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.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Funky Friday’s Free-For-All: Being A Dolly Mixture Pick-‘n’-Mix Of Interweb Baloohaha

We’re not sure if crime writers are even allowed to send in their grubby manuscripts, but RTÉ Radio 1 is calling for entries for the 2007 RTÉ Radio 1 Short Story Competition in memory of Francis MacManus. Closing date is Oct 29, so get scribbling … Any excuse to mention Vincent Banville is a good excuse, but hell – exactly how garish is this cover (right) for Sad Song? It burns, it BURNS! … Seth Harwood, author of Jack Wakes Up and This Is Life, is running an interesting experiment in interweb flummery – the novels are podcast-only, and available free over here. Is Harwood an evil genius destined to take over the publishing world? Only time, that notorious doity rat, will tell … The Indo’s Ciara Dwyer has an interview with Mary Rose Callaghan, author of Billy Come Home, somewhere in this direction … It’s not particularly Irish or crime fiction, but the Crime Always Pays elves are trampolining on their tiny little elf-beds at the news that Johnny Depp has picked up the option to Hunter S. Thompson’s The Rum Diary … Cora Harrison’s historical mystery set in the Burren, My Lady Judge, is a September Book Sense pick at the Novel and Short Story Writer’s Market blog … Nick Stone, who published King of Swords last week, guest-blogged at Sarah Weinman’s Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind yesterday … Finally, here’s a vid of a very short-‘n’-sweet Q&A with Ken Bruen at Bouchercon, in which Ken picks Mitchum over Bogie on the basis that Mitch once declared he had two ways of acting – with the horse, or without the horse. And that’s it for another week, folks. Thanks for dropping by, have a fabulous weekend and see y’all next week, y’hear?

The Tremayne Man

Rejoice, o ye fans of Peter Tremayne (right) – Dancing With Demons, the latest Sister Fidelma mystery and the sixquillionth in the series, is due out in hardback on September 6. The woman who puts the ‘nun’ into ‘nundefatigable’, Fidelma is investigating the murder of the High King of Ireland this time around, and hoping to prevent civil war breaking out in 7th Century Ireland in the process. So why is Sister Fidelma such a (ahem) habit- forming read? Quoth Peter, via the Bridlington Free Press:
“The fascinating law system and culture of 7th Century Ireland, sadly, was little known when I started writing the books – the amazing position that women enjoyed, the fact that they could divorce on equal terms with men, that women could aspire to all the professions and be lawyers, doctors, poets and so on, a situation not really paralleled in other European societies at that time, seems to be one reason why the books attract attention. I was even worried about how I could put this across to readers in the English language but it seems to carry into all cultures. The fact that, as of this time, Fidelma has gone into 15 languages, from Japanese to Russian, Bulgarian to Spanish and so on, has been surprising. It seems that readers find a resonance with Fidelma, whom Books Ireland have described as ‘an Irish heroine for both the seventh and the twenty-first centuries’.”
Well, what are you waiting for? Get thee to a nunnery, people …

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Crime Spree Round-Up: Because You’re Worth It

Three cheers, two stools and a small but handy table - the latest Crime Spree magazine is on the shelves courtesy of the Jordan mob, which is as good a reason as any to run some hup-yas from the book review section of the previous issue, to wit: “Adrian McKinty has garnered nothing but praise for his first two books. This third in the trilogy, The Bloomsday Dead, should leave no doubt that he is a true star. Fast moving and highly engaging, this is a great book. McKinty just gets better and better, a true star of crime fiction,” says Jon in Crime Spree 18, where you’ll also find Ruth bigging-up Declan Hughes’s latest: “The decidedly Irish Hughes allows us a glimpse of country whose new-found prosperity cannot erase the sins of the often self-righteous and blind religious fanaticism that was its past … For those who read The Colour of Blood it’s an opportunity to look at where we’ve come and where we’re going, wrapped in satisfying crime fiction and a well told fable.” Which is nice … Meanwhile, Jennifer likes The Unquiet: “As with all of [John] Connolly’s books, The Unquiet is meticulous and darkly vivid. While the beautiful prose style remains, the story itself moves more quickly and the story’s hero, Charlie Parker, is more accessible to readers than ever before. Dare I say, this is the most human of Connolly’s books so far and is well worth the wait.” Shall we dip into Crime Spree 19? Oh yes, we shall … “The novel is amusing until near the end, when lengthy expositions – sort of long-winded summaries to bring things up to date – cloud the light-hearted criticisms and observations and the reading becomes bogged down,” reckons Theodore Feit of Ruth Dudley Edwards’ Murdering Americans, while Ruth is more enamoured of Ken Bruen’s Cross, to wit: “Underneath Bruen’s stylistic prowess there is also always a poet’s look at Ireland and all its fallibility … A pivotal outing in one of mystery’s finest series, Cross will make you rethink your definitions of both life and living.” Lovely, lovely, lovely …

