“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.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Git Along, Lil’ Dogie: Lawks, ’Tis The Friday Round-Up

It’s Friday, so we’ll have an end-of-week round-up thingy. Any objections? No? Then read on …
  I met the radiant Arlene Hunt (right) for a cwaffee during the week, to have a chat about this project here, during which Arlene came up with an idea for a terrific chapter. During the course of the chat, we talked about ‘Kennedy’ moments in Irish crime, such as the murder of investigative reporter Veronica Guerin in 1996, and the murder of Lord Mountbatten in 1979.
  Another of those moments that had seismic consequences for Ireland, the Omagh bombing, gets the Ruth Dudley-Edwards treatment in AFTERMATH, due this April from Harvill Secker. To wit:
The Omagh bomb was the worst massacre in Northern Ireland’s modern history - yet from it came a most extraordinary tale of human resilience, as families of murdered people channelled their grief into action. As the bombers congratulated themselves on escaping justice, the families determined on a civil case against them and their organisation. No one had ever done this before: many are likely to do it in the future. It was a very domestic atrocity. In Omagh, on Saturday, 15 August, 1998, a 500lb bomb placed by the Real IRA, murdered twenty-nine shoppers - five men, fourteen women and nine children, of whom two were Spanish and one English: the dead included Protestants, Catholics and a Mormon. Although the police believed they knew the identities of the killers, there was insufficient evidence to bring charges. Taking as their motto ‘For evil to triumph, all that is necessary is for good men to do nothing’, families of ten of the dead decided to go after these men through the civil courts, where the burden of proof is lower. These were ordinary people who knew little of the world - they included a factory worker, a mechanic and a cleaner; they had no money, no lawyers, and there was no legal precedent for such an action. This is the story of how - with the help of a small group of London sympathisers that included a viscount and two ex-terrorists - these Omagh families surmounted all the obstacles to launch a civil case against RIRA and five named individuals, developed with reference to recent European legislation by one of the world’s leading human rights lawyers. Along the way the families became formidable campaigners who won the backing of Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush as well as of Bob Geldof and Bono. How these relatives turned themselves into the scourge of RIRA is not just an astonishing story in itself. It is also a universal story of David challenging Goliath, as well as an inspiration to ordinary people anywhere devastated by terrorism. RIRA today: ETA tomorrow: the Mafia, perhaps, the day after.
  If there’s any justice, it’ll be a smash best-seller.
  Meanwhile, the boys from Norn Iron are coming on strong. Here’s Stuart Neville on ‘How I got Published’, while Sam Millar (right) has just declared himself open for business over at his shiny new interweb lair, MillarCrime. Drop on over and tell him a joke.
  Elsewhere, a Gallic-shaped birdie tells me that Tana French is working away on her third novel, which currently rejoices in the working title FAITHFUL PLACE, and which will continue the trend of IN THE WOODS and THE LIKENESS in that it features a character from the latter novel as its main protagonist. “Frank Mackey, Cassie Maddox’s old boss from THE LIKENESS, is the narrator this time,” says Tana. “He’s spent his whole adult life thinking that his first love Rosie dumped him and ran off to England, and he hasn’t spoken to his family since that night. Then Rosie’s suitcase shows up, hidden in the wall of a house on their old road ...”
  If we’re all very good, Tana will have it ready for us by the end of the year. Unfortunately, I’m not being at all good over at John McFetridge’s place, although I am becoming cooler by the day, and through no great effort of my own. Fetch’s metafiction Baltimore Bouchercon crime spree continues apace … while Peter Rozovsky, in a Tana French-like twist, has leaped from a minor character in McFetridge’s story to become the author of a parallel tale of murder and mayhem in ‘The Baltimore Drive-By’. I can’t keep up …
  Finally, can it be true that J.D. Salinger (right) has turned 90?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

The Simple Art Of Murder One, Deceased

Bad news and good news, folks. Twenty Major gets in touch to let us know that Murder One, helmed by the legendary Maxim Jabukowski (right), is closing down, which is little short of a disaster, in terms of what it suggests for the immediate future of publishing, and particularly crime writing. Like, if London can’t even sustain one outlet offering the simple art of specialized books, what chance does anyone who isn’t a chainstore-friendly marquee name have of making any kind of splash?
  Hmmmm, he murmured, clenching his mental buttocks, it’s going to be a tough couple of years.
  On the plus side, Ken Bruen has blurbed Adrian McKinty’s forthcoming opus according to the 11th Commandment, or ‘Thou shalt not damn with faint praise’. To wit:
“Adrian McKinty has been blowing us out of the mystery water for quite some time now. THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD—superb, DEAD I WELL MAY BE, phew-oh, but he has totally taken over the whole field with FIFTY GRAND. Think Don Winslow’s masterly POWER OF THE DOG combined with José Latour and the sheer narrative drive of Joe Lansdale and you'll have some idea of this amazing novel. It has riveting mystery, politics of just about every shade, thrills on almost every page and the most compelling heroine in a Havana female detective named Mercado. I've rarely read a novel that had it all—human and drug trafficking, Hollywood excesses, illegals, ferocious vengeance—but what I found most compulsive was the wondrous compassion of the book. It moved me in ways I never anticipated. This is going to be the BIG BOOK of 2009.”—Ken Bruen, author of THE GUARDS
  Lovely, lovely, lovely. As I’ve said elsewhere in these pages, and on numerous occasions, McKinty’s a superb writer, in the top rank of his generation. I read FIFTY GRAND last April and thought it was his best novel since DEAD I WELL MAY BE, which was so good that I did what I almost never do and pulled the old Holden Caulfield bit and contacted McKinty and told him it was brilliant. Which it is.
  Anyway, if FIFTY GRAND doesn’t go gangbusters for McKinty this year, I’m buying a fedora so I can throw my hat at it. Because if writers like Adrian McKinty can’t make the whole writing thing work, even in the kind of climate that has Murder One closing down, then there’s something seriously and perversely wrong with the industry, and I don’t have a whole lot of interest in making it according to its warped values. Peace, out.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Russel D. McLean

