“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.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

A Guilty Pleasure

Sean McGrady’s THE BASTARD PLEASURE (Dzanc Books) didn’t come across my radar when it was published last year, and I doubt very much if it was written as a crime novel, but it does sound like yet another fascinating addition to the body of fiction emerging from Northern Ireland. To wit:
THE BASTARD PLEASURE is a dark novel. It concerns itself with the mystery of identity and individuation, its destruction and the brutal way in which it is reclaimed in an emerging act of intuitive will and self-affirmation, that is both obligated and free, in the circumstances, to be either good or evil – more plainly, it is about terrorism, in its concrete and seemingly incomprehensible forms, that eminently reveals existential ‘border situations’ in ambiguity and contradiction.
  And here’s a little more:
“McGrady’s pitch-black coming-of-age story picks up where his debut, THE BACKSLIDER, left off: Belfast, during the early 1970s; a time of fear and violence, but also, it would seem from this meticulously chronicled account, of precarious hope and occasional hilarity. For his narrator, seventeen year-old Seamus McGladdery, it is a time of self-discovery. What kind of man is he going to be, and on which side that of the ‘fly Provo boys’ who rule the streets, or that of his Protestant forebears-will he take a stand? ‘Black Belfast’ has seldom been more sharply realized, in taut, visceral prose whose Beckettian cadences are relieved by flashes of humour. Unflinching in its depiction of a deeply troubled era in Ireland’s history, THE BASTARD PLEASURE is no easy read, but it is a rewarding one, full of thought-provoking insights and incidental pleasures.” -- Christina Koning
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Writer In Residence: Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown

Here’s a very nice opportunity for Irish writers: a year-long Writer in Residence, part-time, that pays a fee of €15,000 and offers a room in the new Central Library for writing. To wit:
Introduction
Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown County Council invites applications for a writer in residence for the period June 2014 to May 2015. The writer in residence is a partnership between the Library Service and the Arts Office of the County Council, grant-aided by the Arts Council. The residency seeks to support writers in all genres. The residency is envisaged as a part-time position which will allow time for the writer’s own work in addition to engagement and interaction with both the general public and, more specifically, with those with an interest in writing themselves. The writer in residence will focus on working in both the refurbished Blackrock Library and the new Central Library and Cultural Centre (CLCC) in Dún Laoghaire, due to open later in 2014. We are pleased to announce that the writer in residence will have a dedicated room on the top floor of the new Central Library and Cultural Centre.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Cry Havoc, And Let Sleep The Dogs Of War

Mark O’Sullivan’s CROCODILE TEARS was one of the most impressive debuts I read last year, so I’m looking forward to reading his follow-up title, SLEEPING DOGS (Transworld Ireland), when it appears in April. To wit:
Gangland boss Harry Larkin has taken three bullets and lies dying in a Dublin hospital. Amongst his delusional ravings to Senior Ward Nurse Eveleen Morgan, one name stands out: Detective Inspector Leo Woods. Harry’s message for his old ‘friend’ Leo: find my daughter Whitney.
  Leo is drawn into the murky world of the Larkin family, a hell he thought he had escaped from thirty years earlier. With the help of Detective Sergeant Helen Troy, his search for Whitney turns up more questions than answers, more darkness than light. Who shot Harry Larkin? What secrets are the Larkins hiding? Is there a connection with the young hit-and-run victim lying beside Harry in the intensive care unit? Why is a Libyan intern at the hospital taking such an interest? And is Leo himself compromised by his past affair with Harry’s wife, Liz?
  While Woods and Troy struggle with the truth about a family built on deception, the search for Whitney becomes increasingly desperate. Leo is looking to the future, and a tentative relationship with Eveleen - but the past won’t let him go that easily.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, February 24, 2014

