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.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Jack’s Back

Aye, but has he ever really been away? The only Irish crime writer who can claim a more prodigious output than Ken Bruen, Jack Higgins must have six arms and a small tribe of researcher elves locked away in his basement. The Killing Ground, due on October 1, is the sixquillionth novel of his alarmingly large canon of work, and the blurb elves have been squeaking thusly:
For intelligence operative Sean Dillon, it is a routine passport check. But the events it will lead to will be as bloody as any he has ever known. The man he stops at Heathrow airport is Caspar Rashid, born and bred in England, but with family ties to a Bedouin tribe fiercely wedded to the old ways, as Rashid has just found out to his pain. His thirteen-year-old daughter, Sara, has been kidnapped by Rashid’s own father and taken to Iraq to be married to a man known as the Hammer of God, one of the Middle East’s most feared terrorists. Dillon has had his own run-ins with that tribe, and when the distraught man begs him for help, he sees a chance to settle some old scores – but he has no idea of the terrible chain of events he is about to unleash, nor of the implacable enemies he is about to gain. Before his journey is done, many men will die – and Dillon may be one of them.
The indestructible Dillon dead? Pshaw, blurb elves, for shame – lure us not with your patently false elf-promises. You won’t be warned again …

Baby, You’re A Starrett

Camden Town’s twinkly-eyed finest, Paul Charles (right), plays his part in wrecking the rainforests with the release of The Dust of Death this week through Brandon, whose blurb elves may well be considering strike action given the amount of overtime they’ve been working recently. Anyhoo, the gist runneth thusly:
“The bloodied body of a crucified man is discovered in the Second Federation Church in the Donegal Heritage Town of Ramelton on the first Friday of summer. The investigation by Inspector Starrett of the Serious Crime Unit and his young team reveal a team that is not nearly as righteous as its many churches might suggest. The body is that of local carpenter James Moore, whom Starrett discovers was having a relationship with the wife of the pastor of the very same Second Federation Church, and she has mysteriously disappeared. Meanwhile, it transpires that Moore’s own wife had started to get close to her childhood sweetheart. While investigating Moore’s past, Starrett also discovers that the carpenter might have witnessed a local professional in action …”
Marvellous. So what’s yon Starrett like then, Mr Paul Charles, sir?
“Starrett is in his mid forties, has deep blue eyes, dresses well, likes a pint of Guinness and is a decade into his third career. The locals say he may have a sixth sense: he’s not so sure but has been eternally grateful when that special something or other has kept him out of trouble and come to his aid while on a few of his cases … ”
Oooh, spooky. And are there any advance reviews we could pop in here at the end, just so the post doesn’t end too abruptly?
“Well, Mark Billingham was kind enough to say: ‘From its killer first line to its last, The Dust of Death is compelling and elegant, like a well-woven garrotte.’ John Harvey added: ‘A mystery that’s as smooth as a good single malt and none the less satisfying.’ And who am I to argue?”
With Billingham? Too right, sir. Never argue with anyone who sounds like an English stately home, that’s our policy …

Thursday, September 6, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 379: Kelli Stanley

