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, March 1, 2008

The Mean Streets Of Drimnagh

“I didn’t want to write about Ireland until we got mean streets. We sure got ’em now.” – Ken Bruen

The Irish blogosphere was humming this week with reactions to the murder of two Polish men in Drimnagh, Dublin, in what appears to be a premeditated stabbing frenzy cheered on by a group of by-standers. Vigilante gangs and ‘chemical incarceration’ were among the suggestions about how to combat what has in the last number of years become an epidemic of casual and occasionally lethal violence on Irish streets, although the elves are a tad disappointed that no one has as yet mentioned the magical words ‘chain’ and ‘gang’.
  Given the week that was in it, though, the elves took the time to go back and re-read Brian McGilloway’s thoughtful piece on how crime writers react to the reality of crime when it impacts on their own environment. A little later, browsing Peter Rozovsky’s indispensable Detectives Beyond Borders, they stumbled across this post:
Crime in Ireland and elsewhere
A few weeks ago, my newspaper published the following small item under the headline “Murders reach record in Ireland”:

DUBLIN – Homicides in Ireland rose to a record last year, increasing 25 percent and prompting calls for tougher sentences for murder and gang crime. Murders and manslaughters rose to 84 from 67 in 2006, while drug offences rose 22 percent to 4,423, according to the Cork-based Central Statistics Office.
  “While the rise in headline crime has to be seen against the background of the unprecedented rise which is taking place in our population, the fact is that each crime is a crime too many,” Justice Minister Brian Lenihan said. Ireland’s population has risen almost 17 percent in the last decade, to 4.2 million.
  “The cheapening of human life evident in the crime figures demands an urgent response,” said Charlie Flanagan, justice spokesman for the opposition Fine Gael party. – AP

  Philadelphia [population 1,500,000], on the other hand, has averaged about 400 killings a year the past two years. - Peter Rozovsky
Maybe next week we’ll all gain a little perspective, although Crime Always Pays sincerely hopes we don’t. Meanwhile, our sympathies go out to the Szwajkos and Kalite families, and to Ireland’s Polish community.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Songs In The Key West Of Life

The Florida branch of the Irish crime writing community, aka Michael Haskins (right), received something of a love letter from the International Thriller Writers last week that was lovelier than the hypothetical offspring of chanteuse Courtney Love and golf pro Davis Love III. To wit:
When you think of Key West, what first comes to mind are likely beautiful sunsets, clear blue water, and cold beer enjoyed to a soundtrack of island music, not a man beaten half to death outside the clubhouse of a sailing club. But that’s the way Michael Haskins introduces us to Key West in CHASIN’ THE WIND. Local journalist “Mad Mick” Murphy finds the victim, a friend and one of a cast of idiosyncratic locals who populate Haskins’ debut political thriller. As the plot unfolds, Mick and associates uncover a tawdry scheme involving local officials and the Cuban government, and the deeper they dig, the more treachery they unearth.
  Haskins comes upon his understanding of the dark potential of the human heart through a life as wide-ranging and varied as his protagonist’s. His long career in journalism took him from his birthplace in the Boston area to Puerto Rico and Los Angeles and finally to Key West, his home for the last ten years. His first job, at sixteen, was as the overnight office boy at the Record-American, Sunday Advertiser. “I was fortunate to enter the world of journalism in its gritty days,” he says, “when reporters came up the ranks from office boy, to cub, to reporter. My early years were like a black-and-white noir movie.” There’s a novel in all that history, he says. Based on the uncompromising power of CHASIN’ THE WIND, we can only hope it’s not too long coming.
  “Education, I discovered long ago,” Haskins explains, “comes with living life, not necessarily from the hallowed halls of universities.” In addition to his work as a reporter and editor, he’s worked in television and as a freelance photojournalist. Once he landed in Key West, his work at the daily Key West Citizen opened a window into the inner workings of business in Key West. After more than five years at the Citizen, he went to work as public information officer for the City of Key West. In that role he gained further insight into the life and business of his adopted home, insight which illuminates the action of CHASIN’ THE WIND.
  Describing the Key West of CHASIN’ THE WIND, Shamus Award-winner Jeremiah Healy says, “Haskins captures its exotic nature in wonderfully spare prose and dialog.” Edgar nominee Megan Abbott adds, “CHASIN’ THE WIND [reveals] a dark menace rippling beneath the placid city of shaggy bars, flowing rum and the sound of rain on tin roofs.” While Haskins admits that the world he describes on the page may be darker and more tawdry than the Key West he knows and loves, he strived to capture the quality of life in Key West. “[CHASIN’ THE WIND] is fiction, but the city that looms in the background, the bars and restaurants and many of the characters that run through its pages are taken from real life.” He adds, “Crime as I write it does not happen in Key West. We are a long way from the mayhem and gangs of Miami.” Even so, Haskins has me convinced. CHASIN’ THE WIND is not only rich with Key West flavour, but is a crisp, gripping read.

