictional giants, upstaged by an intuitive understanding of the capricious workings of the human heart. It’s that final twist of the post-modern screw which suggests that De Santis is a novelist of immense promise. – Declan Burke

This review first appeared in the Sunday Business Post

Monday, February 23, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Stephen J. Cannell

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?
SILENT JOE by T. Jefferson Parker, or THE CHOIRBOYS by Joseph Wambaugh.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jim Rockford in The Rockford Files.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t read for guilty pleasure. I try to read novelists I can learn from.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The start of each day.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I truthfully haven’t read much Irish crime fiction, but I do read and admire, Michael Connelly and Dennis Lehane – both of Irish American descent.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I thought the film adaptation of Lehane’s MYSTIC RIVER was terrific.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
You get to keep your own hours.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Shane Scully is called upon to be a pallbearer and along with his five rail-mates, ends up proving that the death of their great friend inside the box was not a suicide, but a murder.

Who are you reading right now?
THE GATE HOUSE by Nelson DeMille.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. But if I couldn’t proof-read what I wrote, it might not be too good.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Page turning fiction.

Stephen J. Cannell’s ON THE GRIND is available now

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Lingua Franca

Arminta Wallace conducted a rather nice interview with Tana French (right) in yesterday’s Irish Times, in which Tana offers some thoughtful insights into what makes the crime novel tick. To wit:
A central preoccupation of many of the current crop of Irish crime novels is, she points out, the theme of how to strike a workable balance between past and present. “In Declan Hughes’s THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, the past literally surfaces from underneath a building site to shake up the present. Patrick Dunne’s investigator, Ilaun Bowe, is an archaeologist by trade. And just about everything I do is about keeping hold of our traditional identity while not getting stuck in the past.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, to my everlasting chagrin, I haven’t a baldy as to who Patrick Dunne is. For shame, sirrah, etc. Steps are being taken to rectify the situation as you read.
  Also meanwhile, and also in the Irish Times, Shane Hegarty had a piece on Ireland’s twenty most essential blogs. And golly-gosh, there was our humble offering nestling in amongst all the real bloggers. Is this it? Has Crime Always Pays gone mainstream? Mother of Mercy, is this the end for Rico?
  Only time, that notorious doity rat, will tell …

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Rather More Than A Quantum Of SOLACE

Can it really be 18 months since Siobhan Dowd (right) died? The much-lamented Siobhan, author of A SWIFT PURE CRY, THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY and BOG CHILD, has her last novel published by David Fickling Books, SOLACE OF THE ROAD, with the blurb elves twittering thusly:
Memories of Mum are the only thing that make Holly Hogan happy. She hates her foster family with their too-nice ways and their false sympathy. And she hates her life, her stupid school and the way everyone is always on at her. Then she finds the wig, and everything changes. Wearing the long, flowing blonde locks she feels transformed. She’s not Holly any more, she’s Solace: the girl with the slinkster walk and the super-sharp talk. She’s older, more confident - the kind of girl who can walk right out of her humdrum life, hitch to Ireland and find her mum. The kind of girl who can face the world head on. So begins a bittersweet, and sometimes hilarious journey as Solace swaggers and Holly tiptoes across England and through memory, discovering her true self, and unlocking the secrets of her past. SOLACE OF THE ROAD is a wonderful novel from one of the UK’s most talented new writers for teenagers. Holly’s story will leave a lasting impression on all who travel with her.
  Given that Siobhan was born in London to Irish parents, and spent quite a bit of her childhood flitting back and forth across the Irish Sea, it’s hard not to expect SOLACE OF THE ROAD to be the teensiest bit autobiographical, and all the more poignant for that. Go n-eírí an bóthar leat, Holly and Siobhan …

Friday, February 20, 2009

James Patterson: Evil Genius?

Courtesy of ReadWriteWeb comes this little nugget about James ‘Blofeld’ Patterson’s latest instalment in his bid for world domination, to wit:
Best-selling crime author James Patterson will release a new kind of novel next month - one that’s been collaboratively written with the crowd. Called AIRBORNE, the upcoming novel will feature 30 chapters, each written by a different author except the first and last - those will be written by Patterson himself. With the release of this book, it appears the Web 2.0 movement of collaborative writing is about to hit the mainstream.
  Earlier, Borders Australia and Random House held a contest to find twenty-eight writers who would be able to write the bulk of the book. The chapters they produce will need to be less than 750 words so, obviously, this book will be a little lighter than Patterson’s other novels.
  Once complete, AIRBORNE will be released electronically, one chapter at a time, starting on March 20th. Later, a print edition will be published, but only as a prize of sorts for the participants in the competition - it will not be mass produced.
  AIRBORNE – as in virus, right?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Distant Voices, Stilled Lives

