“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, August 20, 2011

Landy Ho!

I do like the subtitle / strap-line to Derek Landy’s latest Skulduggery Pleasant novel, DEATH BRINGER, which runs thusly: ‘Kicking Evil Very Hard in the Face’. Nice.
  Skulduggery Pleasant, of course, is the dead / undead / skeletal private eye who takes on all comers in the battle between Good and Evil, aided and abetted by his feisty sidekick, Valkyrie. At least, that was the story in the first book in the series, SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, which established Derek Landy as a genre-busting writer of YA crime novels par excellence, and which I thoroughly enjoyed, not least for its subversive black humour.
  I’ve been busy in the intervening couple of years, so I haven’t really been keeping track of Skulduggery Pleasant, but it would appear that I’ve been nowhere as busy as Derek Landy, whose DEATH BRINGER is the sixth in the Skulduggery Pleasant series. Yep, sixth. Quoth the blurb elves:
The sixth instalment in the historic, hysterical and horrific Skulduggery Pleasant series. Think you’ve seen anything yet? You haven’t. Because the Death Bringer is about to rise … The Necromancers no longer need Valkyrie to be their Death Bringer, and that’s a Good Thing. There’s just one catch. There’s a reason the Necromancers don’t need her any more. And that’s because they’ve found their Death Bringer already, the person who will dissolve the doors between life and death. And that’s a Very, Very Bad Thing …
  So there you have it. Given the way my mind works, and that Skulduggery Pleasant and Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl tend to play both sides of the Good / Evil line, I can’t help wondering who would triumph in a YA literary smack-down. Hell, I may even toddle along to the Mountains to Sea Festival on Sunday, September 11, when Derek Landy will be holding forth on all things Pleasant and Skulduggerish, and ask that very question. For all the details on the event, clickety-click here

Friday, August 19, 2011

La Hunt For Red-Letter October

Good news for modern man, and one woman in particular: Arlene Hunt’s latest offering, THE CHOSEN, is on its way. Interestingly, it’s not the latest in Arlene’s series of Sarah & John stories: it’s a standalone, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
On a scorching summer day Jessie Conway, a teacher at Rockville High, notices a car driving slowly around the school grounds. Twenty minutes later Jessie is fighting for her life and the town of Rockville is plunged into a living nightmare. But for Jessie the horror is just beginning. Traumatized and hounded by the media, she retreats to her home and tries to rebuild her shattered life. Meanwhile, Caleb Switch is bored. A skilled and diligent killer, his recent selections have disappointed him. When he loses a target through haste he is furious and begins to doubt his abilities. That is until he turns his attention to Jessie Conway, hero teacher. Struggling to hold on to her marriage and her sanity, Jessie has no idea that she has become The Chosen.
  Appetite whetted? Yes? Well, this little encomium should sharpen it even further:
“A taut, sharp, gripping re-imagining of the serial killer novel.” - Tana French
  Nice. Most interesting of all, I think, is that THE CHOSEN marks something of a radical departure for Arlene, given that the novel will be released by her own publishing company, Portnoy Publishing. For all the skinny on that, clickety-click here
  THE CHOSEN is due on a shelf near you on October 17th, which will, given the cover, be an appropriately red-letter day for both Arlene and independent Irish publishing. But hey, why wait? Feel free to pre-order your copy here

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Absolute Zero Cool: ‘Serious As The World Series’, Apparently

