“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, August 4, 2012

On Penny Candles And Leading Lights

I never got to meet Maeve Binchy (right), which is a sad state of affairs, because by all accounts she was one of the nicest people on the planet, as well as being one of the most influential Irish writers of the last 30 years.
  Maeve Binchy played a huge part, and arguably the crucial part, in legitimising popular fiction of all stripes in Ireland. Time and again she demonstrated that you didn’t need to differentiate between good writing and popular writing, and she did so by writing about ordinary Irish people and their ordinary Irish concerns, in the process, a la Patrick Kavanagh, making it all extraordinary. She will be sadly missed. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a hanam.
  I had a piece published in the Irish Examiner last Wednesday, in which some of Maeve’s peers spoke about her influence on successive generations of writers. It opened up a lot like this:
With the death of Maeve Binchy at the age of 72, Ireland has lost one of its leading literary lights.
  “I don’t think that Maeve was ever accorded the same kind of respect that some of the novelists who are considered more literary received,” says her colleague Sheila O’Flanagan, “but I think her storytelling certainly set a benchmark for commercial fiction that is very high and rarely surpassed.”
  […]
  Her place in the pantheon of great Irish writers has long been secured, but for many years Binchy has served as another kind of leading light, as a literary pathfinder who guided and inspired a younger generation.
  “It was simply the fact that she made it okay to write about Ireland,” says Marian Keyes. “I remember reading The Lilac Bus, I suppose I was about 17, and that was back in the days when nothing Irish was any good. All our things were just crap versions of US or UK TV shows or bands or books or whatever. And suddenly, somebody was writing about the Ireland we all knew. So that gave me confidence when I came to write, to think, ‘I don’t have to pretend to be English or American.’”
  Nor was it necessary to want to emulate James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, et al.
  “That was it as well,” Marian agrees. “The way she wrote was so conversational, and it was so true to how people talked, how Irish people are.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, August 3, 2012

Another Fine Messi

There’s nothing like sport to heal political wounds, and Garbhan Downey’s latest tome, ACROSS THE LINE (Guildhall Press), is nothing like a novel eulogising sport as a political wound-healer. Instead, Derry’s premier satirist and comedy crime caperist employs football - that’s ‘soccer’ to those of you on the North American continent - to point up how, in post-Peace Process Norn Iron, sport is (pace Orwell) war without the guns but only until such time as it becomes actual war. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s more than fifteen years since the Irish ceasefires, and the natives are happy to grow fat grazing on the peace dividend. Well, most of them at least. Truth is, Harry the Hurler – former chief executive of The Boys Inc – is bored. So when his old adversary Switchblade Vic proposes a little bet over a football tournament, what’s the worst that can happen? Okay ... apart from a full-blown litany of bombings, murder, and a lurid plot to blackmail the British Prime Minister into redrawing the Northern border? In two beats of a Lambeg drum, all sides are back to their old villainy, and the streets are littered with more stray limbs than Sex in the City. Rival team managers Dee-Dee Dunne and Gigi McCormick have but one goal: to play fair – and stay married in the process.
  So there you have it. ‘A superb blend of comedy, political dirty tricks, grisly murder and bizarre twists!’ says the Sunday World, and who knows about such things better than the Sunday World? Eh?
  For a brief extract from ACROSS THE LINE, clickety-click here

