Praise for Declan Burke: “Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “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.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Interview: Michael Connelly

I had an interview with Michael Connelly (right) published in the Irish Examiner last week. It ran a lot like this:

Early on in the new Michael Connelly novel, ‘The Gods of Guilt’, defence lawyer Mickey Haller – aka the Lincoln Lawyer – emerges from the courthouse, rushes down the steps and sits into the back of his Lincoln town car, only to discover it’s the wrong Lincoln.
  “What happened after the movie [The Lincoln Lawyer] came out,” says Michael Connelly, “was I started hearing from people who were saying, ‘Oh yeah, that’s the way I operate as a lawyer as well.’ So there’s a lot of copy-catting and so forth going on, and I really enjoyed breaking that fourth wall and mentioning that there’s a film out there in which Mickey Haller is portrayed by Matthew McConaughey. And I thought it’d be a fun thing to do, that Mickey comes out of the courthouse and doesn’t know which Lincoln town car is his.”
  Connelly, in Ireland to headline the recent Irish Crime Fiction Festival at Trinity College, was ‘very happy’ with The Lincoln Lawyer movie, although its success has proved something of a double-edged sword.
  “The movie version changed my profile,” he says, “and I ended up selling a lot of books, and the movie probably made the Lincoln Lawyer series more popular than the Harry Bosch series. That was strange for me, because I’m all about Harry Bosch, and doing The Lincoln Lawyer book in the first place was designed to allow me a break from Harry, so I could come back to him strong. So it’s a little bit odd to have the main character that I want to write about in life coming in second to that,” he laughs.
  The title of ‘The Gods of Guilt’ refers to the jury Mickey Haller faces in the courtroom, but it also has a personal resonance for Mickey himself. “He’s seeking redemption for things he has done in his professional life,” says Connelly, “but also in terms of very damaging things that have happened to people in his personal life.”
  Indeed, it’s Mickey Haller’s personal life, and his growth as a character, that has ensured Michael Connelly is no longer ‘all about Harry Bosch’.
  “I’m finding that the Lincoln Lawyer series is cycling the way the Bosch series did, just ten years later. I think it took me four or five Bosch books to really put that series on a plane where it was about Harry and his character, where I was thinking about that first before I got into thoughts about plot. This is the fifth time I’ve put Mickey centre-stage, and I’m thinking more about him as a person, or a character, and how he sleeps at night and how he lives. So I feel good about that.”
  Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller have intersected in previous Connelly novels, and do so again in ‘The Gods of Guilt’, when the pair meet in a courthouse hallway. Bosch is a cop, a man driven to bring the bad guys to justice; Haller is a defence lawyer, whose job it often is to see that his client – bad or otherwise – gets acquitted.
  “It’s funny,” says Connelly, “but somebody said this great line – ‘Harry Bosch is driven by justice, and Mickey Haller is driven by a chauffeur.’ That really underlines how different they are.”
  Is the contrast between the half-brothers, who have been appearing in alternate novels of late and have much in common in their personal lives, including teenage daughters, a deliberate ploy by Connelly?
  “What’s deliberate about it is that I also have a daughter who is the same age as those girls,” he says, “and I think what I’m doing is that with one guy [Harry Bosch], and lucky for him, I’m writing about a father-daughter relationship that’s working – tentative but working. And then there’s one that’s not working. So on the one hand I’m working on what I don’t want to happen to me, and on the other hand I’m writing about what I think would be cool to have happen to me.” He shrugs, then grins. “I mean, it could all shift around. You never know.”
  ‘The Gods of Guilt’ is Michael Connelly’s 26th crime novel, although he’s wary of pigeon-holing himself as any particular kind of author. “I really don’t go for any kind of classifications,” he says. “People say I’m a mystery writer, but I don’t even classify myself as an American writer – I’m just a writer.”
  His enduring love affair with writing began while he was at college, and happened to see Robert Altman’s film of the Raymond Chandler novel ‘The Long Goodbye’. He immediately read and re-read all of Chandler’s novels, then packed in his engineering course and went home to announce that he was becoming a writer. His father suggested he become a policeman, to learn the world of crime from the inside, but, he says, “to become a detective you’ve got to spend years in a uniform and being that kind of cop first. And I didn’t think I had the personality or desire to go through that. So going the Joseph Wambaugh route, where you do the work and then write about it, was knocked off early. Then the journalism idea came up, and that sounded good to me.”
  Connelly spent six years working the crime beat as a journalist in Florida and wound up being nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Offered a job with the LA Times, he moved in 1987 to California, the spiritual home of the private eye novel. His debut novel, ‘The Black Echo’, was published in 1992. It featured Harry Bosch, a LAPD detective, but Connelly never lost sight of his first literary love, the private eye novel.
  “Since the very first book I’ve always had the idea that Harry would be an outsider with an insider’s job,” he says, “but every step of the way he would feel like an outsider. That’s the feeling I got, and the inspiration I got, from Chandler’s books. I was a journalist for a long time before I started writing these books and so there was a practical aspect when it came to deciding what I was going to write. Do I ignore all the years I spent in police stations and talking to detectives and learning about their world, and just go off and write a private eye novel because I love those novels? No. I was practical. I wanted to get published. I followed the path of what I knew I could bring to the genre. So I made Harry Bosch a cop, but I certainly brought everything I’d learned from Ross Macdonald and Raymond Chandler to the character.”
  “In my mind I visualise any Harry Bosch story, even though he’s a cop and there’s all kinds of people at his disposal, forensics and so forth, I’ve always just viewed him in a tunnel by himself – the case is the tunnel he’s going through,” he continues. “When I think of Mickey Haller, the visual image has a lot of people in it – it’s a courtroom full of people. So one is more of a private investigation, and one is more of a public examination.”
  The good news for Harry Bosch fans is that the detective will soon feature in his own TV series – Connelly oversaw the shooting of the pilot show before coming to Ireland. “I’m an executive producer,” he says, “and I co-wrote the script with Eric Overmyer, who worked on the The Wire and Treme, he’s a really good writer. So Harry Bosch is in really good hands, I think.”
  Better still is the news that, even if Bosch is forced to retire as a cop in the next couple of books, he will very likely reinvent himself as a fully-fledged private eye, the classic romantic tarnished knight of the genre. Could Harry go to work for Mickey Haller?
  “That’s an option,” says Connelly, “but that’d mean Harry would be working to help Mickey ameliorate the situations of some bad guys. I don’t see Harry being able to do that. If anything I can see Harry and Mickey on opposite sides.
  “I can see him being the kind of private eye who maybe comes in a does cases he’s not even asked to do,” he continues, “something he’ll see in the paper, some injustice or some need for justice, that’s what will get him going. So yeah, there could be some cool stuff ahead.”

  ‘The Gods of Guilt’ by Michael Connelly is published by Orion (€19.99).

  This interview was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Review: IDENTICAL by Scott Turow

Scott Turow was once described by Time magazine as ‘the bard of the litigious age’, but most of Identical (Mantle), his 10th novel, takes place outside of the courtroom. Indeed, as the story opens in 2008, it’s almost 25 years since Cassian Gianis was tried and convicted – after pleading guilty – for the murder of his then girlfriend, Dita Kronon. Cassian’s imminent release from prison coincides with an election campaign being waged by his identical twin brother Paul, formerly a successful lawyer and now a politician, who is ahead in the polls as he runs for the position of mayor. Paul has reckoned without Hal Kronon, however, Dita’s billionaire brother, who is convinced that Paul had a part to play in Dita’s death and is determined that Paul should be brought to justice.
  As the names suggest, Identical takes place in the Greek-American community that has established a significant presence in Turow’s recurring fictional setting of Kindle County, although Turow has one eye on a much older Greek culture. Hal’s father is called Zeus, and Tim Brodie, the private investigator Hal employs, has a particular fondness for reading Greek mythology. It is Brodie who amplifies the motif of identical twins that lies at the heart of the novel, specifically referencing the myth of Castor and Pollux, a story that in part provides the inspiration for the tragedy that subsequently engulfs the characters.
  A quirky bunch of characters they are, too. Tim Brodie is an unconventional private eye, an 83-year-old retiree bordering on senility who is still in mourning over the recent loss of his wife. Evon Miller, reprised from the novel Personal Injuries (1999), is a gay ex-FBI agent struggling to extricate herself from an emotionally destructive relationship. Paul Gianis, meanwhile, is that most unlikely of creations, a former lawyer and aspiring politician whose idealism still outweighs his pragmatism, a man whose faltering bid for power in 2008 is obliquely cross-referenced with the gathering momentum of Barack Obama’s campaign for presidential election.
  All told, it’s an absorbing thriller that boasts its fair share of twists and turns as the characters become increasingly entangled in a legal cat’s cradle that is further complicated by updated DNA identification techniques that weren’t available to the investigating team 25 years previously. Rooted in Greek mythology, the novel is an ambitious attempt to blend ancient and modern storytelling forms, in the process reminding us that human nature has changed far less in the intervening three thousand years than might have been hoped, particularly when it comes to our more venal instincts.
  Surprisingly, however, Identical is most effective when Turow turns from the public and the political to the private and the personal. A variety of expressions of love and loss are explored in considerable depth here, often in very moving and unsettling ways. The result is a novel that is utterly fascinated by character, and especially with how love can twist us into creatures unrecognisable even to ourselves when we seek to defend and protect those we love at any cost. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The 12 Days of Kindle: Declan Burke

