“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, December 21, 2012

A Legend Is Born

I mentioned the other day, while chatting about Jane Casey’s forthcoming YA tome HOW TO FALL, that a couple of other high profile Irish crime writers would be publishing YA titles in 2013. And lo! No sooner had the piece gone up on the blog than notice arrived of Alex Barclay’s latest offering, CURSE OF KINGS: THE TRIALS OF OLAND BORN (HarperCollins Children’s Books). Quoth the blurb elves:
In the tone of The Hobbit, comes the first thrilling story in an epic fantasy adventure, from a major new voice. Fourteen-year-old Oland Born lives in dark times, in a world ruled by evil tyrant, Vilius Ren. Vilius and his fearsome, bloodthirsty army have wrecked the prosperous kingdom of Decresian, once ruled by good King Micah. Oland himself has been kept as Vilius’s servant in grim Castle Derrington, and he knows little about his past – or why Vilius keeps such a sharp, close eye on him. One night, Oland finds a letter addressed to him, from the long-dead king. No sooner has he read the message than a mysterious stranger tries to kidnap him. Oland runs, the dead king’s warning ringing in his ears. If Oland is to live he must restore the shattered kingdom. This is his quest. This is his curse. Let the trials of Oland Born begin . . . The setting is a hugely atmospheric fantasy world of medieval castles, Romanesque games arenas, supernatural forests and harsh seas. Terrifying hybrid creatures and monsters abound – and Oland’s greatest ally is a girl called Delphi who has dark secrets of her own.
  Sounds intriguing, I have to say - but then I’m biased, being something of a fiend for myth and legend. Anyway, CURSE OF KINGS will be published on January 31st, just in time to pull us all out of the New Year blues. No pressure, Alex …

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Best Things In Life Are Free … BOOKS (TO DIE FOR)

’Tis the season to be jolly, and give presents, and even if I do tend to struggle with the ‘jolly’ bit on occasion, the BOOKS TO DIE FOR (Hodder & Stoughton) team will hopefully make up for that today. For lo! I have a (multiple) signed first edition of BOOKS TO DIE FOR to give away, which will warm the metaphorical cockles of any crime fiction fan’s heart. First, the blurb elves:
With so many mystery novels to choose from and so many new titles appearing each year, where should the reader start? What are the classics of the genre? Which are the hidden gems? In the most ambitious anthology of its kind yet attempted, the world’s leading mystery writers have come together to champion the greatest mystery novels ever written. In a series of personal essays that often reveal as much about themselves and their work work as they do about the books that they love, more than 120 authors from twenty countries have created a guide that will be indispensable for generations of readers and writers. From Christie to Child and Poe to PD James, from Sherlock Holmes to Hannibal Lecter and Philip Marlowe to Peter Wimsey, BOOKS TO DIE FOR brings together the cream of the mystery world for a feast of reading pleasure, a treasure trove for those new to the genre and those who believe that there is nothing new left to discover. This is the one essential book for every reader who has ever finished a mystery novel and thought . . . I want more!
  So there you have it. To be in with a chance of winning this unique prize, just answer the following question:
What one crime / mystery novel do you think every crime / mystery fan should read?
  Answers via the comment box below, please, leaving a contact email address (using ‘at’ rather than @ to confuse the spam munchkins), by noon on December 31st. Oh, and if you fancy a second bite at the proverbial cherry, we’re also giving away a signed BTDF over here. Et bon chance, mes amis

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Fall For Springtime

At this rate I’m never going to be on trend. Jane Casey is the latest Irish crime scribe to turn her hand to writing young adult novels with HOW TO FALL (Corgi), following in the footsteps of John Connolly, Eoin McNamee, Cora Harrison, Colin Bateman and Adrian McKinty - and I’m reliably informed that two more of our high profile authors will be publishing YA titles in 2013. (Eoin Colfer, of course, being obstreperous and from Wexford, moved in the other direction, from writing YA to adult crime).
  I’d love to write a children’s book, but I’d imagine it’s a very difficult thing to get right, especially if you can’t allow your characters swear like stevedores when you run out of polite things for them to say.
  Anyway, HOW TO FALL will be published at the end of January, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
When fifteen-year-old Freya drowns, everyone assumes she’s killed herself, but no-one knows why. Her cousin, Jess Tennant, thinks she was murdered - and is determined to uncover the truth. On a summer visit to sleepy Port Sentinel, Jess (who bears a striking resemblance to her dead cousin) starts asking questions - questions that provoke strong reactions from her friends and family, not to mention Freya’s enemies. Everyone is hiding something - and Freya herself had more than her fair share of secrets. Can Jess unravel the mystery of her cousin’s death? A mystery involving a silver locket, seething jealousy and a cliff-top in the pitch black of night?
  Sounds like a cracker. There’s an early review of HOW TO FALL over at Chicklish (“Reader, I snogged him!”) which augurs well …

