“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.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Literary Hi-Jinks; and, Being A Jinx


Off with us then on Tuesday night to Waterstone’s, to hear Brian McGilloway and Declan Hughes (left and right, respectively) give it large about their new novels, BLEED A RIVER DEEP and ALL THE DEAD VOICES, in particular, and crime fiction in general. Interesting it was too to hear the gents chat about how the crime writer needs to be on his or her toes to keep abreast of events, in terms – here in Ireland, at least – of the boom-to-bust economy, and the recent upsurge in dissident Republicanism.
  Among the glitterati were Alan Glynn, whose forthcoming WINTERLAND is a terrific read; Professor Ian Ross of Trinity College, the proverbial gentleman and scholar; Critical Mick, the proverbial saint and scholar; and John Connolly, whose perfectly coiffed barnet Squire Hughes appears to be measuring in the pic above, perhaps for some bizarre phrenology cult they’ve got going on (note too the tome FROM POVERTY TO POWER, cunningly located between two crime writers for maximum irony).
  Anyhoos, post-Q&A it was off to the pub for the second leg of the annual Mighty Pool vs Chelski Chumps League face-off, which ended 4-4. I got there just in time to miss the second of the Pool’s goals, when they went 2-0 up, and left just before they knocked in the second brace with ten minutes to go. It may be coming time to consider the possibility that I’m a jinx.
  Back in 1981, I went over to Anfield to see the Mighty Pool play Brighton (& Hove Albion) F.C. Back then the Pool could boast the likes of Dalglish and Hansen, Clemence and Souness, Neal and Kennedy (possibly even two Kennedys), Terry McDermott, Phil Thompson … in essence, it was the side that beat Real Madrid to win the European Cup later that year. The result on the day? 1-0 to Brighton, Michael Robinson bundling one in at the Kop end. Jinx?
  But back to business … A little birdie tells me that Alex Barclay (right) will be taking part in the inaugural Image Author Evening, alongside Claire Kilroy and John Boyne. It takes place in the Fitzwilliam Hotel, Stephen’s Green, Dublin, at 6.30pm on April 23rd, and you’re promised ‘refreshments, canap├ęs and a book-filled goodie bag’, the event to be hosted by our good friend Bert Wright. If that all sounds a bit too good to be true, well, tickets are €40 a pop, with group rates available. Seems pricey to me, but then I’m a penniless scribe, so what do I know…? For details and or / booking, contact Jennifer Ryan on 01 280 8415 or email jryan@image.ie.
  I won’t be there, obviously. Not because it’s too expensive, but because I’m a jinx, and if I turn up Alex Barclay will probably start speaking in tongues or summat …

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Yet More Trouble A-Bruen …

It’s still only Wednesday, and already it’s a good week for Sir Kenneth of Bruen. First off, he’s been nominated in the ITW’s ‘Best Short Story’ category, with the full shortlist looking a lot like this:
BEST SHORT STORY
Between the Dark and the Daylight (Ellery Queen Magazine) by Tom Piccirilli
Last Island South (Ellery Queen Magazine) by John C. Boland
The Edge of Seventeen (The Darker Mask) by Alexandra Sokoloff
The Point Guard (Killer Year Anthology) by Jason Pinter
Time of the Green (Killer Year Anthology) by Ken Bruen
  For all the details on all the categories, clickety-click here. The winners will be announced at ThrillerFest 2009, July 8-11 …
  Meanwhile, more casting details for ‘London Boulevard’ have popped up, with Ray Winstone, David Thewlis and Anna Friel joining Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. Quoth Variety:
Ray Winstone, David Thewlis and Anna Friel are set to join Keira Knightley and Colin Farrell in ‘London Boulevard.’ William Monahan directs the crime drama this summer in London, with financing coming from Graham King’s GK Films. Drama revolves around a freshly paroled London criminal who becomes involved with a reclusive young actress. Winstone will play a former crime boss. Thewlis will play the reclusive actress’ agoraphobic business manager, while Friel will portray the criminal’s sister.
  Ray Winstone as a former crime boss? Altogether now: “You caaaaaaaaant ...”

