“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.

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