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, June 21, 2007

Funky Friday’s Free-For-All: Being A Cornucopia Of Interweb Stuff-‘N’-Such Humbly Offered For Your Delectation

A good friend of all things crime fictional, Ali Karim delivers his verdict on Ken Bruen (left) over at Shotsmag … incidentally, a little bird tells us that Sir Kenneth of the Tribes appears on LA’s answer to Leno and Letterman, Craig Ferguson, on July 6, only the third ever crime writer to do so. Fully deserved, reckon we … He may not have achieved Letterman status just yet, but Critical Mick was kind enough to interview inky-fingered urchin Declan Burke. Not only that, but he’s already nominating The Big O as one of his ‘Best of 2007’ reads – and it’s still only June! Oh, the glamour … The Denver Post gave John Connolly’s The Unquiet a major hup-ya last month by publishing the first chapter in its entirety – a marketeer’s wet dream, no less. Staying with Connolly, the Mystery Bookstore is hosting a transcript of their Connolly podcast interview … Manhunt 2 has just been awarded the dubious distinction of being the first video game to be banned in Ireland, censor John Kelleher and his trusty deputy Ger Connolly deciding it’s ‘gratuitously violent’. Erm, it’s a shoot-’em-up, chaps, what were you expecting? … The shortlist for the Theakston’s Old Perculier Crime Novel of the Year has arrived, and we heard it first from Sarah Weinman’s very fine blogging experience Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind. Three cheers, two stools and a resounding huzzah for Benjamin Black, whose Christine Falls is up for a Macavity, aka Best Mystery Novel, whether he likes it or not … Meanwhile, Tana French’s (below) In The Woods has been getting so many raves that she’s had to start her own interweb hosting thingagummy. It is, as our sainted aunt Mathilda used to say, a good complaint to have … Finally, some Angry Alien action to round off the week, in which the bunnies do a foul-mouthed three-minute version of Pulp Fiction. Reminds us of the time Woundwort went for the dog’s throat, bless his megalomaniac hide. And that’s it for another week, folks – have a very fine weekend and y’all come back hear now, y’hear?

Waiting For The Miracle To Come

Junkies and judges, eh? Pests, the lot of ’em … unless, of course, the ex-junkie in question is Shay Byrne, now a teacher in Germany and author of The Miracle of Fatima Mansions, ‘a brutally honest memoir by a former Dublin heroin addict … challenging preconceptions about the origins and development of Ireland’s drug culture,’ if the blurb elves over at Maverick House are to be believed. Once an addict and dealer, Byrne narrowly escaped death in an attack at Dublin’s Fatima Mansions, a place now synonymous with deprivation, decay and drug-blighted lives and the location for the epiphany that would change Byrne’s life. Launched last week by Mr Justice Paul Carney of the Irish High Court, The Miracle of Fatima Mansions offers a unique and compelling insight into the evolution of the Irish heroin scene. Or so we’re told, because Lennie 'Laughing Boy' Cohen isn’t the only one still waiting for his Miracle to come. Oi, Gert – what’s the story?

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 417: Arlene Hunt

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 Choirboys, by Joseph Wambaugh. I’ve read that book many a time and I still love it (his latest, Hollywood Station, is shaping up to be a right old feast too). The Choirboys contains the single most brilliant line up of characters I’ve ever clapped my beady eyes on. A rag-bag shower of LA cops, like Roscoe Rules, and Waddayamean Dean … Jesus, I’m laughing even thinking about it. But then I get all teary-eyed at the poignancy of the story too. Damn you, Wambaugh!
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
James Herriot and all the vet books, they make me laugh out loud. In Barcelona I had to stop reading them on the metro because I would flail about in hysterics, making those Catalan doobies very nervous indeed.
Most satisfying writing moment?
When I’ve spent two days cursing, procrastinating, complaining and glowering at my computer screen about some plot problem or other, only for a cartoon light-bulb to go ‘ping’ over my head. I have been known to shout, “SHEWALLAH!” when that happens, frightening any number of useless animals.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
I don’t know, I don’t read a lot of Irish crime, except for John Connolly, so steeped in American noir that I am. However, I intend to rectify that. Ask me again in a few months.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
Any of mine, hear that producer dudes! Try me, I'm not greedy. ANY OF MINE!
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The best thing is working for yourself, answering to yourself and being able to stay in jeans all day long if you want to - and I do. The worst is the fear, the fear that no one will like what you’ve just invested the best part of a year in. I don’t mean critics either, I mean readers. I don’t know what I’m going to drink the day I get an email from a reader saying, “I didn't like your last book nearly as much as the others.” Rum and Coke probably, the non-diet kind. Oh, I’ll go wild.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
Who can say? Maybe he thought folk would ridicule him for trying a different genre. I’m inclined to forgive Banville a lot of things because I liked The Untouchable so much. Indeed, I went about talking just so, and saying things in a clipped faux Eton accent for weeks. But then he came out with The Sea and that made my brow go all funny and furrowed, so this sort of thing really means he’s chapping my hide a bit. And then he does those terrible highbrow reviews where I have to sit with a dictionary in one hand and a stiff drink in the other. It's just not on, you know.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Speedy entertaining pap.

