“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, February 17, 2012

The Killing Floor

Aifric Campbell’s two novels to date, THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER and THE LOSS ADJUSTOR, have offered intriguing variations on the conventional crime novel, and her latest, ON THE FLOOR (Serpent’s Tail), sounds as if it continues in a similar vein. Quoth the blurb elves:
In the City, everything has a price. What’s yours? At the age of twenty-eight, Dubliner Geri Molloy has put her troubled past behind her to become a major player at Steiner’s investment bank in London, earning $850k a year doing business with a reclusive hedge fund manager in Hong Kong who, in return for his patronage, likes to ask her about Kant and watch while she eats exotic Asian delicacies. For five years Geri has had it all, but in the months leading up to the outbreak of the Gulf War in 1991, her life starts to unravel. Abandoned by her corporate financier boyfriend, in the grip of a debilitating insomnia, and drinking far too much, Geri becomes entangled in a hostile takeover involving her boss, her client and her ex. With her career on the line as a consequence, and no one to turn to, she is close to losing it, in every sense. Taut and fast-paced, ON THE FLOOR is about making money and taking risks; it’s about getting away with it, and what happens when you’re no longer one step ahead; ultimately, though, it’s a reminder to never, ever underestimate the personal cost of success.
  An advance copy of ON THE FLOOR arrived at CAP Towers yesterday, sending the ARC-reading elves into a frenzy of anticipation which barely stopped short of the book itself being flittered. Looks like I’ll have to run a lottery, to see who gets the privilege of dipping into it first. And there was you thinking CAP Towers was all about hammocks, Cuban cigars and high-balls once the sun crawls over the yardarm …

Thursday, February 16, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Lyndsay Faye

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 BIG SLEEP by Raymond Chandler. “It was about eleven o’clock in the morning, mid October, with the sun not shining and a look of hard wet rain in the clearness of the foothills.” Stare at that sentence for two or three minutes and marvel at its perfection. That book is magical.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Dr. John H. Watson. I’d have spent my entire life watching someone be amazing.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t feel much in the way of guilt about my pleasures, truth be told. But I do collect atrociously written Sherlock Holmes pastiches, the more crack and unlikely Victorian celebrity cameos and bodice-ripping covers with floating deerstalker art the better. (Incidentally, I also collect excellent ones, but there’s no guilt whatsoever in that.)

Most satisfying writing moment?
Finishing my first novel. I was baffled by the fact I’d managed it for months. I’m still baffled by it, actually - I’ve never been involved in a single “creative writing” class, just a bunch of excellent courses on the classics, and editorial work like my university writing centre and campus literary magazine.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Ooh, apologies to the classics. But IN THE WOODS by Tana French really hits my sweet spot. So gritty and atmospheric and human.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Is THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR by Gene Kerrigan a movie yet?

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst aspect for me is the occasional emotional roller coaster that happens in total solitude. Does this work? Will it come together? What if it doesn’t? Where’s the whiskey? But when someone tells me they identified with a person or a moment I invented from thin air - that’s glorious.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Welcome to the sequel to THE GODS OF GOTHAM, winter of 1846, in which I do more terrible, terrible things to Timothy and Valentine Wilde.

Who are you reading right now?
Alex George’s THE GOOD AMERICAN - he’s a fellow Amy Einhorn author. It’s marvellous.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
What a heinous circumstance. Well, selfishly ... I think I’d read.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Open, open, open. I’m all about character exposure, breaking people apart to see the nasty and beautiful and selfish and brave bits. The crimes are incidental for me, like nutcrackers or lobster scissors - they exist to get at the meat of the person I’m writing about.

Lyndsay Faye’s THE GODS OF GOTHAM is published by Headline Review.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The Second Life Of Reilly

Last year’s TABOO, from husband-and-wife writing partnership Casey Hill, dragged Irish crime fiction into the bright ‘n’ shiny CSI age, as their Quantico-trained investigator Reilly Steel arrived in Dublin to head up a brand new forensics office and hunt down a nefarious serial killer. A UK production team is currently beavering away to bring Reilly to a TV screen near you; in the meantime Casey Hill’s sophomore offering, TORN (Simon & Schuster), will be hitting the shelves in March. Quoth the blurb elves:
When an ex-cop is found frozen to death in a bath of ice at a disused meatpacking plant, the Dublin police conclude it may be one of the man’s past collars taking revenge. Shortly afterwards, a tabloid journalist is found drowned in his own septic tank, buried up to the neck in excrement. The reporter had many enemies, but why would someone go to such elaborate lengths to exact revenge? Both crime scenes are a forensic investigator’s worst nightmare. The locations and victims yield little in the way of usable evidence, and Reilly Steel quickly discovers that she may be dealing with a killer - or killers - who know all about crime scene investigation. The police are just as frustrated by the crimes’ impenetrable nature, and it’s only when a third murder occurs - equally graphic and elaborate in its execution - that the police and Reilly begin to wonder if the same person might be responsible. And they soon discover that this particular killer is using a very specific blueprint for his crimes. Who is the killer’s next victim? And what’s his endgame?
  Bodies packed in ice in meatpacking plants? Journos drowning in septic tanks full of excrement? Outsiders coming in to clear up our mess? Is TORN an extended metaphor for how ripped apart is Irish society in these straitened times? Or is it just good, clean serial-killing fun? YOU decide.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Survival Of The Figgis

