“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, August 7, 2010

On Tight Jeans And Strategically-Placed Zips

Tony Clayton-Lea interviewed the ever radiant Alex Barclay (right) for the Irish Times to mark the publication of TIME OF DEATH, and was clearly very taken by the feminine charms of his interviewee. To wit:
A CITY-CENTRE Dublin hotel, Saturday morning, July 31st. A slim, attractive woman in a silver-blue top with strategically-placed zips, tight jeans and black, heeled boots sits down in a low sofa and starts to speak. She will spill only as many beans as she wants to, and will, occasionally, be as difficult to determine as the stain on a nearby rug.
  Half conundrum, full beauty, Irish crime writer and former journalist Alex Barclay is currently sitting atop various bestseller lists with her latest novel, TIME OF DEATH. Her fourth book in a thriller-writing career that commenced six years ago with DARKHOUSE has clearly benefited from her former role as a journalist. Discipline with words, awareness of deadlines, structure, research, and knowing how important beginnings, middles and ends are to stories have filtered down into a writing style that is as trim as Barclay herself.
  She won’t give too much of herself away, either, which also comes from her former life of interviewing people and hearing too much personal guff; Barclay sticks to the facts, clear and simple.
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  How come no one ever mentions how trim I am when they interview me? Or my tight jeans and strategically-placed zips? More to the point, how come no ever wants to interview me?
  Oh. ‘Best-seller lists’. Right.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Digested Read: 61 HOURS by Lee Child

I had a bit of fun messing about a couple of weeks ago with some drafts for a project called ‘The Digested Read’ - basically, you take a novel and condense it into 300 words. Given that I had a lot of fun reading Lee Child’s 61 HOURS, I thought I’d take a crack at it first. To wit:
The Digested Read: 61 HOURS by Lee Child

Hi, me again. Jack Reacher. Can’t say much more than that, we only have 61 hours.
  Just don’t make me angry. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry. Or happy. Or sad.
  Don’t you find that emotions just confuse stuff?
  Anyway, there’s this snowstorm, and a snowed-in town, and a killer on the way. Well, two killers if you count me. But I’m a good killer. Hey, I’m ex-military. Killers don’t come much better than that.
  Where was I? Oh yeah - 55 hours to go. Jeez, the cops in this town are hicks. I don’t think they’ve even killed anyone before. Amateurs.
  God, it’s cold. And just look at all that snow. Can you imagine High Noon set in Fargo? No? Good. 47 hours to go.
  Did I mention the frail old lady who’s testifying about a hand-off she saw that could bring down an international drug-smuggling ring involving Mexicans and Hell’s Angels and Russians? She’s a librarian, but whoa - feisty! 39 hours to go.
  This Mexican drug lord - ay, caramba! He’s one tough guacamole. But enough about him, how about that snow? Hold up - is one of the hick cops a stooge for the bad guys? Say it ain’t so, Joe. 28 hours to go.
  Snow, snow, go away / Come back another day. 14 hours to go.
  Lemme see, that’s three corpses so far. Two bad guys, one good. Isn’t it time for me to start shooting yet? Note to self: get a gun from the frail old lady. 8 hours to go.
  Hmmmm. Dead cops all over. More snow. The librarian’s a book, she’s just been checked out. Time to get angry? 1 hour to go.
  Badges, Mexican drug lord? I don’t need no stinking badges! Bang. Bang-bang.
  The End. 0 hours to go.

  The Digested Read, Digested: Jack’s back. Bang-bang. The End.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Who Follows The Followers?

