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.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

An Unfair Cop, Guv

Brian Lindemuth was kind enough to drop us a line and let us know that Fantasy Book Spot is expanding its reach by moving into the realms of mystery and crime fiction. And where better place to start than with the publication of an excerpt from Sir Kenneth of Bruen’s (right) sparkling new – and tantalisingly as yet unpublished – standalone, ONCE WERE COPS, which comes courtesy of Fantasy Book Spot’s third issue of their Heliotrope e-zine. The opening salvo runneth thusly:
ONCE WERE COPS, by Ken Bruen
Kurt Browski, built like a shit brickhouse and just as solid. A cop out of Manhattan South, he was having a bad day.
Much like most days.
His heritage was East European but contained so many strands, not even his parents knew for sure it’s exact basis.
And cared less.
They wanted the American Dream.
Cash … and cash … and yeah, more of same.
They didn’t get it.
Made them mean.
His mother was a cleaner and his father had been a construction worker but had settled into a life of booze, sure beat getting up at 5.00 in the morning.
His father beat his mother and they both beat Kurt.
Somehow, he, if not survived them, got past them and finished High School, joined the Cops.
He wanted to be where you gave payback.
That was how he saw the force, emphasis on force. He was certainly East European in his view of the boys in blue, they had the juice to lean on … who-ever-the-fuck they wished.
And he did.
His early weapon of choice was a K-bar.
Short, heavy and lethal and you could swing it real easy, plus, they rarely saw it coming.
They were watching your holstered gun and wallop, he slid the bar out of his sleeve and that’s all she wrote.
His rep was built on it and over the years, he became known as Kebar.
Did he care?
Not so’s you’d notice. He didn’t do friends, so what the fuck did he care …
For the rest, jump on over to the latest Heliotrope. But keep a weather eye out for that K-bar, eh?

Friday, November 2, 2007

Better The Devlin You Know

A hat-tip to Karen Meek at Euro Crime, via whom comes the news that Brian McGilloway’s short story, THE LOST CHILD, featuring BORDERLANDS’ Inspector Devlin, will be featured on BBC 4’s Afternoon Reading Programme this afternoon, at 3.30pm (GMT). The pitch runneth thusly:
A couple hear a baby crying on their child monitor. Unfortunately, it’s not their baby. A cry for help or a call from beyond the grave? Inspector Devlin investigates.
Ooooh, spooky. Meanwhile, the good folk at Macmillan have promised us an early copy of BORDERLANDS’ follow-up, GALLOWS LANE, which should be with us in a couple of weeks. If you’re good, we might even feature an excerpt …

How I Write # 247: Cora Harrison

“What inspires me is a map – a very detailed map of the Burren by Tim Robinson. When I started MY LADY JUDGE I was intrigued by the mention of a law school at Cahermacnaghten and so my Brehon, or investigating magistrate, was born. Mara is thirty-six years old, a woman with a past, famous for having successfully conducted her own divorce case as a young lawyer aged sixteen; already a grandmother, but the object of the romantic interest of King Turlough Donn, lord of the three kingdoms of Thomond, Corcomroe and Burren (a real character in Irish history). Then I had to have other people in my story – obviously Doonyvarden had to have a bard living there (bharden is the genitive form of bard – I think!) and there were other place that evoked a character. Then I had to find a spot for my dead body and the idea of finding one in Wolf’s Lair on Mullaghmore Mountain appealed to me. I’ve written three books now and this is how I do it. I look at that very detailed map of the Burren, I select a location and then I weave the story around that location. For instance, for my next ‘Mara’ book I saw that Noughaval, a small settlement in the south of the Burren, has a medieval market cross still in existence. Just a mile down the road is a place marked Lios na nGamhan, the blacksmith’s enclosure. So I opened my story MICHAELMAS TRIBUTE with the fair at Noughaval on Michaelmas day, where Fintan the blacksmith is leading a revolt by the MacNamara clan against the unjust tribute demanded by the new chieftain. Similarly, with book three, STING OF JUSTICE, I was inspired by the words ‘site of medieval silver mine’ marked at the top of a mountain and, not too far away, ‘deserted medieval village’. Then at the bottom of the mountain was Newtown Castle, also built in the late medieval era. These three items slotted together very rapidly and I had the story of a cruel, rapacious mine owner, and silversmith, and his village of mine workers. So what is the future for Mara? Already I am eyeing the ruins of a medieval Cistercian abbey with its strangely beautiful carvings of the exquisite wild flowers of the area. And then there is the gigantic boulder, named on the map, intriguingly, as the rock of the fear Bréige (deceitful man), the site of a medieval flax mill and the traces of a great medieval racecourse. The hundred square miles of the Burren could spawn a hundred stories.”

Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Embiggened O # 1,001: Another Day, Another Million Dollars

Gadzooks! What fresh lunacy is this? Regular readers of Crime Always Pays will be aware of our ongoing campaign to persecute proper writers for big-ups and hup-yas on behalf of our humble offering, THE BIG O, in the hope that their collective efforts might convince some unsuspecting American publisher to release the book in the US. And lo! It worked! For yea, it has come to pass that the lovely people at Harcourt have in their infinite wisdom decided that THE BIG O is as good a tax deductible as any, and will be putting it between covers in the very near future. Are we stoked? Is our collective gast flabbered? Are we terrified that a little American boy will point out that the Irish emperor is wearing no clothes? Yes, yes and only on Tuesdays, respectively. By way of heartfelt thanks to said proper writers, a brief summary of those hup-yas and big-ups runneth thusly:
“Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is one of the sharpest, wittiest and most unusual Irish crime novels of recent years.” – John Connolly; “Burke has [George V.] Higgins’ gift for dialogue, [Barry] Gifford’s concision and the effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks; “From first page to last, THE BIG O grabs hold and won’t let go.” – Reed Farrel Coleman; “Excellent writing, great characters, superb storytelling – all played out at a ferocious tempo.” – Allan Guthrie; “THE BIG O has everything you want in a crime novel: machinegun dialogue, unforgettable characters, and a wicked plot.” – Jason Starr; “THE BIG O is a very entertaining crime novel. It’s fast-moving, it has snappy dialogue, and it’s wickedly funny.” – Bill Crider; “The writing is a joy, so seamless you nearly miss the sheer artistry of the style and the terrific wry humour.” – Ken Bruen.
And while we’re still in grateful mode – it doesn’t happen very often – a huge hat-tip to the following interweb sites and blogs who have been very supportive of THE BIG O over the last few months, to wit: The Rap Sheet, Detectives Beyond Borders, Petrona, Euro Crime, International Noir, It’s A Crime, Pulp Pusher, Shots Mag, International Crime, Reviewing the Evidence, and - last but by no means least - Crime Spree Magazine, in the current issue of which you’ll find THE BIG O reviewed by the inimitable Jen Jordan, who is generous enough to offer sage marriage advice in the process. Oh, and a special mention for Michael Gallagher of Murder Ink, Dublin's premier crime fiction outlet. Folks? Feel the love.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: WHO IS CONRAD HIRST? by Kevin Wignall

At first sight an unwieldy title, WHO IS CONRAD HIRST? becomes an ever more poignant question the deeper you delve into Kevin Wignall’s fourth novel. Wignall quickly and skilfully establishes what Hirst is: a contract killer and a very good one as a result of his dehumanising experiences as photographer-turned-mercenary in the former Yugoslavia. But the story opens in the aftermath of what should have been the routine killing of an old man who was once something of a minor power broker during the Cold War, with Hirst visiting his handler having already decided – for reasons that only become apparent much later in the story – that his exit strategy from the life he has lived for the last decade will be the relatively simple killing of the four men who have been benefiting from his perverse talents. It’s an intriguing set-up, but almost immediately Wignall tosses in a curve-ball: were he and Hirst to pursue that line, the story would become an uncovering of what Hirst is, not who he is. It’s this element, the philosophical self-questioning Hirst subjects himself to as he criss-crosses Europe pursued by various shadowy agencies, that lends the lie to the intriguing but misleading ‘Jason Bourne’ references on the cover. Even as Hirst ruthlessly eliminates those who stand in his way, and with a cold-blooded suddenness that can cause the book to jump in your hands, Wignall takes aim at the heart of the human condition, peeling back the layers of paranoia, suspicion and mistrust that characterise – if we’re fully honest – our relationship with our darkest selves until the messy, inconvenient truth of Hirst's true identity is finally laid bare. A hugely satisfying blend of tragic love story, adrenaline-charged thriller and philosophical tract, and one that (appropriately enough) raises as many questions as it answers, this novel is as subtly devastating as an assassin in the night. – Declan Burke

