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?
THE DAY OF THE JACKAL by Frederick Forsyth. The best procedural ever.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Belbo, from FOUCAULT’S PENDULUM. He experienced it all. Re-wrote history to his own liking, took part in a grand conspiracy surrounding the Holy Grail, even had a great unrequited love with the beautiful Lorenza Pellegrini. And ultimately failed at everything. I can’t picture myself as a winner take all as fictional character.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I re-read old Graham Greene novels and occasionally weep from frustration because I’ll never write anything to compare to the best of them.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When writing my first published novel, ACROSS THE GREEN LINE, and the second act climax came to me. In my head, I watched the bomb explode, saw the front of the Dome of the Rock burst into flame, watched holy men disintegrate, their eyes melt, their limbs blasted from their bodies, and shed tears of satisfaction.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
ON THE BRINKS by Sam Millar. Actually an autobiography, but a crime story just the same. I’ve never read anything else like it. Most of the Irish literature I read is poetry.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
As above. BRINKS deserves to made into a film as a matter of cultural importance.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst: public speaking. Best: getting paid to do what I love.
The pitch for your next book is …?
LUCIFER’S TEARS. It’s been a year since the Sufia Elmi case, but Inspector Kari Vaara’s scarred face, chronic migraines, and head full of ghosts serve as daily reminders of that dark Christmas. Vaara has relocated to Helsinki, at the urging of his beautiful American wife, Kate, and now spends sleepless, anxious nights working the graveyard shift in Helsinki homicide, protecting a city that brings him nothing but bad memories. When the gorgeous Iisa Filippov is found tortured to death in the bed of her lover, Vaara and his rookie partner—the brilliant but slightly deranged Milo—are assigned to the case. It’s obvious that Iisa’s lover is being framed for the murder, and her husband, a powerful Russian businessman, seems the most likely suspect. But Mr. Fillipov is being protected from above, and as Vaara follows the trail of evidence—fueled by a good deal of vodka and very little sleep, in the typical Vaara fashion—he is led deep into a realm of political corruption, twisted obsessions, and deeply buried family secrets. At the same time, Kari is assigned to investigate Arvid Lahtinen, a ninety-year-old national hero now being accused of war crimes during World War II. Vaara learns that, contrary to the accepted historical record, Finland actually colluded with the Germans in the extermination of Communists and Jews—and Arvid is the last living soldier to have served in a secret POW camp on Finnish soil. The Interior Minister demands that Kari—whose late, beloved grandfather, Ukki, is also implicated in the crimes—prove Arvid innocent, and preserve Finland’s heroic image of itself and its role in the war. But that may turn out to be easier said than done. As the two investigations begin to boil over, an extended visit from Kate’s dour sister and degenerate brother cause uneasiness at home. Pressure is mounting on all sides, and Vaara isn’t at all sure he’s going to come out on top—or in one piece—this time. Set against the chilling atmosphere of the coldest winter to hit Finland in over 40 years, LUCIFER’S TEARS is at once a gripping page-turner and a captivating snapshot of a unique culture and its conflicted history. With the tough but troubled Inspector Vaara at its crux, LUCIFER’S TEARS is suspenseful, full-throttle mystery full of thrilling plot twists and intriguing revelations.
Who are you reading right now?
BANDWIDTH by Angus Morrison.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write, without doubt.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Dark, disturbing, honest.
James Thompson’s SNOW ANGELS is published by Putnam.
“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. “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.