“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, September 11, 2009

God May Well Turn In His Grave


Pic of the Week, and then some, courtesy of Busted Flush (where the prologue to TOWER has just been posted). Jason Statham, Ken Bruen and Elliott Lester (director) on the set on Blitz in London …
  And while we’re on the topic of Ken Bruen – is anyone else buying Dominic West as Jack Taylor? He seems a little too young, handsome and clean-cut to play Jack, methinks.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

DARK TIMES’ Bright Prospects

Time being not so much a cruel mistress as a vengeful dominatrix these days, I gave Gene Kerrigan’s (right) nomination for the CWA Gold Dagger only a cursory mention on Monday. It’s worth mentioning again, though, because I think DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is a terrific read – for those who have read and enjoyed LITTLE CRIMINALS and A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, it’s an entirely new gear altogether. Here’s my two cents, in a review for the Sunday Independent (where Gene Kerrigan is a columnist) from last February:
IN one sense, it’s a shame that Gene Kerrigan hails from this parish, because you’re going to think I’m biased when I say that, with DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, he has written one of the finest crime novels set in Ireland.
  Initially the story of Danny Callaghan, a Dublin ex-con who instinctively interferes in a gangland hit and suffers the consequences, DARK TIMES is a novel that gets under the skin of post-boom Ireland. The various settings are for the most part those urban wastelands by-passed by the boom, where people live cheek-by-jowl with the criminal fraternity, and where the notion of law and order is a sick joke.
  And yet, as with Kerrigan’s previous novels, LITTLE CRIMINALS and A MIDNIGHT CHOIR, the issues are not black-and-white, and the lines drawn are not between good and bad, or law and disorder. Kerrigan is more interested in exploring the concept of power, its use and abuse, and how those at the bottom of the pecking order, regardless of which side of the thin blue line they stand, are powerless -- physically, financially and morally -- when confronted with the juggernaut of power corrupted absolutely.
  Written in a terse, economical style studded with nuggets of black humour, the novel is unflinchingly cynical about the cause-and-effect cycle of poverty, mis-education, hopelessness and violence that provides an unending flow of willing volunteers for gangland life.
  Kerrigan the journalist is apparent in the novel’s relevance, as three or four narrative strands that could easily have jumped off yesterday’s front pages coalesce into a splendid page-turner. But it’s Kerrigan the novelist that lifts DARK TIMES above the realms of the conventional crime novel, with his detailed and often poignant depiction of the truth behind the headlines.
  His characters are never ‘scum’ or ‘thugs’; they don’t labour under ridiculous nicknames; they’re fully-rounded individuals who can tug on your heart-strings on one page, and force a man to dig his own grave on the next.
  Cruelly authentic, the novel refuses the simplistic pieties of either the genre’s form or society’s wishful thinking. DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is a very fine crime novel, but it’s also one of the very few novels of any stripe to hold up a mirror to the dark heart of modern Ireland’s boom-and-bust.
  So there you have it. For an appetite-whetting Chapter One, clickety-click here

Monday, September 7, 2009

The Babble On TOWER

The Ken Bruen-Reed Farrel Coleman collaboration TOWER goes live today, courtesy of the good folk at Busted Flush, and the good word is in from the chattering classes that matter, aka the trade journals. To wit:
Booklist: “It’s a story as old as hard-boiled fiction, but Bruen, the prolific and gifted Irishman, and Coleman, his new partner in crime, have given it new life ... Bruen’s prose is some of the leanest, meanest writing crime fans will find, and Coleman’s more discursive style amplifies and explicates the story, in the same way that John Coltrane’s lyrical saxophone built on the clipped trumpet ideas of Miles Davis. The result is more than the sum of its parts, and it brings to mind Dennis Lehane’s brilliant MYSTIC RIVER. Readers who like their streets mean, and their criminals and cops meaner, will love TOWER.”

Library Journal: “Plot plays second fiddle to the specifics of sharply etched characters relayed in a prose style that frequently lands a punch to the gut. VERDICT: These two writers have amassed a mantle full of prizes and bevies of fans; much of the fun they must have had playing off each other comes across in this successful collaboration.”

Shelf Awareness: “Busted Flush Press has just released its first original novel... billed as a crime tale, and what a tale it is ... TOWER is a brutal, and sometimes tender, noir novel that careens through Brooklyn, Manhattan, Boston and Philadelphia, leaving you breathless and stunned.”

