“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.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Stop, You’re Killing Me

The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman had a nice piece over on the Guardian Book Blog today (Thursday, 3rd), in which he waxed lyrical about the comic crime novel. The gist runneth thusly:
“ … humour in crime fiction is nowadays a rare bird. I was struck by something my friend, thriller writer John Connolly – 7m sales and counting – said at a writing workshop, that comic crime fiction, with rare exceptions, is never going to sell and will forever be frozen out of the major prizes. The Last Laugh Award that my latest book – The Day of the Jack Russell – has picked up is a fantastic honour, but to put it in perspective, it was announced at Bristol’s international convention on crime fiction at the same time as those other biggies, the e-Dunnit Award for best ebook first published in the UK and The Sounds of Crime Award for best abridged and unabridged audiobooks. All three were vastly overshadowed by the concurrent announcement of this year’s Crime Writers’ Association Dagger awards shortlist, which is not noticeably troubled by anything likely to put a smile on your face. John Connolly has a point …
  “Which means, bizarrely, that if you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go. British authors like Robert Lewis, Charlie Williams, Malcolm Pryce, Chris Ewan, Declan Burke and Len Tyler are at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clich├ęs and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works. They may not yet be hogging the bestseller lists but at least they’re adding some wit and balls to a moribund genre. What they’d all probably say, if I could be bothered asking them, is that people who read their books love them, it’s getting them to pick them up in the first place that is the difficulty.”
  Now, yours truly is a native-born and horny-handed son of the soil of Eireann, as some of you know and some of you even care. But I’m more than willing to overlook the fact that I’m now - according to Bateman, at least - a subject of Queen Elizabeth II, bless her cotton socks, on the basis that he reckons I’m (a) comic, (b) challenging, (c) loved and (d) young. Said last - young! - being by far the most important attribute, obviously. Take that, mid-life crisis!
  Bateman, by the way, will be appearing at the Gutter Bookshop next Wednesday, June 9th, where he’ll be waffling at some length about the paperback release of the award-winning THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL. Click on the pic top right for all the details …
  Elsewhere, Joe Long, a good friend of this blog, and of Irish crime writing in general, forwards me on an article from the Irish Echo celebrating the rise and rise of Irish crime writing. Quoth Joe:
“John Connolly is the pied piper,” said Joe Long, a graduate student at New York University. Ten years ago, he met Connolly at a reading in New York and they became firm friends. Soon, Long, who has lived all of his 58 years in Manhattan, was hooked on Irish crime fiction. “There’re all great,” he said. “It’s not just good crime writing; it’s good Irish writing.”
  For more, clickety-click here. But be warned, it mentions me a bit …
  Actually, I’m having a pretty good week, I have to say. I got a nice email from someone running an on-line book club asking if I’d be interested in BAD FOR GOOD being their July pick, this despite the fact that BAD FOR GOOD has yet to be published. I don’t mind telling you, I was pretty flattered …
  Speaking of which: we (aka Team Laughably Impossible Dream, aka the group of crack optimists doing their damnedest to inflict the demented wibblings of yours truly on an unsuspecting public) got a little nibble on said BAD FOR GOOD this week, and from a rather impressive source. Protocol demands that I gloss over the details; suffice to say that the house publishes two of the finest crime writers of all time. Again, I’m pretty flattered. And not only that, but it transpires that there are two other houses displaying ‘serious’ interest. All of which amounts to a hill of beans, of course, but hey - only one of those beans needs to be magic, right?
  On top of all that, it looks like it’s going to be a sunny Bank Holiday, for once. I’m off to the Flat Lake Festival in Monaghan on Saturday June 6th, there to hook up - all going well and Sat Nav permitting - with Brian McGilloway and Ed O’Loughlin, the idea being to (a) promote the bejasus out of two of the finest contemporary Irish authors, (b) chat about THE INFORMER and THE ASSASSIN, the ur-noir novels of Liam O’Flaherty and (c) wonder aloud to no great practical purpose about whether contemporary Irish novels are engaging with the political realities of Ireland today in the way O’Flaherty rather bravely engaged with his. If you’re in the general vicinity of Monaghan, we’ll be yakking it up in the Butty Barn at 2.45pm: do drop by for a heckle or two.
  For the full Flat Lake Festival line-up - which includes Anne Enright, Alexei Sayle, The Brad Pitt Light Orchestra, Eoin McNamee, Dermot Healy, Shane McGowan, Eugene McCabe, greasy-pig wrassling and generalised debauchery - clickety-click here

17 comments:

colin bateman said...

Doh!

Though I should point that if the Irish football team is going to choose Englishmen for their squad based on the fact that their grandma once slipped tongues with the Blarney Stone, I think your having 'attended' university in the north definitely qualifies you as British.

Declan Burke said...

