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, May 16, 2009

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Rob Kitchin

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?
LA CONFIDENTIAL by James Ellroy (tight, tense and multi-layered) or THE BIG OVER EASY by Jasper Fforde (the intertextuality is very clever and the story has great imagination and humour).

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
There are loads of great characters out there, but I’m particularly partial to Bernie Gunther, Jack Irish, Harry Bosch and Frost (the novel character rather than the pale TV version) but I’m not sure I would like to be them! I think being Serge A. Storms from Tim Dorsey’s Florida crime capers would be interesting.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’m very partial to Tart Noir – which I’ve heard referred to, more than a little unfairly, as chick lit on steroids. Anything by Katy Munger, Lauren Henderson, Janet Evanovich, Jessica Speart, and co.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When a passage just unfolds in one graceful arc and needs practically no editing save typos.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
DIVORCING JACK by Colin Bateman. I don’t know how many people I’ve lent that book to, but whoever the last person was, can I have it back?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I can imagine EVERY DEAD THING by John Connolly on the silver screen. I’m a little indifferent to the book, but I’m sure someone must be considering putting Benjamin Black’s (John Banville’s) CHRISTINE FALLS to celluloid – historical piece, social mobility, family rivalry, Catholic Church, scandal, etc. I think Gene Kerrigan’s THE MIDNIGHT CHOIR would translate well to a TV drama.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst is rejection letters! I have two best things – you get to find out the ending before anyone else, and when someone tells you they enjoyed reading something you’ve written.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Title: ‘The White Gallows.’ Tag line: ‘The past never dies …’ The pitch: ‘In post-Celtic Tiger Ireland the murder rate is soaring and the gardai are struggling to cope with gangland wars, domestic disputes, and drunken brawls that spiral into fatal violence. To add to Detective Superintendent’s Colm McEvoy’s workload are the suspicious deaths of two immigrants – an anonymous, Lithuanian youth and an elderly, German billionaire. While one remains an enigma, the murky history of the other is slowly revealed. But where there is money there is power and, as McEvoy soon learns, if you swim amongst sharks, you’d better act like a shark …’

Who are you reading right now?
I have a habit of reading more than one thing at a time. At the moment I’m just finishing James Lee Burke’s CADIALLAC JUKEBOX. I’m also halfway through Uki Goni’s THE REAL ODESSA about the wartime links between Argentina and Nazi Germany and the subsequent flight of Nazi war criminals south across the Atlantic.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Can one edit instead?

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Up for discussion …

Rob Kitchin’s debut novel THE RULE BOOK is published on May 26th.

Friday, May 15, 2009

It Was The Darkest Of Times, It Was The Even Darker Of Times …

Don’t know how I missed it, but last week the Sunday Independent ran the first chapter of Gene Kerrigan’s latest opus, the rather terrific DARK TIMES IN THE CITY, which opens up thusly:
On that part of the street, at this hour of the evening, only the pub was still open for business. Near the middle of a row of shops, between the flower shop and the hairdressers, it offered the street a welcoming glow on a chilly winter’s night. There were two entrance doors, one to the bar and one to the lounge. The windows were small, high on the wall and barred. The pub front was recently painted off-white. The blue neon decoration high on the wall was a bog standard outline of a parrot. The pub was called the Blue Parrot. It was owned and managed by a man named Novak.
  This was a neighbourhood place and most of the younger set travelled into the city centre or favoured local pubs that featured entertainment. Novak didn’t believe in pub quizzes, pub bands, comedy nights or DJs. He just sold drink and provided a venue for companionship.
  On the other side of the street, it was all terraced houses with well-tended front gardens. They were of a standard municipal design that was duplicated throughout the Glencara estate and across similar council-built estates throughout Dublin -- Finglas, Cabra West, Drimnagh, Crumlin, Ballyfermot. Small and narrow, most of the houses now bristled with extensions. Many had colourful cladding or fanciful embellishments -- columns flanking the front door or tiled canopies overhanging the windows.
  From the far end of the street a motorbike made its way towards the pub. Traffic was light here, far from the main routes through the estate, but the motorbike was taking its time, easing gently over the speed bumps installed to discourage joyriders.
The passenger was first to dismount at the pub. He took something from a saddlebag. At the entrance to the lounge he paused and gestured to the driver to hurry up.
  © Gene Kerrigan, 2009