Arlene Hunt’s Missing Presumed Dead is out now

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Yep, It’s Still Millar Time

Crikey! There was us thinking that the publication of Bloodstorm this coming December would be Sam Millar’s big news of the month. Silly us. Quoth Sam:
“I’ve just been informed that French publishing house Fayard has bought the French rights to The Darkness of Bones and The Redemption Factory. This comes on the heels of American publishing house Avalon Publishing Group purchasing the rights to The Redemption Factory. I have just acquired the rights to my best-selling memoir, On The Brinks (it’s a long story, but they are now back where they belong – with me! Funny how you slave over something for five years, only to be told it is no longer yours???), and I am very confident of seeing On The Brinks being purchased in America as well as by numerous publishers in Europe. Oh, and Brandon (my present publishers) will be marking their 25th year in publishing with a release of a collection of work by twenty-five of its crime writers, in Dublin in September, of which I am one. I’ll keep you informed of the exact date.”
Erm, please do. Righty-o, we’re off for a lie-down with the shades pulled down …

This Week We’re Reading … End Games and Julius Winsome

‘The last Aurelio Zen mystery’ proclaims the cover, dashing the hopes of those bereft Michael Dibdin fans who might have been hoping there was a draft or two stashed away in a desk drawer that might some day be posthumously published. But no – the very fine End Games, prophetically enough, is where Zen finally runs out of time. Ironically, given the way Zen has been ducking and diving and generally cheating Il Grimmo Reapero in recent times, this novel is a far more placid and meditative piece, and one which, in the final analysis, finds Zen fight his conscience to a grinding stalemate. Here’s hoping Dibdin achieved something similar before his far too early shuffle off this mortal coil. RIP, sir. Meanwhile, Gerard Donovan’s Julius Winsome, we’re more than pleased to report, lives up to all the hype, being a gripping first-person narrative of one of the most unusual and sympathetic murderers you’ll ever have the pleasure to meet. It’s difficult to avoid the Jim Thompson / Killer Inside of Me comparisons, so we won’t, but Donovan brings a tough poetry to his deranged hero, who goes – very quietly, but very deliberately – on the warpath when his beloved dog and only companion is cruelly shot to death in the remote woods of northern Maine. All in all, as fine a week’s reading as we can remember.

One Of These Kids Is Doing His Eoin Thing

He’s taken some stick for his fictionalised take on the death of the Princess of Wails, aka ‘Spencer’, but an unrepentant Eoin McNamee (right) is at Belfast’s premier crime fiction outlet No Alibis tomorrow night to celebrate the launch of 12:33: A Parisian Summer. We’ll be the reprobates up the front a-squealing and throwing our knickers and praying for one of those smouldering glances … Oh, and while we’re on the subject – 12:33 was among a whole mess of '10th anniversary of the death of Princess Di' books reviewed by The Observer last Sunday, although quite what the reviewer was trying to say still eludes us. Like ducks staring at thunder, we are, and that’s on a good day. Back to No Alibis – not only is Harlan Coben choppering in to Belfast’s finest crime blah-de-blah on July 19, he’ll be doing a Q&A at Queen’s Film Theatre after a screening of the rather fine French movie Tell No One (Ne Le Dis A Personne) based on his novel. Book early, book often, people …

