Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...
What crime novel would you most like to have written?
DAS FRÄULEIN VON SCUDERI, or MADEMOISELLE DE SCUDERY by E.T.A. Hoffmann. It is not the best detective work ever written, but it is the first. It would be nice to be the inventor of the genre.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
As a child, I adored the Just William books, all of which I read in Cabinteely library. William lived in a closed, safe and comfortable English country garden world that I wanted to step into. Of course, I now feel that would be a twee and hellish place to spend my adult life. So, if I am really allowed to be any fictional persona from any book, and be accorded his or her concomitant strengths and defects, I suppose I’d go for the character known as ‘God’ in the Old Testament.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Popular science books. I find everything a read in them utterly fascinating, though I am too stupid to retain any of the information they impart. But even though I learn nothing from them whatsoever, I always feel enormously reassured and comforted to be reminded of the presence of those highly intelligent people thinking about complex and intricate matters that are quite beyond me. Good science writers are like antibodies to the viral ignorance of politicians, sociologists, psychologists, economists and literary theorists. The pleasure is a guilty one, because these books form no part of the long and often boring reading list I need to get through for research purposes.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Writing ‘Chapter 1’. I tend to be feel a bit disappointed with most of what follows.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
What I consider the best piece of music, art, literature, TV or food changes from hour to hour. That said, I have enormous respect for THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE by John Banville, which surely counts as a crime novel. I think it marked the beginning of a new type of modern, urban and sophisticated movement in Irish literature, which is continuing to develop today.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think Cormac Millar’s THE GROUNDS has all the right ingredients. I find that many good movies, including HBO TV series, force characters to operate in constructed and constricted spaces, which Millar does in his book. That said, I find there is much to the truism that bad books make great moves and great books make bad movies, so perhaps there is some lousy Irish crime novel out there that I will never read but is destined to become a classic movie.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The luxury of working from home is offset by having to live at your place of work. It’s like spending your whole life with that guilty Sunday-night-and-I haven’t-even- started-my homework-and-here-I am-watching-TV feeling from school. That, and abject penury.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Commissioner Blume investigates the death of an Irish forger whose false masters hang in major galleries worldwide. Based on a true story.
Who are you reading right now?
Camen M. Reinhart & Kenneth S. Rogoff: THIS TIME IS DIFFERENT: EIGHT CENTURIES OF FINANCIAL FOLLY.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. When I read, I rewrite in my head, or imagine writing responses, or I plot out where I think the book is going. So reading encompasses writing. Also, we read for the comfort of knowing we are not alone, but we write for fear that we are. As for God appearing, cf. question 2.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Place, character, mortality.
Conor Fitzgerald’s THE DOGS OF ROME is published by Bloomsbury Publishing.
“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.