“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, October 19, 2012

Sheer Geneius

I was absolutely delighted last night when word filtered through that Gene Kerrigan’s THE RAGE had won the Gold Dagger at the Crime Writers’ Association Awards. I thought it was a superb novel when I read it first, all those many moons ago, and I’m very pleased indeed to see it, and Gene, get the credit they deserve.
  Mind you, a certain Stuart Neville won’t be at all surprised. During the course of an interview waaaaaay back in April of 2011, I asked Stuart if he’d read anything recently that he’d like to recommend, and his response ran thusly:
“The new Gene Kerrigan book, THE RAGE, is absolutely terrific. It captures that sense of Ireland on the down-slope of the rollercoaster, he’s done that very, very well. But also, his journalistic background makes it seem like there’s almost a documentary feel to it. You feel like you could be reading an actual description of a crime in it, as opposed to a fictional crime. It has a real core of authenticity to it. It’s very impressive. I’d hope that the Irish Book Awards win last year, and the CWA nomination, will help raise his profile. He’s a terrific writer.”
  Indeed he is. For the rest of the CWA Awards nominees and winners, by the way, clickety-click on the very fine blog It’s A Crime

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Curious Case Of Wilkie Collins And The Dry Old Tart

Interviewing writers can be a bit of a tricky business these days. No longer is it good enough, apparently, to take five minutes beforehand to strategically dog-ear a few corners in their latest tome and then plonk it down on the table and ask them earnestly where they get all their wonderful ideas. These days, for some odd reason, writers expect you to have read at least one of their books before the interview commences, and preferably the current one. Strange, I know, but there it is.
  Anyway, I’m reading the latest Mystery Man offering from The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman, aka THE PRISONER OF BRENDA (Headline, published October 25th), and very funny it is too, studded with some very nice digressions on the nature of crime fiction and not a few opinions on the quality of the books Mystery Man stocks in his crime fiction bookshop. To wit:
“He probably didn’t know that Sergeant Cuff was one of the first and greatest of fictional detectives, appearing in 1868 in Wilkie Collins’s THE MOONSTONE - a book, incidentally, hailed by Dorothy L. Sayers as probably the very finest detective story ever written. Dorothy was no slouch herself, if a bit of a dry old tart.” (pg 62)
  A pithy appraisal, I’m sure you’ll agree. And there’s plenty more where that came from, although fans of the Scandinavian crime novel may want to gird their metaphorical loins before cracking the spine …

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Nobody Move, This Is a Review: WHAT RICHARD DID

Richard Karlsen (Jack Reynor), the handsome young hero of Lenny Abrahamson’s What Richard Did (15A), is almost too good to be true. A schools rugby captain and the alpha male of his peer group in the leafy environs of south County Dublin, Richard is also thoughtful and sensitive, ‘the male equivalent,’ as one of his friends declares, ‘of the Rose of fucking Tralee’. Loosely based on Kevin Power’s novel Bad Day in Blackrock (2008), which was in turn inspired by the media coverage of the brutal death of a Dublin schoolboy at the hands - or feet - of his peers, What Richard Did is a character study of an intelligent young man who kicks his golden future apart in a moment of booze-fuelled jealous rage. It’s a thought-provoking film that offers its teenage protagonists no mercy as it pries into their intimate lives, but it’s refreshing too to watch a film that allows young men and women be who they are on their own terms - it’s a kind of Irish Less Than Zero (1987), in which the pretty young things prove to be pretty vacant when the first real stumbling block to their gilded passage through life drops out of the sky. Reynor is superb as Richard, an apparently effortless performance that grows impressively intense and anguished as he tries to come to terms with his tragedy, and he gets very strong support from fellow cast members Roisin Murphy, Sam Keeley and Fionn Walton. As if dazzled by Reynor’s performance, however, the filmmakers allow the true tragedy of the story to slip away - Richard is here the perpetrator, after all, rather than the victim - in favour of wallowing in persuasive but ultimately hollow existential self-questioning. Then again, this is a story that has its roots in the Me-Me-Me Celtic Tiger era, so perhaps focusing on Richard’s grief at the loss of his privileged existence is the most cutting satirical side-swipe at that benighted time Campbell and Abrahamson could have devised. ****

This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, October 15, 2012

On Ill-Fated Gull-Winged White Elephants

I mentioned a couple of weeks back that I believe the Ireland AM Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards will be something of a coin-toss between Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR and Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND, and nothing has happened in the interim to change my mind. The sequel to THE COLD COLD GROUND is I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET (Serpent’s Tail), which will be published in January, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Sean Duffy knows there’s no such thing as a perfect crime. But a torso in a suitcase is pretty close. Still, one tiny clue is all it takes, and there it is. A tattoo. So Duffy, fully fit and back at work after the severe trauma of his last case, is ready to follow the trail of blood - however faint - that always, always connects a body to its killer. A legendarily stubborn man, Duffy becomes obsessed with this mystery as a distraction from the ruins of his love life, and to push down the seed of self-doubt that he seems to have traded for his youthful arrogance. So from country lanes to city streets, Duffy works every angle. And wherever he goes, he smells a rat ...
  As is the case with COLD GROUND, SIRENS brilliantly captures the atmosphere of paranoia and barely controlled fury of 1980’s Northern Ireland, but it also comes with the added bonus of being - to the best of my knowledge - the first crime / mystery novel to feature the notoriously ill-fated gull-winged white elephant (aka the DeLorean car) as an integral part of the tale. Of course, I may well be revealing the depth of my ignorance here. If anyone can point me at mystery novels featuring DeLoreans, I’d love to see ’em …

Sunday, October 14, 2012

No Port In A Storm

Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR (Hachette Ireland) is one of my contenders for the best Irish novel of the year. Set in 2009, it’s a police procedural that gets under the skin of the post-Celtic Tiger years, investigating the extent to which the Irish economic meltdown had a brutalising effect on Irish society. I had an interview with Tana published in the Evening Herald yesterday, which opened up a lot like this:
Tana French is talking about killing again.
  “I really don’t believe in this borderline that exists between genre fiction and literature,” she says. “It shouldn’t be an either-or situation. Just because you kill somebody off, that shouldn’t mean it’s perceived as a particular kind of book.”
  The book in question is BROKEN HARBOUR, French’s fourth novel. Employing the framework of a police procedural crime novel, the book is a thought-provoking social commentary which explores the damaged mind of a psychologically complex anti-hero as a metaphor for a broken country.
  Set in the wake of the economic crash, BROKEN HARBOUR has a lot to live up to. French’s debut, IN THE WOODS (2007), won every available American crime writing prize - the Edgar, the Barry, the Anthony, the Macavity. She has been twice shortlisted for the LA Times Crime / Mystery Novel of the Year, for IN THE WOODS and FAITHFUL PLACE (2010). The latter was also nominated for the Impac Award earlier this year. French’s novels are perennial New York Times best-sellers, and tend to receive the kind of glowing reviews more associated with the John Banvilles and Julian Barnes of this world.
  In short, Tana French is one of modern Ireland’s great novelists. BROKEN HARBOUR isn’t just a wonderful mystery novel, it’s also the era-defining post-Celtic Tiger novel the Irish literati have been crying out for.
  “That wasn’t deliberate,” says Tana. “I wasn’t going for a state-of-the-nation kind of book. It’s just, when this is permeating the air around you, it seeps into everything.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here