  For the rest, clickety-click here

Thursday, May 14, 2009

And so to Bristol …

I had a ball last year at Ye Olde CrimeFeste (statue erected in my honour, right) and I’m looking forward to more of the same this year. What’s terrific about these conventions is that you get to stroll around for a couple of days pretending to be a bona fide writer and no small boy points his finger at you and says, “Oi, yon emperor-type ain’t wearing no clothes.” It’s a wonderful thing, pretending to be a writer … but then, pretending is what writers do best.
  The other great thing about conventions and festivals is meeting up with the people you only tend to see at such events. Writing being (in theory, at least) a solitary pursuit, and regarded by something of an anti-social affliction by those nearest and dearest who don’t write, it’s nice to chow down with like-minded folk. As always, it’ll be great to hook up with Irish scribes the likes of Declan Hughes, Brian McGilloway and Ruth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley Edwards, and also some people I’ve met on my travels over the last couple of years, including Paul Johnston, Martin Edwards, the uber-glam Donna Moore, Ruth Downie, Chris Ewan, and a few more. And then there’s my fellow members of the bloggoratti, being Maxine, Karen, Norm, Ali and – possibly – the Book Witch and Rhian, although I’m not sure they’re going to make it this year. And, of course, we’ll all be in awe of the award-winning blogger, Peter Rozovsky of Detectives Beyond Borders, who’ll be doing his Uncle Travelling Matt impression in Bristol.
  Anyway, it’ll be dry sherries all round, so here’s hoping the old liver holds out. For those of you interested, I’ll drop a line on Monday or Tuesday (depending on the volume of dry sherries) to let you know how the panels went. I’m on two: Friday at 1.30, for ‘I Was A Fugitive From A Chain Gang: Writing About The Bad Guys’ alongside Chris Ewan, Steve Mosby and Kevin Wignall, with Donna Moore moderating; and Saturday at 3.30, for Natural Born Killers: Maxim’s Picks, alongside Cara Black, Paul Johnston and – hurrah! – Donna Moore, with Maxim Jakubowski moderating.
  All in all, fun times ahead …

  UPDATE: The ‘Who Is The Sexiest Irish Crime Writer?’ poll is now open for business, people, in the top-left corner of the blog … The results will be skewed, naturally, given that Gene Kerrigan has removed himself from consideration, but what can you do?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Taboo Or Not Taboo, That Is The Question

