“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, January 5, 2013

Fade To Black

Born in New York, Stephan Talty’s roots extend all the way across the Atlantic to County Clare, from which fabulously exotic setting his parents hail. What has that to do with his debut novel, BLACK IRISH (Headline)? Erm, nowt. To wit:
Harvard-educated Detective Absalom ‘Abbie’ Kearney has returned to ‘The County’ - an Irish enclave in Buffalo, NY - to take care of her ageing father, legendary former cop John Kearney. In one of America’s most deprived and dilapidated cities, tensions run high and Abbie’s day job is never easy. But when it becomes apparent that a relentless and merciless killer has set to work, it’s about to get a lot harder. Faced with scenes of inconceivable violence, Abbie’s investigation takes her to the heart of this fiercely closed community. And the darkness she finds there will affect her life in ways she could never have imagined ...
  Someday soon I’m going to write a book on Irish-American crime writers, incorporating Dennis Lehane, Michael Connelly, James Lee Burke, George V. Higgins, Horace McCoy, et al. And now Stephan Talty. The starting point, of course, will be Raymond Chandler’s sojourn in Waterford. Or perhaps Liam O’Flaherty’s wanderings in the alleys of San Francisco? Hmmmm …

Friday, January 4, 2013

And So To Jerusalem

Laurence O’Bryan’s debut novel, THE ISTANBUL PUZZLE (Avon), did very well for itself, thank you very much, when it was nominated in the Ireland AM Crime Fiction category at last year’s Irish Book Awards. The second in the ‘Puzzle’ series is set in Jerusalem, if the title (THE JERUSALEM PUZZLE) is any clue, with the blurb elves burbling thusly:
An archaic manuscript contains a secret, one that could change the world … Behind Lady Tunshuq’s Palace in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem, archaeologist Max Keiser has been found dead. In the same city, Doctor Susan Hunter, who was translating an ancient script discovered in Istanbul, is missing. With his girlfriend Isabel Sharp, Sean Ryan is about to piece together the mystery of his colleague Max’s death and Susan’s disappearance. But as they explore the ancient and troubled city, they soon find themselves drawn into a dangerous and deadly game of fire. A taut thriller in the tradition of Dan Brown and Robert Harris.
  If that sounds like your cup of Darjeeling, get thee hence to Laurence O’Bryan’s interweb lair, where he’s running competitions to win signed first edition copies of THE JERUSALEM PUZZLE over the next couple of weeks …

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Green, Green Grass Of Home

Mick Clifford’s GHOST TOWN was one of the finest of the many Irish crime fiction debuts in 2012, and I’m delighted to see it get a snazzy new cover (right) and - presumably - a massive reprint in the wake of all the excellent reviews it garnered.
  Better yet, it looks like Mick Clifford hasn’t allowed the (koff) grass to grow under his feet. There’s a new title due from him later this year, when Headline publish THE DEAL in May. Quoth the blurb elves:
Karen Riney is at a loose end in Dublin, trying to get a job and straighten things out with crime boss Pascal Nix for her jailed ex-boyfriend, when she hits on a great idea to make money. In the depths of recession, there’s no business like the growhouse business. Kevin Wyman, drowning in a sea of debt, also wants to straighten things out with Nix, but his troubles begin to mount when despair sends him off into the world of online affairs. Dara Burns is a hitman for hire who ends up working for Nix, but his past is catching up with him as somebody is intent on making him pay for his crimes. Three diverse characters are thrown together by fate and set upon a trail of greed, destruction and revenge where the best that can be hoped for is just to stay alive.
  A journalist by trade, Mick Clifford appears to have his zeitgeisty finger firmly on the nation’s pulse - only yesterday a growhouse was discovered in Carlow with half a mill’s worth of weed at home. Yup, Carlow. Or Carhigh, as precisely no one will be calling it from here on in …

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When The Going Gets Turf …

There’s a very timely offering on the way from New Island Books next month, when they publish Patrick McGinley’s BOGMAIL, one of the great Irish crime novels. First published in 1978, it’s being reissued as part of the Modern Irish Classics series. To wit:
A truly funny and stunningly well-told tale of murder in a small Irish village near Donegal, BOGMAIL is a classic of modern Irish literature. Set in a remote village in the west of Ireland, the action begins with a murder when Roarty, a publican and former priest, kills his bartender then buries his body in a bog. It’s not long before Roarty starts getting blackmail letters, and matters quickly spiral out of his control. Twisty, turny and enlivened with colour that echoes the landscape and surroundings, BOGMAIL was Patrick McGinley’s first novel, yet it remains just as fresh today as the day it first appeared. BOGMAIL got the five-star treatment from Time magazine and The New York Times, and it was nominated for Best Novel in the 1981 Edgars.
  So there you have it. It’s donkey’s years since I first read BOGMAIL, so I’ll be giving it a whirl again in the very near future, just as soon (koff) as my fabulous new copy arrives from New Island Books …

