“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.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS: The Irish Times Speaks!

I wasn’t expecting the reviews to start coming through so soon - and as always, you half-expect that your book won’t be reviewed at all - but today’s Irish Times carries a review of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS (Liberties Press), written by David Park, with which I am well pleased. The gist runneth thusly:
“HEINOUS CRIMES have been committed the length and breadth of Ireland, and even farther afield. Crimes that would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Crimes committed by smiling serial killers, dead-eyed psychopaths, low-life gangsters and those who thought themselves soldiers or even avenging angels. Too many crimes to count. Now what looks indisputably like a body has emerged. Some literary pathologists suggest it stems from the mid-1990s; others say it bears a much older history. DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS: IRISH CRIME WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY, under the skilled editorship of Declan Burke, reveals the full story of this body and offers thought-provoking theories about its origins, identity and future.
  The body in question is no decaying corpse but a flourishing school of work that generically gets labelled as crime fiction. A new generation of writers has emerged in the past 10 years, with Gene Kerrigan, Arlene Hunt, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Ken Bruen, Jane Casey and a seemingly endless host of other authors joining the likes of John Connolly and Colin Bateman. Declan Burke, author of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, THE BIG O and ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, and creator of a lively blog called Crime Always Pays, has assembled a thoroughly entertaining miscellany of essays, interviews, short stories, memoir and first-hand perspectives that offers intriguing insights into the genre, including excellent pieces on film and theatre […]
  “John Connolly believes the future challenge for Irish crime writing is how to find a place on the international stage and “how to create a uniquely Irish form of the genre without losing sight of the universal”. The energetic, passionate voices evident in this wonderful collection suggest that this is a challenge Irish crime writers, the trawlers and scribes of our mean streets, might well have the talent to meet.” - David Park
  So there you have it: ‘thought-provoking … entertaining … wonderful collection’. We thank you kindly, Mr Park. For the full review, clickety-click here
  Incidentally, last week RTE’s radio arts programme Arena interviewed yours truly and Declan Hughes on the subject of GREEN STREETS in particular and Irish crime writing in general. If you’re interested, the podcast can be found here

Friday, June 24, 2011

From Nurse To Hearse

Given the recent headlines relating to despicable behaviour in some of Ireland’s more prestigious nursing homes, the title of Abbie Taylor’s second novel, IN SAFE HANDS, has a rather ironic ring to it. Quoth the blurb elves:
Nursing is everything to Dawn. Having lost her beloved grandmother to cancer, it breaks her heart to see a terminally ill patient suffering in the same way. So when the old lady begs Dawn to end her life, Dawn knows it is the kindest thing to do. But what she doesn’t realize is that someone in the hospital has been watching her. Someone who is intent on making her pay for what she’s done. Wracked with guilt, Dawn struggles to meet her tormentor’s demands. But she is already way out of her depth. And things are about to take a very sinister turn …
  I have no idea of what the book is like, given that I was only recently alerted to Abbie Taylor’s existence by the good works of one Niamh O’Connor, but I like the idea of it: the examination of a crime is the examination of society, as Michael Connelly says in his foreword to DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, and it’s axiomatic that any society can be judged on how it treats its weak, sick and most vulnerable. If anyone out there has read IN SAFE HANDS, I’m all ears …

