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, April 30, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Bill Loehfelm

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?
That’s a tough one; there are a lot to choose from. NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN by Cormac McCarthy is one, for sure. It approaches the level of American mythology, the way it examines evil, greed, and violence. Also, CASE HISTORIES by Kate Atkinson, simply because it’s so utterly brilliant and gut-wrenching from the first word. Those two and a lesser-known book called CHEAP TICKET TO HEAVEN by Charlie Smith, about a bank robbing couple on the run through the US. It’s surreal, dark, philosophical, and one of the most unique novels I’ve ever read, crime or not. If I had to pick one, I’d say CHEAP TICKET, because it pushes the limits of the crime novel the furthest.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
This one is easy. Batman. Not that I don’t love my parents, but the ability to kick that much ass on people who really deserve it is pretty tempting. Plus, there’s Catwoman.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I like sports writing about baseball. In another life, if I couldn’t play the game, I’d be a beat writer for the New York Mets.

Most satisfying writing moment?
That live moment when it’s really flowing and you know it’s good. That fleeting, ephemeral high is the best, when you’re free from wondering about the final result of it. Also, I have to say, sending a manuscript to my editor or my agent – knowing it doesn’t have to be letter perfect to impress and that I don’t have write three dozen friggin’ query letters—that’s pretty damn satisfying.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Can I put a vote in for Roddy Doyle’s THE WOMAN WHO WALKED INTO DOORS? There’s a mysterious death and plenty of bad behavior. Maybe not the best, but certainly most underrated, at least in the States. Everyone knows the Barrytown trilogy, but I think the Paula Spencer novels are brilliant.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
CHRISTINE FALLS by Benjamin Black. Very noir. Intriguing story with all kinds of twists, and I think that era in Dublin would make such a compelling setting. The way Black renders it reminds me of Chandler’s L.A. I’d imagine, after the way Dublin’s changed over the past couple of decades, that those days in Dublin seem even further back and more foreign than ever. Might be fun to look closely at them.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Being your own boss. That’s the best and the worst of it. Making all my own hours. In a way, I never have to go to work, but in another way I’m never not at work, either. So I’ve never got nothing to do, but – I never have nothing to do.

The pitch for your next book is …?
A world-weary NYC cocktail waitress sees something she shouldn’t after work one night, putting her and her mother on the wrong side of some very bad people.

Who are you reading right now?
Right now, I’m getting towards the end of Kate Atkinson’s STARTED EARLY, TOOK MY DOG. I’ve got Walter Mosley’s second Leonid Magill novel and a debut novel called LEARNING TO SWIM by Sara J Henry on my TBR pile.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Maybe this is a cop-out, but having published a couple of books already, I’d have to choose read. Not that I don’t feel I have plenty more books in me, but not as many as I would miss if I couldn’t read.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Sharp, authoritative, efficient. (I hope)

Bill Loehfelm’s THE DEVIL SHE KNOWS is published by Farar, Straus and Giroux

Friday, April 29, 2011

EIGHTBALL BOOGIE ON E: Facts, Figures And Damned Statistics

As all Three Regular Readers will be aware, I published EIGHTBALL BOOGIE as an ebook a couple of months ago - February 19th, to be precise - making it available on Kindle US and Kindle UK, and also on a number of other formats via Smashwords, with the ebook retailing at $0.99c / £0.86p.
  Ten weeks on, it’s time for an update, and I’m happy to provide sales figures, royalties, and all that guff - although be warned, it’s not an exact science. I probably should have waited until March 1st to upload the book, as the February 19th start-date kind of skews the figures a little. Also, this post is being written on the morning of April 29th, which means it’ll be out by a few copies come midnight on April 30th, but not by enough to influence the general trend.
  Anyway, on with the show:

February 19 - 28 Kindle US: 23 copies sold (net royalty $8.05)
February 19 - 28 Kindle UK: 8 copies sold (net royalty £2.08)

