“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, July 2, 2011

Countdown To ZERO

The votes are in, the die is cast, and the cover for the forthcoming ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by your humble correspondent has been decided (right). As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, I had a personal preference for a different cover, one featuring a gas canister, but good sense has prevailed and I’m more than happy with the final decision. If I’m honest, it actually reflects the tone of the book better than my own preference: for some reason, the artwork puts me in mind of a series of Kurt Vonnegut reissues from some years back, and as AZC is a blackly comic novel, it seems appropriate to alert the potential reader to that fact.
  For those of you unfamiliar with the novel, by the way, the blurb elves have been wibbling thusly:
Who in their right mind would want to blow up a hospital?

  “Close it down, blow it up - what’s the difference?”

  Hospital porter Billy K is a man on a mission: to highlight how vulnerable hospitals are, and to demonstrate how easily they might be demolished in a terrorist attack.

  But no one is listening. Deranged by logic, driven by a perverse passion, Billy may have to blow up a hospital in order to prove his point. Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned …


“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN
  So there you have it, and thank you kindly, Mr Bruen. Other generous commendations run as follows:
“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” - John Banville, author of THE SEA

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill, author of SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S

“If you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go … Declan Burke [is] at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clichés and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works.” - Colin Bateman, author of NINE INCHES

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a surreal rollercoaster of a read, full of the blackest humour, and yet poignant. An outrageously funny novel ... The joy is in the writing itself, all sparky dialogue and wry observation, so smooth that when it cuts, it’s like finding razor blades in honey.” - Deborah Lawrenson, author of THE LANTERN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” - Adrian McKinty, author of FIFTY GRAND
  ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL will be published next month by the good folk at Liberties Press, and should be available for pre-order any day soon. Rest assured that I’ll keep you posted …

Friday, July 1, 2011

Foxing Clever

The Thought Fox is a rare example of an interesting blog from a publisher, not least because - I presume, at least, although I’m open to correction - the blog’s name was inspired by Ted Hughes. Anyway, The Thought Fox is Faber’s blog, and Faber is home to two of the most inventive writers working today, in Eoin McNamee and David Peace, so it was nice to see a homage from David Peace to Eoin McNamee pop up on the blog during the week. To wit:
‘The House of Burn and McNamee’

“Two books have influenced and inspired my own writing more than any others; ALMA COGAN by Gordon Burn and RESURRECTION MAN by Eoin McNamee. Although very different writers, both Burn and McNamee write with the same impulse; to seek out, to confront and to then illuminate the dark corners of history with fiction, with literature, with poetry.
  “Many writers published by Faber talk about the thrill of being published by the House of Eliot and Hughes but, for me, Faber is the House of Burn and McNamee and it remains an honour to be published alongside work as great as BEST AND EDWARDS or THE ULTRAS. Tragically, with Gordon’s death in 2009, there can be no more Gordon Burn books. But Eoin McNamee is still writing, and still writing the best books out there.
  “ORCHID BLUE, which has just been published in paperback by Faber, is a sequel-of-sorts to THE BLUE TANGO, which was published in 2001, and forms the second book in Eoin’s loose ‘Blue Trilogy’. But you don’t need to have read THE BLUE TANGO to read ORCHID BLUE (though I bet you 20 quid you will read BLUE TANGO if you read ORCHID BLUE first).
  “As in all of Eoin McNamee’s writing, ORCHID BLUE takes as its starting point a moment in history; the murder of Pearl Gamble in Newry in January 1961 and the subsequent arrest and trial of Robert McGladdery. McNamee brings to this moment the eyes and ears, the heart and soul of Eddie McCrink. Eddie has been away in London; the London of Jack the Stripper and the Krays. Eddie returns to Ulster as Inspector of Constabulary. Eddie doesn’t like what he finds; a damp place of blood feuds and private vendettas, a place where justice is what strengthens the rich and weakens the poor, a place teetering on the edge of an abyss, an abyss that will stretch for decades over thousands of deaths.
  “This abyss, this history, is the place where McNamee works, where he takes a surgical scalpel to the thin skin of history’s corpse and wades through the blood to the bones of the thing. And in that blood, among those bones, he finds the words and the language of the soul, ugly words in a beautiful language, often in a strange and harrowed tongue, but always in an original, haunting voice.
  “This is what Gordon Burn did. This is what Eoin McNamee does. Cherish it.” - David Peace
  Nicely said, sir. For more Eoin McNamee-related flummery, clickety-click here

