“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, September 15, 2012

SLAUGHTER’S HOUND: A ‘Hard Boiled Delight’, Apparently

Well that was a very enjoyable a week. Off with yours truly to Manchester last Wednesday, to meet with John Connolly and head to Deansgate Waterstones, where the lovely Barbara Nadel was waiting, along with an impressive number of crime and mystery fans agog to hear about (a) John’s latest tome THE WRATH OF ANGELS and (b) BOOKS TO DIE FOR. A great night was had, and particularly for yours truly, as I got to meet with the Book Witch again, after a hiatus of about four years. Not that you’d know she’d enjoyed the experience. Very Scandinavian in her emotions, said Witch. I think I came away with frostbite of the soul. Still, the fact that she brought along a lovely book for the equally lovely Lily did help me thaw out later on …
  Off with us to Scarborough then on Thursday, with yours truly doing the navigating, which is always a recipe for disaster. And so it proved, but we’ll draw a discreet veil, etc. Scarborough was a smashing evening, and it’s a very pretty town too - I’ll be back in short order, and possibly for the literary festival next April. A really, really nice bunch of people …
  I wish I could say the same about the folks in Liverpool, but they let a load of Everton fans into the event, which was - appropriately enough - held at the Bridewell One, formerly a police station, and now a venue where the punters get to have a Pimms or two in what used to be holding cells. Nice. Adam Creed was good enough to join John and I on the dais for what turned out to be a hugely enjoyable evening that quickly dispensed with any kind of formality and turned into a Q&A / chat / slagging match that lasted a couple of hours. Weirdly, even the Everton fans behaved themselves. And I had a terrific conversation about Billy Roche. All told, a brilliant end to the week.
  And then it was back home this morning, on the red-eye into Dublin, to discover a very nice review for SLAUGHTER’S HOUND in the Guardian, courtesy of Laura Wilson. The gist of it runs a lot like this:
“Many writers of crime fiction are drawn to the streetwise narrator with the wisecracking voice – Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have a lot to answer for – but only a handful can make it credible and funny. Irish writer Burke is one who has succeeded spectacularly well … From the arresting opening image to the unexpected twist at the end, this is a hardboiled delight.” - Laura Wilson, The Guardian
  Which pretty much sets the seal on a week to remember. And now I’m off to bed. For a week. Nighty-night.

Friday, September 14, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” JJ Toner

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?
PERFUME by Patrick Suskind, a totally wonderful and original story told as a fable. If I have to choose an Irish book: Colin Bateman’s MYSTERY MAN or THE BUTCHER BOY by Patrick McCabe, or any of Gene Kerrigan’s books, or ...

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I have a long list, starting with Philip Marlowe, Indiana Jones and, for the quieter moments, George Smiley.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Colin Bateman, Christopher Brookmyre, John Le Carré, Declan Burke (!), Gene Kerrigan, etc. It’s all guilty pleasure, really!

Most satisfying writing moment?
When a book is released and sent out into the world. My latest book, FIND EMILY, took 49 weeks to complete. There were nine major rewrites. I have a wonderful editor, but I think she trained with the Spanish Inquisition.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
DARK TIMES IN THE CITY by Gene Kerrigan. This is a wonderful book, with a stunningly well-crafted plot and great writing.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
PLUGGED by Eoin Colfer, maybe.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing: I love it when an idea first arrives and even more when the idea becomes a written short story. Better again is when someone says they want to include it in an anthology (and I’ll get paid). Worst thing: Lack of exercise.

The pitch for your next book is …?
1096 AD, Brittany. While a killer preys on boys and young men, two teenagers join the Crusade. They must endure a long, difficult journey to the Holy Land before facing the perils of battle, but at least they’ve left the serial killer behind – or have they? I wrote this book years ago. Time to dust it off, do a major rewrite or two and get it out there.

Who are you reading right now?
Joe McCoubrey’s SOMEONE HAS TO PAY, BEAT TO A PULP: HARDBOILED, A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS by Conor Brady, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL and several others (mostly e-books).

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
No contest. I’d have to be a reader. There are too many great writers out there and I need the exercise!

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Fun, idiosyncratic, idiomatic (who said “idiotic”?).