Total books sold: 31


March 1 - 31 Kindle US: 58 copies sold (net royalty $20.30)
March 1 - 31 Kindle UK: 27 copies sold (net royalty £ 7.02)

Total books sold: 85


April 1 - 29 Kindle US: 89 copies sold (net royalty $28.43)
April 1 - 29 Kindle UK: 14 copies sold (net royalty £2.71)

Total books sold: 109


February 19 - April 30: total books sold: 225
February 19 - April 30: net royalty (in euro): €50.78
  So they’re the stark figures, which mean that that there’s a modest but pleasingly upward curve on sales, and that I’m currently €50.78 in the black.
  That said, I should point out that I had a new cover designed for the epub book, which cost me nothing, given that the designer, JT Lindroos, was kind enough to do so for the sake of a quid-pro-quo plug on Crime Always Pays. It’s also true that the book had previously been edited, so I didn’t have any editing / proofing costs. It’s also the case that I formatted the book myself, so I need to build in the hourly cost of the formatting (it took me about three hours). Then there’s the amount of time I spent on promoting the release, which included emailing people, responding to very kind offers of interviews, and generally doing various kinds of admin. It’s difficult to put a figure on that kind of time, though, given that a lot of the work was done early in the morning, so that it wasn’t eating into my work-day schedule; let’s just say that if I was to be scrupulous about it, I haven’t broken even yet.
  On the upside, the ebook of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE has received seven five-star reviews to date, and you’ll have to take it on faith that I didn’t post any of those reviews myself, or badger friends and family into doing so. As this is an experiment of sorts, it would defeat the purpose; besides, there’s an ethical line there that I refuse to cross, not least because there’s a singular joy to be had when an unsolicited review pops up from a reader who enjoyed your work.
  On top of all that, the stark figures tell me this: that in the last ten weeks or so, 225 people read my book. Perhaps not all of it, and it would be ludicrous to believe that everyone who read it liked it; but if even a quarter of those people liked it, then there’s a pretty good chance that they’ll tell other people about it. That, to me, is the real investment here. If you’re a writer, it’s nice to think that you might be earning a few bob from your writing; but crucially, fundamentally, it’s far more important to know that people are reading your work, and that a goodly number of those who read the work, like it. Does that smack too much of ego? Perhaps. But I guess that’s the trade-off, that the writer’s ego is stroked, and the reader gets a good return on their investment of time, patience and $0.99c.
  Anyway, and never being one to shirk from making things more difficult than they need to be, and this being an experiment of sorts, I’ve decided to raise the price of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE from $0.99c to $2.99, beginning May 1st. There are a number of reasons for this, and they run thusly.
  First off, there’s a perception abroad that readers simply won’t value a book offered at less than the cost of a second-hand book, and that may well be true. That said, you’d be hard pressed to find even a half-decent second-hand (or ‘pre-loved’) book at €2.99 these days, but that’s an argument for another day.
  Secondly, and assuming I’m not deluding myself, a book that has picked up seven five-star reviews at $0.99c is likely to be just as enjoyable a read at two dollars dearer.
  Thirdly, pricing the book at $2.99 allows me as a writer to avail of a higher royalty return from Amazon’s publishing programme - in other words, the royalty soars from 35% selling at $0.99c to 70% at $2.99. Naturally, this makes perfect sense to me as a writer, particularly if I feel the reader is still getting value for money. Whether the reader / audience / marketplace will agree is another matter entirely.
  We’ll see. This is, as I say, a work-in-progress, an experiment of sorts, and it’s very possible that this time next month, when I publish the latest figures for EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, that I’ll be climbing down from $2.99 to $0.99c again, and devising a new cardio work-out for myself designed to burn off all those calories consumed by eating humble pie.
  In the meantime, if you’re a blogger, reader, reviewer, tweeter, or simply fancy helping out, I’d be more than delighted to do any kind of interview, promotion, or whatever you’re having yourself. I can be reached at dbrodb(at)gmail(dot)com, providing I haven’t swanned off to Grand Bahama with that €50.78 royalty cheque burning a hole in my pocket …

