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.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

“Just A Perfect Day / I’m Glad I Spent It With Youse …”

I don’t generally have much truck with Kilkenny, this on the basis that its hurlers knocks the stuffing out of Wexford on an annual basis, but yesterday, at the invitation of organiser Neville Thompson (right), I headed down country for the inaugural Castlecomer Writers’ Festival. A fine day it was too, with the sleepy hamlet bathed in sunshine and none of the locals inclined to boast that their county’s hurlers are the finest specimens of the art known to mankind, and are therefore the finest sportsmen ever to grace the planet.
  Anyhoos, I did my best to ruin the convivial atmosphere by injecting some crime into proceedings but no one seemed to take it personally, and the morning’s crime writing workshop went off without a hitch, apart from the fact that I was unforgivably late. It being Castlecomer, no one was rude enough to point out this fact, and it was only afterwards I realised it. Folks? Sincere apologies …
  Bizarre as it was to be asked for my advice on how to write (“Erm, I dunno – rip off someone good, like Elmore Leonard …?”), it was a terrific experience. Because the truth is that I’m about a half-a-rung up the publishing ladder from the folks who are currently struggling to piece their first novels together, which made the whole process a fairly chastening reality check. Mind you, the highlight of the morning was the nun who recounted how she’d taught a hardened prisoner the meaning of the acronym ‘fuck’.
  Upward and onward to lunch, where I met James Lawless, whose novel PEELING ORANGES sounds like a good one. To wit:
PEELING ORANGES tells the story of Derek Foley, who, while sifting through his late father’s diaries and his mother’s correspondence with an IRA man, discovers that Patrick Foley, a diplomat in Franco’s Spain, was not really his father. Derek’s mother, who is ailing, is unwilling to discuss the past, forcing her son on a quest that will plunge him into the early history of Irish diplomacy, taking him to Spain and later to Northern Ireland, until he discovers who his real father was – with tragic consequences.
  PEELING ORANGES is a novel full of personal and political intrigue, fraught with ideology, as it intersects the histories of two emergent nations – Ireland and Spain. It is also a beautiful and lyrically written love story of childhood sweethearts – the apolitical Derek and the passionate nationalist, Sinéad Ní Shúileabháin. “A book to lose oneself in. I highly recommend it.” – Gabriel Byrne.
  I also – finally – got to meet Garbhan Downey, who followed me outside when I slipped out for a post-prandial smoke. “I recognised you from the cigarillo,” says he. A top bloke. After lunch we co-hosted a workshop on journalism, during which I felt like a total fraud. I tried to buy a copy of OFF BROADWAY, his Damon Runyon-inspired collection of short stories, but apparently my money is no good in Castlecomer. “If I never wrote another book,” he said, handing it over, “this is the book I wanted to write.” Always nice to hear a scribe say that …
  Back into the Vizmobile, then, and off to Dublin, where I took part in a discussion on the sudden popularity of Irish crime fiction on Newstalk 106 hosted by the ever-radiant Sinead Gleeson. Tana French and I were in the studio, with Paul Charles on the line from London. The verdict? Irish crime fiction is suddenly popular because there’s a whole heap of terrific authors writing crime fiction. Here endeth the lesson.
  Back into the Vizmobile again and hey-ho for Arklow and the afters of a wedding reception, where I got quietly and very pleasantly drunk to the soundtrack of a covers band knocking out pretty decent versions of offerings from The Stones, The Monkees, The Beatles and Joe Dolan. Nice. Mind you, I did make a faux pas when I told one of Mrs Viz’s cousins that I really liked her shoes. What – aren’t married men supposed to notice women’s shoes anymore?
  Anyhoos, back home and off to Sleepytown, not neglecting to give the Princess Lilyput a little cuddle before my pillow finally claimed me for its own. A perfect day? Damn close …


Gerard Brennan said...

Sounds like a great way to spend a weekend. Pity it's so bloomin' far away from my gaff.


Sinéad said...

Thanks so much for taking part in the Crime writing discussion on Cultureshock. These things are always made easier for the presenter when the contributors are knowledgeable, articulate types like yourself, Tana and Paul.

And shucks on the compliment, my back, hip and various other faculties are feeling far from radiant at the moment...