“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, October 29, 2011

Make Mine A Nun With A Gun

As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman published NINE INCHES this month, and terrific it is too: very, very funny, but very dark too. A tough combination to pull off, but then Bateman has been doing so ever since very first Dan Starkey novel, DIVORCING JACK. The good news for those who haven’t had the pleasure is that DIVORCING JACK is back in print, with a spanking new cover, and an irresistible subtitle: ‘Vodka, Violence and a Nun With a Gun’. Anyone interested in this beast we call the new wave of Irish crime writing, or ‘Emerald Noir’, need look no further for its seminal text. Quoth the blurb elves:
I was upstairs with a girl I shouldn’t have been upstairs with when my wife whispered in my ear, ‘You have twenty-four hours to move out.’ The book that started it all, Bateman’s first novel published in 1995. It introduced the world to the hapless, endlessly wily and witty Belfast journalist Dan Starkey. Dan shares with his wife an appetite for drinking and dancing. But when he meets Margaret, things get seriously out of hand. Terrifyingly, unbelievably, she is murdered. Before long Dan is a target himself, racing against time to crack the mystery.
  I’ll always have a very soft spot for DIVORCING JACK, because it was the book that allowed me believe that I might be able to make a stab at crime writing. Not for the usual reason - ‘Jayz, that’s crap, I can do better than that.’ No, it was the winning blend of hard-boiled prose and humour, a Chandleresque take on the Troubles, catnip to a wannabe writer for whom Chandler was where it started and ended (although now I know that Bateman was more influenced by Robert B Parker). A brave book too, given that the mid-’90s was a particularly fraught time in Northern Ireland, and DIVORCING JACK takes no prisoners as it paints all sides with the stupid brush. Anyway, I’m delighted to see it back in print, not least because it’s all the excuse I need to give it yet another read. I believe the phrase is ‘unalloyed joy’ …

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Drop Of The Hard Stuff

Is it just me, or are more and more of the top class crime authors coming into Dublin these days? In the last couple of months I’ve got to interview Dennis Lehane, Val McDermid, Robert Harris, Lynda LaPlante, Liza Marklund and Lee Child, and today I’m off to have a chat with Michael Connelly, who’s currently doing the rounds to mark the publication of his latest Harry Bosch novel, THE DROP. Quoth the blurb elves:
Harry Bosch is facing the end of the line. He’s been put on the DROP - Deferred Retirement Option Plan - and given three years before his retirement is enforced. Seeing the end of the mission coming, he’s anxious for cases. He doesn’t have to wait long. First a cold case gets a DNA hit for a rape and murder which points the finger at a 29-year-old convicted rapist who was only eight at the time of the murder. Then a city councilman’s son is found dead - fallen or pushed from a hotel window - and he insists on Bosch taking the case despite the two men’s history of enmity. The cases are unrelated but they twist around each other like the double helix of a DNA strand. One leads to the discovery of a killer operating in the city for as many as three decades; the other to a deep political conspiracy that reached back into the dark history of the police department.
  I read THE DROP during the week, by the way, and superb stuff it is, too.
  I have to say, it’s a pretty nice buzz sitting down with top class writers. It’s not universal, by any means, but my experience has been that the better a writer is, and the more successful, then the nicer a human being they tend to be. Not that that should matter, really - all that really matters is whether they’re producing good books - but it does.
  I’m particularly fond of Michael Connelly, even before I meet him, not only because he qualifies as an Irish crime writer under FIFA’s grandparent ruling, but because he agreed to write the Foreword to DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS (Liberties Press), which was pretty damn sweet.
  Anyway, Michael Connelly will be doing a book-signing event in Eason’s on O’Connell Street, Dublin, on Saturday, October 29th, at 12.30pm. Why not drop along, say hello and treat yourself to one of the finest crime novels of the year?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Suffrage, Little Children