This review was first published on Euro Crime

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 728: Sue Walker

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?
That’s easy – DEEP WATER by Patricia Highsmith. It’s pure perfection. Its slow, agonising depiction of psychological breakdown is superb. Highsmith is just amazing at doing psychopaths without being judgemental. She is my absolute favourite crime writer and she also had a pretty interesting life too. Those two things don’t always go together.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Biographies and autobiographies. Sounds boring? Not at all – I’m endlessly nosy about other people’s lives. Also, I don’t always like reading fiction when I’m writing it, so they are a great diversion.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Finishing my first novel, THE REUNION. I remember the moment very well. I was onto my fourth re-write and I was tinkering with the ending. When I finished the last paragraph, I literally slumped back in my chair and shouted out, ‘I’ve done it!’
The best Irish crime novel is …?
John Connelly’s Charlie Parker novels are superbly written. And, it might be a bit cheeky, but I’d also like to make a plea to include Joseph O’Connor’s STAR OF THE SEA within the ‘crime’ or ‘thriller’ genre. It’s a brilliant novel that certainly reads like thriller. I think the genre is stretching out so far these days anyway. Lots of crime writers are producing work that is expanding the boundaries of so-called ‘crime’ and there are authors from other genres coming into crime writing. I think all of that is an excellent thing for writing in general and for the genre in particular. For my part, you won’t meet any police officers in my novels or stacks of dead bodies, nor will you have any details of forensics, DNA or the like. None of that interests me as a writer. My novels are more about the darkness within people and their lies and deceptions. Much more scary, I think.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
The above.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best is playing God. There is no worst – it’s a great job!
The pitch for your next novel is …?
Journalist Rowan Shaw moves from London to Edinburgh with her new husband. He has bought them a beautiful house near to where he lived as a child. But she discovers that the house has a dark past. He knew this but never told her. Soon Rowan is using her journalist skills to investigate her own husband …
Who are you reading right now?
Daphne du Maurier’s REBECCA. I read it every year – and it’s time for my annual fix. I’m also reading the autobiography of former American diplomat Joseph Wilson who was involved in a big row with the White house over the Iraq/WMD issue. I’m really into politics – especially scandals and controversies (more lies and deceptions!). I’d have loved to have been working at the Washington Post during the time of Watergate.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Dark. Dark. Dark.

Sue Walker’s THE DEAD POOL is published by Michael Joseph / Penguin.

The Best Things In Life Are Free … Books

Two competition giveaways for your delectation this week, folks. The first comes courtesy of those lovely people at St Martin’s, who are providing us with three copies of Cora Harrison’s MY LADY JUDGE, one of which can be yours if you just answer the following question:
Is Cora Harrison related to:
(a) George Harrison;
(b) Ringo Starr;
(c) Get off the pills, mate, they’re not doing you any good.
Answers to dbrodb(at), with ‘Get off the pills, mate’ in the subject line, before noon on Monday, November 5.
Meanwhile, the generous peeps at Michael Joseph / Penguin are offering three copies of Sue Walker’s latest novel, THE DEAD POOL, one of which can be yours if you can wangle Crime Always Pays’ Grand Vizier Declan Burke a date with Nicole Kidman. Nothing sleazy, just some candles, a little dinner, a gypsy violinist. Alternatively, you could answer the following question:
Is THE DEAD POOL Sue Walker’s:
(a) Third novel;
(b) Fourth novel;
(c) Oh fer Chrissakes just gimme a free book.
Answers to dbrodb(at), with ‘Oh fer Chrissakes’ in the subject line, before noon on Monday, November 5. Et bon chance, mes amis …

