“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, May 19, 2012

Caveat Emperor

Over at the Facebook Irish Crime Fiction page, Joe McCoubrey has made a valiant stab at nailing down a comprehensive list of Irish crime scribes. It isn’t definitive, but then Joe’s cause isn’t helped by the fact that debut Irish crime writers are popping up like mushrooms these days. Still, it’s impressive list.
  One name that isn’t on the list is that of Ruth Dudley Edwards (right), aka ‘Cuddly Dudley’, possibly because she’s been busy writing non-fiction titles for the last few years. But lo! The Ruth Returns this coming October with KILLING THE EMPERORS, her 12th crime fiction title, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
Sir Henry Fortune, celebrity curator, has vanished. So too has his partner in love and money, disreputable art dealer Jason Pringle. Panic spreads throughout the London art world when more people go missing. No one can locate Anastasia Holliday, sensational Abject artist; Jake Thorogood, the critic who catapulted her into stardom; or Dr. Hortense Wilde, notorious for having influenced generations of art students to despise craftsmanship.
  Hysteria hits the media when it is found that the common link between the victims is that their careers blossomed when they embraced newly fashionable conceptual art. Could it be that they are hostages? If so, why? Ransom? Revenge?
  Who will be next? Will it be Sir Nicholas Serota, mighty overlord of British temples of the avant-garde, or the internationally renowned young British artist Damien Hirst, whose dross became platinum? Is danger in store for Charles Saatchi, mega-rich husband of a TV cook and the genius who took talentless young people and turned them into a winning brand?
  Given that Ruth Dudley Edwards has pretty much slaughtered an entire herd of sacred cows in her blackly comic crime fiction, I’m going to take a wild guess here and suggest that the ‘emperors’ of the title are some kind of nod to the emperor’s new clothes. Or maybe not. Is it possible, do you think, that Ruth has (koff) mellowed a tad since the publication of her most recent title, MURDERING AMERICANS …
  No. Me neither.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Apostrophe? Now That Is Peculier

I’ve been more than a bit baffled over the last few years about the fact that John Connolly never seems to be nominated for the plethora of crime fiction awards. I wouldn’t mind so much if Connolly had, like so many successful authors before him, hit a plateau in terms of ability and ambition and was simply churning out the same book year after year. Anyone who has read his last two novels in particular, however, will testify that this is not the case; indeed, I’d argue that John Connolly is now writing the best fiction of his career. THE BURNING SOUL, especially, struck me as a very special novel, so I’m delighted to see that it has been recognised as such, and long-listed for the ‘Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year (a much-coveted title, despite (cue pedantic harrumph) the criminal absence of an apostrophe in the title of a writing competition. If you tolerate this, then your children will be unpunctuated, etc.
 
I’m equally delighted to see that Stuart Neville has also been nominated for said prize, for COLLUSION, which is to my mind the finest of his three novels to date, notwithstanding the fact that everyone else seems to prefer his debut, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST (aka THE TWELVE). COLLUSION has previously been nominated for the LA Times Crime / Mystery Novel of the Year, an award Neville won with THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, so the book has pedigree in this kind of thing.
  Either book has a very strong claim to actually winning the prize, although they’ll have to survive the shortlist cull first, which takes place on July 5th, I think; but they’re up against some very strong opposition, including novels from Val McDermid, Robert Harris, Denise Mina and Ian Rankin, not to mention last year’s most wildly overrated crime novel, BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP by SJ Watson.
  For the full long-list line-up, clickety-click on the venerable It’s A Crime (or a Mystery)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Far Away, As Close