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

A Jones For Casey

There’s an interesting theme beginning to weave its way into Irish crime fiction, said theme being meditations on the nature of justice, and more importantly, the subversion of same by those supposed to serve and protect. Eoin McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE springs to mind, as does Gene Kerrigan’s THE RAGE. Jane Casey’s latest offering, THE RECKONING, which features her series heroine DC Maeve Kerrigan, appears to be engaged in a similar pursuit. Quoth the blurb elves:
To the public, he’s a hero: a killer who targets convicted paedophiles. Two men are dead already - tortured to death. Even the police don’t regard the cases as a priority. Most feel that two dead paedophiles is a step in the right direction. But to DC Maeve Kerrigan, no one should be allowed to take the law into their own hands. Young and inexperienced, Kerrigan wants to believe that murder is murder no matter what the sins of the victim. Only, as the killer’s violence begins to escalate, she is forced to confront exactly how far she’s prepared to go to ensure justice is served …
  I read Jane Casey’s second novel, THE BURNING, late last year, and I thought it was terrific, and was more than happy to say so when reviewing it for the Irish Times. The Maeve Kerrigan novels are set in London, but as the name suggests, Maeve Kerrigan has more than a drop of Irish blood in her veins. Her background is only one aspect of a fascinating character, though, a feisty, ambitious and fragile woman who seemed extraordinarily well drawn to me. Sophie Hannah obviously agrees: ‘Compulsive, menacing … very satisfying’ runs Ms Hannah’s blurb on the front of THE RECKONING.
  The novel is due to hit a shelf near you around this time next month. If you’re a fan of Lynda La Plante, but sometimes wish she was more ambitious in her writing and exploration of character, you could do a hell of a lot worse than check it out …

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Official: Adrian McKinty, Deviant

It’s hardly a week since I mentioned Adrian McKinty and his latest offering FALLING GLASS on these pages, so I hope you’ll forgive me for dredging up his name again so soon. The reason why is his next offering, DEVIANT, which at first, given the brutal honesty of the title, I presumed would be a warts-‘n’-all autobiography. But stay! DEVIANT is in fact McKinty’s latest young adult title, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
Danny Lopez is new in town. He made a mistake back home in Las Vegas, and now he has landed at an experimental school in Colorado for “tough cases.” At the Cobalt Charter School, everything is scripted—what the teachers say, what the students reply—and no other speaking is allowed. This super-controlled environment gives kids a second chance to make something of themselves. But with few freedoms, the students become sitting ducks for a killer determined to “clean up” Colorado Springs.
  Sounds like a belter, with McKinty himself describing it as ‘young adult noir (if such a genre exists’). Well, it does now; and it’s a rare young adult who doesn’t, in their blissful ignorance, consider themselves deviant in some shape or fashion. I certainly did. Anyway, we’ll leave it up to CAP’s semi-resident YA expert, aka Ms Witch, to tell us if it’s any good or not, but I’m certainly looking forward to delving into its deviance. Cracking cover, too.
  I like the theory, by the way. Snag ’em young, get ’em hooked on the spiritual crack of noir-styled misery and predestination, and you’re set for life. As for the kids, well, tough. I blame the parents. Do you know what your child is reading right now?

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rory McIlroy: Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better

You’ll pardon me, I hope, for writing about golf again, but about six weeks ago, on the morning of April 11, I posted a piece that began like this:
I tuned in late to the Masters last night, long after Rory McIlroy (right) had blown his four-shot lead at the start of the day, but just in time to watch Rory disintegrate in considerable style as he took the long way home, hacking his way through the undergrowth of the more remote parts of Augusta’s back nine. Commiserations to Rory, although it’s hard to feel truly sorry for him - if you’re good enough to establish a four-shot lead going into the last day of the Masters, then you’re good, period.
 [ … ]
  At the time, Rory was a shot clear of a chasing pack which included Tiger Woods, and such competition brings with it its own pressures. Ultimately, though, he wasn’t competing against anyone but himself. He was competing with the limits of his skill, his facility for grace under pressure, his ability to keep his inner demons at bay whilst maintaining an outward façade of calm efficiency.
  In the end, Rory lost his battle with himself, which will probably be the most disappointing thing for him when he wakes up this morning. To be beaten by a better golfer is one thing, and nothing to be ashamed of. To be beaten by yourself, though, sabotaged from within, that’s a whole different issue.
  Later that day, as McIlroy talked about his meltdown, grinning and bearing it, I along with thousands of others tweeted a message to Rory McIlroy, the Beckett-inspired, ‘Fail, fail again, fail better.’
  Fast-forward to yesterday. You’ll probably know by now that Rory McIlroy, at the grand old age of 22, won the US Open by a remarkable eight shots, in a style not seen since Bobby Jones in 1923, in the process setting all kinds of records. Yes, it’s only a game of golf; but as a feel-good story, and particularly a metaphor for taking on all comers, including yourself and those twin impostors triumph and disaster, Rory McIlroy’s rehabilitation and redemption will be hard to beat this year.
  On occasion I tend to refer to the Irish crime writers who hail from the other side of the Border as the Norn Iron bunch. As of this morning, courtesy of Rory McIlroy’s extraordinary talent and irrepressible will, ‘Norn Iron’ takes on a whole new dimension.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Go North, Young-Ish Man


