“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.
Tuesday, February 28, 2012
SLAUGHTER’S HOUND: A Shaggy Dog Story
Anyway, it’s done now, for good or ill. Or pretty much done, because the book will go off to an editor, and the editor will pick up on all the glaring plot holes and the occasional damp tentacle draped across a page, not to mention (so why mention it?) the complete lack of anything approaching cohesive grammar and punctuation. So, yes, there will be changes to make, and commas to fiddle obsessively with, and no doubt the occasional stray tentacle will come in very useful for the purpose of self-flagellation.
But to all intents and purposes, the book - SLAUGHTER’S HOUND - is done. And so am I. This has, by some distance, been the toughest book I’ve ever written. I think that that’s in part because I was writing against my previous / current offering, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is a tongue-in-cheek take on the crime novel, and wanted SLAUGHTER’S HOUND to be very much a straight crime novel; and while it’s nice to bounce around the genre and play games and have fun, there’s something very satisfying in playing the game straight and hard and clean. Not that SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is very ‘clean’ - it’s a filthy, grimy slice of noir, or so I hope.
The main reason it was a tough book to write, though, is that it’s the first book I’ve written since the light of my life, aka the Princess Lilyput, grew old enough to climb the stairs on her own and come tapping on the door of my lair and demand I come play with her. Which meant that most of the book was written between the hours of 5am and 7am, while Lily is still asleep, and before the day proper begins. It’s a lovely time to write, because there’s absolutely no danger that you’ll be disturbed by anything except the occasional (frequent) realisation of your own limitations, but that kind of schedule, when you’re also running a full-time freelance journalism schedule, just isn’t sustainable in the long run. Right now I feel blitzed to the bone, utterly exhausted, as if I’ve burnt the candle at both ends and taken a flamethrower to the middle. The prospect of sleeping in until 7am tomorrow morning is so delicious as to verge on sinful.
There’s a slump coming, I know. The nervous energy (and buckets of coffee) that sustain me through the final, frenzied stages of a book requires payback, the mental equivalent of crawling into a cave and curling up in the foetal position, fingers stuffed in my ears. And there’s an emotional price too, if you’re in any way engaged emotionally with your characters - right now it feels as if I’ve been living for the last few weeks with one foot in reality and the other in the makey-uppy world, some kind of half-assed Atlas shouldering a sky of his own making. Yes, I know it’s only a detective novel, but that’s not really the point: if you’re committed to it, then it takes a certain amount of psychic energy to bring it into being and (koff) keep it real - and once it’s done and you step away, hoping the architecture is such that it stands alone without your support, then that can be a very draining experience.
And then, of course, there’s the girding of the metaphorical loins to hear the offer for your work, and the kick in the metaphorical groin when you realise just how little all that effort is worth, in cash terms at least.
It’s traditional at this point for me to announce that that’s it, I’ll never write another book again; but at this stage, who would I be kidding? Already there’s an asp’s nest stirring and hissing in the back of my head, the vague outlines of another story coming together.
Finally, and given that SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is a sequel to my first book, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, I’m going to celebrate finishing the former by making the ebook of the latter available at the knock-down, recession-friendly price of $3.99 / £2.50 for the next 30 days. A private eye-of-sorts tale featuring ‘research consultant’ Harry Rigby, it was described on its publication as ‘the future of Irish crime fiction’ by no less an expert on the future of Irish crime fiction as Ken Bruen. For all the details and links, clickety-click here …