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 974: Darragh McManus

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?
I was blown away the first time I read The Big Nowhere by James Ellroy. The bebop rhythms of the writing, the labyrinthine plot, the complexity of the characters, with all their ambiguities, their casual racism and fundamental decency … So original, I didn’t really know if I liked it or not until halfway through.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
The TV listings, to see what movies are on. Also partial to the odd trashy novel about zombies.
Most satisfying writing moment?
There have been a few times, writing fiction, when the sentence or paragraph has come together so perfectly that I’ve thought, ‘Yes. There it is. This can’t get any better’, and actually thought of myself, however temporarily, as somewhat comparable to all the great writers I admire.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Can Eoin McNamee’s Resurrection Man count as a crime novel? It’s certainly my favourite Irish novel of all time.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
See above. (Yes, I know they already made a movie of it, but it could have been better.)
Worst/best thing about being a writer?
The opportunity to let your mind go free and make stuff up – it’s that simple. Inventing people and situations and conversations. Much more satisfying than the real world.
The pitch for your next novel is…?
‘In a world of pain, Jim ‘Propane’ McDonovan is the really, really bad toothache.’
Who are you reading right now?
George Orwell, Why I Write; Primo Levi, If This is a Man; and, believe it or not, I’m also trying to grapple with James Joyce’s Ulysses. This is an atypical week, clearly. I’m not normally this highbrow.
The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
Funny, smart, sincere.

Darragh McManus is spit-‘n’-polishing his crime debut Even Flow as you read. His current work of non-fiction, GAA Confidential, is “Perhaps the funniest, most cultured book ever written about [Irish] national sports.” (Irish Independent)

Ask Not For Whom The Bell Polls

Last week, we asked YOU to decide on the best ever Irish crime fiction debut and YOU said, “We’re not telling you again – ring this number just once more and we’re getting a barring order.” Sheesh. Can’t we just be friends, eh? No? Okay, be like that. And for what it’s worth, yes, your ass did look big in that. Every that. Anyhoo, the result of last week’s poll to discover the best ever Irish crime fiction debut ever was … (drum roll ‘n’ trumpet parp please, maestro) …
Every Dead Thing by John Connolly (27%)
Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty (22%)
Divorcing Jack by Colin Bateman (22%)
Quinn by Seamus Smyth (16%)
In The Woods by Tana French (11%)
Wanna quibble, punk? The comment box is officially open: let the inquibbilating begin …

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Never Mind The Pollocks

Sure, we knew Pat Mullan was a dab hand at the old page-blackening, with The Circle of Sodom and Blood Red Square under his metaphorical belt – but who could’ve known he was such a fine canvas-wrecker too? The canvas pictured is titled Life Forms II, and while we don’t know much about art, we do know … actually, scratch that, we know nothing about art. Quoth Pat:
“Let the pictures speak for themselves. When I write I see everything in pictures: the words then follow. In art I have been inspired by Miro, de Kooning, Pollock, Calder, Picasso, Chagall, Rothko, Stella, Kandinsky, Matisse – abstract expressionism, modernism and post-modernism.”
Hmmm, lovely. Check out more of Pat’s oeuvre over at the Saatchi Gallery … and if any other writers-cum-artists want to fire us off a sample of their work, we’d be only too delighted to get an informal gallery going to decorate the electronic halls of Crime Always Pays Towers. KT McCaffrey, this means you.

The Not-Quite-Inaugural Crime Always Pays ‘Best First Line Of A Novel That Will Never Be Written’ Award: # 1: Nick Stone, Again

Being the second instalment in an increasingly improbably series. The Daily Telegraph interviewed Nick Stone last week on the occasion of the publication of King of Swords, the prequel to the best-selling Mr Clarinet, and Nick came up with another classic novel opening that will never be written, to wit:
“I wrote the epilogue to King of Swords in my notebook on the beach between Loews and the Ritz Carlton hotels with eight very strong mojitos in my belly. It was around 6pm, the sun was starting to set, people were drifting away and the seagulls were circling the refuse. I started scribbling with my feet in the sand. I felt like Brian Wilson going mad in his sandbox.”
Yep, he gives good interview, yon Stone. Jaunt on over to the Daily Telegraph for more …