UNCAGE ME is the follow-up to 2007’s EXPLETIVE DELETED, being a collection of short stories about taboos and the breaking thereof, and edited by the ultra-glam Jen Jordan (right). Among the very fine writers contributing are Scott Phillips, Allan Guthrie, J.D. Rhoades, Simon Kernick, Patrick Bagley, Tim Maleeny, Nick Stone, Martyn Waites and Maxim Jakubowski. It also features a thoughtful piece by John Connolly in its introduction, in which JC muses at length about the history and nature of transgression. To wit:
To paraphrase Cole Porter, in olden days a glimpse of stocking might have been considered shocking, but now, quite frankly, almost anything goes. I say ‘almost’ because, of course, Porter was wrong to conclude that there were no longer any limits on behaviour, although we can forgive him because he was less interested in making an irrefutable statement than in fitting words to a good tune. It’s probably asking a lot to expect him to be more than broadly socially and philosophically accurate as well.
  Boundaries and limits - legal, moral, national, aesthetic, sexual, racial, and physical - still exist, but it is a facet of the modern (or even post-modern) world that they are being challenged at an ever accelerating rate. But those challenges are not entirely negative in their connotations; rather, they can be seen as an effort to establish the nature and extent of those limitations. Thus, acts of transgression should not be viewed as destructive by nature. To approach them in this way is to misunderstand them, for their relationship to the society that gives rise to them is far more complex than might at first appear.
  The word ‘transgression’ enters the English language for the first time in the 16th century, but it comes weighted with negative spiritual meaning. Perhaps the first great act of transgression is the decision by Adam and Eve to eat forbidden fruit, thereby violating their pact with God. Yet with this act comes a certain liberation, albeit at considerable cost. Admittedly, the Church fathers did not see it in this way, and so transgression becomes associated with evil, with St John telling us that ‘Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God’ (2 John 9).
(It is worth noting, in passing, that Eve bears the primary burden for disobeying God’s will, and subsequently tempting her partner. Here, the seeds are sown for an abiding distrust of women, and the demonic associations that came to be made with feminine qualities. Thus it was that the female body, by the time of the Renaissance, was the subject of constant surveillance, and was regarded as, in a way, grotesque. It was a body which potentially exceeded any boundary or limit, and was thus regarded as transgressive by its very nature. Something of this sense of the threat posed by the feminine mystique survives in the femmes fatales of film noir, who are, in their way, all descendants of the lady Eve.)
  As time progresses, though, some of those earlier spiritual connotations fall away, and ‘to transgress’ becomes more general in its meaning, covering any kind of deviation from the norm, as well as non-physical acts of aggression against the person. Finally, it begins to refer to the crossing of boundaries, whether moral, legal, or, indeed, artistic and aesthetic, which is where we should perhaps locate it for the purposes of this volume.
  In fact, creative and artistic endeavours provide an apt proving ground for notions of transgression. As the writer bell hooks puts it: ‘Art, and most especially painting, was for me a realm where every imposed boundary could be transgressed.’
  The use of the word ‘imposed’ raises an interesting question. Are constraints entirely imposed from the outside? If we transgress, do we do so purely against some external authority, whether human or divine? I would argue that we do not, that there is a personal element in our responses to moral imperatives, an element of subjectivity that brings with it a desire to transgress, even a necessity to do so. Societies find a way to channel and express this desire: mythologies are one such channel, acts of mockery another, or what Bakhtin described as ‘the laughter of the carnival’. Such laughter is collective, universal, and ambivalent, but it is not destructive, and here is where our relationship with the notion of transgression becomes really interesting.