Thursday, June 30, 2011

To Thrill Or Not To Thrill, That Is The Question

I’m never sure as to whether I should include Christy Kenneally in these pages, because although he’s Irish, certainly, and his novels have the epic sweep expected of a thriller these days, I don’t actually know if Kenneally writes them as thrillers. It would help to clarify matters, of course, if I were to read one of his novels - his previous offering, TEARS OF GOD, tempted me for a very long time - and I think I’m going to start with his latest offering, THE BETRAYED. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s 1940 and Europe is shadowed by war. But in a small village in Austria, Karl, Elsa and Max, three friends on the brink of adulthood enjoy the fading light of innocence. Until one day, the peaceful village is torn apart by the disappearance of Elsa ... her death sealing the fate of Karl and Max forever. Days after her disappearance, Karl is conscripted to the German army. Fighting for his life in the deathly cold of the Russian winter during Operation Barbarossa by day, by night, his dreams are of Elsa. Max has fled to safety to live with his uncle, the Monsignor, in the Archbishop’s Palace in Zagreb. There, he becomes embroiled in a genocide, where knowledge is the ultimate weapon and power, the ultimate prize. As the years pass, Max and Karl fight a war that can never be won. Karl, now a Captain in the German army, is haunted by the faces of the men left behind on the battlefields of Russia and the disappearance of Elsa. Max, a priest in Rome, is consumed by power and greed, and a shameful secret he is determined to bury. For Max, only one man has the power to destroy him. Because only Karl knows the truth behind Elsa’s disappearance. From the mountains of Austria, to the suburbs of Moscow, the cities of Vienna, Zagreb and Rome, THE BETRAYED is an epic story of love, loss, heroism and the power of destiny.
  So there you have it. Not exactly a conventional Irish thriller, which is all the more reason to embrace it and - hopefully - expand the parameters of what is and isn’t considered an Irish crime novel. If there’s one thing I love in a writer, be it in terms of story, language or vision, it’s ambition. And from the sounds of things, Christy Kenneally has ambition to burn. The novel is officially published on July 7th, by the way; I’ll keep you posted …

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

BLOODLAND: Has The Great Irish Novel Finally Arrived?

It’s fair to say that Alan Glynn is one of the most inventive and thoughtful Irish writers working today, and I was already looking forward to his forthcoming title, BLOODLAND, even before I read the Le Carré-meets-James Ellroy blurb. To wit:
A tabloid star is killed in a helicopter crash and three years later a young journalist is warned off the story. A private security contractor loses it in the Congo, with deadly consequences. In Ireland an ex-prime minister struggles to contain a dark secret from his time in office. A dramatic news story breaks in Paris just as a US senator begins his campaign to run for office. With echoes of John Le Carré, 24 and James Ellroy, Alan Glynn’s follow-up to WINTERLAND is another crime novel of and for our times – a ferocious, paranoid thriller that moves from Dublin to New York via Central Africa, and thrillingly explores the legacy of corruption in big business, the West’s fear of China, the role of back room political players and the question of who controls what we know.
  Sounds like a cracker, but stay! There’s more. Ken Bruen wades in with a cover blurb that runs thusly: “The debate is over - BLOODLAND is the great Irish novel, no argument.” - Ken Bruen
  Interesting, I think, that Ken Bruen doesn’t claim that BLOODLAND is the great Irish crime novel, but the great Irish novel. Is it the case that, given what Ireland has been through in the last number of years, the current generation of Irish writers are doomed to engage with crime and criminality? Is it that Alan Glynn doesn’t write conventional crime novels? Either way, Ken Bruen has just ratcheted up the expectations for BLOODLAND, which arrives on September 1st, by yet another notch or two …