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Matt Rees

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 really would be prepared to strangle fluffy kittens and bite the heads off chickens to have written THE BIG SLEEP.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Hammett’s Continental Op. So that I’d finally know his actual name.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels. Makes me feel like a manly man and an excited little boy at the same time.

Most satisfying writing moment?
In my second crime novel THE SALADIN MURDERS, I found myself crying during as I wrote one particular scene in which the hero, a Palestinian schoolteacher, is being stoned by kids. At the time I thought, “Wow, I must be good. I can even make myself cry.” After the novel was finished, I realised I had been experiencing a traumatic memory of the same thing happening to me as a foreign correspondent during the intifada. That was even more satisfying, because I saw that I had been able to take a very deeply felt emotion of my own and make it belong to a character on the page. I also saved myself some psychiatrist bills.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR by Gene Kerrigan. I like that fact that he tosses out a lot of what the genre holds sacred, mainly in the character of his detective. I’ve found as a journalist everything ends up black and white, but as I’ve reported more and more on the Palestinians and Israelis I’ve seen that the truth lies in the grey areas, where only fiction can find them. I detect a similar element in Gene’s writing, after all his years as an investigative journalist. That comes through very strongly in THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR, where the detective is forced to confront his own immorality: the bad he’s done in a good cause may simply be bad.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
As a Celt and a history buff, I think one of Peter Tremayne’s Sister Fidelma novels would make the transition to the big screen rather well. (Ok, he’s not Irish, but his father was from Cork, I believe, and Sister Fidelma’s certainly Irish.)

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: I get quite a few emails to my website from rabid anti-Semites who assume that because I write about the Palestinians I must hate Jews. I don’t enjoy that, at all. Best: Every moment I write feels like a meditation, such deep concentration. I just know that it’s good for my brain. (Second best: no bow ties. Anyone who’s ever sat at the next desk to a boss who wore a bow tie will understand what I mean.)

The pitch for your next book is …?
Omar Yussef goes to New York for a UN conference. He takes the subway to Brooklyn to visit his son, who lives in the part of the borough known as Little Palestine because of all the new immigrants from the West Bank. When he reaches the apartment, he discovers a dead body in his son’s bed … It’s the fourth in my series. It’s called THE FOURTH ASSASSIN and it’ll be out early next year, examining what it's like to be a Muslim in a city where many people think all Arabs are terrorists.

Who are you reading right now?
Peter Hoeg (THE QUIET GIRL). Set in Copenhagen, where I just visited on a book tour. He wrote MISS SMILLA’S SENSE OF SNOW. Before that, THE ROAD by Cormac McCarthy, which, as a new father, I found devastating because of the main character’s hopeless attempts to protect his son from a hostile world.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’ve lived in the holy city of Jerusalem for 13 years. I don’t eat kosher food and I smuggled a sandwich into the Palestinian parliament during Ramadan. If God hasn’t cracked down on me for that, he isn’t going to be bothered about whether I’m reading or writing. But if you put me on an island and said: “The complete works of Shakespeare, or a laptop computer?”, I’d go with the book and make up stories in my head (without God noticing).

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Not bloody journalism.

