“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, June 6, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Bob Burke

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?
AMERICAN TABLOID by James Ellroy. Pace, plot and superb writing. How I envy that man’s ability to make it look so easy.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
John Carter of Mars, pulp hero of the first order (and yes, I know he probably doesn’t fit into the CAP crime ethos but what the hell, he’s my fictional alter-ego so there!!).

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Edgar Rice Burroughs, especially his Mars novels (see above).

Most satisfying writing moment?
Most satisfying writing moment? Getting that phone call. No, not the one from the clinic, the other one; the one where someone says they’d like to publish you.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
PRIEST by Ken Bruen or EVERY DEAD THING by John Connolly. Depends on what day I’m asked. THE BIG O is pretty good too by the way – not that I’m sucking up or anything. Oh no, not me. Nosiree.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
EVERY DEAD THING – or any one of John Connolly’s. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened yet.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: not having an agent so having to do the heavy lifting myself. Best: when someone (who isn’t family) says that they really enjoyed my book.

The pitch for your next book is …?
THE HO HO HO MYSTERY. A somewhat familiar large man dressed all in red, with a penchant for saying ‘ho ho ho’ a lot has disappeared. Has he been kidnapped, murdered or is he just hiding from the very formidable Mrs. Claus? With Christmas only two days away and counting, can Harry Pigg solve the case in time especially when he doesn’t even believe in Santa?

Who are you reading right now?
I read in bulk so the current list includes DEAD I WELL MAY BE by Adrian McKinty (THE BLOOMSDAY DEAD, which my dad is now enjoying, gave me a taste for more), MEMORIES OF ICE by Steven Erikson (one of a handful of decent fantasy writers), THE DRAINING LAKE by Arnaldur Indridason (far superior to Stieg Larsson) and KEEPING THE DEAD by Tess Gerritsen (we like Tess).

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Who is this God person and what gives him the right to decide? I’ll have to send the boys around to rearrange his kneecaps then I’ll bet we can do both. See, everything is negotiable.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Nursery Rhyme Noir.

Bob Burke’s The Third Pig Detective Agency is published on June 25th.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Neville Gazing

Stuart Neville (right) has just kicked off a marathon blog-per-day series over at his very fine Adventures in Novel Writing blog, which will peak and climax with the publication of THE TWELVE in roughly a month’s time. Yesterday he blogged about finally receiving the finished book, and how it felt – which, sadly, wasn’t particularly earth-shattering, according to Stuart. To wit:
“Holding the book in my hand wasn’t the earth-shattering, life-altering, choirs-of-angels-sing-while-the-world-is-bathed-in-white-light moment I thought it might have been two years ago. Don’t get me wrong, it's a truly wonderful feeling, but ever since bagging my agent, the journey to this stage has been a long series of victories, and the occasional defeat. There wasn’t one definable moment where I crossed the threshold between hope and actuality. Rather it has been a steady climb to this place where I can call myself an honest-to-God published author.”
  A noble sentiment, it has to be said. And Stuart seems to be the kind of bloke who keeps his feet on the ground. He seemed that way last year, when I met him in Dun Laoghaire at the Books ’08 Festival, even after a dry sherry or five. I met him again a couple of weeks ago, and he seemed entirely rooted, earthy and balanced. Chthonic, really. I mean, if it’d been me that got that big-up from James Ellroy? They’d still be scraping bits of me out of the chandelier.
Not Stuart, though. Fair play to him, he’s modest as well as everything else.
  I remember the first time I was handed a copy of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. I remember it like it was yesterday, and it was the finest moment of my life right up to the moment Lily was born. It really was one of those dizzying, shining, dazzling moments – my agent at the time, Jonathan Williams, handed me a copy on a Galway street, and I floated. It was magic, really. I felt like a child at Christmas, and all growed up at the same time. You’ll excuse my innocence, I hope, but as far as I was concerned at the time, I was finally in the gang – the gang that had Hemingway and Chandler and Salinger and Durrell and Conrad …
  Seriously, though – I’d been waiting twenty years for that moment, and when it finally came it was even better than I thought it might be. There’s not a lot of times in life when you can say you feel utterly fulfilled, but that was certainly one for me.
  I’m redrafting the sequel to EIGHTBALL BOOGIE now, as it happens. It’s called THE BIG EMPTY, and it picks up with Harry Rigby recently out of prison, where he served five years for manslaughter after being convicted of killing his brother, Gonzo, in self-defence, and now driving a taxi as a front for a dope dealer. It starts like this:
At the inquest they reckoned Finn punched down through the Audi’s boot from nine floors up. The boot concertina’d, puncturing the petrol tank. Shearing metal sparked.
  Ka-boom
  The explosion blasted out the Audi’s windows. Mine too, front and back, jolting the cab off its front wheels. The airbag absorbed most of the flying glass but it punched me in the chest so hard it damn near broke ribs.
  My fault, of course. I wasn’t tensed up expecting a guy to plummet nine floors into an Audi’s petrol tank. I was just sitting there smoking and tapping the steering-wheel to ABC, When Smokey Sings. Wondering if it wasn’t too late to swing around by the Cellars for a late one, maybe a game of pool.
  Then, ka-boomski, I was semi-conscious, pain grating down my left side. Maybe I even blacked out. The heat got me moving, reaching around the deflating airbag to turn the key in the ignition, rolling the cab back until it was out of range. Then I squeezed out from behind the airbag and staggered to the Audi.
  The heat was fierce but I was still half-dazed, so I dived in and grabbed his ankles. One of his moccasins slipped off as he came free and at first I thought I’d ripped him in half. Then I thought he’d dropped a dwarf on the Audi. Strange the things you think about when you’re trying not to think at all.
  I dragged him away from the flames. That left a trail of blood and frying flesh stuck to the tarmac. The sickly-sweet stench of burning pork set my guts heaving. Then I realised why he seemed so short.
  The impact had driven his head and shoulders back up into his torso. If you looked closely enough there was still some stump of what had once been his neck, but the head had smashed like pulpy melon.
  I rang it in while the Audi’s metalwork glowed a dull red and globs of grey matter shrivelled and spat …