UPDATE:

  A little birdie gets in touch, in the wake of this post, to tell us that a certain Val McDermid has read BLOODLAND, and appears to quite like it. To wit:
“Ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, BLOODLAND is irresistible. An exhilarating thriller from the dark heart of the global village.” - Val McDermid
  Very, very nice indeed …

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Taken, Not Stirred

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve found myself referring frequently to an Irish Top Ten bestsellers list from about two months ago, in which eight of the ten titles were crime fiction. Proof positive of the Irish public’s voracious appetite for crime fiction, although none of the titles, unfortunately, were by Irish writers. Exactly why Irish readers have remained so resistant to the fine body of Irish crime writers is something of a mystery, especially given the best-selling and prize-winning calibre of some of said writers in the US, UK and Germany, in particular.
  The following week, Niamh O’Connor’s TAKEN catapulted into the Top Ten, landing with its feet firmly planted in the # 2 slot. I haven’t read TAKEN yet, but the unnamed reviewer at this link from the Irish Independent (although I suspect that said reviewer is the redoubtable Myles McWeeney) obviously approves. To wit:
“Niamh O’Connor, the true crime editor of the Sunday World, has written five successful true crime books, and burst onto the burgeoning Irish thriller scene last year with her first Jo Birmingham adventure, IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN, which was a best-seller. With TAKEN, O’Connor has pulled off the elusive feat of delivering a second novel that betters the original.”
  O’Connor writes police procedurals, has been compared to Lynda La Plante, and TAKEN bears a blurb from no less a writer than Tess Gerritsen, who acclaims the novel as gripping and terrifying. All of which explains why Niamh O’Connor is one of the few Irish crime writers to crack the Top Ten this year. The Big Question is, why so few others? Answers on a used twenty to Declan Burke’s Funny Money Stash, c/o Dodgy Facilitators Inc., Freeport, Grand Bahama. Or you could just leave a comment …

Sunday, June 26, 2011

More GREEN STREETS Reviews: Yay! (And Nay. From Fay)

Another day, another review for GREEN STREETS. Well, two to be precise. Over in the Sunday Independent, Alison Walsh offers two thumbs up. To wit:
“In DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS: IRISH CRIME WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY, editor Declan Burke puts a shape on the story of Irish crime writing in an admirably thorough compendium of essays, interviews and short fiction. It’s everything you want to know about (Irish) crime fiction, its roots and varied influences, but it also offers a vivid insight into the dark heart of modern Ireland.” - Alison Walsh
  We thank you kindly, ma’am. For the rest, clickety-click here
  As for the ‘Nay’, that came courtesy of Liam Fay over in the Culture section of the Irish edition of the Sunday Times (no link, as the ST is behind a paywall). If you were here yesterday, you’d have seen a piece I wrote defending the book against the slings and arrows of the review, but really, life’s too short for that class of a malarkey, and I’m getting too old. If the man didn’t like the book, then the man didn’t like the book. End of story.

UPDATE:

  I didn’t want to upload the review until such time as I had a link, but Alex Meehan of the Sunday Business Post weighed in with yet another fine review of GREEN STREETS yesterday, with the gist running thusly:
“DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS is notable for its compelling and accessible history of crime fiction in Ireland. This is an obligatory title for serious fans of Irish crime fiction - and there’s also enough here to hold the interest of the casual reader.” - Alex Meehan
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Not a bad weekend, then, with big-ups from the Irish Times, Sunday Independent and the Sunday Business Post. As for Liam Fay, well, maybe we’ll tickle his fancy a bit more next time out …