It’s all about democracy on Crime Always Pays today, as Ireland heads to the polling booths to vote on our next President, and a couple of constitutional amendments, the latter being far more important than the former, in my humble opinion. Far more important than either, of course, is the public vote in the Irish Book Awards, for which ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL has been short-listed, so anyone who isn’t Irish today, but feels like voting for something, or against something, should clickety-click on this link and exercise their suffrage.
  Incidentally, I’ve had a complaint or two - two, to be precise, both of them from Ms Witch - that the voting process isn’t as straightforward as it should be. Anyone else have a problem with the system?
  Anyway, and while I’m on the subject of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, I was very pleased indeed to read the inimitable Charlie Stella’s verdict on said tome during the week. The full piece can be found here, but the gist runneth thusly:
“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is an absolutely wonderful read, start to finish. Declan Burke has penned the most original work of cross-genre fiction I’ve read in a long time. Literary, socially conscious, journalistically cynical … an absolute must-read.” - Charlie Stella
  I thank you kindly, Mr Stella. Oh, and if you’re even remotely interested in hearing my witterings on a variety of random subjects, Tony Black hosts a Q&A with yours truly over at Pulp Pusher. Why not drop on over and say hello to Tony? He’s Scottish, after all, and that can get a bit lonely at times.
  Right, that’s me away to vote. See you on the other side …

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

To Hell And Basque

UPDATE: New comes in hot off the Twitter that THE INSIDER by @ava_mccarthy has just been optioned for film by Jeremy Wall of Polaris Pictures. Excellent news, ma’am, and hearty congrats.

It’s been a busy, busy time for Irish crime launches recently, folks. John Connolly, Arlene Hunt, Alan Glynn, John Galvin and Stuart Neville have all offered their latest tomes in the last month or so (John Galvin publishing his fiction debut), and Ava McCarthy joins their ranks tomorrow, Thursday October 27th, with her third novel, HIDE ME. First, the blurb elves:
Feisty security expert Henrietta ‘Harry’ Martinez puts her life on the line when she goes undercover to expose an international criminal gang in this heartstopping thriller. In a game without rules, the winner takes all … Security expert Henrietta ‘Harry’ Martinez has arrived in beautiful San Sebastian, birthplace of her Spanish father. But she’s not here to explore her roots. She’s been hired by glamorous casino boss Riva Mills to expose a scamming crew, headed by ruthless conman Franco Chavez. When the crew’s expert hacker is brutally murdered, Harry goes undercover as his replacement. As she infiltrates the dangerous criminal organization, she begins to understand that Chavez’s schemes reach far beyond the casino sting. Suddenly trapped in a deadly global underworld that encompasses international terrorism, organized crime and drug cartels, Harry learns that when you play this game, you play for your life …
  I’m looking forward to seeing this one, I have to say, not least for its Basque setting, which is an unusual international setting for an Irish crime author. I’m not the only one - McCarthy’s previous offerings have garnered some very nice reviews indeed. To wit:
‘Gripping … the tech details ring frighteningly true, the twists in the tight plot are smart … a storming debut thriller … in Harry Martinez, the writer has a strong, attractive and super-smart central character who is ripe for another adventure.’ - Irish Times

‘An edge-of-your-seat thriller…McCarthy cranks the tension like an experienced pro … Harry Martinez is one of the most likeable heroines I’ve read in a long time, plucky, stubborn, vulnerable and smart … McCarthy gives readers plenty to think about throughout her smart debut.’ - Irish Independent

‘An absorbing thriller … a fast-moving story makes this Irish writer’s first novel a very good start.’ - Literary Review
  So there you have it. The launch of Ava McCarthy’s HIDE ME takes place at Raven Books, Main Street, Blackrock, Co. Dublin, at 7pm on Thursday, October 27th. For all the details, clickety-click here