Readers hoping for an introduction to Mad Mick need look no further than his web site, Mad Mick first appears in Murder in Key West, published in the March / April 2007 issue Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and now available online. - ITW

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: I PREDICT A RIOT by (The Artist Formerly Known As Colin) Bateman

I PREDICT A RIOT is a big brick of a book from the Northern Irish crime fiction aficionado now going by the name of Bateman. As a fan of his since DIVORCING JACK, I had high hopes for this book. As ever, the Bangor man failed to disappoint me. I cracked my first smile at the dedication to his Christian name, “… gone but not forgotten.” Couple this with the intriguing tagline, ‘Murder, extortion & carrot cake’, and the reader already knows what they’re in for. Classic Bateman violence and humour.
  As always, his flawed characters leave you cringing as they stumble towards inevitable disaster, and his cleverly constructed plot is revealed with a lightning fast pace that keeps you turning the pages. And as always, I laughed out loud. A lot. Seriously, people at work were staring at me as I giggled through my lunch break for a week.
  The book started life as a serialisation in a Belfast newspaper, The News Letter. Each chapter is an instalment from the paper, and so each one is very short. I have no complaints about this. It made it an incredibly easy read. Also, as a result of its original venue, all the f**king swearing has been ****ed out. If you read Mr Bateman’s blog, you’ll see a mini rant about this. Apparently a lot of folk found his “censorship” rather annoying. I disagree. I thought it made some of the swearing funnier in places.
  However, another hangover from its genesis is the rather annoying amount of recaps within the chapters. I can understand the need to drop the odd sentence of back-story when the reader has to wait days for the next instalment, but in a book as fast-paced as this it’s completely unnecessary. I reckon this was the result of lazy editing as opposed to overkill from the writer.
  All in all, I PREDICT A RIOT rocks harder than the Kaiser Chiefs (sorry, too easy to resist). With a strong cast of characters and a wry look at life in modern Belfast, you’re on to a winner with this one. My final thought when turning the last page was, when’s the next one coming out? Good news! ORPHEUS RISING will be on the shelves in March. It will be mine. – Gerard Brennan

Gerard Brennan can be found right here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

L.D. Confidential

Hailing from Derry, aka LondonDerry, aka Slash City, Garbhan Downey (right) is steeped in the politics of his home town, as anyone who read last year’s hilarious RUNNING MATES can attest. Being a nice bloke, despite his journalism background, Garbhan was kind enough to drop us a line and let us know he has a new comedy thriller due on the shelves in April. Quoth the blurb elves:
The dark and dirty world of parliamentary espionage is the subject of Garbhan Downey’s new book, YOURS CONFIDENTIALLY: LETTERS OF A WOULD-BE MP, published by Guildhall Press on March 30, 2008. The Derry author’s fourth novel is a comedy-thriller set against the current British and Irish political landscape. And it cements the former newspaper editor’s reputation as one of the sharpest political fiction writers on these islands. The story centres on an independent North Derry assemblyman, out to win himself a seat in the House of Commons and some real, honest-to-God power. To do that, he’s going to have sign a Faustian pact with a murderous gangster. But in a country where everyone bugs everyone else, all the time, it can only be a matter of time before the dubious deal is exposed. As with Downey’s PRIVATE DIARY OF A SUSPENDED MLA (described by the Sunday Times as “the Northern Ireland political novel of the century”), real-live politicians are given cameo roles. And a number of them have already indicated they will be attending the launch in Bookworm, Derry, in early April, if only to ensure their right of reply …
Happily, rumours that Ian Paisley junior’s hand was finally forced by the imminent publication of YOURS CONFIDENTIALLY are entirely the product of the CAP elves’ sick minds.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: 7th HEAVEN by James Patterson and THE BONE GARDEN by Tess Gerritsen

