“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Future Is Orange-Ish


It’s about six or seven years ago now that my brother Gavin and I went to the Greek islands. The idea was to travel around the Cyclades, as most people tend to do, but we spent most of the month, May into June, on Ios.
  That might seem a bit of a waste, especially as all the guide books tell you that there’s little to be seen on Ios by way of history or culture. But I had a laptop with me, and I was working on a novel set in the Greek islands, and we got into a nice little rhythm of getting up early, working for a few hours, spending a few more hours exploring parts of the island (there’s plenty to see, the highlights being (one of) Homer’s tombs, and a beautiful Venetian castle at Paleokastro), sleeping into the early evening, and then heading for the Orange Bar.
  It’s a very nice place, the Orange Bar. Low-key, friendly, terrific music … there was very little not to like. The place was run by Wendy, a bonny Scottish lass, and Panos, a music nut Greek (right, and righter), and lovely they were too, and very probably still are. Gavin and I hoisted ourselves onto a pair of stools every evening and drank beer and shots (every third shot came free, courtesy of Wendy, who was testing out some recipes) and talked writing and books and movies and music and women and life, the universe and everything. And every night we requested ‘The Boys of Summer’, and every night Panos played it. A damn fine time, all told. Wendy, incidentally, and if she wasn’t lovely enough already, was named for the heroine of PETER PAN.
  The novel I was writing while on Ios finally got written, although it grew into a sprawling monster of 150,000 words or so, and will remain locked in a deep, dank drawer until it learns to behave itself. Meanwhile, I wrote THE BIG O, and its sequel, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, in which most of the characters from THE BIG O wind up on Ios. A fictionalised version of the Orange Bar, called ‘The Blue Orange’, serves as a nerve centre for various nefarious deeds; indeed, I wrote the story under the working title of THE BLUE ORANGE. Naturally, no one even remotely akin to Wendy, Panos or any of their clientele makes an appearance in the novel.
  I’d like to have a copy or two to send to Wendy and Panos, but – as all three regular readers will be aware – CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is only available in e-format. Still, the good news there is that the Kindle version is now available for those of you with various iYokes: the app comes free, and can be downloaded here. When I mentioned this last week, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS jumped about 20,000 places on the Kindle charts, from 40,000+ to 20,000+, and even sneaked in to 13,573 at one stage. Since then it’s hovered around the mid-20,000 mark, which may well be rubbish by any accepted standard of book-selling, but I don’t know, I’m getting a buzz from it.
  Glenn Harper of International Noir was kind enough to post a review of CRIME ALWAYS PAYS this week, with the thrust of his piece running thusly:
“CRIME ALWAYS PAYS is part road movie and part farce, reminding me sometimes of Elmore Leonard, sometimes of Allan Guthrie (particularly SAVAGE NIGHT), sometimes of Donald Westlake (particularly the Dortmunder books), and sometimes of the Coen brothers (particularly Blood Simple) – sometimes all at once.”
  Thank you kindly, Mr Harper.
  So: if enough people buy CRIME ALWAYS PAYS on Kindle, someone somewhere might even publish it as an actual book, and I’ll be able to send Wendy and Panos a copy. Hell, I might even be able to return to Ios and hand it to them in person, and get one last blast of ‘The Boys of Summer’. Roll it there, Collette …