“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, April 7, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Paul D. Brazill

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?
I really wish I could write a well crafted, well written mystery with strong characters. I’ve recently read William Ryan’s splendid novels THE HOLY THIEF and THE BLOODY MEADOW, and if I could do that, I would be a very happy man.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Dorian Grey, before it all went pear-shaped.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
No pleasures make me guilty but I did enjoy Ian McEwan’s SATURDAY, even though the hero is a knob.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Getting a story in one of Maxim Jakubowski’s ‘Mammoth Books of Best British Crime’ made me think I hadn’t wasted people’s time.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Best one so far this year is THE COLD COLD GROUND by Adrian McKinty.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE COLD COLD GROUND would make great telly. Gerard Brennan’s THE POINT would be a beaut film.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
I reckon for most people who do it for a living, the worst thing about it is that the lack of dosh. For a dilettante like me, it’s all fun and games. Even when someone loses an eye.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Well, I’ll quote the brilliant Ian Ayris who described my novella GUNS OF BRIXTON as ‘Charlie Williams meets Pulp Fiction.’ Suits me, sir!

Who are you reading right now?
Richard Godwin’s MR GLAMOUR and Tony Black’s MURDER MILE.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. Much less faff.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Ad hoc. Slapdash. Twoddle.

Paul D. Brazill’s Amazon page can be found right here.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Silver Stain, Gold Standard

I’ve already mentioned on these pages how wonderful Paul Johnston’s THE SILVER STAIN is, but I’m going to do it again, because they’re my pages, and because I can. Oh, and because I reviewed said novel as part of the most recent Irish Times crime fiction column, which appeared a couple of weeks back and was composed of short reviews of the latest novels from Sue Grafton, Parker Bilal, Kevin Brophy, Ann Cleeves and said Paul Johnston. To wit:
Crete is the setting for Paul Johnston’s 13th novel, THE SILVER STAIN (Crème de la Crime, £19.99), which sees a film producer commission Johnston’s Athens-based private eye, Alex Mavros, to find a movie star’s personal assistant. A straightforward assignment, but Mavros quickly discovers that the events being depicted on the film set – the Nazi invasion of Crete in 1941 – have contemporary resonances that prove lethal. A Scottish author living in Greece, writing about a detective who is half-Scottish, half-Greek, Johnston employs an observer who is ideally placed to make an outsider’s caustic observations about modern Crete, yet he knows the terrain well enough to give the setting a vividly authentic feel. The island’s time-honoured love-hate relationship with law and order, allied to pacy narrative and deadpan black humour courtesy of a knowingly archetypal private eye, all delivered in deceptively elegant prose, make THE SILVER STAIN an early contender for one of the best private detective novels of the year.
  For the rest of the column, clickety-click here

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Ford’s Focus

THE ULTIMATE GOOD LUCK is one of my favourite crime novels, so it’s just my luck that it was written by one of America’s literary darlings, Richard Ford. Which means that you’re not really allowed to consider it a crime novel - at least, not in polite society (due to a mis-type, I just realised how close ‘polite society’ is to ‘police society’. Anyhoo …)
  Where was I? Oh yes. THE ULTIMATE GOOD LUCK. So anyway, I had the very great fortune to interview Richard Ford a couple of weeks ago, this because he has a new novel coming out in June, called CANADA, and a wonderful experience it was, too. Richard Ford is entirely charming, a real gentleman, and I found the whole experience hugely enjoyable.
  At one point, I asked about THE ULTIMATE GOOD LUCK, and if he’d written it as a crime novel. Well, yes, he said, sort of; he took Robert Stone’s DOG SOLDIERS for inspiration, but he considered DOG SOLDIERS to be a literary novel.
  CANADA, by the way, opens up like this:
“First, I’ll tell about the robbery our parents committed. Then about the murders, which happened later. The robbery is the more important part, since it served to set my and my sister’s lives on the courses they eventually followed …”
  I don’t know about you, but that’s about the most noir opening to a novel I’ve read in many a long year.
  But the point of this post isn’t whether Richard Ford writes crime novels, or is entitled to write crime novels and call them literary novels on the strength of his facility for language (for what it’s worth, I think he is, although to be honest I really don’t give a rat’s ass either way). The point of the post is that, when he was talking about THE ULTIMATE GOOD LUCK - and bear in mind that I think that novel is a wonderful piece of writing - he then chilled my blood by saying that that was the novel that made him aware he needed to up his game. What quality, I asked, did he believe his writing lacked? Quoth Mr Ford:
“What I thought was lacking was that I knew a lot more, I could do a lot more, I thought I was capable of more, than I was getting into the book. A sense of humour, a sense of gravity, a sense of complexity, a sense of largeness - those things weren’t getting into the book. They weren’t all getting in at the same time. So I was trying to create a sense that the books would contain my whole array of talents. But I think probably everybody, particularly younger writers, thinks to herself or himself, ‘I’m not getting it all in.’ You know, when John Updike died, there was a piece in the New Yorker, and one of the things that Adam Gopnik wrote about John was that by the end of his life, Updike was fully expressed. And I think in order to write a novel, you have to be fully expressed, leaving nothing out.

  Is it too early to ask about Richard Ford?

  “Oh no, it’s not too early. If I quit tomorrow, or if I died tomorrow, I would die with the satisfaction that I am fully expressed. And by ‘expressed’ I don’t mean that I have ‘expressed myself’, but that I have pushed out of myself everything I can push out. Writing novels is not notably a mode of ‘self expression’. It’s more a mode of employing yourself, employing your brain and your memory, your sense of importance, for the purposes of the book that you write. Some people say, ‘I write for myself’, or ‘I just write about myself’. I don’t think that’s what I do. But I do make use of probably everything myself contains.”
  “But I do make use of probably everything myself contains.” An interesting line, that, I think. Me, I tend to focus on maximising certain aspects of myself when I’m writing, and deliberately excluding others. Maybe I should think more about tossing more into the melting-pot, see how it all boils out …

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

In Which The Cosmos Clears Its Throat

I am reliably informed by those who know such things that the baseball season has - technically, and even officially - already begun. I am also informed that regular season play commences tomorrow, Wednesday April 4th, when baseball bats all over the US of A give voice to that musical ‘crack’ that is, according to political analyst George Will, “the sound the cosmos makes each spring when it clears its throat and says, ‘We made it through another winter.’”
  Having fallen for baseball in a shamefully wanton fashion last summer, I’ve been looking forward to the start of the season for quite some time now. I’ve also been anticipating it with a kind of creeping dread, given that I don’t have the time to scratch myself these days, let alone get sucked into watch three hours worth of baseball every night.
  But I will. Go Phillies, etc.
  Anyway, the timing is good for John Grisham’s CALICO JOE, a charming novel with shades of THE NATURAL, in which a rookie phenom called Joe Castle debuts for the Cubs in the 1973 season, only to come up against a mean-spirited Mets pitcher with a penchant for beanballs. Told by the son of said pitcher, and looking back on the events of ’73 from the perspective of today, it’s essentially a love letter to the game of baseball. And, like all the best love stories, and despite Grisham’s crowd-pleasing instincts at the finale, it is at its heart a tale of poisoned innocence and paradise lost.
  It’s also only 194 pages long. If you start reading it now, you’ll be finished in time for the first pitch …