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?
Farewell, My Lovely. It’s the first Chandler I ever read, and still my favourite. His lyricism was in fantastic form. That scene with Marlowe picking up a bug in the police department office and taking it outside the building was revelatory to me – tough and hard-boiled does not necessarily mean insensitive to even the smallest suffering. Hammett, the outspoken political liberal, enjoyed hunting; Chandler, who sometimes is unjustly and mistakenly labelled a conservative, rescued cats. One reason why Marlowe resonates with me on such a profound level.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I do a lot of vintage comic book reading. I’ve got a conference presentation coming up about comics and classics. Of course, I'd read ’em anyway, but the conference is an excellent excuse.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I love this question ... it puts the pleasure emphasis on writing, not publishing, which is a sort of communal, social-acceptance kind of satisfaction, but not as pure as the kind you get when you write a passage and you’re breathing hard and on the edge of your seat and your palms are sweaty and you can barely get through the line in legible English because your thoughts are moving too quickly for you to get them down on paper and, damn it, your character is aching and so are you, and you don’t even realize you’re crying until you fall back in your stained and creaky chair, and realize you’re alone. Really alone. Because you just finished the damn book. The first draft is always the most satisfying to me, because you get swept away. Editing and revising means stepping back, and you lose some of that bonding, that euphoria.
The best Irish crime novel is ...?
I’d nominate Ken Bruen’s The Killing of the Tinkers. Devastating, lyrical, and a seductive and spiritual odyssey.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any one of Bruen’s Jack Taylor series. For something a bit lighter, Cecil Day Lewis’ Nigel Strangeways’ mysteries – they’d make a good series for television, instead of this constant revision of Agatha Christie.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best things: That incredible sense of creation-elation. Someone reading your work and liking it. Places you can go and people you can meet. Worst thing: Rejection, rejection, rejection. I think we tend to take it personally. And solitude isn’t all that healthy. It’s good to get out of yourself and into a pub occasionally.
The pitch for your next novel is ...?
The sequel to Nox Dormienda (A Long Night for Sleeping) is finished, but waiting for a final round of revision. The title is Maledictus (Cursed). My books are very character-driven. Mystery plots are nearly always contrived to some degree, so I concentrate on making more than murder happen – and making the reader care about who it might happen to. I also look at my books as more noir than historical mystery, though the history aspects are all as accurate as a lot of research and an M.A. in classics can make them. Maledictus is a noir about a professional curse-writer in Aquae Sulis (Bath) whose curses have an uncanny habit of coming true. Arcturus will get involved in ways he can't fathom or predict. Nightmare Alley and Red Harvest were two big influences on this novel. I’m also working on another short-story prequel to Nox, and researching another series set in 1939 San Francisco.
Who are you reading right now?
There are several books next to my bed at the moment: a Cornell Woolrich anthology (Night and Fear: A Centenary Collection of Stories), Raymond Chandler: A Literary Reference, and Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life by Jane Gardner. There’s also a Life magazine from 1938 and a volume of Sallust (a Roman historian I’m writing a paper on). Yeah, I know I’m weird.
The three best words to describe your own writing are ...?
Poetic. Visceral. Redemptive.

Kelli Stanley’s Nox Dormienda will be published in July 2008.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Sleeping Dogs Lie by Sylvester Young

“So this thing involved a lotta people who work for different government agencies? Man, Oliver Stone would have a field day.”
Sylvester Young, Sleeping Dogs Lie
Ne’er a truer word was ever spoken: Sleeping Dogs Lie will surely become a byword for paranoid conspiracy thrillers. Very much a novel of its time, the tale follows the fortunes of Robbie Walker as he departs New York in the wake of the 9/11 tragedy, headed for Georgia with his fellow fugitive from justice and long-term friend, the ex-IRA man and cold-blooded killer Danny Maguire. Hiding out in the rural township of Petra, Robbie – English-born, to Jamaican parents – wonders why Danny has taken them to such a Godforsaken place, only to discover that Danny’s motives have been less than pure when a murderous plot concocted by rogue elements of the Colombian paramilitary group FARC collides with an investigation by a shadowy anti-terrorist American secret agency, ‘the Seventeenth’. Young’s first-person narrative is delivered in a beguiling patois that reeks of authenticity, the voice luring you down into the complex workings of a mind struggling to forge a path through the disintegrating remnants of what is quickly becoming a wasted life. Squeezed on one side by government-sponsored threats, on the other by loyalty to his old comrade, and coping with the casual violence of overt racism while trying to bail a new friend out of a murder frame-up, Walker is run ragged by the excess of adrenaline coursing through his system as he battles, above all else, the will-sapping paranoia that wafts up out of every line. A punchy, cynical and relentlessly political novel, Sleeping Dogs Lie is as courageous a statement of intent as it is a gripping thriller.- Declan Burke

This review is republished by the kind permission of Euro Crime. Sleeping Dogs Lie is published by Raldon Books.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Blood Is Never Simple