Flick Lit # 164: The Butcher Boy

“Part Huck Finn, part Holden Caulfield, part Hannibal Lecter… a haunting narrative, lyrical and disturbing, horrific and hilarious.” So ran The New York Times’ verdict on Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy. The Washington Post concurred, calling The Butcher Boy, “A masterpiece of literary ventriloquism – a Beckett monologue with a plot by Hitchcock.” McCabe’s novel – his third, following Music on Clinton Street and Carn – deserved all these plaudits and more; 15 years on, it remains one of the must-read novels of the last decade of the 20th Century. Told in flashback by a middle-aged inhabitant of a mental institution, the tale appears deceptively straightforward: the decline and fall of young Francie Brady, wannabe cowboy and self-styled Pig Boy. The childish exuberance that sustains Francie’s imagination (“Death to all dogs who enter here, we said. Except us of course.”) curdles into the nasty delinquency of adolescence as a direct result of the way his native rural town reacts to the incipient madness and subsequent suicide of his mother. With his father, a failed trumpeter, the laughing stock of the town and an alcoholic to boot, Francie’s petulant fight-back against valley upon valley of squinting windows evolves into full-blown psychosis, complete with voices in his head, split personality and a paranoia that almost inevitably concludes with murderous violence. Few critics, however, made reference to the literary sensation of the previous year. Patrick Bateman, the eponymous anti-hero of Bret Easton Ellis’ American Psycho, was a slick, charming killer seemingly deranged by the vacuity of his fin de siécle existence. McCabe’s is by far the warmer, more human tale; he manages to evoke and then sustain empathy for his central character that – perversely – grew stronger even as Francie’s internal monologue descended into pitch-black farce. Perhaps it is Francie’s indomitable optimism in the face of overwhelming odds, and his unswerving, naïve belief in the good inherent in the human race that binds us to him. Few books, when you finally lay them to one side, prompt you to cheer through the tears. Despite the obvious dangers inherent in pandering to conventional notions of stage-Irish buffoonery (the novel’s author appears in cameo as the town drunk, playing the part with barely restrained relish and spoofing the cliché of drink-sodden Oirishness in the process), Neil Jordan’s (below right) film remains faithful to the novel’s sense of time and place, that of Co. Monaghan during the ’50s and ’60s, but refuses to indulge the insecurities that attend insularity. Francie’s existence is one of self-sufficient resistance to an impervious society and the mounting horror that stalks his gauche attempts to break into the world, but his consciousness is informed by superhero comics, the burgeoning rock ‘n’ roll revolution, and the long, cold shadow cast by the Cuban crisis. It is tempting to draw parallels between The Butcher Boy and The Company of Wolves, Jordan’s dark vision of the Little Red Riding Hood fairy tale. Both films concern themselves with a vivid interior reality and a surreal interpretation of an ostensibly benign exterior world. But if comparisons must be made, it is perhaps truer to suggest that The Butcher Boy – in its inventive wordplay, chilling logic and murderous adolescent angst – is a rural Irish Clockwork Orange made for a generation uncomfortable with a celluloid history of begorrahs, shillelaghs and sticks with which to beat the pretty lady. John Ford might not have recognised it as such, but someone finally got around to making The Unquiet Man.- Michael McGowan

The Popcorn Preview # 237: The Bourne Ultimatum

Shall we even bother about the plot? Suffice to say The Bourne Ultimatum brings it all back home in more ways than one in the concluding part of the trilogy, as Jason knocks twelve bells out of his old CIA handlers for turning him into a killing machine. Or – dum-da-DUM! – did they? Director Paul Greengrass does another splendid job on keeping the pace cranked up to 11, although those of a nervous disposition may leave the theatre feeling queasy, given the hyper-kinetic nature of the editing – it’s MTV on bad crystal meth, basically. Still, the hi-tech CIA surveillance techniques are as hokumishly ludicrous as always, the tale revels in its utter implausibility, and Matt Damon is as appropriately robotic as ever. The highlight? A car-chase with Bourne at the wheel of a NYPD patrol car that makes Bullitt look like an uphill Penny Farthing race for one-legged jockeys. But Mother of God, is this really the end of Jason? Say it ain’t so, Joe ...- Michael McGowan

Monday, August 6, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 417: Tana French

