“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.

Friday, April 9, 2010

“Wolf Nipple Chips, Get ’Em While They’re Hot.”

Sometimes life is good. Sometimes it’s so good that you don’t need it to get any better. Last Tuesday night was one such night, given that I was sitting on the couch snaffling the last of my Easter eggs watching Barcelona’s Lionel Messi give a performance against the Mighty Arse that more or less defied superlatives. In my day I’ve been lucky enough to watch (not in the flesh, mind) the likes of Van Basten, Maradona, Bergkamp and Zidane, and seen all the clips of Pele, Best, Cruyff et al, and Messi - still only 22 - looks like he could well be the best of the lot, even though I’ll always have a soft spot for Van Basten, mainly for that goal against Russia in the 1988 Euro Championships.
  Anyway, midway through the second half, the phone rang. It was my old agent, who still has some rights on THE BIG O, letting me know that an Italian publisher has made an offer for said tome. Which is pretty small beer in the grand scheme of things - the advance wouldn’t be impressive even if it was in lire - but it was a pretty nice boost at the time, especially as I’m currently wallowing in the latest writing-related trough that besets us all once in a while.
  I have no idea when the book will be published in Italy, I’m presuming next year some time, if indeed the deal doesn’t fall through, but it’s nice to think that it’ll see a translation, and especially into Italian, and especially as I have a soft spot for that country. Hell, I might even wangle a long weekend there, to celebrate the launch. Most importantly, I suppose, the news sent me to the desk the following morning with a glimmer of hope that maybe someone will pick up my current offering, and desperately trying to ignore the sage advice that while you might be able to cope with the despair, it’s the hope that will kill you in the end.
  Times like those I like to turn to Isak Dinesen’s advice: “I write a little every day, without hope and without despair.”
  Meantime, and if you’re wondering why an Italian publisher has - almost literally - spared no expense in securing the rights to THE BIG O, clickety-click here. It may not be as hot as Lionel Messi or wolf nipple chips, but it’s mine own humble thing, and I like it all over again.
  Failing that, check out what might well be the most audacious goal ever scored - and in a Euro Championship final, to boot. Roll it there, Collette …
  Recently I have been reading: DARK ORIGINS by Anthony Zuiker and Duane Swierczynski; BURYING THE BONES: PEARL BUCK IN CHINA by Hilary Spurling; BLOOD MONEY by Arlene Hunt; and OLD DOGS by Donna Moore.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: SKIPPY DIES by Paul Murray

I reviewed Paul Murray’s SKIPPY DIES for RTE’s Arena programme alongside Edel Coffey a couple of weeks back, working off the (koff) ‘notes’ below. I haven’t listened back to the show, but hopefully it was all a bit more comprehensible than the notes suggest - although if it was, the credit is all Edel’s. To wit:
Set in the fictional Seabrook boys’ boarding school in South County Dublin, Skippy Dies embraces a veritable host of characters in its 661 pages, including the Acting Principal Greg Costigan, history teacher Howard, school psychopath Carl, St Brigid’s girl Lori, temporary Geography teacher Aurelie and teenage drug dealer Barry. Its main characters, however, are Daniel ‘Skippy’ Juster and his best friend Ruprecht, who is a teenage genius bent on validating the M-Theory of multiple universes. Skippy, on the other hand, just wants Lori fall in love with him …
  The title is something of a spoiler (!) here, given that Skippy dies in the prologue, during a doughnut eating contest with Ruprecht, with his last acting being to scrawl the name ‘Lori’ in jam on the floor. The novel then flashes back to explore how Skippy’s death came to pass.
  At 661 pages, Skippy Dies is a pretty long novel that trawls long and wide for its inspirations – anything from quantum physics to the war poetry of Robert Graves, teenage drug dealing, anorexia, adolescent infatuation, adult infidelity, the impact of religious orders on the spiritual and physical well-being of school pupils ... For the first 50 pages or so I thought it a little too clever-clever for its own good, and dreaded having to wade through another 600 pages. By the time I was finished, I would gladly have read another 600.
  Skippy, even though he is largely a passive character, is hugely endearing, a bright-eyed, intelligent chap who is massively vulnerable and finds himself abandoned by his family at a critical stage of his life. The overweight Ruprecht, more of a comic sidekick in the beginning, comes into his own as a compelling character – his obsessions with parallel universes and time travel, etc., are never jarring in one so young.
  There are some wonderfully malevolent characters too, particularly that of Greg Costigan, a man who will preserve the tradition and ethos of Seabrook College regardless of the cost, and who encapsulates the phrase ‘the banality of evil’.
  Murray is an elegant writer (Lori’s smile, for example, is described as “bright and strong, a kinder, warmer cousin of light”), a superb storyteller and plotter, and a very funny comic writer who had me laughing out loud on numerous occasions. Mario, the permanently horny teen friend of Skippy’s, is an hilarious comic creation.
  The novel comes in two formats, one the 661-page novel, the other in which the novel is chopped up into three distinct books. This, presumably, reflects the short attention span of readers today, but my advice is to go for the 661-page book, because it’s a very difficult novel to put down.
  All told, Skippy Dies is a hugely satisfying novel that blends comedy and tragedy in a story that is, despite the timeless themes, always relevant to the Ireland of today.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Boylan Point

