“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.

Friday, May 29, 2015

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Sheena Lambert

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?
Kevin Barry’s CITY OF BOHANE – although there is no way that book would ever have found its way inside my head.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Mrs Danvers …

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Penny Vincenzi. Like Jilly Cooper, but better. Give me champagne-drinking, horse (and other people’s husbands)-riding, upper-class, family saga escapism over James Joyce any day. Sorry, James.

Most satisfying writing moment?
Seeing my first full-length play, ‘Glanaphuca’, come to life onstage in rehearsed reading at The New Theatre in Dublin last year. It’s something a novelist never gets to see – but as a playwright, I observed my characters as real, living people for two hours on a cold day in December, and not only did I get to hear them speak, I got to witness the audience’s reaction to them. Amazing. Amazing.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
Liz Nugent’s UNRAVELLING OLIVER.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE LAKE, of course! And I cannot wait to see ‘City of Bohane – The Movie’ when it comes out (I think there is a screenplay in the works …). I’m picturing a ‘Sin City’-type production myself.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: Being able to work anytime, anywhere. Worst: Your siblings looking at you like you should probably be trying to get a real job.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Some family trees should never be climbed.

Who are you reading right now?
Just finished ALL THE THINGS I NEVER TOLD YOU by Celeste Ng.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write of course! I LOVE reading my own stuff!!

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Original, readable and fabulous.

Sheena Lambert’s THE LAKE is published by Killer Reads.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

One to Watch: WITH OUR BLESSING by Jo Spain

Jo Spain’s debut novel WITH OUR BLESSING (Quercus) was shortlisted for the Richard & Judy ‘Search for a Bestseller’ competition in 2015. Quoth the blurb elves:
It’s true what they say ... revenge is sweet.
  1975. A baby, minutes old, is forcibly taken from its devastated mother.
  2010. The body of an elderly woman - tortured to death - is found in a Dublin public park in the depths of winter.
  Detective Inspector Tom Reynolds is working the case. He’s convinced the murder is linked to historical events that took place in the notorious Magdalene Laundries.
  Reynolds and his team follow the trail to an isolated convent in the Irish countryside. But once inside, it becomes disturbingly clear that the killer is amongst them ... and is determined to exact further vengeance for the sins of the past.
  WITH OUR BLESSING will be published on September 3rd.

News: Eoin McNamee’s BLUE IS THE NIGHT wins the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year

It’s turning into something of an Eoin McNamee week on CAP, which is never a bad thing. The heartiest of congrats to Eoin (right), whose excellent BLUE IS THE NIGHT (Faber) last night won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year last night, the prize awarded on the opening night of the Listowel Writers’ Week.
  I interviewed Eoin on the publication of BLUE IS THE NIGHT, and he had this to say about the central mystery at the book’s heart:
“I always like to quote Francis Bacon,” says Eoin, “who said that the job of all art is to deepen the mystery. This book is about the mystery of Patricia Curran, and what really happened to her, and by extension the mystery she inherited from her family, her father and her mother.
  “I started out originally, perhaps, to find out who killed Patricia Curran,” he continues, “but the book became about something other than that. It became more about ‘What is mystery?’ What is it that drives these stories, that drives people’s compulsion towards these stories?”
  For the rest of the interview, clickety-click here
  For more on the Kerry Group awards, clickety-click here

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

News: Eoin McNamee’s BLUE IS THE NIGHT in the Irish Times Book Club

Eoin McNamee’s excellent BLUE IS THE NIGHT (Faber) is the new selection for the Irish Times Book Club. To wit:
Blue is the Night by Eoin McNamee (Faber, £7.99) is the new Irish Times Book Club choice. The third and final novel of his acclaimed Blue Trilogy, following 2001’s Booker longlisted The Blue Tango and 2010’s Orchid Blue, it can also be read as a standalone work. It has been shortlisted for the €15,000 Kerry Irish Novel of the Year Award 2015 to be announced on Wednesday at Listowel Writers’ Week.
  Set in Belfast in 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 19-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 dramatises a notorious and nefarious case.
  For all the details on the Irish Times Book Club, and how you can win a signed copy of BLUE IS THE NIGHT, clickety-click here
  For a review of BLUE IS THE NIGHT, clickety-click here

Interview: SJ Watson, author of SECOND LIFE

SJ Watson’s (right) debut novel BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP is one of the finest examples of ‘domestic noir’ to date. Last week I interviewed SJ Watson for the Irish Examiner to mark the publication of his second novel, SECOND LIFE (Doubleday). Sample quote:
“As I was writing Second Life, I realised that I was writing about identity again, and this idea of ‘who are we, really? What is it that makes us what we are? How easily can we manipulate that’? With Second Life, it’s done in a much more knowing way, because, in some ways, Julia is manipulating her own identity, whereas, in Before I Go To Sleep, it’s Christine who is being manipulated by somebody else without her knowledge. It intrigues me, that I’m sitting here talking to you, but I’m a different person to who I am if I’m sitting at home with my partner, and I’m a different person again if I’m with my family. And all of those are different people to who I was when I worked in the health service. We all kind of carry this multiplicity of self within us.”
  For the rest of the interview, clickety-click here

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

One to Watch: ARE YOU WATCHING ME? by Sinead Crowley

Sinead Crowley created quite a splash last year with her debut novel CAN ANYBODY HELP ME?, which was shortlisted for the Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards. Her follow-up is ARE YOU WATCHING ME? (Quercus), with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
Dear Elizabeth,
I’ve been watching you.
I hope to see you ...
Soon.


