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.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

X Hits The Spot

That’ll be the X chromosome, folks, rather than the happy tabs that makes you want to dance your small but perfectly formed ass off, not that I’d know anything about the latter, mainly because I like my small but perfectly formed ass exactly where it is. Anyhoo, here’s a couple of pieces I had published recently, the first being a Sunday Indo piece covering some Irish crime fiction novels coming your way from Arlene Hunt, Tana French, Niamh O’Connor, Ellen McCarthy, Alex Barclay, Cora Harrison and Ava McCarthy. To wit:
Last year was something of an annus mirabilis for Irish crime writing, with superb novels on offer from John Connolly, Declan Hughes, Gene Kerrigan, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty and Brian McGilloway, among others. It was also a year, as that list suggests, that was rather light on X chromosomes. This year, however, sees a whole slew of Irish women crime writers hit the shelves, a fact to be celebrated not so much for its quantity as for the sheer diversity of crime novel on offer.
  Sunday World crime correspondent Niamh O’Connor has published non-fiction titles in the past, but IF I NEVER SEE YOU AGAIN is her debut fiction. A police procedural featuring DI Jo Bermingham, its edgy tone taps into O’Connor’s personal experience of her day job.
  “I needed an outlet for this perverse reaction I was having when various gangland bosses got knocked off,” she says, ‘which was a feeling of ‘good riddance’. I’d heard and seen first hand the devastating injuries suffered by Dr James Donovan, who founded the forensic science laboratory, and who was blown up in a car bomb by the ‘General’, Martin Cahill, because of his incredible work making society safer for the rest of us.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here …
  Elsewhere, I reviewed THE LOSS ADJUSTOR by Aifric Campbell, which kicks off thusly:
Aifric Campbell’s debut, THE SEMANTICS OF MURDER (2008), offered a sophisticated, literary take on the murder mystery novel. While there is a violent death at the heart of THE LOSS ADJUSTOR, however, the mystery being investigated here is the nature of the loss that has left the narrator, Caroline – Caro to her very few friends – perilously close to emotional stasis, unable or unwilling to engage with life in all its glorious messiness.
  Ironically, Caro works as a loss adjustor for a London insurance company, putting a price on the losses people incur every day through theft, fire, or random act of God. So why has this intelligent, attractive and professionally successful woman so few friends? Why so very few lovers? Why, at the age of 27, did she go seeking sterilisation?
  For the rest, clickety-click here …

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

William Shakespeare’s 10 Rules O’ Writing

1. Write ye not a new tale if’t can at all be helped. Plunder thou yon histories, myths and pre-Renaissance Italian romances for plot, setting, character, structure, style and theme. If anyone notice, claim ye homage.

2. Makest thou heroine a maiden as young as is strictly legal.

3. Lest there be doubt on who be your varlet, give him a hump. Or a hooked nose. Or black skin. If ye can manage all three in one villain, have on.

4. A good title be half the battle. ‘Big Fuss About Nowt’ flyeth not.

5. A pox on reality. Toss ye in some ghost, fairy, witch and monster for good jizz. If ye can handle a haunted kitchen sink, have on.

6. If ye suffer from block, have your mistress take up the quill while you cane opium and give her daughter goodly tup. If ye be nabbed, claim research.

7. Ne’er miss a chance for identity mistook, for such wrangling be good for fifty page or more. If they be cross-dressers, ye’ll get a whole tale.

8. Prithee, no more than one monologue per page. Unless folio pages they be. But e’en then, no more than three, max.

9. If the pace should flag, lobbest thou in a ‘Gadsooks!’ or ‘Forsooth!’ Or have skewered a king, general, politician or prince. For the money shot, go with ‘Gadsooks, I be skewered, forsooth!’ The plebs love’t.