  © Declan Burke, 2009
  If I get the time, I’ll bang up the whole first chapter sometime next week. Meanwhile, get ye hence to Stuart Neville’s blog and buy THE TWELVE. If you don’t, he’ll come around and get all reasonable and sensible on yo ass …

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Down These Green Streets A Man Must Go …

They say a week is a long time in politics, but a day can be a hell of a time in the writing business too. In the last 24 hours or so, I’ve had one novel rejected by an American publisher; interest expressed in a different novel by another American publisher; and strong interest expressed by an Irish publisher in the non-fiction project DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS. I’ve also moderated a panel of Aifric Campbell, Ed O’Loughlin and Peter Murphy for the Dublin Writers’ Festival, and had my plans for world domination thwarted by Amazon / Kindle (you can’t publish to Kindle unless you have a U.S. bank account - boo). Meanwhile, I’m lightly redrafting a novel I’d kind of forgotten about – this is the one I propose to upload to Kindle – and finding myself pleasantly surprised with it. I might even post the first chapter up hereabouts, just for some feedback … because I really don’t have enough going on right now.
Methinks I need a holiday, folks ...

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: CJ West

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?
THE DA VINCI CODE. It’s not necessarily a crime novel, but it would give me the freedom to write about any subject I chose for the rest of my career. I don’t strive to be recognized as a literary genius. I enjoy entertaining people and I think THE DA VINCI CODE did that better than any modern book.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
James Bond. He’s everything we want a hero to be and even though he pushes the limits of reason, we gladly follow along on his adventures. He also has an air of civility even in the most heated battle. I’d like to think I’d be so gentlemanly in his circumstances.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
My writing qualifies as a guilty pleasure, but I feel no guilt in reading every thriller or mystery author I discover. I find that I can learn something from whichever writer I pick up. I do really enjoy Douglas Preston & Lincoln Child. I’ve read so many of their books, that I don’t think I could learn more from their style of writing. I read them because I know I’m going to enjoy the book front to back. Lately I’ve been sprinkling in more non-fiction.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I went to a Christmas party with a group of people I didn’t know well. I was leaving a room and a guy grabbed me by the sleeve and asked if I was CJ West. When he learned that I was, he started raving about SIN & VENGEANCE and didn’t stop for over an hour. At my next event, he bought 16 copies for friends and family.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I’m only about 16% Irish, so my books don’t count. I’ll have to turn that around and say that my favourite Irish writer is Casey Sherman from Cape Cod.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
I love everything about being a writer. If there is one thing I’d rather not have to worry about, that would be marketing and selling books. Being a writer allows me to enjoy the solitude of working alone uninterrupted for much of the time and still allows me to get out and see people at events and book signings. I enjoy the stages of every book from concept, to drafting, to meeting readers. My favourite part of the process is the early creative work on any book. Creating characters and plotting books keeps me up late into the night and I can do it for weeks on end. The excitement consumes me and I don’t need anything else except food and a little sleep. Of course my kids have different ideas ...

The pitch for your next book is …?
I’m writing the next book in the Randy Black series. For those who haven’t started, you can get the first book, SIN & VENGEANCE, for free as an e-book on my website. In this new book Randy meets Gretchen Greene, a young woman who has discovered something that will change the world. Unfortunately, very powerful people don’t want this discovery to come to light. As Randy does his best to save Gretchen, he discovers that the two of them couldn’t disagree more about the nature of creation.