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: KILLING THE EMPERORS by Ruth Dudley Edwards

No lover of the politically correct, Baroness Ida ‘Jack’ Troutbeck makes it her life’s work to skewer society’s sacred cows. From academia to the House of Lords, and all points in between, Jack Troutbeck believes that the world of power and privilege is full of cant and hypocrisy.
  In KILLING THE EMPERORS (Allison & Busby), Jack announces to her friends that it’s time to take up the cudgels against the latest manifestation of ‘cultural idiocy’, that of contemporary conceptual art, as represented by artists such as Damien Hirst and Tracy Emin.
  Shortly after, the Baroness goes missing. Her friends are concerned, and become more so when famous names and faces from the world of conceptual art - artists, critics, curators, buyers - are also reported missing.
  It quickly becomes apparent that a Russian oligarch called Sarkovsky is responsible. An enthusiastic collector of modern art, and a recent ‘companion’ of Jack Troutbeck, Sarkovsky was hugely dismayed to discover that his multi-million investment in art is - according to Jack - largely worthless.
  It’s fair to say that Ruth Dudley Edwards is no fan of modern art, and KILLING THE EMPERORS won’t be winning any awards for its subtlety. The novel opens with a short version of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes’, from which the title of the novel is taken. After a short prologue in which the first murder victim is discovered, Chapter One opens thusly:
‘I used to want to kill the talentless so-called artists,’ said Baroness Troutbeck, ‘but now I want instead to fill the tumbrils with the critics, the dealers, the curators, and all the rest of the charlatans and dunderheads peddling trash in the name of contemporary art.’ (pg 23)
  Edwards does not shy away from naming and shaming. Artists such as Tracey Emin and Damien Hirst are name-checked, as are collectors and curators such as Charles Saatchi and Nicolas Serota. All of them are damned as ‘charlatans and dunderheads’ who have perverted successive generations of artists with their notion that art is what the artist says it is.
  Jack Troutbeck is much more conservative in her understanding and appreciation of art, preferring the works of those artists who can actually paint, sculpt or play music to those who bypass the craft and simply peddle ideas, or concepts.
  I found it all hugely entertaining - although in saying so, I should probably admit to my own bias against conceptual art. KILLING THE EMPERORS isn’t a conventional crime / mystery novel, being much more of a polemic concerned with satirising conceptual art than it is with constructing a mystery to be solved. That said, I found it to be terrific fun, occasionally laugh-out-loud, and wonderfully subversive. - Declan Burke

Monday, December 17, 2012

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Quentin Bates

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?
There are so many. Normally it’s the one I’m reading at the moment. It’s more thriller than crime, but let’s say THE DAY OF THE JACKAL.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
The narrator in THE IPCRESS FILE, Harry Palmer in the films. He cooks to perfection, duffs up villains with aplomb and is never lost for an answer, plus being irresistible to passing supermodels. All of which I fail dismally at. Otherwise I’d settle for Josef Svejk.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Viz. Mrs Brady first, then Eight Ace.

Most satisfying writing moment?
That point when it all starts to gel and you know it works.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
I haven’t read enough of them to make an informed judgement, but that ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is something I’ve ordered people to read. Who wrote that one?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Again, haven’t read enough of them to say for sure. But I’d love to see one of Benjamin Black’s books filmed, if the character of Quirke and the atmosphere of ’50s Dublin would translate to film. I reckon it’d be either brilliant or terrible, no middle ground there.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best bit is when someone goes out of their way to tell you just now much they enjoyed the story you’ve written, especially when it’s someone who took a chance on a writer they hadn’t heard of before and found they couldn’t put the book down. The worst bit is when it isn’t coming together, fighting the temptation to brood as the kettle boils yet again.

The pitch for your next book is…?
If you don’t want your wife to find out you’re being blackmailed, or wind up embarrassingly dead, maybe you should have been more careful where you put it? It’s set in Reykjavik at that dark, nervous time of year when the post-Christmas Visa bill is about to hit the doormat. (CHILLED TO THE BONE, out in April, UK & US)

Who are you reading right now?
Xavier-Marie Bonnot, Barbara Nadel, PG Wodehouse.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
That’s a hell of a choice. If it happens, I’ll just toss a coin. Either would be terrible. Mind you, if I could only read, at least there’d be a chance to make a dent in the sprawling to-be-read piles.

The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
May contain nuts.

Quentin Bates’ current novel is COLD COMFORT.