“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.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Gerry O’Carroll

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?
CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Dostoevsky, it embodies to me the two ingredients of the story of a villain. It personifies that a criminal can run but can’t hide, the inevitability of his punishment. It’s a profound insight into the dark soul of a criminal.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jack Rebus from Rankin’s novels - I see in him a lot of the darkness of myself and the weakness of human nature.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I go back and go back and go back to Charles Dickens’ TALE OF TWO CITIES and Victor Hugo’s THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO. And of course J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterpiece THE LORD OF THE RINGS.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When I got to writing the last line of the last chapter of THE GATHERING OF SOULS.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING. I love Connolly’s style and his encroachment into the supernatural that seems to accompany his books. I’m very much an aficionado of the paranormal thanks to my own personal experiences.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Brian McGilloway’s border thriller GALLOWS LANE would adapt to the screen very well. There’s a richness in his style and tapestry that would suit the movies. But especially it is the depth of his characters – in particular Inspector Ben Devlin - and the scale of the plot that includes suspect arms finds and shadowy MI5 figures that would keep you on the edge of your seat.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is that I’m lazy, and it’s an absolutely ordeal – I’d have to be handcuffed to the chair. The best thing is probably getting the first copy hot off the press that will make up for the blood sweat and tears. I’ve always been more of the outdoor type, and that need for discipline hamstrings me.

The pitch for your next book is …?
I wouldn’t want to dig too deeply into that yet, but it’ll probably go further into the exploration of Quinn’s and Doyle characters, set in Ireland’s gripping world of crime, which extends right across the globe (as seen in recent happenings in Spain), and which we all live in. There will be a certain international element in their next case.

Who are you reading right now?
Stieg Larsson - I just finished the last novel of his tremendous trilogy, THE GIRL WHO KICKED THE HORNETS’ NEST. For me, Stieg Larsson is the most original contemporary crime writer, almost the revelation of crime writers in the last twenty years. My breath was taken away when I read the first book. It is a much abused world he depicts, and I just couldn’t stop, I was blown away.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. It is the last refuge and comfort of old age.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Authentic. Heartfelt. Uncompromising.

Gerry O’Carroll’s THE GATHERING OF SOULS is published by Liberties Press. The image is used courtesy of the Evening Herald.

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 clichés 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

Banana-Shaped Free-Kicks, Stuart Neville And Me

If you’ve read Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE (aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST), and you’re a football fan, and particularly a fan of Brazil circa 1970, you’ll understand why, in my many private conversations with myself, I tend to refer to Stuart as ‘Nevellino’. All of which is a rather circuitous - indeed, a veritable banana-shaped free-kick - way of letting you know that Stuart has uploaded Chapter One of THE TWELVE’S sequel-of-sorts, COLLUSION, over at his interweb portal. To wit:
CHAPTER ONE

“We’re being followed,” Eugene McSorley said. The Ford Focus crested the rise, weightless for a moment, and thudded hard back onto the tarmac. Its eight-year-old suspension did little to cushion the impact. McSorley kept his eyes on the rear-view mirror, the silver Skoda Octavia lost behind the hill he’d just sped over. It had been tailing them along the narrow country road since they crossed the border into the North.
  Comiskey twisted in the passenger seat. “I don’t see anyone,” he said. “No, wait. Fuck. Is that the peelers?”
  “Aye,” McSorley said. The Skoda reappeared in his mirror, its windows tinted dark green. He couldn’t make out the occupants, but they were cops all right. The tarmac darkened under the growing drizzle, the sky a blank, heavy sheet of grey above the green fields.
  “Jesus,” Hughes moaned from the back seat. “Are we going to get pulled?”
  “Looks like it,” Comiskey said. “Fuck.”
  Hedgerows streaked past the Focus. McSorley checked his speed, staying just below sixty. “Doesn’t matter,” he said. “We’ve nothing on us. Not unless you boys have any blow in your pockets.”
  “Shit,” Hughes said.
  “What?”
  “I’ve an eighth on me.”
  McSorley shot a look back over his shoulder. “Arsehole. Chuck it.”
  McSorley hit the switch to roll down the rear window and pulled close to the hedgerow so the cops wouldn’t see. He watched his side mirror as Hughes’s hand flicked a small brown cube into the greenery. “Arsehole,” he repeated.
  Comiskey peered between the seats. “They’re not getting any closer,” he said.   “Maybe they won’t pull us.”
  McSorley said nothing. He raised the rear window again. The car rounded a bend onto a long straight, the road falling away in a shallow descent before rising to meet the skyline half a mile ahead. He flicked the wipers on. They left wet smears across the windscreen, barely shifting the water. He’d meant to replace them a year ago. McSorley cursed and squinted through the raindrops.
  A white van sat idling at a side road. It had all the time in the world to ease out and be on its way. It didn’t. Instead it inched forward to the junction, the driver holding it on the clutch. McSorley wet his lips. He felt the accelerator beneath the sole of his shoe. The Focus had a decent engine, but the suspension was shot. Once the road started to twist, he wouldn’t have a chance. He eased off the pedal. The van drew closer. Two men in the cabin, watching …
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN by Niamh O’Connor

