“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 11, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Andrew Taylor

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 TALENTED MR RIPLEY by Patricia Highsmith.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Like any storyteller, I’m tempted to say God but on the other hand He might have the last laugh.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
PG Wodehouse, Josephine Tey.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When Livia Gollancz said she’d publish my first novel ... also, in one sense far more satisfying, anytime the writing’s going well.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’d love to see a movie based on Declan Hughes’ Ed Loy series. Or maybe a TV series.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Writing / writing. Of course.

The pitch for your next book is …?
NYGB - noir and nasty in the last months of British New York in the 18th century. Due in February 2013.

Who are you reading right now?
Laura Lippman’s THE INNOCENTS, Barry Forshaw’s GUNS FOR HIRE, and - wait for it - E. Nesbit’s THE ENCHANTED CASTLE.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write (I shall need to rewrite the Bible, for a start).

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Don’t. Ask. Me.

Andrew Taylor’s Cold War thrillers - THE SECOND MIDNIGHT, TOYSHOP and BLACKLIST - are now available in e-book format.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Diamond Dogs

Yet another intriguing Irish crime title emerges in 2012, with the publication of Joe Murphy’s DEAD DOGS (Liberties Press) - although, Liberties Press being my own publisher, I’m reliably informed that DEAD DOGS is not a straightforward crime novel, and may not even be a crime novel at all, but a literary offering with crime fiction elements.
  Quoth the blurb elves:
In rural Wexford, a young teenager is worried about his friend Sean. Sean, you see, has just accidentally killed a pregnant dog and her puppies. Sean isn’t stupid but he sometimes gets a bit confused. When the unnamed narrator brings him to Dr. Thorpe’s house to see about some new medication, they end up watching through the letterbox as Dr Thorpe beats a woman to death. This sharp witted and psychological narrative explores the troubles these teenagers face as they move towards a climax that will tear their worlds asunder.
  I don’t know about you, but that sounds like a crime narrative to me. Then again, I haven’t had the chance to read the book yet, so I’ll hold fire until such time as I do.
  The same issue raised its head a couple of weeks back with Keith Ridgway’s very fine HAWTHORN & CHILD, which features a pair of London-based police detectives but is more a novel about characters involved in crime - victims, investigators, criminals - than it is about the crimes themselves, or their detection and/or consequences.
  These are strange but exciting times for the Irish crime novel. One of the best crime titles of the year to date, Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR, probably functions best as a novel detailing the personal cost of the Irish economic collapse, and less well as a dedicated police procedural. Only this week, it was announced that John Banville’s alter ego, Benjamin Black, will publish a new Philip Marlowe novel next year in the style of Raymond Chandler.
  Meanwhile, authors such as Keith Ridgway and Joe Murphy are offering stories that are bound up in criminal activity, yet shy away from explicitly describing themselves as crime novels. This may be in part a reluctance to be consigned to the crime fiction ghetto, as many people consider it. It may also be a literary reaction to the impossibility of coming to terms with the legal heisting of an entire country by a small number of gamblers and thieves. There’s a kind of schizophrenia abroad than can be loosely summed up as, ‘Yes, a crime took place; yes, it was immoral and unethical; yes, it was fully legal.’
  Yet again, I’ll put forward my definition of a crime novel: if you can take out the crime and the novel still works, it’s not a crime novel; if you take out the crime and the story collapses, then it’s a crime novel.
  Not that any definition matters, of course. What truly and only matters is whether the book is well written and has something interesting to say. By that mark, and having read the first few pages, DEAD DOGS is a very intriguing prospect. Stay tuned for more …