It’s been a very strange week, folks. The good vibes for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL have continued to seep in through the ether, with which I am well pleased, as you can imagine, particularly as the Irish Times and Irish Independent were so generous in their reviews last weekend (sample AZC cover blushing furiously, right). It’s also gratifying to see a book that took so long to get published, mainly because many publishers made the decision that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the story, receive so many early positive reviews.
  For my part, I don’t ‘get’ why so many publishers felt that readers wouldn’t ‘get’ the book. AZC is a pretty straightforward story, a black comedy about a hospital porter who decides to blow up ‘his’ hospital. Yes, it pokes a bit of fun at literary conventions of all stripes, but that class of a malarkey is almost as old as the novel itself, the classic example being our old friend Tristram Shandy, the first volumes of which were first published in 1759. Yes, it’s fair to say, as Rob Kitchin does in his review over at The Blue House, that ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL won’t be for everybody; but then, what book is? But the assumption made by publishers that readers aren’t interested / smart enough / self-challenging enough to read anything that doesn’t conform to exactly everything they’ve read in the past is to my mind lazy at best, and prejudiced at worst.
  Anyway, on to the reviews that have popped up on the interweb in the last few days. First up, the aforementioned Rob Kitchin over at The View From the Blue House, a fine author himself and a reader who has proved himself a quietly astute observer of the crime novel over the last couple of years*. Quoth Rob:
“Satire and high art meets screwball noir … The result is a very clever book, that’s at once fun and challenging. The prose and plot has been honed within an inch of its life, full of lovely turns of phrases, philosophical depth and keen observational insight … ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL takes the crime genre and its many tropes and stereotypes and throws them out the window. It’s a genuinely unique tale … Five stars all the way for me.” - Rob Kitchin
  Meanwhile, Malcolm Berry, also an author, has this to say at his interweb lair The Foulks Rebellion:
“My point is, there is room for that, and there is increasing room for super-consciousness, post-rational literature -- particularly in our post-rational world -- along the lines of Woyzeck, Bertold Brecht, Robbe-Grillet, Samuel Beckett, and others. Most recently, Declan Burke’s ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. My kind of book. Maybe it could be called Gonzolit. Serious as the World Series, clean as Van Gogh’s ear surgery, worthy of our times.” - Malcolm Berry
  ‘Serious as the World Series’? Now that’s what I call a cover blurb …
  Finally, fellow Irish scribe Frank McGrath was good enough to post his review of AZC to the Amazon.com Kindle page, where the gist of his spake runs thusly:
“This is not a ‘crime’ book in the normal sense of having a detective, a killer and an easy to follow plot. It is a stunningly beautiful and achingly funny work which probes the type of existential questions raised by works like NOTES FROM THE UNDERGROUND and CRIME AND PUNISHMENT by Dostoyevsky, and works by Sartre, Camus (THE PLAGUE), Kafka, and Ireland’s Beckett and Flann O’Brien.” - Frank McGrath
  Now, those three gentlemen bandy around some fairly heavyweight names, but the one word which keeps popping up, and which I’m most delighted about is, ‘fun’. Because you can be as serious as you want about writing books, in terms of the craft and whatever it is you have to say, but ultimately, if a book isn’t enjoyable to read, what’s the point? Life’s too short to spend grinding through some eminently worthy but excruciating dull text.
  Finally, a quick reminder to any Belfast readers out there that I’ll be appearing at No Alibis this evening, at 6pm, in the company of Adrian McKinty. Being honest, and unless I win the lottery between now and 6pm, the double-hander with McKinty will be the highlight of my week. See you there …
  * Well, I would say that, wouldn’t I?

UPDATE: Frank McGrath’s kind words appear to have disappeared from the Amazon page since yesterday. Um, Frank? Any ideas? Anyone?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Soul Trader

As anyone who has attended any of his events will attest, John Connolly is something of a one-man three-ring circus when it comes to his public appearances. Which makes for a refreshing change from when most writers, yours truly included, step into the limelight, and the ‘entertainment’ generally runs as follows: “Thanks for coming, cough, mumble, insert-name-of-book-here, rhubarb, the support of my wife / husband, cough, erm, ah, copies to be signed, I thank you all.” Connolly, on the other hand, looks born to a life treading the boards when he takes centre-stage, although as with most things writing-related, I’d imagine that it’s years of hard graft that makes it all look so easy and comfortable.
  Anyway, the point behind that preamble is that John Connolly will be appearing at Eason’s on O’Connell Street, Dublin, on August 29th, for a public interview, the purpose of which is to officially launch his latest Charlie Parker tome, THE BURNING SOUL. Quoth the blurb elves:
Randall Haight has a secret: when he was a teenager, he and his friend killed a 14-year-old girl. Randall did his time and built a new life in the small Maine town of Pastor’s Bay, but somebody has discovered the truth about Randall. He is being tormented by anonymous messages, haunting reminders of his past crime, and he wants private detective Charlie Parker to make it stop. But another 14-year-old girl has gone missing, this time from Pastor’s Bay, and the missing girl’s family has its own secrets to protect. Now Parker must unravel a web of deceit involving the police, the FBI, a doomed mobster named Tommy Morris, and Randall Haight himself. Because Randall Haight is telling lies . . .
  There’s no word yet as to who will be conducting the interview, by the way, although it’s probably fair to say, and with all due respect, that it doesn’t really matter. The event is free, by the way, although I’d imagine that it’ll be heavily booked in advance; my advice is to book early, and book often …
  For those of you residing in Norn Iron, by the way, John Connolly will be appearing at No Alibis a couple of days later, on September 1st, in tandem with Alan Glynn, who launches BLOODLAND later in the month, on September 13th, in the Gutter Bookshop. More of which anon, although given that I’m about 60 pages short of finishing BLOODLAND, let me just say that it’s Alan Glynn’s finest novel yet, which isn’t bad going considering his previous offerings were the excellent THE DARK FIELDS and WINTERLAND. Put it in your diary now; it should be a cracking night …
  As mentioned previously on these pages, by the way, the launch of THE BURNING SOUL kicks off a very impressive run of Irish crime offerings, from the likes of Alan Glynn, Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville and Ava McCarthy. For more, clickety-click here

