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, November 24, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: John J. Gaynard

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

Editor’s Note: I received a rather interesting review of ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL by John J. Gaynard during the week; when I investigated further, I discovered that John J. Gaynard is himself the author of what sounds like a rather fascinating novel. Now read on …

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
The Bible. Although I’d put more effort into improving on the lazy Sunday draft that gets the whole thing off to the sexist, incestuous, start and I’d make sure that it’s, Abel, the eater of sacrificial meat and not Cain, the vegetarian brother, who gets murdered. The book’s greatest accomplishment, apart from the spinoffs, is that you’ve got this schizophrenic Stalin-like figure, sending down floods of hate, revenge, betrayal and plagues of locusts, whenever it suits him, while the head-scratchers in the Gulag he’s created can’t come up with the right question: “Did we invent him or did he invent us?” Every good cop who turns up, in the shape of a prophet, gets sold out by his own side. But the main reason this is the book I would have liked to write is the sales and the number of boondoogles you’d get invited to. The Bible study industry is still bigger than the James Joyce or Shakespeare industries.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Gulley Jimson, the painter, in the Anglo-Irish writer Joyce Cary’s 1940s trilogy: HERSELF SURPRISED, TO BE A PILGRIM and, in what I think is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century, THE HORSE’S MOUTH. At the beginning of THE HORSE’S MOUTH, Gulley Jimson has just got out of jail. Collectors would pay thousands for any painting he could produce. But Jimson couldn’t give a damn about them, he paints for himself, not for anybody else, the problem is he hasn’t got a penny to buy brushes, paint or a palette. He borrows or scams money from any old acquaintance who will still talk to him, similar to a character in a Ken Bruen novel, and tries to get back some of the paintings he gave away before he went broke. His new passion is for painting on people’s walls. I suppose you could call him the original tagger. He destroys himself, but he never has a minute of guilt or regret. His whole life is either spent getting his hands on a brush and paints, or in painting itself and nearly getting killed by the people who think he’s desecrated their houses. It’s one of the funniest novels I’ve ever read. At the end, when he’s on his deathbed, a nun criticizes him for laughing instead of praying and he tells her that they’re the same thing.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Suzanne Tyrpak, the author of DATING MY VIBRATOR. DATING MY VIBRATOR is a small book of hilarious short stories about a lady who went through a messy divorce, hit the online dating sites and then discovered, as do many innocent young divorcees, that all men, not only the ex-husband, are congenital liars. The book’s about the mental and physical deficiencies of the sex-hungry slobs the hero meets, and you couldn’t call any of the descriptions complimentary. After the book came out, one of the slobs recognized himself in one of the stories, and since then he’s been giving Suzanne really bad reviews on Amazon, and any other website he can come across. There’s a big phenomenon in France of women becoming call girls after they’ve had some experience on online dating sites. They say they might as well get paid for doing what they have to do anyway

