I walked out of my hotel in Manhattan on Friday morning to find myself in an Alan Glynn novel. A damp, muggy morning, with the upper reaches of the Chase Manhattan building (right) around the corner swaddled in cloud, and tempting it was to believe that the building was a totem for capitalism, its vaulting ambition being claimed by spectral apparitions descending on Manhattan. The impression of being in an Alan Glynn novel was only confirmed when you strolled along the street and turned right into Wall Street, which was cordoned off and patrolled by the NYPD, this due to the ‘Take Wall Street’ protests. I ate a breakfast of champions of a short stack of pancakes and a strawberry shake and watched a flash mob of protestors chant, sing and drum their way towards the cordons, hedged about and trailed by New York’s finest, the protestors filming the cops filming them, and all as suitably claustrophobic, ironic and paranoid a fairytale about the clash between capitalism and democracy as you could wish for. Or maybe I was just hallucinating after spending a night at the bar in the company of unnamed Irish writers, during which - I can only surmise - I was strapped to said bar against my will and force-fed White Russians.
Said writers and myself were in New York, of course, to mark the US publication of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, and a very fine time was had at the Mysterious Bookstore on Friday evening, where we were hosted in very hospitable fashion. An absolutely wonderful bookstore; if you find yourself in New York, make your way to Warren Street and inhale. The line-up of Irish writers was (l-r): John Connolly, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Colin Bateman, Professor Ian Campbell Ross and Stuart Neville.
We’ll draw a discreet veil over the post-Mysterious Bookstore shenanigans, and fail miserably in our duty to identify the writer who managed to get trapped in the doors of a subway train, to be rescued with no little derring-do by Captain Bateman, and move on to Saturday, when Ireland House at NYU hosted said writers in a series of panels and events dedicated to exploring the current boom in Irish crime writing. John Waters of Ireland House was in wonderful form, cheerleading GREEN STREETS in particular and the Irish crime novel in particular in charismatic fashion, ably assisted by Irish crime fiction’s leading agent provocateur, one Joe Long, a man among men, and the hidden engine behind the Ireland House symposium. It was slightly surreal for yours truly to listen to various academics not only take GREEN STREETS seriously, but to spin their own theories off its central premise, and marvellous it was too to be introduced to the semi-legendary Professor Joe Lee, and be able to make a presentation to him on behalf of Liberties Press and the assembled writers.
All in all, a terrific day, and one in which some very interesting ideas were bandied about. I may be wrong, but I don’t think we’ve heard the last of that day’s events just yet.
As for the rest, well, what happens in Noo Yoik stays in Noo Yoik. Suffice to say that wine flowed, the veritas surfaced, and I now know - even though I don’t want to - what a ‘barse’ is. Cheers, Stuart. I may never sleep peacefully again.
Finally, a heartfelt thanks to everyone at the Mysterious Bookstore, and at Ireland House, NYU, and especially to the inimitable Clair Lamb, who was brilliant above and beyond the call of duty.
“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.