The Neville Will Find Work For Idle Hands To Do

I interviewed Stuart Neville (right) last week, and a very pleasant experience it was too, not least because Stuart is in a very good place these days. Recently married, he’s on the shortlist for tonight’s LA Times’ Mystery / Thriller Book Awards with COLLUSION, a gong he scooped last year for his debut novel, THE TWELVE, aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. Could he possibly win two years running? It’s a big ask, as they say, particularly given the quality of the opposition: our own Tana French, for FAITHFUL PLACE; Kelli Stanley for CITY OF DRAGONS; Laura Lippman for I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE; and Tom Franklin for CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER, which is the best novel I’ve read this year to date (although my current read, IRON HOUSE by John Hart, is running it close).
  Meanwhile, Stuart is also gearing up to the release of his third novel, STOLEN SOULS, which he describes as ‘a much more streamlined, ticking-clock kind of thriller’, influenced by classic ’70s thrillers such as William Goldman’s MARATHON MAN, and the early novels of Thomas Harris. Sounds tasty. For more on STOLEN SOULS, clickety-click here
  Anyway, I asked Stuart in passing if he’d like to nominate an Irish crime title to recommend to readers, to which he responded thusly:
“The new Gene Kerrigan book, THE RAGE, is absolutely terrific. It captures that sense of Ireland on the down-slope of the rollercoaster, he’s done that very, very well. But also, his journalistic background makes it seem like there’s almost a documentary feel to it. You feel like you could be reading an actual description of a crime in it, as opposed to a fictional crime. It has a real core of authenticity to it. It’s very impressive. I’d hope that the Irish Book Awards win last year, and the CWA nomination, will help raise his profile. He’s a terrific writer.”
  That makes Stuart’s nod the third very positive recommendation for THE RAGE I’ve heard in the last couple of weeks. It isn’t released until June 2nd, but already it seems set to catapult Gene Kerrigan into the stratosphere. Here’s hoping.
  What I love most about Gene Kerrigan’s books, I think, is the ring of authenticity Stuart refers to, which is very probably derived from his years spent as a court reporter. Not for Kerrigan the demonising of criminals, little or otherwise. I never tire of repeating the line Kerrigan used during a conversation on crime writing a few years ago, when he suggested that the typical criminal isn’t all that different to law-abiding folk. “This guy will babysit your kids on a Friday night,” he said, “then go to work on Saturday morning with a gun in his pocket.”
  I always get an image of some uncle-type babysitter driven demented by an unruly brood who refuse to go to bed on time, whose shoulders straighten the next morning as he leaves the house, checking the safety on his Glock before he slouches off, some rough beast, headed for the mean streets to be born again …

UPDATE: Tom Franklin’s CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER won the LA Times’ Book Awards Best Mystery / Thriller last night, and while I’m disappointed on behalf of our own Stuart Neville and Tana French, there’s no disputing the fact that Franklin’s is a wonderful novel. Here’s the review I wrote back in February as part of that month’s Irish Times column:

Set in rural Mississippi, Tom Franklin’s CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER (Macmillan, £11.99, pb) opens with the shooting of small town mechanic Larry Ott, a semi-recluse who has long been suspected of the abduction and murder of a local girl some decades before. Local deputy Silas Jones is reluctant to lead the investigation into the shooting, as he and Larry were childhood friends before an ugly racial incident drove them apart, but the disappearance of another young girl overrules Silas’s personal distaste for the case. Ostensibly a police procedural, Franklin’s third novel deploys the genre’s narrative conventions as a framework for a much deeper exploration of the psychology of small-town America and its recent racist past. Both Larry and Silas are superbly drawn and fully fleshed characters, their personalities and conflict chthonic to rural Mississippi but luminously relevant, in Franklin’s hands, to any locale on the planet. Factor in a mesmerising evocation of rural Mississippi, language of sinuous and shimmering elegance, and a finely tuned ear for the nuances of dialogue, and you have a novel that is an early contender for one of the great novels of the year. - Declan Burke