SFPD homicide detective Lindsay Boxer investigates a series of lethal arson attacks in James Patterson’s 7TH HEAVEN, with her motley crew of friends aiding and abetting as usual. A cop, an attorney, a medical examiner and a crime beat reporter respectively, Lindsay, Yuki, Claire and Cindy are staple characters in Patterson’s ‘Women’s Murder Club’ series, of which 7TH HEAVEN is the seventh instalment, the last four being co-written with Maxine Paetro.
  That Patterson last week announced that the ‘Women’s Murder Club’ is being developed into an interactive computer game for a June release is no surprise. Everything about the ‘WMC’ project is geared to maximise potential readers, from the rainbow-like multi-cultural background of the leading characters to the bells-and-whistles website promoting the brand. Unfortunately, the quality of the story-telling has been woefully neglected in the process.
  Among the many crimes against good writing are: narrative sequences irritatingly guillotined into three and four ‘chapters’ to give the illusion of pace; a first-person voice clumsily juxtaposed with third-person narratives; perfect good guys and one-dimensionally nasty baddies; a twist that requires yet another third-person narrative to pop up at the very end; the kind of deathless prose more commonly found in back-cover blurbs (“Who had committed these brutal murders – and why?” Claire helpfully asks herself at one point, just in case the reader is too dim to do any wondering for him or herself). I could go on, but the list is virtually 376 pages long.
  Reading 7TH HEAVEN is akin to reading a chunky, clunky CSI: Miami script, albeit one with very bad dialogue. It’s possible that Patterson, a multi-million best-seller and a former winner of the Edgar, crime fiction’s most prestigious accolade, believes that he has earned the right to reinvent the genre with a post-modern offering that obeys no rules. It’s also possible that he has delegated a step too far to Maxine Paetro in this instance, although that’s very likely unfair to Paetro – Patterson has published (writing and co-writing) 52 novels since 1976, a statistic that suggests quality control, and the requirements of a discerning readership, are nowhere near the top of his list of priorities.
  That’s a shame, because James Patterson is something of a standard-bearer for crime fiction, which is the most popular genre in fiction for a very good reason. As the old certainties continue to break down, and crime in all its guises threatens to erode our faith in society and common decency, the illusion of closure afforded by the crime fiction narrative can provide a psychic release for many readers.
  Tess Gerritsen understands the unspoken contract between the crime fiction writer and reader. Gerritsen too is a prolific writer, and has published more than 25 novels since 1985, but on the evidence of THE BONE GARDEN she is still heavily committed to providing quality to her readers. For the most part a fascinating historical crime narrative set in the 1830s, in which the ‘West End Reaper’ preys on its victims against a backdrop of Boston’s Irish ghettos, the novel also features as a character Oliver Wendell Holmes, a doctor who would go on to revolutionise hospital practice all over the world with his simple discovery that the washing of hands can prevent the spread of disease.
  A medical practitioner before she turned to writing full-time, Gerritsen is passionate about her material, and offers a richly detailed story that is almost Dickensian in its evocation of slum poverty. The pace is slow for a thriller, however, and matters aren’t helped by regular intrusions from the present day, in which Julia Hamill investigates the origin of a skeleton she finds in the garden of her new home, a conceit that smacks of a grafted-on concession to readers of Gerritsen’s previous medical thrillers, most of which have contemporary settings. There is also a tendency towards florid prose, and a simplicity in characterisation that finds all the ne’er-do-wells suffering with rotten teeth and stinking breath, while those on the side of the angels are invariably pure of heart if not motive.
  For all that, and by comparison with 7TH HEAVEN, THE BONE GARDEN is a meaty and thought-provoking, if at times unwieldy, tale of a time and place rarely visited by the crime fiction genre. Would that all best-selling crime writers were still as ambitious. – Declan Burke