Due to the good works of the folk at Liberties Press, I have two titles included in the current ‘12 Days of Kindle’ promotion, SLAUGHTER’S HOUND and ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, both of which are available as e-books for the princely sum of £0.99. Both books were shortlisted for the Irish Books of the Year awards in recent times, and ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL won the Goldsboro Award for comic crime fiction at Bristol’s Crimefest in 2012. If you feel moved to share this information with anyone you know, I would be very grateful indeed …
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Year In Reading: 2013

I don’t know if they’re the ‘best’ books of the year but the following are those I enjoyed most from the 100+ books I read this year. Not all of them, of course, were first published in 2013. In the order in which I read them:
Red Sky in Morning, Paul Lynch.
Charlotte Gray, Sebastian Faulks.
Harvest, Jim Crace.
Alex, Pierre Lemaitre.
Home Fires, Elizabeth Day.
Hammett Unwritten, Owen Fitzstephen.
Black Bear, Aly Monroe.
Bogmail, Patrick McGinley.
Bad Monkey, Carl Hiaasen.
Graveland, Alan Glynn.
A Delicate Truth, John Le Carré.
The Twelfth Department, William Ryan.
Gold Coast, Elmore Leonard.
The Little Sister, Raymond Chandler.
I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, Sylvie Simmons.
Angel City, Jon Steele.
The Cuckoo’s Calling, Robert Galbraith.
Tapping the Source, Kem Nunn.
In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, Adrian McKinty.
Red or Dead, David Peace.
Hide & Seek, Xan Fielding.
The Convictions of John Delahunt, Andrew Hughes.
Tampa, Alissa Nutting.
An Officer and a Spy, Robert Harris.
Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen.
The Black Life, Paul Johnston.
When Eight Bells Toll, Alistair Maclean.
The Little Drummer Girl, John Le Carré.
Heart of Darkness, Joseph Conrad.
The Stone Boy, Sophie Loubiere.
Marathon Man, William Goldman.
The Goodbye Look, Ross Macdonald.
  And that’s pretty much it from Crime Always Pays for 2013. A very happy Christmas to you all, folks, and thanks so much for stopping by during the year. I’ll see you all in 2014 …

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Nobody Ever Knows What Anybody Else Will Do

John Connolly, talking about the enduring appeal of the crime / mystery novel, expresses it best for me with the deliciously pithy, “Character is mystery.”
  I’ve come across two variations on that notion in the last week or so, in Raymond Chandler’s THE LADY IN THE LAKE and Ross Macdonald’s THE GOODBYE LOOK. Chandler first:
  “Nobody ever knows what anybody else will do, sister. A cop knows that much.”
  And Macdonald:
  “That was good timing,” she said to me. “You never know what George is going to do.”
  “Or anybody else.”
  All of which makes a mockery of the rule that people should always behave ‘in character’ in novels. If everyone always behaved as they should, life and fiction would be very boring indeed.

Friday, December 20, 2013

A Secret Passion For Mercy

Justice as blood, agony and revenge came up in William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN a week or so ago, but Ross Macdonald’s private detective Lew Archer offers a rather different take in THE GOODBYE LOOK. To wit:
  “That isn’t your real motivation,” [she said]. “I know your type. You have a secret passion for justice. Why don’t you admit it?”
  “I have a secret passion for mercy,” I said. “But justice is what keeps happening to people.”
  Mercy isn’t a quality we usually associate with the crime / mystery / thriller genre, but it’s probably why Ross Macdonald is one of the enduring greats, and why he is considered a superior – or more sophisticated, at least – writer when compared to his predecessors, Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler.
  I still hold a candle for Chandler, but maybe that’s because I’ve read virtually everything Chandler wrote and I’ve only read four or five of Macdonald’s novels so far.
  Tobias Jones had a very nice piece on Ross Macdonald in the Guardian way back in 2009, in which he writes about the evolution of Macdonald as a writer, from being a disciple of Hammett and Chandler to outstripping both in terms of his ambition for the private detective novel. He also quotes Macdonald on plot:
“It should be as complex as contemporary life, but balanced enough to say true things about it. The surprise with which a detective novel concludes should set up tragic vibrations which run backward through the entire structure.”
  The full piece is here

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Declan Hughes: All The Things He Is

Get out the red carpet. Declan Hughes - award-winning playwright, creator of the brilliant Ed Loy private eye series and 2014’s International Writer Fellow at Trinity College, Dublin - returns to the crime writing fray early next year with ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE (Severn House), a standalone thriller set in Madison, Wisconsin. To wit:
Danny Brogan burned his future wife’s family to death when he was eleven years old ...
  Knocking on forty, with her youthful dreams of being an actress in dust, there’s no doubt in her mind suburban wife and mother of two Clare Taylor has settled. A wild week in Chicago may have shaken things up a bit, but as she turns her key in her Madison, Wisconsin home on the eve of Halloween, she knows that what happened with her ex-boyfriend was nothing more than a distraction, that this is where her life is.
  Except it’s all gone. The furniture gone, the house stripped, her husband Danny, her daughters, all gone; no message, no note, nothing. Outside in the dark, searching for a sign, she steps in one: the eviscerated body of the family dog.
  By dawn the next morning, her (as far as she knew, mortgage-free) home has been foreclosed against, one of Danny’s childhood friends lies dead in her backyard, and Clare is caught up in a nightmare that began with her husband on Halloween night, 1976, and that reaches its terrifying climax thirty five years later.
  ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE explores the dark paradox at the heart of the American Dream: that you can change, and become whoever you decide to be – but that your past is always out there, waiting. No matter how far you run, you can’t escape it – but if things work out, and love abides, maybe you don’t need to. Maybe, at last, you can become who you always were, who you’d always dreamed you’d be.
  ALL THE THINGS YOU ARE will be published in February.

Crime Always Pays: The Stamp of Approval

The good people at Severn House have forwarded on the cover for CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, which they will publish in the UK next March (and in the US in July), and with which I’m very happy indeed. I love the idea of a stamp as a book cover – CAP is a comedy crime caper set in the Greek islands, and the cover perfectly captures the kind of escapist fun I was aiming for with the story. Of all my books, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS was the most fun to write, and I’m delighted that that’s reflected in the cover. Here’s hoping that you all enjoy it too …

Monday, December 16, 2013

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Luca Veste

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?
Difficult question straight out the block! I would have said something classic before this year, such as a Mark Billingham, Steve Mosby or Elmore Leonard possibly. However, this year I read THE SHINING GIRLS [by Lauren Beukes] and have been thinking about off and on ever since. A time-travelling serial killer ... why the hell didn’t I think of that?!

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
I read mostly within the genre of crime, with some horror, and the very odd sci-fi or fantasy novel. So, most characters in crime fiction we meet at their lowest ebb, horror characters are generally going through some very scary shit stuff. I’d have to learn all sorts of new stuff for Sci-Fi and Fantasy characters and I’m very lazy. I’ll go for Windsor Horne Lockwood III from Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar series. Endless pots of cash, awesome fighting skills, and charisma to boot. What’s not to like?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t really call anything I read a ‘guilty pleasure’ as I’m quite okay with anything I choose to read - no matter what it does for hard fought for street cred. YA is probably on the low-end of the street-cred spectrum (bizarrely), so I guess I’ll say Michael Grant’s GONE series. Superb characters, pacing, and pathos. There’s tons of great stuff happening in the YA genre that is often overlooked.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Any time I get what is in my head down in words is extremely satisfying. To choose a specific moment however, it was writing the final words of the first draft of DEAD GONE. Back then, it was called something different, was 25,000 words shorter than what it is now, has a completely different second half, and a really weird timeline. But, I finished a novel for the first time. The idea of sitting and writing 80-100,000 words was so completely foreign to me, that even getting into the tens of thousands was a bit special. Actually finishing the book ... that was a big moment. A more satisfying moment may be coming up however, when I finally put the second book to bed. Now that has been a difficult process ...

