Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “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, November 24, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: John J. Gaynard

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

Editor’s Note: I received a rather interesting review of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by John J. Gaynard during the week; when I investigated further, I discovered that John J. Gaynard is himself the author of what sounds like a rather fascinating novel. Now read on …

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
The Bible. Although I’d put more effort into improving on the lazy Sunday draft that gets the whole thing off to the sexist, incestuous, start and I’d make sure that it’s, Abel, the eater of sacrificial meat and not Cain, the vegetarian brother, who gets murdered. The book’s greatest accomplishment, apart from the spinoffs, is that you’ve got this schizophrenic Stalin-like figure, sending down floods of hate, revenge, betrayal and plagues of locusts, whenever it suits him, while the head-scratchers in the Gulag he’s created can’t come up with the right question: “Did we invent him or did he invent us?” Every good cop who turns up, in the shape of a prophet, gets sold out by his own side. But the main reason this is the book I would have liked to write is the sales and the number of boondoogles you’d get invited to. The Bible study industry is still bigger than the James Joyce or Shakespeare industries.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Gulley Jimson, the painter, in the Anglo-Irish writer Joyce Cary’s 1940s trilogy: HERSELF SURPRISED, TO BE A PILGRIM and, in what I think is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, THE HORSE’S MOUTH. At the beginning of THE HORSE’S MOUTH, Gulley Jimson has just got out of jail. Collectors would pay thousands for any painting he could produce. But Jimson couldn’t give a damn about them, he paints for himself, not for anybody else, the problem is he hasn’t got a penny to buy brushes, paint or a palette. He borrows or scams money from any old acquaintance who will still talk to him, similar to a character in a Ken Bruen novel, and tries to get back some of the paintings he gave away before he went broke. His new passion is for painting on people’s walls. I suppose you could call him the original tagger. He destroys himself, but he never has a minute of guilt or regret. His whole life is either spent getting his hands on a brush and paints, or in painting itself and nearly getting killed by the people who think he’s desecrated their houses. It’s one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read. At the end, when he’s on his deathbed, a nun criticizes him for laughing instead of praying and he tells her that they’re the same thing.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Suzanne Tyrpak, the author of DATING MY VIBRATOR. DATING MY VIBRATOR is a small book of hilarious short stories about a lady who went through a messy divorce, hit the online dating sites and then discovered, as do many innocent young divorcees, that all men, not only the ex-husband, are congenital liars. The book’s about the mental and physical deficiencies of the sex-hungry slobs the hero meets, and you couldn’t call any of the descriptions complimentary. After the book came out, one of the slobs recognized himself in one of the stories, and since then he’s been giving Suzanne really bad reviews on Amazon, and any other website he can come across. There’s a big phenomenon in France of women becoming call girls after they’ve had some experience on online dating sites. They say they might as well get paid for doing what they have to do anyway

Most satisfying writing moment?
There have been many of them, ranging from when I got a story published in the old London Evening News, through when I got my first satirical article published by Le Monde, or when a French translation of Allen Ginsberg’s meeting with Ezra Pound was published. In those days I was using a nom de plume. The latest most satisfactory moment is when I saw the Kirkus Review of THE IMITATION OF PATSY BURKE. Maybe once in a lifetime you get a reviewer who really understands what you were trying to write: “A rich, darkly comic send-up of the art world and the megalomaniacal souls that populate it.” The only quibble I might have with that review is that it might not prepare readers for the novel’s really dark side.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Of all time, I would say THE INFORMER by Liam O’Flaherty. The best one I’ve read over the past few years is Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE, published in the States as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. I like a novel that contains an element of psychopathy and some good fight scenes. The fight, or maybe I should say massacre scene, towards the end of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is second to none.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Every day I realize that there are a hell of a lot of Irish crime novels I still haven’t read. Tana French’s IN THE WOODS would make a great movie, but you’d have to make sure that Cecilia Ahern wasn’t taken on to write the script.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing, apart from French women writers who’ve fallen out of love with you making you a character in their books, is that it’s easy to become isolated from the rest of humanity. To avoid that I get up very early, every morning in Paris and I spend a couple of hours doing a café crawl, meeting up with friends like taxi drivers, plumbers, illegal African immigrants working on the building sites, and transsexual night club bouncers or heterosexual hostesses, who clock off at six o’clock in the morning and who like to sit around and talk shop in the cafés for a couple of hours before they head home for bed. One of the transsexual bouncers used to run the newspaper shop in the European Commission building in Luxemburg and, s/he tells me, the stuff that went on there was weirder than any club in the whole of the European Union. Once the office workers come out, at about eight-thirty, I head back to my own work. One of my favorite songs is Jacques Dutronc’s, “It’s 5 a.m. Paris Awakes”. It’s about a young man walking down from Pigalle, as it used to be, after a night in the clubs. The best thing is raising your head after ten or eleven hours of work and realizing that you’ve been so captivated by what you’re doing that you’ve lived life to the full. Then you can sit down to three or four hours of reading before you go contentedly to bed.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s going to be about a testosterone-fuelled Irish Guard, Timothy O’Mahony, who first came to life in my first novel, ANOTHER LIFE. O’Mahony is the son of a French woman and an Irish father, from Charlestown. After a scandalous liaison with a Northern Irish woman politician, he was demoted from a senior position in Dublin and exiled to the Garda station in Bangor, Erris. He’s now put in charge of investigating the murder of a young African girl, whose body washed up on the shoreline of County Mayo. The story will take O’Mahony into that part of French life in which presidential candidates, policemen, prostitutes and jaded middle-class political groupies engage in group sex, freemasonry, corruption and conversations about Ireland’s refusal to extradite people strongly suspected of killing beautiful French women. Any resemblance to what is going on at the moment in Ireland, France, or what recently happened in New York, will be purely fortuitous. I’m still deciding to what extent O’Mahony will be allowed to participate in the group sex.

Who are you reading right now?
I just finished reading the Australian crime writer Peter Temple’s THE BROKEN SHORE. It’s the prototypical hard-bitten crime novel, with a lot of guilt about how much unspoken homosexuality underlies the Australian need for mateship. The dialogue reminded me of Allan Guthrie’s writing. I just started on William Boyd’s ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS, because I’ve always liked the comic element of Boyd’s novels and then I’ll probably read the recent Goncourt Prize winner, THE FRENCH ART OF WAR, even though, the other day, when I asked a guy in a train sitting with the book in front of him and looking out the window, how he was enjoying it he told me he hadn’t been able to get past the first two pages …

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d tell her to go to hell. If she wouldn’t take that for an answer, I would opt for writing, write her out of her own story and then go back to reading.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Whatever it takes! At times, the story needs sex, booze, brawling and schizophrenia, and at other times it needs some pathos.

John J Gaynard’s THE IMITATION OF PATSY BURKE is published by Createspace.