“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, August 7, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Peter Leonard

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 FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE by George V. Higgins. It’s a masterpiece.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Sherlock Holmes.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
PEOPLE magazine and STAR. I want to know what the beautiful people are
doing.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Selling my first novel, QUIVER. My agent called and said, “Are you sitting
down?” And then delivered the good news.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen. Ken’s a great writer, dark and funny.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE GUARDS. I think it’s in the works.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst is cheap shots by critics. You can spend a year writing a novel and
have it trashed in fifty words or less. The best thing is the satisfaction
you get developing characters, making them come alive and making them talk,
putting them in a story and seeing what happens.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Two American students steal a taxi in Rome. They are subsequently arrested
and sent to Rebibbia Prison where they cross paths with members of Mafia
gang.

Who are you reading right now?
Doug Stanton, HORSE SOLDIERS.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Five years ago I would have said read. But now I’m compelled to write.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Character-driven, entertaining.

Peter Leonard’s TRUST ME is published by Faber and Faber

Thursday, August 6, 2009

CRIME ALWAYS PAYS: That Kindle Cover In Full!


CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, as all three regular readers will probably have forgotten by now, is the sequel to THE BIG O, and is currently in the process of being uploaded to Kindle. When it finally gets there, it’ll be wearing the cover above …
  Yes, I know that a lot of people felt / feel it’s an Agatha Christie-type cosy cover, but there was something about the soft-furnishings-glimpsed-through-barred-window that appealed. Also, I like the colours – it whispers ‘Mediterranean’ to me, and very seductively too. Maybe it’s all the pillows. As to whether it sums up the story inside, or will hypnotise potential readers into buying it, I really don’t know. And care less, to be perfectly frank about it.
  Anyway, the man responsible for the design is JT Lindroos of The Outfit, and thank you kindly, sir. As for everyone else who took the time to comment, thanks a million for the feedback, I do appreciate it.
  Now all I have to do is format the blummin’ story properly, and we’re off and running.
  In the meantime, here’s how CRIME ALWAYS PAYS opens up, with a chapter that’s a whopping 279 words long …
Sleeps

It was bad enough Rossi raving how genius isn’t supposed to be perfect, it’s not that kind of gig, but then the vet started carping about Sleeps’ pride and joy, the .22, nickel-plated, pearl grip, enough to stop a man and put him down but not your actual lethal unless you were unlucky. And right now, empty.
  Sleeps waggled it in the vet’s general direction. ‘Less talk,’ he said, ‘more angel of mercy. How’s that ear coming?’
  Not good and not fast, Rossi ducking around like Sugar Ray in a bouncy castle. Still in shock, bofto on the wowee pills, with these delusions of grandeur, he was Tony Montana or maybe Tony Manero, Sleeps couldn’t say for sure.
  It didn’t help there was no actual ear. The wolf had tore it clean off, along with enough skin to top a sizeable tom-tom. Plus the vet was using catgut and what looked to Sleeps like a needle he’d last seen on the Discovery Channel stuck horizontal through a cannibal’s nose.
  In the end Sleeps stepped in and stuck his forefinger in the wound, stirred it around. Rossi screeched once, high-pitched, then keeled over.
  ‘I’ll be wanting,’ Sleeps said, wiping his finger on Rossi’s pants, ‘a bag of horse tranks. And whatever gun you use for putting down the animals.’
  The vet shook his head. ‘We don’t use those anymore, they’re not humane.’
  ‘Humane? You’re a vet, man.’
  ‘We treat them like children,’ the vet said, ‘not animals.’
  ‘Nice theory.’ Sleeps scratched the cattle-prod off his mental list, gestured at Rossi with the .22. ‘But what if they’re a little of both?’

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: James McCreet

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?
James Ellroy’s THE COLD SIX THOUSAND. The man is just a genius. The scale and complexity of his books is a superhuman feat.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
James Bond – no hesitation. He is in many ways a classic fantasy figure for a writer: solitary, self-sufficient, dogged, independent, happy to enjoy luxuries on the expense account, and occasionally homicidal.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
For years I read the American pulp spy thrillers by ‘Nick Carter’ – pure schlock full of sex, violence and weaponry. I picked up a few old copies recently and again enjoyed their no-nonsense break-neck narratives tremendously.