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Comment Is Free

Commenting on a blog can be a funny old business. Some people are happy to do it, and merrily chirp their way through the blogosphere, dropping comments like Johnny Appleseed. Other people comment sparingly, or only on particular blogs. And some people prefer not to comment at all, and good for them.
  Crime Always Pays tends to receive relatively few comments, in part (I think) because it’s an info-driven blog, and that kind of delivery doesn’t encourage interaction. It’s also true that I don’t have the time during the day to interact with each comment individually, which can in turn lead to further comments. It may also be true that I’m simply not the kind of person / blogger who generates comments and on-line connection. If the blogosphere is an on-line party, I’m the guy hanging out in the kitchen beside the fridge, talking geeky niche-niche-niche content and scaring away all the pretty girls. Well, not all the pretty girls, obviously …
  I’ve received quite a few emails and Twitter messages in the last week or so, letting me know that the comments function on CAP has been restricted to ‘team members’ only. I’m a little bit surprised by the volume, because as I say, CAP posts don’t tend to attract many comments in the first place. What they do attract is spam - which is the reason I shut down the comments function so that it can be accessed by ‘team members’ only (i.e., yours truly) - and in increasingly annoying amounts.
  These days I can spend as much time weeding the spam comments out as I can writing up a post. And I really don’t have that kind of time to waste.
  It’s also true that while the spambots are irritating, the human spammers are far worse. ‘Hey, nice post! It reminds me of my new book, MY GIANT ARSE-FACE, an autobiography you can find at this link. Have a nice day, and don’t worry at all about me leeching off your work!’ What kills me about those particular spammers is that if they’d had the common decency to contact me in the normal, natural way, I’d have been more than happy to accommodate them on the blog.
  Anyway, I’ve opened up the comments function again, less by popular demand than because I’d hate for anyone to think that they were being frozen out of any discussions. I’ll have to try to work out some fool-proof way of making the blog anti-spam whenever I get a spare ten minutes. But if in the near future you try to leave a comment and discover it’s only accessible by ‘team members’, please don’t take it personally. It’s just one frustrated blogger’s knee-jerk reaction to the spam munchkins and what can at times seem like a tidal wave of spam …

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Barclay You Can Bank On

Hail the mighty sub! I had a crime fiction column published in the Irish Times last Saturday which appeared under the very nifty headline, ‘A Barclay You Can Bank On’, largely because Alex Barclay’s BLOOD LOSS was among the titles reviewed. It went a lot like this:
Alex Barclay is […] deft in making the personal political in BLOOD LOSS (Harper, £6.99), her fifth novel in all and the third to feature the Denver-based FBI agent Ren Bryce, who works with Colorado’s Safe Streets programme.
  The disappearance of two young girls from their hotel room in the skiing town of Breckenridge looks to be a straightforward case of abduction, but Ren, who suffers from bipolar disorder and is struggling with one of her manic phases, quickly finds the case opening up to involve the abuse of antipsychotic drugs and corruption in the pharmaceutical industry.
  By making Ren’s internal monologues an integral part of the character’s appeal, Barclay establishes her heroine as an empathic, self-questioning, no-nonsense woman who is deliciously self-lacerating when it comes to her faults, even if such hyperawareness tends to cause her to doubt her own judgment. Perversely, given the theme of the damage wrought on mental health by misdiagnosis and prescription for profit, this is arguably Barclay’s most balanced novel to date, as Ren’s personal and professional concerns dovetail for a persuasive finale.
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, and if we skip back a couple of weeks, I had an interview with Alex Barclay published in the Evening Herald, during which Alex touched on the issue of ‘Big Pharma’. To wit:
BLOOD LOSS opens with the apparent abduction of two young girls, but it quickly broadens out to explore the malign influence of ‘Big Pharma’ and the corruption in the US pharmaceutical industry.
  “This was the most astounding research I’ve ever done,” says Alex. “I was tearing myself away from the research to write. I just found it heartbreaking. I mean, the fact that the top five prescribed drugs in the US are all anti-psychotics is extraordinary. At no point could they all be prescribed to psychotic people. It’s just ludicrous. And this diagnosis of children with bi-polar disorder is absolutely unfathomable.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Monday, July 30, 2012

Cry Havoc, Etc.