Here Comes The Sun

I do like a writer who is prepared to stretch him or herself, and it’s fair to say that Adrian McKinty’s next offering, THE SUN IS GOD (Serpent’s Tail), offers a dramatically different setting to his recent trilogy, which was set in Northern Ireland during the 1980s. To wit:
Based on real events, a story of murder in the South Pacific among a most peculiar sect of sun-worshippers.
  1906. Will Prior is in self-imposed exile on a remote South Pacific island, working a small, and failing, plantation. He should never have told anyone about his previous existence as a military foot policeman in the Boer War, but a man needs friends, even if they are as stuffy and, well, German, as Hauptmann Kessler, the local government representative.
  So it is that Kessler approaches Will one hot afternoon, with a request for his help with a problem on a neighbouring island, inhabited by a reclusive, cultish group of European ‘cocovores’, who believe that sun worship and eating only coconuts will bring them eternal life. Unfortunately, one of their number has died in suspicious circumstances, and Kessler has been tasked with uncovering the real reason for his demise. So along with a ‘lady traveller’, Bessie Pullen-Burry, who is foisted on them by the archipelago’s eccentric owner, they travel to the island of Kabakon, to find out what is really going on …
  I love that cover, by the way. THE SUN IS GOD will be published on July 24th. For all the details, clickety-click here

Sunday, February 23, 2014

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Alan Croghan

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?
God, there is so many. I think A SEASON IN HELL by Jack Higgins, cracking book and like THE GODFATHER I read it five times.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
It used to be Luca Brasi (from the book of THE GODFATHER, as I had my own vision of him in my head and plus he was a lot more involved in the book than in the film. He was kinda my hero in the book – but when I saw him in the film I instantly changed my mind, as I was really disappointed) but ‘Jago’ has always being my favourite; the ex-SAS martial arts expert, sniper turned contractual professional killer/protector in Jack Higgins’ book A SEASON IN HELL – a real super-cool dude, he was the business. He took no shit and was very professional.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
For obvious reasons, when I was in prison I used to read a lot of Sidney Sheldon, Harold Robbins and Jackie Collins. Today I don’t bother with it – there’s only so many hours in the day (smile).

Most satisfying writing moment?
Oh it has to be a toss-up between two; one was when the late John B Keane awarded me second place in the Drama Section of Listowel Writers week back in 1985, after I had written a short play. I was only 17 (some 29 years ago now – how time flies, eh?) and was in St Patrick’s Institution for young offenders at the time. And I had only recently learned how to read and write whilst in prison. I won a Gold Cross pen and a cheque for £20. I just couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. The second was getting the phone call from Penguin with an offer to publish WILD CHILD – it was like getting a belt of a hammer in the face!

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
Has to be THE TWELVE by Stuart Neville. What a great book

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Tana French’s novels on the Dublin Murder Squad. They should have never been disbanded.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is ‘Resistance’, preferring or choosing to do a hundred and one other insignificant things rather than do the most important thing that I really should be doing, like pressing the ‘power on’ button on my computer and bringing up my Word page – for me that can be the hardest thing in the world to do. The Best? That’s being in there, in my scene, in the story, being that invisible third party sitting in the car or at the bar table or in the bedroom – just waiting and wondering what each character is going to say or do to the other. They tell me what they’re going to do or say; I just write the words and describe their actions whilst my second brain scribbles like mad little notes and ideas that pop into my head as I work. I’m in that world, that time, that place and I love it because I know, at the end of the day, no matter where I go or what I do I am completely safe and I can bring my reader anywhere.

The pitch for your next book is …?
The working title is ‘Lord of the Underworld’. It’s a period ‘Faction’ book set in Ireland during 1834/35. During that time there was a forgotten but terrible growth in one of the darkest aspects of Irish history – the brutal, bloody and merciless period of Clan shillelagh fighting. Many factions formed to protect themselves not just from the British but from each other.

Who are you reading right now?
James Bland’s TRUE CRIME DIARY.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write – without a shadow of a doubt. Not being able to write … I’d go insane.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Honest, realistic and methodical.

Alan Croghan’s WILD CHILD is published by Penguin Ireland.