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
I imagine you get some really classic answers for this question, with the rich history the genre has in Ireland. It’s also a great time in Irish crime fiction, with the likes of Jane Casey, William Ryan, and Tana French. However, I think there’s an absolute star in Irish crime fiction right now in Stuart Neville. THE TWELVE is one of the best debut novels I’ve ever read, and would be heartily recommended to all.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
If I was being truthful, I’d go for Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE again here (seriously, it’s that good ... read it if you haven’t already), but that would be cheating, probably. I’ll also discount what I would go for second, as that would be ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by some bloke called Declan Burke or something, as he appears to be asking the questions. That would make for a very trippy movie. Instead, I’ll go for BROKEN HARBOUR by Tana French. Everything about that novel screams for a movie to be made. It would be a very bleak film, but excellent I think.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing – Sitting down and putting words onto paper/screen, making characters come to life which have until then existed only as fragmented thoughts. Worst thing – Sitting down and being unable to put those fragmented thoughts onto paper/screen, as they make no sense when made reality.

The pitch for your next book is …?
DEAD GONE is about a serial killer weaving his merry way through the streets of Liverpool, killing victims using infamous psychological experiments. With each victim comes a connection to the City of Liverpool University and a note explaining the experiment carried out. DI Murphy and DS Rossi are on the case, soon realising they’re facing a killer unlike one they’ve ever faced before .. .one who kills to discover more about life.

Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading two books at the moment (one paper, one ebook – I’m having the best of both worlds). One is A TAP ON THE WINDOW by Linwood Barclay – the usual ‘extraordinary things happening to ordinary people’-style thriller, which always works for me. The other, THE TESTIMONY by James Smythe – I’ve only just started reading this, after putting it down in favour of other stuff a month or so ago. Something’s happened, some kind of "event", and people are telling the story after it has occurred. No idea what’s going on at the moment, but I’m enjoying it!

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Does he also ask me which one of my two daughters is my favourite? Or Steven Gerrard vs Kenny Dalglish for favourite ever Liverpool player? I don’t like this God guy ... he is unnecessarily mean with his demands. I’ll go for read. And then like the good recovering Catholic I am, completely ignore God and write in secret, only no one could ever see it...

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Dark, uncompromising, and twisted.

Luca Veste’s debut is DEAD GONE.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Morning Glory

I mentioned last week that Eoin McNamee’s BLUE IS THE NIGHT will complete his ‘Blue Trilogy’, and fellow Northern Irishman Adrian McKinty also concludes a trilogy with IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE (Serpent’s Tail), the third in a series featuring the RUC’s Sean Duffy. To wit:
It’s 1983 and Sean Duffy’s life has hit what looks like rock bottom. Humiliated by the Royal Ulster Constabulary and stripped of his rank, with no social life, no one to love, he is wasting his time away. He has no plan and no desire to get one. While Sean has sunk so low, his school friend - and rival - Dermot McCann has risen up the ranks of the IRA before being fitted up by the RUC and sent to serve at Her Majesty’s pleasure at the notorious Maze prison. So, when Sean gets a late-night call to duty because Dermot and his comrades have made a daring escape, all their history comes back to him. And as Sean stands at a road-block in the pouring rain, on a country lane in the dark, he has plenty of time to think about Dermot McCann. And he knows, with the chilly certainty of a fairy story, that their paths will cross again.
  IN THE MORNING I’LL BE GONE will be published in January.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: THE MEMORY KEY by Conor Fitzgerald

The fourth novel to feature Conor Fitzgerald’s Rome-based Commissioner Alec Blume, THE MEMORY KEY (Bloomsbury) opens with Blume being called to the scene of an apparent assassination – a young student called Sofia Fontana, who has been shot by a sniper. Fontana, it transpires, was the only witness to a previous shooting, when a former terrorist was also shot, and also by a sniper. Blume’s investigations lead him into the murky world of 1970’s terrorist activities in Italy, as those responsible for a murderous train station bomb some four decades previously clean up the loose ends that could trip up their political futures. As has been the case with Fitzgerald’s previous novels, Rome is something of a character in its own right here, particularly as the labyrinthine nature of its policing contributes handsomely to a claustrophobic tale. Blume, American by birth but a naturalised Italian, makes for a classic crime fiction staple, the insider with the cynical outsider’s eye, and THE MEMORY KEY, which again boasts Fitzgerald’s terse but lyrical style, is another excellent police procedural in an increasingly impressive body of work. – Declan Burke

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Three Colours: Blue

The concluding act in Eoin McNamee’s ‘Blue Trilogy’, following on from THE BLUE TANGO (2001) and ORCHID BLUE (2010), BLUE IS THE NIGHT (Faber & Faber) arrives in mid-March. To wit:
1949. Lance Curran is set to prosecute a young man for a brutal murder, in the ‘Robert the Painter’ case, one which threatens to tear society apart. In the searing July heat, corruption and justice vie as Harry Ferguson, Judge Curran’s fixer, contemplates the souls of men adrift, and his own fall from grace with the beautiful and wilful Patricia. Within three years, Curran will be a judge, his nineteen year old daughter dead at the hands of a still unknown murderer, and his wife Doris condemned to an asylum for the rest of her days.
  In BLUE IS THE NIGHT, it is Doris who finally emerges from the fog of deceit and blame to cast new light into the murder of her daughter, as McNamee once again explores and dramatizes a notorious and nefarious case.
  THE BLUE TANGO was longlisted for the Booker Prize, of course, and David Peace describes BLUE IS THE NIGHT as ‘A genuine, original masterpiece.’ If it’s not one of the highlights of 2014, I’ll very surprised indeed.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Is It Safe?

I mentioned earlier in the week that I’ve been struggling for the last while with a new book, so God only knows what possessed me to read William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN again. I’ve loved that book for about 30 years now, give or take, and to read it now suggests that I harbour a self-destructive (and possibly masochistic) streak a mile wide. If you’re ever seriously doubting your ability to write a good thriller, and need that one last nudge that will tip you over the edge and take your typewriter / laptop with you into the abyss, just read MARATHON MAN and go gently into that good night, amen, etc.
  (Writing Tip to Self: try having interesting things happen to interesting people in a blackly humorous way on nearly every page. It’s worth a shot, at least, surely?)
  Anyway, given that we all know that the whole point of the crime / mystery novel is the righting of wrongs and the pursuit of justice, the following passages leapt out at me:
‘Police?’ Babe blinked. ‘Police? Why should I call them, what good would that do?’ He buttoned the raincoat. ‘I don’t want justice, are you kidding, screw justice, we’re way past justice, it’s blood now …’ (pg 227)
  And again:
‘Well, we’ve been making a mistake with people like you, because public trials are bullshit and executions are games for winners – all this time we should have been giving back pain. That’s the real lesson. That’s the loser’s share, just pain, pure and simple, pain and torture, no hotshot lawyers running around trying to see that justice is done. I think we’d have a nice peaceful place here if all you war-makers knew you better not start something because if you lost, agony was just around the bend.’ (pg 273)
  So – what exactly is it crave from our deliciously escapist crime / thriller fiction? Justice? Or blood and agony?