The quality of football played in the League of Ireland is not very high as a rule, and if you’re not a committed supporter of one of the teams on the field, in this case Shelbourne and Monaghan United, it can tend towards the boring, to put it mildly, but when the bloke behind me said that what we needed was a bit of fucking action, I don’t think a guy in a balaclava piling out of the fans’ car park with a submachine gun and spraying bullets around Tolka Park was what he had in mind
  Shades of the 1920 Bloody Sunday massacre at Croke Park from the first lines of Declan Hughes’ latest, ALL THE DEAD VOICES, if you don’t count the prologue, which I don’t, because I hate them, but that’s just me. Anyhoos, ALL THE DEAD VOICES won’t be released for another couple of months, but I’ve snagged an advance copy, which is very sweet indeed for me, because the boy Hughes is rapidly becoming one of the most important Irish novelists of his generation. Here’s hoping Ed Loy gets him the Edgar award he’s been nominated for, so that Irish crime fiction can bask in his reflected glory. He’ll be unbearable if he wins, of course, but sure he’s pretty much unbearable now anyway. Go Ed!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

The Summer of LOVERS

John Connolly’s latest, THE LOVERS, doesn’t officially arrive until June, but – generous soul that he is – the man has already uploaded the Prologue and Chapter One to his interweb thingagummy. Nice cover, no? Anyhoo, the Prologue goes a lot like this:

PROLOGUE

I tell myself that this is not an investigation. It is for others to be investigated, but not for my family, and not for me. I will delve into the lives of others, and I will expose their secrets and their lies, sometimes for money, and sometimes because that is the only way to lay old ghosts to rest, but I will not begin to pick and scratch at what I have believed of my mother. They are gone. Let them sleep.

  But there are too many questions left unanswered, too many inconsistencies in the narrative constructed of their lives, a tale told by them and continued by others. I can no longer allow them to remain unexamined.
* * *
My father, William Parker, known to his friends as Will, died when I was sixteen years old. He was a cop in the Nine, on the Lower East Side of New York, loved by his wife, and faithful to her, with a son whom he loved and by whom he was loved in return. He chose to remain in uniform, and not to seek promotion, because he was content to serve on the streets as an ordinary patrolman. He had no secrets, or none so terrible that he, or those close to him, might have been damaged beyond repair had they been revealed. He lived an ordinary, small-town existence, or as ordinary an existence as he could lead when the cycles of his existence were determined by duty rosters, by killings, by theft and drug abuse and by the predations of the strong and ruthless upon the weak and defenseless. His flaws were minor, his sins venial.

  Every one of these statements is a lie, except that he loved his son, although his son sometimes forgot to love him back. After all, I was a teenager when he died, and what boy, at that age, is not already knocking heads with his father, attempting to establish his primacy over the old man in the house who no longer understands the nature of the ever-changing world around him? So, did I love him? Of course, but by the end I was refusing to admit it to him, or to myself.

  Here, then, is the truth.

  My father did not die: he took his own life.

  His lack of advancement was not a matter of choice, but of punishment.

  His wife did not love him or, if she did, she did not love him as she once had, for he had betrayed her and she could not bring herself to forgive that betrayal.

  He did not lead an ordinary existence, and people died to keep his secrets.

  He had grave weaknesses, and his sins were mortal.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Jim Kelly

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?

A VERY LONG ENGAGEMENT, by Sebastien Japrisot.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Sal Paradise in ON THE ROAD.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Tolkien.

Most satisfying writing moment?

Getting the word “limned” into the next DI Shaw mystery.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE RIDDLE OF THE SANDS, by Erskine Childers.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD by Declan Hughes.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?

Worst thing is there’s no office party. The best thing is being able to play with a sledge for five hours in the snow.

The pitch for your next book is …?
A lonely road. Nine people trapped in a line of cars in a blizzard. One brutal murder. No footprints in the snow. The impossible crime.

Who are you reading right now?
About to start THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER or THE MURDER AT ROAD HILL HOUSE by Kate Summerscale. Just finished MAPS OF MY LIFE by Guy Browning and a biography of WILLIAM THE BASTARD. (Don’t ask).

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. (but that’s the Bible out, right ? So there’s an upside.)

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Sense of Place.