An interesting tome hoves over the horizon, edited by Maxim Jakubowski and rejoicing in the title FOLLOWING THE DETECTIVES. To wit:
Whether it be the London of Sherlock Holmes or the Ystad of the Swedish Wallander, Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco or Donna Leon’s Venice, the settings chosen by crime fiction authors have helped those writers to bring their fictional investigators to life and to infuse their writing with a sense of danger and mystery. FOLLOWING THE DETECTIVES follows the trail of over 20 of crime fiction’s greatest investigators, discovering the cities and countries in which they live and work. Edited by one of the leading voices in crime fiction, Maxim Jakubowski, each entry is written by a crime writer, journalist or critic with a particular expertise in that detective and the fictional crimes that have taken place in each city’s dark streets and hidden places. The book includes beautifully designed maps with all the major locations that have featured in a book or series of books - buildings, streets, bars, restaurants and locations of crimes and discoveries - allowing the reader to follow Inspector Morse’s footsteps through the college squares of Oxford or while away hours in a smoky Parisian cafe frequented by Inspector Maigret, for example. Aimed at the avid detective fan, the armchair tourist and the literary tourist alike, FOLLOWING THE DETECTIVES is the perfect way for crime fiction fans to truly discover the settings of their favourite detective novels.
  Maxim let yours truly loose on the fictional private eyes of Dublin, but don’t let that put you off. The intriguing line-up includes Barry Forshaw (Brighton, Edinburgh, Sweden and Venice), Sarah Weinman (New York and Washington DC), Peter Rozovsky (Iceland), John Harvey (Nottingham), Oline Cogdill (Florida), J. Kingston Pierce (San Francisco), Martin Edwards (Shropshire), David Stuart Davies (London), and Maxim himself on virtually every city in Christendom not already mentioned.
  The title is due in September, and already I’m dreading its arrival - the fear of not coming up to the mark has me quaking in the boots I bought specially for the occasion. For what it’s worth, though, the ‘Dublin’ entry concerns itself with the private eyes created by Vincent Banville, Arlene Hunt and Declan Hughes, all of whom are terrific writers, and all of whom I quote liberally, so hopefully I can skate by on their talent.
  Incidentally, for those of you wondering where Benjamin Black comes into all of this, he doesn’t, given that his protagonist, Quirke, isn’t a private eye. Which is a shame, but there you go - that’s remits for you. Boo, etc.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: T.S. O’Rourke

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?
I still love John Connolly’s EVERY DEAD THING - it’s both brilliantly written and we all know the great story behind it’s success. Gives me goose pimples just thinking about it.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I’m a Mike Hammer wannabe in disguise ...

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Well, I just ordered the hardback version of THE BIG O from Amazon ... but recently I’ve been reading Declan Hughes and Ian Rankin.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I’m hardly ever satisfied with my writing - so I’d say that the most satisfying point of the day is when you can almost feel the first cold beer in your throat before you even approach the fridge ...

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I love all of Declan Hughes stuff so far - more than anything else Irish I’ve read - so maybe THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’m amazed John Connolly’s work has not already been filmed ... I see Russell Crowe as Charlie Parker ...

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Not being able to start writing when you want to / Not being able to stop when you should ...

The pitch for your next book is …?
Yet to be written ... I’ve got three unfinished novels on the go and at least two others plotted out ... Time is my enemy.

Who are you reading right now?
Ken Bruen - BLITZ - I picked up a ‘Do Not Press’ edition last time I was on Charing Cross Road ...

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Blunt, hard, cold.

T.S. O’Rourke’s DEATH CALL is now available on Amazon Kindle

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Sun Comes Up On Galway Bay: Or, Jack Taylor Hits The Silver Screen


‘Jack Taylor’, the pilot for the movies based on Ken Bruen’s THE GUARDS, screened last night on TV3, and I have to say - reluctantly - that I don’t buy Iain Glen (above, left) in the lead. It doesn’t help that his faux-Irish accent wanders all over the map, but that’s not the biggest problem.
  The script, and particularly in the voice-overs, makes something whimsical of Jack Taylor’s fatalism. In the movie, Jack Taylor is a broth of a boy, prone to the odd eye-twinkle, a tough man to deal with if you push him too hard.
  In the novels, or in my reading of them at least, Jack Taylor is a dangerous bastard to know, a man fuelled on anger and Jameson, a man who is as hard as only the truly brittle can be, who know that just one more shove or punch or insult could shatter the façade.
  It also doesn’t help that the movie, being a movie, needed to make of THE GUARDS a straightforward narrative of investigation, whereas the novel, and all the Taylor novels, are a post-modern take on the detective story, for the most part philosophical ruminations occasionally linked by the need to have some investigative narrative.
  I suppose the difference is that, in the movie, Jack Taylor was investigating a series of crimes, rather than investigating Galway itself as a microcosm of the new Ireland.
  There was a lot to like, it has to be said, not least of which was the depiction of Galway city, and there were some good performances in the minor roles. And hey, maybe Iain Glen has the chops to convince an audience that isn’t familiar with the Bruen novels. Fans, though, will be disappointed, I think. For some promo vids, and to make up your own mind, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, it’s been a busy week for Irish crime fiction. Staying with TV3, the ever-radiant Alex Barclay was on the Ireland AM couch, talking up her latest offering, TIME OF DEATH. The conversation includes a very nice shout-out to John Connolly and Declan Hughes - clickety-click here for more
  Staying with Declan Hughes … I don’t know if you could call Emma Donoghue’s new novel, ROOM, a crime novel, even though it concerns itself with some rather despicable criminal activity, but Squire Hughes was suitably impressed when reviewing it for the Irish Times. All the details are here
  Staying with reviews: the eagle-eyed Maxine Clarke has organised her reviews by country over at the Petrona blog, and her introduction to her Irish reviews cites Gene Kerrigan, Brian McGilloway, Alan Glynn and, erm, yours truly. But don’t let that put you off - there’s some really good stuff just about here
  Elsewhere, Peter Rozovsky reviews Declan Hughes’ latest, CITY OF LOST GIRLS, while the good word has already started to tumble in for Stuart Neville’s COLLUSION
  Finally, and veering off the straight-and-narrow of crime fiction, congrats to all who were responsible for having Dublin declared a UNESCO City of Literature last week; and congrats too to Irish scribes Emma Donoghue and Paul Murray, both of whom were long-listed for the Booker Prize, for ROOM and SKIPPY DIES respectively.
  Nice work, folks. Very nice indeed …