Ever since the news started filtering back from Cannes that the Coen Brothers were not only back on form, but with an adaptation of a Cormac McCarthy novel, the elves have been fairly salivating at the prospect of No Country For Old Men. Due early next year, it’s a classic Coen set-up: guy finds a heap of money in desert, psychotic killer turns up to claim it, chaos ensues. The cast includes Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, Josh Brolin and Woody Harrelson, but don’t expect the skewed black comedy of Fargo or The Big Lebowski: taking its cue from the pessimistic WB Yeats title, this baby’s dark, dark, dark, and very much a return to Blood Simple territory. McCarthy, the Coens, and a neo-noir classic-in-the-making? Truly our cup runneth over.

Where There’s A Will, There’s A McGilloway

Good news, people: while the elves were busy mucking out the Crime Always Pays aviary, a little bird whispered that Brian McGilloway is set to join the ever-growing list of Irish crime writers to be published in the US of A. Thomas Dunne, an imprint of St Martins, is to release Borderlands in hardback 2008, with the paperback following in 2009 to coincide with the release of the follow-up, Gallows Lane, in hardback. Quoth Brian:
“Having read so much American crime fiction and admired writers like JL Burke for many years, I’m obviously delighted to think that Borderlands and Gallows Lane both will be made available in the US. And a little nervous ...”
Nervous, schmervous. Not when one John Connolly is of the opinion that Borderlands is “Beautifully written and very gripping ... [McGilloway] is going to be a considerable force in Irish crime writing.” You heard it here first, folks. Unless you heard it somewhere else before, of course.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

History: Officially No Longer Bunk

Broadcaster, writer and all-round Renaissance man Sean Moncrieff returns to the fray today, releasing The History of Things through New Island. What’s that scraping sound we hear? Could it possibly be the blurb elves sharpening their quills? Yep, t’would appear so:
“Film director Tomas Dalton returns home to his North Inner City Dublin roots. However, the country he has returned to, with its new-found affluence and glamour, is unrecognisable from the one he left behind. But this version of Ireland has yet to reach Bass Avenue, where the mischievous welcome he receives from the local mob of children quickly grows into something far more sinister. Lost amongst the wreckage of a painful divorce, a chaotic film shoot and the manic advances of a fading Hollywood diva, Tomas is forced to protect the faded trophies of his life. By any means necessary.”
Moncrieff’s previous outing, Dublin, garnered some very nice reviews indeed, to wit: “Moncrieff takes the well-worn images of warm and sleepy Dublin, pulls a plastic bag over their head and executes them,” reckoned the Evening Herald, while the Sunday Independent chipped in with “A telling portrait of smugness and disillusionment, of the festering underbelly of Celtic Tigerland.” Form an orderly queue, people: line-jumpers will be plastic-bagged and executed …

You Didn’t Hear It Here First

Yesterday’s Belfast Telegraph picked up on a Sunday Times story about the furore created by the publication of James Monaghan’s (right) Colombia Jail Journal, a snippet neither read here back on July 9, obviously. Quoth the Telly:
"Revelations that one of the Colombia Three is to publish a book about his experiences in jail were last night greeted with disgust by senior members of the DUP. According to the Sunday Times, James Monaghan will give an inside account of his arrest and subsequent trial in Colombia Jail Journal, to be published in November. Monaghan was one of three Irish men arrested at Bogota airport in August 2001 on suspicion of training Farc rebels in bomb-making techniques based on IRA technology. He and he co-accused, Niall Connolly and Martin McCauley, were sentenced to 17 years in prison, but returned to Ireland in August 2005 after skipping bail. An extradition request sent to the Irish authorities was unsuccessful. The Sunday Times quotes Steve McDonagh from Brandon Books, which is publishing the book, as saying it is a “vivid account” of Monaghan’s jail experience. DUP MP Jeffrey Donaldson, who saw the Colombian prison in which the three were held, said it was not morally right that Monaghan should profit. “I’m aware of the deep anger that remains in Colombia that these three fugitives from justice still haven’t been held to account for the crimes they committed. People are still being murdered by Farc using tactics taught by James Monaghan. The proceeds should go to victims rather than making profits for him.” Steve McDonagh told the Sunday Times that Monaghan’s book “tells the story of who he met in Colombia and what he did”. The book is full of atmosphere. It follows the court case but also depicts the difficulties he and the others faced inside jail,” he adds. It’s unclear whether it contains any admission by Monaghan of links to the IRA. The three men deny allegations that they taught Farc guerrillas how to make explosive devices, and claimed that they travelled under false passports to study the Colombian peace process."