Jim Kelly’s DEATH WORE WHITE is out now from Penguin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Mi Casa, Su Casa: Rafe McGregor on William Melville

Rafe McGregor (right) was kind enough to pen a few words for ye olde blogge, on the real-life spy-catcher William Melville, who also happens to be – although it’s surely only a coinkidink – the hero of his debut novel, THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER. To wit:

“My main interest as a writer is – and probably always will be – the hardboiled detective story, but for a number of reasons my first published novel is a historical murder mystery. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, however, as historical crime stories often lend themselves to the hardboiled style, and I was pleased to make the most of this in THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER, which is set in London in 1902. Once I’d decided to go back in time a hundred years or more, I found there were a number of significant differences in telling the story and writing the novel. Some were disadvantages, and some advantages, and one of the latter was being able to mix real historical personalities with fictional characters. Several real people appear in the novel, but the most important by far is a gent by the name of William Melville: top Met thief-taker, spymaster extraordinaire, and as Irish as Guinness.
  “Melville was born on the 25th April 1850 in Sneem, County Kerry. At the time, Sneem was a poor village, with some of the inhabitants living in conditions described as ‘medieval’. Melville wasn’t quite that badly off, as his parents ran a bakery-cum-liquor store, but his origins and education were certainly both humble. In THE GUARDS, his first Jack Taylor novel, Ken Bruen writes:
“There are no private eyes in Ireland. The Irish wouldn’t wear it. The concept brushes perilously close to the hated ‘informer’. You can get away with almost anything except ‘telling’.”
  “Perhaps that explains why Melville, like so many of his contemporaries, sought to make his fortune overseas, leaving Ireland some time between his seventeenth and twenty-first year. I read that – like Jack Taylor – Melville was a competent hurler in his youth, but as so little is actually known of his early life, I had doubts, and you won’t find him taking a camán to anyone in THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER …
  “Melville’s life is better documented after he joined the Metropolitan Police in 1872. He distinguished himself several times in his early service and was recruited to the new Special Irish Branch in 1883. This was the first specialist detective branch set up in the British Empire, with the aim of bringing the Dynamiters’ bombing campaign in London to an end. Although Melville spent most of his life in London, he always thought of himself as Irish, raised his children to be Irish rather than English, and didn’t see any contradiction in working against the Fenians.
  “In 1893, he found himself in charge of the new Section D, renamed Special Branch, which now concentrated on the anarchist threat and VIP protection duties. Alec Marshall, the narrator of THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER, sums up the next nine years of Melville’s career:
“William Melville had been one of the most famous policemen in the Empire when I was growing up. He was one of the original Special Irish Branch, established to counter the Fenian bombing campaign, and had played a part in foiling the Jubilee, Balfour, and Walsall Plots. He’d also been personal bodyguard to the Prince of Wales, the Shah of Persia, and the German Kaiser. It was claimed that while anarchists and nihilists traditionally regarded London as a safe haven because of the British government’s reluctance to repatriate them, ‘Melville’s Gang’ were so effective that the violent extremists had all left for greener pastures.”
  “‘The King’s Detective’ – as Melville was known to the public – retired from the Met in 1903 to set up the organisation that later became MI5, and he is considered a possible candidate for Ian Fleming’s ‘M’ in the James Bond novels. Many of the details of Melville’s work with organisations such as the Secret Service Bureau (as featured in the latest adaptation of THE 39 STEPS) are still shrouded in mystery, but much of it involved preparation for a future war with Germany, which was regarded as inevitable by 1909.
  “One of Melville’s strengths, which distinguished him from so many of his contemporaries in the early days of spying, was that he knew how to keep a secret. Most of the spies exposed before the First World War were caught because they either boasted of their profession, were incredibly careless, or both. Melville was neither, and had a reputation for the type of ‘need to know’ flow of information with which everyone is now familiar. I won’t say any more about his fascinating career, so as not to reveal too much of the plot of the novel, except that he finally retired at the end of 1917. He died of kidney failure in February the following year, aged sixty-seven. There is, as far as I know, only one biography of this remarkable Irishman, M: MI5’S FIRST SPYMASTER by Andrew Cook (first published in 2004, and still in print), which is well worth the read.
  “THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER takes place the year before Melville’s move to the secret service. He’s a fit fifty-two year old, the superintendent in charge of Special Branch, and at the height of his powers. He’s also rather busy with all the royalty in London for King Edward VII’s Coronation. Shortly after the home secretary tells him to find out why the will of the richest man in the Empire is taking so long to prove, he hears that a young Scottish war hero named Marshall is back in town. Marshall used to lodge with one of the witnesses to the will, and was a policeman before the war. Melville does what any chief of police would do: lights up a Henry Clay, pulls Marshall’s file, and sends his best man to fetch him. Thus begins THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER.
  “The novel is the first Marshall and Melville case, but it won’t be their last. There is plenty of work left in the first decade of the twentieth century, and a horde of villains lurking in the shadows of the metropolis. Meanwhile, across the channel, a man with a handlebar moustache, crippled left arm, and an appetite for conquest watches the British Isles. Unfortunately, he won’t be the last of his race to attempt to rule the world …” – Rafe McGregor

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Kerrigan, Bateman, McGilloway, McKinty

