It’s fair to say that Alex Barclay’s reputation precedes her. Formerly a fashion journalist, the Irish crime writer burst onto the international crime writing scene in 2006 with the bestseller Dark House, a novel celebrated for its exploration of the brutal aspects of human nature. The 39-year-old has subsequently published four more adult crime novels, but her new offering, Curse of Kings, is an epic quest written for young adults.For the rest, clickety-click here …
“I was a little concerned about someone not buying a book for their child because it’s written by a crime writer,” says Alex. “And everyone said, ‘No, crime writers who write even darker stuff than you write for children too.’ So that,” she laughs, “is kind of reassuring.”
Subtitled ‘The Trials of Oland Born’, Curse of Kings tells the tale of 14-year-old Oland, factotum to the evil Villius Ren, usurper of the good King Micah of the Kingdom of Decressian. Humiliated and abused on a daily basis, Oland finally snaps and sets out on the journey that will, a mysterious letter informs him, lead him to his destiny.
Alex cites her childhood reading of Enid Blyton as the strongest influence on Curse of Kings.
“My favourite books of hers would have been The Enchanted Wood and The Faraway Tree series. In terms of what stayed with me, it’s very definitely mysteries and secrets and exotic locations. I recently found some of my ‘early writings’, from between the ages of four and nine, they were all in our attic at home – what a laugh! But sure enough, they were all stories about caves, and secret things far away, and mysterious people acting strange.
“This book was probably written for myself, aged 14,” she continues. “The escapism and the strangeness of it all would have been amazing to me then, but the magical elements would have been great too. I just love, as a reader, not questioning that kind of fantasy. And as a writer, that’s great – it’s not rooted in the ‘gritty realism’ of crime fiction, you just have to let go and not question it all too much. I would never have questioned it as a child, and I think I’ve never lost that ability.”
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “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.