Monday, September 3, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 1,917: Ray Banks

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?
Lord. Straight in with the easy stuff, aren’t you? Either The Death Of Sweet Mister which really is one of those books that does the odious thing of “transcending the genre”, and written by one of the finest living American authors, or The Grifters by Jim Thompson, which remains my favourite Thompson. Or Cotton Comes To Harlem for its humour and brevity. Or The Postman Always Rings Twice for its longevity and clarity. Or The Shark-Infested Custard for its savage take on single men about twenty years before Neil Labute.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
The literary children of Peter Biskind. I’m a sucker for movie non-fiction (just finished bios on Spike Lee and Hitchcock), and the only reason it’s a guilty pleasure is that something like Easy Riders, Raging Bulls has absolutely no bearing on what I’m currently writing. Hell, anything I read nowadays that isn’t research is a guilty pleasure.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When a book has passed muster with my wife. If there’s anything more satisfying than that, I haven’t experienced it yet.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
The Guards is a major book, but if I can pick one by an Irish author not necessarily set in Ireland, I’d have to go for one of my favourite Bruens – The Hackman Blues or American Skin. Having said that, I hear good things about Declan Hughes. Oh, and Gene Kerrigan.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Don’t know if this counts, seeing as he lives in Denver, but Hidden River by Adrian McKinty is ripe for the movies.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is the chatter, the “advice” from people I wouldn’t trust to sit the right way on a toilet, the naysayers, the doomwatchers, the wannabes and neverweres, the sheer overwhelming stench of a million “writers” who don’t actually read books for fun. Especially when it overwhelms the reason we all started this in the first place – to write something we’d want to read. The best is when we hit that, when we write something we’d pay good money to read. And if I ever make a living out of this, that’ll come into it, too.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Cal Innes, steeped in a full-on codeine jones, becomes a local hero when he saves a wee Asian lad from a house fire. Turns out the fire was arson, our man has to investigate it during the hottest summer on record, whilst trying to keep his habit under control, the press off his back, and himself out of the middle of a race riot. It’s my anti-issue book.
Who are you reading right now?
Jean-Patrick Manchette, The Prone Gunman. Chilly. And James Ellroy, American Tabloid. Sweeping.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I’ll use Russel MacLean’s – Dirty, hard and fast. Yeah, that about sums it up.

Ray Banks’ Donkey Punch is available anywhere they appreciate good books.

The Guns Of Brixton

Calling all festival junkies: the TCM Crime Scene jamboree kicks off in London on Friday, September 6, centring on the Ritzy Brixton and focusing on ‘the wealth of film and literature that has crime as its central theme’, and the word around the elves’ meagre campfire is that Quentin Tarantino (above right) will be in town. Can you confirm or deny, O festival director for literary input and all-round crime fiction demi-god, Mr Maxim Jakubowski, sir?
“Yes, he is, as our closing night feature will also be the British premiere of Death Proof. We also have five other Brit firsts on film-side and Lynda La Plante, Fred Vargas, Mark Billingham, Val McDermid, Colin Bateman, Natasha Cooper, Ruth Rendell, Martina Cole, David Suchet, Philip Glenister (from Life on Mars), Nigel McCrery on the books / acting front, plus a Claude Chabrol and A.E. Bezzerides retrospectives.”
Thank ’ee kindly, sir. Incidentally, the premiere of Death Proof will be screened at the Ritzy Brixton, and beamed to cinemas across the UK via satellite. Let’s hope the punters are a little more impressed than our very own movie-reviewing elf, Michael McGowan