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Now Is The BLOODY WINTER Of Our Discontent

Belfast-based author Andrew Pepper provides the latest title to prove my entirely spurious theory that crime writers are reflecting the upheavals in Irish society. BLOODY WINTER features Pepper’s 19th century detective Pyke, the Irish famine, and an unusual corpse discovered in County Tipperary. Quoth the blurb elves:
A body is discovered in a ditch outside the town of Dundrum in County Tipperary. The local land agent tells Knox, a young Irish policeman with divided loyalties, that it is the body of a vagrant and that the landowner Lord Cornwallis wants the case dealt with swiftly and quietly. The potato crop has failed for a second time and the Irish people are dying in their thousands. However when Knox examines the corpse it is clear that this man died wearing a Saville Row suit. Keeping his investigations secret, it becomes clear to Knox that the stranger came from London. Three months earlier Detective Inspector Pyke receives a letter from the daughter of a family friend. She has married a wealthy industrialist who owns ironworks in Merthyr Tydfil and her son has been kidnapped. Lured by the promise of a substantial fee and wanting to escape the tensions of Scotland Yard, Pyke agrees to go to Wales to investigate. There, he discovers a town riven with social discord following the brutal suppression of a workers strike and the importation of cheap Irish labour. The kidnapping is linked to a group of rebels but Pyke soon begins to suspect the case is not as clear cut as it seems. What are the links between the rebellion in Wales and the unrest in Ireland, and has Pyke finally bitten off more than he can chew?
  Sounds like a belter, although it’d be nice if we had some explanatory guff to flesh out the plot’s bones. But stay! What’s this? Quoth Andrew:  
“Below is some explanatory guff I wrote for Barry Forshaw over in Blighty:

“I knew at the start of the Pyke series that I wanted to write about the famine in Ireland. To do otherwise, to ignore it, when apparently committed to peering through the dark looking-glass at mid-nineteenth century British and Irish life, seemed like an abdication of responsibility. But I didn’t have any idea how such a task might be possible. How readily could the crime novel, which typically concerns itself with individual acts of murder and transgression, speak about the circumstances which led to hunger, destitution and death on such a vast scale? How far might be the idea of crime itself – the breaking of state-sanctioned laws – be unsettled by the state’s complicity in perpetuating, if not directly causing, the misery of so many? And then there was the issue of what to do with my hero, or anti-hero, Pyke, a detective whose unusual methods and dubious morality usually produce answers to the questions his investigations pose. How could such a figure, an Englishman no less, turn up in Ireland in 1847 and end up succeeding despite himself and the odds stacked against him? The very notion seemed to stink of bad faith.
  “From the beginning of BLOODY WINTER, therefore, I had made a decision not to bring Pyke to Ireland or if I did, then to have him play the most marginal of roles. And what more marginal role is there but to be a corpse? For this is the situation that Bloody Winter poses throughout: that the dead body which turns up on a Tipperary estate may be that of my erstwhile detective. And for the young, inexperienced constable who is told to turn a blind eye to the murder, the enquiry can only lead to heartache and failure: his personal failure, aided by official intransigence and the interference of vested interests, mirroring the devastation he sees all around him.
  “But having made these decisions, I needed a reason for Pyke to travel to Ireland in the first place and then I read about the migration of famine-hit Irish men and women in the other direction: to find work in the ironworks of South Wales’s original boom town, Merthyr Tydfil. And Merthyr, a forerunner of Dashiell Hammett’s Personville, a town literally and metaphorically dirtied up by mining and riven by petty criminality and industrial unrest, seemed just the kind of place where Pyke would feel perfectly at home.
  “So it is a kidnapping that first takes Pyke to Merthyr: the son of a wealthy industrialist. But Pyke soon finds out that all is not as it seems and as his suspicions settle on the town’s rich and poor alike, the novel asks what links the events in Ireland and Wales and whether the same system of free trade that has emptied Ireland of its harvest and its people is in fact be responsible for the bloodbath that greets Pyke in Merthyr. And as the young Irish constable quickly discovers, in the face of so much power, and so much needless death, what can one man realistically be expected to do?”
  So there you have it. BLOODY WINTER, as well as being another cracking Pyke mystery and a peek ‘through the dark looking-glass at mid-nineteenth century British and Irish life’, incorporates famine, bad faith, civil unrest, the protection of the wealthy classes’ vested interests and the individual beaten down in face of overwhelming state-sanctioned criminality. Hurrah! If that’s not a novel for our times, then I’ll eat my copy of AN DUANAIRE, with a side order of mouldy black spuds and nettle-leaf salad.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Girl, The Thief, The Priest And Their Lovers