Publishers Weekly: “Brutally poetic... Bruen and Coleman shine... displaying all the literary chops that have made their novels such cult favourites among mystery fans.”
  Nice, nice, nice.
  In other news, here’s where aspiring Irish writers can pay €3,000 to become a novelist, or possibly avail of the service for free, courtesy of Faber; and Philip Pullman’s contribution to the Myth series, THE GOOD MAN JESUS AND THE SCOUNDREL CHRIST, gets my vote for next year’s Booker Prize. You can only imagine the outrage were the central character Muhammad. By contrast, the official Christian response runs, “It is important that people should be free to express themselves …” and “I’m sure [Pullman] will do something interesting with this one.” Like, whatever happened to fire and brimstone, eh?

  UPDATE: Gene Kerrigan’s terrific novel DARK TIMES IN THE CITY is nominated for CWA Gold Dagger. Very, very nice indeed … For a smashing review of same, clickety-click here

Sunday, September 6, 2009

“The Squat Pen Rests; As Snug As A Gun.”

I interviewed Declan Hughes for today’s Sunday Independent, with the cunning ulterior motive that some of his pixie-dust might rub off when we shook hands. So far there’s been no joy, but it’s early days yet. Herewith be the interview:
“The squat pen rests; as snug as a gun,” wrote Seamus Heaney in ‘Digging’, and he could have written the words for crime novelist Declan Hughes, who has been digging with a pen for a quarter of a century.
  Formerly a playwright and theatre director (this year marks the 25th anniversary of the founding of Rough Magic, which Hughes co-founded with Lynne Parker), currently a novelist, Hughes is enjoying something of an annus mirabilis. His fourth novel, ALL THE DEAD VOICES, was published in June. His previous novel THE DYING BREED has just been nominated for a Shamus award, as well as a 2009 Edgar Award, the American crime-writing equivalent of the Oscar.
  “It’s terrific to be nominated,” says a beaming Hughes. “I particularly treasure the Shamus nominations, because private-eye fiction is such a quintessentially American sub-genre. It’s a thrill to write Irish private-eye fiction and make the American grade.”
  There can no more appropriate writer to open next week’s crime fiction strand of the Books ’09 Festival, when Hughes presents the crime-writing workshop, ‘Bloodwork’.
  “Write every day,” he says, when I ask for advice, “and, as Lawrence Block says, find a way of putting writing first, if possible, literally, by getting up early and getting it done before the official day begins.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, Adrian McKinty, currently domiciled in Oz, had himself interviewed on a radio station in New Zealand last week, the point of the exercise being to promote the rather excellent FIFTY GRAND. Those of you craving Presbyterian blarney in a fey Irish brogue could do worse than clickety-click here
  Also meanwhile, the crime writing strand of Books 2009 takes place next Saturday, September 12th, at Independent Colleges, Dawson Street, Dublin, with yours truly MC-ing the day’s events and making a hames of it entirely, no doubt. The line-up runs as follows:
12 Noon: Bloodwork: A Crime Writing Workshop
Shamus Award-winning author Declan Hughes (‘All the Dead Voices’) hosts a crime writing workshop designed to hone your killer writing instincts.

2.30pm: Bright Young Things
Cormac Millar, a former ‘Penguin Most Wanted’ author, hosts a panel with four of the hottest new crime writing talents: Ava McCarthy (‘The Insider’), Stuart Neville (‘The Twelve’), Alan Glynn (‘Winterland’) and John McFetridge (‘Let It Ride’).

4pm: In Cold Blood – The Art of True Crime Writing
Ruth Dudley Edwards (‘Aftermath: The Omagh Bombing’) hosts a debate between Paul Williams (‘The Untouchables’), Emer Connolly (‘Lying Eyes’), and Niamh O’Connor (‘Blood Ties’) on the nature of Irish crime journalism and true crime writing.

5.30pm: Real Guts, No Glory
Critically acclaimed author Brian McGilloway (‘Bleed a River Deep’) hosts a panel with Alex Barclay (‘Blood Runs Cold’), Gene Kerrigan (‘Dark Times in the City’), Arlene Hunt (‘The Outsider’) and Mandasue Heller (‘Two-Faced’) on the shocking truth behind crime fiction.

7pm: It’s A Dirty Job …
Declan Hughes interviews Colin Bateman (‘Mystery Man’), John Connolly (‘The Lovers’) and Eoin McNamee (‘12:23’) on genre-bending, genre-blending, and best-selling the hard way.