Sunday, September 2, 2007

The Monday Review

Take a deep breath, people: ’tis a bumper crop. “Blending the gritty realism and brutal violence of Golden Age pulp legends like Mickey Spillane and Lawrence Block with adrenaline-fuelled and darkly poetic story lines a la contemporary masters Ken Bruen, Jason Starr, and Charlie Huston, McKinty’s Dead trilogy is contemporary crime fiction at its very best … an unapologetically bloody tale of vengeance, redemption, and – surprisingly enough – love that will resonate with readers for hours, days, or even weeks afterward,” reckons Paul Goat Allen of The Bloomsday Dead, via the Barnes & Noble review. Ishrini at Book Fever concurs thusly: “Riveting, violent, witty, and lyrical, The Bloomsday Dead is vintage McKinty.” Which is nice … “The best thing about [Eoin] McNamee’s effort, 10 years after the event, is the benefit of hindsight. An adroit stylist, he builds a plausible case for the fateful Mercedes ride of August 31, 1997, coming to an end at the intersection of happenstance and skulduggery,” says Finlay MacDonald of 12:23 at the Sunday Star Times … The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman’s I Predict A Riot gets the thumbs up at Book Reviews for the Average Joe, to wit: “Curl up for a great read and chuckle as these Irishmen run … I thanked my lucky stars my life was normal!” Lovely … Barry Forshaw, via Amazon UK, likes Nick Stone’s King of Swords: “If you’re looking for rough-edged crime fiction that will seriously unsettle you (and many of us seek exactly that), then King of Swords does the business – look no further.” Petew at Bookmunch agrees: “King of Swords is better than Mr Clarinet, which is pretty high praise. What it does … is cement Stone’s reputation as a writer of fierce crime fare.” Meanwhile, Jane Jakeman weighs in over at The Independent: “The book is a heady brew which could easily spill over into the ludicrous. That it does not is a tribute to the quality of Stone’s writing and the convincing character of Max … This is highly evocative writing, carrying a powerful and original story.” Mmmm, nice … The inevitable John Connolly / The Unquiet review comes from Publishers Weekly, via Barnes & Noble: “Of the few novelists who manage to combine the private eye and horror genres successfully, none does it better than Connolly.” Short ‘n’ sweet … Mark Sarvas of The Elegant Variation was interviewed by Wayne Yang at Eight Diagrams, and waxed lyrical about John Banville’s alter-ego, Benny Blanco (from the Bronx), to wit: “I also admire – no surprise here – what John Banville has done with his Benjamin Black novel Christine Falls, in which it’s a real pleasure to observe the not entirely dignified spectacle of a serious author having the time of his life.” Lovely … Have we mentioned Ken Bruen yet? No? Damn our beautiful eyes … “Bruen is one of those dark and brooding Irish writers, and the novel has more the flavour of Joseph Wambaugh with its spare prose, profanity-filled dialogue, multiple plots hurtling forward, and multiple viewpoints,” says Hallie Ephron of Ammunition at Dave Knadler at Dave’s Fiction Warehouse has been reading Calibre: “It’s certainly an easy read – stripped-down, lean and mean, slick as polished steel. And I’m pretty sure it will be the shortest book I’ve read all year … it’s almost as though Bruen has invented a new class of book here – the crime novel for people who don’t have time for crime novels.” Meanwhile, Todd Robinson is nominating the Brant’s early years collection, The White Trilogy, as Thuglit’s Thug Pick for September, to wit: “For those of you unfamiliar as of yet with this brilliantly dark and darkly funny series, here’s your intro.” Hmmm, pithy … What more can possibly be said about Tana French’s In The Woods? Erm, quite a lot, actually, beginning with Nancy Pearl at NPR: “Tana French’s intense debut novel, In the Woods, is part whodunit, part psychological thriller (à la Barbara Vine and Patricia Highsmith), and wholly successful … Because these characters are so well drawn, I almost wish French would write another novel about them, but a more sensible voice (my own) tells me that it wouldn’t be the same and I should just be delighted to have found such a well-written, expertly plotted thriller.” Over at Dewey’s Dartboard, Dewey is impressed too: “What follows is a terrific crime novel. The writing is