I read Brian McGilloway’s new standalone, LITTLE GIRL LOST, last week, and a terrific piece of writing it is too. It feels a bit like I’m betraying the very pleasant Inspector Ben Devlin in saying so, but DS Lucy Black, the protagonist of LGL, is potentially a more intriguing character, while the writing is beautifully spare and unadorned. I’ll be reviewing LITTLE GIRL LOST in due course, but the first sighting of a review of the novel appeared in the Irish Independent, with the gist running thusly:
“Brian McGilloway is the author of four critically acclaimed Inspector Devlin police procedurals set in his hometown of Derry. This standalone thriller is cleverly constructed, packed with vibrant and believable characters and admirably free of the clichés of the genre. It confirms him as one of the most original voices in the notably expanding field of Irish crime fiction and this reviewer, for one, would like to read more of DS Lucy Black.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Elsewhere, William Ryan’s THE HOLY THIEF - currently shortlisted for the Listowel Writers’ Week Irish Fiction Award - was belatedly reviewed in the Irish Times last weekend. To wit:
“Ryan’s absorbing page-turner is a worthy contender,” says Kevin Sweeney. “The mystery at the heart of THE HOLY THIEF is intriguing, with unflinchingly graphic descriptions of torture and murder. But it is Ryan’s details of life in the bad old USSR that make the story so engrossing.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Finally, over at Book Reporter, Joe Hartlaub is impressed with Gerard O’Donovan’s THE PRIEST, a novel which we haven’t really being giving a fair crack of the whip here at CAP Towers:
“THE PRIEST by Gerard O’Donovan comes with advance heralding that would have given the Silver Surfer a run for his money. Having read the book from cover to cover in one sitting, I am here to tell you that the praise is richly deserved … THE PRIEST is an addictive beginning by an author who is positioning himself as a major talent.”
  For the rest, you know what to do
  So there you have it: three Irish crime writers feeling the lurve. Incidentally, Brian McGilloway will be appearing at No Alibis in Belfast on Friday night to announce the arrival of LITTLE GIRL LOST, where he’ll be joined by some whippersnapper called John Connolly, who may or may not be reading from his latest tome, HELL’S BELLS. For all the details, clickety-click here

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

And Quiet Flows The Dan

Published in 1994, as Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’ were winding down, and the Celtic Tiger was cranking up, DIVORCING JACK is one of the seminal tracts in the evolution of the modern Irish crime novel. Comfortable in its skin as it embraced and subverted the tropes and conventions of the classic crime novels, the novel was also assured enough to poke fun at some of Ireland’s then sacred cows.
  Its ‘hero’, the self-serving journalist Dan Starkey, featured in a number of Colin Bateman’s subsequent novels, but Dan has been curiously quiet of late. Happily, NINE INCHES, which will be published in September, sees Dan’s return, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
Dan Starkey, the ducking and diving hapless investigator, takes centre stage again in this brilliant new novel by the master of comic crime. Radio shock-jock and self-styled people’s champion Jack Caramac is used to courting controversy - but when his four-year-old son is kidnapped for just one hour, and then sent back with a warning note, he knows he may have finally gone too far. Jack has no choice but to turn to Dan Starkey for help. Recently chucked by his long-suffering wife Patricia, Dan has finally given up on journalism and is now providing a boutique, bespoke service for important people with difficult problems. Dan resolves to catch whoever kidnapped Jack’s son - and very soon finds himself in the middle of a violent feud between rival drug gangs, pursued by jealous husbands, unscrupulous property developers and vicious killers as the case spirals ever more out of his control ...
  The Big Question: where has Dan Starkey been all these years? Is it possible the ‘ducking and diving hapless investigator’ has been lying low, perhaps even hiding in plain sight, as a nameless ducking and diving hapless investigator who runs a crime fiction bookstore in Belfast? The answer to this, and many other questions, will not be revealed when NINE INCHES finally arrives.
  As for that title, could it possibly refer to the cranial dimensions of big-brain, clever-clogs Starkey? Or does it refer to a less cerebral measurement? Only time, that perfidiously twittering canary, will tell …