Most satisfying writing moment?
There have been many of them, ranging from when I got a story published in the old London Evening News, through when I got my first satirical article published by Le Monde, or when a French translation of Allen Ginsberg’s meeting with Ezra Pound was published. In those days I was using a nom de plume. The latest most satisfactory moment is when I saw the Kirkus Review of THE IMITATION OF PATSY BURKE. Maybe once in a lifetime you get a reviewer who really understands what you were trying to write: “A rich, darkly comic send-up of the art world and the megalomaniacal souls that populate it.” The only quibble I might have with that review is that it might not prepare readers for the novel’s really dark side.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Of all time, I would say THE INFORMER by Liam O’Flaherty. The best one I’ve read over the past few years is Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE, published in the States as THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. I like a novel that contains an element of psychopathy and some good fight scenes. The fight, or maybe I should say massacre scene, towards the end of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST is second to none.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Every day I realize that there are a hell of a lot of Irish crime novels I still haven’t read. Tana French’s IN THE WOODS would make a great movie, but you’d have to make sure that Cecilia Ahern wasn’t taken on to write the script.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing, apart from French women writers who’ve fallen out of love with you making you a character in their books, is that it’s easy to become isolated from the rest of humanity. To avoid that I get up very early, every morning in Paris and I spend a couple of hours doing a café crawl, meeting up with friends like taxi drivers, plumbers, illegal African immigrants working on the building sites, and transsexual night club bouncers or heterosexual hostesses, who clock off at six o’clock in the morning and who like to sit around and talk shop in the cafés for a couple of hours before they head home for bed. One of the transsexual bouncers used to run the newspaper shop in the European Commission building in Luxemburg and, s/he tells me, the stuff that went on there was weirder than any club in the whole of the European Union. Once the office workers come out, at about eight-thirty, I head back to my own work. One of my favorite songs is Jacques Dutronc’s, “It’s 5 a.m. Paris Awakes”. It’s about a young man walking down from Pigalle, as it used to be, after a night in the clubs. The best thing is raising your head after ten or eleven hours of work and realizing that you’ve been so captivated by what you’re doing that you’ve lived life to the full. Then you can sit down to three or four hours of reading before you go contentedly to bed.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s going to be about a testosterone-fuelled Irish Guard, Timothy O’Mahony, who first came to life in my first novel, ANOTHER LIFE. O’Mahony is the son of a French woman and an Irish father, from Charlestown. After a scandalous liaison with a Northern Irish woman politician, he was demoted from a senior position in Dublin and exiled to the Garda station in Bangor, Erris. He’s now put in charge of investigating the murder of a young African girl, whose body washed up on the shoreline of County Mayo. The story will take O’Mahony into that part of French life in which presidential candidates, policemen, prostitutes and jaded middle-class political groupies engage in group sex, freemasonry, corruption and conversations about Ireland’s refusal to extradite people strongly suspected of killing beautiful French women. Any resemblance to what is going on at the moment in Ireland, France, or what recently happened in New York, will be purely fortuitous. I’m still deciding to what extent O’Mahony will be allowed to participate in the group sex.

Who are you reading right now?
I just finished reading the Australian crime writer Peter Temple’s THE BROKEN SHORE. It’s the prototypical hard-bitten crime novel, with a lot of guilt about how much unspoken homosexuality underlies the Australian need for mateship. The dialogue reminded me of Allan Guthrie’s writing. I just started on William Boyd’s ORDINARY THUNDERSTORMS, because I’ve always liked the comic element of Boyd’s novels and then I’ll probably read the recent Goncourt Prize winner, THE FRENCH ART OF WAR, even though, the other day, when I asked a guy in a train sitting with the book in front of him and looking out the window, how he was enjoying it he told me he hadn’t been able to get past the first two pages …

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
I’d tell her to go to hell. If she wouldn’t take that for an answer, I would opt for writing, write her out of her own story and then go back to reading.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Whatever it takes! At times, the story needs sex, booze, brawling and schizophrenia, and at other times it needs some pathos.

John J Gaynard’s THE IMITATION OF PATSY BURKE is published by Createspace.


Arnaud said...

It's easy to see why French women would fall out of love with this arse. What is difficult to see is why they fell in love with the pumped-up creature in the first place.

John Gaynard said...

Good question, Arnaud! Maybe some French men, not the great majority mind you, will have more success with French women when they develop a sense of humor! Congratulations on your use of the English language by the way! I will refrain from calling you a trou du cul, en français.


Declan Burke said...

John - I'm curious: is it the French men or the women who need to develop the sense of humour?

Cheers, Dec

Arnaud said...

Consider your second sentence. It makes no sense. Some French men?  Not the great majority?

By the way (and take note that a comma should always follow or precede this phrase), you are in no position to congratulate anyone on their use of English. What is your native tongue?

Declan Burke said...

Arnaud - If your mission is to prove that the French lack a sense of humour, you're doing a sterling job. More, please.

Cheers, Dec

John Gaynard said...

Declan - thanks for showing me the double entendre! Many French women have already got a great sense of humour, and most French men too, but a sizeable minority of the men (especially if they've been to one of the "big" schools) think that what the French call "le morgue" (which translates as "visible disdain towards others", or "arrogance") is a better aphrodisiac than a bit of humble Irish banter and wit.


Arnaud said...

