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?
DARK PASSAGE or THE BURGLAR, both by David Goodis. On the surface, his style was typically noir – hard-bitten, compact prose; taut, streetwise dialogue. But that’s just his kicking-off point. The writing is lifted with a quirky take on life, on logic and occasional surrealist touches. A character, for example, can be obsessed with the colour orange – clothes, furnishing, car – to such an odd extent that the novel begins to feel like some kind of surreal hand-tinted noir. Another character has a three-page conversation with a bloodied corpse. And, for me, the last chapter of THE BURGLAR can’t be beaten. An extended metaphor that sums up of all that has gone before, that’s in no way pretentiously literary, and is cinematic in its visual and visceral power.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Bernie Gunther in Philip Kerr’s superb Berlin noir novels.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Football bloggers, particularly those devoted to the team I support, Fulham FC – like
HammyEnd.com. We never win anything but we’re philosophical about the true value of failure and the illusory nature of success (especially Chelsea’s success).
Most satisfying writing moment?
Ruth Rendell has said that ‘the writer’s job is to stay confused for as long as possible’. It’s nerve-wracking but staying confused is the only effective antidote to predictability and lazy writing. The moment when that cloud of confusion begins to lift is more than satisfying – it’s a kind of ecstasy (without the thirst and the hyperactivity).
If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
To be perfectly honest, I’m not sufficiently up to speed on the new Irish crime-writing wave to answer this one – or the next. I very much look forward to playing catch up though.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing – If I was a plumber, I can’t imagine anyone arriving at my door and asking me to come take a look at a job they’ve just completed and how they might improve it – for free. Best thing – For some reason, a line from Leonard Cohen’s ‘Going Home’ occurs to me here: ‘He’s a lazy bastard living in a suit …’
The pitch for your next book is …?
A missing Goth girl, a hacker, a Libyan rebel fighter, a gangland casualty, a West Belfast Armenian, a woman betrayed, a mother seeking revenge – and the accidental nature of life and death. Confused? DI Leo Woods is too – but he’s working on it.
Who are you reading right now?
As always I’ve got too many books on the go. Right now I’m re-reading Michael Dibdin’s Aurelio Zen series, which I love. I’m also nearing the end of Edward St. Aubyn’s AT LAST – the final Patrick Melrose novel. The only real freedom is the freedom from delusion, he concludes. Too right. In between times, I’m dodging in and out of John Gray’s STRAW DOGS – forget existentialism, this is real noir philosophy, stark but compelling and best taken in small doses.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
If I can write, I can read, but not vice-versa. Your move, God.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’ve read worse.
Mark O’Sullivan’s CROCODILE TEARS is published by Transworld.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “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.