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Kilroy Iz ’Ere

And Claire Kilroy ain’t going away, if the reviews for Tenderwire are anything to go by. Quoth The Times: “The book’s appeal lies in this variety and in its humanity. Claire Kilroy’s writing is dramatic and lyrical by turns and the exotic features are just colourful background for a good and substantial yarn.” Over at Mostly Fiction, they largely concur: “This novel should gain some American fans for its Irish author. Its story is a good one, with some narrative twists along the way that deepen Eva’s character. While not brilliant, this novel manages to satisfy, and the reason is does is no mystery.” The readers over at Amazon UK are also on board, to wit: “If you like a well written literary thriller that keeps you turning the pages but also fulfils your need for some excellent writing, this is the perfect book,” while the folks at Amazon US are equally impressed: “This book was almost impossible to put down, very fast paced and exciting,” and “I loved this book – it is so tightly written, so well-paced, so interesting and exciting. I could barely put it down.” Which is nice …

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Bishop’s Pawn by KT McCaffrey

If it’s linguistic pyrotechnics you’re after, you’d be advised to look elsewhere: KT McCaffrey writes in a quiet, measured and very effective fashion that reflects the way his main protagonist, journalist Emma Boylan, goes about her business. Set in Dublin, Bishop’s Pawn is a sequel-of-sorts to McCaffrey’s first novel, Revenge (1999). It opens with Emma discovering that the newspaper she works for is about to publish her obituary. Other newspapers follow suit, and – as corpses begin to pile up – it soon becomes apparent that the practical joke has sinister overtones. In Revenge, Emma was one of a number of eye-witnesses to the suicide of a woman whose life had been destroyed by an elaborate cover-up partly engineered by the Catholic Church. Now the woman’s daughter has come of age, and seems hell-bent on nothing less than divinely inspired retribution. The thrill of KT McCaffrey’s writing is the juxtaposition between that finely modulated downbeat style and the apocalyptic scenario it describes. Emma is an Everywoman who is not particularly tough or hardboiled, and whose domestic concerns run parallel to the CSI-style bodycount. The tension that builds relentlessly from the early stages is derived from Emma’s very ordinariness, which includes a penchant for logical thinking appropriate to an investigative journalist, and the outrageous machinations of the psychopathic murderess she finds herself pitted against. Certainly McCaffrey can do pithy humour (“There’s a breeze out there that’d freeze a pawnbroker’s balls.”), and his multiple-character narrative that drives with tragic inevitability towards an explosive finale has all the components of a blockbuster movie script. But once the dust has settled, the abiding and poignant memory is of McCaffrey’s skill in evoking the nuances of Emma’s plight as she finds herself at the heart of a maelstrom that threatens to destroy everything she once believed in. The ability to mine the extraordinary from the ordinary, as the Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh once put it, is not one that should be underestimated. Bishop’s Pawn is a superb addition to the canon of Irish crime fiction.- Declan Burke

This review was reproduced by the kind permission of Euro Crime

Flick Lit # 21: The Big Heat

An ex-US Army sergeant (he served from 1943 to 1946, and won the Soldier’s Medal for saving the crew of a bombed tanker) and former police reporter for the Philadelphia Bulletin, William P. McGivern’s public persona was that of a dutiful citizen who reinforced the status quo. When he turned to writing hard-boiled crime novels, however, the gamekeeper turned poacher’s stories concerned themselves with the activities of those who play in the cracks between law and order. He wrote mainly about ‘state crimes’, specifically police collusion in official corruption; the titles – Shield For Murder (1951), The Crooked Frame (1952), The Big Heat (1953), Rogue Cop (1954), Odds Against Tomorrow (1957), and Savage Streets (1959) – tell their own tale. McGivern’s protagonists were for the most part honest men suffocating in the poisoned atmosphere of state-sanctioned corruption, men driven to do the wrong thing for the right reasons. The theme fascinated McGivern, because “the frustration of our society forms a powerful thrust for people to take the law into their own hands and, while this is a tempting indulgence, I have tried to make it plain in my books that it never really works.” First serialised in the Saturday Evening Post, The Big Heat is perhaps the most hard-bitten, cynical example of how the ordinary individual will always be doomed to fail when confronted by money, power and murderous greed. “In William McGivern’s brilliant portrayal of suburban versus urban angst,” writes Woody Haut in Pulp Culture, “the mob blows apart Detective Bannion’s cosy middle-class home not long after (he) and soon-to-be-deceased wife discuss child development over gin and tonics.” A prototypical Dirty Harry, Bannion abandons his ‘official’ role as police detective and pursues the mobsters until he has gained revenge for the murder of his wife. In the process he loses his soul: “Something had ended this morning. Now he was starting over, not with hatred but with sadness.” While the words are wistful, Bannion is forced to acknowledge that he has become unfit to care for the child he set out to protect by any means necessary. A refugee from Nazi Germany, director Fritz Lang was also concerned with social consciousness, the impact of a brutal state on the isolated individual, and the links between police behaviour and organised crime. The Big Heat (1953) was the perfect vehicle. Although McGivern’s prose was bleakly sparse, Lang stripped the story back to its bare essentials, while Charles Lang’s chiaroscuro photography and off-kilter framing became a classic example of film noir’s German expressionism. The casting too was clever. Glenn Ford generally played run-of-the-mill good guys, and thus his transformation into seething killer was all the more dramatic. But the supporting players upstaged even Ford’s performance: Lee Marvin as the apparently deranged hoodlum, Gloria Grahame defining the roll of gangster’s moll. The violence is sadistic and unflinchingly brutal, although the film’s most celebrated scene, in which Marvin throws a pot of scalding coffee into Grahame’s face, happens off-screen, a trick that didn’t escape Quentin Tarantino’s notice. While the film was one of a number inspired by the 1950’s US Senate organised crime investigations – including Hoodlum Empire (1952), Captive City (1952) and The Phoenix City Story (1955) – The Big Heat is notable for the consummate care Lang brought to each and every frame; every scene is directed as if it will be his last. Thus, when the denouement arrives and Bannion wins out against the implacable forces of state injustice – aided by a motley crew of cripples, old army buddies and even the femme fatale, Grahame – the film transcends its crime and noir roots to provide an ending as moving as any in the canon of film.- Michael McGowan