Over the last few years or so we’ve been getting regular communications from New York here at CAP Towers, and specifically from one Seamus Scanlon, each new mail announcing, if a little diffidently, that said Seamus Scanlon has just won another short story competition.
  So it really shouldn’t come as any great surprise to learn that the Cairn Press will be publishing a collection of Seamus Scanlon’s short stories. To wit:
We are happy to announce the forthcoming publication of Seamus Scanlon’s remarkable short story collection, AS CLOSE AS YOU’LL EVER BE. Due for release in July, 2012, Scanlon’s collection is what can only be described as literary noir. Blood and memory fuel the elegant prosody that meanders between the spartan and the poetic, and the violence of Ireland is something that cannot be left behind.
  Intriguing, no? I met with Seamus Scanlon in September of last year, when a rabble of Irish crime writers toddled over to New York for the launch of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS, and were so wonderfully received at Ireland House in NYU. At the time, if memory serves, Seamus was in something of a dilemma; keep writing the short stories he was so obviously good at, but which don’t necessarily sell very well as collections; or abandon the short stories for a novel, a form in which he wasn’t entirely confident of his ability. I’m delighted to see that Cairn Press had the foresight to follow through on Seamus’s natural ability as a short story writer, and not try to shoehorn him into something he isn’t. That said, he recently distinguished himself as a playwright too
  Anyway, an ARC of AS CLOSE AS YOU’LL EVER BE is on its way to CAP Towers as you read, and as always, I’ll keep you posted. Meanwhile, clickety-click here for the Kindle-friendly taster, ‘My Beautifully Brash Beastly Belfast’

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Blume By Any Other Name

The latest Irish Times ‘Crime Beat’ column was published on Saturday, featuring short reviews of the latest titles from Elmore Leonard, Claire McGowan, Barry Forshaw, Hesh Kestin and Lyndsay Faye. It also included THE NAMESAKE by Conor Fitzgerald. To wit:
Commissioner Alec Blume returns in Conor Fitzgerald’s third novel, THE NAMESAKE (Bloomsbury, £11.99), although the usual Rome setting quickly gives way to southern Italy as Blume investigates the murder of an apparently innocent man and discovers that the victim shares a name with a magistrate intent on prosecuting a high-ranking member of the Ndrangheta, or Calabrian mafia. As with Claire McGowan’s novel, THE NAMESAKE is as much an exploration of the social, cultural and political factors that led to the rise of the Ndrangheta as it is a conventional police procedural; indeed, the book has as much in common with a spy novel, as Blume joins an undercover agent as he penetrates the Calabrian heartland.
  Exquisitely written in a quietly elegant style, and dotted with nuggets of coal-black humour, THE NAMESAKE is a bold blend of genre conventions that confirms Fitzgerald’s growing reputation as an author whose novels comfortably straddle the increasingly fine line between crime and literary fiction.
  Elsewhere, over the last few days, Eilis O’Hanlon reviewed the debut offering from Michael Clifford, GHOST TOWN; and Eamon Delaney reviewed yet another debut Irish crime title, Conor Brady’s A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Troubles We’ve Seen

Following on from Friday’s post on Anthony Quinn’s post-Troubles, Northern Ireland-set debut novel, and at the risk of giving the impression that anything approaching consistent thought goes into this blog, I had an interview with Stuart Neville published yesterday in the Irish Examiner, during the course of which Stuart spoke about Northern Ireland as a setting, and how ‘the Troubles aren’t the most commercial topic in fiction these days’. To wit:
When he sat down to write his third novel, however, the recently released STOLEN SOULS, Neville was aware he could well be painting himself into a corner.
  “Well, COLLUSION is probably the most political of the three books,” he says, “and STOLEN SOULS is very much a reaction against that, a move away from that. Because there is the danger that you could get bogged down in the Troubles, and post-Troubles politics, and all the rest of it. And it’s true, with my commercial head on for a moment, that the Troubles aren’t the most commercial topic in fiction these days (laughs). So if I want to be purely mercenary about it, then it’s a good idea to move away from the politics.”
  Neville is in the vanguard of a number of authors who are engaged in writing about the newly transformed Northern Ireland, a cohort that includes Colin Bateman, Adrian McKinty, Eoin McNamee and Gerard Brennan.
  “I know other writers are working in different directions on this,” he concedes. “I’ve just finished reading Adrian McKinty’s new book, THE COLD COLD GROUND, in which he dives headlong into the thick of the Troubles and the hunger strikes, which is admirable, I think. I do think the Troubles will be quite fertile ground for writers the further we move away from them, and the freer we are to write about them with a more dispassionate gaze.”
  What say you? Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE (aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST) made a huge impression when it first appeared, and Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND has been garnering all kinds of wonderful reviews since it was published earlier this year. But is it the case that Norn Iron and its ‘Troubles’ are a turn-off for most readers?
  More to the point, perhaps: should writers give less than a fiddler’s fandango for what readers want, and simply write the books that need to be written?