It’s curtains for KT McCaffrey, folks. Or - dum-dum-DUM! - is it? “The latest of the excellent series featuring Dublin journalist Emma Boylan,” was how the Irish Independent’s Myles McWeeney described KT McCaffrey’s previous outing, THE CAT TRAP, and he may well find himself using the same phrase again one of these days. For lo! KT launches NO CURTAIN CALL on this coming Friday, April 9th, at the Central Hotel on Exchequer Street in Dublin, with special guest Betty Ann Norton doing the honours. All, as if it needs to be said, are welcome, and if anyone cuts up rough on the door, just tell them Crime Always Pays sent you. The gig kicks off at 6.30pm. Quoth the blurb elves:
When the naked, blood-encrusted body of a well-known property developer is discovered on a graveyard slab, the media frenzy surrounding the story is overwhelming. Investigative journalist Emma Boylan is assigned to the case but she soon discovers that she will be playing second fiddle to a rival male reporter, much to her displeasure. Peeved at being sidelined, Emma embarks on a line of inquiry that leads her deep into the dark side of London's West End. Dead bodies continue to turn up amid the most elaborate theatrical settings imaginable. Undeterred, she probes further into disturbing deeds that have been a long time hidden. Now she must peel away layer after layer of deception until events collide and spiral into a terrifying, spectacular climax …

Monday, April 5, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Phil Rickman

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 SILENCE OF THE LAMBS. Or maybe THE TIGER IN THE SMOKE. Or even LAMBS IN THE SMOKE.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I wouldn’t. That’s like asking which writer I’d want to have moving me around. Creepy. Forget it.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t go for all this guilty pleasures stuff . Like, am I supposed to feel guilty about enjoying Joanna Trollope because I’m not a woman?

Most satisfying writing moment?
The End. Isn’t it always?

The best Irish crime novel is …?
To be honest, I haven’t read enough of them to make a valid assessment. Does John Connolly count, even though his books aren’t set in Ireland?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Probably won’t happen. Last time I spoke to John Connolly he said he wouldn’t let those Hollywood bastards anywhere near his characters.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The fact that people never believe you when you say a fairly successful crime writer earns nearly as much as a middle-ranking cop.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Ritual murder ... the SAS ... Good Friday.

Who are you reading right now?
James Lee Burke. When you’re writing, it’s always better to read someone inspirational in the hope some of it rubs off.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. Because I also need to Eat.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Dialogue you hear.

THE BONES OF AVALON by Phil Rickman is published by Corvus.