This review was first published in the Irish Times

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 2,067: Brett Battles

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?

Since my focus is more toward the intrigue / spy type of thing, I’d have to say a three-way tie - either MARATHON MAN by William Goldman, THE BOURNE IDENTITY by Robert Ludlum or one of my favourite books of all time, THE QUIET AMERICAN by Graham Greene. They’re all books I continue to reread when the mood strikes.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I guess I would have to say Steven Hockensmith. His HOLMES ON THE RANGE series about a couple of cowboy Sherlock Holmes wannabes set in the 1890s is not something I would typically pick up. But once I read the first one, I was hooked. The series is hilarious and fun and smart. It’s a nice change from the other books I usually read.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Finishing a chapter or scene that worked out even better than I expected it to. I get kind of a runner’s high after that, and feel great for the rest of the day.
The best Irish crime novel is ...?
Ever changing ... but for now, I’ll go with THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best, creating stories that other people enjoy, and meeting other authors. Worst, deadlines. No question.
The pitch for your next novel is ...?
Jonathan Quinn, the protagonist from THE CLEANER, returns in THE DECEIVED. Quinn’s hired to do a simple job – remove a body that has shown up at the Port of Los Angeles in a shipping container. Only when he opens it, and sees whose body it is, he realized the job isn’t going to be so simple.
Who are you reading right now?
I just finished an Ian Rankin, and was trying to figure out what was next. As you can probably guess I read a lot of thriller and crime fiction. Sometimes I just need to step away. So that’s exactly what I’ve done. I picked up a book I’ve read many times before but falls outside my typical genres ... THE RAZOR’S EDGE by Somerset Maugham.
The three best words to describe your own writing are ...?
Clean. Fast. Engaging.

Brett Battles’ THE CLEANER is published in paperback on March 6.

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: GALLOWS LANE by Brian McGilloway

