“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.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL: The ‘Blazing Saddles’ Of Crime Fiction, Apparently

It’s been another lively week for our humble tome ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which was very pleased indeed to make its bow before a South African audience, courtesy of the good works of one Mike Nicol over at Crime Beat. Mike, if you haven’t come across him yet, is a very fine writer as well as a chronicler of the South African crime fiction scene; why not drop over and say hello?
  Meanwhile, Michael Shonk was good enough to review AZC for Mystery File, where he threw up a reference that was entirely unexpected. To wit:
“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a fine example of comedic crime noir. As I was reading it, I was thinking of Donald Westlake and Parker … this is an author you need to read.” - Mystery File
  Now, there’s no doubt in my mind that AZC was conceived in part as an affectionate homage to the comedy crime caper-cum-heist, of which Donald Westlake is the acknowledged master. And the going does get pretty grim and black in places, so perhaps that’s where the Parker reference comes from. But ‘comedic crime noir’? Is it possible to blend noir and comedy? I know quite a few purists of the former who would violently disagree … That said, I’m pleased as punch to be mentioned in any circumstance in the same breath as Donald Westlake, and I thank you kindly, Mr Shonk.
  Elsewhere, a nifty five-star review popped up on Amazon, which made me laugh out loud, which is the first time I’ve ever laughed at one of my own reviews. To wit:
“As a rule, people who write novels about people who are writing novels (or music, or poetry, or who are painters, or architects or - worst of all - who are cooking nice things) should be hunted down like dogs and slaughtered like pigs. Two sample exceptions to this rule: Flann O’Brien and Declan Burke, whose ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL snatches tar-black laughs from the yawning jaws of wankiness.
“As a rule, people who say they laughed out loud while reading a particular book are lying. One sample exception to this rule: myself, reading this book.
“Burke has applied a crime writer’s deadpan dialogue and sardonic humour to the exalted mystery of artistic creation. But his take on this well-worn theme has none of the fey narcissism you’d expect from a run-of-the-mill author of landfill literary fiction. Instead of numbing us with another tasteful collage of genteel aestheticism and well-concealed swotting, Burke presents the writer’s mind as the scene of a rather botched and messy crime spree, where characters both real and fictional bicker and scheme over who gets the spoils and who gets the blame. The debt to Flann O’Brien is clear - if memory serves, de Selby may even be mentioned at one point - but unlike O’Brien’s coldly brilliant mindscapes, Burke’s creation has a heart as well as a brain.” - Podmax
  ‘Snatches tar-black laughs from the yawning jaws of wankiness’? Sir, you just made my week.
  All of which was fine and dandy-o, but then RTE’s Arena programme weighed in with a review on Monday night. I was out at the time, at John Connolly’s launch for THE BURNING SOUL, so I didn’t get to hear it, which is just as well, as my ego would very probably have gone supernova. You can listen to the full ten-minute piece here if you have the time, but the gist runneth thusly:
“A new Irish absurd, the Blazing Saddles of crime fiction … The illogicality that surrounds us, the double speak and unthink, is very much the secret subject of this book … It’s a novel that is mentally stimulating, entertaining, fun, provocative, original and ambitious.” - Arena, RTE
  ‘The Blazing Saddles of crime fiction’? My cup runneth over …
  Finally, a quick reminder that I’ll be reading from ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL at the Central Library, the Ilac Centre, in Dublin 1 tomorrow, at 1pm. I’ll be there snatching tar-black laughs from the yawning jaws of wankiness, and if that sounds remotely interesting to you, I’ll see you there …

11 comments:

Paul D. Brazill said...

Now, you can't beat that!

Sean Patrick Reardon said...

Way to go and I have to agree. I laughed out loud reading not only AZC, but CAP and GFB as well. That is 3 for 3 as far as you are concerned. Only two other authors have been able to do that over the last couple years...Stephen King and Allan Guthrie.

Declan Burke said...

Hard to beat, alright, Paul - ta.

Cheers, Dec

Declan Burke said...

Sean - Stephen King and Al Guthrie? High praise indeed, sir, and much obliged.

Cheers, Dec

Rick Ollerman said...

Do you mean to ask if it's possible to blend comedy and noir, not crime and noir? If not, I think I've just become confused.

Alan Glynn said...

Blazing Saddles? Excellent. Haven't read the book yet, but I sure am looking forward to the fart jokes.

michael said...

It is always nice to learn others have given thought to what you wrote, even if the resulting thoughts are one of confusion and doubt. I am honored if I inspire anger in those who wish to limit the labels of creative work.

The Donald Westlake comment should have been furthered explained. I wonder what Westlake thought about Richard Stark's creation. The separation of Westlake the comic caper (see "Big O") writer from the part of him who was Richard Stark and Stark's creation Parker (aka K) could have taken the same turn as new Declan vs old Declan with K.

With "comedic crime noir" I was trying to illustrate how your book is not of one genre, but many. It is comic, it is about a crime, and it does featured doomed characters in a dark setting. The ending alone makes it enough noir for me.

Declan, thank you for your comments on my review, I learned from them and hope I am a better writer because of it.

Declan Burke said...

Hi Michael - Nice clarification, sir, and an interesting premise vis-a-vis Westlake and his creation, Parker - I mistook your meaning in the review.

For what it's worth, on the multi-genre front, I believe it's possible to blend a number of genres; it's certainly fun to try. John Connolly's Parker novels are a very good example, I think.

Cheers, Dec

Glenna said...

Very nice reviews. I'm working my way through AZC as we speak. It's slow going since my actual sit down reading time has been so limited, but I am enjoying it. I even resorted to reading while I worked out on the elliptical machine yesterday. It sure made the time go faster.

Josh Schrank said...

So Dec, I've just downloaded it to my Kindle. If I sent you the Kindle, would you sign it?

Declan Burke said...

Many thanks, Josh. You send it, I sign it ...

Cheers, Dec