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

When A Dud Explodes

How do we love thee, Ruth Dudley Edwards? Let us count the ways … The irascible Ruth Dud (right) is at it again, dissing the chick lit crew in her own inimitable way. Quoth John O’Sullivan, blogging from Magna Cum Murder in Muncie, Indiana:
“Yesterday I arrived in Muncie, Indiana to attend the “Magna Cum Murder” conference of crime, detective, mystery, and thriller writers. My first impression is that writers of murder and mayhem all seem to be extraordinarily pleasant people, both good natured and hospitable. I mentioned this to Ruth Dudley Edwards, author of MURDERING AMERICANS – a thriller set against the background of a politically correct U.S. university …
“Yes, we work out all our enmities and neuroses on the printed page, so we can afford to be nice to each other,” Ruth tells me. “It’s exactly the opposite at the Romantic Writers’ convention. They’re all a lot of backstabbing bitches.”
Pithy, ma’am.

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Soldier

There was a comprehensive piece on HIDDEN SOLDIER’S Padraig O’Keefe in last weekend’s Sunday Indo, in which the delectable Ciara Dwyer gave the former Foreign Legionnaire and erstwhile ‘security consultant’ in Iraq the third degree. Here followeth an excerpt:
After six months he got his first posting overseas, in Cambodia. “In the beginning, there was a huge buzz when you were training on a firing range but it’s a different thing when you go to some of the places. The people are suffering and they don’t need you to act the ass-hole. With the rifle you’re carrying, you have the means to end life, so you don’t take it lightly.” In Cambodia, Padraig worked with the engineering section - defusing and removing landmines. After that he was sent to Bosnia, twice. He came across horrific scenes in Sarajevo - helpless orphans and people reduced to living like animals. As it says in the book, “Sarajevo seemed to suck the life out of you. It seemed to be a magnet for the very worst in human behaviour.”
Which seems as good a place as any to quote Winston Churchill, out of context, on the ongoing tragedy that is the Balkans: “The Balkans produce more history than they can consume locally …”

Hooray For Lollywood

’Tis a good time to be an Irish crime writer in Hollywood, people: there’s a veritable raft of projects on various slates right now, some of which are more advanced than others. Ken Bruen’s (right) people are still waiting a final decision from Russell Crowe on a Brant movie, while Ronan Bennett is polishing off a script based on PUBLIC ENEMIES, for Michael Mann, with Leonardo DiCaprio pencilled in for eye candy. Meanwhile, Derek Landy, as regular readers will already know, has been signed up by Warners to fill a Harry Potter-shaped hole for a seven-figure sum to script his own SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, a contract that includes the opportunity to develop the inevitable computer game to follow. Then there’s Michael Collins, who has been a busy little bee: according to his website, THE RESURRECTIONISTS has come under the watchful eye of John Madden, he of Shakespeare In Love fame, while LOST SOULS is currently being adapted by A Film Monkey Production. As if that wasn’t enough, Collins has also adapted a screenplay for Erick Jonka, Julia, starring Tilda Swinton. Finally, John Connolly (left) reports to CHUD (Cinematic Happenings Under Development) that it’ll be a while before THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, to be helmed by John Moore, sees the silver screen, to wit: “THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS is some way off. Before that appears, we may see THE NEW DAUGHTER, based on one of my short stories; SANCTUARY, which is based on BAD MEN; and possibly an adaptation of my story THE ERLKING, all of which are at a more advanced stage than THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS.” It’s like we keep telling you, people: crime always pays …

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 984: Kyle Mills

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’m not sure it’s a pure crime novel, but I always wished I’d written Tom Clancy’s CARDINAL OF THE KREMLIN. It’s one of the only books I ever read that I felt compelled to immediately read again.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Eric Van Lustbader. Not only are his own books great fun, but I think he’s done a really good job picking up Ludlum’s Bourne character.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Whenever I get one of those rare, really good ideas. Hopefully, it happens in the morning, because I traditionally take the rest of the day off.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I hate to admit it, but I know nothing about the nationalities of the authors I read – even the ones I love. I recently met Lee Child and discovered he wasn’t from Texas. Why I thought he was, I have no idea.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is having to be creative on someone else’s timetable. The best is being able to work from anywhere.
The pitch for your next novel is …?
An eco-terrorist pumps a hydrocarbon-eating bacteria into major oil fields in an attempt to destroy the world’s petroleum reserves.
Who are you reading right now?
David L. Robbins. I’m just finishing his soon-to-be-released book THE BETRAYAL GAME – a historical novel about America’s attempts to assassinate Fidel Castro.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
I shoot for: realistic, large-scale, and even-handed.