Four reviews of forthcoming novels for your delectation, folks, all courtesy of today’s Sunday Indo, the novels in question being DARK TIMES IN THE CITY by Gene Kerrigan, MYSTERY MAN by (the Artist Formerly Known as Colin) Bateman, BLEED A RIVER DEEP by Brian McGilloway, and FIFTY GRAND by Adrian McKinty. To wit:
In one sense, it’s a shame that Gene Kerrigan hails from this parish, because you’re going to think I’m biased when I say that, with DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, Kerrigan has written one of the finest crime novels ever set in Ireland.
  Initially the story of Danny Callaghan, a Dublin ex-con who instinctively interferes in a gangland hit and suffers the consequences, DARK TIMES is a novel that gets under the skin of post-boom Ireland. The various settings are for the most part those urban wastelands by-passed by the boom, where people live cheek-by-jowl with the criminal fraternity, and where the notion of law and order is a sick joke. And yet, as with Kerrigan’s previous novels, LITTLE CRIMINALS and A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, the issues are not black-and-white, and the lines drawn are not between good and bad, or law and disorder. Kerrigan is more interested in exploring the concept of power, its use and abuse, and how those at the bottom of the pecking order, regardless of which side of the thin blue line they stand, are powerless – physically, financially and morally – when confronted with the juggernaut of power corrupted absolutely …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Saturday, February 14, 2009

The Embiggened O # 2,309: Yep, It’s Self-Aggrandizing Saturday

The ever-radiant Angela Wilson over at Book Addict at Pop Syndicate was kind enough to interview your humble host about THE BIG O and sundry other matters, said chat opening up thusly:
Declan, tell us about your latest, THE BIG O.

  “Well, it’s set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, and it’s about this evil empire … Oh, hold on – that’s what I’m working on now. THE BIG O is a heist-gone-wrong story, heavily influenced by some of my favourite writers and movie-makers: Elmore Leonard and the Coen Brothers (although, naturally, I make no claims for its quality being up to their standard). Basically, it’s a crime caper about ordinary decent criminals, and how things always tend to go wrong despite the best laid plans of mice, men, women and one-eyed wolves. Especially when the plans laid are quite poor to begin with …”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, February 13, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Marc Blatte

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?
THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Anyone amoral.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
John Burdett.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Coming up with a credible dialogue in the book that explains the title HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED.
“Then his cousin solemnly gave Vooko the gun, lit up a juicy spliff , and after a few hits, got sadly philosophical. “Take care with this, little cuz. This place America, ain’t like home. No way. Here nobody takes responsibility for anything. They got “no fault insurance,” bumper stickers and tee shirts that say “shit happens.” Come on man, let’s be real, shit don’t just happen yo, that’s what I’m talkin’ about: Humpty Dumpty was pushed!”
The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE BLACK ANGEL.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Ditto.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Finishing or starting a book. Starting or finishing a book.

The pitch for your next book is …?
White boy stud super star street baller thinks he sees an off-court killing during Entertainers Basketball Classic at Harlem’s Rucker’s Park.

Who are you reading right now?
WILD COWBOYS: URBAN MARAUDERS AND THE FORCES OF ORDER by Robert Jackall.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I say to God. “You mean I get to write but I can’t read what I‘ve written?” God nods affirmative. I continue, “Sounds like heaven to me.”

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?

Fast, faster, funny.

Marc Blatte’s HUMPTY DUMPTY WAS PUSHED is available now.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Black Day at Bad Rock

The line-up for John Sturges’ movie ‘Bad Day at Black Rock’ had the greatest cast of character actors ever assembled on the same lot: apart from Spencer Tracy in the one-armed lead, you had Robert Ryan, Walter Brennan, Lee Marvin and Ernest Borgnine. Although Sam Peckinpah’s ‘The Wild Bunch’ is arguably better. Can anyone name the Wild Bunch off the top of their head? I’ll give you Bo Hopkins for a starter …
  Anyway, the point of today’s broadcast, courtesy of Caroline Walsh at the Irish Times:
A film version of Irish novelist Kevin Power’s debut novel BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK, inspired by the death of a young man after an attack outside a Dublin nightclub, is in the offing. The book has been sold via agent Marianne Gunn O’Connor to Ed Guiney’s Irish-based company Element Pictures which produced the movies Garage and Adam and Paul and co-produced The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
  Very nice, especially since 'Adam and Paul' is the greatest Irish movie ever made.
  Actually, I’m not even sure if BAD DAY IN BLACKROCK is a crime novel, or even a novel of crime. And I’m pretty sure Kevin Power didn’t write it as a crime novel. But it’s a good book, and I think in time it will be an important book, and Kevin Power seems to be a decent sort of chap who can write very well, and I think he deserves all the publicity he gets, including the precious few molecules generated here. Well done, that man.
  Meanwhile, there’s already an Irish movie called ‘Bad Day at Blackrock’ (2001), Gerry Stembridge’s story about racism in the south Dublin suburb, the same backdrop against which Kevin Power’s novel takes place. So: what are they going to call it? ‘Black Day at Bad Rock?’

