“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, May 2, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: China Miéville

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 never hanker to have written favourite books because I have too good a time reading them. In terms of the open-mouthed awe of realisation that the only appropriate attitude to what I’m reading is grateful humility, it would probably have to be Chandler, probably FAREWELL, MY LOVELY.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
A superhero. As a kid it would have been Spiderman. Then for a while maybe Daredevil, minus the blindness. At the moment, probably Jack Hawksmoor from THE AUTHORITY, by Warren Ellis.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Enid Blyton. Particularly the FAR-AWAY TREE books.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The last full stop. Are there any writers who don’t say that? I’m sure there are, but I can’t imagine ever giving any other answer.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
In an act of great impertinence I’m going to shove Flann O’Brien’s genre-bending THE THIRD POLICEMAN into the ‘Crime’ box, and award it this prize. Oh go on, let me – it has a murder, it has loquacious and philosophical police, it has a mystery, and it’s resoundingly excellent.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I can think of a few that might make great movies, but ‘would’ is a bit hopeful, given the duds-to-decent ratio of adaptations. Le Fanu’s UNCLE SILAS – another bit of genre-tendentiousness, maybe, but it is a mystery – has been filmed a couple of times, and I confess I’ve not yet seen either version, but I’d think it could be done brilliantly.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: getting paid to fantasise and blather. It’s an insanely lucky situation. Worst: the dynamic towards self-importance and/or solipsism.

The pitch for your next book is …?
A murder mystery set in a city at the edge of Europe that turns out to be a lot stranger than it first appears.

Who are you reading right now?
Christopher Caudwell’s ILLUSION AND REALITY, and Cormac McCarthy’s SUTTREE.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. But God and I are going to have serious words.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
… readers’ to decide.

China Miéville’s THE CITY AND THE CITY is published on May 15

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Embiggened O # 2,034: In Which Flattery Is The Most Sincere Form Of Flattery

It feels like a long, long time since there was any big-ups for THE BIG O, and then a few come along in a rush. Brian McGilloway did us proud by plugging said humble tome in his Guardian blog piece last week on the Top Ten Modern Irish Crime Novels, and now Ian O’Doherty pops up in the Irish Independent, with the gist running thusly:
“We’re going through something of a golden age of Irish fiction at the moment, with the likes of Gene Kerrigan, Declan Hughes and the peerless Ken Bruen. And you can comfortably add Declan Burke to that list. The Sligo native has been producing great crime fiction for the last few years and you could do a lot worse than checking out THE BIG O, which has even garnered Burke comparisons to Elmore Leonard.”
  All of which is very nice indeed, but equally nice was a random email that popped into my inbox during the week, from ‘Detroit Girl’ in the good ol’ USA. To wit:
“I just wanted to tell you that I am really enjoying your book. It is so funny and well written. I’m currently on 227 and will be sorry to see the story end in another 53 pages. I will be looking for your next book!”
  Simple, succinct, and very much to the point. And all cod-irony aside, it’s moments like that that make it worthwhile, especially – and ‘Detroit Girl’ had no way of knowing this – when you’re wallowing in one of your periodic troughs of despair about the pointlessness of trying to be a writer. Which occur quite frequently, as it happens.
  So, dear reader, if you’ve recently read a book you thought was terrific, and had the Holden Caulfield impulse to contact the writer and tell him or her so, but then decided against it, please reconsider – from a writer’s point of view, there’s nothing quite like the buzz of a reader telling you they liked your book. Trust me, you’ll make someone’s day.

In Like Glynn

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: 2009 is shaping up as a terrific year for Irish crime writing. One of the reasons to get excited is WINTERLAND from Alan Glynn (right), which isn’t due until November but has already attracted quite a glittering array of big-ups. To wit:
“This is the colossus of Irish crime fiction – what MYSTIC RIVER did for Dennis Lehane, WINTERLAND should do for Alan Glynn. It is a noir masterpiece, the bar against which all future works will be judged … It’s as if Flann O’Brien wrote a mystery novel and laced it with speed, smarts and stupendous assurance.” – Ken Bruen