Kyle Mills’ DARKNESS FALLS is published by Vanguard Press.

Renaissance Man Of The Week # 247: Anthony Galvin

Irish true crime specialist Anthony Galvin (right), the author of FAMILY FEUD and the forthcoming CONTRACT WITH CONTROVERSY, has turned his hand to fiction with THE GILLI GILLI MAN – and it’s all in a good cause. Hurrah! Galvin is auctioning off the names of the characters in his thriller in order to raise funds for Fighting Blindness, a charity he’s currently fundraising for by making an assault on Everest as you read. No kidding. You can keep an eye on his loot-generating progress here and have a read of THE GILLI GILLI MAN’s first chapter here. Quoth the official press release:
Galvin’s first book, FAMILY FEUD, was top of the best-seller charts for nearly three months, and the most shoplifted book in Irish publishing history. His third book, CONTRACT WITH CONTROVERSY, is due out early in 2008, and publishers expect to sell 500,000 copies in Ireland and the UK alone.
Yes, you read it right – 500,000. He certainly won’t fail for lack of ambition … Oh, and did we mention he’s a magician?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Dark Fiction That Knows No Boundaries

Brian McGilloway is leading a new wave of Irish crime writers into uncharted waters, says Declan Burke
For a man whose crime fiction is all about crossing boundaries, it was unsurprising that Brian McGilloway (right) got the idea for his first novel while walking along the border. Taking his two basset hounds for a stroll along the River Foyle, which divides his Lifford home in the republic from the adjoining town of Strabane in the north, the budding writer’s imagination was caught by the surrounding landscape.
“I was out walking the dogs along the by-pass in Strabane, and there’s a bank that runs down towards the river, and I remember thinking, ‘That’s a cracking place to dump a body.’ Which is obviously such a weird thought to have, although it’s okay if you’re writing a book,” says McGilloway. “And then I thought, what if the body was dumped right on the border? And that was the opening premise. But the story I started writing and the one I ended up writing are two totally different things.”
If McGilloway’s first novel, Borderlands, was triggered by his surroundings, the writer has benefited from the changing landscape of Irish crime fiction. He is part of a new wave of Irish crime novelists, one that includes Tana French, Gene Kerrigan, Ingrid Black and Declan Hughes. All have recently published novels that featured hard-nosed pragmatists ostensibly engaged in the pursuit of truth and justice but who are defined by their ability to accommodate moral compromise: McGilloway has signed a five-book deal with Macmillan for a series based around his flawed protagonist, Inspector Benedict Devlin. But if his novel is set along the border, McGilloway is not hung up on it: like that of his peers, McGilloway’s fiction is rooted in a contemporary, post-ceasefire Ireland. Indeed, the Derry-born teacher and novelist believes the current growth in home-grown, gritty fiction owes much to the end of the conflict in Northern Ireland and the emergence of criminality shorn of political legitimacy.
“When the Troubles were about, there was no need for crime fiction because you had enough on your doorstep to be afraid of. Now that the Troubles have ended, people are now looking around for what else they can be afraid of. So now it’s drugs and burglary and murder, serial killers and rapists.”
Accordingly, Borderlands begins with a suitably grisly moment, much as McGilloway first conceived: the discovery of a young woman’s naked body in an ill-defined area between Lifford in Co. Donegal and Strabane in Co. Tyrone. As a result, the gardaí and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) are called in, with garda detective Devlin driving the investigation. McGilloway’s fictional creation fits in with the cynical, self-compromising antiheroes of the new Irish crime writing, who are appearing at a time when confidence in the gardaí, judiciary and politicians is at a new low. More to the point, McGilloway realised Donegal made for a fertile setting for his ambivalent character.
“The name Borderlands, my wife came up with that, because I couldn’t come up with a title,” McGilloway laughs. “But there are other borders drawn. I realised Devlin wasn’t going to be completely strait-laced, he wasn’t going to be one hundred per cent legal or moral all the time. That’s something that comes out much more strongly in the second book, when he starts to do things he maybe shouldn’t be doing. The accusations against the Guards in Donegal [in the Morris tribunal] – that’s really where the idea for Devlin came from.”