Monday, June 18, 2007

Sleeping Dogs Lie: A Little Bit Of Bark, A Little Bit Of Bite

Here’s one Sleeping Dog that won’t lie doggo. Ontario-based Sylvester Young, born in England of Jamaican parents, wrote What Goes Around after one of his regular trips to Ireland.
“There weren’t many black people in Ireland back then,” says Sylvester, “and someone asked me if I was related to a black man who had been a member of the IRA in County Tipperary. I’m not sure if the story was true but it gave me an idea for a novel.”
So far, so good. Except the sequel, Sleeping Dogs Lie, in which fugitive from justice Robbie Walker and his ex-IRA friend Danny make their way to the States and get embroiled in a FBI plot, pushed all the wrong buttons in all the wrong places. Unable to get published in America, Young sent his m/s to Ireland. Cue chaos. According to the Sleeping Dogs Lie press release, the m/s was confiscated and his editor was arrested and questioned for three days.
“I was troubled by the news,” says Young, “but I can understand in the climate created since 9/11 how the references to the IRA, the FARC and a bomb plot on American soil within the manuscript would have aroused the police’s interest.”
Very magnanimous, sir. Two years after being confiscated, Sleeping Dogs Lie is finally published in September by those stoic souls at Raldon. If freebie reads are your thing, jump over here for the first chapter.

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” # 92: Pauline McLynn

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?
ANY of the Dave Robicheaux series by James Lee Burke – the man is a genius. A Small Death In Lisbon by Robert Wilson is also a near perfect book.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Crime novels and thrillers.
Most satisfying writing moment?
I get that every time a book comes out ... after the HORROR of what’s gone before ... it ain’t getting’ any easier, my friends ...
The best Irish crime novel is …?
There is NO WAY I am nominating one – I know too many of the crime guys 'n’ gals and, worse, they know where I live AND how to kill people in surprisingly new and awful ways.
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
This wouldn't really class as ‘Irish’ in as much as it’d be set in London but Ken Bruen’s Inspector Brant books would make great movies / TV. They are extremely violent, funny and the main man is such a total SHIT that you just can’t help but love him ...
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Worst thing – writing. Best thing – writing.
Why does John Banville use a pseudonym for writing crime?
I think the literary world just wouldn’t be able to handle that. I think he knows, though, that crime is the forum where you can have it all and fair play to him for realising that. The best crime books not only entertain on their own terms but also say something about the human condition, it seems to me.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Enjoyable, I hope.

