“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.

Friday, September 9, 2011

The Future Is Claret

There’s a couple of interesting launches next week, folks, and lashings of ye olde claret in prospect as BLOODLAND and THE BLOODY MEADOW see the light of day.
  First up, the official send-off for Alan Glynn’s BLOODLAND, which takes place on Tuesday 13th at - where else? - the Gutter Bookshop, Dublin, which appears to have become the bookstore of choice for the Irish crime fraternity. All the details are available in the invite to your right ...
  I got to read an early copy of BLOODLAND, although to be honest it didn’t arrive half early enough. As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, I’m a big fan of Alan Glynn’s first two offerings, THE DARK FIELDS and WINTERLAND, and BLOODLAND more than delivers on the promise of those novels, being something of a synthesis of the two, and a damn fine example of the classic paranoid thriller. If you don’t believe me - and I wouldn’t - then check out the couple of early reviews over at the Mulholland Books interweb lair, one of them written by no less a personage than the venerable Ali Karim. Sample quote:
“Glynn’s ability to take these big themes and distil them down to the seedy personal stories and motivations of the protagonists is the key to why this novel hypnotizes the reader.” - Ali Karim
  Elsewhere, William Ryan launches THE BLOODY MEADOW next Thursday, said tome being the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut, THE HOLY THIEF, and one hotly anticipated around these here parts (said he, hoping to nudge some eagle-eyed PR personage into sending on an ARC). Quoth the blurb elves:
Following his investigations in THE HOLY THIEF, which implicated those at the very top of authority in Soviet Russia, Captain Alexei Korolev finds himself decorated and hailed as an example to all Soviet workers. But Korolev lives in an uneasy peace – his new-found knowledge is dangerous, and if it is discovered what his real actions were during the case, he will face deportation to the frozen camps of the far north. But when the knock on the door comes, in the dead of night, it is not Siberia Korolev is destined for. Instead, Colonel Rodinov of the NKVD security service asks the detective to look into the suspected suicide of a young woman: Maria Alexandovna Lenskaya, a model citizen. Korolev is unnerved to learn that Lenskaya had been of interest to Ezhov, the feared Commissar for State Security. Ezhov himself wants to matter looked into. And when the detective arrives on the set for Bloody Meadow, in the bleak, battle-scarred Ukraine, he soon discovers that there is more to Lenskaya’s death than meets the eye ...
  I thought THE HOLY THIEF was a terrific read, but I won’t be able to make the launch, unfortunately, given that it takes place at 7pm in O’Mahony’s Bookshop, 120 O’Connell Street, Limerick on Thursday the 15th, at which time I will be working in Dublin and still forlornly struggling to master the art of bi-location.
  So there you have it: Alan Glynn’s BLOODLAND and William Ryan’s THE BLOODY MEADOW. That’s another good week for Irish crime fiction right there …

Thursday, September 8, 2011

“Wouldn’t It Be Nice To See A Work Of Pulp Win The Booker Prize?”

