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?
RED HARVEST by Dashiell Hammett – the original hard-boiled crime novel and still the best. David Peace’s Red Riding Quartet – four astonishing novels that made me feel physically ill by the time I’d finished them (in a good way). THE POWER OF THE DOG by Don Winslow is a thing of awe and wonder – visceral, finger-chewing stuff and the last word on the lamentable ‘war on drugs’ and the limitations of American power. Anything bleak and angry that asks the right questions but knows not to try and provide answers. Newton Thornburg’s CUTTER AND BONE is another novel I’d loved to have written. Failure and despair are all but inevitable but that doesn’t mean you have to give up. And each time I read the part where Cutter tries to ‘park’ his car I weep with laughter.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Chief Bromden played a cagier game than McMurphy and managed to side-step the lobotomy.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Most satisfying writing moment?
Whenever you know you absolutely should be doing something else and yet you still feel somehow compelled to sit in front of the screen and type away – and before you know it an hour, two hours, four hours, have passed since you last thought to check the time.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE ULTRAS by Eoin McNamee. It’s spare, terse, poetic; it disorientates you and never lets you settle; it delves deep into minds of its characters but never gives you the answers you expect; it tells a gripping and gut-churning story about complicity and state violence without succumbing to political posturing or cliché.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
WINTERLAND by Alan Glynn – I see Richard Gere channelling his best ‘Jackal’ voice for the part of Paddy Norton and Julia Roberts reprising her star turn from ‘Mary Reilly’ in the role of Gina Rafferty.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: Monday 10.37am – everything is great, you’re great, what you’re writing is great, not just great, it’s going to blow every other crime novel ever written out of the water. Great is a word, daring is another, because what you’re doing is ripping up the genre into tiny little pieces and letting them fall where they may on the page …
Worst: Monday 12.13pm – you’ve spent the last half hour picking up those pieces of paper and carefully sellotaping them back into some kind of recognisable order. The result is a piece of writing so dreary and predictable, so utterly moribund, that it could creosote Alan Shearer’s shed and still have time to put in a full shift at the call centre. Not only does it suck, you suck, you’re a fraud, and worse, a coward, and just when you think you can’t sink any lower you’re watching a repeat of ‘Bargain Hunt’ which you know is a repeat because you’ve seen it before …
The pitch for your next book is …?
I slip into the leather booth and when the movie producer asks this same question, I lean across the table and whisper, “Karl Marx meets ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’.” The producer smiles to reveal teeth as white as Belfast (circa 1997) and says, “I saw a Karl Malden movie once.” Not listening, I reply, ‘He was German.” He says, ‘In ‘On the Waterfront’?” I grimace a little and remember to thank him for the first-class flights and the suite at the Chateau Marmont. “Who’s going to play the Marlon Brando role?” says he. I frown. “It’s a searing indictment of the ills of global capitalism.” He checks his phone. “Have you thought about Justin Bieber?”
Who are you reading right now?
Jonathan Franzen’s FREEDOM. I always feel uplifted when I read proper literature.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
First I’d ask God to do his Morgan Freeman impression. Then I’d ask him about the Old Testament and what happened to his sense of humour. Then I’d select the latter option. Anyone can write. Reading is for the chosen few.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Be. Less. Shit.
Andrew Pepper’s BLOODY WINTER is published by W&N.
“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.