“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 28, 2010

I Love The Smell Of Paranoia In The Morning

Mulholland Books has been running some very interesting material over on its blog recently, and WINTERLAND author Alan Glynn pitched in this week with his take on ‘the Paranoid Style’, an excerpt from which runneth thusly:
It was never going to last that long. Golden ages rarely do. But for a while there in the 1970s, that’s what we had.
  Ten years after Richard Hofstadter coined the phrase “the paranoid style” (in a lecture he delivered just days before JFK was assassinated), the national traumas of Vietnam and Watergate were in full swing. Hofstadter’s point was that “they” weren’t out to get you at all — you really were being paranoid. But by the early ’70s, this paradigm had been shattered. The point now was that they really were out to get you, whether you knew it or not, and generally you didn’t until it was too late … Today, paranoia and conspiracy thrillers are dismissed as “voodoo histories” and pretty much seen as a debased form of entertainment.
  All of which might lead you to believe that things have changed for the better since the ’70s, that today’s government no longer spies on, or keeps things from, its citizens, that today’s corporations no longer put the profit motive before any moral consideration of their actions, or that Deep Throat’s exhortation in that underground parking garage all those years ago to “follow the money,” somehow, happily, doesn’t apply anymore. This, of course, would be to ignore the truth (undeniably out there), i.e., that since the ’70s there has been an utterly astonishing increase — exponential, Moore’s Law–like — in every form of electronic surveillance, in the influence, reach, and wealth of transnational corporations, and in the sinister privatization of the military-intelligence complex generally …
  For the rest, clickety-click here.
  For an interview (‘The Dark Art of Paranoia’) I conducted with Alan Glynn for the Sunday Times earlier this year, clickety-click here

Friday, August 27, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: JS Waters

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 GODFATHER. I loved the richness of the characters. It made you wish you were born Sicilian. I liked the diversity between and humanization of the ruthless.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Stephen Dedalus, PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A YOUNG MAN. I loved this book. Absolutely. James Joyce is why I wanted to be a writer.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Stephen King, Clive Barker, Charlie Huston and Snorri Sturlson. I love horror and violence. It allows me to appreciate the peace and calm of my life. I’m an absolute freak about Norse culture and society. The old Viking sagas are violent, contemporary and give us a glimpse into the politics of 9th century life and how similar that is to our current state in some ways.

Most satisfying writing moment?
The smell of the printed pages the first time I opened the box of my new novel. I have been writing for over sixteen years. I started with role-playing games and transitioned into film and screenwriting. But there is just something different about a novel. A commitment of time, energy and plot that is the marathon of storytelling.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD [by Declan Hughes] would definitely be my top candidate.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing about being a writer is I need absolute peace and quiet to work. I miss time with my children when I’m really locked into a session. Distractions break my cycle and I either have to stop all together or miss out on all the fun my family has in my absence. But the best reward for me is to entertain people. I love the fact that something I created in my brain that poured through my soul and out the fingers moved someone. I have the best job in the world. I get to watch the world and comment on what I see. I get to create anything in my world and make it reality on paper.

The pitch for your next book is …?
The disavowed son of a fallen angel conspires to kill the Antichrist, finding redemption and his humanity along the way.

Who are you reading right now?
Stieg Larsson, Stephen King, Craig Larson and Henry Perez.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
WRITE. I can always find someone else to read to me. I would be miserable without my ability to tell stories. When I’m not writing, I’m talking. I’m always creating.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Violent, raw and entertaining.

JS Waters’ THE MODERN PRIMITIVES is published by Draeconis.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

O Danny Boy, The Pipes, The Pipes Are Calling …

As all three regular readers will be aware, I’ve been tipping away at a new novel for the past few weeks - or radically rewriting an old novel, to be precise about it. I was doing fine until about ten days ago, with nearly 20,000 words under my belt (all new, unfortunately, given that I’m supposed to be stripping back at 150,000-word m/s to something a little less unwieldy), when for some reason I decided to go back and start again. Worse, the new start has the unmistakable aura of the dreaded prologue.
  Anyway, I’m having trouble finding the right note, the exact tone of voice. Below I offer for your delectation my scrawlings to date, and please feel free to toss brickbats and barbed-wire my way - all feedback is welcome - and please feel free to comment anonymously if you prefer. Think of it as a book club of sorts, albeit with the novel in its embryonic phase. The working title, by the way, is DANNY BOY, which is in part a wee homage to a fellow Irish scribe.
  As for the pic above, it was taken from the northeast of a village called Loutro, on the south coast of Crete, where I spent a very enjoyable holiday seven or eight years ago. If there’s a more perfect place on the planet to set a novel, I don’t want to know about it, or at least not until I’ve worked my way through this one.
  Roll it there, Collette …


