“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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Books To Die For: The US Launch

Life, as John Lennon said, is what happens while you’re busy making other plans. This time next week I should have been waking up in Ohio anticipating the US launch of BOOKS TO DIE FOR at the Cleveland Bouchercon, which takes place on Friday October 4th, at 4pm in the Grand Ballroom of the Marriott Renaissance.
  John Connolly will be hosting proceedings in his inimitable fashion - John, I’m delighted to say, is honoured as Toastmaster for this year’s Bouchercon - and quite a few of the authors who contributed to BTDF will be present for the event, and signing books once the palaver is dispensed with. Among those scheduled to attend are (deep breath) Mark Billingham, Cara Black, Lee Child, Reed Farrel Coleman, Max Allan Collins, Michael Connelly, Thomas H. Cook, Deborah Crombie, Joseph Finder, Meg Gardiner, Alison Gaylin, Charlaine Harris, Erin Hart, Peter James, Laurie R. King, Michael Koryta, Bill Loehfelm, Val McDermid, John McFetridge, Chris Mooney, Stuart Neville, Sara Paretsky, Michael Robotham, S.J. Rozan, Yrsa Sigurdardottir, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Kelli Stanley, Martyn Waites and F. Paul Wilson.
  That’s a pretty impressive line-up, and I’m desperately disappointed that I won’t be in the room for the launch. This year’s Bouchercon would have been a once-in-a-lifetime trip, particularly as BOOKS TO DIE FOR was born out of the kind of spirit that pervades Bouchercon, which is the willingness of other writers to enthuse about good books. And it would have been wonderful to rub shoulders with the writers in the room, if only to see if some of their pixie dust might rub off on yours truly. Not only that, but a post-Bouchercon road trip in the company of John McFetridge had been planned, John being a good mate and superb writer, and not necessarily in that order; and said trip was supposed to culminate in Detroit, where I was pencilled in to interview the great Elmore Leonard.
  All told, it would’ve been a hell of a week. Still, it can’t be Mills & Boon every day, right?
  Meanwhile, there was a smashing review of BOOKS TO DIE FOR in the Irish Examiner last weekend, courtesy of Prof. Val Nolan. The gist ran a lot like this:
“An anthology of verve, heft, and no small ambition, this volume gathers 120 of the world’s leading crime writers to discuss their favourite mystery novels in a series of short essays … By securing the participation of grande dames and young guns alike, Connolly and Burke have ensured that their anthology transcends mere curiosity to serve as a robust defence of a fiction which tackles the ugly, messy nature of the world head on. Part celebration, part list of required reading, BOOKS TO DIE FOR will thrill the individual mystery lover as much as it will prove an essential reference for the shelves of lending libraries. A vast, comprehensive undertaking, it is that rare breed of anthology of interest to both the initiated and the newcomer. Indeed, like the ideal mystery novel itself, this is a page-turner with an addictive quality.” - Prof. Val Nolan, Irish Examiner
  So there you have it. Upward we go, and onward, and maybe it’s not too early to start planning for Bouchercon 2013 …

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Season Of Mists And Mellow Shortlistness

It’s that time of the year again, folks, that time of mists and mellow fruitfulness when I wonder (fruitlessly, for the most part, but in mellow fashion) as to the shape and content of the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel of the Year - if memory serves, the shortlist for said award was announced in mid-October last year.
  It’s been yet another very good year for the Irish crime novel, even if some of its leading lights - Colin Bateman, Gene Kerrigan, Ava McCarthy, last year’s winner Alan Glynn, Eoin McNamee, Declan Hughes - didn’t publish. It has also been a most extraordinary year for debuts, which - as I understand it, but don’t quote me on this - are more likely to be entered in the Best Newcomer section rather than the Best Crime Novel category. In fact, you’d put together a shortlist of debut Irish crime novels for 2012, it would look something like this:
Conor Brady, A JUNE OF ORDINARY MURDERS;
Michael Clifford, GHOST TOWN;
Claire McGowan, THE FALL;
Matt McGuire, DARK DAWN;
Louise Phillips, RED RIBBONS;
Anthony Quinn, DISAPPEARED.
  That’s impressive enough, but there’s also a number of interesting titles from authors who aren’t considered crime writers, but who have delivered novels steeped in the genre:
Marian Keyes, THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE;
Joe Murphy, DEAD DOGS;
Keith Ridgway, HAWTHORN & CHILD;
Darren Shan, LADY OF THE SHADES.
  And then, of course, there are those authors who are recognised as crime writers. To wit:
Alex Barclay, BLOOD LOSS;
Benjamin Black, VENGEANCE;
Ken Bruen, HEADSTONE;
Jane Casey, THE LAST GIRL;
John Connolly, THE WRATH OF ANGELS;
Conor Fitzgerald, THE NAMESAKE;
Tana French, BROKEN HARBOUR;
Casey Hill, TORN;
Arlene Hunt, THE CHOSEN;
Brian McGilloway, THE NAMELESS DEAD;
Adrian McKinty, THE COLD COLD GROUND;
Stuart Neville, STOLEN SOULS;
Niamh O’Connor, TAKEN;
William Ryan, THE BLOODY MEADOW.
  So there you have it. If anyone fancies drawing up a six-book shortlist from that little lot, you’re a better man and / or woman than me. For what it’s worth - and bearing in mind that John Connolly’s novels are rarely put forward for consideration, and that e-only titles unfortunately don’t qualify - I’d imagine it’ll come down to a coin toss between Tana French and Adrian McKinty, both of whom produced superb novels this year, although I was particularly fond of Brian McGilloway’s and Alex Barclay’s new offerings too.
  If anyone else has anything to add, including any titles I might have missed, the comment box is now open …