Transgression is both an act of affirmation and denial. It recognizes the existence of a certain limitations or boundaries, even as it seeks to overstep those marks. In fact, it requires the continued existence of such boundaries for its effect. If the act of transgression shatters the boundary entirely, then what is left? As St Paul put it, ‘Where no law is, there is no transgression’ (Romans 4:15).
  Transgression is not the same as disorder. It does not invite chaos. Even Georges Bataille, the 20th-century writer whose work is perhaps most closely associated with the notion of the transgressive, for whom erotic transgression was the archetype, the sine qua non, of all transgression (albeit linked, by violence, to death), understood the necessity of suspending, rather than removing, sexual constraints. A taboo might be violated, but not terminated. ‘The sacred world’, wrote Bataille, ‘depends on limited acts of transgression.’
  One might argue, then, that transgression is not in itself necessarily subversive. It seeks to question boundaries and limitations, not destroy them. It is not an overt challenge to the status quo; it is instead an interrogation, a questioning. In that sense, it is complicit in that which it critiques, but it is not blindly accepting of it. Instead, it recognizes that every limitation contains within it the possibility of its own fracture. The instruction to obey carries with it the potential for disobedience. In cultural terms, it prevents stagnation by forcing us constantly to reassess the rules governing our society, while at the same time reaffirming the necessity of those rules. It may lead to a reordering, but not to the absence of order at all.
  Still, the tension between what may be perceived by one side as legitimate questioning that may possibly lead to change, or even just a different perspective, and by another as a threat to the established order, goes some way towards explaining why the relationship between art and the law is so fractious. It’s worth recalling the furore that initially greeted Howard Brenton’s play The Romans in Britain when it was staged by the National Theatre in London in 1980. Intended, in part, as a commentary on the situation in Northern Ireland at the time, it included a scene of homosexual rape that led a ‘moral guardian’, Mrs Mary Whitehouse, to take a private prosecution against the play’s director for procuring an act of gross indecency. (Mrs Whitehouse declined to view the play herself, fearing corruption of her soul. Sir Horace Cutler, by contrast, who was a board member of the National Theatre, walked out in disgust, informing a journalist that his wife had been forced to “cover her head” during the scene in question, although nobody seemed entirely sure how, precisely, her concealment was achieved.) The trial was eventually halted with both sides claiming victory: the Attorney General was said to have ended the case because it was not in the public interest to proceed, but the judge did rule that the Sexual Offences Act could be applied to events on a stage, and to simulated acts of indecency.
  When the play was revived in 2007, critics reflected nostalgically on the earlier controversy, but no comparable outcry greeted the revival. Time, and the emergence of an even more permissive society, perhaps both played their parts in this, but there was also, I think, a recognition that the law had no further role to play in this discussion.
  The law is rarely successful in its attempts to police art. The tension between law and art is too great. A moralist will argue that art has no special privilege, and art that transgresses against, for example, the laws of decency should be punished. Artists, according to the moralist, have no right to greater licence than any other section of the population. Artists, generally, beg to differ.
  The nature of transgression in art, as in life, is intensely problematical. It has been argued that one of the roles of art is to conquer taboos, which brings with it the assumption that such taboo-breaking is always good, and anyone who objects to it is automatically narrow-minded, misguided, and guilty of oppressing the artistic imagination. Yet not all restrictions are necessarily bad in themselves, just as not every act of transgression is worthy of note simply by the fact of its existence. Bad art does not enlarge the imagination, and an artist or writer who creates it is open to censure. Offensive and transgressive are not the same thing. Similarly, finding a piece of art objectionable is a perfectly valid critical response to it; seeking to suppress it on that basis is not.
