“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, April 27, 2012

He Who Laughs Last Laughs Lastiest

You get good weeks and you get bad weeks and I guess this is one of the good weeks. Yesterday I heard that ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL has been shortlisted for the ‘Goldsboro Last Laugh Award’, which will be conferred at Crimefest in Bristol for ‘the best humorous crime novel first published in the British Isles in 2011’.
  And that list of nominees in full:
- Declan Burke for Absolute Zero Cool (Liberties Press)
- Colin Cotterill for Killed at the Whim of a Hat (Quercus)
- Chris Ewan for The Good Thief's Guide to Venice (Simon & Schuster)
- Christopher Fowler for Bryant & May and the Memory of Blood (Doubleday)
- Carl Hiaasen for Star Island (Sphere)
- Doug Johnstone for Smokeheads (Faber and Faber)
- Elmore Leonard for Djibouti (Weidenfeld & Nicolson)
- L.C. Tyler for Herring on the Nile (Macmillan)
  It’s obligatory - but no less accurate for all that - to point out that I haven’t a hope of winning given the stellar quality of the shortlist, but seriously, it really is very nice just to be mentioned in the same company.
  I was shortlisted for the ‘Last Laugh Award’ before, actually, back in 2008, when Ruth Dudley Edwards won it with MURDERING AMERICANS. The book was THE BIG O, which was deliberately conceived as a homage to some of my favourite crime writers, Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen and Barry Gifford. And here we are, four years later, having written an entirely different kind of comic novel to THE BIG O, and staring down the twin barrels of Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen …
  So there you have it. There’s been more good news this week, and it’s actually better news than the ‘Last Laugh’ nomination, but today I’m strapped for time because I’m in the middle of proofing a collection of essays that I think will blow your socks off, and I better crack on. Have a great weekend, everyone …

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Paul O’Brien

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 GODFATHER by Mario Puzo. Perfect form and structure for me. It feels epic and has all the right plants and pay offs. I also love the time period and the journey involving all the characters.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Jesus. The magic, the beard. The ending wouldn’t be great though. If not him then any ninja or anyone who lives under the sea. So, Spongebob.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I love insider wrestling newsletters. Professional wrestlers call them ‘dirt sheets’ and have to act like they hate them. They give you all the backstage happenings. Even now the wrestling business is closed and secret and these newsletters give you a peek behind the curtain. They’re like Now magazine for nerdy men.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I have to say that finishing BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN was the most satisfying moment for me. About 15,000 words in I couldn’t see the end of the story coming for a long time, but I stayed at it day and night. And now that I am finished - I’m looking forward to jumping back in to it again for another installment.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Just finished PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer. Funny, smart and has long legs in terms of more books.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Same again. I think Eoin writes in pictures. He’s easy to see when you’re reading him. It also helps that I’ve seen a few of his stage plays so I know how much he relies on visuals to punctuate his jokes. A movie of that book could be great.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing is the dry eyeballs from the laptop. Best thing is holding your first book.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Well, it’s going to be a follow up to BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN so I have to be a little mysterious - although it’s all outlined.

Who are you reading right now?
Carl Hiassen. Trying to catch up on some of his stuff after a beta reader said I should. Turns out that reader didn’t like me very much. We’ve since fallen out. She got the children.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. Definitely. Although I don’t like it very much. It’s just something that I have to do. I love planning to write. Writing though - not delighted about having to do that part. I’ve been writing for 15 years and have written 16 full lengths plays, two screenplays, a book a poetry, a few songs and now a novel, and every word I’ve written I’ve had to tug-o-war out of my brain.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Direct. Raw. Considered.

Paul O’Brien’s BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN is available now.

