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, July 9, 2011

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: The Guard

The Guard (15A)
Brendan Gleeson stars as Sergeant Gerry Boyle, a Connemara-based Garda whose feckless existence is compromised when FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) appears in Galway on the hunt for a gang of international drug smugglers. Written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother of the award-winning playwright Martin McDonagh, The Guard employs the narrative structure of a conventional police procedural to unleash a wickedly black comedy of manners. The culture-clash between the focused and driven Everett and the irreverent and occasionally criminal Boyle is sharply observed, with Cheadle (who co-produces) content to play the straight man to Gleeson’s foul-mouthed stream of non sequiturs. Both actors are in fine fettle, and the rest of the cast - including Liam Cunningham, Larry Wilmot and Fionnula Flanagan - are happy to cruise along in their slipstream and heighten the surreal sense of humour, which is rooted in a very Irish resentment of authority in any form. The latter stages flatten the characterisations as McDonagh sets in train a manic finale, which is a little too derivative of the comedy-crime caper staples to be truly satisfying, but for the most part The Guard is one of the funniest comedies of the year to date. **** - Declan Burke

This review first appeared in the Irish Examiner

Friday, July 8, 2011

The Very Best In Nasty Sex, Sorta

Pray silence for the Kindle-only publication of Allan Guthrie’s modern classic, TWO-WAY SPLIT, a debut novel which won the Theakston’s Old Peculier award in 2007. If you haven’t stumbled across Allan Guthrie before, this was Crime Always Pays’ take at the time:
“The holdall sat on the bed like an ugly brown bag of conscience.” Fans of classic crime writing will get a kick or five out of TWO-WAY SPLIT, and we’re talking classic: Allan Guthrie’s multi-character exploration of Edinburgh’s underbelly marries the spare, laconic prose of James M. Cain with the psychological grotesqueries of Jim Thompson at his most lurid … The result is a gut-knotting finale that unfurls with the inevitability of all great tragedy and the best nasty sex – it’ll leave you devastated, hollowed out, aching to cry and craving more. – Declan Burke
  For more in the same vein, clickety-click here
  And if you don’t believe me - I wouldn’t - then how about these two encomiums?
“Seek him out and buy his book.” - Ian Rankin
“Excellent.” - George Pelecanos
  So there you have it. TWO-WAY SPLIT for 99p on Amazon UK, or 99c on Amazon US. Buy it now, or Big Al will come around and bat his eyelashes at you … Or is it that if you do buy it, Big Al will come around and bat the eyelashes? I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter. Just buy it. You won’t regret it.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: David Peace

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?
THE GLASS KEY by Dashiell Hammett.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
George Smiley.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t really think like that; if it’s good, I keep reading and if it’s bad, I stop.

Most satisfying writing moment?

The best Irish crime novel is …?
Top three today would be: THE THIRD POLICEMAN by Flann O’Brien; THE ULTRAS by Eoin McNamee; THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any book by Eoin McNamee, or THE TWELVE by Stuart Neville.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Every day I thank God I can still write; so nothing bad, everything good.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Japan, 1949; One God. One Devil. Two men: THE EXORCISTS.

Who are you reading right now?
HOW LATE IT WAS, HOW LATE by James Kelman.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Reading and writing is the same act for me; so both or neither.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Not finished yet.

David Peace’s ‘Red Riding Quartet’ is now available on Kindle.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

It’s A Long Way Back To Tipperary

Shades of Eoin McNamee in Carlo Gébler’s latest offering, THE DEAD EIGHT, which is a novel based on a historical true crime. Quoth the blurb elves:
On a wet November morning in 1940, Harry Gleeson discovered the body of Moll McCarthy in a field near the village of New Inn, Co. Tipperary. Moll McCarthy had been shot twice with a shotgun, once in the face - Carlo Gébler’s novel is an attempt to explain how the local police fabricated their case and fitted up Harry Gleeson, and why an entire community looked away as the Irish judicial system prosecuted, convicted and condemned to death an innocent man. Albert Pierrepoint (the hangman) executed Harry Gleeson in Mountjoy in April 1941.
  THE DEAD EIGHT isn’t the first time that Gébler has dipped his quill into old blood: W9 & OTHER LIVES, THE CURE and HOW TO MURDER A MAN have all dabbled in crime narratives, although Gébler - who also writes memoir, children’s stories and non-genre fiction, as well as being a playwright - is critically acclaimed as a literary author.
  Anyway, THE DEAD EIGHT is winging its way towards me as you read this, so we’ll soon see whether it qualifies as a crime novel. Or not, as the case may be. Not that it matters: a good book is a good book, end of story.
  For those of you interested, and leaving aside the author’s intent and execution, my theory as to what constitutes a crime novel runs as follows: if you can take the crime out of the story and it still stands up, it’s probably not a crime novel; but if you take the crime away and the story collapses, then it’s a crime novel.
  If anyone has any other suggestions, the comment box is open …
  Incidentally, is it just me or is there a striking similarity between the cover of THE DEAD EIGHT and Gene Kerrigan’s non-fiction collection from 1996, HARD CASES?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Black In The Pink