Monday, April 25, 2011

Origins: Russel D. McLean

Being the latest entry in a fitfully irregular series, in which yours truly reclines on a hammock by the pool with a jeroboam of Elf-Wonking Juice™ and lets a proper writer talk about the origins of his or her characters and stories. This week: Russel D. McLean, author of THE GOOD SON.

“It’s fair to say that J McNee is not the man I thought he was when I started writing my debut novel, THE GOOD SON.
  “The protagonist of THE GOOD SON – a Scots private eye who lost his fiancé in a car crash years earlier, who’s learning how to live in the world once again – was created in a moment of anger. He quite literally rose from the ashes of another character.
  “THE GOOD SON had been written for another protagonist. The character was a fellow PI. His name was Sam Bryson. He’d been successful in a series of short stories* I’d written for various markets including Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. He was a man with issues, but he was kept stable by a supporting cast that filled in the roles of a family surrounding this “lone wolf” hero.
  “My then-editor wrote to me with a suggestion, “Could we get rid of the supporting cast? There’s too much backstory. The readers won’t know all the history.”
  “To put it mildly, this suggestion irritated me. But it was apparently a deal-breaker. So I went with it in the only way I could. I retired Bryson. Replaced him with an initially nameless narrator. The narrator was nameless not only in an homage to Bill Pronzini’s wonderful Nameless series (which I count among my PI Inspirations) but also in a deliberate jab at the suggestion. They wanted me to give us a character whose backstory was “simple”, I figured the best way to do that was to give him none. To make sure we knew nothing of him off the case.
  “But of course, the world has a funny way of working out.
  “Because the more I wrote about this nameless protagonist, the more he began to slip in hints of something about his life. Sure, he had no real friends or family, but there was a hint that this was something of his own choosing. And suddenly, he was ignoring messages from a woman named “Rachel” who was telling him that “they needed to talk.”
  “But it wasn’t what I thought. Not by a long shot.
  “I allowed myself to loosen up the restrictions, to let this character come into his own. Snippets of dialogue grew into scenes and memories that seemed to make sense of the character’s isolation and barely restrained rage. They gave him a motivation and purpose. The more I took out lines of dialogue that sounded like Sam Bryson, the more I found the new dialogue shaping the attitudes and backstory of this new protagonist.
  “And somewhere along the line, he gained a name.
  “No first name. He’s stated on several occasions he doesn’t like anyone to use it. Even his fiancée, he claimed, called him McNee.
  “His fiancée, who I soon discovered was not the woman he was avoiding. The mysterious Rachel was his fiancée’s sister. And she wanted to talk to McNee about something that happened before the book opened. Something that gave me the final hook I needed, the final piece of the puzzle that completed McNee as a character for me. That explained the rage I found in his words, the reasons he tried to withdraw from the world.
  “Once I understood him, I was better able to fit him into the book I had written for another character. The novel shaped itself around him, became a means of exploring his character, of helping him to deal with that incident that occurred a few short months before the novel’s opening. The book became even more about him than it had been about Bryson. And, strangely, much stronger for it.
  “McNee began as a strike back at a suggestion I disliked. He evolved beyond that. Became his own person. A unique character. Donna Moore, the author of the incredible OLD DOGS, once said of McNee on her blog that “you don’t know whether to hug him or punch him.”
  “Which means I succeeded, I think, in creating a very human character.” - Russel D. McLean

Russel D. McLean’s THE GOOD SON has just been released in a UK Kindle edition. It is still available in UK paperback edition from Five Leaves Publications.