Newly promoted detective Jo Birmingham operates on the mean streets of Dublin. Ambitious and anxious to prove a point to her male colleagues - one of whom is her ex-husband, Dan, who is also her boss - Birmingham muscles in on the investigation into a series of killings that appear to have been committed by someone who has a grudge against Dublin’s gangland. The killings are ritualised, and appear to have a religious motive.
  Parallel to the thriller aspects of the novel runs Jo Birmingham’s personal life. Separated from her husband, Jo is struggling to find enough hours in the day to maintain her home. She lives with her teenage son, Rory, and her one-year-old, Harry, both of whom are a huge drain on her resources, particularly time. Jo also suspects that Dan is having an affair with his secretary. This, naturally, adds to the friction in their professional relationship, and leads to a number of delicious confrontations.
  Where the personal and political meet in a more explicit fashion, however, is the fact that Birmingham is conducting a one-woman campaign on behalf of victim’s rights, whom she believes are ill-served by the court system. Niamh O’Connor personalises this even further with a postscript to the novel: “Like Jo Birmingham, I too feel that the scales of justice are too heavily weighted in favour of the accused and need to be rebalanced back towards the victims of crime. This novel is our opening salvo.”
  The novel is a pacy page-turner, and delivers a satisfying crime thriller. What’s particularly satisfying is the way in which O’Connor manages to imbue the story with gritty detail without ever holding up the story in order to divest herself of too much technical information. As a crime correspondent with the Sunday World, O’Connor spends much of her time in the company of Gardai, criminals and victims, and as a result the novel has a hard ring of authenticity.
  Even though the basic plot - cop chases serial killer - is one that is becoming rather hackneyed these days, the fact that the story is so rooted in a contemporary Dublin reality gives it a cutting edge. Birmingham is a likeable character, despite her spiky, abrasive nature. This is off-set by her private self, which is marginally less spiky and abrasive, but what gives her an added dimension is her campaign on behalf of victims’ rights. - Declan Burke

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Brother, Can You Spare A Dime-Store Dostoevsky?

Robert Polito’s SAVAGE ART is one of the best literary biographies I’ve ever read, although it’s fair to say that Jim Thompson (right) gave Polito plenty of material to work with. Below is a very brief overview of Thompson’s career, which was published last Friday in the Irish Times in advance of the release of Michael Winterbottom’s reboot of THE KILLER INSIDE ME. To wit:

Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me had a torrid time at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals. Based on a novel by Jim Thompson, the film sharply divided critics, being booed for its portrayal of excessive violence against women and praised for its fidelity to its source material. In this much at least, the film is true to Jim Thompson form. Thompson has always divided people, and never more so than when creating his grotesque characters.
  Played by Casey Affleck in the movie, Sheriff Lou Ford is a split-personality psychotic. Amiable and soft-spoken in public, he is privately a monster. In the 1952 novel, Ford is the prototype for what would become the archetypal Thompson creation, being a nihilistic and violent loner with a perverse philosophy which is accessed in frightening detail via a first-person narrative. But Thompson wasn’t simply writing schlock-horror. His peer Geoffrey O’Brien dubbed him ‘the dime-store Dostoevsky’ for his fascination with the Russian author, while Stephen Frears, who directed The Grifters in 1990, claimed that Thompson’s work had uncanny parallels with Greek tragedy.
  Born in 1906 in Oklahoma into a well-to-do family which subsequently fell from grace, Thompson spent his formative years drifting through middle America taking on a variety of jobs that exposed him to the sordid underbelly of the American Dream. He finally settled in California, and in the 1940s published two literary novels that were critically well-received but sold little. A graduate of the lurid pulp magazines, Thompson turned his hand to the more lucrative crime fiction market when he published Nothing More Than Murder in 1949. Then, in 1952, The Killer Inside Me appeared.
  Hard-boiled crime writers such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain had by then long since taken murder out of the drawing room, as Chandler said of Hammett, and dropped it in the alleyway, where it belonged. What Thompson achieved was to personalise the criminal mind to an unprecedented degree, not simply offering a first-person take on the kind of deranged mind that kills for fun, but exploring in the process the existential extremes to which an unhinged imagination can run. Lou Ford was the precursor to Patricia Highsmith’s Tom Ripley and Robert Harris’s Hannibal Lecter. If good crime writing offers an analysis of a nation’s mental health, Jim Thompson was crime fiction’s Sigmund Freud, contributing a fevered, overwrought and compelling account of the killer inside us all.
  The quality of Thompson’s output was uneven, which isn’t surprising given that he wrote in a furious outpouring. Between 1952 and 1954, for example, he penned four to five novels per year. Bedevilled by demons, not least of them a life-time’s alcoholism, his novels were often sloppily written. His best work, however - Savage Night, The Getaway, The Grifters, Pop. 1280 - are among the finest and most disturbing crime novels ever written.
  Hollywood picked up on Thompson’s skewed vision, with the author first working with Stanley Kubrick on the screenplay for The Killing (1956). Thompson got minimal credit from Kubrick, although that didn’t prevent him from writing the screenplay for Paths of Glory (1957), when Kubrick again denied Thompson his full credit. Disillusioned, Thompson eventually drifted into writing for TV, although by the late 1960s he was virtually destitute and unemployable as a result of his heavy drinking.
  Sam Peckinpah adapted Thompson’s The Getaway (1972) in a film starring Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw. The tale of a heist gone wrong, the movie is hailed as a classic example of minimalist crime cinema. Yet the film, and the 1994 remake starring Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger, ended where Thompson’s novel started to get truly interesting, when the pair of mutually suspicious runaways fetch up in a surreal Mexican bolt-hole, doomed to watch their swag dwindle and suffer through Sartre’s version of hell in a microcosm.
  Thompson died in 1977 after a series of strokes, a few short years before he was discovered by French filmmakers. In 1979, Alain Corneau adapted A Hell of a Woman to make Série Noire, which was followed in 1981 by Bernard Tavernier’s Coup de Torchon, adapted from Pop. 1280. Thompson again found favour in Hollywood, with the pick of a slew of adaptations being Stephen Frears’ The Grifters (1990). The film starred John Cusack and Angelica Huston and garnered four Academy nominations.
  Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me, which was first made by Burt Kennedy in 1976 and starred Stacy Keach as a lacklustre Lou Ford, might yet find Thompson the subject of a long overdue reappraisal. Be warned, however - you may require a strong stomach. And a pair of earplugs to drown out the boos might be advisable. - Declan Burke

Jim Thompson on Celluloid

The Killing (1956)
A seminal film noir about a racetrack heist doomed to failure, directed by Stanley Kubrick and starring Sterling Hayden and noir stalwart Elisha Cook Jnr. Clocking in at 85 minutes, there literally isn’t a wasted second.

The Getaway (1976)
Sam Peckinpah directed Steve McQueen and Ali McGraw in a doomed bank heist. McQueen rejected Thompson’s script as dialogue-heavy, and had the film rewritten to include a happy ending.

Série Noire (1979)
Franck Poupart plays a door-to-door salesman drawn into murder by a teenager prostituted by her aunt. The mood of bleak existential gloom degenerates into utter despair.

Coup de Torchon (1981)
Bernard Tavernier relocated Thompson’s small-town 1950’s America setting to a French African colony in 1938. Racism, simmering tension and psychotic impulses make for a modern classic.