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

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Two Tales Of, Erm, Two Cities

A couple of early looks at two of the CAP Towers’ most anticipated reads of 2009, folks. Up first is The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman’s MYSTERY MAN, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
He’s the Man With No Name and the owner of No Alibis, a mystery bookshop in Belfast. But when a detective agency next door goes bust, the agency’s clients start calling into his shop asking him to solve their cases. It’s not as if there’s any danger involved. It’s an easy way to sell books to his gullible customers and Alison, the beautiful girl in the jewellery shop across the road, will surely be impressed. Except she’s not – because she can see the bigger picture. And when they break into the shuttered shop next door on a dare, they have their answer. Suddenly they’re catapulted along a murder trail which leads them from small-time publishing to modern dance to Nazi concentration camps and serial killers …
  Nice. “I enjoyed writing MYSTERY MAN so much,” says the Batemeister, “that I’m already half way through the follow up – THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL.” He says it somewhere over here, where there’s also the first two chapters of the novel available for your perusal.
  Meanwhile, Gene Kerrigan is back, back, BACK! Huzzah, etc. DARK TIMES IN THE CITY goes deep into the bowels of the coke-fuelled beast that is post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, to wit:
Danny Callaghan is having a quiet drink in a Dublin pub when two men with guns walk in. They’re here to take care of a minor problem – petty criminal Walter Bennett. On impulse, Callaghan intervenes to save Walter’s life. Soon, his own survival is in question. With a troubled past and an uncertain future, Danny finds himself drawn into a vicious scheme of revenge. DARK TIMES IN THE CITY depicts an edgy city where affluence and cocaine fuel a ruthless gang culture, and a man’s fleeting impulse may cost the lives of those who matter most to him. Kerrigan’s new novel is his finest yet; gripping from start to finish, powerful, original and impossible to put down.
  So there you have it. Two very fine writers operating at opposite ends of the spectrum, North and South, and two of the very few bright spots on the horizon of the recession-darkened cesspit that is Ireland 2009. Go chaps!

Monday, January 5, 2009

“This Business Was Never Meant To Sustain Limousines”

Two interesting pieces for your perusal today, folks, which appear to send mixed messages but actually dovetail depressingly well. First, the Wall Street Journal on why publishers can’t afford to break out of the ‘blockbuster trap’:
When a publisher spends an inordinate amount on an acquisition, it will do everything in its power to make that project a market success. Most importantly, this means supporting the book with higher-than-average marketing, advertising and distribution support … With such high stakes and money tied up in a few big projects in the pipeline, the need to score big with a next project becomes more pressing, and the process repeats itself. The result is a spiral of ever-increasing bets on the most promising concepts, creating a “blockbuster trap.”
  And then there’s the New York Times on ‘the new austerity rippling through the industry’. To wit:
Amid a relentless string of layoffs and pay-freeze announcements, book publishers are clamping down on some of the business’s most glittery and cozy traditions. Austerity measures are rippling throughout the industry as it confronts the worst retailing landscape in memory. “This business was never meant to sustain limousines,” said Amanda Urban, a literary agent who represents Cormac McCarthy and Toni Morrison, among other authors …
  For authors it means the prospect of smaller advances and fewer books being acquired.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Embiggened O # 4,067: Whatever Happened To Hot-Shot Hamish?

It’s self-aggrandizing Sunday, folks, and there’s a rather nice review of our humble tome THE BIG O over at Crime Scene Scotland. Be warned, however – this one is compromised to hell and back, in a handbasket, as Donna Moore would have it, given that I met the very personable author and CSS supremo Russel McLean at the Baltimore Bouchercon, and I’m hoping to feature him in the Q&A section of CAP in the very near future, and that the reviewer, Tony Black, featured heavily on these very pages last year, on the occasion of the arrival of his debut novel, PAYING FOR IT.
  With that in mind, read on, or don’t. The gist of the review runneth thusly:
“THE BIG O is one big-old crazy caper with an eerie hint of Elmore Leonard and a brash, bold, ball-bustin’ tempo … As a stylist, Burke is as kick-ass Irish as the great Ken Bruen … The really big appeal of THE BIG O, however, is that there is simply nothing like it – nothing close – on the bookshelves today.” – Crime Scene Scotland
  For more in a similar vein, clickety-click here