Off with us yesterday to Belfast for the second launch of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, and a marvellous day out it was too. The launch was incorporated into the Belfast Books Festival, and thus took place at the Crescent Arts Centre rather than the hallowed halls of No Alibis, which was initially something of a disappointment. Happily, the turn-out was such that No Alibis would have struggled to cope with the volume, and anyway David Torrans was on hand to MC proceedings, introduce the various speakers, and generally just about stopping short of clucking like a mother hen.
  Said turn-out included some of the Northern Irish contributors who couldn’t make the Dublin launch for GREEN STREETS, including Colin Bateman, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville and Eoin McNamee; Niamh O’Connor, who made the trip North having missed out on the Dublin launch; Kevin McCarthy and Cormac Millar, who’d been at the Dublin launch and was attending the Belfast Books Festival; Gerard Brennan, who’d ventured South for the first launch and couldn’t get enough GREEN STREETS; Belfast-based scribe Andrew Pepper, who had chaired a conversation between Eoin McNamee and David Peace on Friday night; and the aforementioned David Peace.
  Yours truly was up first to deliver some thanks on behalf of Liberties Press, and then David introduced Brian McGilloway, who provided something of an unexpected treat by reading not from his current tome, LITTLE GIRL LOST, as promised in the programme, but his next Inspector Devlin novel, ISLES OF THE BONES, which will be published next year. Stirring stuff it was too, and whetted the appetite for what sounds as if it will be the most fascinating Devlin story to date.
  David Torrans then introduced a panel composed of Brian, Colin Bateman and Stuart Neville (above), who took part in a Q&A on the past, present and future of the crime novel in Northern Ireland, in the process referencing their present and forthcoming offerings - LITTLE GIRL LOST for Brian, NINE INCHES for Colin, and STOLEN SOULS for Stuart. Great stuff it was too, as entertaining as it was insightful, and terrific value for money and time. All told, it was a hugely enjoyable evening, and many thanks to all who took part, facilitated and helped out in any way.
  Incidentally, I’ve written many times on these pages before about David Peace (right, with Kevin McCarthy), and how much I admire his Red Riding quartet, most recently on Friday, so it was lovely to actually meet him. It was slightly disconcerting to discover that he’s a disappointingly nice man in person - given the intensity of his prose, I was half-hoping he’d be mad, and as likely to bite as shake my hand. But no. He was the very model of friendly approachability, although it was more than surreal when he approached me, with a copy of GREEN STREETS in his hand, and asked me to sign it. Such moments are rare, folks, and I’ll be treasuring that one for a long time to come.
  Anyhoo, that’s the official functions for DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS finished, and there’s a certain amount of relief involved, given that it was a very busy fortnight, and that I was concerned first and foremost that the book, and my efforts on its behalf, would do justice to the very fine body of writers who contributed, and to Liberties Press for publishing it in such elegant fashion. Incidentally, Dave Torrans had all the Northern-based writers sign copies of GREEN STREETS, this on top of all those who signed copies at the Dublin launch, so anyone requiring a multiple-signed copy should clickety-click here
  Back now to the cave for yours truly and the rather more prosaic business of hacking a plausible narrative out of the wilderness I’ve managed to cultivate around my latest humble offering, working title THE BIG EMPTY, although experience tells me that a machete will hardly suffice, and it won’t be long before I’ll be reaching for the flame-thrower and napalm. I’ll keep you posted if and when any reviews of GREEN STREETS pop up, but hopefully the hard sell on said tome is over, and it’ll be business as usual. Well, until August rolls around, and Liberties Press publish my own novel, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. But that, dear friends, is a story for another day …