Monday, December 9, 2013

The Horror, The Horror

I’ve been working away on a new book for the last couple of months, which is always great fun, although in the last few weeks it seems to have run into sand. Not unusual, if my previous experience is anything to go by, and probably not the last time this particular book will find itself in trouble. Anyway, I was reading HEART OF DARKNESS again last week, when this passage, from roughly the halfway point, leapt out at me. Marlow’s steamboat is falling apart for the want of rivets, but he’s fond of it all the same:
“It was a great comfort to turn from that chap to my influential friend, the battered, twisted, ruined, tin-pot steamboat. I clambered on board. She rang under my feet like an empty Huntley & Palmers biscuit-tin kicked along a gutter; she was nothing so solid in make, and rather less pretty in shape, but I had expended enough hard work on her to make me love her. No influential friend would have served me better. She had given me a chance to come out a bit – to find out what I could do. No, I don’t like work. I had rather laze about and think of all the fine things that can be done. I don’t like work, – no man does – but I like what is in the work, – the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself, not for others – what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”
  It’s hard to believe that the ‘battered, twisted, ruined, tin-pot’ steamboat, at least during this passage, doesn’t represent ‘the work’ of writing the book itself, the opportunity to ‘find out what I could do’. Or maybe I’m reading too much into it, given that I’m up the proverbial creek myself without so much as a paddle or a handful of rivets. Maybe that’s also why this re-read of HEART OF DARKNESS put me in mind of MOBY-DICK, and that ‘the horror, the horror’ is that of the blank page.
  Tune in next week, when I read THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS and reconfigure ‘messing about in boats’ as a cry for help from an author becalmed in the backwater of a first draft, pulled hither and yon by the gentle ripples and eddies of pitiless fate, etc …

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Review: THE BLACK LIFE by Paul Johnston

Paul Johnston’s The Black Life (Crème de la Crime, €18.99), his sixth to feature the Greek-Scottish private detective Alex Mavros, is rooted in the past, although it’s a past that becomes more relevant with each passing day. Hired to investigate the apparently miraculous reappearance of Aron Samuel, a Jewish man thought to have died in Auschwitz, Mavros travels to the city of Thessalonika. Soon he finds himself embroiled in a tale that links the extermination camps of the Third Reich with the recent rise of the fascist Greek political party, Phoenix Rises. What follows is a powerful novel on many levels. Johnston doesn’t shy away from describing the hellish activities at Auschwitz, and he further explores the extent of the collaboration that existed between Greek citizens and the German authorities when it came to deporting the Jewish population of Thessalonika. He also investigates the activities of those Jewish men and women who took their revenge on former Nazis in the post-WWII years, weaving the narrative strands through a political tapestry that includes the beliefs of Mavros himself, whose own family suffered terribly for their Communist leanings during the reign of the Colonels. Harrowing in places, it’s a gripping private eye novel that offers a chilling snapshot of modern Greece. – Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Crash And Byrne

Pat Fitzpatrick gets in touch to let us know that he has just published KEEP AWAY FROM THOSE FERRARIS, a thriller set in the throes of the Irish economic collapse. To wit:
Reporter Noel Byrne is about to die. Two snipers hold him in their crosshairs as he delivers his live report from the HQ of HiberBank in central Dublin. His first problem is they will kill him if he doesn’t say exactly what they want him to say. His second problem? They both want him to say different things. KEEP AWAY FROM THOSE FERRARIS is the story of a country in collapse. A vicious gang of bankers and minor celebrities is desperately trying to salvage one last pay day from the wreckage of the Irish economy. Only Byrne can help them. Only Byrne can stop them. Follow him across the boardrooms, bedrooms and bars of Dublin as he tries to stay one step ahead. And remember that when billions are at stake you can’t trust anyone. Not your family, your friends or the love of your life.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Child’s Play

I had an interview with Lee Child (right) published in the Irish Examiner last weekend. It ran a lot like this:

He describes Tom Cruise as ‘a dog for work’, but Lee Child is no slouch himself when it comes to putting in hours at the desk. He has published at least one book per year since his award-winning debut Killing Floor appeared in 1997, in the process creating one of the most iconic and enduring figures in contemporary fiction. His latest offering, Never Go Back, is the 18th novel to feature the hulking loner Jack Reacher, the ex-Military Policeman who prowls the highways and byways of America, talking soft and carrying a big stick as he faces down a bewildering array of bad guys.
  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, runs the old saw, especially when the ‘it’ has resulted in sales in excess of 40 million books worldwide. But Child is acutely aware of how long Reacher has been on the road, and how implausible his journey grows with each succeeding story.
  “Technically I’m probably better at it than I was when I started out, so it won’t be for a lack of ability,” he says when I ask how long he can continue spinning plates on Reacher’s behalf. “But yeah, I am somewhat floored by the absurdity of it all by now – I mean, how many books can you write about the same guy? And that’s something that’s on my mind at the moment. I do not want to be the guy who sticks around one year too long.”
  We meet in Derry, where Lee Child is appearing at ‘Killer Books’, a crime writing festival held as part of the City of Culture 2013 celebrations. He makes for an engagingly forthright interviewee, and shares with Jack Reacher an impressive physical presence, a laconic sense of humour and a reluctance to suffer fools gladly.
  That latter quality came to the fore last year, when Tom Cruise played the lead role in the movie Jack Reacher despite protests from fans who believed that Cruise simply wasn’t tall enough to measure up.
  “We all knew – Tom included – that he didn’t look like Reacher as he’s written in the books,” he says, “but we gambled he could nail the internals and the intangibles of the character, and I think he succeeded 100%. I got to know him a little bit over the months and what struck me was two things: he’s a trooper who works like a dog, and he has an unbelievable instinct for story.”
  Child made his storytelling bones as Jim Grant, working as a presentation director for Granada TV from 1997 to 1995, where he was involved in shows as diverse as Brideshead Revisited, Prime Suspect and The Jewel in the Crown. “It was real fun to be back on a set,” he says of his cameo as a desk sergeant in Jack Reacher, and it won’t be his last. “The team that put the first movie together did so because they’re Reacher fans, simple as that,” he says, “so their desire is to make lots of them. Will the money men agree? Probably, because the financials on the first were respectable. And yes, I’m going to insist on a ‘Hitchcock’ every time.”
  Made redundant from Granada in 1995, and steeped in storytelling, Jim Grant turned to writing thrillers to pay the mortgage, choosing the pen-name Child because it would place him on the bookshelves between Raymond Chandler and Agatha Christie.
  “I’ve always been in showbiz,” he says, “so a pseudonym is not a new thing for me. Over the years I’ve had five or six different names I’ve worked under. I was contracted to Granada for a long time, so if I wanted to do anything else, moonlighting, I had to do it under a pseudonym. So this is perfectly normal for me. People ask why I chose to use a pen-name, and it’s actually the other way around – as in, why wouldn’t I? It frees you up. It’s not quite you, and therefore the praise doesn’t quite turn your head and the criticism doesn’t really hurt.”
  The praise has been effusive over the years, and includes a plethora of awards, but Child takes exception to the way the crime / thriller genre is criticised, and particularly in terms of its use of language.
  “One of the thing that the genre gets criticised for is the writing,” he says. “I mean, you’ll get a review that says, ‘This is not great writing, but it’s a hell of a page-turner.’ And I think that that is, objectively, a very stupid comment. Because if a book is a page-turner, then why is it a page-turner? I think every writer, deliberately or instinctively, writes to a certain style, so that the story is propulsive, like a sprung rhythm, always moving forward. So the technique is actually the best part of it. And it’s extremely efficient, purposeful writing that produces that kind of result.”
  The latest novel, Never Go Back, has something of a tongue-in-cheek title. For the past four books now, since 2010’s 61 Hours, Reacher has been attempting to make his way back from the wild west to Washington DC in order to meet Susan Turner, a woman he knows only from his dealings on the phone, and who currently holds Reacher’s former position with the Military Police.
  Things, you won’t be surprised to learn, do not go to plan. Susan Turner is utterly different to how Reacher had pictured her in his head. Four books after he first imagined her, Susan Turner also arrived on the page very differently to how Lee Child had originally perceived her character.
  “Yeah, and part of the reason is that she had a different name in the first draft of that book where we first meet her. Then there was a charity auction, where someone could ‘buy’ their name into one of my stories, and the character’s name changed to Susan Turner. And that’s a kind of plain name, so that did have an effect on how I saw her.
  “The interesting thing about Susan for me is how easily she dismisses Reacher,” he continues, “which I think is good for him. And I think that’s good for me as a writer as well, because I think the biggest possible mistake you can make with a series is to fall in love with your character. To always let him have his own way. I’m perfectly happy for people to say no to Reacher, or that he occasionally fails, or gets disappointed. That’s fine. I mean, maybe readers are going to think, ‘How can any woman turn Reacher down?’ But I’m like, screw it, turn him down. That’s life. Even for Reacher.”
  I ask about that delightfully bonkers story from earlier this year, when a British tabloid quoted Lee Child as saying he wrote his books whilst high as a kite.
  “I’ve never written high,” he says forcefully. “Actually, what bothered me about that piece was how it made me sound – I mean, what a half-hearted drug fiend I am. I only smoke weed five nights a week, and take the weekend off?” He laughs. “No, they got it backwards. I’ll have a smoke in the evenings, sure, which relaxes me, and it also helps to unwind plot points in the story. It’s a great clarifier. But I don’t write while I’m stoned, because the writing’s never any good.”
  So how does he write? Is he a meticulous plotter, micro-managing the story right to the end before he starts typing his first line?
  “For me it’s completely organic,” he says. “The new one, which is due next year, I’m about a fifth of the way through it and I still have no idea of what it’s about, what’s going to happen or what the issue is, nothing like that.
  “The upside to not having a plan,” he adds, “is that I’m as keen as the reader to find out what will happen next. For me it’s always exciting. I end a chapter, and it’s not an artifice, not really – I’m like, ‘Wow, what’s happening now?’
  “You can’t fake it,” he says. “You’ve got to be interested in it yourself. You can immediately tell, I think, when people have run out of gas and they’re phoning it in. That’s why the system I use is to write and see what happens. As a writer I suffer from that illusion, even though I’m a rational person, that while I’m writing it’s all actually happening. That this is happening. Sometimes my editor will say, ‘Wouldn’t it be better if this took place after this bit does?’ And I’ll say, ‘Yeah, probably. But it didn’t.’”