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night: And Miles To Read Before I Sleep …

You may or may not know that tonight is World Book Night, in which tons of books are given away free to stimulate reading. A good idea, I think, no matter how you look at it.
  Naturally, being something of a contrarian, I decided that it’d be nice notion to look into the possibility of an Alternative World Book Night - i.e., to ask a number of writers, poets et al to nominate a recently published book that they consider to be unjustly overlooked by the critics and public alike. The result was published in the Irish Times on Saturday, with the most fascinating / totally bonkers answer coming from poet David Lordan. To wit:
CYCLONOPEDIA: COMPLICITY WITH ANONYMOUS MATERIALS
By Reza Negarestani (re.press, 2008)

“I’d like to plump for the Iranian philosopher Reza Negarestani’s genre-bending ‘Cyclonopedia: Complicity with Anonymous Materials’. It’s one for active readers and fans of “difficult work”. A continuously inventive and artistically ambitious work that, like many great literary refoundations, is simultaneously a reimagining of reality and a reorientating of literature against currently dominant trends. Negarestani draws on a polyglot engagement with contemporary theory and on a schizophrenic, inhumanist literary heritage including Lovecraft, Stein, Burroughs and Pynchon, to give us an astounding depiction of history as a minor subplot within a struggle of much older, more vast forces. Cyclonopedia refreshed my paranoia and left me more doubtful and contemptuous of things-as-they-are than ever before, something the most sustaining works of art have always done for me.” - David Lordan
  For the rest, which includes nominations from George Pelecanos, Aifric Campbell, Nuala Ní Chonchúir, China Miéville, Sara Paretsky, Mark Billingham and more, clickety-click here

Sunday, April 22, 2012

On Sisyphus, Hercules And Shaggy Dog Tayls

First off, apologies for the intermittent service at Crime Always Pays these days. All Three Regular Readers are, I know, accustomed to more regular reading than has been provided here over the last few weeks. But work has gone crazy in the last couple of months, and I’m also working on an extra-curricular project that is barrelling helter-skelter towards a deadline that looms large at the end of the month. So if you bear with me, normal-ish service will be resumed in short order.
  Meanwhile, I had a short review of Ken Bruen’s HEADSTONE (Transworld Ireland) published in the Irish Times yesterday. It ran a lot like this:
HEADSTONE
By Ken Bruen
Transworld Ireland (£12.99)
Jack Taylor is probably the least private eye in crime fiction. In Ken Bruen’s novels, Taylor is as well-known on Galway’s streets as Eyre Square itself, and as easy to find. Further, he’s ‘an alkie vigilante with notions above his station’, as one character describes him here.
  Would you commission this man to find your wandering daughter?
  ‘Headstone’ is the ninth in the Jack Taylor series, and Ken Bruen’s 29th novel in total. The plot finds Jack pitched against a neo-Nazi group bent on slaughter, while also trying to track down a priest who has absconded with the funds of an Opus Dei-style organisation.
  As always, the plot is incidental. It’s traditional for fictional private eyes to investigate a disappearance, an absence or a lack, in the process shining a light into the dark corners of the culture from which they spring. Jack Taylor tends to ramble around Galway pointing out its shortcomings in his uniquely bleak and lacerating way, occasionally remembering to engage with the job he has been commissioned to do.
  ‘Mostly what you got was tired,’ he says after one less-than-heroic effort. ‘My limp ached. I even did a Google search. Nope. He had really flown under the radar.’
  Bruen, of course, is fully aware of Jack Taylor’s limitations, both as a man and the hero of a series of novels. Taylor is the self-referential, knowing creation of an author with a PhD in Metaphysics, a private eye who not only reads crime novels to restore his equilibrium, but one who falls in love with a crime fiction writer. ‘At my most cynical, I thought I was simply material for her next book,’ he says. ‘A broken-down Irish PI, with a limp and a hearing-aid. Yeah, that would fly …’
  Yes, Jack Taylor is an absurd character. As ludicrous as any knight errant tilting at windmills, or Hercules hosing down the Augean Stables of Galway, or Sisyphus flogged up and down his hill time and time again.
  Are we meant to take him at all seriously? Probably not. He is, after all, a bottomless well of compassion and rage, and as such is an entirely preposterous creation in contemporary Ireland. Long may he run. - Declan Burke