Most satisfying writing moment?
My forthcoming book (July 2010) is absolutely crammed with them (particularly the opening 500 words), but the best piece of writing is always the one I do tomorrow …

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Much as I am tempted to make something up, I’ll be honest and say I have virtually no knowledge of Irish crime novels. I have a copy of Brian McGilloway’s BORDERLANDS by the bed and, having met the man last weekend, I am looking forward to reading it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Sorry – no idea.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best – feeling that each day I write is a day of my life I haven’t wasted. Worst – having to make a choice between visiting the world in my head and the world with my wife in it.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Top secret, but utterly unprecedented.

Who are you reading right now?
Philip Hoare’s LEVIATHAN. I’ve just re-read MOBY-DICK and can’t get enough of whales at the moment. I’m considering writing a sea epic of my own in a few years.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Easy – I’d write. By writing, I get the best of both worlds. And anyway, the pressures of writing novels while working full time means I pretty much made that decision a couple of years ago.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Entertaining, surprising, compelling

James McCreet’s THE INCENDIARY’S TRAIL is published by Macmillan

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Book Reviewing 101: Don’t Mention The War (#7)

There are bad reviewers, atrocious reviewers, and then there are reviewers who should be strapped to the mast and flogged with a cat o’ nine tails woven from their own entrails. Consider Geoffrey Vine’s (‘Dunedin journalist and Presbyterian minister’) take on Declan Hughes’ ALL THE DEAD VOICES at the Otago Daily Times:
“All three seem to have links with warring factions of the IRA and Loy discovers there are matching factions within the police and security forces, all just as much at war, as the collection of wounds Loy accumulates testify.
  “Most of us outside Ireland may wonder why it is so necessary to again rake over the coals of an awful civil war.
  “Both the fact (that Hughes has written a book which alternately glorifies the Troubles and condemns them) and the fiction (the book’s plot) stir up tensions we might think best left alone.”
  A couple of things need to be said here. First off, “Don’t mention the war” is a Basil Fawlty joke, not an acceptable argument in a book review. Secondly, dissident Republicans murdered two people in Ireland shortly before the publication of ALL THE DEAD VOICES, which at the very least suggests that Declan Hughes is not the only man in Ireland capable of ‘stirring up tensions’ amongst Irish paramilitaries. Thirdly, I’ve just bore a small hole in my skull scratching my head at how Vine managed to take from the novel the notion that Hughes was ‘glorifying’ the Troubles, when one of the main themes of the novel is the extent to which former murderous paramilitaries have infiltrated modern Irish business and political life.
  Yes, yes, I know it’s the Otago Daily Times, and maybe we shouldn’t expect too much. But at the very least Declan Hughes is entitled to have his book reviewed by someone who can understand basic English. Like here, for instance ...
  As for Geoff’s abhorrence of stirring up tensions – God help him if anyone gives him a copy of Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE to review …

Three Chords And The Ruth

But lo! There’s more ... Yon Ruth Dudley Edwards is a versatile minx, and no mistake. Last year, Cuddly Dudley won the Last Laugh Award at Crimefest, for her comedy crime caper MURDERING AMERICANS. A couple of weeks back she published the true crime opus AFTERMATH: THE OMAGH BOMBING, which concerns itself with the families’ search for justice in the wake of the single most devastating atrocity in the long and bitter history of the Troubles. If the early word is anything to go by, the Crimefest award won’t be her last. To wit:
“It is a remarkable and moving story, told in masterly fashion by Ruth Dudley Edwards. Her narrative grips from the start. It is as compelling as a thriller and displays the sympathetic imagination of a great novel … This is an extraordinary and uplifting story of how a group of ordinary people managed to get the justice they sought. It is beautifully told.” – Allan Massie, The Scotsman

“THIS VITAL, powerful book tells a story of loss, resilience and terrorism … It rightly concentrates on victims, and on properly remembering the lives destroyed by terrorist atrocity. But it also recounts a remarkable story of victims’ resilience and vindication, and deserves to be very widely read.” – Richard English, Irish Times
  For more, clickety-click here