The New York Times has a bit of a jones for Irish crime scribes these days. Yesterday I mentioned Marilyn Stasio’s review of Conor Fitzgerald’s THE FATAL TOUCH; not to be outdone, Janet Maslin weighed in with a fine appreciation of Benjamin Black’s latest, A DEATH IN SUMMER. The gist runs thusly:
“Benjamin Black, whose fourth book is A DEATH IN SUMMER, started out as the escapist alter ego of John Banville, who won the Man Booker Prize for his 2005 novel THE SEA. But his Black persona has been such a success that he looks increasingly like the Superman to Mr. Banville’s more literary Clark Kent. His books about the dour Irish pathologist named Quirke have effortless flair, with their period-piece cinematic ambience and their sultry romance. The Black books are much more like Alan Furst’s elegant, doom-infused World War II spy books than like standard crime tales.” - Janet Maslin
  Mind you, Ms Maslin does report that Mr Black does succumb “to the occasional fit of verbosity. At one atypically overripe moment the author manages to use “miasmic,” “ether,” “teeming,” “bacilli,” “succumb,” “writhe” and “tender torment” in the same sentence.”
  I have to say that I didn’t notice that particular sentence when I read A DEATH IN SUMMER, which I enjoyed very much, not least because there’s a palpable sense of John Banville settling into the Benjamin Black persona and - whispers, now - actually enjoying it. For my take on the novel, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, Eithne Shortall in the Sunday Times (no link) brought us the news that the Benjamin Black novels are to be made into a TV series for the BBC, to be filmed in Dublin by Tyrone Productions and Element Pictures. To wit:
Banville … set out to create a detective series for television, and when the project was shelved he converted it into a novel. Nine years later it is about to complete a roundabout journey to the screen. […] Each of the first three Black books will be turned into a 90-minute drama, and if they prove successful the fourth instalment will also be adapted.
  So that’s Black in the pink, and Banville in the black. Nice.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Conor Fitzgerald: Start Spreading The News

If you can make it there, you’re going to make it, period. It’s always nice to see the cream rise to the top, and such was the case over the weekend, when Conor Fitzgerald’s very fine novel THE FATAL TOUCH was reviewed in the New York Times. To wit:
Some Americans abroad fantasize about lingering in Paris to paint or jumping ship in Jamaica to become beach bums. Conor Fitzgerald had a better idea in his first novel, THE DOGS OF ROME, when he allowed his ex-pat hero, Alec Blume, to put down roots in Rome as a homicide cop. A free-spirited maverick, Commissario Blume returns in THE FATAL TOUCH (Bloomsbury, $25) to investigate the death of an old tramp, a notorious brawler and a drunk, assumed to have been killed during a mugging. But this routine case takes a tricky turn once Blume, whose parents were art historians, determines that this was no mugging and that the victim was really a skilled forger with clients in high places. Although an organized crime angle injects an element of danger into the investigation, there’s more pleasure to be had from Fitzgerald’s commentary on the victim’s dodgy trade, including fascinating technical instruction for “forgers, interpreters, emulators, admirers and genuine artists.” - Marilyn Stasio
  Very nice indeed. In fact the ‘victim’s dodgy trade’, which Fitzgerald offers courtesy of a memoir written by said victim, the art forger Henry Treacy, could very easily have spun off into a novel itself, and one that wouldn’t be dissimilar in tone and content to John Banville’s THE BOOK OF EVIDENCE, had Freddie Montgomery traded in ripping of famous artists as opposed to murder. I very much liked THE FATAL TOUCH too, with the gist of my review running thusly:
“Beautifully written, the story proceeds at a stately pace which disguises an exquisitely complex plot, as Blume delicately negotiates the labyrinth that is Roman policing. Fitzgerald has an elegant, spare style that straddles both the literary and crime genres, and the style is perfectly pitched to reflect Blume’s own world-weariness.” - Declan Burke
  For the rest, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, I had a hugely enjoyable chat with the very generous Ben LeRoy of Tyrus Books yesterday, which he recorded and has since posted as a podcast. The general thrust of the chat had to do with DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS and my forthcoming ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, but it’s a pretty general chat, and incorporates crime writing of all stripes, with a strong flavour of Irish crime fiction. If you’re interested, clickety-click here
  Finally, although staying with GREEN STREETS, Tony Black was good enough to post his memories of the launch of said tome over at Pulp Pusher, although by the time the pic at right was taken in the Turk’s Head, it was all over bar the screaming, and plenty of that there was too. Quoth Tony:
“Mr Bruen was on particularly sparkling form, dropping a request for the assembled to reveal their life’s regrets! Don’t think I’m detailing those here: what goes on in the Turk’s Head stays in the Turk’s Head. Particularly nice to see Ken again, though, because the last time we met (the London launch of CROSS) I was an unpublished wannabe and he couldn’t have been more effusive in his encouragement. Hollywood success hasn’t changed him a bit. Luvly fellah.”
  Amen to that. For the rest of Tony’s reminisces, clickety-click here

