A couple of dates for your crime fic diaries, folks. On September 4th, Irish crime writing takes to the stage at the Electric Picnic, when Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt and Gene Kerrigan assemble to talk about the business of books and writing, with yours truly standing by to make sure they all colour inside the lines. The idea of the gig is to talk to crime writers about books in general, and not just crime writing, with each of the authors offering a couple of examples of the novels that first inspired them to start reading and writing … although there’s every chance, of course, that they will be crime novels.
The first book I can remember having a profound impact on me was about a guy called Bill Badger, he was an actual badger who lived on a barge moored on a canal … I can’t remember anything about the story, I was only about four at the time, but it was pretty riveting stuff.
(Holy Moly, I’ve just discovered that there were nine Bill Badger books! Right, that’s Lily’s bedtime reading sorted for the next couple of months.)
Anyway, I’ll also be asking the trio about Irish crime novels that they think deserve rehabilitating, or possibly republishing, in light of the recent explosion of Irish crime fiction. Some suggestions I’ll be making: Seamus Smyth’s QUINN; John Kelly’s THE POLLING OF THE DEAD; TS O’Rourke’s DEATH CALL; Hugo Hamilton’s SAD BASTARD; and Vincent Banville’s DEATH THE PALE RIDER.
Elsewhere, Dun Laoghaire’s Mountains to the Sea literary festival runs from September 7th to 12th, and boasts a small but perfectly formed crime contingent, with Kate Atkinson in conversation with HELLFIRE author Mia Gallagher on Saturday the 11th. I read Atkinson’s latest, STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG last week, and it’s terrific stuff. The gig I’ll be getting along to, though, is the fascinating pair-up of Eoin McNamee and Stuart Neville (noon, Saturday the 11th), gnarled veteran and callow lieutenant, respectively, of Norn Iron letters. I read McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE last month, and it’s probably his finest novel yet; while Neville’s latest, COLLUSION, is a superior offering to his very fine debut, THE TWELVE. All in all, should be a cracking afternoon. For all the Mountains to the Sea details, clickety-click here …
Finally, for those of you scratching the itch to write a novel of your own, the Author Rights Agency, under the aegis of Svetlana Pironko and Kevin Stevens, is offering a 26-week course in ‘The Making of a Novel’, which comes complete with an individual assessment from the course directors on your work. The fee - brace yourself, Bridget - is €2,000, but course contributors include Ken Bruen, Siobhan Parkinson, Catherine Dunne and Marita Conlon-McKenna. Do bear in mind that your humble host has absolutely no connection with said course, and is simply doing a mate a favour by giving it a shout-out. All the details can be found here …
I am reminded, though, every time I hear about writing courses, about the (hopefully apocryphal) story about the tutor who stood up on the very first night of a writing course to address his students.
“Who here really wants to write?” he said.
A full show of hands.
“Who’s willing to get up at five in the morning to write?” he said.
Maybe half the hands go up.
“Who’s willing to slough off all their friends and most of their family in order to write?” he said.
Five or six hands go up.
“Who’d be willing to let their mother die in order to be able to write about it afterwards?” the tutor said.
One hand goes up.
“Okay,” says the tutor. “So why the fuck aren’t you at home, writing?”
“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.