Quite, dear chap. And not only that, but represented Norn Iron on the football field. And kissed the badge after scoring a diving header against a Linfield XI ...

If I'm going to be British, though, I'm going the whole hog and giving myself an aristocratic title. Pity 'Duke Special' is already taken ...

Cheers, Dec

colin bateman said...

I'm out of football for the summer after tearing ankle ligaments last week, but on my return from level ground aptitude training a crime writer's five-a-side team should be organised to take on....literary fiction, with a certain Irish author swapping sides at half time....

colin bateman said...

And when we swap jerseys at the end I can ask the other team about the correct use of the apostrophe.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

As I said in a previous post, I f'n loved THE BIG-O. Why? Because, more than anything else, it was hilarious. It is exactly the same reason why I love Guy Ritchie movies. I like to laugh, love a heist / caper story, profanity, some violence, and great characters. All of this without much intrusion by the law, or technical cop procedural B.S.

I'm in it for the bad guys, not the good guys, but in my kind of the story, the bad guys are the good guys.

I will certainly read Colin's novel, and it's too bad that some of you authors are not getting your due, although word of mouth can be very powerful.

Congrats on the "Bad For Good" news and if I was wealthy, I would hop a flight to go to the Flat Lake Festival. Seeing the Black Crowes on Saturday night, so all is not totally lost.

Declan Burke said...

Colin - I'm liking the idea of the five-a-side football. And if the literary types wimp out, we could have a five-s-side game between the crime fictioners, Norn Iron vs The Banana Republic. For charity, perhaps - mainly because I'm not the only one who'd pay good money to see Arlene Hunt and Alex Barclay in football shorts.

Sean - check out Bateman's DIVORCING JACK, and work forward ... I think you'll like it a lot.

Cheers, Dec

colin bateman said...

That would be the Divorcing Jack that is out of print, together with all my HarperCollins books. Headline are buying the rights to Divorcing Jack/Of Wee Sweetie Mice/Turbulent Priests/Shooting Sean and they should reappear over the next couple of years in snazzy new jackets. Of course when I say 'buying' you should read it as 'making a small contribution to charity'.

Stuart Neville said...

Glad to hear you've got some promising leads, Dec. And glad to hear Divorcing Jack is coming back into print, seeing as it's one of the most important Northern Irish novels of the last twenty years. It's a shame and disgrace it's ever been off the shelves.

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

A quick search of the library network around my way, shows nine copies of "Divorcing Jack" are out there. I shall get my copy. If enjoy a novel that I get from the library, I will order it after, and add it to the collection. When I'm wormfood, my kids will either have a nice collection of novels, or have to pay extra on trash day.

bookwitch said...

Young-ish.

Pepper Smith said...

Nice to hear you're getting some interest in Bad For Good. Maybe that book club will wait until it comes out in print...

Peter Rozovsky said...

Declan, sorry not to have posted for a while, but I've just been on vacation in your country. Bristol was never lovelier.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Peter Rozovsky said...

"this year’s Crime Writers’ Association Dagger awards shortlist, which is not noticeably troubled by anything likely to put a smile on your face."

Is Bateman talking about this year's International Dagger shortlist? What about Andrea Camilleri or Tonino Benacquista? Their humor may be more continental, more refined than the coarse Anglo-Celtic variety, but it’s humor nonetheless.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Peter Rozovsky said...

I've just posted about James McClure, wondering if he was able to take his brave looks at apartheid-era South Africa because he had left to live and work in England. This put me in mind of your wondering whether current Irish writers engage with political realities the way Liam O'Flaherty did.

How much of O'Flaherty's bravest writing come after he had decampled to the U.S. for a while? If he did any significant work in the U.S., would being outside Irleand have given him a sharper view? Would it have shielded him form reprisals?
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/

Declan Burke said...

I can't believe Divorcing Jack is out of print ... as Stuart says, it's a shameful disgrace. The Headline reissue will be righting a serious wrong there ...

Peter - I think Bateman is talking about books that are equally crime and comedy / humour, as opposed to crime novels with comic flourishes. There might well be a post in that ...


On O'Flaherty, and his location when he was writing The Informer and The Assassin, I'm afraid I don't know ... It's an interesting question, though.

Cheers, Dec

Peter Rozovsky said...

"I think Bateman is talking about books that are equally crime and comedy / humour, as opposed to crime novels with comic flourishes. There might well be a post in that ..."

That makes sense, as long as one remembers that his examples of early crime fiction are crime novels with comic flourishes -- the Golden Age and hard-boiled examples, I mean. Comments on the Guardian blog did offer some good crime-and-comedy-equal examples.

As for there being a post in this, it has been prepared and will be up in a few hours.
==========================
Detectives Beyond Borders
"Because Murder Is More Fun Away From Home"
http://www.detectivesbeyondborders.blogspot.com/