JJ Toner’s FIND EMILY is available on Amazon.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

BOOKS TO DIE FOR: The Tour (Part 4)

It’s hi-ho for Manchester this afternoon, for the first leg of a quick UK tour for BOOKS TO DIE FOR, which also incorporates, or is incorporated by, John Connolly’s THE WRATH OF ANGELS tour. I have to say I’m really looking forward to the next few days - bookish people talking books, is there any finer way to waste / invest your time?
  All the details for the various events and venues - in Manchester, Leeds, York, Scarborough and Liverpool - come below, and if you’re likely to be near one of the venues and feel like dropping by to say hi, we’d love to see you.
  I’ll apologise in advance, by the way, for the irregular transmissions from this blog over the next while (and for the last while too, for that matter). It’s a very busy time, with BOOKS TO DIE FOR and SLAUGHTER’S HOUND to promote, and various festivals and events taking place, and a day job to be kept on the rails, etc. I’m beginning to realise that I’ll have to scale way back on the blogging for the foreseeable future, especially once the dust settles on these two books and I start to think seriously about my next opus.
  It’s also true that the old magic has gone out of the blogging a little bit. Time was when the bloggers’ quid pro quo wasn’t intrinsic in a you-scratch-my-back way, it was simply a fact that bloggers tended to be enthusiastic about other people’s books. Nowadays, with new authors being instructed from on high to promote themselves on social media, it’s all become a bit of a shrill screeching (or shill screeching?) on the interwebs, with a whole new generation of writers interested only in talking about their own books. Which, to be perfectly frank, is completely off-putting. And when debutant authors - writers, of course, being those who are supposed to value words and their meaning more than anyone else - are guilty of trumpeting their own work as, say, ‘Ireland’s best-loved detective / favourite serial killer-catcher / critically acclaimed femme fatale’, etc. even before their books are published, then it all starts to wear thin very quickly.
  That said, I’m still fascinated by the quality of emerging Irish crime fiction, so I’ll be keeping tabs on that. Not to the same extent as previously, perhaps, but I can’t imagine that I’ll be packing it in entirely. It’s fair to say, though, that from here on in Crime Always Pays will probably be focusing on a narrower range of books rather than trying to cover everything published, regardless of quality.
  Anyway, upward and onward to Manchester this evening, where I’ll be in Waterstones in Deansgate in the company of John Connolly and the very lovely Barbara Nadel. Oh, and I’m told the Book Witch might zoom in on her broom, which would be very nice indeed …

Wednesday, September 12 at 7:00 p.m.
Manchester, England
John Connolly & Declan Burke discuss BOOKS TO DIE FOR and sign their books at Waterstones
91 Deansgate
Manchester
0161 837 3000
Tickets £3, available from the shop or book via Twitter @waterstonesmcr

Thursday, September 13 at 1:00 p.m.
Leeds, England
John Connolly & Declan Burke sign their books at Waterstones
93-97 Albion Street
Leeds
0843 290 8443

Thursday, September 13 at 7:00 p.m.
Scarborough, England
John Connolly & Declan Burke discuss BOOKS TO DIE FOR and sign their books
Scarborough Library Concert Hall
Scarborough
Tickets £3 including refreshments, available from the library

Friday, September 14 at 1:00 p.m.
York, England
John Connolly & Declan Burke sign their books at Waterstones
28-29 High Ousegate
York
01904 628740

Friday, September 14 at 7:00 p.m.
Liverpool, England
John Connolly & Declan Burke in conversation with Adam Creed at Waterstones
14-16 Bold Street
Liverpool
0843 290 8455

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Man Who Smiled Too Much

Yet another interesting Irish crime fiction debut comes our way, this one courtesy of Michael Russell, whose novel THE CITY OF SHADOWS (Avon) opens in Dublin in 1934. Quoth the blurb elves:
“She looked up at the terraced house, with the closed shutters and the big room at the end of the long unlit corridor where the man who smiled too much did his work. She climbed the steps and knocked on the door …”
  Dublin 1934: Detective Stefan Gillespie arrests a German doctor and encounters Hannah Rosen, desperate to find her friend Susan, a Jewish woman who disappeared after a love affair with a Catholic priest. When the bodies of a man and woman are found buried in the Dublin mountains, Stefan becomes involved in a complex case that takes him, and Hannah, across Europe to Danzig. Stefan and Hannah are drawn together in an unfamiliar city where the Nazi Party are gaining power. But in their quest to uncover the truth of what happened to Susan, they find themselves in grave danger …
  It is a crime novel? A spy novel? A literary offering that offers crime and / or spy novel tropes? Have we uncovered the Irish equivalent of Alan Furst and John Lawton? Hard to tell without so much as a jacket cover to guide our pointless guesswork, but it does sound like a fascinating prospect. As always, we’ll keep you posted …