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?
If Donna Tartt’s incredible The Secret History counts as a crime novel, then definitely that. Otherwise, Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time. I like crime books that mess with the conventions.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Eva Ibbotson – not a guilty pleasure, exactly, but definitely a self-indulgent one. She’s the fiction equivalent of a big box of good chocolates.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Finishing In The Woods. I’d got to the point where I thought the bloody thing was never going to be done, I’d be eighty and it would be the length of a phone book and I’d still be writing, so finishing it was hugely satisfying. Also, I did a reading in the East Village in New York a couple of months ago, and I ended up signing a skateboard. Maybe I’m easily amused, but that made my day.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
Pat McCabe’s The Butcher Boy. It grabs you by the throat and drags you straight into the narrator’s twisted world; you come up gasping for breath.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Come on, just about every writer in the world is going to say ‘Mine! Mine!!’ I'’d love to see any of John Connolly’s books on film, though, and any of Arlene Hunt’s would be great on TV.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best: I get to wake up every morning and know that the only thing I have to do today is something I love doing. I’m constantly amazed by how jammy I am. Worst: It’s hard to switch off. When you’ve got a deadline, the temptation is to go into full-on panic mode, handcuff yourself to the computer and forget to have a life.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
He could have lost a pub bet and had to let his mates pick his name for his next book, except that ‘Benjamin Black’ is sort of mild for that. I don’t know what John Banville’s mates are like, but mine would have come up with something a lot more embarrassing.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’d love to say something like ‘dark, tangled, haunting’, but going by readers’ e-mails, the real answer is probably ‘makes you late’. I’ve had a bunch of people tell me that they were reading In The Woods and ended up being late for work / missing their stop / staying up all night. I like that. Being a bad influence is one of my favourite things.

Tana French’s In The Woods is on a best-seller list near you

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Hollywood Station by Joseph Wambaugh

Hollywood Station was billed as a comeback novel for the former LA cop turned scribe, but when you’ve got the likes of The Choirboys, The New Centurions and The Onion Field ruffling around your CV, you’ve earned the right to be away for a while. In Hollywood Station, Wambaugh returns to the LA streets he knows best. Here, an ensemble cast of rookie cops, hardened veterans and those somewhere in-between police the crack-ridden streets of downtown Los Angeles. Throw in the Russian mafia, a diamond robbery and a hapless crystal meth thief out for one big score and you’ve got the basic ingredients for Wambaugh’s latest pot-boiler. If there’s any truth in the old adage in writing about what you know, then Wambaugh has never been off the streets. Vividly plotted and expertly etched, this is an enthralling look at the haphazard, chaotic life of an LA beat officer. As an ex-cop, it’s no surprise that Wambaugh’s empathy lies with those men and women policing the streets. Yet it’s not a blind loyalty as the author doesn’t shy away from presenting the LAPD as a police department in a political correctness crisis, and one which its officers are content to toe the line rather than dictating it on the streets. The writing is forceful, the characterisation is superb, the plot as sharp as a diamond cutter. Mr Wambaugh, it’s good to have you back.- Garreth Murphy

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The Monday Review: Being The Crème De La Crème Of This Week’s Interweb Big-Ups And Hup-Yas