It hasn’t happened overnight, and there are more complex reasons as to why it is so than can be satisfactorily addressed in a book review, but policing in Ireland is suffering from something of a crisis of confidence. In recent times the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), historically perceived to be facilitating a pro-Loyalist agenda, has been reformed into the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) in a bid to provide a police service in which both Nationalist and Loyalist communities in the Ulster province can – theoretically, at least – place their trust.
  Across the border in the Republic of Ireland there have been similar calls for a reform of An Garda Siochana, the Irish police force. Here the issue is not that the Gardai favour one community over another, but that the Irish people are simply losing faith with the purported guardians of the peace. A number of high-profile cases strongly suggests that members of An Garda Siochana have subverted the course of justice and the law of the land in pursuing personal agendas and vendettas. As a self-regulating body, subsequent investigations by the Gardai into alleged wrong-doing have not resulted in satisfactory conclusions for the public at large. There are also issues relating to the separation of powers, allegations of undue political influence being brought to bear, and a creeping sense that a crude philosophy of arrogant lèse majesté pertains within An Garda Siochana.
  Donegal, where Brian McGilloway sets his Inspector Devlin stories, makes for fertile ground in relation to these issues. Although one of the 32 counties of the Republic of Ireland, Donegal is also one of the Ulster counties, the majority of which make up the political entity of Northern Ireland. In geographical terms, Donegal is somewhat cut off from the rest of the Republic, and its main town, Letterkenny, has more in common with Derry and Belfast in Northern Ireland than Dublin or Cork in the Republic. The ‘high-profile’ cases of An Garda Siochana’s abuse of its powers referred to above have occurred in Donegal.
  The plural in the title of McGilloway’s debut, BORDERLANDS, and its implicit subtext of ‘badlands’, makes clear from the outset that there are unresolved issues about the morality of policing in Ireland that go far beyond lines on a map.
  In GALLOWS LANE, the sequel to BORDERLANDS, Inspector Devlin reluctantly applies for promotion, and attends an interview. “Things seem to be a little out of control up there at the moment, Inspector,’ the air-line manager said. “Quite a number of killings – no arrests as such. It’s a bit of a wild frontier you’re policing.”
  Devlin, while in the mould of the classic ‘good guy doing the wrong thing for the right reasons’, isn’t exactly Dirty Harry. A sensitive and thoughtful policeman, he is not naïve, but is prepared to go by the book even as he investigates the particularly brutal murder of a young girl. That line of enquiry provides the spine of the narrative, but McGilloway deftly weaves a number of sub-plots around it: Devlin’s personal life, and how his job impacts on the family home; Devlin’s passive response when he finds himself compromised when he discovers that fellow Gardai are planting weapons and drugs and claiming them as ‘results’ in order to boost their own promotion prospects; and Devlin’s active compromising of himself, when he resorts to similar methods in order to secure an arrest he is convinced is sound, despite the lack of evidence.
  It’s a very personal story, in that Devlin’s responses to practically any situation is to refract it through the prism of his domestic life, to question the rightness of what he does by referring to the touchstone of his family unit of wife and two young children. Devlin, for the sake of his sanity, believes in doing the right thing in order to maintain the fabric of society for the silent majority, of which his own family is only a tiny part. But McGilloway isn’t content to allow Devlin to wallow in a nobility that that comes at a price. When he tries to persuade a colleague, hospitalised by an act of sabotage intended for Devlin, that she is not only entitled but morally obliged to accept the risks that go with the job, she is scathing in her response. “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I look at you, sir, and I don’t want to be like you anymore. I don’t want to die for people who don’t really give a shit.”
  The novel compares favourably with William McGivern’s THE BIG HEAT, in which an ostensibly upright cop quickly turns rogue vigilante when his family are murdered by the corrupt forces infiltrating his police department. McGilloway too illustrates that the personal is the political in the narrative arc that takes Devlin from passive observer to active player in the rogues gallery of compromised public officials who populate GALLOWS LANE. It offers a bleaker vision of modern Ireland than its predecessor, a more cynical evaluation of the poisoned body politic; even in the ending, which offers the traditional note of hope that the system can be leached of its toxins, McGilloway can’t help but qualify the illusion of closure. “Assuming Shane was stirring for a bottle, I went into his room. He was already standing in his cot, his arms gripping the vertical bars, a juvenile prisoner. When he saw me, he raised his arms to be lifted and fell backwards, landing softly on his rump.”
  Eugene McEldowney’s Superintendent Cecil McGarry is the godfather of the Irish policier, but writers such as Tana French, Ingrid Black and Gene Kerrigan have taken up the baton in recent years. It is probably no coincidence that two of those writers are working journalists; if journalism is the first draft of history, crime fiction is the finished article that probes the roots of our culture’s morality. Brian McGilloway – a teacher, as it happens – is to the forefront of this vanguard, and GALLOWS LANE is a superb example of why crime fiction is not just important, but essential. – Declan Burke

Disclaimer: It should be noted that Brian McGilloway was kind enough to thank Declan Burke, among many others, in his list of acknowledgments in GALLOWS LANE. If anyone has any issues about bias arising from this fact, please outline your complaint in block capital letters on the back of used €50 note and send it to The Grand Vizier, c/o the Crime Always Pays Slush Fund, Filthy Lucre Towers, Blaggerville, Cape Wonga, The Maldive Islands. We thank you for your cooperation