  Yet transgression in art is not limited to questions of moral or sexual license, although the subject is most frequently raised in public in such contexts. Literature is subject to certain constraints, some physical and material, others related to the nature of the form. Can we not look at Lawrence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy and say that, in its questioning of the received notions of storytelling and its steadfast refusal to abide by what was expected of the novel in the middle of the eighteenth century, it is a profoundly transgressive work, a post-modern novel before there was any ‘modern’ to be ‘post’ about? Or what of B.S. Johnson’s 1969 novel The Unfortunates, which was published in a box containing 27 separate chapters, one of which was marked first, one last, with 25 others that could be shuffled around as the reader wished? It is experimental, certainly, but is it not also transgressive in its attempt to overcome the limitations on the formal structure of a printed work? In other words, for the writer, as for any artist, transgression may not merely be a matter of subject, but of form. The transgressive abhors that which is self-enclosed, and rejoices in openness. It rejects the notion of purity, and instead revels in mongrelization. It is the art of the hybrid, of broken things.
  More recently, there was the controversy over Salman Rushdie’s novel, The Satanic Verses, first published in 1988, which led to a fatwa, a sentence of death, being declared on Rushdie by Iran’s Ayatollah Khomeini because of the novel’s perceived slighting of Islam (and arguably Islam continues to be the single most significant cultural, religious, and social boundary that artists may transgress, even at peril of their lives). Looking back, what is fascinating about the Rushdie controversy is the variety of responses it provoked from Rushdie’s fellow authors. Their support for him was far from universal, with Roald Dahl and John le CarrĂ© being among the loudest of the dissenting voices. Clearly, it seemed, transgression was not something to be defended on principle, even by one’s own peers.
  There is one significant act of transgression that I have deliberately left until the end of this introduction, precisely because it is so relevant to some of the authors that follow, and that is crime. A number of the contributors to this volume are best known as mystery writers, but there are some difficulties in presenting crime as a purely transgressive action. In part, this is because the definition of an act as ‘criminal’ is a matter of law, but at the same time it is difficult to deny the element of choice involved in the commission of certain crimes, or the fascination, even appeal, that criminal behaviour may hold for us. A crime of passion is not necessarily transgressive, even if one might take the view that it breaches the taboo of unjustly taking a human life, because it lacks control, or perhaps planning and intent. It is born out of a rush of blood, an excess of feeling. Similarly, a starving woman who steals a loaf of bread could be considered to have done so out of necessity in a moment of weakness governed by blind appetite, not will.
  But those criminals who chooses to kill, to steal, to break, who, in the words of J. Katz in Seductions of Crime (1988), ‘take pride in a defiant reputation as ‘bad’’, are of a different breed, and their actions resonate with us precisely because they are a dark shadow of the desire that lies within each of us to breach, however occasionally, the constraints imposed upon our behaviour, and glimpse for a moment the possibility of the infinite. To quote Katz again: ‘Perhaps in the end, what we find so repulsive about studying the reality of crime . . . is the piercing reflection we catch when we steady our glance at these evil men.’
  There may be stories in this collection that you find difficult to like, or of which you may actively disapprove. There will be stories that may remind you of your own past acts, and stories dealing with acts that you believe you could never commit. Yet each of them touches upon the basic human urge to transgress, and in this you will find a certain sense of commonality, however uncomfortable it may be. Remember, after all, the words of Terence, which were inscribed upon the ceiling of the great essayist Montaigne: ‘I am a man: nothing human is foreign to me.’
  Taken from UNCAGE ME (ed. Jen Jordan, 2007, Bleak House Books). Republished with the kind permission of Bleak House Books.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And ‘The Sexiest Irish Crime Writer 2009’ Is …