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

The Morning Redness In The West

Paul Lynch is a name you’ll be hearing quite a bit of in 2013, methinks. His debut novel, RED SKY IN MORNING (Quercus) won’t be published until April 25th, but it’s already creating something of a word of mouth buzz. Quoth the blurb elves:
Spring 1832: Donegal, north west Ireland. Coll Coyle wakes to a blood dawn and a day he does not want to face. The young father stands to lose everything on account of the cruel intentions of his landowner’s heedless son. Although reluctant, Coll sets out to confront his trouble. And so begins his fall from the rain-soaked, cloud-swirling Eden, and a pursuit across the wild bog lands of Donegal. Behind him is John Faller - a man who has vowed to hunt Coll to the ends of the earth - in a pursuit that will stretch to an epic voyage across the Atlantic, and to greater tragedy in the new American frontier. RED SKY IN MORNING is a dark tale of oppression bathed in sparkling, unconstrained imagery. A compassionate and sensitive exploration of the merciless side of man and the indifference of nature, it is both a mesmerizing feat of imagination and a landmark piece of fiction.
  Nice. Meanwhile, the early word is very positive indeed. To wit:
‘Classic storytelling, rough and haunted people and the times that made them, powerfully conjured, written in language that demands attention. Lynch is bardic, given to sly and inspired word selections, with his own sprung rhythms and angled, stark musicality.’ - Daniel Woodrell

‘This book makes the literary synapses spark and burn. Forged in his own new and wonderful language, Paul Lynch reaches to the root, branch and bole of things, and unfurls a signal masterpiece.’ - Sebastian Barry
  So there you have it. RED SKY IN MORNING by Paul Lynch - mark it down in your calendars, people …

Monday, December 31, 2012

Happy New Year!

I’ve been a contributor to January Magazine’s ‘Best Books’ feature for the past few years, although this year, given how busy it was in the run-up to Christmas, I completely forgot to submit my suggestions for the best books of the year. Which was a little disappointing, but lo! It seems that I haven’t been entirely left out of the process. Michael Gregorio was kind enough to pick ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL as one of his favourites of 2012 in the Crime Fiction section, with the gist running thusly:
“I’ll start by repeating a statement I’ve made before: ‘ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a wild, zany read, and I loved it.’ … The language is rich, the story is anarchic, the dialogue sparkles and the laughs are frequently side-splitting […] It’s as cool and bare and original as Waiting for Godot, but it offers a lot more laughs.” - Michael Gregorio
  I thank you kindly, sir: that’s a very sweet note upon which to end the year, especially as AZC finds itself in some very good company, which includes Megan Abbott, James Lee Burke, Tana French, Steve Mosby, CJ Sansom, Gillian Flynn and Arnaldur Indridason. Happy days.
  Upward and onward, then, to 2013, and a very happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all. See you on the other side, folks …

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Let Us Prey

John Connolly’s eleventh Charlie Parker mystery, THE WRATH OF ANGELS (Atria / Emily Bestler Books), appeared on this side of the pond waaaay back in August, but it’s only now - or on January 1st, to be precise - making landfall in North America. Quoth the blurb elves:
In the depths of the Maine woods, the wreckage of a plane is discovered. There are no bodies, and no such plane has ever been reported missing, but men both good and evil have been seeking it for a long, long time.
  What the wreckage conceals is more important than money. It is power: a list of names, a record of those who have struck a deal with the devil. Now a battle is about to commence between those who want the list to remain secret and those for whom it represents a crucial weapon in the struggle against the forces of darkness.
  The race to secure the prize draws in private detective Charlie Parker, a man who knows more than most about the nature of the terrible evil that seeks to impose itself on the world, and who fears that his own name may be on the list. It lures others, too: a beautiful, scarred woman with a taste for killing; a silent child who remembers his own death; and a serial killer known as the Collector, who sees in the list new lambs for his slaughter. But as the rival forces descend upon this northern state, the woods prepare to meet them, for the forest depths hide other secrets.
  Someone has survived the crash. Something has survived the crash.
  And it is waiting …
  I didn’t get to read THE WRATH OF ANGELS when it first appeared, because these days I get to read very little that isn’t commissioned; and given that I worked on BOOKS TO DIE FOR with John, I had to turn down a commission from the Irish Times to review ANGELS. Which is a terrible pity, because John’s books have been some of my reading highlights over the past few years. Anyway, things are a little quieter than usual at the moment, so I’m very much hoping to sneak in THE WRATH OF ANGELS before January goes all busy on my ass.
  In the meantime, if you fancy a glance at the first chapter of THE WRATH OF ANGELS, just clickety-click here