  Never Go Back by Lee Child is published by Bantam Press.

  This interview was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Through A Mirror, Darkly

I don’t know how exactly many Irish crime writers were born in Baghdad, but I’d imagine the number is vanishingly small. Or one, to be precise. DARK MIRRORS (Poolbeg) is the debut offering from Siobháin Bunni, with the blurb running thusly:
Esmée Myers, once an impassioned woman, is living a life where her only excitement is the laundry and the children. Her relationship with her husband leaves a lot to be desired, but she is content to focus on providing emotional stability and security for her two young children. For her husband, Philip, she is no more than a housekeeper, childminder and cleaner, easy to betray but not so easy to fool ... When Esmée becomes convinced that Philip is having an affair, she secretly plans to leave him and set up a new home with the children. Finally making the break, she feels she can look forward to a bright and fulfilling future. Then Philip disappears without trace, leaving only his car standing on a clifftop. Though no body is found, the police deduce he has committed suicide. Esmée, however, thinks otherwise. What begins as a carefully planned escape from a maudlin and tedious relationship descends into something much darker as layer by layer Esmée strips back the last ten years of her life with a man it turns out she never really knew.
  For a Dublin Books Festival interview with Siobháin, clickety-click here

Friday, November 29, 2013

Review: THE OUTSIDER by Arlene Hunt

The latest crime fiction column in the Irish Times features new offerings from Ian Rankin, Arlene Hunt, Donna Leon, Paul Johnston and Lee Child. The Arlene Hunt review runs like this:
Arlene Hunt is best known for her Dublin-set ‘QuicK Investigations’ novels, which feature the private eye duo John Quigley and Sarah Kenny, although her most recent offering, the standalone The Chosen (2011), was set in a remote rural setting in the US. In The Outsider (Portnoy Publishing, €11.50), Hunt sets her story in another rural setting, that of County Wicklow, with the story centring on the twins Emma and Anthony Byrne. A teenager who ‘may or may not be on the autism spectrum’, Emma develops a rare ability to rehabilitate physically and psychologically brutalised horses; why would anyone want to harm such a gentle soul? The backdrop of the Wicklow countryside suggests that The Outsider belongs to the ‘cosy’ or ‘malice domestic’ tradition, but while the style and setting are far removed from the hardboiled conventions, Hunt excels at excavating the petty passions of village life that, unchecked, lead here to anger, obsession and murderous rage. Moreover, The Outsider is not the straightforward narrative of taboos broached and justice served we expect from ‘cosy’ novels. In creating a community of apparently ordinary people capable of extraordinary cruelty, Hunt deftly blurs the lines between justice and revenge and propels her tale into the realms of true tragedy. – Declan Burke
  For the rest of the column, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Irish Crime Novel Of The Year 2013: And The Winner Is …

The Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards were held last night, November 26th, and it’s a hearty Crime Always Pays congratulations to Louise Phillips, who won the Ireland AM Irish Crime Novel Award for THE DOLL’S HOUSE (Hachette Ireland). I’m delighted for Louise, who is a very popular winner indeed. Quoth the blurb elves:
People say that the truth can set you free. But what if the truth is not something you want to hear?
  Thirty-five years ago Adrian Hamilton drowned. At the time his death was reported as a tragic accident but the exact circumstances remained a mystery. Now his daughter Clodagh, trying to come to terms with her past, visits a hypnotherapist who unleashes disturbing childhood memories of her father’s death. And as Clodagh delves deeper into her subconscious, memories of another tragedy come to light - the death of her baby sister. Meanwhile, criminal psychologist Dr Kate Pearson is called in to help in the investigation of a murder after a body is found in a Dublin canal. When Kate digs beneath the surface of the killing, she discovers a sinister connection to the Hamilton family.   What terrible events took place in the Hamilton house all those years ago? And what connects them to the recent murder? Time is running out for Clodagh and Kate. And the killer has already chosen his next victim . . .
  Heartfelt commiserations go out, of course, to all the other nominees. For the full shortlist, clickety-click here

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year

UPDATE: Tonight’s the night! Best of luck to the nominees in the Ireland AM Crime Fiction category at the Irish Book Awards tonight …

It’s that time of the year again, when the Irish Book Awards release their shortlists. I’m delighted to announce the shortlisted authors and books in the crime fiction category, and offer a hearty congratulations to all concerned. To wit:
Ireland AM Crime Fiction Book of the Year:

• The Twelfth Department by William Ryan (Pan Macmillan/Mantle)
• The Convictions Of John Delahunt by Andrew Hughes (Doubleday Ireland)
• The Doll’s House by Louise Phillips (Hachette Ireland)
• Inquest by Paul Carson (Century)
• The Stranger You Know by Jane Casey (Ebury Press)
• Irregulars by Kevin McCarthy (New Island Books)
  For more, clickety-click here

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Trinity Report

I had a terrific time at the Irish Crime Fiction Festival at Trinity College over the weekend, and I didn’t even get to see half of it. The most enjoyable – albeit nerve-wracking – experience was chairing the paradoxically titled ‘Irish Crime Fiction Abroad’ panel in the Edmund Burke theatre on Saturday morning, with said panel comprised of (l-r, above) John Connolly, Jane Casey, Arlene Hunt, Alan Glynn and Conor Fitzgerald (pic courtesy of @paysan). The conversation ranged through issues such as place, identity and language, all in the context of how an Irish writer adapts his or her storytelling to another culture and society. I was too involved to have any sense of how it was all received, of course, but for my own part I found it utterly fascinating.
  It was terrific, too, to be in Trinity and meet – even for the briefest of chats – so many people all on the same wavelength. Joe Long and Seth Kavanagh, all the way from NYC; Michael Russell; Sue Condon; Paul Charles; Conor Brady; Kevin McCarthy; Eoin McNamee; Stuart Neville; Stephen Mearns; Sean Farrell; Michael Clifford; Rob Kitchin; Declan Hughes; Critical Mick; and Bob Johnston, all the way from the Gutter Bookshop.
  I had to leave at lunchtime on Saturday, due to work commitments so I missed out on the Saturday afternoon panel (and seeing Brian McGilloway, Niamh O’Connor, Gene Kerrigan and Louise Phillips); and I also missed out on John Connolly interviewing Michael Connelly, which I imagine was the weekend’s highlight. A real pity that, but needs must.
  Even so, it looked to me like the festival was a triumph, and a tribute to the fantastic efforts of Dr Brian Cliff, Professor John Waters of Glucksman House at NYC, and that tireless champion of all things Irish crime writing, John Connolly. Hearty congratulations to all involved, and here’s hoping the Trinity Irish crime writing event becomes a regular feature of the Irish literary scene.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival


UPDATE: Ahead of ‘Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival’, which begins today at Trinity College in Dublin, I found myself last night fondly remembering the symposium at NYU in 2011 in the company of some of Irish crime writing’s finest. The details remain hazy, possibly because I found myself caught up in an Alan Glynn novel …

For all the details on the Trinity College festival, clickety-click here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Review: ECHOLAND by Joe Joyce