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

When Harry Lost Sal

Trust me, for the next five years or so the hot topic in thrillers will be people trying their damnedest to break out of banks, rather than into them. Meanwhile, set in the world of dubious high finance, Dubliner Ava McCarthy’s debut, THE INSIDER (due in April), couldn’t be more timely. Quoth the blurb elves:
A cutting-edge international debut thriller set in the world of hackers, techno-thieves and inside traders, for fans of John Grisham. Henrietta ‘Harry’ Martinez lost her investment banker father, Sal, at a young age. He taught her everything he knew -- about taking risks and calculating odds. But Sal made a bad gamble when he went into business with ‘The Prophet’, an anonymous trader who claims Harry owes him, now her father’s jailed for fraud. It’s twelve million euros. Or her life. With no money and little time, Harry must track down Sal’s crooked partners and escape the people on her trail -- journalists, police and hired killers. But Harry has her own skills, honed by her father, skills her enemies haven’t anticipated. Now, from the London Stock Exchange to the casinos of the Bahamas, the chase is on. The stakes are high. And the bets are off!
  The Big Question: Has Ava McCarthy and / or HarperCollins engineered the worldwide economic crash in order to give THE INSIDER a platform? Answers on used fifties to The Grand Vizier’s Blind Orphan Foundation, c/o Moolah Mansions, Grand Bahama.
  Meantime, the vid below is of Ava offering the inside skinny. Roll it there, Collette …

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Future Of Books # 12,092

Last year, when I was uploading A GONZO NOIR to the web, I was very tempted to make it a more radical experience of reading than you get from a conventional novel, utilising pics where appropriate, YouTube videos, author comments and marginalia, and including web-links to topics mentioned, etc. Time being a commodity as precious as oxygen these days, I decided against it, but David Meerman Scott over at Web Ink Now has some interesting thoughts along the same lines, to wit:
“So what if a book read more like a website? What if it looked more like those Choose Your Own Adventure books, with links to other chapters, pages, and even other resources in the marginalia? What if there were paid advertising on the page, but not traditional ads but rather something more akin to Google AdWords, where the placement is determined online in a bidding process coupled with consumer-driven inputs? What if on the printed page, instead of single photos or illustrations with captions, books adapted the concept of the embedded YouTube video, and used a storyboard format--i.e., a comics format--to depict a scene, when sequential visuals are required?”
  Sounds ludicrous? Not really, when you’ve got downloadable books to hand-held devices, and wi-fi growing in availability by the day. Any thoughts?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

How The Key West Was Won: Part The Second

Michael Haskins (right), the Florida wing of the great Irish crime writing conspiracy, has posted the first chapter of his second novel, FREE RANGE INSTITUTION, featuring his protag from CHASIN’ THE WIND, ‘Mad’ Mick Murphy. How Irish is ‘Mad’ Mick? Erm, the answer is in the question. Anyhoo, on with the show …
Tita and I walked the short block from Key West Island Books to Duval Street, wandering between tourists as they window-shopped, drank beer from plastic cups, and ignored traffic lights. It was nice to have her back from Boston and talking to me.
  The conch-shell pink, six-story Hotel Key West filled one corner block at Duval and Fleming Streets, its color faded to a dull white. A yuppie coffee shop took up most of the street-side of the hotel’s first floor and the Chalice Room, once the hotel’s trendy restaurant and bar, had its windows covered with brown wrapping paper; it would reopen soon with a new name and menu. Key West could hold back change for only so long.
  Tita stopped to look at the clothing displays in the large windows of Excess. I wanted to get to Jack Flat’s, a half block down the street, for a late lunch.
  “I love this outfit.” She pointed at a mannequin dressed in designer jeans and white blouse.
  I turned to look and caught the window reflection of a body falling through the air like a clumsy bird, with only the traffic on a crowded street to stop it. I turned and looked, as the body crashed onto a car’s roof ….
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Do The White Thing

