“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “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.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Ruby Barnes

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 GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO by Stieg Larsson, of course. Money, money, money. Except I don’t want to be dead, so any of Colin Bateman because I love his combination of crime and absurd humour. I’ll pick DIVORCING JACK because that’s the first time I discovered him. Or there’s THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple for its great Aussie tones. I’d like to have written them all. Ken Bruen. Help! I’m a compulsive reader.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
That’s more straightforward. Without hesitation, Thomas Covenant, White Gold Wielder. He’s the impotent leper with reluctant magic powers from THE CHRONICLES OF THOMAS COVENANT THE UNBELIEVER by Stephen Donaldson. I chose white gold for my (first) wedding band in the belief that I might follow in his steps and walked my golden retriever under the Sun of Pestilence. Wow, that’s opened up a whole fantasy reading history that I’d completely forgotten about. How much am I paying for this therapy session?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
My indulgence reading is the macabre, the grotesque. Patrick McGrath’s SPIDER and his THE GROTESQUE, Patrick Susskind’s PERFUME, Patrick McCabe’s THE BUTCHER BOY and his WINTERWOOD. Anything by blokes named Patrick.

Most satisfying writing moment?
That was during Christmas 2010. I had worried about how I could feed the monster whilst crowded by family and managed to ring-fence a couple of hours per day. A chapter of my current project emerged and I knew as the words appeared on the screen that it was something special. Two escaped lunatics making love in a castle ruin. The first group review of 2011 and the stunned silence of the members had me close to tears. They hated it! Then they began to applaud. I’m tearful at the memory. Pretentious, moi?

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Actually, I’m not a huge crime reader as my tastes are cross-genre. If I have to give an answer then THE MAGDALENE MARTYRS by Ken Bruen was my first discovery of his writing and I’ll put my honest vote on that one for now.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’m not a movie buff and don’t usually do that see the film of the book thing. THE GROTESQUE by Patrick McGrath but wasn’t that done with Sting and it isn’t really crime. Haven’t seen it.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing about being a writer is the purpose that it adds to life. It’s a purpose and a goal that you, as author, don’t explicitly know is missing until you embark upon the journey. I felt the same way when my daughter was born. Until then I had been hollow, a shell of a man passing through life, picking up the trappings of society and treading the mill towards an uncertain end. Her coming into being put sense and meaning into everything and helped me fill the emptiness. Writing is a constant articulation of hopes, lusts, loves, fears and fantasies. It feels like a vocation. Where’s my wimple? The worst thing about being a writer is that it can consume you. Sacrifices have to be made, threatening the balance of work, family and guitar playing. Self-doubt and its shadowland colleagues of luck and fate threaten to mock your endeavours as futile. The support structure needed to write well, continuously and successfully has to be embedded in and wedded to all that you hold dear, otherwise terrible choices threaten. Not feeling good now. I need a mug of tea.

The pitch for your next book is …?
THE BAPTIST is my next project and I’m about two thirds through. It’s mostly delivered first person: a serial killer driven by deluded religious zeal. As with PERIL, Detective Inspector Andy McAuliffe is in pursuit of the perpetrator. Here’s the pitch from John Baptist himself:
To deliberately drown your brother in a bathtub is a terrible, if clean, thing. Might it not be excused, if he’s the manifest son of Satan? But that wasn’t the view of the Authorities, when they committed me to Fairfield Mental Institution. I didn’t appreciate the drug-induced fat suit, but it wasn’t all bad; they let me keep my hair long and I met Dirty Mary. We loved, we lost and left. Thank God for Care in the Community. I don’t think Joe McCarthy would agree with that last sentiment; stoned to a watery death when the devil’s mock sun blazed red upon his head. But the last prophet must wander, cleanse. I am not the One. I am merely sent to prepare a way for the One. I am The Baptist.
Who are you reading right now?
A bit of classical fiction: BRIDESHEAD REVISITED by Evelyn Waugh. I developed a taste for the classic several years ago whilst in-between jobs and it’s good to savour from time to time. Like Marmite.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
He’s a cruel and vengeful God, offering such black and white choices. I would rather make offerings to a grey-scale God. Very well. I choose to write as in writing I experience all the emotions of the character when they first commit their evil deeds, have their wicked ways, are surprised to find love and lust and ultimately endure their fate. I get from writing what I get from reading.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Volatile, surprising, satisfying.

Ruby Barnes’ PERIL is available as an ebook via Amazon UK and Amazon US.

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