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Ratlines Are Singing

There is good and bad news about Stuart Neville’s forthcoming tome, RATLINES (Harvill Secker). The good news is that it sounds like an absolute cracker. Quoth the blurb elves:
“Right at the end of the war, some Nazis saw it coming. They knew that even if they escaped, hundreds of others wouldn’t. They needed to set up routes, channels, ways out for their friends. Ratlines.”
  Ireland, 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. He is the third foreign national to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey is desperate to protect a shameful secret: the dead men were all former Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government. A note from the killers is found on the corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite WWII commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. It says simply: ‘We are coming for you. Await our call.’
  Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate the crimes. But as he infiltrates Ireland’s secret network of former Nazis and collaborators, Ryan must choose between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? And who are the killers seeking revenge for the horrors of the Second World War?
  Hitler, Charlie Haughey and JFK? Now that’s what I call a set-up. The bad news, unfortunately, is that RATLINES isn’t actually published until January 3rd, which is the best part of four months away. Mind you, an ARC of said tome sits on my shelf as you read, and I’ll be getting to it early next month. Joy.
  Incidentally, there’s a short story about Lieutenant Albert Ryan in DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS (Liberties Press, 2011), and it’s a very beautiful thing. If you haven’t read it, and can’t track down a copy of GREEN STREETS, the story is also available in THE SIX, a short collection of short stories available free here. No, don’t thank us, we’re just doing our job …

Monday, September 24, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Marian Keyes

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 first book by Nicci French. I think it was called THE MEMORY GAME, it’s a long time since I read it but I remember being awestruck by the subject matter (‘retrieved’ memories of childhood abuse) and all the twists and turns that go with something as unreliable as that.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I’d like to be Faith Zanetti from the series by Anna Blundy. She’s tough and cool and funny.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t think any reading should be regarded as a guilty pleasure. If you’re enjoying whatever you’re reading, then there’s no need to apologise for it.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
Ah here! There are so many brilliant books and if I pick one, all the writers I didn’t choose will take agin me. [Ed - I'm afraid I'm going to have to put a gun to your head, ma'am.] However, as you have the gun to my head, I’m going to go for THE LIKENESS by Tana French because the atmosphere is so magical and strange and spooky.

Most satisfying writing moment?
I’d never written a ‘mystery’ book before THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE and plot-wise it was a big challenge, but most people don’t guess the whereabouts of my missing person. I was ‘quietly pleased’.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I’m not sure Kevin Barry will thank me for describing CITY OF BOHANE as a crime novel, but it is, as well as being about 800 different types of book. It’d be great to see the fantastic, colourful world he’s created, on the screen. (Mind you, I get cranky when people go on about turning books into films, as if the medium of books is somehow second-rate …)

The best thing about being a writer?
Getting to play with words. I love words. They’re beautiful things.

The pitch for your next book is …
My current book (THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE) is a missing persons case about a ex-boyband member who has disappeared five days before a massive reunion gig. Is that any good to you?

What are you reading right now?
GONE GIRL by Gillian Flynn. Bloody fantastic!!!

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
First of all I’d have strong words with God about the cruelty of the human condition. When I was finished berating him, I’d pick reading. I love writing but it’s very fecking hard.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Conversational, dark, funny.

THE MYSTERY OF MERCY CLOSE by Marian Keyes is published by Michael Joseph.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

It Was The Best Of Books, It Was The Worst Of Books …

You learn more from a negative review than a positive one, as they say, and by that reckoning there was much to be learned from John Boland’s review of SLAUGHTER’S HOUND, which was published in the Irish Independent yesterday. It’s not understating the case to say that John wasn’t particularly fond of the book - ‘frequently implausible’, ‘inherently repellent’ and ‘aggressively unpleasant’ are a few of the choicer phrases that sum up the review, while Harry Rigby is ‘as much a thug as most of the lowlifes he encounters’ compared to Raymond Chandler’s noble knight errant, Philip Marlowe. He concludes:
“The result is as bleak a picture of contemporary Ireland as you’ll encounter - though undermined by the reader’s sense that the author has nothing interesting to say about such an Ireland and that it’s all being served up for lurid thrills. On that level, the book is brutally efficient.” John Boland, Irish Independent
  Oh, the humanity, etc. Over in the Sunday Times (no link), Kristoffer Mullin liked SLAUGHTER’S HOUND a little bit more, with the gist running thusly:
“Declan Burke sets the scene for the most perfect noir novel, a screwball caper set in a recognisable Sligo where the rich scurry beneath the shadow of Nama and the drug gangs are run by former dissidents. The real joy in this set-up is that the writer somehow makes the west coast of modern-day Ireland feel like the west coast of 1940s America. The only way Harry Rigby could be more like Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe would be if he rode around in a 1930s Chrysler and called all the women ‘dames’ …
  “Burke recently professed his adoration for Rollerskate Skinny, saying the 1990s indie rockers managed that rare feat of being Irish without necessarily sounding Irish. In the very American realm of hard-boiled crime fiction, Burke has managed the same trick. In fact, on this evidence, few of his peers over the Atlantic can hold a candle to him.” - Kristoffer Mullin, Sunday Times
  So there you have it: two very different takes on the very same book, and I suppose the best thing to do is take them in the spirit of Kipling’s twin imposters. That said, you won’t be even remotely surprised to learn which of the twins is my favourite …