Let’s just get the obligatory John Connolly / The Unquiet big-up out of the way first, shall we? “Connolly … has arguably passed James Lee Burke and Dennis Lehane as the best ‘literary’ crime novelist writing today. Each line of his books is like poetry, and if you enjoy fine writing, you’ll find yourself, as I do, rereading certain passages over and over again … Connolly is in a class by himself and, frankly, he makes anyone wishing for success as a writer feel inadequate,” says Gene Williams at Cape Cod Online … “Tenderwire by Claire Kilroy, though not really a mystery, uses mystery techniques – an unreliable narrator who drops clues as to what’s really going on more by what she leaves out than what she says – to create a very satisfying punch at the finale,” reckons Jill at the economically-titled Jill’s Blog … Sharon Wheeler over at Reviewing the Evidence likes Jim Kelly’s latest, to wit: “The Skeleton Man is neatly plotted, as always, and Dryden faces physical danger on several occasions. But most of the other characters aren’t very developed and I can’t quite put my finger on why this book didn’t grab me … Mind you, Kelly not quite at his best is still streets ahead of most other writers.” … Arminta Wallace at the Irish Times (no interweb link - boo) reviews the audio book of John Creed’s Black Cat, Black Dog, and likes what she hears: “It’s all quite reminiscent of Martin Cruz Smith and his Gorky Park man Arkady Renko, which means it surely can’t be long before Valentine, who’s already being hailed as “the spook’s spook” in thriller circles, makes the transition to superstardom, or maybe even, with luck, the big screen.” Staying on a John Creed / Eoin McNamee tip, Ali Karim is unusually understated in his appreciation of 12:23 over at Shots Mag: “It is a big book in terms of ideas, literary style and the atmosphere it conjured in my head, hence forcing me to read slowly, meticulously absorbing every word, every sentence into my fevered mind, such is the dark beauty of McNamee’s tremendous novel … McNamee writes his prose like a magician … this novel must be a very strong contender for next years CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger.” Okay, so maybe he’s not so understated after all … Yet more extravagant hup-yas for Tana French’s In The Woods, to wit: “Ryan and Maddox are empathetic and flawed heroes, whose partnership and friendship elevate the narrative beyond a gory tale of murdered children and repressed childhood trauma,” reckons Publishers’ Weekly at Amazon US, and the same link gives you Thomas Gaughan’s Booklist review: “The characters of Ryan and Maddox, as well as a handful of others, are vividly developed in this intelligent and beautifully written first novel, and author French relentlessly builds the psychological pressure on Ryan as the investigation lurches onward under the glare of the tabloid media … An outstanding debut and a series to watch for procedural fans.” Meanwhile, Fictionwise pitches in with, “A gorgeously written novel that marks the debut of an astonishing new voice in psychological suspense … Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones.” Crikey! And then there’s Crime Always Pays elf Claire Coughlan from last week: “Tana French writes like a sparkier, Irish Donna Tartt … This book has elicited extreme reactions for its ending, and I’m no exception to that – I loved its elliptical twists, unexpected turns and lack of facile explanations.” Which is nice … On to Ken Bruen’s Ammunition: “The Brant books are a brilliant example of maintaining a large cast of interesting characters over the course of multiple books … Bottom line: loved it and can’t wait to re-read the whole series again,” says Brian Lindenmuth at Fantasy Books … Claire Abraham over at the Star-Telegram likes Eoin Colfer’s latest, Artemis Fowl and the Lost Colony: “Artemis Fowl, teenage criminal mastermind, battles wits with Capt. Holly Short and her fellow fairies of the LEPrecon police force in a riotous series of books that skilfully combine the fantasy world of Holly and her friends with Artemis’ technological savvy.” Meanwhile, Colfer’s real-life nemesis, the Skulduggery Pleasant-scribbling Derek Landy, gets the big-up from Elisha at Seven Impossible Things: “The really standout feature for me was the dialogue. Stephanie and Skulduggery had that sarcastic banter thing goin’ on - it was like Moonlighting without the sexual tension.” Finally, Glenn Marshall of International Noir is kindly disposed towards Brian McGilloway’s Borderlands: “This is a short but powerful crime novel, and a sympathetic portrait of a ‘borderland’ that is too often obscured in clichés or ruralisms in fiction of the present and the past. McGilloway conveys a believable portrait of a real, troubled, and coping-as-best-they-can population in the new Ireland, with all its contradictions and complexities.” Aye, but can yon McGilloway tap-dance backwards up a washing line? No? Mmmm, thought not …

Hold The Black Page

He writes for The Scotsman, Pulp Pusher, Shots Mag, Thug Lit, Books from Scotland, and now Random House – yep, it would seem that Tony Black (right, in soft-focus dream-boat mode) is the new, erm, black. The former Young Journalist of the Year and one-man industry will have his novel Paying For It (described by Ken Bruen as “one adrenaline pumped novel … with that wondrous dead-pan humour that only the Celts really grasp. The narrative blasts off the page like a triple malt”) published in hardback and trade paperback next June, with a mass-market paperback to follow. Not only that, but industry legend Rosie de Courcy is steering it through the editorial process. Quoth Tony:
“Paying For It was a real labour of love and to know it’s now found a comfortable home at Random House is fantastic. The central character, Gus Dury, is a kind of reluctant investigator, a hack who’s been bulleted from his job and finds himself poking into the death of a friend’s son. The lad’s been tortured to death in the middle of an Edinburgh beauty spot but the police seem to have little interest in solving the case ... Gus wonders why. He soon turns up links to a shady vice ring, fronted by some heavy-duty gangsters from Eastern Europe. But there’s more ... one of the city’s political figureheads is involved and Gus soon finds himself up to his neck in a shitload of trouble.”
Black grew up in Galway during the ’80s, and manages to wangle a couple of Irish characters into the Edinburgh-based tale:
“There’s two quite prominent Irishmen in the book, one’s a cop – a good one – and the other’s a fragile old geezer that just gets caught up in the chaos ... It’s a joy to get the Irish in there because those brilliant lilting, lyrical voices are all there in my head from childhood ... mainly teachers blasting me for carrying on in school, ha-ha!”
Okay, so that’s Ray Chandler and Tony Black who (mis)spent their teenage years in Ireland. If you’ve any crime writer additions to that list, drop ’em in the comments box, folks …