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Week Of A Thousand Scribes

It’s been one of those weeks. One of THOSE WEEKS. Last Saturday I did a very pleasant event at Electric Picnic with one of my all-time heroes, the shockingly modest and self-effacing Ken Griffin, during which I read from SLAUGHTER’S HOUND and Ken played acoustic versions of the Rollerskate Skinny songs I mention / quote from in the novel. It may not sound like a lot, but it was a once-in-a-lifetime gig for yours truly.
  I also bumped into Keith Ridgway at the Picnic, and had a short but sweet chat about how his new novel, HAWTHORN AND CHILD, isn’t really a crime novel but might be, sorta.
  Onward then to Wednesday, when I interviewed Howard Jacobson, who has just published ZOO TIME, the follow-up to his Booker Prize-winning THE FINKLER QUESTION. The novel - ZOO TIME - might well have been written about yours truly, given that it’s a comedy about a failing, narcissistic writer, although if the truth be told, all writers are equally narcissistic and failing. Anyway, Howard Jacobson was wonderful company - irreverent, funny, thoughtful, profane. A hugely enjoyable hour or so.
  On Thursday it was off to Dubray Books on Grafton Street in Dublin, for the launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR, where John Connolly and I were joined by contributors Brian McGilloway, John Banville, Arlene Hunt, Eoin Colfer, Stuart Neville and Colin Bateman. All of which was terrific, but Barbara Nadel and Julia Wallis Martin also flew over from the UK to join in the festivities, which was very much in keeping with the spirit of the book. The good people at Dubray arranged the writers in a conveyor belt-style set-up for signing purposes, which left me sitting between Eoin Colfer and John Banville and - not to put too fine a point on it - acutely aware of my deficiencies. Ah well. Declan Hughes, who was elsewhere detained at the Mountains to Sea Festival out in Dun Laoghaire for the actual launch, schlepped along to the post-launch party, and regaled all and sundry - as is his wont - with details of how his new play is progressing. Said play will open at The Gate next month, incidentally, so stick that one in your diary.
  On Friday I took myself off to Dun Laoghaire for the aforementioned Mountains to Sea Festival, where I hosted a conversation between two very fine Irish crime writing debutants, Conor Brady (A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS) and Michael Clifford (GHOST TOWN). It’s a very impressively run festival, Mountains to Sea, I have to say, and Conor and Michael had a very fine turn-out.
  Saturday morning I jaunted in as far as Dundrum, there to meet with Lee Child to interview him about his latest Jack Reacher offering, A WANTED MAN. A very nice guy, Lee Child, even if he has lowered his standards so far as to provide a big-up for the cover for yours truly’s latest tome. He’s remarkably frank, too, when discussing topics such as Tom Cruise and Ian McEwan. All told, another very pleasant hour.
  Back to Dun Laoghaire for Saturday afternoon, then, to host a crime writing workshop that was filled out by eight very interesting authors-in-progress, all of whom were at a different stage of the writing process. Hand on heart, I honestly can’t say that I was much use to them, but I do know that I thoroughly enjoyed the couple of hours we put in, and that I learned quite a bit myself. Not the object of the exercise, of course, but great fun all the same.
  I’ll heading back to Dun Laoghaire again this afternoon, this time to read alongside - or in the shadow of - the great Daniel Woodrell. I’m presuming it’ll be terrifying and exhilarating in equal parts, but hopefully I won’t disgrace myself entirely.
  And after that, happy days, I can relax into … Oh hold on, no. I’m off to the UK next week to gatecrash John Connolly’s THE WRATH OF ANGELS / BOOKS TO DIE FOR tour, and meet the lovely burghers of York, Scarborough, Leeds, Manchester and Liverpool to talk books, books, books.
  Not incidentally, there were a couple of very nice feature pieces on BOOKS TO DIE FOR in the newspapers yesterday. For more, clickety-click here and here
  People, I love this life …