“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 23, 2011

Mysteriouser And Mysteriouser ...

All going well - which isn’t always the case for yours truly when it comes to airports - I’ll be in New York as you’re reading this, all sweaty-palmed with excitement at the prospect of wandering along to the Mysterious Bookshop at 6pm, there to join with John Connolly, Arlene Hunt, Declan Hughes, Stuart Neville, Alex Barclay, Colin Bateman and Professor Ian Ross as the quasi-mythical Otto Penzler hosts a coteries of Irish crime writers who may or may not be the first wave of what might prove to be a tsunami of Irish crime writers breaking on US shores. For all the details of what should prove to be a very enjoyable evening indeed, clickety-click here
  The following day, as I’ve mentioned before, said writers will be joined by their Irish-American peers Pete Hamill and Peter Quinn as John Waters hosts a day-long symposium on the Irish crime novel at Ireland House, NYU. I’ve been looking forward to this one for quite some time now, particularly as it will mark the official launch of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS in the North American territory. There’s a terrific day’s schedule lined up - again, for all the details, clickety-click here
  And that’s pretty much it for now. In theory I’d like to blog about the events as they happen, but I may well be self-sabotaged by the desperate need for sleep whenever I’m not actually talking or eating. It’s been a hell of a six months, what with two books being published, and juggling all that goes with that with a day-job, all the while trying to write a new novel. Still, a weekend like the one in prospect makes all the long hours worthwhile, especially as it’ll be spent in some very fine company indeed. Normal-ish service will very probably be resumed on Monday, jet-lag permitting; until then, folks, I’m outta here …

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Uptown, Top Rankin

The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman gets in touch to avail of the two molecules of oxygen publicity Crime Always Pays offers, suggesting that we might like to mention the fact that tonight, Thursday 22nd, he’ll be interviewing one of the crime writing world’s luminaries tonight in Bangor, Norn Iron. To wit:
“I’m launching ‘Colin Bateman’s Crime Night’ at the Aspects Literary Festival in my local manor of Bangor, which will in a very minor way feature the launch of my new novel, NINE INCHES, and in a very major way see me attempt to interview Ian Rankin in the festival marquee before 300 baying fans of yon Scottish bloke. Amongst other questions, I will ask him if he would ever considered dropping his first name and just being called Rankin, because it’s all the rage.”
  Short notice, I know, but hey - that’s the way the Batemeister rolls. For booking details, clickety-click here.
  Meanwhile, I understand that said whippersnapper Ian Rankin also has a new title for your delectation, said tome being called THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Malcolm Fox and his team from Internal Affairs are back. They’ve been sent to Fife to investigate whether fellow cops covered up for a corrupt colleague, Detective Paul Carter. Carter has been found guilty of misconduct with his own uncle, also in the force, having proved to be his nephew’s nemesis. But what should be a simple job is soon complicated by intimations of conspiracy and cover-up - and a brutal murder, a murder committed with a weapon that should not even exist. The spiralling investigation takes Fox back in time to 1985, a year of turmoil in British political life. Terrorists intent on a split between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom were becoming more brazen and ruthless, sending letter-bombs and poisonous spores to government offices, plotting kidnaps and murder, and trying to stay one step ahead of the spies sent to flush them out. Fox has a duty to get at the truth, while the body count rises, the clock starts ticking, and he fights for his professional and personal life.
  So there you have it. Two titans of the contemporary crime writing scene together at last, in Bangor, Norn Iron. The place may never be the same again …

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Crime Always Pays: 400,000 Not Out