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

They Haven’t Gone Away, You Know

SHADOWS OF THE GUNMEN: VIOLENCE AND CULTURE IN MODERN IRELAND is a timely collection of essays from the Cork University Press, especially as many ex-Provisional IRA members and those of the Loyalist paramilitary forces have since the beginning of the Northern Ireland Peace Process diversified into a criminality shorn of political motive. Quoth the blurb elves:
Scholars have long understood the key roles played by violence in the making of modern Ireland. In recent years, studies on violence have become increasingly creative and sophisticated, as scholars have used new analytical lenses to confront the real challenges faced in “writing violence.” Much of the best work in this new literature examines the complex relationships between violence and its representation. SHADOWS OF THE GUNMEN provides a coherent introduction to the latest scholarship. The essays from historians, film scholars, literary critics, and philosophers, SHADOWS OF THE GUNMEN is both relevant to the particular Irish experience and the broader contemporary world. Violence may not speak, but violence is represented and these depictions are continually interrogated and /or contested in public and private arenas across Ireland and abroad. This volume of essays will explore and probe the connection between political/historical violence and aesthetic representations of such violence. The first interdisciplinary study of violence and the modern Irish experience, SHADOWS OF THE GUNMEN is a major contribution to both Irish studies and the broader examination of violence in the modern world.
Edited by Danine Farquharson and Sean Farrell, the book takes its title from Sean O’Casey’s play THE SHADOW OF A GUNMAN (1923), which concerns itself with a man who may or may not be an IRA assassin. And while we’re on the topic, Crime Always Pays humbly suggests that students of the origins of hardboiled crime fiction should seek out Liam O’Flaherty’s THE ASSASSIN (1928), a novel based on a true event about an IRA killer who returns to Dublin on a mission of execution, and written in a stark style that prefigures the vivid reality of Dashiell Hammett and the stripped-back prose and staccato rhythms of James M. Cain.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Mi Casa, Su Casa: Sam Millar

A Grand Vizier writes: The idea behind ‘Mi Casa, Su Casa’ is to give guest bloggers the few molecules of oxygen of publicity Crime Always Pays can provide, in the process offering some fresh perspectives on crime fiction in general and Irish crime fiction in particular. And so, with minimum fanfare – a tiny tootle there, please, maestro – here’s Sam Millar (right) on the inspiration behind BLOODSTORM.

The Colombian Connection

The day wasn’t too bad, despite a deep depression biting through my arse. A voice called to me in soft broken English, mixing with the lilt of Spanish. Melodic. Seductive. Like rum being poured over dark chocolate. Ah, if only it had been a woman …
  “Irish. Why walk alone? You have many friends. Remember always.”
  My parents christened me Sam, but to him and the rest of the Hispanic population I was ‘Irish’, the guy from Be-fast.
  He was from Colombia. Carlos his name. Drugs his game. Despite his notoriety in the penitentiary – oh, I did mention I was in an American penitentiary? Sorry. Must have slipped my mind – anyway, I always found him to be a gentleman, and will forever be in his debt for introducing me to Cormac McCarthy’s books and plays.
  Now, you don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realise that the penitentiary can be pretty grim (there’s an oxymoron for you), but he helped alleviate some of my anxiety. Admittedly, there were times when I wasn’t the most communicative – knowing I was probably never going to be released or ever see Ireland again, can quickly kill the craic in a man – but he refused to allow me to wallow in self-pity.
  “You hear about the women prisoners on the news last night?” he asked, his handsome face turning ugly.
  “Yes. Horrendous …”
  Over a three-year period, a group of Hispanic women in the nearby women’s prison had been systematically abused and raped by the screws, culminating in the death of one of the women. Had her death not happened, only the devil knows how long the abuse would have continued unreported for? Such is justice …
  “You get out – you write. You tell people in Be-fast and Air-land what happens to Hispanic women in these prisons. Okay?”
  “I’m never getting out, Carlos. There isn’t much chance of writing other than the prison news-sheet.”
  “You write. Okay?”
  “Okay,” I agreed, knowing it was never going to happen.
  Two weeks later, the strangest of things did happen. Bill Clinton pardoned me, and sent me back to Air-land. If you believe in God, you would possibly suspect the old miracle cabinet had been opened. A friend summed it up much better, a few months later: “You were always a jammy bastard. Some people were born with a horseshoe up their arse, but you were born with an entire stable!”
  And so to the publication of BLOODSTORM, a fictionalised account of how I perceived the women victims of prison barbarity would have wanted justice to be implemented. Despite the fact the story is based in Ireland, and Belfast in particular, its theme is universal and could be any country in the world. It’s a dark tale of revenge, served very cold indeed … - Sam Millar

