“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.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Hesh Kestin

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?
‘Exodus’, and not the one by Leon Uris. In this shrewdly penned thriller, an Egyptian nobleman takes it on the lam after knocking off one of Pharaoh’s brutal overseers. Then, after discovered the secret of his birth, he blackmails the bossman himself by hitting him with plague after plague until the big hood finally relents: In history’s greatest heist, the newly minted but fast-thinking yid walks off with the equivalent of a couple billion quid [figuring the average slave was a cool thou] plus livestock and uncounted treasure. And that’s only the caper. What happens next would make a hell of a movie. Wait a minute, they may have already done it.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Hesh Kestin. When I was a journalist the CIA had me down for a Mossadnilk, the Mossad thought I was CIA and -- for the three years I was based in London -- MI5 interviewed me entirely too often. Alas, my only secret was rather pedestrian: I worked hard.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Newspapers. Except for the British, journos don’t even know they’re doing fiction.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Finishing anything.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
FINNEGANS WAKE. A crime against the English language. According to George Orwell, “Good prose is like a window pane.” According to me, “A clean one.”

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Hell, I’m not going to kill anyone’s luck. All I have to is make a suggestion and Hollywood’s phone goes dead.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Sometimes you can get manual affection if seated next to a dedicated reader on an airplane.

The pitch for your next book is …?
I never pitch. To do so would mean I’d have to know what the hell I’m doing and how it comes out. Not my style.

Who are you reading right now?
SPIES by Michael Frayn.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
He talks to you too?

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
What. The. And fuck.

Hesh Kestin’s THE IRON WILL OF SHOESHINE CATS is Stephen King’s recommended read for World Book Night.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Strange Days Indeed

I read the latest George Pelecanos, WHAT IT WAS, last week, and very enjoyable is exactly what it was. It’s a Derek Strange ‘origins’ novel, set in 1972, with Watergate simmering away in the background; as well as Derek Strange, it features Frank Vaughn and Nick Stefanos. Derek even wanders by a record store called Nutty Nathan’s at one point …
  If it all sounds a little self-referential, it is - but in a good way, a bringing it all back home kinda way. There’s something oddly elegiac about the tone, given that it’s an origins story; but at the same time the novel fairly bops along, a swaying, swaggering, finger-clicking slice of funked-up cool. I’ll review it in a bit more depth in a week or so, when I’ve finally surfaced for air; for now I’ll leave you with an interview with George Pelecanos I had published in the Irish Times today. It starts a lot like this:
“LET ME ASK you a question,” George Pelecanos says as our interview comes to an end. “Are you a Thin Lizzy fan?” Given my Dublin connection, he has been itching to ask it all along. “I just think it’s an amazing story,” he says. “I get chills when I think that there’s a statue of Phil Lynott on a street in Dublin, that people leave flowers by the statue. I love stuff like that.”
  Music has always played an important part in George Pelecanos’s novels. From his debut A Firing Offense in 1992, his characters have prowled the mean streets of Washington DC, tapping a toe to a bewildering variety of sounds, from the swing jazz of the 1930s through the funk rock of the 1970s and on to the contemporary sounds of last year’s The Cut. In fact, it was music that taught him how to write his own way.
  Pelecanos wasn’t much of a reader until his mid-20s – “Until then I wanted to be a filmmaker, I was a real film nut” – but then he took a class in classic crime fiction. The curriculum included Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, Ross Macdonald and James Crumley.
  “All these books blew me away,” he says. “I mean, even an early Mickey Spillane, that’s a good book. I got obsessed with books after taking that class. And by books I mean crime novels.”
  Rejecting the notion of a formal writing class, Pelecanos instead chose to immerse himself in reading. “It took me 10 years before I sat down to write my first novel,” he says. “By then it was the 1980s, the punk thing had happened, and I was heavily involved in that. And I got the idea that what I was going to do was write a punk rock detective novel …”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Sunday, April 15, 2012

The Woman Who Cried Wolf

Off I toddled to the Merrion Hotel a couple of weeks ago, to interview Jodi Picoult (right), who was in Dublin promoting her latest opus, LONE WOLF. I’d been expecting a very slick and seasoned pro, given that Jodi Picoult is a runaway best-seller, the kind of writer who - in person - can talk forever without actually saying anything worth quoting.
  Well, Jodi Picoult is certainly very professional, but she was also terrific fun to talk with, not least because she was very happy indeed to offer forthright opinions on hot-button topics such as sex, politics and religion, and was also gloriously indiscreet about some of her fellow scribes.
  The interview was published in the Evening Herald, and can be found here, but the version I sent in was cut off at the end, presumably for reasons of space. What follows is what Jodi said when I asked her (we’d been talking about her previous novel, SING ME HOME, and how gay characters are perceived in mainstream fiction) about how likely it was that she’d alienate some of her readers by insisting that her novels can’t just be entertainment, but need to deal with serious issues too. Quoth Jodi:
“I was on Twitter before you came in,” she says, “reading an interview in the Wall Street Journal with James Patterson, and thinking, ‘God, this guy’s killing me here.’ Basically, he wrote 13 books that are coming out next year.”
  That’s ‘wrote’ in inverted commas, of course.
  “Exactly. He gives an outline, and he gives a writer notes on it, and off it goes. And he says, look, this is commercial fiction, it’s not rocket science and I’m not a student of the craft. But I argue that you can be a writer of commercial fiction and a student of the craft. If I were to write a Patterson novel, I’d probably shoot myself in the head.
  “There’s room for all of us on the bookshelves, even the purest of escapist fiction,” she continues. “But I do believe that if you are fortunate to have a podium, you really need to think about what you’re saying. And maybe for Mr Patterson it’s okay to simply entertain, but I would always want to do more than that.”