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?
AMERICAN TABLOID by James Ellroy. It’s just the sheer scale of the thing, the ambition of it. It’s a tie for my favourite novel of all time with Tom Wolfe’s BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I collect old movie novelisations. The cinema in Armagh closed when I was a kid, so the only way I could experience things like ET or Raiders of the Lost Ark was by reading them in book form. Even today, I search charity shops for hidden gems. Some novelisations are very good (Poltergeist by James Kahn, Fort Apache: The Bronx by Heywood Gould) and some of them are bloody awful. Freebie and the Bean, for instance, is possibly the worst book ever written. While the source material for that was pretty poor, the novelisation of Dirty Harry had a great story to work from, and it was still bloody awful.
Most satisfying writing moment?
The first time I actually managed to type the last words of a full honest-to-God novel. It didn’t matter that it turned out to be not very good; I had proven that I could actually climb that mountain, and that was a huge step forward psychologically.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I think I’d have to say Bateman’s DIVORCING JACK, simply because he blazed a trail for Northern Irish crime writers.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I recently read Gerard Brennan’s THE WEE ROCKETS. I think it’d make a really good TV serial with its urban setting and big cast of characters.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is that panicky feeling when you’ve invested a huge chunk of your life in something and you don’t know if it was any good or not. Conversely, the best thing is finding out you hadn’t wasted your time after all, and someone thinks it’s worth reading. The second best thing was a couple of days ago when a pretty checkout girl in the supermarket asked me in a hushed tone if I was “that author from the papers”. That was pretty good.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Belfast cop Jack Lennon starts digging into an apparent Republican feud when he realises his former lover Marie McKenna and their daughter Ellen were somehow involved and are now missing. As he delves deeper he discovers it might not have been the feud the authorities claimed, but when he challenges his superiors, he is told to leave it alone. When someone starts picking off survivors of the feud, Lennon knows he must act.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading AFTERMATH by Ruth Dudley Edwards. It’s an account of the Omagh bombing, and how the families of the victims fought for justice through the civil courts when the criminal system let them down. Some of it is so harrowing it’s very painful to read, and I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to write. I’ll be on a panel with Ruth at this year’s Bouchercon inIndianapolis, which will be interesting.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
This is kind of a Catch 22; I couldn’t write if I didn’t read, so I think I’d have to choose the egg over the chicken. Or something.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Hard, fast, brutal.
Stuart Neville’s THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is published in the U.S. by Soho Crime
“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.