I crave an indulgence, good people, for today I will be mostly plugging my forthcoming tome, aka SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, which is a sequel to my first novel, EIGHT BALL BOOGIE. It will be published by Liberties Press, the very fine publishing house responsible for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, and the Liberties blurb elves have been wittering thusly:
I glanced up but he’d already jumped, a dark blur plummeting, wings folded against the drag like some starving hawk out of the noon sun, some angel betrayed. He punched through the cab’s roof so hard he sent metal shearing into the petrol tank. All it took was one spark. Boom …’

Harry Rigby is right there, an eye-witness when Finn Hamilton walks out into the big nothing nine stories up, but no one wants to believe Finn is just the latest statistic in Ireland’s silent epidemic. Not Finn’s mother, Saoirse Hamilton, whose property empire is crumbling around her; and not Finn’s pregnant fiancé, Maria, or his sister Grainne; and especially not Detective Tohill, the cop who believes Rigby is a stone-cold killer, a slaughter’s hound with a taste for blood …

Welcome to Harry Rigby’s Sligo, where death comes dropping slow.

Studded with shards of black humour and mordant wit, SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is a gripping noir from one of the most innovative voices in Irish crime fiction.
  So there you have it. Meanwhile, two of the planet’s finest crime writers have been kind enough to offer an actual blurb, with the gist running a lot like this:
“Everything you could want - action, suspense, character and setting, all floating on the easy lyricism of a fine writer at the top of his game.” - Lee Child

“SLAUGHTER’S HOUND has everything you want from noir but what makes it special is the writing: taut, honed and vivid … a sheer pleasure.” - Tana French
  With which, as you may imagine, I am very well pleased …
  In tandem with the SLAUGHTER’S HOUND publication, Liberties Press will also be republishing EIGHT BALL BOOGIE. When first published, way back in 2003, said tome was shortlisted for the Irish Book Awards in the crime fiction category, and managed to pick up some nice reviews for itself in the process. That was about as far as it went for EIGHT BALL, so it’d be nice to think that it might reach a slightly bigger audience this time around.
  Before I forget, I really should mention that the covers were designed for Liberties Press by Fidelma Slattery, and a very fine job it is too.
  So there you have it. I’ll be telling you more - much more, I’m afraid - in the weeks running up to the launch of SLAUGHTER’S HOUND next month, so don’t say you haven’t been warned …

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Painting A Very Different Canvas

I know very little about the world of professional wrestling other than it is as fake as it is slick, a fictional world in which one of the greatest gifts is the ability, metaphorically speaking, to convincingly pull a punch as you plant your opponent on the canvas.
  Paul O’Brien’s debut novel BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN is set in a very different wrestling world, albeit one that is no less contrived, and from the blurb it sounds as if very few punches are being pulled. To wit:
1972, New York City, and a dazed Lenny Long walks away from a crash carrying someone’s foot in his hand. He is also searching for the VIP passenger who has somehow disappeared from the back of his overturned van. It’s the first day of his new promotion and Lenny has less than twenty minutes to deliver the missing person or a lot of people are going to get badly hurt. Danno Garland is in Shea Stadium trying to avoid a riot. He’s coming to the end of the most successful wrestling card of all time but he’s also coming to the realisation that he might not be able to deliver his widely hyped main event. He knows there’s more than just the eyes of the stadium looking at him and if Lenny doesn’t arrive soon, blood is going to be sought. probably his. Proctor King nervously watches the show on TV, wondering why his fuck-up of a son doesn’t already have the Heavyweight Championship in his hands. Arranging this match has taken Proctor four years of pay-offs, double dealing and bone breaking to arrange. If all that effort has been wasted then he might just have to take him a business trip to New York. Lenny, Danno and Proctor. Three men with pieces of the puzzle but none with the full picture. When they do piece it all together, the ‘fake’ world of professional wrestling is going to get very real.
  Sounds good, right? Well, don’t take the blurb elves’ word for it. Here’s the inimitable Eoin Colfer with his big-up of BLOOD RED TURNS DOLLAR GREEN. Roll it there, Collette …