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: BLOODLAND by Alan Glynn

A tabloid star is killed in a helicopter crash. Three years later, a young freelance journalist, Jimmy Gilroy, is warned off the story by a political ‘fixer’, who has long been associated with the disgraced ex-taoiseach, Larry Bolger. Meanwhile, a private security contractor goes postal in the Congo whilst escorting an American politician with presidential ambitions, with deadly consequences.
  The story’s central spine is Jimmy Gilroy’s investigation of the death of the tabloid star, a young woman who is overly fond of her cocaine, and who bears more than a passing resemblance to Katy French. His original investigation, however, is a thread that, once pulled, begins to unravel an international conspiracy to cover up the murder of another passenger on the helicopter.
  This passenger is an Italian man who has threatened to blow the whistle on an American corporation which is mining a very precious metal in the Congo. That American corporation has links, via the American political fixer James Vaughn, to the proposed presidential election campaign of a US senator, JJ Rundle. James Vaughn, in turn, has links to ex-taoiseach Larry Bolger, who was party to a botched property deal in Glynn’s previous novel, WINTERLAND.
  Spanning three continents - or four, if we admit the peripheral activities of the Chinese in the Congo - BLOODLAND is a sprawling, labyrinthine thriller which has strong echoes of the classic 1970s paranoid crime thrillers, and particularly movies such as Three Days of the Condor and Chinatown. It 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.
  Ultimately, Jimmy Conway’s investigations, which take him from Dublin to Italy and on to New York, result in the downfall of the US Senator JJ Rundle and his businessman brother, Clark.
  While this appears on the face of it a happy ending, Glynn leaves us in no doubt that even if some of the players on the board will change, the game will remain the same, particularly in terms of the backroom fixers with their hands on the levers of power, such as the Machiavellian James Vaughn.
  BLOODLAND isn’t exactly a sequel to WINTERLAND, even if it employs some of the characters that appeared in that novel; it’s obvious, though, that Glynn is returning to some of the themes he touched on in WINTERLAND, and painting them on a broader canvas.
  I liked the style and the context, that of the hard-bitten thriller in the paranoid mould. I was very impressed with the scale of Glynn’s ambition, too; I found the scenes set outside of Ireland very vividly drawn, especially those set in the Congo.
  I did wonder - as a freelance writer - about the extent of Jimmy Gilroy’s motivation, particularly at the start of the novel. He’s not particularly idealistic, and most freelance journos, especially in these straitened times, would be happy enough to be ‘bought off’ by a plum job, particularly as Jimmy doesn’t have any real inkling of the scale of the cover-up when he is first approached by the political fixer and warned off.
  Overall, I very much liked the book, and warmly recommend it. Apparently it’s the second in a loose ‘trilogy’, and I’ll be first in the queue when the third instalment appears. - Declan Burke

Alan Glynn’s BLOODLAND has been short-listed for the Ireland AM Crime Fiction Award in the Bord Gais Irish Book Awards. To vote for it, clickety-click here

Hate In A Cold Climate

I was at the launch of the Irish Book Awards short-lists last Thursday morning, during the course of which I was introduced to a PR lady who, on hearing that I’m a crime writer, began babbling about this terrific new book coming in January of next year by Adrian McKinty. “I’ve heard of him,” sez I. “Rumour has it he’s not half-bad …”
  The new book the lady was referring to is THE COLD, COLD GROUND, a standalone title from McKinty that I’m very much hoping will become the first in a series; I read it a couple of months ago, and it’s superb. Herewith be the blurb elves:
Northern Ireland. Spring 1981. Hunger strikes. Riots. Power cuts. A homophobic serial killer with a penchant for opera. A young woman’s suicide that may yet turn out to be murder. On the surface, these events are unconnected, but then things - and people - aren’t always what they seem. Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy is trying to get to the bottom of it all, but it’s no easy job - especially for a Catholic policeman at the height of the Troubles.
  His publishers are calling McKinty ‘the David Peace of Northern Ireland’, which is lavish indeed, and they’re not the only ones to be lauding him. Ken Bruen opened up his brand new blog with a post about COLD, COLD GROUND, calling it ‘riveting, brilliant, and just about the best book yet on Northern Ireland’.
  COLD, COLD GROUND is published on January 5th; if I were you, I’d get it on my Christmas wish-list now. Meantime, why not drop on over to Ken Bruen’s blog and welcome him to the blogosphere? He loves a good chat, does Ken …

Monday, October 24, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Tom Galvin

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
THE POSTMAN ALWAYS RINGS TWICE by James M. Cain. It’s got so many elements that make it such a tragic and emotional read. Of course the lesson is there -- regardless of circumstances, you don’t profit from crime, even crimes of passion. Not that everyone would agree with that, particularly in the current climate. But this is a story that pulls you in so many directions but ultimately breaks your heart. It is a crime story, but a very credible and human one. If a story lacks humanity, somewhere, then it struggles to be told.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Where to start . . . lots of fictional characters I love as fictional characters, but then there are characters in fiction that are so vividly portrayed that they sit better in an everyday world. One jumps out, the character Ed in James Dickey’s novel, DELIVERANCE, so brilliantly played Jon Voight in the film. He is the one who rises above the horror of the situation the group find themselves in -- not only against their pursuers, but against the natural elements -- and comes out the cool hero. Although in the book Ed is a balding, pudgy character in his forties somewhere; so I would prefer the Jon Voight version if that’s okay.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
My last ‘guilty pleasure’ was Stephen King’s FULL DARK, NO STARS. Why King is classified as a ‘guilty pleasure’ is a mystery to me. As he is one of the greatest story tellers there is and while there were a couple of tales in this collection that disappointed the first, 1922, is one of the darkest and most original stories I’ve read in years. My only other crib here . . . the cover image of the night sky? There were lots of stars on it. Something in that perhaps?