“Both a crime novel and a portrait of contemporary Ireland caught at a moment of profound change, WINTERLAND seems set to mark Alan Glynn as the first literary chronicler of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland. Timely, topical, and thrilling, this is Ireland as it truly is.” – John Connolly

“A thrilling novel of suspense from a new prose master.” – Adrian McKinty

“WINTERLAND is crime fiction of the highest order – smart, vivid, meticulously crafted, and highly entertaining. Alan Glynn has written a flat-out classic.” – Jason Starr

“WINTERLAND is a powerhouse of a novel whose pacy, character-driven narrative scrutinises Ireland’s underbelly, offering new meaning to the notion of corruption in high places. Glynn’s grasp of the big picture is as immaculate as his attention to detail. This is an exceptional and original crime novel, convincing at every level.” – Allan Guthrie
  Nice, nice and very, very nice. Quoth the blurb elves:
In the vein of films such as Michael Clayton and Syriana, WINTERLAND is a fast-paced, literary thriller set in contemporary Dublin. The worlds of business, politics and crime collide when two men with the same name, from the same family, die on the same night—one death is a gangland murder, the other, apparently, a road accident. Was it a coincidence? That’s the official version of events. But when a family member, Gina Rafferty, starts asking questions, this notion quickly unravels.
  Devastated by her loss, Gina’s grief is tempered, and increasingly fuelled, by anger—because the more she’s told that it was all a coincidence, that gangland violence is commonplace, that people die on our roads every day of the week, the less she’s prepared to accept it. Told repeatedly that she should stop asking questions, Gina becomes more determined than ever to find out the truth, to establish a connection between the two deaths—but in doing so she embarks on a path that will push certain powerful people to their limits ...
  I’ve read it, I love it, and it’s even better than THE DARK FIELDS, which is saying quite a lot. To book your advance copy, shufty on over here

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Get It On, Bang A Gong …

A big day today for Irish crime writing, folks, with our own Squire Declan Hughes (right) up for an Edgar ‘Best Novel’ gong, the winner to be announced tonight at the Edgar bunfight. Nominated for THE PRICE OF BLOOD, Squire Hughes has just released the fourth in the Ed Loy series, ALL THE DEAD VOICES, which my two cents reckons is his best yet, and augers well for award noms next year. Those of you who haven’t encountered the throbbing manliness that is Squire Hughes in the flesh can check him out over here, where he’s interviewed on TV3 alongside true-crime writer Niamh O’Connor on the nature and history of crime fic.
  Said interview is just one of a series of interviews TV3’s Ireland AM have been running over the last few weeks, all part of their coverage and sponsorship of the Irish Book Awards Crime Fiction gong, the winner of which will be announced on May 6th. The shortlist is: Alex Barclay / BLOOD RUNS COLD; Brian McGilloway / GALLOWS LANE; Tana French / THE LIKENESS; and Arlene Hunt / UNDERTOW. The outrageously glam Arlene had her 15 minutes in the arc-lights this week, and you can roll it there, Collette, just here
  Finally, the most important Crime Fic award of ’em all: the Crime Always Pays pre-Awards ‘Who Should Win The Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award?’ Award, which has been running on the top-left of this here blog for the last couple of weeks. A whopping total of 50 votes or thereabouts later – yes, 50! – throws up a rather unexpected result, with Brian McGilloway topping the poll with 44% of the vote, Tana French coming second-first with 28%, Arlene Hunt third-first with 18% and Alex Barclay fourth-first with 8%. Unexpected, given that crime fiction – in fact, most fiction – is read by women, and Brian was surrounded by a bevy of female beauties. Not that I’m dissing GALLOWS LANE, because I think it’s a terrific novel, and Brian an excellent writer … but I’m wondering if all the ladies didn’t split the female vote and allow Brian in on the rails. Or, is it simply the case that there’s more male readers of Crime Always Pays? Or, is it the case that female readers respond positively to Brian’s Inspector Devlin, a family man who loves his kids? Or, does the male-female aspect of it matter not a whit?
  Questions, questions …
  Oh, one last series of awards: the Spinetingler Awards, which are due to be announced today, in which this humble blog was nominated for a ‘Services to the Industry’ award, and in which Declan Hughes and Brian McGilloway were also nominated in various categories. If you’re Irish, step up to the podium …