Chapter 1

Out to the balcony as dusk sifts in, the light whisked thicker by a billion wings. A full moon low over the eastern bluff. From up here you can only marvel at how swiftly, how visibly, the dark comes on. A fine black mist sheeting in. ‘Night falls so fast here,’ Berte tells the tourists, ‘you can almost hear the bump.’ Not that it falls. What I’ve noticed is that the dark rises, drifting up out of the earth to settle in strata like good stout. Down below the village curves out around the bay, the murk already blurring its lines and angles to that of a pearl necklace loosely strung. Yet the peaks above still glimmer along the ridge and a zinc horizon slices sky from sea. The Libyan Sea, the nameless sky. Too early yet for stars.
  Here I stand, I can do no other
  It will be warm until long after midnight. The air hangs trapped in the steep bowl of the bay, hemmed in by the faint offshore breeze. Just pacing the balcony, the cigarette cupped in my palm, is enough to glaze my forehead with sweat and set my back a-prickle. Indistinct murmurs carry across the water from the village, beach in a swish of surf, wash on up the hill. The early diners gathering. Chairs scrape, a cork pops. Then a trill of laughter, the impatient chink of knife on plate, the hiss and spit of grilling fish. A whiff of kalamari wafts up on the breeze, roasting lamb speckled with oregano, the sharp bite of lemon. My mouth waters, and sure enough my stomach starts to grumble. To distract myself I rub the ball of my thumb on the crosshatched grip of the Colt and imagine his agony as he drags himself across the stony ground, through the coarse maquis, a dying animal with only one thought in mind.
  But of course, he won’t come alone.
  Go tell the Spartans, thou who passest by
  The Boop has this trick where she sneaks up from behind and ducks in between my legs, forcing her head through, her pudgy arms gripping my thighs. A tiny Samson about to haul on her pillars. This time, when she twists her head to look up, her wide blue eyes are solemn. ‘Smoking nasty, Dada,’ she says.
  There’s nothing like disappointing his child to flay a man’s heart.
  ‘It is, love,’ I say. ‘Tell Momma I’m giving up.’
  She forces herself all the way through my legs, stands before me with one hand on her hip, wags a finger. A two-foot tyrant. ‘I put you,’ she says, ‘on the thinking chair.’
  I flip the cigarette away and reach to ruffle her blonde hair, but she ducks away, pouting. ‘Won’t be long now, Bumbles,’ I say.
  All at once her face brightens, the chubby cheeks flushing, milk-teeth gleaming in that perfect smile. ‘Dada come in a liddle bit?’
  ‘Another liddle bit, Boop. Tell Momma that Dada is coming.’
  She flinches. The blue eyes cloud. ‘I not find Momma.’ Her lower lip trembles. ‘I missed her.’
  Lost her, she means. ‘I know, love, but we’ll find her. Dada will help.’
  The eyes widen again. She quivers with repressed hope. ‘Find Momma?’
  ‘Exactamundo, Boop. Can you say ‘exactamundo’?’
  ‘Zakamundo!’
  ‘Good girl. Kiss for Dada?’ I hunker down as she flattens her pink lips in a parody of a pucker, arms thrown wide as she giggles and launches herself against my chest, and I close my eyes and beg for just this once, to feel her again just one last time …
  Back inside, and despite the white-tiled floor, the whitewashed walls, the room has grown dim as a cave. A brief yellow glow when I open the fridge to take out the plastic bottle of orange juice, a tub of yoghurt with a pair laughing strawberries on the label. I bring them across to the bed. There’s no denying she’s a pretty girl. Brown eyes that are almost almond in shape, the irises flecked with hazel. In direct sunlight, when she smiles her crooked smile, the flecks are green.
  No flecks in the subterranean gloom. No smile tonight. Her nostrils flare as I perch on the bed, place the yoghurt and juice on the locker. I reach behind to the small of my back and slip the Colt from my waistband and hold it up until she nods. Then I tuck the gun away and take the balled sock from her mouth. She spits dry, works a sandpaper tongue across her lips. Eleven years old, perhaps a little older. These days it can be hard to tell.
  The juice first, tilting the bottle to her lips. She drinks greedily, sucking it down. While she gasps I dab the run-off from her chin with a corner of the sheet. Open the yoghurt, spoon it home. She’s ravenous.
  ‘There’s fruit,’ I say. ‘A banana, if you want it. Or an apple?’
  ‘Banana.’
  I fetch the banana, peel it back. She devours it in three bites. Then the rest of the juice. When I try to replace the gag she ducks her chin, then tosses her head from side to side. I wait for her to run out of steam. ‘Courtney,’ I say, ‘listen to me. Courtney?’
  ‘He’ll fucking kill you,’ she says, low and cold. ‘He’ll feed you to the fucking pigs. He’ll -’
  As gently as I can I grip her cheeks with thumb and finger, squeeze her mouth open. Poke the balled sock in. She chokes, tries to say something, then gags way back in her throat.
  ‘He’ll come for you, Courtney. Don’t doubt that. He’s on his way.’
  Tears leak from the corners of her eyes, although there’s no telling if they’re tears of rage or fear or self-pity. All three, probably.