Most satisfying writing moment?
There have been a couple. In terms of actual writing, there was a ‘eureka’ moment in a novel called THE RUSSIAN DOLL, which came to me when I went to a Russian exclave called Kaliningrad to research the book. I needed a strong plot twist and couldn’t come up with one. I spent a fortune getting there and it was the weirdest place I’ve ever visited. But while I was there I got what I needed and finished the book. It’s on the way . . . I hope. In terms of satisfaction as a writer, getting the first copy of GABRIEL’S GATE home. It was almost three in the morning and I was soused and pickled but I sat up and savoured the moment. That book has a long history, a long wait, and I had actually abandoned it a long time ago. So holding a physical copy I thought I would never get to hold was incredible. Of course, the hard work starts now. But at least it gets the ball rolling at a time when I was literally on the verge of dropping out of the game altogether because of so many other commitments.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Martin Dillon’s THE SHANKHILL BUTCHERS still makes me shudder every time. I normally read a book that grips me several times; but this could only be read once. Of course it wasn’t fiction, so in terms of a novel, I’ll give it to John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE. I was reading a lot of Camus at the time as a student and this sat comfortably with the mood I was in.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Quite a few now ... but will take a punt on something by Declan Hughes being grabbed soon; maybe Tana French.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
You’re never satisfied. Even when you reach a goal, you don’t even want to stand long enough to give yourself a round of applause. All you’re thinking is . . . now what will I do?

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s set in Mexico and concerns a group of travellers on their last trip as a circle of friends who unwittingly become involved in, how should I put it, an ‘existential kidnapping’ in the jungles of the Yucatan. Have I coined a new phrase? Perhaps a new genre?

Who are you reading right now?
Cormac McCarthy’s Border Trilogy; it was on my list for some time as I have read so much of this great man’s work. I began it before revising GABRIEL’S GATE but had to drop it because there was no time. As with all of McCarthy’s books, it kicks, punches, shocks and caresses the soul all in equal measures. Also at my elbow is Arlene Hunt’s new book, THE CHOSEN, and Declan Burke’s ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL. One at a time folks . . .

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Drink.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Read me please.

Tom Galvin’s GABRIEL’S GATE is published by Book Republic.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Souls For Sale

Get ’em while they’re hot, they’re luvverly, etc. Stuart Neville will be in Dublin on Tuesday, October 25th, to launch his latest tome, STOLEN SOULS, and a fine night it should be, too. Few writers of recent times have had such a vertical ascent to stardom - THE TWELVE, Stuart’s debut, as all Three Regular Readers will be aware, was a runaway bestseller, and nabbed the LA Times’ gong for Best Crime / Mystery Novel for that year. He followed that up with COLLUSION, which featured DI Jack Lennon, and Lennon returns for STOLEN SOULS, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Galya Petrova travels to Ireland on a promise that she will work for a nice Russian family, teaching their children English. Instead, she is dragged into the world of modern slavery, sold to a Belfast brothel, and held there against her will. She escapes at a terrible cost—the slaying of one of her captors—and takes refuge with a man who offers his help. As the traffickers she fled scour the city for her, seeking revenge for their fallen comrade, Galya faces an even greater danger: her saviour is not what he seems. She is not the first trafficked girl to have crossed his threshold, and she must fight to avoid their fate. Detective Inspector Jack Lennon wants a quiet Christmas with his daughter, but when an apparent turf war between rival gangs leaves bodies across the city, he knows he won't get it. As he digs deeper into the case, he realizes an escaped prostitute is the cause of the violence, and soon he is locked in a deadly race with two very different killers.
  Nice. The launch of STOLEN SOULS takes place on Tuesday, October 25th at The Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, with festivities kicking off at 6.30pm, and those of you impressed by such things will be duly impressed to learn that the novel carries an encomium from one James Ellroy. And if it’s good enough for James Ellroy, etc. I’ll see you there - but do be careful, and keep a tight grip on your souls. The Gutter Bookshop will take no responsibility for eternal damnation, etc.