Sam Millar’s BLOODSTORM is published on March 4.

In Spring A Young Man’s Thoughts Turn To French Fancies

The elves were just last week saying how you don’t get many French movie festivals to the pound these days, when – quelle fromage, etc. – up pops Dara Burke to let us know that the 19th Cork French Film Festival takes place in the People’s Republic of Cork, Ireland, from February 28th to March 7th. Highlights include Diva, Caramel (right), Gus van Sant’s Cannes winner Paranoid Park, Water Lilies, 2 Days In Paris, Silent Light, Tarkovsky’s last film The Sacrifice, and Jean Cocteau’s Orpheus on 16mm. The full programme line-up can be found here, with Dara suggesting that Paranoid Park is “a 21st century CRIME AND PUNISHMENT with a difference.” Given that he’s very probably related to CAP Grand Vizier Declan Burke, we’re not going to argue with him. We’ll just have him whacked instead. Pufnstuf? Put away that bong, we’ve got another job for you.

The Monday Review

It’s Monday, they’re reviews, to wit: “[Liam] Durcan’s outstanding debut novel walks a taut line between skilful thriller and philosophical novel of ideas … he already writes with an ease reminiscent of Graham Greene … As the plot unfolds, the novel takes on a breathtaking immediacy that will awe readers and tune them into probing ethical dilemmas,” says Library Journal’s Christopher Bussman of GARCIA’S HEART (via Barnes & Noble). At the same link, Mr & Mrs Kirkus agree: “Canadian neurologist and award-winning writer Durcan plumbs his stock in trade to inform this audacious literary debut, its purpose no less than finding a window to the soul … [Durcan’s] shrewd, intricate debut reveals a multi-talented artist.” Hmmm, nice. They’re still coming in for Benny Blanco’s debut: “CHRISTINE FALLS is carefully crafted, layered, story … Black has written an excellent character-driven story with a compelling story to move it forward,” says Mack Lundy at Revish. Over at Shadow of the Raven, David Lampe-Wilson concurs: “A great read whether you like mysteries or not,” says he pithily. What say you, Nancy O? “Very noir-ish in tone, CHRISTINE FALLS may not be something that mainstream mystery readers will pounce on, and more’s the pity, since they’ll be missing a splendid piece of writing …Recommended.” Thank you kindly, ma’am … A trio of big-ups for Siobhan Dowd this week, starting with BOG CHILD: “The characters are beautifully drawn and totally convincing … Overall, the story flows well and works wonderfully as a novel. Certainly one of the best Young Adult novels I’ve read for a long time,” says Colin Mulhern at Chicklish. Maylin at The Dewey Divas and the Dudes (!) likes A SWIFT PURE CRY: “The relationship between the siblings is wonderfully written and this novel has one of the most exuberant endings I’ve read in a long time. Beautifully written and award winning.” Staying with the Dewey Divas, THE LONDON EYE MYSTERY gets a mention too: “Ted is an original, charming creation and half the fun of this novel is getting inside his head as he uses his knowledge about weather systems to logically make sense of the world. Great fun.” Lovely stuff … Over at Asylum, John Self likes Gerard Donovan’s JULIUS WINSOME: “In Julius’s remote landscape, “distances collapse, time is thrown out,” and the book achieves a similar trickery by being both spare and immersive, short but engrossing right up to the breathless closing chapters.” Thank you, John … Ronan O’Brien’s CONFESSIONS OF A FALLEN ANGEL is still impressing ’em, to wit: “It’s a clever plot. The story holds together well as a narrative, hurtling towards its end as classical tragedy, and the main character is engaging in how he deals with adversity … On balance, the heart leaps up at this new Irish novel,” says John S. Doyle at the Sunday Independent. Beth at Beth’s Reading List likes Eoin Colfer’s ARTEMIS FOWL AND THE LOST COLONY: “I enjoyed this – the description of fairy technology is always intriguing and amazing. Colfer draws the new characters with as much personality as the ones we already know.” Meanwhile, over at Stone Library’s Book Blog, Derek Landy’s SKULDUGGERY PLEASANT gets an Eoin Colfer comparison: “Fans of Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series, or anyone who likes a dash of violence and danger served up with magical humour will enjoy this book.” Finally, it’s a couple of big-ups for The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman. “I found I PREDICT A RIOT to be a hugely funny and very entertaining read … it is also a murder / mystery, a crime thriller and a hilarious piece of social commentary on Belfast, and the current situation in Northern Ireland life,” says Austin Lynch at the Fermanagh Herald, while Gerard Brennan has been reading his little cotton socks off: “This last few weeks I’ve been reading a lot of crime fiction. So far Declan Hughes’ THE WRONG KIND OF BLOOD is impressing me, I highly recommend Ken Bruen’s PRIEST, and Colin Bateman’s latest novel I PREDICT A RIOT was a pure Belfast blast.” Yes indeed, yon Bateman is pure literary Semtex, we find …