In my first book, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, which was set in the week running up to Christmas, I used snowfall the way some people use an impending thunderstorm, and the muckier things got as Harry Rigby found himself up to his oxters in corruption and murder, the heavier the pristine snow fell. Ironic, eh? No? Okay.
  Herewith be Jim Kelly (right) on why snow is such an important element of his latest novel, DEATH WORE WHITE
“What is it about snow that fascinates the British - or perhaps specifically - the English mind ? As we struggle to deal with the worst snow for twenty years it’s a question worth asking. For me it’s a particularly pertinent question. This week sees the publication of my latest crime novel – DEATH WORE WHITE - a mystery set on a snow- choked country lane. Aside from the almost spooky coincidence, the falling snow flakes prompt for me this larger question - why is the whole crime genre, and especially its so-called Golden Age, so fond of snow ? And it’s just not crime buffs who like the stuff. Just look at MISS SMILIA’S FEELING FOR SNOW, or SNOW FALLING ON CEDARS, or any number of recent classics. Why do they return so often to the white stuff ? It’s not just the picture postcard beauty - although it helps. And it’s not just the nostalgic feel - harking back to Winnie the Pooh, WIND IN THE WILLOWS and A CHRISTMAS CAROL - although that helps too. There’s another much more deep-rooted reason, lying just beneath the white shroud, like the door knocker to Mr Badger’s set.
  “And on other big question comes to mind: as global warming turns the classic snow scene into little more than a nostalgic oddity, can we crime writers go on conjuring up such frosty plots ?
  “The central place of snow in the crime literature goes back to the idea of the “locked room mystery” – the core element of the modern crime story, which can be traced to Edgar Allan Poe’s famous 1841 short story – ‘The Murders In The Rue Morgue’. We all know the basic rules of the locked-room mystery - the crime where the killer leaves no trace. A dead body, a locked room, no way in, no way out. But beyond this rather narrow idea of the locked-room lies a bigger idea - that of the impossible crime. And behind that an absolutely massive idea - the impossible itself, the sheer wonder when we come across something which speaks of the super-natural, the unknown, or the superhuman. What Poe called the “preternatural”. But why does this idea big idea so often lead to snow ? Two examples illustrate why snow is so useful: In THE HOLLOW MAN, by John Dickson Carr, a book widely considered to be the very best of the genre, a man walks a snowy London street. A shot rings out, he falls dead, seen by witnesses. The wound points to the fact the gun was held against his chest. But there’s no gun. And there’s no other footsteps. Who committed this impossible crime ?
  “Nearly eighty years after Dickson Carr’s classic was published I’ve written my own version on the same theme. In DEATH WORE WHITE I conjured up a line of eight cars, stranded on a country road. Once the police arrive they find the driver in the leading vehicle dead at the wheel - a chisel driven through his eye. But there’s no footsteps around the car. How did the killer get in ? How did the killer get out ?
  “Snow - you see - gives us a virtual locked-room. Short of the missing ceiling, the snow provides us with transparent impenetrable walls. Of course you can fire something at the victim - but then you could always do that through a window anyway (usually an icicle - then the murder weapon is gone too !). The only real difference is that there is no ceiling to our virtual locked-room, but that only multiplies the solutions. So as soon as those flakes of snow start to fall those of us in the crime-writing fraternity who still like a locked room mystery find our imaginations, strangely, unlocked. So after Poe - and specifically after Israel Zangwill’s ground-breaking 1903 book THE BIG BOW MYSTERY (the first novel with a locked room at its heart) - writers turned to snow to ‘modernise’ the locked room and find other ways of giving readers an impossible crime.
  “The basic rules of the locked-room can be applied to many other crime plots and scenarios. (Dickson Carr - again in THE HOLLOW MAN - gives us a helpful list of seven ways to commit the impossible locked-room crime - an invaluable tool for the budding crime writer)
  “But there’s much more to snow that a locked room. Snow reduces the landscape to its essential components - the lane, the old house, the stream, the village church, with none of that annoying ‘noise’ in between. It reduces the real world, the real landscape to a real-life map, a plan - and we all know that at the heart of a really good puzzle of the Golden Age, or indeed any other age, we’ll find a diagram, or a map, so that we the reader can puzzle along with the sleuth or the puzzle-setter. It’s almost as if snow gives us a chance to see the world more clearly: still, crisp, and without those annoying grey-areas that can make real life so complex and difficult.
  “And of course, every time a real-live person sets out across this landscape they are forced to leave those comforting footsteps behind.
  “It’s a world where everyone leaves a trail, and in a world fascinated with forensic science, and the certainties it seems to promise, this is deeply reassuring. And talking of reassurance snow also takes us back to our childhoods - to Christmas, to comfortable log fires, and the warmth of families real and imagined.
  “While I’m happy - in fact proud - to follow in these snowy footsteps of the Golden Age of crime writers, I hope my book is a very contemporary take on an old theme. There’s nothing cosy about the world inhabited by my hero - DI Peter Shaw, and his side-kick DS George Valentine. The book’s set along the North Norfolk Coast - the modern-day home to the Chelsea-set, up from London for some bracing sea air. But Shaw is based in Kings Lynn, just along the coast, and despite its medieval heart that’s a town with enough modern problems to put it alongside any of Britain’s smouldering inner cities. But given the increasing rarity of real-life snow, can I ever get away again with a snow-bound locked room mystery ? Not every time, certainly, but yes - literature has a way of commanding the forces of nature to its needs. Thunder and lightning strike more often on the printed page, or on Shakespeare’s stage, than in any real life.
  “That’s what literature and drama do best - distil the best, most exciting, most curious aspects of everyday life into a pocket-sized world crammed with excitement. So unless snow becomes just a folk memory, I’ll always be able to enjoy it’s criminal possibilities.” – Jim Kelly