Barring unforeseen disaster, at some point today, or more probably tomorrow, Crime Always Pays will pass the 400,000 hits mark, and begin its Sisyphean journey towards the magical half-million. A rather small hill of beans, I know, in the grander scheme of things, and I’d trade them all for a milking cow, or a beanstalk, or even a flunky called Jack who might wander forth and bring home a goose that lays golden eggs. Or even one golden egg. Or just an egg.
  Anyway, I wanted to mark the moment not to blow any trumpets (although I might let loose with a kazoo-parp as the hit-counter ticks past the mark), but to celebrate the blog and what - or who, more importantly - it represents. When it all kicked off about four and a half years ago, Irish crime writing was still very much a niche-niche genre - to be honest, I thought I’d be lucky if I found myself talking about twenty or so writers, past and present. As it happened, I was extraordinarily lucky, in that I started CAP (to plug THE BIG O, at the time) just as Irish writers started churning out top quality crime fiction in astonishing quantity and quality. I was also very lucky in that some of the top Irish writers at the time - in particular John Connolly and Ken Bruen - were more than happy to play along, and lend their considerable reputations to the gig by taking part in various blog posts I suggested; as a result, CAP was picked up by a whole host of like-minded people in the wider crime writing and reading community, and we were off and running.
  Four and a half years later, there’s been a lot of highs and lows. As all Three Regular Readers (who were obviously very busy hitting the repeat button) will already know, I’ve downed tools on CAP on a couple of occasions, unable to keep up with various other demands, most of them related to labour that pays in more than love. Mostly, though, it’s been highs. For starters, and probably most importantly, I’ve met so many terrific people through CAP that I really couldn’t start to count them, and some of my best friends these days originated on these pages. When all is said and done, and in accepting that we’re all here because we love books, these are the things that truly matter.
  Other personal highs include seeing THE BIG O get published in the US, not least because so many people were good enough to play their part in creating a word-of-mouth buzz that eventually proved irresistible; the publication of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, which was a direct and logical follow-on from CAP; and seeing ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL finally emerge from its purgatory to sit on a shelf as an actual book, having first debuted in public on these pages and received such strong support and goodwill that it would have been churlish not to pursue its publication to the bitter end.
  There’s also the fact that CAP has - by default, almost - put me in a position whereby I tend to catch new Irish crime writers at an early stage, and thus get that wonderful buzz of ‘discovering’ new writers, a buzz that’s only really matched by the thrill of being able to let the world at large know about the latest sensation that’s on its way.
  It’s a total coincidence, of course, but a timely one, that the 400,000 hits mark will be passed this week, and very probably on the day I fly out to New York in the company of some very fine Irish crime writers - Colin Bateman, Arlene Hunt, Declan Hughes, Alex Barclay - for a symposium on Irish crime fiction to be hosted by Ireland House at NYU, which will also be attended by John Connolly and Stuart Neville, who are currently at large in the US and very probably terrorising unsuspecting bystanders. Very nice it’ll be too to spend a weekend in such august company, especially for the purpose of bigging up the Irish crime novel in general and specifically DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS; and particularly as it was a Dublin dinner in the company of two men, John Waters and Joe Long, when I first got the glimmer of the idea that became GREEN STREETS. All kinds of synchronicity, then, will be sparking in New York this weekend; if you’re going to be in the vicinity, feel free to drop by and say hi. All the details can be found here
  Finally, I’m going to mark the 400,000 mark with a very humble offering, being a threefer of signed copies of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, THE BIG O and ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL to the person who drops a comment in the box closest to the ticking-over moment. If, as is highly unlikely, it appears that there’s something of a tie, I’ll put the names in a hat and draw the winner.
  Until then, I thank you all for your support, kindness and encouragement over the last four and a half years, and here’s to another four and a half years to come …

The West Is Awake, And Lethal

It’s hard to keep pace with all the Irish crime fiction titles being published lately, and these days I’m in dire danger of the blogging equivalent of being lapped. Nevertheless, we’ll huff and puff onwards, doing our best to bring you the very latest in crime offerings …
  There’s two for your delectation today, both courtesy of the West of Ireland. First up, Conan Kennedy, who has THE COLOUR OF HER EYES published by Mayo’s Morrigan Press, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
This is the story of Ruth Taylor. We meet her first as a troubled schoolgirl in a poor part of London. Her teacher there is John Dexter. They have a brief meeting, and do not meet again for five years. By then he is a married man with children, and she a single mother of a daughter. They have another brief connection, and do not meet again for another five years. THE COLOUR OF HER EYES tells the story of why, and what happens then, and who they really are. And tells the story of the investigation of a crime by Detective Inspector Harris.
  For more on Conan Kennedy, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, Galway’s Doire Press publishes KILLER A LA CARTE by renowned chef and food writer Gerry Galvin. Unsurprisingly, the novel has a culinary flavour. To wit:
KILLER A LA CARTE is the story of James Livingstone Gall, London food critic and serial killer. Behind a façade of pedantry, and foodie one-upmanship James is a dangerous psychopath. The story traces James’ perversely romantic association with heiress Claudia Catalano, whose hotels’ tycoon father was having an affair with James’ mother Grace, at the time of his suspicious death. Claudia holds Grace responsible, desires revenge but is also attracted to James. Their headlong, murderous progression is at the heart of the narrative.
  So there you have it. Conan Kennedy and Gerry Galvin, two more names to add to the ever-lengthening roll-call of Irish crime writing. I may be wrong, but something tells me this pair are going to be a couple of mavericks …

