“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, November 10, 2012

Origins: Darragh McManus on EVEN FLOW

“The genesis of my thriller EVEN FLOW lies a fair way in the past. All the way back to 2002, in fact, when I returned from honeymoon with half an idea in my head for a story, or at least its opening scene: a group of yuppie assholes, abusing two call-girls at a stag party. Then three vigilantes blow the door off the hinges and stride into this beautiful apartment, clad in tuxedos and balaclavas, and announce that they’re here to punish the men responsible.
  “The story flowed from there, as the 3W Gang – named for gay icons Wilde, Whitman and Waters – embark on a campaign of terror against homophobes and misogynists. They’re urban guerrillas, violent Situationist pranksters, radical feminists, the children of Baader-Meinhof, the New Man in excelsis. They’re ironic and smart-assed and angry and brave; they’re Gen X with a gun and a willingness to use it. As the blurb puts it, they’re Germaine Greer crossed with Kurt Cobain crossed with Dirty Harry.
  “Except that’s not really where the story began. We have to go back eleven more years, to 1991, when I was a first year student at University College Cork. Around April, rumours started circulating about a spate of so-called ‘queer-bashing’ attacks on gay students by local ignoramuses. This was shocking, first because Cork then was a very safe place – you’d walk from town at any time, day or night, and never see trouble – but also because it so went against the grain of how we thought and felt about homosexuality.
  “I wasn’t gay, and don’t think I knew any gay students, but that didn’t matter: someone’s sexuality was just accepted as a part of them, a thing – an irrelevance unless you personally fancied someone but she didn’t fancy men back, or whatever. It was normal to not give a rat’s ass whether a person was gay or not. It was definitely abnormal to beat them up if they were.
  “Anyway, I remember thinking, half in jest but possibly all in earnest, “You know what’d be cool – if there was a gang of queer-basher bashers. Enlightened men, but considerably tougher than me, who went around selectively punishing homophobes in the kind of language they understand.” So, fast-forward to 2012 and the 3W Gang are, essentially, doing just that.
  “Except … that’s not fully right, either. Because around the same time, I did a module in black American literature, and read Toni Morrison’s great novel Song of Solomon, in which one of the characters, Guitar Baines – love that name – joins a sort of terrorist group which hits back in kind at racist attacks. As in, the KKK kills a black man, Guitar and his guys kill one of the KKK. This is to balance things out, he says. The universe is out of kilter otherwise, if grievous wrong is done with no redress.
  “So there was that too – my vigilantes strive for an ‘even flow’, a rebalancing, an equalisation. But there were more events, other times. Yes, I know this is all starting to sound a bit like the “literary inspiration” version of Inception: an origin inside an origin inside an origin. But that’s how EVEN FLOW came to me, I’m realising now.
  Grunge music, and how it was discordant and loud and muscular, but at the same time gentle and considerate and introspective. Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Susan Sontag and all those great, ballsy, pioneering feminist women. Emmeline Pankhurst and the other Suffragettes, who were willing to literally die for their convictions.
  “And more, and more … Mary Wollestonecraft. The Stonewall rioters. David Bowie, Robert Mapplethorpe. The Smiths. Don DeLillo. The journalist Jack Holland. Allen Ginsberg. Robert Graves. REM. Clint Eastwood. Margaret Atwood. Anthony Burgess. Ulrike Meinhoff. Batman. V for Vendetta. James Ellroy, Dashiell Hammett, Andrew Vachss, William Gibson, Alan Moore. Taxi Driver, Falling Down, Point Break, The Crow, Munich, Dead Man’s Shoes, Hard Candy.
  “Where do the origins of EVEN FLOW lie? In the whole progress of my life, I suppose; in all the things I read or saw or heard or pondered or argued or rejected; in the streams and dynamics of the world that preceded me and then shaped me. A world where a simple sense of fair play, for men and women, straight and gay, seemed normal – was normal. A world where ignorance and brutality and hatred and fear were instantly identifiable as fucked up and just wrong. A world where these things still exist, sadly, but less and less, as the decades pass. I think. I hope?
  “A world moving towards a happy time when men like Wilde, Waters and Whitman are no longer necessary.” - Darragh McManus

  For more by Darragh McManus, clickety-click here

Friday, November 9, 2012

Always Judge A Book By Its Covers

Someone was asking on the interwebs yesterday about book covers, and which are the most impressive, those from the US or the UK. I think the folks behind Stuart Neville’s forthcoming opus, RATLINES (Harvill Secker in the UK, Soho in the US) have done a very nice job in both cases, but generally speaking, I’m in favour of US covers. Herewith be the blurb for RATLINES:
Ireland 1963. As the Irish people prepare to welcome President John F. Kennedy to the land of his ancestors, a German national is murdered in a seaside guesthouse. Lieutenant Albert Ryan, Directorate of Intelligence, is ordered to investigate. The German is the third foreigner to die within a few days, and Minister for Justice Charles Haughey wants the killing to end lest a shameful secret be exposed: the dead men were all Nazis granted asylum by the Irish government in the years following World War II.

A note from the killers is found on the dead German’s corpse, addressed to Colonel Otto Skorzeny, Hitler’s favourite commando, once called the most dangerous man in Europe. The note simply says: “We are coming for you.”

As Albert Ryan digs deeper into the case he discovers a network of former Nazis and collaborators, all presided over by Skorzeny from his country estate outside Dublin. When Ryan closes in on the killers, his loyalty is torn between country and conscience. Why must he protect the very people he fought against twenty years before? Ryan learns that Skorzeny might be a dangerous ally, but he is a deadly enemy.
  I’ve read RATLINES, by the way, and it’s very, very good - a terrific thriller-cum-spy novel that appears to have set up Albert Ryan for what could become a very interesting series.
  Back to the US / UK ‘debate’, and there’s one advantage that US books have over their counterparts on this side of the pond that leaves me weak at the knees. I’m not usually a geek for book production, I’m not a collector or any kind of serious bibliophile, but lawks awmighty, the very sight (better still, the finger-riffling touch) of a deckled-edge cut on the paper sends serious shivers through my system. Sad, I know, but there it is. We can choose what we like but not what we love.
  Anyway, RATLINES is published in early January, 2013. If I were you, I’d be pre-ordering my copy now …

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Talkin’ Hound Dog Blues

Those of you concerned by global warming may want to look away now. For lo! Much hot air will be generated by yours truly over the next week or so, as I take part in a number of speaking engagements, during the course of which I will be reading from my latest tome, SLAUGHTER’S HOUND. To wit:
On Thursday, November 8th, I will be interviewed by Edel Coffey as part of Fingal’s Writing 3.0 Festival, which will take place at 8pm at Blanchardstown Library. For all the details, clickety-click here

On Tuesday, November 13th, I’ll be reading from SLAUGHTER’S HOUND at Sligo Library at 6pm as my contribution to Library Week. Given that I haunted this particular building as a child, and that much of my formative reading was sourced from Sligo Library, I’m very much looking forward to this event. That said, reading from a book set in Sligo to a Sligo crowd is a daunting prospect. Hopefully they’ll all still be buzzing on the endorphin rush of Sligo Rovers winning the League for the first time in 35 years and give me an easy ride …

On Friday, November 16th, I’ll be hosting Crime Night at the inaugural Red Line Festival in Tallaght, Dublin, chairing a panel composed of John Connolly, Mark Billingham, Niamh O’Connor and Declan Hughes, all of whom will be talking about their favourite crime novels and the books that inspired them to first pick up a pen. For all the details, clickety-click here
  So there you have it. If you’re likely to be in the vicinity of any of those events, we’d love to see you there …