“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, March 27, 2009

Big Mcs: Super-Sized

All three regular readers of CAP will know that I think Adrian McKinty is a terrific writer, and that his latest, FIFTY GRAND, is probably his finest. Publishers Weekly is the latest to weigh in with a nice pre-pub review, with the gist running thusly:
“Irish crime writer McKinty delivers an intelligent novel of suspense about cultural identity … in trademark fashion, McKinty winds up his provocative tale with a violent and memorable final act.”
  The cover on the right, by the way, is the U.K. paperback. Tasty, no?
  Meanwhile, Ava McCarthy’s THE INSIDER continues to garner ye olde rave plaudits, with the latest coming courtesy of the Op-Ed pages of the Irish Times, no less. Quoth the Old Lady:
“This a storming debut thriller with a central character who is a clear-eyed, non-sentimental soul sister of Val McDermid’s Kate Brannigan or Sara Paretsky’s VI Warshawski. In Harry Martinez, the writer has a strong, attractive and super-smart central character who is ripe for another adventure.”
  McDermid and Paretsky? Very nice, ma’am. Very nice indeed …

Thursday, March 26, 2009

In For A Ha’Penny, In For A Pound

The whys and wherefores of cover art are, at the best of times, a mystery wrapped in an enigma at the heart of a Russian doll, but there seems something wilfully perverse about the North American and U.K. covers for Declan Hughes’s latest, ALL THE DEAD VOICES. The North American version (right) features a rather handsome take on the Ha’Penny Bridge, a classic Dublin icon (with the terrific second-hand bookshop The Winding Stair in the lower left corner), whereas the U.K. cover (below) is suitably noir and seedy, but is an image that could be taken from practically any modern city. Odd, really, when U.K. residents are far more likely to be au fait with the image on the North American edition; and odder still when you realise that the building of an Independence Bridge across the Liffey features as part of the backstory.
  Anyhoos, enough with the cavilling, and on with the blurb, to wit:
The past is never far behind. Ed Loy has made some changes. He has moved into an apartment in Dublin’s city centre, leaving behind his family home: he wants to break free of the ghosts of his own past, to live in the teeming present. But if that’s what he wants for his own life, it’s not always what his clients will permit: the baggage they bring with him propel him relentlessly into past. The police are working along similar lines with their new Cold Case unit. Looking back over a fifteen-year-old murder, they are satisfied by their original findings - but not so Loy. He has been hired by the victim’s daughter to investigate the suspects ignored by the first investigation: a rich property developer, an ex-IRA man and Loy’s own nemesis, George Halligan. But Loy has to watch his back: in the murky world into which he has fallen, he can’t tell which threats come from the IRA and which from the police protecting their old case. Can Loy persuade his longstanding friend DI Dave Donnelly to help solve the Fogarty case, or does he have to rely on the murderous George Halligan? Does it all go back to the IRA? Are the men who gave the commands now respectable citizens? In his toughest case yet, Ed Loy delves into the dirty side of life in the New Ireland, where progress comes at a price and no one is free of their past.
  I’ve about 100 pages to go in ALL THE DEAD VOICES, and it’s terrific stuff, the best yet from Squire Hughes. Which is saying a lot, given that he’s already nabbed himself a Shamus, and he’s up for an Edgar next month. Naturally, we’ll be cheerleading from the comfort of the Crime Always Pays chaise-longue with the traditional CAP terrace chant. All together now: “Ra-ra-ree / Kick him on the knee / Ra-ra-rollocks / Kick him on the other knee …”

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

You Can Call Him Al. If He Can Call You Betty

Roughly this time last year, the following appeared in a post on Crime Always Pays:
“One last pertinent thought on what might well be the most important issue the crime fiction industry will have to face in the immediate future. To wit: has anyone else noticed Shy Al Guthrie’s (right) eyelashes? Like kitten’s whiskers, they are. Enough to make a Grand Vizier kick a hole in his stained-glass harem window.”
  Allan Guthrie is something of a favourite at CAP, but it’s not just his limpid eyes. Put simply, the guy’s a master of the modern noir. Don’t believe me? I can’t blame you. But maybe you’ll believe Laura Wilson over at The Guardian, writing on Guthrie’s latest, SLAMMER:
“Scottish writer Guthrie’s prose is a series of short, sharp shocks, reeking of the visceral brutality of the toughest contemporary noir …”
  The Scotsman likes it too. To wit:
“Allan Guthrie’s SLAMMER succeeds in brilliantly turning the genre on its head in a book as inventive and groundbreaking as it is magnificently written … With SLAMMER, Guthrie has written a superb novel that will leave you thinking hard about life for a long time afterwards, and there’s not much higher praise than that.”
  That second review, by the way, also contains a review of BEAST OF BURDEN by some arm-chancing ne’er-do-well called Ray Banks. A handsome cove, he’ll nonetheless have to get out the old eyelash-straightener if he’s to compete with Shy Al. Raymundo? Would it hurt to use a smidge of mascara once in a while? Think of your audience, man.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Don’t Leave Me Hanging On The Telephone ...