Monday, August 2, 2010

Tea And Oranges, All The Way From China

There are better ways of spending your Bank Holiday Saturday evening than in the company of your brother (right) watching Leonard Cohen perform at Lissadell House, the spiritual home of WB Yeats, but last Saturday evening, I couldn’t think of any.
I grew up in Sligo, way up there on the northwest coast of Ireland, during the 1980s, with a love of reading and books, and a love of writing - homework essays, for the most part.   When I was 14, someone - I think it was an aunt - gave me a copy of Leonard Cohen’s greatest hits. Suzanne sounded like the kind of interesting girl we never saw in Sligo - half-crazy, living down near the river, with those tea and oranges all the way from China - but it was the second verse that blew me away:
And Jesus was a sailor / When He walked upon the water /
And He spent a long time watching / From His lonely wooden tower /
And when He knew for certain / Only drowning men could see Him /
He said, ‘All men will be sailors then / Until the sea shall free them.’ /
But He himself was broken / Long before the sky would open /
Forsaken / Almost human / He sank beneath your wisdom like a stone … /
  Until then, I didn’t know you were allowed write like that, or sing songs like that. Hell, I didn’t know you were allowed to think like that …
  I’ve had plenty of musical love affairs since I was 14, anyone from the Pixies to REM, Dylan and the Tindersticks, Mozart and the Stones. The one constant throughout has been Leonard Cohen.
  I even got to interview him once, albeit on the phone. Despite my star-struck babbling, he was lovely.
  (A few minutes before the interview was due to start, I rang up a mate of mine for a chat, just so I could say, when the office receptionist rang through, “Sorry, mate, have to go - Leonard Cohen’s on line five.”)
  I’d seen Leonard Cohen live a couple of years back, at Kilmainham here in Dublin, and wonderful it was too to see him in the flesh - laughing, humble, dark and funny. He does a mean live show, too - three hours plus, with most of the ‘greatest hits’ thrown in.
  The gig on Saturday night was virtually identical to the one I saw in Kilmainham, which was a little disappointing, and there’s way too much jazzy noodling and virtuoso solos. He did cut loose in the second half with a brilliant version of The Partisan, and the second half was tighter all round, but I’d have loved something rawer, like Avalanche or a good old-fashioned blast of Please Don’t Pass Me By.
  I guess the man is entitled at this point to do whatever he wants to do. Gavin hadn’t seen him live before and pronounced it all terrific, so there you go.
  Anyway, it was fantastic to see him in the Lissadell setting, where I spent so many Sunday mornings on family breakfast picnics, with Benbulben away to the north and Queen Maeve’s grave atop Knocknerea away to the south across Sligo bay. Idyllic doesn’t come into it. Even the rain stayed away until the very end.
  Leonard gave a nice little spiel to about Lissadell in the fading light, and two girls, both wearing silk, one a gazelle … and how he’d learned those verses fifty years before in Montreal, and never thought his steps would take him to Yeats’s spiritual home. Apparently he even requested that he sleep in Yeats’s bed on the Saturday night. All told, it was all very sweet.
  Above and beyond all else, though, was how incongruous it all was. If you’d told me at the age of 14 that I’d be watching Leonard Cohen play Lissadell, that he’d sing Suzanne into the fading light still haunted by those young girls wearing silk … well, it was as likely as the possibility of seeing him play on the moon.
  I haven’t a doubt in the world that I wouldn’t be a writer, wouldn’t be who I am today, if I hadn’t heard Suzanne at the tender age of 14, hadn’t had everything I’d thought and known and believed blown away in the space of a single song.
  Maybe, being from Sligo, I should pretend that it was WB Yeats who first inspired me to pick up a pen. Why pretend, though?
  It was just very, very nice to be sitting in the serried ranks on Saturday night while Leonard paid homage to WB Yeats, and in my own half-assed way, just by being there, pay homage in turn to Leonard.
  Roll it there, Collette …