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?
FAREWELL, MY LOVELY by Raymond Chandler. Perfectly structured, gains in texture with every read and is filled with luminous strangeness.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
That’s an interesting question because most of my favourite characters are pretty doomed, so I can’t say I’d like to take their place. I’m going with Ned Beaumont, from THE GLASS KEY. Smart, wily, loyal and a survivor. I’d feel okay in his shoes. Except for that touch of tuberculosis. Second choice: Sammy Glick.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Movie star biographies. I tear through them. Or really, really low-grade true crime. The kind that seems to have been published by some private press in a remote town in Idaho. My most recent favourite: Charles Stoker’s cop memoir, THICKER ‘N’ THIEVES, the basis for much of Ellroy’s LA Quartet.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When you know that, as unhappy as you might be with a piece of writing, anything else you do is just going to screw it up even more. So you have to stop. Doesn’t sound very satisfying, does it? And yet, somehow, it is.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Any single sentence by Ken Bruen is a great Irish crime novel, a great crime novel, a great novel. Let’s say PRIEST.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Almost any of them. I think there’s something deeply cinematic about Irish crime fiction. To speak in possibly-annoying generalities, there’s that irresistible combination of high theatre, a tortured national history and lush, theatrical, epic (including epically profane) language. These are the stuff of great movies.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best is the excuse to talk about books with people all the time. The worst is that empty maw at the centre of your soul that you feel staring at the blank computer screen.
The pitch for your next book is …?
BURY ME DEEP: tabloid love and murder in the 1930s. It’s based on the Winnie Ruth Judd murder case, which made headlines around the world. It had it all: booze, drugs, sex, degeneracy—and this sad, sad story at its centre: a lonely young woman who falls victim to her own desires and has to try to fight her way out.
Who are you reading right now?
I recently finished Ace Atkins’s superb and haunting DEVIL’S GARDEN, which is a novel about the famous Fatty Arbuckle case, with a young Dashiell Hammett as one of the Pinkertons on the case. Next up: I just got an advance copy of Hard Case’s reissue of Jason Starr’s FAKE ID.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read, definitely. Some days I wish He would say that!
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Fevery, urgent, compulsive.
Megan Abbott’s BURY ME DEEP will be published in July.
“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. “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.