  I put the banana skin and yoghurt carton in the bin, the empty juice. Sit at the desk, nudge the laptop out of sleep mode. Roll a smoke while it whines and whirrs, its lights flickering. When it settles down to a quiet hum, and the wi-fi light is showing a steady green, I open up Gmail.
Sam -
  I’m going to be ducking out for a while. The file comes attached, along with both transcripts. The story will need a polish, I only finished it this evening. Feel free to dice and slice as you see fit. I’ll be in touch.
  Cheers,
  Dan
  I click send, wait for the whoosh, then fold down the laptop’s lid. Glance across at Courtney. As hard as she’s fighting it, the red-limned eyelids are beginning to droop. Hardly surprising. She’s had as tough a day as she’s ever likely to have. Besides, the orange juice was laced with two crushed Dalmanes.
  ‘It’s okay to sleep, Courtney. He’s coming for you. Do you believe he’s coming?’
  She nods, sluggish.
  ‘Then sleep.’
  I wait, rolling cigarettes, watching until she drifts off.
  Out on the balcony it’s fully dark. By now the village is festooned with fairy lights, the bay burnished gold and shimmering with the rise and fall of the swell. From somewhere further up the hill comes the zizz-zizz of a lone cicada. The moon fully up and perfectly round. God’s mouth pursed in a disapproving moue.
  I slip free the Colt and angle my arm until the its blunt sight splits the moon.
  The hour of Doom is drawing near, and the moon is cleft in two
  The house was built into the side of the hill. A sheer drop beneath of ten feet or so, then three, maybe four hundred yards of steep slope to the village below. Broken ground, fuzzed with maquis, you could hide a small regiment in its dips and hollows. Too brightly lit for a frontal assault, the path a silvery thread in the moonlight. Maybe when the time comes they’ll send him up that path, dragging his shattered leg behind him, decoy and sacrificial lamb. His daughter, unconscious on the bed, the staked goat that draws him on.
  As for themselves, they’ll come from the north, circling up out of the village to slip down from the black hills like the andartes of old. Shadows in velvet.
  No telling when they’ll come. The circling around will take hours, and they’ll wait until the tourists are tucked up in bed. But they will --
  There. A motorboat skimming out across the bay, arcing towards the eastern headland, its wake shattering the gold leaf into tiny shards. A little late in the evening for running errands, boys, for dumping sacks of rubbish beyond the pebble strand that lies to the east of the bay.
  They’ll beach near Hora Sfakion to cut off my retreat, come west along the trail, spread out across the hills. A two-hour hike at a steady march, three to four hours for a cautious advance, one leapfrogging the other, all the while half-expecting a bullet from the dark.
  Brave men, these Sphakians, and tough as heartwood, but crafty with it. Born to survive at any cost but dishonour. The old laws, and only the old laws, pertain here: hospitality, physics, vendetta. All else is no more than choice and personal taste.
  When the motorboat disappears around the point I go back to watching the village again. A pointless exercise, the blaze of light leaves the western headland, the hills beyond, black as pitch. If I had infra-red glasses I might see them drift away in ones and twos, out past the dock towards the ruined fortress, creeping up out of the alleyways into the gullies and ravines like so many cats on the prowl. The night’s hunt begun. Possessed of the stealthy patience of those who know that time and night are their allies, who know that any help I have called for will arrive too late, if it ever comes.
  This will be their one mistake.
  You do me wrong to take me out o’ the grave. I am bound upon a wheel of fire, that mine own tears do scald like molten lead
  As crafty as they are, they presume I think as they do. That above all else any man holds sacred, the survival instinct reigns supreme.
  Were they Persians advancing at the Hot Gates, they could not be more wrong.
  ‘You come in a liddle bit, Dada.’
  ‘A liddle bit, Bumbles. Just another liddle bit now.’
  And so I smoke and wait for my killers, an ear cocked to the murmur from the village, the swushing surf, the zizz-zizzing cicadas, alert but not reacting to a loose stone kicked free above on the slopes, the tinkle-tankle of a stray and anxious goat, for when andartes come they come as black angels, in deathly silence, and like an old man worrying at his kombolói I count off the minutes caressing the Colt’s grip with my thumb, now and again allowing it wander across to the safety to ensure the snib is off.
  O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling

© Declan Burke, 2010

  And now, Dear Reader, it’s over to you. The comment box is open for business …

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Digested Read: DON’T BLINK by James Patterson

Being the latest in the 300-word chuckle-fest digests, regurgitated by yours truly. This week: DON’T BLINK by James Patterson. To wit:
DON’T BLINK
by James Patterson and Some Typist


Chapter 1
OHMIGOD! I can’t believe the Janjaweed are trying to kill me in Darfur! Boom!!!