Set in Dublin in early 1940, as the Wehrmacht blitzkriegs its way through France, Echoland by Joe Joyce (Liberties Press, €13.99) is a thoughtful blend of spy novel and historical thriller. In the midst of the flap, young soldier Paul Duggan finds himself promoted to G2, the army’s intelligence division, to investigate the possibility that an apparently respectable German citizen is in fact a spy plotting a future invasion of Ireland. Struggling to come to terms with his new responsibilities, the callow Duggan is further undermined when his uncle, the politician Timmy Monaghan, prevails upon him to use his new position to discover the whereabouts of Timmy’s daughter, who has gone missing, presumed abducted. Joyce, who published a pair of critically acclaimed thrillers in the early 1990s, deftly charts Duggan’s path through the personal and the political, although it’s Joyce’s evocation of the tumult of the time, and the uncertainty of not knowing if the Germans would eventually invade – or the British, for that matter – that is particularly effective. Duggan at first appears to be an unusually passive character for the hero of a spy thriller, but it’s a canny ploy by Joyce. As the impressionable Duggan goes about his business of soaking up information from hawks, doves, spies and politicians, it’s left to the readers to make up their own minds about the thorny issue of Ireland’s neutrality during ‘the Emergency’. – Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Making A Killing

I interviewed Jeffrey Deaver (right) earlier this year, although for a variety of reasons the piece was only published last month. It runs like this:

“You may as well,” says author Jeffrey Deaver when I ask him if it’s okay to record our conversation. “It’s all going back to GCHG, and to the NSA and CIA anyway. Especially with this book.”
  The comment is delivered with Deaver’s dust-dry sense of humour, and sounds rather strange in the plush environs of the Merrion Hotel’s reception rooms, but he makes a valid point. The Kill Room is a very timely novel indeed – ‘oddly prescient’ is how Deaver describes it – which engages with some very contemporary headlines.
  “It deals with targeted killings,” says Deaver, “and only last month we had President Obama giving a press conference in which he talked about the killing of American citizens. It deals with data-mining, and we’ve just had this big scandal about [Edward] Snowden releasing that information. And there’s a whistle-blower, which is, again, Snowden. But I don’t want readers to think that Jeffrey Deaver is or has become a political writer. It’s the only political book I’ve ever written. It just happened that all these things came together at the same time.”
  Indeed, Deaver is at pains to stress that the political is not the personal in his novel.
  “I fall back on the adage that has been attributed to Ernest Hemingway,” he says. “Hemingway said, if you want to send a message, use Western Union. Meaning, it’s not the author’s job to give his or her own personal views in a novel, but it is the author’s job to raise the questions. I feel that even my kind of entertaining thrillers, which is the point of what I do, enhance the experience if you bring in issues that transcend the crime itself.
  “My goal is to entertain,” he continues. “I’ll do whatever I can to get readers to turn pages, so they lose sleep at night, they show up for work late. If somebody closes a Deaver book and says only, ‘I found that interesting,’ then I’ve failed. What I want them to do is close a book and say, ‘Oh my God, I survived that book!’
  The Kill Room is the 10th Lincoln Rhyme novel, and Jeffrey Deaver’s 30th in total. It opens with the targeted killing of an American citizen in the Bahamas, a murder that New York-based forensic scientist Lincoln Rhyme is commissioned to investigate on the basis that the ‘kill order’ was issued in New York state. Complicating matters, as always, is the fact that Lincoln Rhyme is a quadriplegic who very rarely leaves his customised apartment.
  “Lots of internal reversals, cliffhangers, some esoteric information about, and surprise endings, plural,” is how the author describes his recipe for ‘a Deaver novel’, but back in 1997, with eight novels already published, Deaver was looking to offer the reader yet another twist in terms of character.
  “I thought,” he says, ‘How about we do Sherlock Holmes? We haven’t seen Sherlock Holmes for a while.’ That sounds quite egotistical, and I wouldn’t want to take on Arthur Conan Doyle – I mean, he was a spiritualist, so he might come back to haunt me (laughs). But I wanted a character who was a cerebral man, a thinker. Holmes could fight if he had to, or go somewhere in disguise. I wanted someone who had no choice but to out-think his opponent. That was what I was trying to do in The Bone Collector. I never imagined that Lincoln would become as popular as he has.”
  The Bone Collector was adapted into a successful movie starring Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie, but for Deaver the novel is the most persuasive storytelling form.
  “I do believe that as an emotional experience,” he says, “reading fiction is the highest form of entertainment – I’m not going to use the word ‘art’, but I’ll say ‘entertainment’. That’s because it requires active participation on the part of the reader, as opposed to a film or a video game, where you tend to be more passive. Even in video games where you’re participating in a shoot-’em-up, it’s not really intellectually or emotionally engaging. So with that element of the book as an experience, we start from higher ground right away.”
  He chose the thriller form because it is, as John Connolly has suggested in the past, a kind of Trojan Horse that allows an author to smuggle virtually any kind of subject matter into the public domain – such as the political ambiguities of The Kill Room – in the disguise of popular fiction.
  “Well, John is absolutely right. Crime fiction permits and even urges us authors to consolidate as many different strains of conflict as we can, which is what storytelling is all about.” The fact that the crime novel is rooted in modern realities also makes it, he says, ‘a touch more compelling’ than other kinds of fiction.
  “Lord of the Rings is probably my favourite book ever,” he says, “but you have to buy into a whole lot of disbelief for that book. I mean, if you’re on the subway in New York City, do you really believe an orc is going to come in with scimitar and slice your head off? No. I love Stephen King, but do I really believe there’s a ghost in my closet? No. I do enjoy those books, but in a crime novel, if you answer the door and a cop holds up his badge, you let him in – and then you realise he’s wearing cloth gloves, and holding a knife in his other hand. That could happen.”
  Jeffrey Deaver is today an award-winning author who invariably tops the bestseller lists. For a writer who might be expected to rest on his laurels, however, he is still refreshingly ambitious. Despite being a writer who specialises in cerebral characters, he took on the challenge of writing Carte Blanche (2011), about the thriller genre’s most celebrated action-hero, James Bond. Meanwhile, his next novel, The October List, which will be published in October, is a standalone thriller which radically reworks the conventions of the genre and which Deaver describes as his most complex plot yet.
  Why is he still so determined to challenge himself?
  “I’m worried that some day I’ll wake up and discover that everyone has realised I’m a fake and a fraud,” he says.
  Perhaps that’s why he’s notorious for ‘micro-managing’ his books, taking eight months to sketch out an outline of 150-200 pages for a 400-page book.
  “I’m a pretty sloppy writer,” he shrugs. “I get the ideas down, I bang them out. My first drafts are messy, they’re too long, I always put in a lot more research than I need. I used to panic about that. I’d read something I’d written and go, ‘Where did this crap come from?’ And then I learned to say, ‘But at least you recognise it’s crap. That’s the good thing.’”

  The Kill Room by Jeffrey Deaver is published by Hodder & Stoughton.

  This interview was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Ita Ryan

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?
CROOKED HOUSE, or any one of about ten other Agatha Christies. She was the mistress of the twist. Another favourite is DEATH COMES AS THE END. That managed the difficult feat of getting the reader to look forward optimistically to the future while perched on a rock above the Nile in approximately 2000BC.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Sarah Kenny from the Quick Investigations series by Arlene Hunt. I’ve always loved Wexford St. It’s my favourite part of Dublin, with great bars and slapdash little cafés and flower sellers and unlikely charity shops. It’s lively and happening – just this side of seedy. Imagine the fun of perching a floor or two above it in an old-fashioned office and having dodgy characters appear and tell you implausible tales. Mind you, if a quarter of what happens to Sarah happened to me I’d have a nervous breakdown within a week.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Janet Evanovich. Georgette Heyer. P.G. Wodehouse. Terry Pratchett. I also enjoy children’s books. My kids are getting to the age now where I can read my collection of children’s fiction to them. I’m enjoying that very much.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When I re-read something a month or two later and it still makes me laugh, or cry.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
There are so many to choose from, but everyone should read MY LADY JUDGE, the first in the series of Mara novels by Cora Harrison. It transports you back to early 16th-century Ireland, depicting a happy community in the Burren living under traditional Brehon law. It was a pivotal time, with the looming threat of advances from the East. The history books tell us what happened next. All the same, you’ll find yourself hoping that maybe they’re wrong.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Tana French’s BROKEN HARBOUR. It has it all going on: tension, bleakness, disintegration. It should be filmed in the incredible light you get on a sunny winter’s day in Ireland, and pervaded by the sound of the sea.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is the editing. I do a lot of revising myself before handing over to my editor. I hate it. It’s totally worth doing, though. The best thing is getting a tweet or a message from someone who enjoyed the book. That’s like magic. This guy in Australia live-tweeted IT CAN BE DANGEROUS. Very entertaining.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Cynthia’s had a rough day. And now she’s found Nathan’s body. This could impact negatively on her performance review. Not to mention that the police are bound to suspect her, seeing as how she has no alibi and was cutting code right outside his office when he was murdered. Explaining that techies rarely interact with managers for long enough to kill them isn’t going to sort the problem. There’s only one thing to do before she’s arrested - find the killer herself. How hard can it be? She has a hotline to Nathan’s devilishly handsome son, enthusiastic friends and a lifetime’s expertise in armchair detection. Cynthia’s exploits soon reach the ears of the enigmatic Superintendent in charge of the case. She can handle that, but then she attracts the murderer’s attention ... (I must admit, that’s the pitch for my current book. My next book is currently just a tiny glint in Cynthia’s eye. But it’ll be brilliant.)