Friday, February 6, 2009

Books And The Stealing Thereof

A nice little piece in the Times this morning, about books and the stealing thereof (possible chief culprit, pictured right). Quoth the Times-ish person:
Crime books are extremely popular. According to PLR records, James Patterson, who mostly writes cop thrillers, is the most borrowed author from libraries. And books about crime are also frequently stolen - hence the works of Martina Cole, a prolific crime writer, appear high on the list. Her books are also among those most read in prisons, and she claims to be perfectly happy to be a target for thieves: “I think it’s great, personally. If people want my books badly enough to go and steal them, it’s a compliment, really.”
  Nice one, Ms Cole. The Big Question: Have you ever stolen a book? Feel free to use the ‘anonymous’ button when leaving a comment …
  I have, by the way. Actually, I stole my very first Chandler novel. In that case, at least, you’d have to say the end justified the means. But feel free to flay me with your moral indignation.

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: L.C. Tyler

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?
OK, let’s establish some ground rules here, shall we? I write crime but I also write what gets described (for want of a better term) as “general comic fiction”. So my envy about other novels is fairly widespread and comprehensive. The novel I would most like to have written is THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD - not crime exactly, but there is a spine-tingling moment about ten pages in from the end, when you suddenly realise how comprehensively hoodwinked you have been - precisely what you try to achieve in a good detective story. If you want me to stick narrowly to crime, then I’d probably go for one of the classics from the Golden Age – THE MURDER OF ROGER ACKROYD, say. I also wish I had written THE GOOD THIEF’S GUIDE TO AMSTERDAM before Chris Ewan did. But, sadly, I didn’t.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh. There’s an on-line quiz you can do to establish which character from Winnie the Pooh you are. I was Rabbit. I know a number of other people who also did the quiz and proved to be Rabbit. We were all very happy with our choice; it’s the type of fictional character we are.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
At any given time I tend to have two metaphorical piles of books. One is the books I ought to be reading: crime novels I’ve been told I should read, books by people I know well and who’ve read my books, anything that might constitute “research” for a future novel. The other pile is everything else. Reading from one pile makes me feel slightly guiltier than reading from the other - but not much.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Typing “Chapter One” (or more usually, in my case, “Prologue”).

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Other than your own, of course ... GALLOWS LANE by Brian McGilloway.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Logically the answer should be as above, and I’m sure it would make an excellent film or TV series. I’d also like to see one of Ruth Dudley Edward’s novels made into a film, though.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Most things about being a writer are pretty good, as you’ll know yourself. The best thing is the actual creative process - watching the book unfold in front of you is a bit magical. Also, as a writer of comic crime, it always comes as a pleasant surprise that something you wrote and found funny is something that other people have read and found funny. The worst? Possibly reviews that fail to convey the absolute sense of wonder and awe that you feel your book should command in any right-minded critic. (Yes, you really do get reviews like that occasionally. No, I couldn’t believe it either.)

The pitch for your next book is …?
My next book, after the paperback of THE HERRING SELLER’S APPRENTICE, is A VERY PERSISTENT ILLUSION (published in March), and the first thing I need to explain is that it isn’t crime. It’s black humour and it delves into the nature of reality, why people support Southend United and the importance of owning a classic sports car. But there is a mystery to solve and a point, about ten pages from the end, where hopefully you finally see what it was all about. For the one after that (TEN LITTLE HERRINGS - out in August) it’s back to a life of crime ...

Who are you reading right now?
It’s a book on the English Civil War from the non-guilt pile. At some stage soon I’d like to start writing a comic-historical-crime series set in the seventeenth century. There’s a real-life murder that I want to include, but I’m not going to be so foolish as to reveal which one at this stage. I’ve just finished DROWNED HOPES by Donald Westlake - a great writer sadly no longer with us.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
This is clearly a bum deal either way. I’d be straight onto the internet to see if any other deity was offering better terms.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
“Perky” (Financial Times) “Classic” (The Scotsman) “Subversive” (The Bookseller)

L.C. Tyler’s
THE HERRING SELLER’S APPRENTICE is now available in paperback

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Harrogate: When’s The Split?