wonderful and it definitely keeps you wanting to turn the pages.” Finally, Peter William Warm at Epinions offers a measured epinion: “French’s storytelling is subtle and the uncertainties she weaves are engaging. Life seldom ties everything up neatly. In The Woods is true to that part of life and many others.” All of which is very nice indeed … Are we nearly through yet? No? Buggery … “Kelly is a master of pacing and characterisation, painting in enough intriguing traits and history to make you feel as if you know his cast, and he also makes Cambridgeshire a character in its own right, giving the county a sense of unease that consistently holds the reader’s attention,” reckons Lee Davis of Jim Kelly’s Skeleton Man over at In The News “Wow. What a novel. Different is the key word. A dramatic twist on life and passions,” exclaims Maryeks at In Search of a Novel about Claire Kilroy’s Tenderwire. Publishers Weekly, via Powell’s Books, concurs thusly: “The slapstick fallout from a violinist’s purchase of a rare instrument of dubious origin makes for a taut, confident American debut by Irish writer Kilroy.” Gorgeous stuff … although not quite as gorgeous as Evening Stories’ big-up for Gene Kerrigan’s latest, to wit: “Tense and expertly plotted, The Midnight Choir is a stunning portrayal of life on the edge of society … a magnificent accomplishment, a powerful and intricate novel, driven to the last page at a tremendous pace by an original voice.” Pity Review of the Week goes to Alan Glynn at SallyandAlan’s Blog: “I’m not the author of Dark Fields but I fully recommend it.” Genius … “As events become more outrageous, more morally indefensible, the voice telling them is still matter-of-fact, knowledgeable and apparently compassionate. There is a disjunction between voice and subject matter, like the disjunction built into the main character’s name. This is an unreliable narrator armed with a rifle. Maybe a schizophrene,” says Nicholas Reid at the New Zealand Listener of Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome … Ingrid Black’s The Judas Heart isn’t out until October 30, but Betty Bookmark is already in full-on hup-ya mode, to wit: “The Judas Heart is one of a thrilling series featuring the charismatic and tough-talking FBI agent, Saxon - a heroine to rival Cornwell’s Scarpetta and Gerritsen’s Jane Rizzoli. This cat and mouse chase is packed with twists and turns that will keep every crime fan on the edge of their seat.” Finally, what of Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant? Well, the Book Diva loves it: “Funny, action-packed, mystical & magical – what more could I ask for in a book, post-Potter?” So does Jamieson Wolf: “I LOVE this book. It’s fun, light and oh so very good … This is the neatest book to come along in years and I’m going to have to read it a second time after I’ve read it through all the way.” We’ll leave the last word to Sheehan Ilana over at Sheehan Ilana News: “Skulduggery Pleasant is part Dashiell Hammett with a stir of Raymond Chandler and shaken well with magic and fantasy. Storyteller Landy has laced the mix with humour and action. This is one of my favourite books this year!” Whew! And now we’re off for a long lie-down in a darkened room …

What KT Did Next # 349: The Canvas Wrecking Years

Not content with crafting the Emma Boylan series of novels with consummate ease (the latest, The Cat Trap, is released by Robert Hale on October 30), KT McCaffrey (right, in full-on ‘moody self-portrait’ mode) is something of a dabbler in the dark art of canvas wrecking. His brand spanking new interweb page thingy carries the usual news ‘n’ updates, but also a selection of his visual work. KT? What have the innocent little canvases ever done to you, huh?
“When I write, I try to create images in words, but when I paint I take the more direct route. I find that the two art forms provide me with the perfect combination to stimulate the creative juices – if I need a break from writing, I move to the easel; when the layers of paint need time to dry, I return to the keyboard. My wife Mary has a more profound take on my two disciplines, she says – it keeps me from underneath her feet in the house. Nothing like feeling grounded.”
And there you have it. Check it out, folks – the oil portrait of Ken Bruen as Sam Spade is worth the price of admission alone. Especially as there’s no admission price.