*which are soon to be collected in an e-edition of their very own

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fare Thee Well, Then, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL …

… I knew thee well. It’s a Red Letter day, folks. One of those days that means nothing to anyone else, in the grand scheme of things - no deals were struck, no books were signed, no fortunes were made. It’s the day when I finally put to bed the final draft of my latest book, ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL (mocked-up cover, right), tucked it up tight under its blankets, to sleep, perchance to dream.
  It’s a fine feeling indeed, one of accomplishment and satisfaction, of having gone the distance, run the race. That feeling won’t last long, I know - this moment is the eye of the storm, the real-but-false period of calm. If previous experiences of finishing a book are anything to go by, soon enough the bliss will give way to exhaustion, the satisfaction to doubt, and I’ll go into a slump, a kind of cold turkey withdrawal. As soon as I send the book to the publisher - and by ‘as soon’ I mean within minutes - all my mind’s eye will be able to see is the mistakes, the gaffes, the missteps, and we’ll be back into the storm again. Still, at least we have the safety-net of the proofs to come, even if, right now, the very idea of reading a single line of it again is enough to turn my stomach.
  The fact that the redraft coincided with receiving the proofs for DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS didn’t help matters much, but now they’re both done and dusted (if not yet polished), and it feels like I’ve lost about two stone in weight, most of it around the shoulders.
  Anyway, that’s it. Stick a fork in my ass, I’m done. Done with writing for the foreseeable future. No more rising at 5am to snatch a couple of hours before the day begins. No more staring bleary-eyed at a screen at 11.30pm, proofing the precious / pathetic few words I managed to scratch out before dawn. No more feeling guilty for not writing, or feeling guilty for writing and stealing time away from my family. No more the corrosive decision, made every day, of whether to write (fiction) for love or (journalism) for money. No more doubts and second-guessing myself for six months at least, and a fortnight in Cyprus to come next month. Yea, verily, my cup runneth over …
  So - is ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL any good? I honestly can’t say. I’m still too close to it, obviously, to have any kind of perspective; besides, it’s not typical of my previous books. It’s not a conventional story, it’s not typically a crime novel, or any other kind of novel either, so I really don’t have much to measure it against.
  I did get a huge boost at the start of last week, which arrived at the perfect time, given that I was in the throes of self-doubt and comma-fiddling, when Melissa Hill got in touch. As with all the other big-ups for the book (scroll down, left), Melissa Hill is an author: she writes women’s fiction as Melissa Hill, and has recently published, with her husband, a crime novel under the pseudonym Casey Hill. The gist of her verdict ran thusly:
“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill
  Very pleasant it was to receive, as you might appreciate, and very grateful I am too. I thank you kindly, ma’am.
  Here’s the thing, though - the story, which is essentially about a hospital porter bent on blowing up the hospital where he works, is framed by a conversation between the book’s author and said porter, as they redraft the story into what they hope will be a commercial prospect that will see the character of the porter liberated from the limbo of non-publication.
  In other words, it’s entirely possible that readers who are writers will like the book more than readers who aren’t writers. So there’s that to worry about.
  But I’ll worry about it anon. Today is the writing equivalent of that lazy, yawny, stretchy time between sleep and waking on a Bank Holiday morning, when nothing seems real and everything seems possible. Hell, there’s even a rumour, courtesy of my publisher and his sojourn to the London Book Fair, that an American publisher - very well regarded, although it would be impolite to name names - is taking a long, hard look at AZC.
  So there you have it. The book is done. Time to put myself to bed, tucked up tight beneath the blankets, to sleep, perchance to dream …