Who are you reading right now?
I’m re-reading Gamma, Helm, Johnson and Vlissides’ classic work DESIGN PATTERNS: ELEMENTS OF RE-USABLE OBJECT-ORIENTED SOFTWARE. I’m suffering from jet lag at the moment, and it helps me sleep.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d put up a good fight, but it’d have to be read. I couldn’t possibly do without books.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Funny, fast whodunit.

Ita Ryan’s IT CAN BE DANGEROUS is published by Kells Bay Books.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Singular Joint Endeavour

Dana King is both a friend of this blog and a good friend of your humble correspondent, so I’m delighted to announce that he has just published GRIND JOINT (Stark House). I’m hopelessly compromised in terms of letting you know what I think of the book, of course, but suffice to say that Charlie Stella has penned the Introduction, during the course of which Charlie compares – very favourably – GRIND JOINT to the work of Elmore Leonard. Quoth the blurb elves:
A new casino is opening in the rural town of Penns River, Pennsylvania but just where the money is coming from no one really knows. Is it Daniel Hecker, bringing hope to a mill town after years of plant closings? Or is the town’s salvation really an opening for Mike ‘The Hook’ Mannarino’s Pittsburgh mob to move part of their action down state? Or could it be someone even worse? When the body of a drug dealer is dumped on the casino steps shortly before its grand opening, Detectives Ben Doc Dougherty and Willie Grabek have to survive their department’s own inner turmoil and figure out not only who is behind the murder, but what it means to whoever is behind the operation itself. Between the cops, the mob, and the ex-spook in charge of casino security Daniel Rollison, a man with more secrets than anyone will ever know, Grind Joint is a mesmerizing mix of betrayal, police action, small town politics, sudden violence and the lives of the people of a town just trying to look after itself.
  To order your copy, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Review: SYCAMORE ROW by John Grisham

John Grisham’s debut A Time to Kill was largely ignored when it was first published in 1989. A legal thriller written while Grisham was still a practising lawyer in Mississippi, it featured the ambitious Jake Brigance, who defends his friend, Carl Lee Hailey, when Hailey is charged with the capital murder of two white men accused of raping his ten-year-old daughter, Tonya.
  The bestselling success of The Firm (1991), The Pelican Brief (1992) and The Client (1993) led to A Time to Kill being republished, and Grisham’s reputation as the pre-eminent author of legal thrillers was established. His latest offering, his 30th in total, is billed as a sequel to A Time to Kill, and reintroduces us to Jake Brigance and the world of Clanton, Mississippi.
  Set three years after Jake’s career-making defence of Carl Lee Hailey, the story opens with the discovery of the body of Seth Hubbard, a successful businessman who, dying of cancer, has opted to commit suicide. Immediately after the news of Hubbard’s death breaks, Jake receives a letter and a handwritten will from Seth Hubbard, in which the dead man renounces his previous will, cutting out his children and leaving 90% of his estate to his black housekeeper, Lettie Lang.
  When it emerges that the estate is worth $24 million before tax, the scene is set for what Jake describes as ‘a courtroom brawl’.
  Despite being described as a sequel to A Time to Kill, Sycamore Row offers a different kind of story. The former featured shootings, bombings and burnings, and laced its courtroom proceedings with dramatic action which imperilled the lives of Jake and his family. Sycamore Row, by contrast, centres on a complex probate case which explores the impact of a multi-million windfall on an entire county, as Grisham employs the vast sums of money as a kind of abrasive, scrubbing away at the Southern civility and hospitality to reveal the atavistic instincts of the white and black citizens of Ford County. Central to the story is Jake’s own crisis of conscience and his growing distaste for his profession, even as he uses the tools of his trade to repair the damage inflicted on his family during his defence of Carl Lee Hailey.
  Ultimately, however, both novels are concerned with race. The central mystery, and much of the characters’ prurient interest, revolves around the question of why a white businessman might leave his fortune to a black housekeeper. “This is not Carl Lee Hailey,” Jake tells his mentor, Lucien Wilbanks. “This is all about money.” Lucien disagrees. “Everything is about race in Mississippi, Jake, and don’t you forget that.”
  It’s a fascinating set-up, and Grisham takes his time investigating every facet of the case. Indeed, there are times when this approach feels self-indulgent; in a meandering narrative, Grisham walks us through the painstaking accumulation of detail in pre-trial while also exploring the effect of the rewritten will on the personal lives of those directly affected by Seth Hubbard’s apparently malicious disregard for blood-ties and family inheritance.
  What gradually emerges, piece by piece, is a mosaic of Ford County, one in which past and present overlap. It is, presumably, no coincidence that William Faulkner is referenced on no fewer than three occasions; indeed, Jake Brigance works in his office at a rolltop desk beneath a portrait of Faulkner. While his prose lacks the sound and fury of Faulkner’s, Grisham steeps us in the atmosphere of the Deep South, conjuring up its languid pace and impeccable manners, its drawls and its humidity, the barbed banter of its cafés and coffee shops, its charming hucksters and impossibly erudite rogues. It’s a delicious melange, particularly when Grisham unsentimentally juxtaposes Clanton’s genteel and sincere hospitality with elements of unrepentant racism.
  The result may not be the white-knuckle legal thriller that made Grisham’s reputation, but it is a reflective, warts-and-all portrait of a people uncomfortable with their past but proud of who they are. – Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Out Of The Past, Again

Congratulations again to all those shortlisted in the Ireland AM Crime Fiction category at the Irish Book Awards. I know that no one sits down to write a book in order to see it nominated for a prize, but it is a very nice bonus when it does happen, and I’m delighted for everyone involved.
  All told, it’s been another very good year for Irish crime fiction. Looking at my shelves during the week, I realised that the following books were just some of those eligible for the Crime Fiction award, all of them, in my not-very-humble opinion, equally entitled to consider themselves shortlist material:
RATLINES by Stuart Neville
CROCODILE TEARS by Mark O’Sullivan
COLD CASE by Patrick McGinley
I HEAR THE SIRENS IN THE STREET by Adrian McKinty
CROSS OF VENGEANCE by Cora Harrison
SCREWED by Eoin Colfer
GRAVELAND by Alan Glynn
THE DEAL by Michael Clifford
ECHOLAND by Joe Joyce
HOLY ORDERS by Benjamin Black
  There were many more Irish crime novels published this year, of course; those above are just the ones I’ve read. If I’ve missed out on any you think deserve a mention, feel free to let me know.
  Incidentally, it may or may not be interesting that six of the ten novels listed above are historical novels, while three of the six shortlisted for the award are also set in the past. That’s also true of three further novels: Arlene Hunt’s THE OUTSIDER, Conor Brady’s THE ELOQUENCE OF THE DEAD and John McAllister’s THE STATION SERGEANT.
  Maybe the past isn’t such a different country after all; maybe things aren’t done so differently there as we might like to imagine.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Life Is A Cabaret, Old Chum

I have a short story included in the anthology NEW PLANET CABARET (New Island), which is published in conjunction with RTÉ Radio One’s ARENA programme and edited by Dave Lordan. To wit:
In December 2012, New Island and RTÉ Radio One’s ARENA launched the first on-air creative writing course. The course took place on the first week of each month until June 2013. Writer and creative writing teacher Dave Lordan led the course, each month offering a new writing prompt to listeners who would submit material based using that prompt as inspiration. This book contains the best of those submissions.
  To accompany them, ARENA has specially commissioned pieces by a host of emerging Irish writing talent producing a completely novel and enjoyable anthology that presents the best of up and coming Irish writing talent.
  Dave Lordan is a writer and editor living in Dublin. His most recent collection, THE FIRST BOOK OF FRAGS, was published in April, 2013. ARENA is RTÉ Radio One’s flagship arts and pop culture show. It broadcasts every weekday from 7-8pm.
  PLANET CABARET will be launched at – where else? – the Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Dublin, at 6.30pm on Friday evening, November 22nd.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Coming Out

UPDATE:   Arlene Hunt launches THE OUTSIDER this evening, November 7th, at the Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar. See you there, folks ...