A little help required, folks. Your humble host is thinking of upgrading his mobile phone (that’s ‘cell phone’ to y’all on the North American landmass, y’all) to get a fairly comprehensive internet and email service on the move, and I’m stuck between Blackberry and iPhone. I’m not all that pushed about the device’s capacity to play music / predict the future / make brownies, although I wouldn’t mind a phone with a decent camera and / or video camera included. Also, it should be able to take a moderate amount of punishment, as my phone tends to live in my pocket, 24/7. Any suggestions and /or advice welcome via the comment box below, and thank’ee kindly …

The Greatest Trick The Devil Ever Pulled …

… was to convince you that that line originated with ‘The Usual Suspects’, and not Baudelaire. Anyhoos, for such a fine, upstanding pillar of the community (see here for his charity work), Critical Mick appreciates a good scam better than most. T’was he, indeed, who pointed your humble host in the direction of Eamon Dillon’s THE FRAUDSTERS, in the process recommending it most heartily. Quoth the blurb elves:
THERE are as many ways to earn cash dishonestly as to make an honest living. Fraud is now an international industry, with a shadowy underworld network where everything from songbirds and garlic, to designer goods and medicines are faked and sold on.
  THE FRAUDSTERS details the proliferation of con tricks, old and new, being deployed every day by an army of these hard-working criminals. It tells how con artists come in all shapes and sizes – the scammers who stick to their flimsy stories, no matter what, the white collar grafters who like to think that nobody gets hurt when they hoodwink a financial institution, and then there are the psychopaths who are cold-blooded about their victims. They will pretend to be your friend, a respected banker, or even a lover, to win the trust they plan to violate.
  For some the lure of illicit money is more potent than doing a day’s work. Dillon reveals how identify theft works, the dangers of joining pyramid schemes and how charlatans, pretending to be successful business people, exploit loopholes in tax regulations to live the lifestyle of the super-rich. He describes how billions have been stolen by highly-organised gangs of swindlers, who sell unlikely tales through internet chat rooms and forums, and how arrogance, greed, gullibility and insecurity combine to make some people easy prey for the con artists.
  THE FRAUDSTERS tells the stories of these modern day criminals and their victims.
  It’s an obvious one, but my favourite scam novel is Jim Thompson’s THE GRIFTERS. Anyone got a really good grift novel we should be reading?

Monday, March 23, 2009

Some Sentimental Musings On Turning 40


Yet another rather fine weekend was had by your humble host, folks. As some of you already know, I turn 40 today. It’s also Lilyput’s first birthday on Thursday, 26th, and it was my mother’s birthday yesterday, Sunday, which was also Mother’s Day. So it was off to Sligo for the Family Vizier, and a splendiferous time was had by all. The book-shaped cake above was provided by said mother, by the way, who has always been my Number One fan. I think she’s just glad I can spell, and I haven’t the heart to tell her about spell-check.
  Anyhoos, and at the risk of tempting fate, I realised while driving to work last week that I’ve pretty much achieved everything I’ve ever wanted to from life. The big stuff, anyway – find a soul-mate, have a baby, get a book published. So what now? I guess it’s a matter of recalibrating the ambitions: have another baby; write better books, so that it becomes possible to earn an actual living from the process; become a worthy husband and father; become a quantum physicist.
  I guess it’s the human condition to always want more. But – and again, at the risk of tempting fate – right now, on the 23rd of March, 2009, I’m a happy man. Not particularly balanced and well-rounded, or smart or successful, but content, with who I am and what I’ve done and the people around me. All of which may not sound very dramatic, but – like most people – there were long periods in my life when even that much seemed like a fantasy too far.
  Life is good, folks. Life is good and interesting and full and surprising. If the next 40 years are half as good as the first, I’ll go out a happy man. Peace, out.
Life highlights to date:

1. Lily May Burke is born on the 26th of March, 2008.
2. Mrs Grand Vizier makes a mockery of her reputation for being an astute observer of the human condition by marrying your humble host, April 2006.
3. EIGHTBALL BOOGIE published, April 2003.
4. THE BIG O published in the U.S., September 2008.
5. Winning the All-Ireland Minor (B) Hurling Final at Croke Park for Sligo, versus Tyrone, in 1987.
6. Graduating from junior to senior at Sligo Library at the age of 11, a full year before I was legally entitled to, and a full year after beginning petition to achieve same, 1980.
7. Wexford beat Limerick to win the All-Ireland Hurling Final, 1996.
8. Liverpool beat AC Milan 3-3 to win the European Cup (aka Champions League) for the fifth time, 2005.
9. Touching down in the Greek islands for the first time, 1991.
10. Making it to 40.