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Hound Of The Launchervilles

I mentioned last week that Liberties Press will this month publish my latest novel, SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, said tome being a Harry Rigby mystery. It’s going to be an interesting time, I think, because SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is a more traditional kind of crime novel than was my last offering, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which played around with narrative and character and was something of a meta-fiction.
  SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, on the other hand, is a private eye story - at least, Harry Rigby starts out as a private eye, or ‘research consultant’, in EIGHT BALL BOOGIE, which was first published in 2003 and is being republished by Liberties complete with a gorgeous new cover.
  So I’m a little bit nervous, I have to say, as to how SLAUGHTER’S HOUND will be received. AZC garnered some very nice reviews from people who liked the fact that it wasn’t a traditional crime novel, and I’m hoping that those people won’t be disappointed by the fact that SLAUGHTER’S HOUND is. In fact, I may start taking bets as to how long it’ll take for a review to conclude with the words, “ … but unfortunately, this book is all bark and no bite.”
  Mind you, if it wasn’t that then I’d be nervous about something else. Publishing a book is one of the most wonderful and simultaneously nerve-wracking experiences there is. And on top of all that there’s BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which I co-edit with John Connolly, and which also hits a shelf near you later this month.
  Good times …
  And now, a trumpet-parp please, maestro. For lo! It is my very great pleasure to announce that the Dublin launch of SLAUGHTER’S HOUND will take place on Wednesday the 22nd of August at 6.30pm, at Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street, Dublin 2.
  If you’re able to get along, it really would be terrific to see you there.
  Meanwhile, on August 30, I’ll be in Belfast’s Ulster Museum with John Connolly for the three-way launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR, John’s latest Charlie Parker novel THE WRATH OF ANGELS, and SLAUGHTER’S HOUND. The event takes place at 6.30pm, and is a free-but-ticketed event - to book a ticket, call David at No Alibis on 44 (0) 28 9031 9601, or email david@noalibis.com.
  So there you have it. Feel free to RSVP for the Dublin launch in the comment box below. Or, y’know, just turn up on the night and surprise us all …

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When In Rome, Devise A Conspiracy

It’s becoming a job in itself keeping up with the debut Irish crime writers this year. The latest to come to my attention is THE CARAVAGGIO CONSPIRACY (Lilliput Press) by Walter Ellis, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Caravaggio was the greatest artist since Titian, a favourite of popes and wealthy bankers. But at a time when the resurgent Ottoman Empire was planning a second wave of conquest, he discovered a secret so dark that it threatened the very existence of the Catholic Church.
  The secret endures. Four hundred years later, Declan O’Malley, the first Irish-born Superior General of the Society of Jesus, learns that his friend, the German Cardinal Horst RĆ¼ttgers, has died in mysterious circumstances. With his nephew Liam Dempsey, recovering from wounds received while serving as a soldier with the United Nations, he tries to uncover the truth, bringing him into conflict with the sinister and virulently anti-Muslim Cardinal Bosani – Camerlengo, or High Chamberlain, of the Holy Roman Church – in charge of the upcoming Conclave to elect a new Pope.
  As the two prelates grapple, Dempsey finds a bizarre link between Bosani and Caravaggio’s masterpiece, ‘The Betrayal of Christ’, lost for 200 years until it emerged in 1999 in the unlikely setting of the Jesuit house in Dublin. The painting turns out to be more than a sublime depiction of Christ’s seizure in the Garden of Gethsemane; it is also the key to a centuries-old conspiracy of evil. Can O’Malley and Dempsey, aided by the cool and resourceful Maya Studer, daughter of the Commandant of the Swiss Guard, prevent Bosani from re-igniting a calamitous war between Europe and the Muslim World?
  Shades of Dan Brown there, of course, although the Sunday Times appears to like it:
“A sophisticated intrigue with a taut, measured style ... an impressive debut.” - Alan Murdoch, The Sunday Times
  THE CARAVAGGIO CONSPIRACY is Ellis’s first thriller, but it’s by no means his first book. To wit:
Walter Ellis is a journalist who worked as a feature writer and foreign correspondent for The Irish Times, Financial Times, Sunday Telegraph and Sunday Times. He is the author of two non-fiction books, THE OXBRIDGE CONSPIRACY, about elitism in British higher education, and THE BEGINNING OF THE END, a memoir of growing up in Belfast as best friend to the man who would become the INLA’s most ruthless assassin. Both books were widely reviewed and serialized. Born in Belfast, Ellis now lives in New York.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Little Brother