Erm, no. Allen Barra penned a mildly controversial piece for The Daily Beast earlier this week, suggesting that Benjamin Black, the alter-ego of John Banville (right), should win the Booker Prize. Herewith be the gist:
“One reason, I think, that critics are giddy over Black is that—let’s just say it—he’s more fun to read than Banville. (Well, some of Banville.) THE SEA is as exquisite as an Irish mist, but I won’t read DOCTOR COPERNICUS, KEPLER, and THE NEWTON LETTER again for all the whiskey in Quirke’s favourite pub. Another reason is that Benjamin Black’s territory is a new one for critics who regard themselves as “serious.” I suspect most of them have never dipped into the sordid but seductive world of Irish crime fiction—Patrick McGinley, for instance, or Ken Bruen, who is direct enough about his debt to Chandler to title a book DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS and whose detective, Jack Taylor, is so dissipated he makes Quirke seem like “a parfait genteel knight.” Banville might take it as an insult, though I think Black would not, that the Quirke novels are as good as anything produced by his contemporaries.
  “In 2006, when Banville accepted the Booker Prize for THE SEA—and, to be clear, if they had asked me, I would have voted for it—he made his famous statement, “It’s nice to see a work of art win the Booker Prize.” The egoism expressed in this statement bothers me not at all, but the deliberate tossing about of the phrase “work of art” makes me think that the man who used it was a pretentious prig who could do with a cheap thrill or two. Perhaps there is a difference between John Banville and Benjamin Black; if so, I think I prefer the latter. Black is Banville to be sure, and as Groucho said, outside of the improvement, you can’t tell the difference.
  “Wouldn’t it be nice to see a work of pulp win the Booker Prize?”
  A couple of things about all that:
  One, a work of pulp will never win the Booker Prize, because the Booker Prize isn’t awarded for pulp. It’s like suggesting that a pole-vaulter should win the gold medal for the javelin, because they’re both Olympic sports and involve running for a bit with a big stick and then letting go. The Booker Prize is what it is; I honestly don’t get this obsession some crime fiction writers and readers have with a crime novel winning it. To me it suggests an inferiority complex, that crime fiction will only be fully validated when it wins a literary prize. The truth is, if you want to win the Booker Prize, or be in with a chance of winning it, at least, then write the kind of book that tends to win the Booker Prize. And yes, I know that there’s great excitement about the fact that AD Miller’s SNOWDROPS has been shortlisted for this year’s Booker (along with Patrick DeWitt’s western SISTERS AND BROTHERS), and happy days for AD Miller if the book wins. Would it change the way people read and write crime fiction? Should it? Isn’t one of the attractions of crime fiction that it’s the half-breed outlaw of the publishing world? It is for me, at least. Do I want or need to see the kind of stories I like to write and read receive some kind of belated pat on the head as they pass through the gilded pillars into the whited sepulchre? Because - and it gives me no great pleasure to say this - literary fiction is on its knees. And not just in terms of sales - how often have we read the latest in an interminable series of ‘the novel is dead’ eulogies, in which some writer we’ve never heard of laments the fact that the literary novel has disappeared up its own fundament? The fact of the matter is, the literary novel is a vampire, a beautiful but dead shell which requires regular infusions of new blood in order to maintain the illusion of vitality, sucking up inspiration from the genres it purports to despise. Maybe crime fiction and AD Miller’s SNOWDROPS is just the latest victim, who knows. And really, who cares?
  Secondly, and as all Three Regular Readers will be aware, Ken Bruen has yet to write a book called DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, although he did contribute a short story to the collection of essays, interviews and short fictions published by Liberties Press earlier this year.
  Thirdly, John Banville is as entitled to a sense of humour as anyone else, and his ‘It’s nice to see a work of art win the Booker Prize’ comment was as much mischief as it was any kind of qualitative judgement on previous winners.
  As to whether Benjamin Black is as good, or better, a writer than John Banville, well, that’s a matter of opinion, and mine is that Banville is the better writer by some distance. But one thing is certain: Benny Blanco don’t write no pulp, in either guise.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Ohmigod: A Royalty Cheque?

Ring the bells and break out the bunting - yours truly received his very first royalties cheque yesterday, which isn’t bad going, considering I’ve been slogging away in the trenches for the best part of a decade now. Not that I’m going to be buying any Greek islands in the near future: the cheque, which arrived from Amazon Digital Services, was for royalties on the e-version of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, and amounted to the princely sum of $111.97. Still, it’s better than a boot in the busters on a cold day.
  For those of you interested in the gory details, I published the e-version of EIGHTBALL in late February, at the rock-bottom price of $0.99c, upping the price a couple of months later, in an experiment-of-sorts, to $2.99. The new price affected sales, certainly, but not the royalties. To wit:
March: $8.05
April: $14.21
May: $23.27
June: $33.95
July: $32.49
  I should also point out that, with the publication of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS and ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL in May and August, respectively, I wasn’t really in a position to cheerlead EIGHTBALL in the way I had been in the first couple of months. Still, sales have trundled on regardless, quietly ticking over. All of the above, by the way, relates to Amazon.com, and it’s worth pointing out that Irish e-users buy from Amazon.com rather than Amazon.uk, where the e-version of EIGHTBALL has sold very few copies.
  Meanwhile, the book has also been accruing some nice reader reviews. As of this morning, it has seven reviews, six of them five-star, one four-star. The most recent runs thusly:
“1940’s West Coast LA Chandler meets 21st Century West Coast Sligo Burke. The result is an explosive noir thriller with all the usual suspects: tarnished private eye, platinum blond, soft hearted dame, crooked cops, and more wisecracks than you could shake a stick at. Burke’s terse and pithy sentences conjure up the atmosphere with authenticity, style and wit. A convincingly brilliant read.” *****
  So there you have it: EIGHTBALL BOOGIE at $2.99. For all the details, including further reviews, and some encomiums from the likes of Charlie Stella, Val McDermid and Ken Bruen, feel free to clickety-click here