As author, editor and publisher, Arlene Hunt is one of the hardest working women in Irish crime fiction. Her latest novel, THE OUTSIDER (Portnoy Publishing), will be published on October 29th, bearing one of the most striking covers of the year. To wit:
From the time she was born, Emma Byrne was different. Shy and reclusive, her world revolved around animals, so much so that by the time she was 15, Emma was a much sought after horse trainer. So who would try to harm this gifted young woman? Who was shooting in Crilly Woods on that fateful August day? Emma’s twin brother, Anthony, is determined to get to the bottom of what happened to his sister, and in the course of his investigations makes a terrible mistake, one that will change all their lives forever …
  Arlene will be appearing at ‘Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival’ at Trinity College, which takes place on November 22nd / 23rd.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: CROSS OF VENGEANCE by Cora Harrison

Last month’s column of crime fiction reviews published in the Irish Times included the latest titles from Val McDermid, William Boyd, Linwood Barclay and Cora Harrison. The Cora Harrison review ran like this:
Cross of Vengeance (Severn House, €19.99) is the tenth of Cora Harrison’s novels to feature Mara, the 15th century Brehon judge based in the Burren in the West of Ireland. Here Mara investigates the murder of a German pilgrim to the church at Kilnaboy, who is discovered naked and spread-eagled in the cruciform position the morning after a precious religious relic is burnt. Given that the pilgrim was a follower of Martin Luther, some of the locals believe his death was an act of God, but Mara, who is not noticeably devout, goes in search of a more prosaic killer. The religious fanaticism that underpins Cross of Vengeance gives it a contemporary resonance, but for the most part this is an unabashedly and enjoyably old-fashioned mystery investigation as Mara quietly but conscientiously goes about her business of interviewing suspects and excavating motives. The setting is integral to the plot, and Harrison’s elegant style beautifully evokes the world of the Burren, not only in terms of its sights and sounds, but also its languid pace and its enduring traditions. Most intriguing of all, however, is the experience of a murder investigation conducted according to ancient Brehon law. All told, it’s a fascinating blend. – Declan Burke
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Derry Air

There’s something special in the Derry air, alright. About the only downside to the weekend’s trip to Derry for the ‘Killer Books’ festival was that I was still stuck on the M50 on the way home on Sunday evening when Sligo Rovers scored the winner in the Cup Final about three hours into injury time.
  Other than that, ‘Killer Books’ made for a very fine weekend indeed. As always, the best part of such events is meeting fellow scribes, such as Lee Child and Desmond Doherty (right and righter). I also had a couple of brief-but-lovely chats with Claire McGowan, Andrew Pepper, Stuart Neville, William Ryan, John McAllister, Arlene Hunt, Alan Glynn, Stephen Mearns and Ann Cleeves.
  On Friday afternoon I had the honour of taking part in a panel discussion on comedy crime fiction alongside Colin Bateman (who was a busy man, given that his ‘Teenage Kicks’ punk musical opened in Derry over the weekend) and Gerard Brennan, all of which was moderated in some style by the great Garbhan Downey.
  All told, ‘Killer Books’ was a huge credit to its curator, Brian McGilloway, who launched his latest offering, HURT, on the Friday evening. Here’s hoping that ‘Killer Books’ in Derry becomes an annual event …

The Write Stuff

JJ Toner has just launched a short story competition, ‘Write4Autism’, with the intention of raising awareness of, and funding for, Enhanced Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder Initiatives (ASDI), a registered charity working with adults with Autism in Ireland. To wit:

Write4Autism is a new short story competition, launching today. The prize fund will be determined by the number of entries received, up to a maximum of €4,500 (about $6,000).

The prizes on offer are as follows:

First prize 50% of the prize fund up to a maximum of €2,250 (about $3,000)
Second prize 25% of the prize fund up to a maximum of €1,125 (about $1,500)
Third prize 10% of the prize fund up to a maximum of €450 (about $600)
18 addition prizes from the remaining 15% of the prize fund up to a maximum of €37.50 (about $50)

The entry fee is €7.50 (about $10) per story, the word limit 1,500 words.

We have a judging panel of three great writers: Colin Bateman, Declan Burke and Lucille Redmond.

The proceeds from the competition will be used to fund Enhanced Services for Autism Spectrum Disorder Initiatives (ASDI), a registered charity working with adults with Autism in Ireland.

Depending on the quality of the winning stories, they may be published in an eBook for Kindle, with the proceeds of this eBook going to the charity.

For all the details, clickety-click here.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Great Scott

I mentioned earlier in the week that I’ll be interviewing Scott Turow in Dublin on November 11th – he’ll be appearing at Smock Alley in Temple Bar to promote his latest thriller, IDENTICAL (Mantle). The details run like this:
We are delighted to announce another event in our ongoing series of author talks with our neighbours, The Gutter Bookshop. Meet the bestselling author of Presumed Innocent, Scott Turow, who will be discussing his new thriller Identical, a gripping masterpiece of dark family rivalries, shadowy politics and hidden secrets.
The event will be chaired by award winning Irish crime writer Declan Burke.

  11th November @ 6pm in the Main Space

  Scott Turow is the author of nine best-selling works of fiction including Innocent, Presumed Innocent and The Burden of Proof, and two non-fiction books including One L, about his experience as a law student. His books have been translated into more than 25 languages, sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, and have been adapted into film and television projects. He frequently contributes essays and op-ed pieces to publications such as the New York Times, Washington Post, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker, Playboy, and The Atlantic.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival

The full line-up for November’s ‘Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival’ in Trinity College (see below) has been released, and it looks very much like this:

Friday 22 November (free tickets)

7.00pm-8.30pm: ‘A Short Introduction to Crime Fiction: Why We Write It, How We Write It, and Why We Read It’.
Panellists: Jane Casey, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, and Eoin McNamee.

Saturday 23 November (free tickets for daytime events)

10.00am-11.15am: ‘Historical Crime Fiction’.
Panelists: Kevin McCarthy, Eoin McNamee (chair), Stuart Neville, Peter Quinn, and Michael Russell.

11.30am-12.45am: ‘Irish Crime Fiction Abroad’.
Panelists: Declan Burke (chair), Jane Casey, John Connolly, Conor Fitzgerald, Alan Glynn, Arlene Hunt.

12.45pm-1.30pm: lunch

1.30-3.30pm: Surprise Film Screening

3.45pm-5pm: ‘Crime Fiction and Contemporary Ireland’.
Panelists: Paul Charles, Declan Hughes, Gene Kerrigan, Brian McGilloway (chair), Niamh O’Connor, Louise Phillips.

Saturday 23 November, Closing Event

6pm (doors open 5.30), Exam Hall, Trinity College (€6 tickets)
‘An Evening With Michael Connelly’.
John Connolly will be interviewing Michael, who will be signing books, including his newest novel The Gods of Guilt, which will have its Irish launch at this event.

Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival

I’m very much looking forward to ‘Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival’, which takes place at Trinity College Dublin over the weekend of November 22nd / 23rd. It should be a terrific event, blending as it does some new voices with established international best-sellers, although the highlight will undoubtedly be John Connolly in conversation with Michael Connelly (I believe Michael slips in under FIFA’s ‘grandparent rule’; his Irish roots are to be found in north Cork, I think).
  The blurb:
Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival
Trinity College Dublin and New York University are holding a festival devoted to Irish crime fiction, featuring more than a dozen of the most exciting Irish crime novelists. This will be a memorable event, devoted to a key genre of contemporary Irish writing, with a wide events, so please make plans to join us.
  Among the confirmed participants are Declan Burke, Jane Casey, Paul Charles, John Connolly, Conor Fitzgerald, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, Kevin McCarthy, Brian McGilloway, Eoin McNamee, Niamh O’Connor, Louise Phillips, Peter Quinn, Michael Russell and Stuart Neville.
  We’re particularly pleased to announce that our weekend will conclude with a major event: for the Irish launch of his newest novel, The Gods of Guilt (Orion Books, November 2013), Michael Connelly will be interviewed by John Connolly.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets for the Michael Connelly event, clickety-click here