“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, October 24, 2009

Sweet Little ’16

Not too long to go now to the centenary of the Easter Rising of 1916, in which a tiny army of Irish rebels led by Padraig Pearse and James Connolly rose up against the might of the British Empire in a bid to slough off the shackles of oppression that had lasted 800 years. It helped, of course, that the mighty British Empire was otherwise engaged at the time, and looking the other way, bogged down as it was in the trenches of France.
  Nonetheless, the Rising failed miserably, unless the objective was to see Dublin’s city centre levelled, and only belatedly became a success after the perfidious Brits, instead of recognising the courage-bordering-on-insanity of the men who took on the British war machine, had most of their leaders executed for treason and then incarcerated the rest in what would become a University of Insurrection at Frongoch in Wales.
  History being, in large part, the science of revisionism, the lead-up to the centenary celebrations of Easter 1916 will be a feast for Irish fans of propaganda. The battle for possession of the Rising will be fought on a number of fronts, most pertinently the silver screen, and it appears that the opening salvo will be sounded by LA-based Marathon Pictures. To wit:
Nicola Charles of LA-based Marathon Pictures has confirmed that principal photography is set in Ireland for the end of April 2010 on Jason Barry’s debut feature ‘Easter Sixteen’. It stars Gary Oldman as James Connolly (The Dark Knight, Leon), Guy Pearce (LA Confidential, Memento) as Patrick Pearse and Ian Hart (Michael Collins, The Butcher Boy) as Thomas Clarke, Chris O’Donnell (Kinsey, Scent of a Woman) as Ross, Elaine Cassidy (Felicia’s Journey, The Others) as Nora, and Anthony La Paglia (The Salton Sea, Sweet and Lowdown) as Spindler.
  Originally from Dublin, Jason Barry has acted in a dozen movies including Titanic. As well as directing he will briefly feature as Roger Casement in the movie.
  “There has been much speculation about the identity of Jason and my first choice for the role of James Connolly,” says producer Nicola Charles. “But for us there has only ever been one actor for this role. Gary Oldman.”
  Which begs the question: why?
  Gary Oldman is a fine actor, as are Guy Pearce and Ian Hart, but – at the risk of sounding parochial – would it have broken their hearts to have an Irish actor or two in amongst the leading lights of the cast? It’s not as if the talent isn’t there – Brendan Gleeson, for example, has put together a cast that includes Colin Farrell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Cillian Murphy and Gabriel Byrne for his directorial debut, an adaptation of Flann O’Brien’s AT SWIM TWO BIRDS, which is due next year. And it’s not simply a case of the horrors shivering down the spine at the idea of Oldman, Pearce et al mangling the Irish accent, begorrah, as they go about their business (seriously, is the Irish accent really that difficult to get right?). It’s more that the Easter Rising was (my crass interpretation above notwithstanding) a complex, nuanced glorious failure, akin in its own way to the Spartans’ stand at Thermopylae in that the main players knew they were doomed before they began, and words such as ‘complex’, ‘nuanced’ and ‘glorious failure’ don’t play so well in Hollywood.
  On the positive side, one of the writers, Brendan Foley, is a Belfast man, and the director, Jason Barry, was born in Dublin, although the fact that the other writer’s credits include writing the TV spectaculars ‘Forbes 20 Most Expensive Celebrity Weddings’ and ‘America’s Junior Miss 2002’ doesn’t bode well.
  Maybe, as I say, I’m being excessively touchy and parochial about this, but I don’t think I am. Can you imagine the reaction in France, say, were Chris O’Donnell slated to play Georges Danton in an epic about the French Revolution, written by Bartlesby O’Bonkers, whose previous credits included ‘Best Irish Tinkers Wedding Brawls’? Or if Cillian Murphy were mooted to play George Washington in a movie written by the author of ‘One Hundred Great Sweet Sixteen Party Hummer Limousines’?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Yes I Said Yes I Will Yes

I don’t know if literary Dublin is a sexy city or not, but certainly James Joyce wasn’t averse to sticking in (oo-er, missus) some rumpy-pumpy whenever the mood took him. Anyway, a very reputable man in the publishing field gets in touch to tell me he’s putting together ‘a set of four city-based anthologies, in the literary erotica field’, and wondering if I know of any writers of literary erotica. To wit:
“Dublin has so far evinced very few submissions, and it looks as if I’m going to be short of stories. Are there any Irish writers whom you might recommend who might be interested in attempting a sexy/erotic story set in Dublin? Would be quite happy to formally commission a story on basis of a paragraph or so outline.”
  So there you have it. If you write literary erotica, or think you could do a good job of writing Dublin-based literary erotica, drop me a line and I’ll put you in touch. The money’s good, by the way.
  Oh, and McKinty? You’re barred.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