But if McGilloway’s fiction owes much to the dirty linen of contemporary Ireland, he cannot entirely leave behind the border country’s contentious past. “I think that Irish books tend to completely ignore the Troubles or else they’re obsessed with the Troubles. I don’t know if there’s any need to be either way,” he says. And it is telling that while his story is free of political baggage, McGilloway’s antennae prevented him from basing his hero in his home town.
“I had thought about setting it in Derry, but I didn’t,” he says. “One reason, which is slightly political, is that if it was set in Derry, [Devlin] would have been a PSNI officer. And the difficulty with that was that people would be looking to see how I was presenting the PSNI. There seemed to be too much opportunity for people who would look for the political.”
It is hardly surprising that McGilloway should think in such a way. Still teaching in Derry but living in Lifford, the author has long been steeped in the absurdities and contradictions of the border:
“My brother was going out with a girl who was living on the border, and they paid their electric in the north and their TV licence in the south. It’s just ludicrous.”
There was little such confusion when it came to finding his creative path, however.
“I’d always had an interest in writing, and then after I finished my degree I got very interested in crime fiction –I read a massive amount over a couple of years. And it just seemed to be a natural progression to write crime.”
But McGilloway, who is married with young children, had few illusions about the financial rewards that supposedly come with the genre.
“Nobody, unless you’re insane, sits down to write their first book thinking, ‘I’m writing this to support my family,’” he says.
Instead, he plumped for Pan-Macmillan’s new-writing scheme, which offered no advance, but got him published. It has paid off: Borderlands was shortlisted for a Crime Writers’ Association Dagger award for a debut novel, and along with McGilloway’s five-book deal with Macmillan, he has also been signed by St Martin’s Press in America. For all that, the author still realises he is still on a learning curve: “As you get a wee bit more confident, you realise you can build things up a little more slowly.” While the new crop of writers demonstrate a sophisticated awareness of their literary heritage, however, they are also prone to gauche excess: McGilloway suggests that traditional crime fiction, with its emphasis on nuanced investigation, is struggling to sustain the interest of an audience with an appetite for extreme violence.
“Right now there’s a movement towards violence for the sake of violence, it’s become the new pornography. In Borderlands, while it seems like there’s a lot of killing going on, there’s only three violent deaths.”
Nevertheless, McGilloway – and his peers – are marked by a certainty that the new crime writing taps into the reality of a modern Ireland in which narratives of criminality are all too plausible. Meanwhile, brash young Irish writers are shrugging off a literary heritage in which crime fiction was always the grubby urchin: even the Man Booker prize-winner John Banville has developed a crime sideline under the non de plume Benjamin Black. And ever looking to cross boundaries, McGilloway’s choice of his favourite literary writer is indicative of where the new wave is looking to for inspiration.
“I really like [the American novelist] James Lee Burke (right),” he says. “I was asked recently, ‘Who are your favourite crime writers and who are your favourite literary writers?’ Well actually, James Lee Burke is both. The best crime writers should be both. There’s no reason why they can’t be.”
Borderlands is published by Macmillan

This article was first published in the Sunday Times

Do The Write Thing

It's like we keep telling you, people: crime always pays. There’s a pretty decent Irish crime fiction representation at next Saturday's writers’ day at Dublin City Library – Garbhan Downey (right), Mia Gallagher and Paul Kilduff are all offering their two cents, alongside Eoin McHugh (publisher at Transworld) and Patricia Deevy (Editorial Director, Penguin Ireland), among others. The idea is to take aspiring scribblers through every stage of the writing process, from page-blackening to finding an agent, self-promotion and securing a publisher. The details runneth thusly:
The Font Literary Agency, in association with Dublin City Libraries, hosts From Inspiration to Publication: A Day for Writers this coming Saturday, November 3, at Dublin City Library, 138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 1, kicking off at 10am. Admission is €5 for the entire day, and it’s payable on the door, although it is advisable to book ahead.