10. Once in while end your line with a rhyme / ’Tis posh as a turret and waste some more time.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Gonz, Baby, Gonz

A strange old week, folks. First off, heartfelt thanks to everyone who left a comment on the post below, and those of you who got in touch privately, promising to pledge money should I decide to go ahead and self-publish BAD FOR GOOD / A GONZO NOIR. The reaction was, for me, phenomenal: I’d have been delighted with twenty or so responses, and over the moon with thirty. To achieve more than double that gives me serious pause for thought, especially as so many people made multiple pledges (or pledged for multiple books). What began as a whimsical notion is now a practical option. But there’s more to it than hard cash. For someone struggling to have themselves heard, as most writers seem to be, that kind of support is literally invaluable.
  What I need to do now is spend some time researching the project meticulously, ensuring my figures are right, investigating the amount of time and energy the project will consume, and – most importantly – ensuring that there’s no possible glitch that could result in someone making a pledge and not receiving a book.
  I also need to take on board more experienced voices than I, some of whom have cautioned against the amount of work involved in self-publishing, which will by necessity eat into my own writing time; some have very kindly suggested that BAD FOR GOOD / A GONZO NOIR is too good to ‘waste’ on self-publishing; while others have stated in no uncertain terms that self-publishing at this point in my ‘career’ (koff) would prove hugely detrimental in the long term. Now, I’m not sure how much more detrimental a self-published book could be when compared with no published books at all, but the advice was well-intentioned and has been accepted as such. I’ll keep you all posted as to how it’s panning out; and again, many thanks for all the support.
  Meanwhile, in a not-unrelated matter, John McFetridge has taken my tentative suggestion about starting up a writers’ co-op and given it legs. In fact, he’s started a writer’s co-op, established a website, and already there seems to be a real buzz building around it. Seems to me that the real gonzo noir could well be coming together as we speak; I’ll be getting behind the project 100%. For more details, clickety-click here
  Finally, I got an early look at ‘The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo’ movie this week. I’m one of the very few people, apparently, who wasn’t overly impressed with the novel (I didn’t make it past page 120), but I tried to set that aside for the duration of the movie. What struck me most forcibly about it was how quaint it all seemed, if not old-fashioned: the wealthy industrialist Vanger commissioning Blomkist to investigate the disappearance of his niece was in effect the opening chapter of THE BIG SLEEP; the island where the disappearance took place has only one bridge in or out, making it a locked-room mystery; at one point, Blomkvist is called into a drawing room before the extended Vanger family, and I half-expected the (Nazi) Col. Mustard to be denounced as the killer, the foul deed taking place in the library, with a spanner. Apparently Stieg Larsson dotted the novel with references to Agatha Christie and Dorothy L. Sayers, et al, which suggests that the book is intended as an homage to the Golden Age of mystery writing; that’s all very well and good, but it hardly makes for cutting-edge fiction, nor movie. Michael Nyqvist, playing Blomkvist, is a terrific actor, and acquits himself very well, but I found it hard to believe in the chemistry between he and Lisbeth Salander; indeed, I found the character of Salander entirely artificial, an impenetrable and unlovely IT idiot savant given sullenness, body piercing and chain-smoking in lieu of any real rebellion. For a movie that runs almost two and a half hours (quite long for a movie thriller), there’s precious little by way of depth of characterisation; meanwhile, the most interesting aspect of the story, the establishment of a pro-Nazi organisation in neutral Sweden during WWII, was given only a cursory nod, just enough to taint the bad guys with evil. The story also suffers from the usual faults associated with the gifted amateur sleuth: despite the fact that the local cop has spent 40 years obsessing on the disappearance of Vanger’s niece, for example, Blomkvist finds a new lead almost immediately on taking the case; and it still makes no sense that an obscenely wealthy man, who could afford any investigator on the planet, would choose to employ a man whose name has been very publicly disgraced for getting his facts wrong. As for the more modern aspects of the movie: there’s a nasty and graphic scene involving Salander that leaves a bad taste in the mouth, all the more so that it’s unnecessary in terms of establishing character; and there’s far too much emphasis (not to mention trust) placed on the internet as a source of ‘clues’ whenever the story needs to be shunted along.
  And that’s my two cents.

  This week I have been mostly reading: CLOUD ATLAS by David Mitchell (superb); THE MERCHANT OF VENICE by William Shakespeare; NAMING THE BONES by Louise Welch; and EARTH IN UPHEAVAL by Immanuel Velikovsky.