Monday, September 19, 2011

ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL: From Zero To Hero

The Sunday Times’ Culture section did me up a kipper over the weekend, giving over two-thirds of a page to a review of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by Kristoffer Mullin, and plugging said review on the Contents page with the line, ‘Declan Burke’s genre-busting thriller about blowing up a hospital is a blast.’
  I’d have been happy enough with that much as a review, to be perfectly honest, not least because the Sunday Times tends to parsimonious with ye olde compliments - it’s fair to say, while drawing a discreet veil over the gory details, that they were less than impressed with DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS.
  It’s also fair to say that Kristoffer Mullin liked AZC. Under the headline, ‘Raising the Stakes’, the gist runs thusly:
“Burke’s peers have showered him with plaudits, describing ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL as a wildly inventive take on noir fiction, and comparing its creator to Flann O’Brien, Raymond Chandler, John Fowles and Paul Auster. It’s hard to disagree, though another name should be thrown in there: Bret Easton Ellis, with his skewed perspectives, acid humour and pop-culture references.
  “Karlsson is a thrilling creation, up there with the Patrick Batemans of literature. Misanthropic and bitterly cynical, the hospital porter is also philosophical and occasionally inspired. The twisted logic that leads to him plotting to blow up the hospital is a masterpiece of unsavoury reflection on history and Darwinism blended with a hefty dose of sociopathy, yet always leavened with pitch-black wit.
  “That humour is a constant throughout the novel […]
  “Yet for all the literary devices and sharp humour, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL would be little more than a clever diversion if it did not also succeed as a thriller. Burke ratchets up the tension beautifully towards the climax, its inevitability foreshadowed by an opening scene that becomes all the more disturbing in retrospect as the novel progresses.
  To borrow from [Ken] Bruen’s blurb, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year: funny and disturbing, it also straddles a fine line between the absurd and the profound. It never forgets the conventions of crime fiction, while simultaneously subverting them. A triumph.” - Kristoffer Mullin, Sunday Times
  Funnily enough, and vis-à-vis the Bret Easton Ellis reference, the title ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is in part a nod towards LESS THAN ZERO, which is a very fine novel and a terrific title.
  Anyway, there you have it. We’re kind of running out of print media review outlets here in Ireland, given that the Irish Times has had its say, and the Irish Independent, and the Sunday Business Post, so I guess that that’s probably the last review of its kind. Still, if that does happen to be the case, it’s a very, very nice way to go out. I thank you kindly, one and all …

Sunday, September 18, 2011

On The Irish Crime Novel And Tat

I was supposed to take part, via Skype link-up, in the Bouchercon panel on Irish crime writing yesterday, a panel hosted by Erin Mitchell and featuring John Connolly, Stuart Neville, Eoin Colfer and Erin Hart. Sadly, the technology let us down, and I was reduced to earwigging on the event, which sounded like it was terrific fun, with much in the way of self-effacing humour and self-mockery. Erm, chaps? It behoves you to act with appropriate seriousness, and whinge a lot about how you’re a second-class literary citizen, etc. Otherwise, crime writing will never get the credit it deserves from the likes of John Boland.
  Anyhoo, I had an interview with said John Connolly published yesterday in the Irish Examiner to mark the publication of his latest Charlie Parker novel, THE BURNING SOUL, which opened up a lot like this:
“You know the Irish crime novel has arrived,” says John Connolly, “because we’ve started producing tat. In the beginning it was a blank canvas, and there wasn’t a lot of money to be made, and there was a lot of experimentation, people whizzing off in interesting directions into virgin territory. Now we have the foot-soldiers coming through, producing stuff we’ve read in other forms before. Especially with the serial killer novel, which in the wrong hands can quickly spiral out of control and become a bit nasty, bodies piling up all over the pages.”
  The Irish crime novel was still something of a novelty in 1999 when Connolly, then an Irish Times journalist, published his debut, ‘Every Dead Thing’. Set in Maine in the US, and featuring the private eye Charlie Parker, its experimental aspect was the blending of conventional crime fiction tropes with elements of the gothic novel, and particularly those of the supernatural.
  “Crime fiction is still very uncomfortable with any kind of experimentation,” he says, “anything that deviates from a functional, rationalist take on the world. But I think it’s legitimate to introduce other elements, and elements that are directly opposed to that rationalist mindset ...”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Staying with said John Connolly, the Dark Lord will be leading the charge to New York next week, when he heads up a posse of Irish crime scribes being hosted by Ireland House at NYU for the purpose of celebrating the rise and rise of Irish crime fiction. Attendees will include John Connolly, Stuart Neville, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Declan Hughes, Colin Bateman and Professor Ian Ross on the Irish side, and Peter Quinn and Pete Hamill holding up the Irish-American end. The event takes place from 9.30am to 7pm on Saturday, September 24th at Ireland House; if you’re in the vicinity, clickety-click here for all the details