I ended up nearly walking into a lamppost yesterday on Dawson Street, as I glanced into the front window of Hodges Figgis (right) and did a comedy double-take. It’s a rare but pleasurable experience to see one of your books in the front window of a bookshop, but it’s very weird indeed to see the cover of your book blown up to poster size. Anyway, said poster was part of a display in the Hodges Figgis window designed to promote ‘Crime Night!’, the details of which runneth thusly:
Crime Night! Hodges Figgis kindly invite you to a Crime Fiction Night taking place in our store on Dawson Street, Dublin 2, on the 22nd of February at 7.30pm. We have three well known Irish authors taking part: Declan Burke, Arlene Hunt and Conor Brady. The night promises to be an interesting one, with some extract readings and a questions-and-answers session based on what special qualities an Irish writer brings to the genre. Contact one of our Booksellers or our Secretary to book a free place to avoid disappointment.
  So there you have it. I’ll be reading from ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, Arlene from THE CHOSEN, and Conor Brady from his debut title, A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS. Will we come through the experience unscathed, fired in the kiln of public scrutiny? If you’re out and about in Dublin on the evening February 22nd, it’d be great to see you there.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Black’s Dark And Banville’s Light

I’m not sure exactly what’s happening with the cover for Benjamin Black’s forthcoming VENGEANCE (August, Henry Holt), or whether we’re looking at UK and US covers, but I know which one I prefer (right). Certainly the ‘bandstand’ cover conjures up the moody, atmospheric tone I associate with Black’s Quirke novels, which are set in 1950s Dublin; the other cover (below) is rather garish, and brings to mind the worst excesses of the kind of slash-‘n’-cash rubbish that seems to be growing increasingly prevalent in crime fiction these days. Or are said novels (or their lurid covers) merely a throwback to the gory, glory days of the pulp novel? YOU decide.
  Anyhoo, onto the story itself. VENGEANCE is the fifth in Black’s Quirke series, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
A bizarre suicide leads to a scandal and then still more blood, as one of our most brilliant crime novelists reveals a world where money and sex trump everything. It’s a fine day for a sail, and Victor Delahaye, one of Ireland’s most successful businessmen, takes his boat far out to sea. With him is his partner’s son—who becomes the sole witness when Delahaye produces a pistol, points it at his own chest, and fires. This mysterious death immediately engages the attention of Detective Inspector Hackett, who in turn calls upon the services of his sometime partner Quirke, consultant pathologist at the Hospital of the Holy Family. The stakes are high: Delahaye’s prominence in business circles means that Hackett and Quirke must proceed very carefully. Among others, they interview Mona Delahaye, the dead man’s young and very beautiful wife; James and Jonas Delahaye, his identical twin sons; and Jack Clancy, his ambitious, womanizing partner. But then a second death occurs, this one even more shocking than the first, and quickly it becomes apparent that a terrible secret threatens to destroy the lives and reputations of several members of Dublin’s elite.
  Benjamin Black, as you very probably know, is the alter-ego of John Banville, who also has a novel published later this year. Interestingly - or not, depending on whether you’ve been following the on-off debate about how serious Banville is about writing his crime fiction - he suggested last year, in an interview with The Star’s Mark Egan, that Benjamin Black has influenced the way John Banville writes. To wit:
“Black was able to help Banville,” he says, explaining that the Banville novel he just completed, ANCIENT LIGHT, was improved by his crime fiction.
“Black has got used to doing plots and keeping all that balanced, and Banville has learned some of that from him,” he says.
In ANCIENT LIGHT, Banville revisits his novels ECLIPSE and SHROUD. Narrator Alexander Cleave thinks about the suicide of his daughter Cass and a sexual affair he had as a teenager with a friend’s mother in a small Irish town.
  Herewith be the blurb elves:
ANCIENT LIGHT is a stunning novel about youth and age, first love and the illusions of memory by one of the finest writers in the English language. An elderly actor remembers his first affair as a young teenage boy in a small town in 1950s Ireland -- the illicit meetings in a rundown cottage outside town; assignations in the back of his lover’s car on a rain-soaked afternoon. And with these memories comes something sharper and much darker -- the more recent recollection of the actor’s own daughter’s suicide only ten years earlier. In John Banville’s dazzling new book is the story of a life rendered brilliantly vivid -- the deluded nature of young love and the terrifying shock of grief. ANCIENT LIGHT is one of John Banville’s finest novels, both utterly pleasurable and devastatingly moving in the same moment.
  So there you have it. A Black novel AND a Banville novel in the same year? But Mr Publisher-type Ambassador, with these gifts you are surely spoiling us …