Monday, September 5, 2011

Take The E-Train

Choo-choo! The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman (right) steams into the digital age with a short e-collection of short stories, titled DUBLIN EXPRESS. Quoth the Batemeister:
“‘Dublin Express’ itself first appeared in Maxim Jakubowski’s SEX IN THE CITY anthology of erotic fiction, the Dublin edition, and is chiefly notable for having no erotic content whatsoever; ‘Unhappy Endings’ was selected for this year’s MAMMOTH BOOK OF BRITISH CRIME; ‘NIPD Blue’ was my first ever short story, and the basis for a short film I directed was back in the 90s; ‘The Case of Mrs Geary’s Leather Trousers’ was the short story that originally inspired my Mystery Man novels; and finally ‘The Prize’, about an ex-terrorist who applies his old methods to conquering the art world, was originally broadcast on BBC Radio Four live from the Belfast Festival.”
  So there you have it. But lo! There’s more! Bateman has also deigned to e-publish is debut play, which was shortlisted for Best New Play at the Irish Theatre Awards last year. Back to the Batemeister:
“I think [National Anthem] is probably the best writing I’ve done. The play was premiered at last year’s Belfast Festival and was completely sold out. It was shortlisted for Best New Play at the Irish Theatre Awards but was scandalously beaten by another play.”
  DUBLIN EXPRESS can be found here, and NATIONAL ANTHEM can be found here, both at the cheap-as-chips, recession-busting price of £2.10.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

On Getting Plugged At Bouchercon

One of my highlights of the forthcoming Bouchercon in St Louis - had I been able to make it - would have been the panel hosted by Peter Rozovsky, ‘Cranky Streets: What’s So Funny About Murder?’, which will feature Colin Cotterill, Chris Ewan (who appears to be on an Uncle Travelling Matt-style walkabout across the length and breadth of the planet right now), Thomas Kaufman and Eoin Colfer.
  There’s a terrific buzz building around Colfer’s PLUGGED, the first adult crime novel from the man who turned teen megalomaniac Artemis Fowl into a literary superstar. There appears to be a growing awareness that, even if Colfer branded the Artemis novels ‘Die Hard with fairies’, there has always been a criminal instinct at play in his YA offerings, as suggested in last week’s interview with the LA Times. To wit:
Colfer, 46, might not have turned his talents to adult fare had it not been for Irish crime writer Ken Bruen, who, five years ago, asked Colfer to write a short story for the DUBLIN NOIR anthology he was editing.
  “I said, ‘I think you’ve got the wrong guy. I do fairy stories,’” Colfer told Bruen, but his colleague insisted that “when you take away the leprechauns, they’re all crime stories underneath.”
  Indeed, they are. In the seven Artemis Fowl books published so far, the crime stories are just populated with nefarious mud people and trolls and other fantasy creatures. What’s different about PLUGGED is the real-world setting, the subject matter — and Colfer’s voice, which, like the many books he’s written for children, is incomparably clever and witty. PLUGGED is just more profane and violent …
  Indeed it is. Meanwhile, there’s good and bad news for Artemis Fowl fans. The good news is, director Jim Sheridan has been confirmed to helm the first movie in the series, which will be produced by the Weinstein brothers; the bad news is, the next Artemis novel, THE LAST GUARDIAN, will be the last.
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  As for the reviews, well, it’s fair to say they’ve been of the glowing variety. Quoth, for example, the Seattle Times:
“PLUGGED is that rare book that mixes terrific suspense with laugh-out-loud humour ... [Danny] McEvoy will appeal to fans of the crime novels of Elmore Leonard and the wacky characters prevalent in the novels of Carl Hiaasen.”
  For those of you attending Bouchercon, Eoin Colfer is as funny in person as the characters he creates on the page, even if he doesn’t have any (immediate) plans for world domination, and his hair is all his own. Miss ‘Cranky Streets’ at your peril …