And while we’re on the subject of nice blokes, there was a marvellous turn-out for Alan Glynn’s WINTERLAND launch at Dubray Books last Tuesday night, which was cunningly timed to coincide with the official turning on of the Christmas lights on Grafton Street. Among the writerly types in attendance were Declan Hughes, Peter Murphy, Professor Ian Ross, Cormac Millar, Ava McCarthy, Critical Mick and John Boyne, and at least one Booker Prize winner, Anne Enright. Which goes to show how highly regarded Alan Glynn is across the writing spectrum, and deservedly so, because WINTERLAND is a wonderful novel.
Anyway, you may well be wondering about Christmas gifts at this point. For the reader in your life, you could do a hell of a lot worse than give them THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST or WINTERLAND. Or, better still, both. They’re both beautifully written novels that are page-turning thrillers, but they also do what the best crime writing does: they remind us who we really are and how we live now.
Incidentally, in a very good week for Irish writing, hearty congratulations to Colum McCann for scooping the National Book Award for LET THE GREAT WORLD SPIN.
Finally, and in contradiction to erroneous information provided here by yours truly, it appears that my latest opus, THE BIG EMPTY, has only gone out for consideration to publishers this week – last Monday, to be precise. I really should pay more attention to such things, but I was under the impression that the book was already under consideration. This is both good news and bad news: good in the sense that the book is still a live grenade, in a manner of speaking, and bad in the sense that the waiting begins all over again. And, given the fact that editors generally have an already existing pile of submissions to work their way through, and that it’s already more than halfway through November, there’s a good chance that we won’t hear how it’s faring until well into the New Year.
It is, of course, the hope that kills you in the end, but as all three regular readers of this blog will know, I last week went public with my decision to quit writing. So I feel curiously detached from THE BIG EMPTY – although there’s a strong possibility that I feel that way because it’s by far my most personal piece of writing to date, and I’m simply steeling myself against the inevitable rejection letters (hey, not everyone’s going to like it, or love it enough to publish it; that’s just the way things work). Having said all that, I wouldn’t be human if I wasn’t feeling just the tiniest frisson of anticipation, or trepidation: in effect, I’ve submitted my baby to a beauty contest, and she’s now at the mercy of factors beyond my control, and depending on the kindness of strangers.
As for the story, it’s a Harry Rigby private eye tale, a sequel to EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, of which the ever-generous Ken Bruen had this to say on its publication:
“I have seen the future of Irish crime fiction and it’s called Declan Burke. Here is talent writ large – mesmerizing, literate, smart and gripping. If there is such an animal as the literary crime novel, then this is it. But as a compelling crime novel, it is so far ahead of anything being produced, that at last my hopes for crime fiction are renewed. I can’t wait to read his next novel.”For what it’s worth, I think that THE BIG EMPTY is a better book than EIGHTBALL BOOGIE – but then, I would say that. The fact of the matter is that, when it comes to THE BIG EMPTY, my opinion no longer matters. To belabour the baby metaphor, I’ve done all I can to prepare her for the big, bad world, and can do nothing more to protect her from its harsh realities. All I can do is pray she gets a fair hearing and is treated kindly. Here’s hoping.
If some kind soul does pick it up, then it would actually jibe quite well with last week’s decision, given that there are another two Harry Rigby novels already written, the rewriting / redrafting of which would allow me to keep my hand in at writing, without requiring the full-time commitment I’d have to make to write a new novel from scratch. In a perfect world, that would be the perfect scenario – although you don’t need me to tell you that neither you, I nor Harry Rigby lives in a perfect world. Anyway, upward and onward: bon voyage, THE BIG EMPTY, and a fair wind …