The Monday Review

The Crime Always Pays elves are still a little wonky from celebrating Derek Landy’s win at the Richard and Judy Kids’ Books bunfight with their patented Elf-Wonking Juice, so what better way to kick off the review than with a few big-ups for SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT, to wit: “This novel is funny, action-packed, sarcastic, and impressive in the way the story unfolds. Reminds me of Harry Potter in many aspects,” says Mordistheve over ye olde Live Journal. There’s a certain Reading Fool who agrees: “What a thoroughly fun read this book is! And I do believe there’ll be more where this one came from, which is truly cause for cheering.” Huzzah, indeed. “As a novel JULIUS WINSOME is constructed and written extremely well, with each chapter journeying you through Julius’s mental states which alternate from grief to anger to detached madness … The story ends like it begins, mysterious and quaint. It really is a lovely piece of writing,” reckons Brienne Burnett of Gerard Donovan’s mini-epic at The Program … It’s not due until next month but they’re already starting to filter in for Benny Blanco’s THE SILVER SWAN, to wit: “Sadly this year Michael Dibdin, the creator of the wonderful Aurelio Zen and that tantalising blend of Italian society, crime and politics, died leaving a huge hole in crime fiction. I think that Black and Quirke are filling that gap with this wholly gripping account of the shady, priest-ridden and blithely corrupt society of mid- 20th century Dublin,” says Tom Rosenthal at the Daily Mail. Meanwhile, the Chicago Sun Times likes the audio of CHRISTINE FALLS: “This is one of those rare occurrences when actor/narrator and prose suit each other so perfectly that the CD’s cost seems a small price to pay for the value of the performance.” Coolio. Onward to the inevitable John Connolly hup-yas: “Connolly writes convincingly of thugs, criminals and the supernatural, and Parker is a classic character who walks straight and tall like someone from the old west, and the reader knows all will be well once he arrives in town. THE UNQUIET just won’t let you put it down as the plot careers across the pages like a runaway train. Excellent!” burbles Mark Timlin of the Independent on Sunday, via Waterstones, where you'll also find that the Independent is no less impressed: “Connolly’s books are shot through with bitter poetry, and couched in prose as elegant as most literary fiction ... there’s the sweeping canvas, more ambitious than most British-set crime thrillers. However, all of this is not the overriding reason why Connolly has risen above most of his peers. It’s because Connolly’s work has raised the stakes, beyond the quotidian concerns of most crime novels, into a grandiose conflict between the forces of good and evil, with religion and the paranormal stirred into the heady brew.” Mmmm, gorgeous. A hop, skip and jump across the electronic highway to Amazon for Laura Mullen’s big-up for Sean Moncrieff’s THE HISTORY OF THINGS, the gist of which runneth thusly: “This book is a complete revelation to me … The description of his father’s death was really beautiful – it brought tears to my eyes – and his various relationships were really well handled. I hope he writes much, much more.” As for Andrew Pepper, he’s got a brand new VBF in Skelde at Book Crossing: “THE LAST DAYS OF NEWGATE is a gripping, darkly atmospheric story with a fantastic, pragmatic – and reluctantly heroic – hero.” Over at the Mail on Sunday, Geoffrey Wansell assesses the nine millionth Jack Higgins offering, THE KILLING GROUND: “Dillon remains as cynical, dangerous and ferocious as he always was, but with a trace of Irish philosophy and wry humour that made him one of the most interesting action-heroes of the 1990s … The only flaw is that sometimes the action is so breathless, with the characters appearing so quickly, that it can take a little time to catch up.” Finally, a flurry of Ken Bruen, whose AMMUNITION is still garnering serious big-ups, to wit: “Fast-paced, short, sharp sentences, brutally funny, brutally violent, noir that is pitch black, a sheer ride that thrills. Inspector Brant scares the bejeezus outta me,” quavers Bob the Wordless at Why Can’t I Write?, while Harriet Klausner pitches in with “The seventh Brant police procedural is a terrific action-packed thriller, but even with the return of Vixen, it is the avenging inspector who makes the mean streets of London meaner and more fun for fans of Mr Bruen, the heir to Mr McBain’s police station tales.” Lovely. But we’ll leave the last word this week to Bill Crider: “Some people prefer Ken Bruen’s novels about Jack Taylor, nothing wrong with that, but for me it’s Brant and his mates of the Southeast London Police Squad … I find them fast, furious, and hilarious.” And yon Bill, he knows of what he speaks …