You should reread your piece. There is not a hint of humbleness in it. Indeed, it could well have been written by a dull Frenchman. As for aphrodisiacs, in your case you would need to supply them to French women.

Thierry said...

I spent two years in Ireland at a time when my company found the tax rate useful. It is all very crude in the cities and the countryside is much the way the interior of France was in the 17th century. The men have been beaten by drunken fathers and molested by illiterate priests and as a consequence cannot function as responsible adults. It is sad and reading this man has brought it all back to me. Irish wit is an oxymoron, I’m afraid.

John Gaynard said...

Arnaud, ma poule,

Does such a thing as a dull Frenchman exist?

If I were your psychiatrist, I would invite you to lie on the couch and tell you to ask yourself the question, "What did I, myself, do with what I read in that interview to upset myself?”

You find it difficult to understand why beautiful women tend to fall in love with "pumped up arses", instead of more reasonable types, who are terribly good in the kitchen, but, mon ami, that is the way of the world. The DNA of Casanova is still present in the people you see walking down the street, whereas the DNA of all the deflated (i.e. not pumped-up) men who watched him seduce their women disappeared centuries ago.

There are two types of men: firstly, the deflated ones (i.e. not pumped-up) who look sadly on, or whose only recourse is to get upset, and express themselves foully in blog comments, while the "pumped-up arse" is off somewhere with a beautiful, intelligent woman or partner. Secondly, there are men like me, confident, pumped-up, whom women know won't waste their evening by talking about misplaced or missing commas (the sort of nitpicking activity which intelligent Frenchmen describe as 'buggering flies on the edge of a cliff'). If your problem is that beautiful, desirable Frenchwomen are not let down gently enough, by strong, confident Irishmen, yet continue to pine for them, ignoring the perfectly nice, sensitive, deflated countryman, who would be all too willing to have the honour of ironing their panty-hose on Saturday evenings, I must say I agree with you.

By the way, my ‘compliment’, "Congratulations on your use of the English language should have been written, 'Congratulations on your use of the Anglo-Saxon language' and then you might, just might, have understood that it was ironic.


John Gaynard said...


I respect the way in which you have come to the defence of Arnaud who was, it must be said, getting a little out of his depth. However, you have gone a wee bit over the top, feeling it necessary not only to attack me, but to attack Ireland and its irresponsable adult men.

Given the time you posted your comment, in the small hours of the morning, I have the feeling it was the drink, and not really you, Thierry, mon cher ami, talking, and that is why I will forgive you for biting the hand that fed you, when your sector of the French economy was incapable of creating jobs for its highly educated and very proud workforce, of whom you are a glittering example.

The mitigating circumstance for your having to leave France, and search for a job among the crude people of the Irish countryside, was that your company was in need of a good tax rate (were you also in need of a salary at that time?.

Sadly, there has been abuse in the past of children in Ireland, and this subject is addressed in my novel. France is lucky in the fact that it does not contain a single pedophile, priest or violent father (any information to the contrary, that can be read in Le Parisien newspaper, Libération or Le Figaro any morning of the week is just a pack of lies!). In Ireland too, there was a time when we were perfect, and when people in the Abbey Theatre could protest at the way in which Irish women were impugned by a certain Dublin playwright.

Many Frenchmen are amazed that I, a humble, pumped-up Irishman, love their country, and love and know its history and its foibles better than they do themselves. I will never attack France. Governments come and go, Frenchmen may betray France (as said our famous Charles de Gaulle, who had and Irish grandmother, but France will never betray her own people or any Irishman who has pledged allegiance to the values of Voltaire.

Your interest in history pleases me and shows me that there is hope. When you talk about 17th France, it is obvious you've read books, most of them written by Irishmen or Englishmen, who wondered at how benighted the country was at that time, under the twin taxations and vexations of the King and la petite noblesse. It also sounds as if you may have read Robert Louis Stephenson's account of his travels with a donkey in the Cevennes. Fair play to you!

I encourage you to continue with your reading, and I suggest that the next book should be Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France. Edmund was the ancestor of the hero of my latest novel, THE IMITATION OF PATSY BURKE, which you can purchase on