Melissa Hill, over at the Irish Crime Writing Facebook page, tips us off to a rather juicy piece of industry rumour-become-fact, which is that John Banville (right), under his crime writing nom-de-plume Benjamin Black, is to publish a Phillip Marlowe novel next year. All the details are here, but it appears that Banville / Black will be writing a full-length Chandleresque tale, set in Bay City, and featuring Marlowe - a novel in the same vein as Robert B. Parker’s PERCHANCE TO DREAM and POODLE SPRINGS.
  Should be very, very interesting indeed, particularly as (a) Banville took a right good lamping for daring to dabble in the dark arts of crime writing when first he donned his fedora as Benjamin Black; (b) Chandler, these days, tends to be lauded more for his romantic stylings than his plots, which is often a charge levelled at Benjamin Black himself; and (c) John Banville’s older brother, Vincent, was the first to introduce the Chandleresque homage to Irish crime writing, back in the early to mid-1990s, with his John Blaine private eye novels.
  Crikey. Cat? Meet the pigeons …

Hell Hath No Furies

Possibly because said Furies are all in Maine, masquerading as angels for the purpose of John Connolly’s latest offering. THE WRATH OF ANGELS is the 11th Charlie Parker novel from the Dark Lord, aka John Connolly, and very impressive it is too, if we can dispense with centuries of wisdom and judge said tome from its cover. The book will be launched in Ireland at Belfast’s Ulster Museum on Thursday, August 30th, along with BOOKS TO DIE FOR, and gets its Dublin launch on Friday 31st, at the Gutter Bookshop in Temple Bar. All the details can be found here.
  Meanwhile, the first chapter of THE WRATH OF ANGELS is available online over at John’s interweb lair. It opens up a lot like this:
I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape—the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. — Andrew Wyeth (1917-2009)

Chapter I

At the time of his dying, at the day and the hour of it, Harlan Vetters summoned his son and his daughter to his bedside. The old man’s long gray hair was splayed against the pillow on which he lay, glazed by the lamplight, so that it seemed like the emanations of his departing spirit. His breathing was shallow; longer and longer were the pauses between each intake and exhalation, and soon they would cease entirely. The evening gloaming was slowly descending, but the trees were still visible through the bedroom window, the sentinels of the Great North Woods, for old Harlan had always said that he lived at the very edge of the frontier, that his home was the last place before the forest held sway.
  It seemed to him now that, as his strength failed him, so too his power to keep nature at bay was ebbing. There were weeds in his yard, and brambles among his rose bushes. The grass was patchy and unkempt: it needed one final mow before the coming of winter, just as the stubble on his own chin rasped uncomfortably against his fingers, for the girl could not shave him as well as he had once shaved himself. Fallen leaves lay uncollected like the flakes of dry skin that peeled from his hands, his lips, and his face, scattering themselves upon his sheets. He saw decline through his window, and decline in his mirror, but in only one was there the promise of rebirth.
  The girl claimed that she had enough to do without worrying about bushes and trees, and his boy was still too angry to perform even this simple service for his dying father, but to Harlan these things were important. There was a battle to be fought, an ongoing war against nature’s attritional impulse. If everyone thought as his daughter did then houses would be overrun by root and ivy, and towns would vanish beneath seas of brown and green. A man had only to open his eyes in this county to see the ruins of old dwellings suffocated in green, or open his ears to hear the names of settlements that no longer existed, lost somewhere in the depths of the forest.
  So nature needed to be held back, and the trees had to be kept to their domain.
  The trees, and what dwelled among them.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Dial Code Was … Death!

First published in 1997, DEATH CALL by TS O’Rourke was one of the earliest of the modern Irish noirs. In common with some other Irish crime writers of the time - Vincent Banville, Ingrid Black, Eugene McEldowney, Jim Lusby, Seamus Smyth - O’Rourke was probably a little too far ahead of the curve, and the first phase of his career could probably be characterised by the old maxim about pioneers, who tend to get shot, and generally in the back.
  Happily, TS O’Rourke is a hard man to kill, in the literary sense, and he has recently begun publishing again. Not only that, but he has just republished DEATH CALL, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
It was all he could do to stop his hangover from spilling out onto the victim as he studied her neck and what he made out to be the initial puncture wound in her abdomen. From that point, he thought, she had been opened like an envelope with a paper knife, revealing a mess of entrails and blood.
  With a deranged serial killer on the loose, Detective Sergeant Dan Carroll and his new partner Detective Constable Samuel Grant find themselves trawling the seedy side of London in search of a brutal killer who preys on prostitutes.
  For all the info you need on TS O’Rourke’s novels, new and otherwise, take a wee wander over to his interweb lair