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?
REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. Written long before all the modern digital props became available to modern writers, this is a book to sink into a very soft mattress with and to be savoured for story, language, and ingenuity.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jim Hawkins in TREASURE ISLAND [by Robert Louis Stevenson]. God, the excitement when I was twelve. Long John Silver, Billy Bones, Black Dog, Hispaniola, the sails, the wind in the rigging, pieces of eight, the map, all the very evil and terrifying pirates, the ever-present danger …
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Mystery novels. Once I begin one I do not put it down. They are a sinful distraction and should be banned. All mystery writers should be taken up in the Rapture along with their books.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Blocked, I decided to write out a joke I’d heard from a priest in an elevator in Mineola in New York. As I wrote, new characters appeared and the joke lasted for three chapters. By that time a story had taken shape, and it became my first published novel, IN THE SEASON OF THE DAISIES.
The best Irish crime novel is…?
I’ve spent my life being modest, supposedly because it’s a virtue. I’m 70 now and it’s time for me to commit the cardinal sin of pride. My latest novel, NAILER, of course, is the best Irish crime novel.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Again, let me take pleasure in a terrible sin. NAILER would make a great movie. I’m waiting for Godot to call me from Hollywood but he’s probably waiting for something to happen first.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst is the self-doubt (who out there gives a damn?). Best is when I read back over what I have written and cannot remember having written some of it, and it’s good.
The pitch for your next book is…?
After many years, two emigrants return to their native Irish village, one from India, one from the U.S. Both are insufferable elitists. The village people, always divided along religious lines, come together to conceal what befalls the two interlopers. The novel is called LIES.
Who are you reading right now?
THE FOURTH BOOK OF RABELAIS and THE BURDEN OF PROOF by Scott Turow. Rabelais for the language, the analogies, and his wonderful scatology; Turow to give me a break from mining Rabelais’s now (generally) forgotten 16th-century references.
God appears and says you can only write or read. Which would it be?
Read. All those wonderful books and so little time, as some basketball player said about blondes. I could read dozens of books a year, but it takes me at least a year to write one.
The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
Leaving myself vulnerable and naked to critics, I immodestly and trepidatiously declare that my own writing is funny, poetic, and unflinching.
Tom Phelan’s NAILER is published by Glanvil Press.
“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.