Matt Rees’s THE SAMARITAN’S SECRET is published by Atlantic Books

Monday, April 13, 2009

“Unaccustomed As I Am To Saying The Word ‘Unaccustomed’ …”

Those of you in the greater Dublin area could do a lot worse on Tuesday evening than take a jaunt in to Waterstone’s on Dawson Street, where two of Ireland’s finest scribes, Brian McGilloway (right) and Declan Hughes, will be doing a joint reading, from BLEED A RIVER DEEP and ALL THE DEAD VOICES, respectively. Proceedings kick-off at 6.30pm. My advice, Brian? Go first. Try reading after Hughes and you’ll end up looking a right plum. That boy can project … The Brian and Declan Show then heads north to Belfast and No Alibis, on Thursday evening, kick-off at 7pm …
  Meanwhile, another double-act, Gene Kerrigan and The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman, grace Galway’s Cuirt festival with their presence as they promote their latest tomes, DARK TIMES IN THE CITY and MYSTERY MAN, respectively. They’ll be reading, cracking gags and soft-shoe shuffling from 6.30pm at the Town Hall venue, on Friday, April 24th.
  Man, I need to get myself a side-kick. Any volunteers?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Sunday Review

It’s Sunday, they’re reviews, to wit: Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE isn’t due until July, but Library Thing is already impressed: “The book is a savage, tender tale of the futility and fragility of the search for peace in Northern Ireland … Neville is uncompromising about violence and the truly terrible situations that his duplicitous characters and innocents alike find themselves in, but the tale itself storms along like a runaway train and all the reader can do is watch with bated breath as it hurtles towards a brilliant finale. I found the ending surprisingly unpredictable and utterly satisfying. The story is poignantly relevant, and the premise absolutely original and something which raises this novel well beyond a run-of-the-mill thriller.” Nice one … Derek Landy’s new Skulduggery Pleasant gets the big up at The Times: “Derek Landy’s latest Skulduggery Pleasant caper, THE FACELESS ONES, has the detective and his sidekick, Valkyrie, on the track of a killer and the ‘Faceless Ones’. Hard-boiled detective wisecracks mixed with magic will not suit every 9+, but it’s fast and funny.” Over at Euro Crime, Michelle Peckham likes Declan Hughes’s ALL THE DEAD VOICES: “This is a tense, well-written thriller … It weaves together the different threads of the story expertly, and every word counts. So, read and enjoy, but pay attention or you might miss something!” You have been warned … Staying with Euro Crime, Paul Blackburn was impressed by Geraldine McMenamin’s THE SAME CLOTH: “The story moves along at a fast pace until the surprising conclusion. This is the first book by Geraldine McMenamin and I will certainly be looking forward to her next.” Over at the Irish Times, Kevin Power reviews Gene Kerrigan’s DARK TIMES IN THE CITY in the ‘Book of the Day’ slot: “This is a novel that uses a beautifully spun crime narrative to say something interesting about Ireland in the here and now … DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is a serious book, but it wears its seriousness lightly, and never forgets that it’s a thriller. It is – to coin a phrase – seriously entertaining.” Finally, it was a pretty good week for Brian McGilloway. First Cathi Unsworth larged up GALLOWS LANE in The Guardian: “McGilloway, with his lovingly rendered landscapes and all-too-fallible detective, continues to investigate invisible demarcations of power, ancient lines of conflict and the shadowlands of the human psyche.” Crikey! But there’s more! The Waterstone’s Crime Squad are on the case with BLEED A RIVER DEEP: “Inspector Devlin is a fascinating addition to the ranks of crime fiction’s favourite detectives and is surely here to stay … All you fans of the police procedural should make sure that this writer’s latest book is number one on your shopping list for BLEED A RIVER DEEP has barely a word out of place, carries the faint tickle of sly wit and is as satisfying as a long, slow sip of Jameson’s on ice.” Corks! What say you, Sue Magee at The Book Bag? “The book is well-written with enough twists in the plot to keep a corkscrew happy … It’s been suggested that this series could be up there with Rebus, Resnick et al. That’s a little generous at the moment (or too high an expectation, depending on your viewpoint) but the book compares well with early- to mid-period work by Rankin and Harvey. You’ll not be wasting your time reading the book and this could well be a series to watch in the future.” So there you have it. Brian McGilloway: a fine writer, stud muffin, and all-round top bloke. Make you sick, wouldn’t it?