The Grifters (1990)
John Cusack and Angelica Huston play a couple of con artists who just so happen to be incestuous lovers. The final scene is a bleakly harrowing as anything mainstream Hollywood has ever produced.

  Michael Winterbottom’s The Killer Inside Me is released on June 4.

  This feature first appeared in the Irish Times.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Pleasant Tally Monday

Well, the votes are tallied, and the winner has been announced: Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT has won the ‘Irish Book of the Decade’ award. No mean feat, when you consider that the novel was up against the likes of John Banville, John Connolly, Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry, to name but a few. And pretty damn amazing, to be frank about it, when you consider that Landy’s novel is a YA title featuring a dead / skeletal private eye. A hat-tip to Irish Publishing News for the nod …

And The Beat Goes On …

The Irish Times published a ‘Crime Beat’ round-up of crime fiction last Saturday, featuring eight novels of Irish and international interest, including three rather fine Irish debuts. To wit:
Three radically different debuts suggest that Irish crime fiction is in a rude state of health. Set in Cork in 1920, Kevin McCarthy’s PEELER (Mercier Press, €10.99, pb) finds the RIC and the IRA pursuing the same killer against the backdrop of the War of Independence. Strong on historical detail and assured in its plotting, PEELER is delivered in an economical style with occasional poetic flourishes. McCarthy hasn’t made things easy for himself in choosing for his protagonist a RIC sergeant who is a veteran of the Great War, and who works alongside Black-and-Tans, but it’s to McCarthy’s credit that Acting Sergeant Sean O’Keefe emerges as a sympathetic character in a compelling narrative.
  Niamh O’Connor’s IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN (Transworld Ireland, €12.99, pb) is equally authentic, the setting here being the mean streets of contemporary Dublin as Detective Jo Birmingham investigates a series of murders that appear to be the work of a serial killer with a grudge against Dublin’s gangland. A crime correspondent with the Sunday World, O’Connor invests her pacy police procedural with gritty detail, although Birmingham’s struggle to balance the demands of her professional life with her personal circumstance as a single mother raising two boys is as integral to the plot as the traditional crime fiction tropes. Birmingham’s one-woman campaign on behalf of victim’s rights gives the novel its moral ballast.
  Moscow faces into the chilly winter of 1936 in William Ryan’s THE HOLY THIEF (Mantle, £12.99, hb), in which a number of horrific murders coincide with the start of Stalin’s ‘Great Terror’. Militiaman Detective Korolev is assigned to investigate, and soon finds himself caught in a web of intrigue involving the NKVD, the Orthodox Church, and Moscow’s infamous Thieves. Korolev, a religious man secretly faithful to the Old Regime, makes for an unusually spiritual crime fiction protagonist. Ryan’s stately style belies the page-turning quality of the novel, which compares favourably to Rob Smith’s CHILD 44, not least in terms of Ryan’s evocation of the claustrophobic paranoia of Stalinist Russia.
  Meanwhile, two titans of the contemporary crime fiction novel offer hugely satisfying reads. In 61 HOURS (Bantam, £13.99, hb), Lee Child’s ex-military drifter Jack Reacher fetches up in a South Dakota town during a blizzard, and is quickly pressed into service by a police force besieged by a drug cartel bent on eliminating a murder witness. Terse and laconic in style, the novel’s tale owes a significant debt to the classic western High Noon, but the deadpan Reacher is a charismatic and endlessly resourceful protagonist. The hero’s status as a noble loner reeks of James Bond-style male fantasy, but if you’re willing to suspend your disbelief, 61 HOURS is an expertly crafted entertainment.
  Scott Turow’s INNOCENT(Mantle, £17.99, hb) is a sequel to his best-selling PRESUMED INNOCENT (1987). Now 60, and long after being acquitted of the murder of his mistress, appeals judge Rusty Sabich finds himself being investigated by his old adversary, Tommy Molto, when his wife dies in unusual circumstances. Blending Sabich’s first-person account of events with third-person narratives, and featuring an elliptical structure that jumps back and forth in time, INNOCENT is a mature and insightful exploration of the psychology of crime that makes a mockery of its title, and a gripping thriller to boot.
  Venetian policeman Commissario Guido Brunetti returns in Donna Leon’s A QUESTION OF BELIEF (William Heinemann, £12.99, pb), in which domestic and professional concerns compete for his attention as he investigates the apparently random murder of a court clerk during a sweltering heat wave. Brunetti’s emotional intelligence is both his most effective tool and charming attribute as he negotiates his way through the labyrinthine corridors of power in his search for the truth. While the compassionate Brunetti makes for enjoyable company on his morally complex quest, Leon’s 19th offering lacks a quality of urgency that might have given it a telling edge.
  Donna Moore’s sophomore offering, OLD DOGS (Max Crime, £7.99, pb), is a crime caper that centres on two scheming ladies of a certain age, Letty and Dora, who have decided to steal a pair of jewel-encrusted Tibetan dog statues from a Glasgow museum. Pursued by a ruthless killer, the duo inadvertently gather around them a teeming multitude of scammers, blaggers and thieves, all of whom are inept to a greater or lesser degree. Liberally sprinkled with salty Glaswegian vernacular, the manically twisted tale reads like a contemporary but unusually bawdy Ealing comedy.
  With only three novels under his belt, John Hart has already won two Edgars, the crime writing equivalent of the Oscar, the most recent of which was awarded last month to THE LAST CHILD (John Murray, £9.99, pb). Set in a small American town where a number of young girls have gone missing never to be seen again, it features two protagonists, Detective Clyde Hunt and Johnny Merrimon, the 13-year-old twin of one of the missing girls. Their intertwined investigation provides Hart with a propulsive narrative momentum, but this is a complex tale that explores concepts as diverse as the abuse of power, paedophilia, domestic violence and the consequences of slavery. While THE LAST CHILD is first and foremost a compelling police procedural, Hart is a subtle author who is in the final reckoning concerned with excavating the best and worst of the human heart. THE LAST CHILD is as fine a novel as you’ll read all year, crime or otherwise. - Declan Burke
  This article was first published in the Irish Times.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Erin Kelly