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Name To Be Reckoned With

There’s been some very nice reviews of Jane Casey’s THE RECKONING over the last couple of weekends, which have only served to whet my appetite. I’ve been looking forward to THE RECKONING ever since I finished THE BURNING, Jane’s second novel, with which I was mightily impressed when I read it late last year. And Jane’s debut novel, THE MISSING, was shortlisted for the Irish Crime Fiction Novel of the Year.
  Anyway, first out of the traps was Kevin Sweeney in the Irish Times, who - after a very odd preamble designed to establish his ‘credentials’ (i.e., crime fiction is virtually all schlock writing) - had this to say two weeks ago:
“THE RECKONING, the third novel in a series about a rookie female Irish homicide detective in London, stands out from the pack as both a twisty, well-crafted mystery and as a humanistic portrait of an ambitious professional with a strong moral centre.” - Kevin Sweeney
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, over at the Irish Independent last weekend, Irish crime fiction’s best friend, aka Myles McWeeney, pitched up with this two cents:
“How Maeve [Kerrigan] faces these challenges makes for a satisfyingly tension-filled, page-rifling read that comes with the added bonus of beautifully realised characters and elegant prose. THE RECKONING is Jane Casey’s third Maeve Kerrigan novel in less than two years, and with it she moves effortlessly into the pantheon of top Irish female crime writers, a list that includes Tana French, Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt and Niamh O’Connor.” - Myles McWeeney
  For the rest, you know what to do
  So there you have it. Jane Casey’s THE RECKONING. Another major Irish talent to be - oh yes! - reckoned with …

Monday, August 15, 2011

How Cool It Was, How Cool …

You’ll forgive me, I hope, for rattling on about ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL yet again, but there has been a flurry of activity - by my standards, at least - surrounding the book since it launched last Wednesday, when Arlene Hunt, Declan Hughes and Alan Glynn (right, righter and rightest) were among those to make it along to the Gutter Bookshop (and yes, that is the Dark Lord, aka John Connolly, skulking menacingly in the background).
  First up, there were two very interesting reviews indeed on Saturday, from the Irish Times and the Irish Independent. If I’m perfectly honest, I’m still a little bit stunned by the reaction; you do hope for decent reviews (well, any reviews at all, really) when your book appears, but those two were far beyond anything I’d let myself hope for. Sample quote: “ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL isn’t quite like anything you’ve ever read, in any genre.” For the full skinny, clickety-click here
  Also on Saturday, the Evening Herald was good enough to publish an interview with yours truly, which was terrific in itself, but had the added bonus of being published under the header ‘Paint It Black’, which just so happens to be my favourite Stones track. Coincidence? I think so. For the interview, clickety-click here
  Another interview, this one of the radio variety, comes courtesy of the good folk at RTE’s Arena programme, which was actually broadcast on the night of the book’s launch. Sean Rocks asks the questions, and the considerably-less-than-dulcet tones of yours truly can be heard doing their best not to make a complete hames of answering. One click takes you there
  Meanwhile, the team at writing.ie hosts yet another interview with me, and thanks kindly to them. That interview, by the way, comes with a bonus of offering the opportunity to win a free copy of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. For the interview, click here; if you want to bypass my blatherings and go straight for the freebie, clickety-click here
  Lastly, but by no means leastly, the venerable Dana King conducts an interview with a difference over at One Bite At A Time, which opens up with allegations of a SWAT team arriving to break up the AZC launch on Wednesday night, and goes downhill rapidly from there. If you’re interested, you know what to do

Sunday, August 14, 2011

You, Me And Ireland’s Answer To James Ellroy

Recently described as ‘Ireland’s more accessible answer to James Ellroy’ by Laura Wilson at The Guardian, Adrian McKinty (right) makes a rare appearance on these shores next Thursday evening at the No Alibis bookstore in Belfast. To wit:
No Alibis are very pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch of Declan Burke’s latest novel, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, and FALLING GLASS, the latest novel from Adrian McKinty, in the shop on Thursday 18th August at 6:00 PM.
  Adrian McKinty, as all Three Regular Readers will be well aware, is a firm favourite on these pages, mainly because he has a very good habit of writing very good books. The latest is FALLING GLASS, which I reviewed recently on Crime Always Pays; his previous offering, FIFTY GRAND, was longlisted earlier this summer for the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. In short, the man is a terrific writer, and given that he currently resides on the other side of the planet, the No Alibis gig is a welcome opportunity to hear him read in person.
  Doing his manly best to play Falstaff to McKinty’s Prince Hal will be yours truly, and delighted and humbled I most certainly am to be invited to the hallowed halls of No Alibis to celebrate the launch of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. David Torrans, the legendary and possibly even semi-mythic owner of No Alibis, was good enough to micro-manage the Northern Ireland launch of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS a couple of months ago, this in conjunction with the Belfast Literary Festival. A terrific evening it was, too, not least because I got to meet David Peace, although the one disappointment for me was that the event wasn’t actually held in No Alibis. I’d twice stood outside a closed No Alibis prior to that evening, not unlike a book-nerd Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, pretty much pawing at the glass frontage and drooling at the very fine offerings within. On the evening of the GREEN STREETS launch, I finally got to step inside the door; a very pleasant experience, even if we were all very quickly whisked away to the GREEN STREETS event.
  Anyway, it’ll be nice to actually do a gig at No Alibis. There’s a rites-of-passage aspect to it, or a kind of anointing; you’re no one, really, in this Irish crime writing game until your weedy voice has strained for profundity under the No Alibis rafters. The fact that it’ll happen in the company of Adrian McKinty isn’t so much a bonus as a gift.
  Tickets are free, by the way, and all the booking details can be found here