Liz Cafferky is on the up. Rescued from her dark past by the owner of a drop-in centre for older men, Liz soon finds herself as the charity’s face - and the unwilling darling of the Dublin media.
  Amidst her claustrophobic fame, Liz barely notices a letter from a new fan. But then one of the Centre’s clients is brutally murdered, and Elizabeth receives another, more sinister note.
  Running from her own ghosts, Liz is too scared to go to the police. And with no leads, there is little Sergeant Claire Boyle can do to protect her.
  ARE YOU WATCHING ME? will be published on July 2nd. For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, May 25, 2015

Review: BELFAST NOIR, edited by Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville

In crime fiction, noir can be a difficult definition to nail down, although most commentators agree that the purest form of noir incorporates an especially bleak and fatalistic tone, stories in which characters are doomed regardless of how they twist and turn in a desperate bid to escape their fate.
  In that sense it could be argued that Belfast Noir, the latest city-based collection of short stories from Akashic Books, arrives a couple of decades too late, now that Belfast is, thankfully, no longer “the most noir place on earth”, as Adrian McKinty, quoting Lee Child, claims in the introduction to this book.
  That said, noir can also represent a broad church within crime fiction’s parameters, as the diversity of the stories in this collection suggests. It’s also true that Belfast Noir is timely, given that the last decade has seen the emergence of a generation of Northern Irish crime writers who are engaged with post-Troubles fiction, with authors such as McKinty and his coeditor, Stuart Neville, plus Claire McGowan, Brian McGilloway, Gerard Brennan, Sam Millar and Garbhan Downey, adding their voices to those who were publishing during the Troubles, such as Eoin McNamee, Eugene McEldowney and Colin Bateman.
  If it’s disappointing but understandable that McKinty and Neville have opted not to contribute stories of their own to the collection, Colin Bateman’s absence is more surprising, not least because his Divorcing Jack, featuring his journalist turned private investigator, Dan Starkey, and published in the mid 1990s, is a seminal novel of Irish crime writing. Bateman’s blend of crime tropes and irreverent humour is present here, however, in a number of contributions.
  Claire McGowan’s Rosie Grant’s Finger is an offbeat comic tale featuring an 18-year-old private eye who cycles around Belfast; Sam Millar’s Out of Time features the wisecracking private eye Karl Kane; Garbhan Downey’s hard-boiled but jocular tale Die Like a Rat is stitched through with cynical one-liners about the newspaper business.
  For the most part the contributing authors play a straight bat. Brian McGilloway’s The Undertaking sets the tone with a tale about an undertaker who is presented with an offer he can’t refuse by former paramilitaries who now police the Belfast streets.
  Arlene Hunt’s Pure Game is set in the grim world of dog-fighting, an allegory of sorts in which strutting hardmen send out ill-treated animals to kill on their behalf.
  Gerard Brennan’s Ligature is a tale of petty crime, teenage rebellion and punitive reprisals, a heartbreaking story offering an intimate snapshot of crime and punishment in Belfast. Wet With Rain by Lee Child, the Jack Reacher author, who qualifies courtesy of a Belfast-born father, offers a take on the cold war involving Troubles-era paramilitaries.
  One of the most interesting contributions is from Steve Cavanagh. The Grey is a courtroom drama that in its very form argues for the normalisation of fiction’s treatment of post-Troubles Belfast, although Cavanagh’s narrator, a lawyer, is fully aware of how the “comforting blanket” of Belfast’s new grey architecture reflects the moral climate.
The editors also take the bold step of commissioning a number of stories from authors who aren’t crime writers.
  The science-fiction writer Ian McDonald contributes The Reservoir, a wedding-day story about dark secrets with a distinctly Gothic flavour. In Poison Lucy Caldwell reminds us that not all “crimes” break the law, even if they do have the power to destroy lives. Glenn Patterson’s Belfast Punk REP is one of the noirest of the stories, harking back to the halcyon days of Northern Ireland’s punk era and vividly illustrating the brutal dangers of not belonging to one or another of Belfast’s self-defining tribes.   Highlights include Ruth Dudley Edwards’ Taking It Serious, an unsettling pen picture of a young man obsessed with the fading glories of the recent past, and one that serves as a rebuttal to McKinty’s optimistic assertion in the introduction that “only the most hardened individuals would feel a return to the grey desolation of the ’70s and ’80s is a sacrifice worth making”. Alex Barclay’s The Reveller is a darkly poetic tale of revenge and self-annihilating redemption that strikes a disturbingly ambiguous note as it concludes the collection.
  Eoin McNamee’s Corpse Flowers is the most fully realised noir of all the contributions: a PSNI investigation into the murder of a young woman told at one remove via snapshots gleaned from a number of visual cues, including CCTV and home-movies, “the difficult-to-piece together recollections, the lyric fragments of the street traffic and retail security cams”.
  Belfast Noir is an uneven collection overall, given that less than half of the stories would qualify as strictly noir. For the less pedantic reader, however, it is a fascinating document of its time and place, and one that showcases the diverse talents of an increasingly impressive generation of Northern Ireland crime writers. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.