“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.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

On Literary Festivals And The Lesser-Spotted Irish Crime Writer

Hearty congratulations to all involved in ‘Bloody Scotland’, aka Scotland’s International Crime Writing Festival, the inaugural edition of which takes place in Stirling this coming September (artist’s impression, right), featuring the likes of Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, Peter James, Allan Guthrie, Denise Mina, Ann Cleeves, Tony Black, Karin Fossum, William McIlvanney and - oh yes! - the erstwhile Gregory, John Gordon Sinclair.
  It’s a very nice line-up indeed, and the best of luck to the Festival. Here’s hoping it’s the start of many a fine year’s skirling and, well, whatever it is the Scots do when there’s no one around to keep manners on them.
  A similar, Irish-themed event was run in Dublin a few years back, featuring the cream of Irish crime authors plus some interesting international guests, but it was pretty much a bust. It didn’t help that the event coincided with what turned out to be the only weekend of sunshine that summer, but even beforehand the advance sales had been sluggish. Is there an appetite among Irish readers to sit down and listen to writers talk about writing and books? Is it simply the case that Irish crime writers aren’t interesting enough to Irish readers to draw the crowds?
  There are two literary festivals taking place in Ireland in the next couple of weeks. The Listowel festival kicks off on May 31st, while the Dublin Writers Festival begins a week later, on June 4th. Unless you’re prepared to consider Aifric Campbell and Kevin Power crime writers - and I don’t think either author considers themselves a crime writer - then there isn’t so much as a whiff of cordite to be had at either festival.
  That’s a pity, because there’s some very interesting Irish crime writers publishing novels roundabout now: Conor Fitzgerald, Jane Casey, Tana French, Brian McGilloway, Niamh O’Connor, Conor Brady, Michael Clifford … But there’s more - or rather, less. Because the Dalkey Book Festival runs from June 15th to 17th, and crime writers are again conspicuous by their absence. Yes, the excellent Eoin McNamee will be in attendance, but running the eye over all the other contributors suggests that the organisers would be horrified to discover that McNamee is considered a crime writer in less than salubrious places; and Derek Landy is taking part, but I’d imagine that that’s on the strength of his success as a children’s author, as opposed to Skulduggery Pleasant being a wise-crackin’ undead private eye-type.
  And then there’s the West Cork Literary Festival, which runs July 8th to 14th and which is entirely devoid of Irish crime writers. It does, however, feature husband-and-wife team Nicci French, and another husband-and-wife team, Edward Marston and Judith Cutler. A pity there was no room for the Irish husband-and-wife writing team Kevin and Melissa Hill, but there you go, there’s no sense in being parochial about such things, is there?
  Meanwhile, and back to the Listowel Writers Festival, where there is a panel discussion on Thursday night, May 31st, titled (koff) ‘Towards a National Strategy on Literature’. To wit:
A panel discussion with The Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht Jimmy Deenihan, author Colm Tóibín, Sinéad MacAodha, The Irish Literature Exchange and Sean Lyons, Chairman of Writers’ Week. It is time that we develop a national literary and strategic policy in Ireland. We will take a step forward, evoke ideas, delve into where we are and where we are going … ask controversial but fundamental questions …
  ‘Delve into where we are and where we are going …’
  I could be very, very crude about where literary Ireland is right now, and cruder still about where it’s going. But that won’t solve anything.
  The knee-jerk reaction is to suggest that Irish crime writers should hold and host their own festival next year, along the lines of Bloody Scotland, or Harrogate or Crimefest in England, or the Bouchercon in the US; but Ireland is a small place, and there’s the very real danger of confirming the status quo, of reinforcing a ghetto mentality; like the standalone Crime Fiction category at the Irish Book Awards, it suggests that Irish crime writers need to be corralled off from real books, from proper fiction, and given a special award and a pat on the head.
  The irony is that it’s Irish crime writers who are ‘delving into where we are and where we are going’ as a nation, but it’s a real Catch 22 scenario right now for Irish crime writers: if you demand attention, you’re accused of special pleading; if you shrug and grit your teeth, you’re ignored.
  So what to do?
  Over to you, people. I’m all ears …

Monday, May 21, 2012

Romantic Ireland's Dead And Gone ...

… and living on a ghost estate, apparently. Only sixty more sleeps before Tana French’s latest novel, BROKEN HARBOUR, is published on July 21st, gorgeously eerie cover and all. I’m looking forward to it, I have to say: French is one of those writers blessed with a number of gifts, offering substance by way of an intriguing plot set in the here-and-now of modern Ireland, with her elegant prose providing the style. Quote the back-page elves:
In BROKEN HARBOUR, a ghost estate outside Dublin - half-built, half-inhabited, half-abandoned - two children and their father are dead. The mother is on her way to intensive care. Scorcher Kennedy is given the case because he is the Murder squad’s star detective. At first he and his rookie partner, Richie, think this is a simple one: Pat Spain was a casualty of the recession, so he killed his children, tried to kill his wife Jenny, and finished off with himself. But there are too many inexplicable details and the evidence is pointing in two directions at once.
  Scorcher’s personal life is tugging for his attention. Seeing the case on the news has sent his sister Dina off the rails again, and she’s resurrecting something that Scorcher thought he had tightly under control: what happened to their family, one summer at Broken Harbour, back when they were children. The neat compartments of his life are breaking down, and the sudden tangle of work and family is putting both at risk . . .
  The novel has already attracted some very nice encomiums. To wit:
“Broken Harbour is better than whatever’s going to win the 2012 Man Booker. It’s better than the novels that are going to win the Costa and Orange prizes, and if it doesn’t win the Gold Dagger for best crime novel, the injustice might drive me to go and sit in a tent for a while, even though I hate camping. Tana French is a genius.” - Sophie Hannah

“I’ve been enthusiastically telling everyone who will listen to read Tana French. She is, without a doubt, my favourite new mystery writer. Her novels are poignant, compelling, beautifully written and wonderfully atmospheric. Just start reading the first page. You’ll see what I mean.” - Harlan Coben

“Tana French is one of those rare novelists who combine a gift for dialogue and characterisation, with suspense, intrigue and fabulous plotting. And she’s a beautiful writer, to boot. A real treat.” - Kate Mosse
  Very nice indeed. Finally, here’s a promo vid in which Tana French makes what appears to be a crime writing queen’s speech to Canada - roll it there, Collette …