Chapter 2
Whew, that was a bit too close for a magazine journalist who once nearly won a Pulitzer. Back in boring old NY, now.

Chapter 19
FYI, my gorgeous editor and BFF Courtney is engaged to Richard, the richest man in NY. She’s blonde. He’s evil.

Chapter 24
Oh no! There I was having lunch in boring NY with a mysterious baseball player, and a Mafia lawyer gets his eyes gouged out at the next table!

Chapter 35
Lucky I had my tape recorder running, eh? Pulitzer prize, here I come!

Chapter 46
By the way, I’m in love with Courtney. Sob.

Chapter 49
Like, NO WAY! Someone killed the mysterious baseball player!

Chapter 58
Am I next?

Chapter 109
Police protection, Chief? I don’t need no stinkin’ police protection! I nearly won the Pulitzer once. The TRUTH will protect me!

Chapter 1002
CRASH! BANG!

Chapter 1003
WALLOP!!!

Chapter 1004
Sorry, just fell down the stairs a bit there.

Chapter 1309
OHMIGOD! I can’t believe Richard did the dirt on Courtney!

Chapter 1457
Did I mention my niece? The feisty blind 14-year-old? No? Well, she LOVES baseball. And she’s soooooooo brave. We could all learn a thing or two from --

Chapter 90210
Oh no! I’ve been kidnapped by dastardly Mafia types! Am I about to … DIE?!!

Chapter 200,001
Golly-gosh, that was a lucky escape.

Chapter 451,357
Jings! Someone blew up my car!!!

Chapter 1,000,004
Phew! Guess I’ll just amble on out to the ’burbs where my sister lives with my feisty blind 14-year-old niece. They’ll never find me there.

Chapter 1,000,005
Well, who’d a thunk it? Bad people. In the ’burbs. Run away!!!

Chapter 4,00,098
Oh well, back to NY. Courtney needs me to pick up the shattered pieces of her blonde heart.

Chapter 9,234,343
Boom! Kablooey! Rat-a-tat-a-tat!!!

Chapter 11,345983
Bish-bash-bosh. And, indeed, more bosh. The End.

The Digested Read, Digested: Blink and you’ll … Oh.
  This article first appeared in the Evening Herald.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Laughter Is The Yes Medicine

“Dr Livingstone, I presume?” “No, it’s Yes.” “Yes?” “Yes, Dr Yes.”
  From his Caribbean lair - which is built entirely on the foundations of recycled offshore accounts, apparently - comes the news that the Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman’s next offering will be titled DR YES, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
You don’t say no to Dr. Yes, the charismatic plastic surgeon on the fast track to fame and fortune. But when the wife of obscure and paranoid crime writer Augustine Wogan disappears shortly after entering his exclusive clinic, the Small Bookseller with No Name is persuaded to investigate. As fatherhood approaches, our intrepid hero is interested only in a quick buck and the chance to exploit a neglected writer, but he soon finds himself up to his neck in murder, make-up and madness – and face to face with the most gruesome serial killer since the last one.
  That tome hits the shelves on September 30th, and we’re already rubbing our grubby paws with glee. The official launch takes place in Waterstone’s in Dublin during the first week in October, apparently, with TAFKACB also performing a reading at Blanchardstown’s Draíocht theatre. When we have more details, you’ll be the first to know.
  Speaking of theatres, and the funny things that may well happen on the way to them, Bateman’s theatrical debut, ‘National Anthem’, will play at the Baby Grand Opera House during the Belfast Festival, which runs from October 15th to the 30th. For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, August 23, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Peter Robinson

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 HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
James Bond.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I find no guilt in reading anything at all.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Sniffing my first book.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Anything by John Connolly.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Anything by John Connolly.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Not having to get up early or wear a suit. The isolation.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Bonnie and Clyde meets WUTHERING HEIGHTS.

Who are you reading right now?
Justin Cronin.

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 …?
Bloody hard work.

Peter Robinson’s BAD BOY is published by Hodder & Stoughton.