UPDATE: Just while we’re on the subject of world-dominating Irish crime writers … The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman (right) launches the hilarious MYSTERY MAN at No Alibis, Belfast, tomorrow night (Friday May 1st), which should be fun, given that the ‘hero’ (I used the word advisedly) of the piece is the proprietor of a Belfast crime fiction store called No Alibis. Confused? You will be … although possibly not as confused as one David Torrans. And as if that wasn’t enough Bateman for you, he’s also turning up at Belfast’s Black Box venue on Monday evening, May 4th, alongside Gene Kerrigan, to do a crime fiction special, kick-off 6pm. No idea what ‘crime fiction special’ entails, but there’ll very probably be tap-dancing, ambient jazz and balloon animals ...

UPDATE UPDATE: As exclusively revealed by our commenting correspondent Bob (thanks, Bob!), Bateman’s MYSTERY MAN has been picked as one of the eight books that will make up Richard and Judy’s ‘Summer Read’ campaign (link provided by Bob in the comment box), which can only fan the flames of the rumours that the BBC have snaffled the option to televisualise said novel on the goggle box. So farewell then, Bateman, as you ascend into the Ether of Greatness – it was nice knowing you, even electronically …

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kane And Able: Sam Millar Returneth

The follow-up to Sam Millar’s BLOODSTORM is in the works, as flagged by the tireless Gerard Brennan over at CSNI (terrific cover, right). THE DARK PLACE: A KARL KANE NOVEL is due in October, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
“Young homeless women and drug addicts are being abducted before being brutally mutilated and murdered, and a city is held in grip of unspeakable terror. The cops are unable – or unwilling – to apprehend the elusive killer, and corrupt politicians turn a seemingly blind and almost approving eye to the catalogue of murders. The perpetrator is cunning, wealthy and influential. More importantly, he has never once made a mistake in his grisly calling – until now. By abducting Katie, the young daughter of legendary private investigator, Karl Kane, the killer has just made his first mistake, which could well turn out to be his last.”
  Not that I’m in any position to throw stones after the Hernandez / Mercado debacle in the Adrian McKinty review below, but over at Amazon UK, they’re touting it as ‘A KARL LANE NOVEL’. Which suggests that Amazon has just made its first mistake … which could well turn out to be its last. Sam? My advice is to sic Karl on their case …

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: FIFTY GRAND by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty’s FIFTY GRAND is officially on sale today, and if that’s not enough to send you into dizzy paroxysms of delight, then it suggests you haven’t encountered Adrian McKinty’s unique stylings before. It also means you’re in for a rare treat when you do read FIFTY GRAND, because it’s a terrific novel from a writer who isn’t just a superb wordsmith, he’s a man with important things to say about this world of ours. Trust me on this: FIFTY GRAND is already one of the Top Five Crime Novels of 2009. Peace, out.
Taking its title from a Hemingway short story, Adrian McKinty’s FIFTY GRAND opens in Cuba before moving on, via Mexico, to Colorado, as a Cuban cop, Hernandez, goes illegally undercover in the US to investigate her father’s death. The Hemingway homage is a brave one, inviting ridicule and accusations of hubris, but McKinty has long been purveying a blend of muscular lyricism in which collide the brutalities of the crime novel and a knowing, self-effacing literary style.
  His sixth novel for adults (he also writes the ‘Lighthouse’ series for children), FIFTY GRAND offers a challenging conceit, which is to put the tough, spare rhythms associated with classic hard-boiled novels (think Hemingway himself, James Ellroy, James Cain) into the mind of a first-person female protagonist. The result is an incendiary, adrenalin-fuelled thriller, but one that also functions as a blackly hilarious social satire of the skewed values of pre-Obama America, as Hernandez, in the role of exploited illegal immigrant, infiltrates the glitzy world of Colorado’s ski-resort set, cleaning up the mess left behind by Hollywood‘s jet-set.
  Most successful of all, however, is McKinty’s ability to slip inside Hernandez’s skin. The undercover Hernandez is thrown back on her own resources as she investigates her father’s death and brings those responsible to a very particular kind of justice, without recourse to conventional resources. As vulnerable as she is tough, as scared as she is determined, as fragile as she is lethal, she makes for a highly unusual, creepily authentic and utterly compelling anti-heroine.
  This review was first published in the Sunday Independent

Git Along Lil’ Dogie: Yep, It’s The Monthly Round-Up

Being a pick-‘n’-mix of highlights from the Crime Always Pays archive for April. To wit:

The inaugural Irish Crime Fiction Awards are announced, with Tana French, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt (right) and Alex Barclay shortlisted … and no, the absence of John Connolly is not an April Fool’s Joke.