Monday, August 3, 2009

John Banville Vs The World # 1,017: Ruth Dudley Edwards Steps In

Ruth Dudley Edwards (right) gets in touch to see if I’d be interesting in hosting her version of events in Banvillegate (See what I did there? It was John Banville, right, at Harrogate, and … oh. Okay). Erm, Ruth? Yes, please. To wit:
“Tony Benn never opens his mouth without switching on his tape-recorder, and after this business with John Banville, who represented me as saying the precise opposite of what I believe, I fear he is wise. At the risk of being balls-achingly tedious, my historian’s instincts make me want to set the record straight.
  “Banville got up the noses of the Harrogate audience by – no doubt unwittingly – giving the impression that he was rather embarrassed by his Benjamin Black persona. It’s is hard not to bristle when you hear that because Banville agonises over every sentence that he does well to write 100 words a day, but Black merrily bashes out 2,000.
  “Being an out-and-proud crime writer myself, who misses no opportunity to assail those who disparage the genre, I displayed my irritation when moderating the Emerald Noir panel the following morning by asking Declan Hughes whether he thought Banville was denying that he felt he was slumming it, although he really believed he was. Dec, being more streetwise than me, refused to get involved in this fight.
  “In the Daily Telegraph on 28 July, Jake Kerridge got the wrong end of the stick by saying: ‘The writer Ruth Dudley Edwards commented at one event that “he may insist he’s not slumming it, but he’s slumming it.’ On the Guardian books blog this turned into: ‘”He’s slumming it,”’ author Ruth Dudley Edwards said the following day. “He says he isn’t, but he is.”’ Which in Banville’s Guardian article on 1 August - which was trailed on the front of the Review section as ‘’John Banville: ‘I’m not “slumming it” as a crime writer’ - became ‘Another blogger did a survey among attendees [of the event where he and Reginald Hill were interviewed by Mark Lawson]. One of them, Ruth Dudley Edwards, a good writer who should have known better, allowed herself to be quoted as saying that I was slumming it as Benjamin Black. The inevitable implication of this is that Dudley Edwards considers crime writers to be slum dwellers.’ He then proceeded to defend crime writing against me and people like me.
  “Mind you, if he’d stayed for Emerald Noir he wouldn’t have got this wrong. And if he’d looked at my website, he’d have found some impassioned defences of crime writing. But, hey, as Reg Hill wrote when I moaned to him about this: ‘There’s nothing like a good misunderstanding for promoting misunderstanding among people.’” - Ruth Dudley Edwards
  At the risk of getting splinters up my fundament, I genuinely think what’s happening here is a misunderstanding. Mind you, I’ve no problem with a good old-fashioned literary spat, either, especially when crime writers are pretty much universally nice people. I mean, seriously, crime writing festivals can get a bit Stepford at times, no?

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: HAUNTED HEART: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF STEPHEN KING by Lisa Rojak

STEPHEN KING – known to family and friends as Steve – made his name and fortune in the 1970s writing horror novels such as CARRIE, THE SHINING and SALEM’S LOT, and went on to establish himself as one of the best-selling authors of all time.
  Film adaptations of his work – including The Shining, Stand By Me, The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile – are among some of the most popular movies of the last 30 years.
  Sales have declined as he has begun to produce more self- consciously literary works in the latter part of his career, during which King has triumphed over addiction and also survived a near- fatal car accident. The man himself though is well, mellow and living happily ever after.
  The problem with Lisa Rogak’s rather short biography (not counting notes and index, it amounts to 243 pages) is that the broad strokes of his life are known to even the most casual of Stephen King observers.
  Given that the author was hugely prolific for most of his career, in some years publishing anything between four and six titles, not counting paperback and assorted editions, there are many times when Rogak finds herself simply outlining a list of his achievements for a particular period, in the process skimming along the surface of King’s story.
  The biography is unauthorised, an issue that Rogak makes light of in her introduction, claiming that an authorised biography is a good cure for insomnia …

  For the rest, clickety-click here

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Yon Banville’s A Miserable Old – Sssh, He’s Here