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Havoc In Its 51st Year

Some writers are born to great plots; others have great plots thrust upon them. If Ronan Bennett (right) – author of Havoc In Its Third Year, and interviewed in The Guardian to promote his current offering, ZUGZWANG – ever runs out of story ideas he could always turn his hand to autobiography, to wit:
Bennett was born in 1956 and raised in Belfast by his Catholic mother; his Protestant father left home when his son was a few years old. Bennett went to St Mary’s Christian Brothers school on the Lower Falls Road, where he became politically active as he experienced what he later referred to as the “endemic violence and hatred” of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s. After his spell in Long Kesh, he left for England, where his friends were “voluble, if unsophisticated, young enemies of the state”: activists, anarchists, revolutionary socialists. “I squatted,” he recalls. “I worked in a bookies ... I went to Paris and hung around with Chilean refugees ... I demonstrated, talked a lot of bollocks and wrote articles I would never want to re-read now.” Before long, he was arrested again. Police raided his Bayswater flat and found a copy of THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK, along with wigs, false moustaches, balaclavas and false documents. Bennett was accused of leading a terrorist gang and charged with the legendary offence of “conspiring to commit crimes unknown against persons unknown in places unknown”. He spent 20 months on remand, sometimes in solitary confinement. At his 14-week trial at the Old Bailey - which became notorious as the “anarchists’ trial” and the “persons unknown trial” - Bennett took the unusual decision to defend himself. “I really enjoyed it and would have enjoyed it even more had I known we would be acquitted. The judge let me sit with the advocates, so it was Michael Mansfield, Helena Kennedy, Geoffrey Robertson and me. They were in full legal gear, I was in T-shirt and jeans.”
Beware all enterprises that require new clothes, quoth HD Thoreau ...

Irish Crime Fiction And The Mysterious Case Of The Cloak Of Invisibility

The Sunday Independent runs a piece today titled “Crime pays, but it can still be murder if you’re an Irish writer”, in which ‘Alison Walsh turns detective to solve the mystery of why the world’s biggest genre is so poorly rated here’. Quoth Alison:
“Steve MacDonogh [of Brandon Books] says the level of praise for Ken Bruen, who won a Shamus, American crime-writing’s most prestigious award, is “quite muted. There have been some good reviews. But you couldn’t say that he is a writer who is celebrated here the way he is celebrated in the States.” The same might apply to the much-praised Declan Hughes, author of THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD, also winner of a Shamus, for Best First Novel 2007. Perhaps the parish-gossip element of true crime, cannily pumped up by the Irish tabloids, is more appealing to our small market.”
Which sounds vaguely not unlike something we stumbled across on the interweb a couple of weeks back, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“So why the disconnect between Irish crime writers and an Irish audience? You could argue that an Irish generation reared during the hedonistic years of the Celtic Tiger has no stomach for reading about corrupt politicians, Tiger kidnappings, paedophile priests and gangland killings. You don’t get many murder-rapes in chick lit. Fair enough, except the true crime genre is one of the fastest-growing niches in Irish publishing today … Meanwhile, newspaper headlines are full of innocent bystanders gunned down by hired killers, and the taoiseach takes the stand again and again to explain financial irregularities. And maybe crime fatigue is the problem. Where the crime writers are busy telling us where it all went wrong, chick lit is still promising it’ll all turn out Mr Right. One crew is flogging hair-shirts, the other comfort pillows. No contest on the easier sale. Prophets are never recognised in their own country. Profits generally are.”
Meanwhile, anyone interested in investigating why Irish crime fiction isn’t as popular in Ireland as it should be can do the math. Of the 23 authors mentioned in the Sindo’s piece on Irish crime writers, only four – Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Benjamin Black and Declan Hughes – are actually Irish. Erm, hello?