A quick Q&A with Gene Kerrigan ahead of the launch of DARK TIMES IN THE CITY.

John Connolly announces that the follow-up to THE LOVERS will be THE GATES, a story about quantum physics and, erm, Satanism …

The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman is interviewed ahead of the launch of MYSTERY MAN.

The latest casting announcement for the adaptation of Ken Bruen’s LONDON BOULEVARD, as Ray Winstone, David Thewlis and Anna Friel join Colin Farrell and Kiera Knightley … Mmmmm, Anna Friel

Pre-launch of BLEED A RIVER DEEP, Brian McGilloway offers his Top Ten Irish Crime Novels in The Guardian.

Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE: It goes all the way up to eleven, apparently.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Crhyme Time

Gerald So was kind enough to forward on a sneak preview of THE LINEUP 2, the second anthology of crime fiction poetry, so the least I can do is repay the favour with a word or two. To wit:
“What does poetry have to do with crime?” asks Patrick Shawn Bagley in his thoughtful introduction to THE LINEUP 2, the second anthology of poems on crime edited by Gerald So. Poetry brings stillness and clarity to thought and vision, a precise bearing on the random chaos of everyday life, of which crime is an ever-present. The poems of this collection belong for the most part in that all-too-brief pause between the lurid headlines of journalism and the dramatic reconstructions of fiction, lines that wriggle their way into the crawl-space in our minds that lies between judgement, prejudice and consequence. If poetry is about anything, is about poignant, haunting truth. In ‘Visiting Hours, State Pen’, Amy MacLennan writes:
“Her lipstick
fresh, she unpins a nametag
(an all-night market),
from her blouse.”
… and your heart breaks, or should. “Crime,” wrote W.R. Burnett, “is but a left-handed form of human endeavour.” Crime fiction poetry might well be a left-handed endeavour, but boy, that Southie can punch a hole in your heart.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Nate Flexer

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?
POP. 1280 by Jim Thompson. One of the more subversive books ever written. And a great philosophical discussion on whether pleasuring a pig would constitute rape.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Fred from Scooby Doo. I liked his orange ascot. Plus, the dude got more ass than a toilet seat. By the way, was I the only one who was more attracted to Velma than Daphne? Really? I was?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I enjoy reading self-help books.

Most satisfying writing moment?

When my mother finished reading THE DISASSEMBLED MAN and asked if there was anything she could have done differently in raising me.

The best Irish crime novel is …?

THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe. McCabe is a master at creating off-centre protagonists, and Francie Brady is the most off-centre of them all. I’m not easily disturbed, and that book frickin’ disturbed me.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
PRIEST by Ken Bruen. THE BIG O by Declan Burke.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is the incredible amount of wealth that I’ve accumulated. I now use hundred-dollar bills to wipe my ass. The worst is the paparazzi. I can’t even go on a date with the local hooker without getting swarmed.

The pitch for your next book is …?

I’m working on a book tentatively titled CROWS IN THE STEEPLE. It’s a Wyoming Gothic. The protagonist is a fellow named Benton Faulk who is either a returning war hero or a delusional psychopath, depending who you believe. It’s a story the whole family will enjoy.

Who are you reading right now?

THE WIDOW by Georges Simenon. Can you say nihilism?

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I would tell God that he should concern himself with something a little more important than my reading and writing habits. Like that pothole on Steele Street, for example. Well, nobody else in town is doing anything about it!

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Frightening, warped, repulsive. Oh, my writing? I thought you were asking about me.

Nate Flexer’s THE DISASSEMBLED MAN is available now.