Further to the crime fic / lit fic debate of last week, in which it was argued that John Banville (right) demeans crime writing and its writers by admitting that he writes quicker as Benjamin Black than John Banville, the man himself had a right-to-reply piece in The Guardian yesterday. To wit:
“A sheep should not venture into a pen of wolves. Not the least of the reasons I agreed to attend the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Writing festival 2009 in Harrogate was that the name charmed me. Also it was a chance to revisit Yorkshire, a part of the world I greatly like, if only for the rough poetry of the common speech there - for instance, on the train from Leeds to Harrogate a woman in the seat behind me was speaking of a fickle friend and said: "She coomes on lak a dyin' swan and then puffs oop."
  “My event was a public interview with Mark Lawson, an expert conductor of the third degree; also on stage was that fine writer Reginald Hill. We had a large and attentive audience, consisting mostly of fans of Reg, I suspect. During the hour-long conversation I described my differing work methods as John Banville and Benjamin Black, saying how the former writes painfully slowly while the latter is fluent and fast. I am told that many in the audience took offence at this, imagining, I presume, that I was making a disparaging comparison between my "literary" books and my crime fiction. I also made a joke - limp, I admit - to the effect that I fully expected Black to win the Nobel prize; this has been blogged as my saying that I expected to win it. Imagine a weary sigh.
  “Another blogger did a survey among attendees. One of them, Ruth Dudley Edwards, a good writer who should have known better, allowed herself to be quoted as saying that I was slumming it as Benjamin Black. The inevitable implication of this is that Dudley Edwards considers crime writers to be slum dwellers. I prefer to think of Benjamin B. as lording it among aristocrats such as Georges Simenon, James M Cain, and my much-missed friend, the lavishly talented, late Donald Westlake, aka Richard Stark.
  “I deplore the apartheid that has been imposed on fiction writing, so that in shops the "crime books" are segregated from the "proper" novels. Of course, there are bad crime novels, many of which seem to have been written with the blunt end of a burnt stick, but the same is true of so-called literary fiction. The distinction between good writing and bad is the only one worth making. I revel in the challenge of crafting my crime books, trying to make something new in an old convention - for is that not what any artist does? Baa.”
  Well said, that man. “I prefer to think of Benjamin B. as lording it among aristocrats …” Nice.
  As for Ruth Dudley Edwards and the ‘slumming it’ bit, and on the basis that she wasn’t being ironic, or quoted out of context – what’s so wrong with the idea that John Banville is slumming it as Benjamin Black? I find the idea that Banville is writing from an ivory tower and Benny Blanco in a tenement slum very appealing, actually; it puts me in mind of Chandler’s take on Hammett, that he took murder out of the drawing room and dropped it back in the alley, where it belonged. To me the crime novel – and I make the distinction between crime novel and mystery novel, or thriller – belongs in the slums, its sewers thronged with rats made mad by poverty and poisons and doomed to drown, sooner or later, in the endless flow of shit.
  A very broad generalisation, I know, and it very probably says more about me than I’m willing to examine too closely that that’s not only my idea of a good time, but a metaphor for life itself and the universe at large.
  John Banville says he’s not slumming it, and good enough for me. In the long run, though, it’s a moot point. He’ll be judged by the books, not on his attitude or what he did or didn’t say. And it’d be a shame if some kind of inverted snobbery were to deny him a fair hearing.

John Banville’s THE INFINITIES is published on September 4.

Git Along Li’l Dogie: The Monthly Round-Up

Being a pick-‘n’-mix of CAP posts from the month of July. To wit:

Brian McGilloway (BLEED A RIVER DEEP) bares his soul to Spinetingler Magazine …

Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE gets some boffo reviews …

Captain Barbelo is a maverick genius …

John Connolly posts Chapter One of his YA novel THE GATES …

Chris Mooney (THE DEAD ROOM) gets the rubber hose treatment …

Bob Burke takes a novel approach to marketing THIRD PIG DETECTIVE AGENCY …

John Banville causes a kerfuffle at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival …

And Garbhan Downey explains how possible homicidal marching Orangemen sparked his latest novel, WAR OF THE BLUE ROSES …