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 13, 2010

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Don Bruns

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 would have loved to have written GET SHORTY by Elmore Leonard. The right amount of humor, quirky characters and a story that really works.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Travis McGee, John D. MacDonald’s character, would be a great role. A former marine, pro football player, now retired with a 52-foot houseboat and a Rolls Royce converted to a pickup truck. What’s not to like about this guy’s life?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I’m not sure I read for guilty pleasure. I very rarely read anything that doesn’t help me with something I’m working on. If I’m writing a thriller, I’m reading thrillers. If I’m writing a comedic mystery, I’m reading comedy. It’s not to steal themes or ideas ... it’s simply to stay in the mood.

Most satisfying writing moment?
In my Stuff series, Skip Moore is a practical young man who tries to keep his friend James out of trouble. James is more of a playboy with a huge sense of adventure. I was talking to a librarian several years ago who said, “I dated James. I married Skip.” I knew I’d made an emotional connection and that’s a good feeling.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
MYSTERY MAN by Colin Bateman. Very funny book about a guy who owns a bookshop specializing in crime in Belfast.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I would think with the proper adaptation, anything by John Connolly would make a good movie.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Bad reviews are probably the worst thing about being an author. After you’ve received starred reviews, then someone slams the book.

The pitch for your next book is
My pitch for the next book? DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF. Two 24-year P.I.s investigate a carnival whose rides have literally gone off the tracks, killing and injuring customers. Throw in a fun house that is not fun at all, a frightening ride called the Dragon Tail and a midget named Winston Pugh who owns a petting zoo and a big English sheep dog named Garcia, (Winnie Pugh’s Petting Zoo), and you have a recipe for chaos.

Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading David Morrell, a book called SCAVENGER. Really well done.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Kill me.

Don Bruns’ DON’T SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF is available now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Ever Failed. No Matter. Try Again. Fail Again. Fail Better.

Apr├Ęs le deluge, c’est moi. Or words to that effect. The immediate aftermath of writing a book is always a weird time, a period of twitchiness and sensory overload and an indefinable feel of gaping loss. There’s relief too, of course, but you’re still running on adrenaline in a vacuum, synapses firing like a Catherine Wheel, and yet you’ve nowhere to invest all the excess creative energy. The idea of starting something new is stomach churning, given that you feel physically drained, and that’s even presuming you’ve a new idea worth kicking around. Better writers than I have suggested in the past that this can be a good time to write short stories, and in that way siphon off the excess mental energy in brief spurts, but - as the man says - if I was able to write short stories, why would I bother writing novels in the first place?
  Anyway, the latest redraft is finished. Hallelujah, etc. For those of CAP’s three regular readers who have been paying attention, it was a redraft of the story that started out under the rather unwieldy title of THE ROOMINGHOUSE MADRIGALS, then became A GONZO NOIR, moved on to BAD FOR GOOD, and is currently rejoicing in the not-likely-to-see-the-light-of-day title of THE BABY KILLERS. For those of you who have already read it in a previous draft form, the new draft contains roughly 10% new material, most of which was included to root the characters in what passes for my reality, and which - hopefully - makes the story just a smidge more bonkers than it already was. Which, given that the publishing industry grows more conservative by the day, is the literary equivalent of shooting myself in the foot. But what else can you do? Join the grey, homogenous ranks churning out grey, homogenous facsimiles of one another? Invent a particularly gruesome and / or fiendishly clever psychopathic killer? Wedge the latest dull-but-worthy Inspector Plod into a sub-genre already splitting at the seams with dull worthiness? Contrive a new variation on the superhuman sub-Bond thriller? Foist, God preserve us all, yet another tarnished knight of the private eye variety onto an unsuspecting - oh, hold on, I’ve already done that.
  No, it’s foot-shooting for me, and a permanent limp as I wander the publishing roads less travelled, and a metaphor mangled to within an inch of its life. But I digress.
  I finished the redraft on Thursday morning, and sent it off, and I’ve been mooning around ever since, or at least during those chunks of time I’d previously allotted to writing. What to do, what to do? I’ve some other novels I could be redrafting, and half-finished novels I could be finishing, and half-started novels I could be working on, but I’ve promised myself I won’t write another word of fiction until the New Year at least, as life tends to get a little frantic for a freelance journalist in the run-up to Christmas.
  Plus, knowing that the story is out there, and being read by people who have the wherewithal to put it on a shelf at some point in the future, has a paralysing effect. It’s like some kind of venom that blocks the synaptic impulse from reaching the fingertips. A very weird feeling, and hence the twitchiness.
  By the way, those few of you who have been paying attention will remember that my plan, when last outlined, involved self-publishing BAD FOR GOOD / A GONZO NOIR / THE BABY KILLERS for charidee. Well, there’s been a development since then, and a rather intriguing one, and while self-publishing remains an option, it’s not the only one. More of which anon.
  Meanwhile, I’m still waking at 5am ready to write, fully charged, utterly drained, bedevilled with ideas and frustrated for the want of a blank page to transform their glittering brilliance into toxic sludge, a process I like to describe as ‘the first draft’. It’ll pass, I know, it always does, and soon enough all that energy will subside back into the pit from whence it came, there to transmogrify itself and emerge as an entirely different beast, hopefully as a beast brandishing a pair of Gatling guns pointed squarely at my feet.
  For now it’s time to put my nose to grindstone, and put the hours into work that actually pays. Hell, maybe I’ll even be able to get back to waking at 6.30am.
  Finally, and for your delectation, I offer the new start to the book, with all brickbats and barbed-wire bouquets welcome, as always. To wit:

This man at the foot of my bed is too sharply dressed to be anything but a lawyer or a pimp. He is reading, intently, which leads me to believe he is more likely a pimp, as these days lawyers are more usually to be found writing novels than reading them.
  His navy suit, a three-piece over a pink shirt with a white collar and navy tie, is the only splash of colour in a room that is otherwise entirely white. White walls, white tiles on the floor. The window blinds, bedside locker, sheets, wainscoting, the door, all white.
  As it is a manuscript of a novel the man is reading, the page facing me is white.
  His eyes flicker up to meet mine. They narrow when he realises I have come awake, and a well trimmed eyebrow arches. Brown eyes, flecked with hazel, and not without warmth. He holds my gaze for a moment or two. ‘You’re some man for one man,’ he says.
  When I do not speak, he puts the manuscript down and settles himself comfortably in the straight-backed chair, folds his arms. ‘The best we can hope for is criminal damage,’ he says, ‘and that’s claiming insanity. We’ll start out full-blown, work our way down to temporary, you could be out in five years. But that’s your best case scenario.’
  He waits. The only sound is the faint hum of the a/c.
  ‘Worst case,’ he says, and his tone has not changed, ‘they’ll pull out the big guns, offences against the State, terrorism, the works. I mean, there’s no specific law against blowing up hospitals, but let’s just say they’ve plenty of wiggle room to play with.’
  Again he waits.
  His tone still patient, reasonable, he says, ‘Between you and me, you’re public enemy number one, and right now I’m the only friend you have. So we can do this with you playing dumb if you want, some kind of silent protest, it can only help with the insanity plea. But if you want my advice, which is why I’m here, then I suggest you start talking. To me, at least. There’s only the two of us, no one’s taking notes, there’s no recorder running, it’s all off the record. I’m here, I’m listening.
  ‘So,’ he says, ‘what d’you say?’
  A man cannot live tilted away from the world. The world will not permit it. Gravity will have its way.
  He must live straight, upright, or not at all.
  I reach for the pen and pad on the bedside locker and scribble a question. The man comes to the bed, takes the pad.
  ‘What day is it?’ he says. ‘It’s Monday. Monday,’ he checks his watch, ‘four-thirteen pm.’
  I beckon for the pad, and scrawl, Tomorrow.
  A wry grin. ‘Of course,’ he says. ‘It’s all about the Tuesdays, isn’t it?’
  There is nothing I can add to this. It would appear that all effort has come to naught.
  My line for today comes courtesy of Samuel Beckett: Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.
  I close my eyes.