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Crimes Against Crime Fiction # 2,102: The Daily Telegraph

The Daily Telegraph ran a feature on Saturday entitled ‘50 Crime Writers To Read Before You Die’, and we’re still not sure if we should laugh or cry. Yes, we’ve always had a sneaking fondness for GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a noir-ish tale – but Charles Dickens as a crime writer? Hmmmmm ... Happy days for The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman, who gets the following entry: “Any appearance by Bateman’s regular protagonist, journalist Dan Starkey, heralds the imminent death in amusing fashion of half the population of Belfast. Comic thrillers that are actually comic and thrilling.” Hurrah! Okay, now for the crying bit: the list of 50 does not – repeat not – include James M. Cain, Ross Macdonald, John D. McDonald, W.R. Burnett or Horace McCoy. Seriously. But it does – repeat, does – include Benjamin Black. Wot? Benny Blanco? ARE YOU FRICKIN’ KIDDING US?????

Game, Seth And Match

We like Seth Harwood’s (right) moxy, people. First he brought Jack Palms to life via podcasts, and now he’s hustling the hell out of the paperback release of JACK WAKES UP, which hits a bookshelf near you on March 16. Quoth Seth:
“Seth Harwood is back this spring to launch the third free podcast in his JACK PALMS Crime series. With JACK WAKES UP hitting Amazon and a fine bookseller near you in March, Palm(s) Sunday (March 16th) bringing a whole gang of fans storming the web to buy as many copies as they can on, and a Seth Harwood reading tour on both US coasts, what would this spring be without a new instalment of the podcasts that started it all? That’s right, JACK PALMS is back in San Francisco to weather a gunshot wound, find the Russian who’s been trading young girls as sex slaves, and bring this whole sordid investigation to an end. With Vlade and the Czechs back in the city, Detective Shaw and Jane Gannon on the run, this season promises to be the most hair-raising one yet! To hear the JACK PALMS Crime podcasts free (Jack Wakes Up, Jack Palms II: This Is Life, and JACK PALMS 3) visit today. [Basically a podcast is a free audio series/audio book in instalments.] You’ll also find all the Amazon and iTunes links you can think of, a free PDF of JACK WAKES UP to try before you buy, and much, much more ...”
Seth Harwood versus The Man? No contest. It’s game, Seth and match to the boy Harwood …