He’s Not The Messiah, He’s A Very Naughty Boy

I was emailing someone today about what constitutes a crime novel, as you do, and I offered up my theory, which runneth thusly: If you can take out the criminality and the story still works, then it’s not a crime novel. And vice versa, obviously. Which means, as I’ve said before, that the likes of Hamlet, CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, Oedipus, THE UNTOUCHABLE, and – if you want to piss off Declan Hughes – THE GREAT GATSBY are all crime novels. THE TRIAL is an exception to this rule, having no crime but being a superb crime novel all the same.
  Anyway, that got me thinking – who’s the most famous criminal of all time? I’m guessing Jesus, from a story point of view at least, given that he was crucified for being found guilty on a charge of sedition, although whether you believe the sedition was of the secular or religious variety is up to you. Crucifixion, as you probably already know, was the form of execution the Romans reserved for common criminals, although that does beg the question of why, if he was considered important enough to try and execute for sedition, Jesus would have been considered a common criminal.
  Either way, crucifixion was / is a horrible way to die, and might be an interesting place to start a novel. Also, Jerusalem at the time was a city of political and religious intrigue, a city fermenting in the kind of passions that would see catastrophe visited on it in the very near future. And it’s true that if you take the crime out of the New Testament the story collapses – without a crime to be arrested for, Jesus cannot be tried and executed.
  I think the legal aspect of it is interesting. If the authorities wanted Jesus done away with, they could have had him bumped off quietly, and the body disposed of, as Nikos Kazantstakis suggests early on in THE LAST TEMPTATION, when Judas visits Jesus in the desert with the intention of slitting his throat. But the authorities, secular or religious, were so keen to go by the book that Jesus found himself shuttled back and forth between various institutions, each one hoping that another would be the one to find him guilty of a crime.
  Anyway, Jesus was killed. Shortly afterwards, his body went missing from a tomb guarded by Roman soldiers. At this point – and this is where the novel I’m thinking about gets interesting, to me anyway – all of those responsible, directly or indirectly, start worrying about who has stolen away the body, and why. Concerned about the propaganda value of the corpse, and particularly that of a vanished corpse, the various authorities need to discover (a) the whereabouts of the body and (b) who stole it from the tomb. They need to do so quickly and discreetly. Who better to call upon than an impartial observer, for example an Ephesian Greek leading a diplomatic trade mission to Jerusalem, to make discreet enquiries among his contacts in Jerusalem as to the whys and wherefores of Jesus’ disappearance?
  There is no mystery here for Christians, of course, given that they believe that Jesus, being man and god, was resurrected, or resurrected himself, in order to redeem mankind. But Jesus, according to the Acts of the Apostles, did not ascend into heaven until 40 days after his body vanished from the tomb, which gives our Ephesian Greek plenty of time to play with.
  So: the most famous criminal of all time, a political cover-up, a missing corpse, a city fermenting in violent passions, and a reluctant private eye who is heir to the Socratic tradition of questioning logic – sounds like a story to me. Has it been done before? And if not, are there any takers?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Jack Taylor: West Goes West, Sadly

Hmmm, just as I suspected … Crimespree Cinema brings us the news (via CSNI’s Gerard Brennan) that Dominic West won’t, in fact, be playing Jack Taylor in the TV series of Ken Bruen’s inimitable private eye. Apparently, Iain Glen has stepped up to the mark, and filming began yesterday, under the watchful eye of director Stuart Orme, who has previously directed episodes of Inspector Morse. With all due respect to the craggily handsome Glen, he looks a bit too young and craggily handsome to be playing the Jack Taylor we all know and love. Sounds promising, though …
  Meanwhile, the equally inimitable (?) Critical Mick continues to champion Irish crime writing above and beyond the call of duty, focusing most recently on Paul Charles and Sam Millar. There’s a review of Paul Charles’ latest offering, FAMILY LIFE, here, and an interview with said Paul Charles here (you can find other reviews of FAMILY LIFE here and here). For Sam Millar material, the Mickster has reviewed THE DARK PLACE here, and interviewed Sam here. And if that isn’t enough for you, Brian McGilloway’s BLEED A RIVER DEEP gets nominated for the prestigious ‘Best Book Critical Mick Read in 2009’ award here.
  Crikey. When Yon Mickster hits his stride, he’s wearing seven-league boots …