© Declan Burke 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fly Concord For Free

I had a piece published in the Irish Times yesterday on the Concord Free Press, which is currently publishing Scott Phillips’ rather excellent RUT. The opening ran a lot like this:
The best things in life are free books. That’s the philosophy of the US-based Concord Free Press, which publishes books and gives them away.
  “GIVE + TAKE, my fourth novel, inspired the whole idea,” says Stona Fitch of CFP. “It’s about a jazz pianist who steals diamonds and BMWs and gives away the money - in short, a modern retelling of the Robin Hood fable. But it’s also about the limits of generosity and the slippery nature of value. When the book ran into classic delay at a major New York publishing house, I decided to start the Concord Free Press and give it the book away, asking only that readers give some money to a charity they believed in or someone in need.”
  The CFP publishing model - which they have dubbed ‘generosity-based publishing’ - is overseen by an Advisory Board of writers that includes Joyce Carol Oates, Russell Banks, Megan Abbott and Gregory Maguire, among others. “It’s important to point out that we’re a group of writers that publishes books,” says Stona, “not a publisher only. We’ve just seized control of the machinery of publishing and put it to work in a new way.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Tortuga Bound

It’s not often we feature theatre here on Crime Always Pays, but Jason Wells’ MEN OF TORTUGA looks to be an interesting prospect. To wit:
In the executive suite of an unnamed American Corporation, three power brokers scheme with a weapons specialist to eliminate the opposition in Jason Wells’ dark comedy of negotiation, conspiracy and assassination. Maxwell, a hero of the old guard, volunteers to sacrifice himself for the plan. But when Maxwell takes the young idealist Fletcher under his wing, his long-dormant conscience begins to reawaken. As the scheme spins into disarray, the plotters descend into suspicion, bloodlust and infighting, while Fletcher is drawn, inexorably, into the lion’s den …
  Variety liked it:
“Jason Wells isn’t giving everything away in his captivating new play Men of Tortuga … Wells tells a story of corporate greed, power, surveillance and the secrecy that increasingly pervades our daily lives … The play pulses with energy …” - Variety
  The production comes courtesy of PurpleHeart Theatre Company in association with the Focus Theatre, and is directed by John O’Brien. It opens on Thursday, November 11th at the Focus Theatre in Temple Bar, Dublin, and all the booking details are available here

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

300,000 Not Out

Trumpets please, maestro … At some point yesterday, round about 6pm Irish time, ye olde Crime Always Pays blogge passed the 300,000 mark for page impressions. Which isn’t particularly impressive, considering that CAP has been on the go since April 2007, when it was the sole marketing tool available to a broke but enthusiastic writer, but still, it’s not often we get to parp our trumpets around here, so 300,000 is as good a reason as any, especially - as all Three Regular Readers will be aware - ye blogge only has three regular readers.
  Kidding aside, I’d like to thank each and every one of you who come here on a regular basis, be that daily, weekly or monthly, and especially those of you who make the effort to leave a comment or two, on the rare occasion when the post is interesting enough to merit a comment or two. It goes without saying, although I’ll say it anyway, that this whole endeavour would be a complete waste of time without the likes of you looking for some way to completely waste your time.
  Upward and onward, then, to the next 300,000 page impressions. And hey, who knows - maybe I’ll even have another book to blog about when we reach the magical half-million mark. Stranger things have happened at sea, as they say …

Monday, November 8, 2010

The Republic Of Books

Given the straitened circumstances publishing is going through these days, setting up a new imprint is either an act of blind folly or hopelessly romantic optimism. That said, Irish publisher Maverick House appears to be a very tightly run ship, with the steadying hand of Jean Harrington on the tiller, and one that has defied the odds over the last number of years. So I can only imagine that, while there’s bound to be an element of romantic optimism behind their new venture, Book Republic, it’s very probably underpinned by some very pragmatic projections.
  Anyhoo, Book Republic has its official launch this week, at 1.30pm on Wednesday at the Mansion House, Dublin, and here at CAP Towers we fervently wish all involved bon voyage and a fair wind following. The first Book Republic offering, Dan Harvey’s PEACE ENFORCERS, was published in September, with an excerpt running thusly:
Darfur, Western Sudan, 2003

It was pitch black; the sun had not yet risen. The clattering of hooves went unheard by the village inhabitants, still fast asleep in their beds. They were happily unaware they were about to be violently awoken to a nightmare, propelled from tranquillity to turmoil in a split second. A turbulence of torture and torment was about to be unleashed by the marauding militiamen, riding hard through the rocks and scrubland over the arid, red sands of the Sahel region of Darfur. Murder, mutilation and rape ensued. The sounds of gunshots and the screams and shrieks of terror-stricken women and children filled the early morning air. It was a cacophony of chaos, a maelstrom of madness, and it wasn’t over yet.
  For the rest of the extract, clickety-click here