It’s traditional, when two or more Irish people come together in any kind of organised capacity, for the first item on the agenda to be, “When’s the split?” It’s just one of those things – we like pretty much everyone else, we just can’t stand one another. Anyhoo, the reason I mention it is because I’m hearing a rumour wafting in on the breeze from Harrogate direction that Ken Bruen, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway and Benny Blanco are all slated to appear on a panel at said festival, with Ruth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley Edwards moderating (artist’s impression, above). Will sparks fly? Did the bear stumble upon the pope whilst wandering the woods looking for a quiet spot to read the Daily Mail? The Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival takes place from July 23-26, and I’m booking my ticket NOW!*

* Not really. I’m actually going to Bristol’s Crime Fest. But that’s another story.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Embiggened O # 4,004: It Hasn’t Gone Away, Y’Know

There hasn’t been a review of our humble offering THE BIG O since God was a boy, so it was a pleasant surprise when one popped up this week in Mystery Scene Magazine. Kevin Burton Smith wasn’t too impressed with the lack of specifically Irish setting, but in general seemed happy enough, with the gist running thusly:
“Recalls Elmore Leonard’s more humorous works … It’s a perfectly realized, twisted little 1000-piece jigsaw puzzle that slowly snaps together, with more than a few surprises along the way … The humour is of the dark and wicked kind, but both it and the inevitable violence are handled in a refreshingly subtle manner, more ice pick than chainsaw.” – Mystery Scene Magazine
  Thank you kindly, Mr Burton Smith. For the rest, clickety-click here
  In other news, I’m thinking strongly about hoisting CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, said humble tome’s ill-fated sequel with the bitterly ironic title, onto ye olde interwebbe, much in the same way as I did A GONZO NOIR, setting up a separate blog and uploading 4,000-5,000 word chunks every few days. And, given that I’m a generous soul when you get down to the actual bedrock, and because no one has shown the slightest inclination to pay for it, it’ll be free. All in favour say ‘Yay!’

Monday, February 2, 2009

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: THE GOLIATH BONE by Mickey Spillane and Max Allan Collins

Herewith be the gist of a review of THE GOLIATH BONE, to wit:
Spillane, one of the best-selling crime fiction writers of all time, who died in 2006, wrote a first draft of the story in the wake of 9/11, with the manuscript being finished by his long-term collaborator and friend, the author Max Allan Collins. It’s a crude and blustering tale with right-wing overtones, although the trouble with criticising the novel on that basis is that it’s supposed to be. Mike Hammer was celebrated by his fans for being politically incorrect, a 20th century throwback to the Wild West sheriff, a larger-than-life hero who made up in pithy quips and dead bodies what he lacked in finesse and sophistication.
  On that basis, Collins has provided a fitting tribute to Spillane’s career. For those who aren’t fans of Spillane’s cartoonishly hard-boiled style, however, THE GOLIATH BONE has all the hallmarks of a novel too hastily conceived in the aftermath of 9/11. It offers a simplistic, knee-jerk response to the threat of terrorism, for the most part championing Hammer’s singular vision of good versus evil – Hammer and his trusty .45 represent good, and everyone else, until they prove otherwise, represent evil …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Sunday, February 1, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Ellen McCarthy

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?

John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING is so horribly great. Some people find it too graphic but I think it is crafted beautifully while looking at the extremes of human depravity. I’m glad it’s fiction!
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Miss Marple. I want to live in a picture perfect cottage in St Mary Meade and meddle in everyone’s life.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
P.D. James. Her quiet insular settings are captivating whether it’s an isolated monastery or a remote Cornish island retreat. Her characterisation and prose are comforting, timeless and old worldly.
Most satisfying writing moment?
My most satisfying writing moment to date was when I won the short story competition ‘Do The Write Thing,’ with Poolbeg Press in conjunction with RTE’s ‘Seoige’. It wasn’t the Edgar but it was the moment my writing came out of the back room and on to the bookshelves.
The best Irish crime novel is…?
LOST SOULS by Michael Collins. It is part police procedural with a deep psychological feel. It is beautifully written, taking an unforgiving look at the decline of a small town and its inhabitants when poverty strikes.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
BLACK SHEEP by Arlene Hunt. I think the director could really focus on the Quinn brothers and the legacy of family and bad decisions.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing about being a writer is the fear and insecurity. Every time I send something out I’m shaking with nerves. The best thing about being a writer is getting positive reviews from readers.
The pitch for your next book is …?
A husband dies suddenly, but who was he? His work colleagues claim they never met him and nobody seems to know his real name. Now some stranger is prompting his wife towards a past he obviously didn’t want her to know. Was this person responsible for his death and where will it all lead her?
Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading Robert Crais’ L.A. REQUIEM. I fell for the title. The book is proving to be just as good.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
That’s an impossible question. It’s like saying I’ll give you legs but you can either stand or walk.
The best three words to describe your own writing are …?
Vivid, tense, absorbing.

Ellen McCarthy’s novel GUILT RIDDEN is published by Poolbeg Crimson