Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The Kindness Of Strangers: Web 2.0 And Readers’ Reviews

I hope you’ll excuse the trumpet-parping, folks, but I’m having an unusually good week in terms of reviews, and possibly my best week ever, given that all four of my books - two conventionally published, one published as an e-only novel, the last yet to be published - have been reviewed in the space of a short time. I blogged about a couple of reviews for THE BIG O and BAD FOR GOOD on Monday (see Barbarians, below), and almost immediately Michael Malone popped up to say that he had rather improbably included EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, which was published way back in 2003, in the ‘Best Books of 2010’ series he is running on his blog, with the gist running thusly:
“You want a book with heart and brains then look no further … writing that’s so sharp you could shave by it … I am quite frankly in awe of Declan Burke’s ability with a sentence. His writing is at turns lyrical and succinct; his dialogue snaps in your ear and his characters are so real they stay in your head long after you’ve turned the last page.” - Michael Malone
  Which is very nice indeed, sir, and entirely gratifying.
  Shortly after, I got an email notification from Smashwords to say that a reader had reviewed CRIME ALWAYS PAYS. The gist:
CRIME ALWAYS PAYS: A SCREWBALL NOIR (****) is a fun yet complex novel, which definitely falls under the heading of screwball, but not always ‘noir’. There are many of the characters you would expect of that genre though, including cops and robbers, some crooked and some with hearts of gold, there are mysterious dames and shady lawyers, and a crazed wolf thrown in for good measure …
  Burke does an excellent job of quickly outlining each character and then slowly revealing further details about their past, their motives and giving hints at important aspects of their personalities which come to bear in future. The dialogue is humorous and generally realistic but becomes over the top at some points, much like many of Guy Ritchie’s films, which seems to be a common and accurate comparison. Even though many of the characters are amoral, violent, or just greedy, and each has reason to hate one or more of the others, they are all easily likeable and by the end of the novel you want all of them to get what they want, even when that seems impossible.
  There were many aspects of CRIME ALWAYS PAYS which I greatly enjoyed and only a few things which I found distracted me from the story and characters. If this is your ‘go-to’ genre than you may find the jumps between characters, the complex web of relationships, and the over-the-top gangster slang easier to get past than I did. Once I overcame these very minor irritations I became engrossed in the events of the novel, the characters, and the questions posed by many of the characters regarding morality. The unique mixture of a fun cops and robbers caper and the complex plot and character relationships makes this novel highly enjoyable and worth a read, or even a re-read. - Katie Lee
  Again, hugely gratifying, and I thank you kindly, ma’am.
  Leaving aside my fascination with the web’s potential for generating coverage of writers who might not otherwise get a fair shake, not to mention the opportunity it provides to by-pass traditional publishing and go straight to the reader, it’s always nice to know that someone is reading your stories, and nicer still when you know that you haven’t wasted their precious reading time, and particularly nice when a reader goes to all the trouble up writing a review and uploading it. These are not things I take lightly.
  It’s one thing, and a marvellous thing in itself, to be reviewed in the traditional media outlets, but the fact remains that said reviews are written by people who have received a copy of your book for free, and are being paid to write the review. But, and at the risk of being overly sentimental, there’s something a little bit special about a review from a reader who has paid good money to read your story, and then, off their own bat, and with no reward for it, puts in the time and effort to write a review and post it to the web. Above all else it’s a practical example of that much abused phrase ‘the kindness of strangers’, and I deeply appreciate it, and always will.