Who are you reading right now?
BEN FRANKLIN: AN AMERICAN LIFE, Walter Isaacson; THE INNOCENT, Harlan Coben; THE ACRONYM, Rebecca Lerwill; MOMENT OF TRUTH, Lisa Scottoline.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I would write and try and figure out how to satisfy my desire to learn about the world in some other way. I’m compelled to write and would probably explode if I couldn’t.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Intense, unpredictable, realistic.

CJ West’s A DEMON AWAITS is available now.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Publish And / Or Be Damned

Further to yesterday’s post, I’m thinking seriously about publishing to Kindle …
The Upsides:
One less manuscript in the bulging manuscript drawer;
An opportunity to explore a new medium;
Increased word-of-mouth (theoretically);
Increased profile in the industry (even marginally);
The possibility of a traditional publisher picking up the book for traditional publication and – theoretically – an actual money-shaped advance;
People reading the book, and giving feedback (hopefully);
It’d be another caper.

The Downsides
There isn’t a lot of money to be earned;
Your potential readership is limited to Kindle owners;
Erm, that’s about it, really.
  At the moment I’m looking at uploading the second Harry Rigby novel, which is a sequel to EIGHTBALL BOOGIE and is called THE BIG EMPTY, probably in about a month’s time. There’s also a chance I might get to upload CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, the sequel to THE BIG O, although that’ll depend on permissions from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Feel free to start a petition …
  Meanwhile, and while we’re on the topic of e-publishing, this sounds potentially intriguing …
Google appears to be throwing down the gauntlet in the e-book market. In discussions with publishers at the annual BookExpo convention in New York over the weekend, Google signalled its intent to introduce a program by that would enable publishers to sell digital versions of their newest books direct to consumers through Google. The move would pit Google against Amazon.com, which is seeking to control the e-book market with the versions it sells for its Kindle reading device …
  Mr. Turvey said Google’s program would allow consumers to read books on any device with Internet access, including mobile phones, rather than being limited to dedicated reading devices like the Amazon Kindle. “We don’t believe that having a silo or a proprietary system is the way that e-books will go,” he said.
  He said that Google would allow publishers to set retail prices. Amazon lets publishers set wholesale prices and then sets its own prices for consumers. In selling e-books at $9.99, Amazon takes a loss on each sale because publishers generally charge booksellers about half the list price of a hardcover — typically around $13 or $14.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Those Whom The Gods Would Destroy …

… they first make mad. The publishing industry can be a cruel one, folks. A few years back, I was talking on the phone with the publisher of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, and he casually mentioned that the book was about to be published in Russia. “Criminy!” says I. “I’ll send you over a few copies,” says he. He sent one. It wasn’t EIGHTBALL BOOGIE. Had he put the wrong book in the post? No, he’d just confused it with another book he was publishing. An easy enough mistake to make, given that the title of the novel, OVERNIGHT TO INNSBRUCK, was rendered in Cyrillic – although the author’s name, Denyse Woods, wasn’t.
  Such moments teach us humility, if little else. I hope Denyse Woods sold a million copies in Russia …
  Anyway, as all three regular readers of CAP will be aware, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt late last year declined to publish the sequel to THE BIG O. Which was a bummer, especially as the deal was a two-book and HMH had specifically asked for a sequel. It must have been a close-run decision, though, because it seems as if someone in there had at some point seriously committed to the book, to the extent that it got an Amazon slot (as ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke), and an ISBN number. Well, it’s that or the ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ was actually intended to be the paperback version of THE BIG O – although, in that case, they’d simply call it THE BIG O (pb), wouldn’t they?
  Either way, knowing how close the sequel, aka CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, came to being published is heartbreaking, because what its not being published by HMH means is that no one else will touch it with a barge-pole, especially as it’s a sequel. This despite the fact that, in my not-entirely-humble opinion at least, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is a superior read to THE BIG O, being faster, funnier and slightly shorter, and being set for a goodly bit in the Greek islands, which is always a bonus. All of which matters not the proverbial whit – the book, poor unwanted orphan that it is, will only ever see the light of day if I decide to self-publish. Which I might well do, just for giggles …
  But back to ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke. It’s cruel enough that it’s sitting out there in cyberspace, mocking me, but here’s the kicker – right now, at the time of writing, THE BIG O’s sales rank on Amazon.com is 858,436. Meanwhile, the phantom ‘Untitled Crime Novel’ by Declan Burke has a sales rank of 320,829.
  Sometimes, if you didn’t laugh, you’d have to cry …