Y’know, sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the detail and lose sight of the Big Picture (detail pictured, right). Forget to remember what’s really important. I mean, sure, books are important, and well written books are even more important, and it’s nice that there’s so many terrific Irish crime writers out there these days that you’d need at least two adjoining phone boxes for the AGM, if such a happening were ever to come to pass.
  But waffling on about such obscure minutiae blinds us to the really important questions, and the kind of tough questions this blog isn’t afraid to ask. To wit: Who Is The Sexiest Irish Crime Writer?
  Some names for your consideration:
(The Artist Formerly Known as Colin) Bateman
Alex Barclay
Adrian McKinty
John Connolly
Arlene Hunt
Declan Hughes
Tana French
Brian McGilloway
Ken Bruen
Ava McCarthy
Gene Kerrigan
  Naturally, modesty and / or fear of getting no votes at all prevents me from including my own windswept-but-interesting features. Oh, and I’m voting for Dreamy Gene …
  Anyway, I’ll be hoisting a poll in the usual top-left position over the next few days, so if you think I’ve left out any sexy writers who should be included, please let me know …

God Due To ‘Finally Give A Crap’ Next Week - Official

Apologies to all three regular readers of CAP for the rather hysterical headline, but with Ireland on the brink of making blasphemy illegal, I thought I’d get my retaliation in first. Quoth the Irish Times:
Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern proposes to insert a new section into the Defamation Bill, stating: “A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000.”
  “Blasphemous matter” is defined as matter “that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion; and he or she intends, by the publication of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.” […]
  Labour spokesman on justice Pat Rabbitte is proposing an amendment to this section which would reduce the maximum fine to €1,000 and exclude from the definition of blasphemy any matter that had any literary, artistic, social or academic merit.
  Now, it’s not that I’m especially irreligious or anything – mainly because I don’t believe in God (above right), or gods, and it’s hard to get worked up either way about something you don’t believe in – but I am a fan of free speech and fair comment. If people want to believe that there’s a nebulous creator-type out there who takes a personal interest in their lives, then that’s okay with me, just so long as they don’t try stuffing it down my throat.
  The problem is, the throat-stuffing is on the rise world-wide, and Ireland – in the person of Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern – is joining ranks with other (koff) less progressive regimes. Mr Ahern claims that what he’s doing is actually making it impossible for anyone to be convicted of blasphemy in Ireland, which no one has in living memory, if ever, which kind of raises the question as to why he’d try to fix something that isn’t broken. Is it too cynical to wonder at the timing of the new legislation, given that Mr Ahern’s party, Fianna Fail, are about to get seven bells kicked out of them at the polls in the forthcoming local and European elections?
  Anyway, the good news is that the penalty for blasphemy – if you somehow manage to convince a jury of your peers in a modern democracy in the 21st century that you’ve managed to offend the sensibilities of a god so heedless of human affairs, and all the suffering wrought in its name, that it can’t be arsed to turn up for five minutes one day and say, ‘Whoa! The Hindus are the only ones getting it right,’ – anyway, the penalty is a hefty fine ‘not exceeding €100,000’. Which beats the hell out of a the rack, a stint in the Iron Maiden and being fried alive. Which, I guess, is progress, and at least we’re not living in Afghanistan or the Sudan. Three steps forward and two back, and all that.
  Incidentally, I saw Angels and Demons last week, and one of the characters, a cardinal, had a nice line. “God answers all prayers, my son – but sometimes he answers no.”
  Finally, if you hear on the grapevine in the next few days that I’ve been struck down by lightning / boils / a plague of frogs, then pick a god, any god. Better safe than sorry, eh? Even if you pick the wrong one, you’ll probably get a B+ for trying.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Kitchin’s Ink Drama

There’s nothing like a bad pun to get the week off to a bracing start, so thank you kindly Mr Rob Kitchin for getting in touch to let me know about your new novel, THE RULE BOOK. Described as “One of the most unusual crime novels to come out of Ireland in recent times,” by no less a luminary than Ireland’s Mr Everyman, RTE’s Joe Duffy, THE RULE BOOK is Kitchin’s debut, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
April in the Wicklow mountains and a young woman is found dead, seemingly sacrificed. Accompanying her body is Chapter One of ‘The Rule Book’ – a self-help guide for prospective serial killers. The case is assigned to the National Bureau of Criminal Investigation and headed up by Detective Superintendent Colm McEvoy. Since the recent death of his wife, McEvoy is a shadow of his former self – two stones lighter with a wardrobe of ill fitting suits, struggling to quit the cigarettes that killed his wife, and still getting used to being a single parent. Less than twenty four hours later a second murder is committed. Self-claiming the title ‘The Raven’, the killer starts to taunt the police and the media. When the third body is discovered it is clear that The Raven intends to slaughter one victim each day until ‘The Rule Book’ is published in full. With the pressure from his superiors, the press, and politicians rising, McEvoy stumbles after a killer that is seemingly several steps ahead. Is ‘The Rule Book’ as definitive as The Raven claims?
  Don’t know about you, but I’m banking on yon McEvoy … If you’re in the mood for a sneaky peek at Chapter One, just clickety-click here.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A GONZO NOIR: Ken Bruen Speaks

God bless Sir Kenneth of Bruen (right, portrait by KT McCaffrey). I was in Galway on Friday night, and got an email from Sir Ken saying he’d received his m/s copy of the current humble offering, and that he’d be back to me within a week with a verdict. Which was all kinds of good news.
  He emailed me again on Saturday afternoon, to say he’d read the book in three hours straight. Sir Ken being Sir Ken, he was extravagantly generous with his verdict, the gist of which runneth thusly:
“A GONZO NOIR is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, Author of AMERICAN SKIN
  People, you have no idea how much I’d love to believe I can write as well as John Fowles …
  Anyway, that’s the first official reaction to A GONZO NOIR. It’s a nice buzz, and for a couple of reasons. The first, obviously, is that it’s from Ken Bruen, which is just terrific. Also, the fact that Ken has an eye for the screwy narrative, for playing around with the conventions and bending things out of shape, is a nice bonus, because A GONZO NOIR does its best to bend things out of shape, just a little bit. And that bit about reading it in three hours straight … well, that’s just about the best thing a writer can hear.
  Today was one of the good days, folks …