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 CUTTING ROOM by Louise Welsh left me breathless. It’s tartan noir at its most deft, dark and literary. She really is a master storyteller. It tells the story of Rilke, a dissolute auctioneer who finds a cache of disturbing erotic photos in a house clearance. She takes a character who was in the gutter to begin with and sends him into a downward spiral.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I have no guilty pleasures, only deeply unfashionable ones; once every few years I chain-read Virginia Andrews’ Dollanganger saga.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The day I realised THE POISON TREE was finished and I had actually written a novel. I almost didn’t care if no one read it. (This lasted for about a week. Then I cared again, a lot.)

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I’ve loved both of Tana French’s novels, IN THE WOODS and THE LIKENESS; gritty and tender, for me they absolutely capture the dark side of Dublin during the boom.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE LIKENESS (see above) was rich with young, sexy, intriguing characters and the Wicklow mountains are the perfect film backdrop.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The freedom and power of creating new worlds is pretty intoxicating for a control freak like me. Plus, it’s fun; I can tell when I’m writing something good because it doesn’t feel like writing, it feels like reading. The worst thing is the physical discomfort. I know, I’m not exactly working down a mine, but sitting at a desk all day, getting RSI and watching your ass go square slowly impacts your vertebrae and crushes your spirit.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s about Paul, a young man who acts as the ‘eyes’ for his childhood friend Daniel, who is illiterate, angry, loyal and charming. Gradually Daniel’s protection turns into a desire for control that threatens to ruin Paul’s life until one night, Paul makes a split-second decision that will get Daniel out of the way for good. With Daniel’s father out for revenge, Paul escapes to build a new life in a different part of the country. There he begins a relationship with Louisa, a woman who has even darker, more dangerous secrets than he does. Who will catch up with Paul first?

Who are you reading right now?
THE WILDING by Maria McCann. It’s a deceptively thrilling literary novel about Civil War, sex and cider. What’s not to like?

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d plea-bargain my soul to be allowed both. If that didn’t work ... well, I write one book a year, and read maybe sixty, so it has to be reading.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Up all night.

Erin Kelly’s THE POISON TREE is published by Hodder & Stoughton.