Sunday, July 3, 2011

On Gene Kerrigan, Agatha Christie And Quantum Mechanics

The latest of the Irish Times’ Crime Beat columns was published yesterday, and led off with a review of THE RAGE by Gene Kerrigan. To wit:
THE RAGE (Harvill Secker, £11.99) is the fourth novel from journalist Gene Kerrigan, a serial chronicler of Dublin’s criminal underworld who was last year shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger, and was the winner of the Irish Book Awards’ crime fiction prize, for his previous offering, DARK TIMES IN THE CITY (2009). THE RAGE essentially blends two stories, that of Detective Sergeant Bob Tidey, who is investigating the apparent suicide of a banker of dubious morality, and that of Vincent Naylor, a low-level criminal recently released from prison with plans to move up in the world. That the men will eventually cross paths is inevitable, although it’s Kerrigan’s quality of gritty realism that renders THE RAGE an enjoyable page-turner as Tidey negotiates the blind alleys of a labyrinth constructed by officious judges, corrupt lawyers, and even his own superiors. Largely recession-proof (“Bob Tidey was in the law and order business, and whatever else went belly-up there’d always be hard men and chancers and a need for someone to manners on them.”), Tidey is an empathic character, pragmatic rather than idealistic, but what makes THE RAGE a compulsive document of post-Celtic Tiger Ireland is Tidey’s growing awareness that the moral anarchy that reigns at all levels of Irish society means that the old rules no longer apply, especially when it comes to enforcing a crude approximation of law and order, by any means necessary.
  Also reviewed are SJ Watson’s BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP, Erin Kelly’s THE POISON TREE, Mary Higgins Clark’s I’LL WALK ALONE, and Keigo Higashino’s THE DEVOTION OF SUSPECT X, which last I heartily recommend as an erudite, thought-provoking thriller. For the full column, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, there was some interesting short-list nominations during the week. Mind you, the only real surprise would have been had Tana French’s ubiquitous FAITHFUL PLACE (which has so far been short-listed for an Edgar, an Anthony and a LA Times book award this year) not made the Best Mystery list in the Macavity Awards.
  A less-trumpeted title, on these pages at least, is John Curran’s AGATHA CHRISTIE’S SECRET NOTEBOOKS: FIFTY YEARS OF MYSTERIES IN THE MAKING, a labour of love that contains no less than two unpublished Poirot short stories, and which pops up in the Best Mystery-Related Nonfiction section. Incidentally, the follow-up to SECRET NOTEBOOKS will be published in September under the title AGATHA CHRISTIE’S MURDER IN THE MAKING, all of which may or may not mean that Curran’s doctoral thesis on Christie, undertaken at Trinity College, Dublin, may or may not be on the backburner for now. For the full rundown of Macavity nominees, you know what to do
  Elsewhere, William Ryan beat off some stiff contenders (oo-er, vicar, etc.) to make the Theakston’s Old Peculier shortlist, a feat that’s all the more impressive when you consider that his novel, THE HOLY THIEF, is a debut offering. Another serial nominee, which has already been under consideration for Best Novel awards with the CWA and the Listowel Writer’s Week, THE HOLY THIEF will see its sequel, THE BLOODY MEADOW, published in September. All of which means that William Ryan is very probably feeling rather pleased with himself right now, and deservedly so. For the full list of nominees, via Kiwi Crime, clickety-click here
  Finally, those of you pining for the stentorian tones of the Dark Lord himself, John Connolly, should click on this interview with the Daily Telegraph, in which the HELL’S BELLS author waxes lyrical about hell, bells and why he was entitled to, and duly received, an apology from CERN for the quality of his understanding of quantum mechanics. Proper order, too …