Pauline McLynn’s latest novel, Bright Lights and Promises, is available now

Dusty Spring Fields

See, if Paul Charles' new novel The Dust Of Death had opened on the first day of spring, with a crucifixion in a field, then we’d have been able to use the ‘Dusty Spring Fields’ header we’ve been hoarding since last March. But the ornery sod has a crucified man being discovered in a Donegal church on the first day of summer, which scuppers that. Boo, etc. Anyhoo, the crucifixion sees Charles’ new detective, Inspector Starrett of the Serious Crimes Unit, enter stage left courtesy of Brandon Books. But will DI Christy Kennedy of Charles’ Camden Town novels give up the spotlight without a murmur? Questions, questions … The dust hasn’t even started to settle on Sweetwater, which was released in May and goes into paperback on July 19, but Brandon release The Dust Of Death on September 4. It’s a brave move from Charles, whose Christy Kennedy mysteries garner rave reviews as a matter of course, to wit: “With more twists than a turkey twizzler, lovers of crime fiction will gobble up this super sleuth novel” (News of the World); “A writer who treads in the classic footsteps of Morse and Maigret”(The Guardian); “If writers such as Mark Timlin and Ken Bruen could be said to be writing London noir, then Paul Charles might be said to be penning London Blanc” (The Irish Times). Will Inspector Starrett ascend to the firmament too? Only time, that notorious tittle-tattler, will tell …

Sunday, June 17, 2007

The Monday Review: It’s Nice To Be Nice, Although It’d Be Nicer To Be In Nice

That stalwart friend of Irish crime writers, Myles McWeeney at the Indo, is back on the case again, this time trawling the mean streets of Arlene Hunt’s latest, Missing Presumed Dead: “A very enjoyable, neatly worked mystery, packed with deft characterisation. Read it on the beach but keep an eye on the kids.” … Over at The Book Bag, Jill Murphy likes Derek Landy’s Skulduggery Pleasant: “It’s pacy, it’s funny, it’s irreverent … a humorous badinage going on that’s reminiscent of Woody Allen and Diane Keaton or even Doctor Who … the plotting is a little bit loose. The villain isn’t really much more than a cardboard cut-out. But the humour, the high-spiritedness and the wonderful interaction between the two main characters more than make up for it.” Mmm, lovely … Not to be outdone, Julia Eccleshare at Love Reading 4 Kids is bigging up the other major current kiddie crime release, Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery: “This may only be Siobhan Dowd’s second novel but it’s clear her talent as a superb storyteller is beyond question. Her first novel A Swift Pure Cry was short-listed for nearly all the major awards last year and although this second novel is very different it has that same page-turner feeling to it.” But stay! I hear you cry – what news of Alex Barclay’s The Caller? “Written with a depth of feeling for the characters that is sometimes lacking in the genre from her colleagues … a fast-paced and sometimes ugly serial killer novel. The characters are richly described with a sense of humour at times that makes you smile, and a touch of the cruel and sadistic where needed …” reckon the folks at Woyano … They’re still coming in thick and fast for John Connolly’s The Unquiet: “One of the finest reads of this or any year, from the man with the darkest imagination. I was enthralled and terrified at the same time, but it’s the wit Connolly employs that prevents this dark tale from becoming too malevolent,” says Ali Karim at Books ‘n’ Bytes, while The Observer is no less impressed: “The Unquiet is more contemplative and affecting than some of the earlier novels, but the violence, when it comes, is vicious. Hard to put down, harder to forget.” Just about gorgeous … Staying with The Observer, for The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman’s latest: “Exuberant also describes I Predict a Riot, the latest diverting entertainment from ‘Bateman’ … what follows is sometimes brutal, often blackly humorous and always terrific.” Meanwhile, Neil Dowling at Totally Dublin is middling-to-fairly impressed with The Big O, from inky-fingered urchin Declan Burke: “The Big O is a fairly standard crime caper with some implausible turns in the plot. Burke’s great achievement, however, is to give a typical genre storyline some real flavour through his skilful use of dialogue and imagery.” Neil? The snakebites are on us … Finally, you know you’re in business when the Indo’s arts editor, Sophie Gorman, gives you the hup-ya: “With Julius, [Donovan] has created a man who exists beyond society and a story that magnetically absorbs you with every page turned … You know that you are having one of those special reading experiences when you find yourself rationing the final chapters, in an attempt to prolong the experience for as long as possible,” she says of Julius Winsome, while The Guardian reckons that, “History may judge it to be less than the perfect modern classic it aims to be, but it is a memorable tale, distinguished by masterful prose, an intriguingly peculiar sensibility, and something hard to define that many great works of art have: a kind of dignity. Such books are rarer than publishers’ hype encourages us to believe.” Publishers’ hype? Shurely shome mishtake ...

A Swords From The Stone

The burning question, people: if a guy – Nick Stone, say – says he’s moving to Galway to live, is that a tenuous enough link to plug the Miami-set novel of a Londoner of Haitian background on an Irish crime fiction blog? Hmmm … state your case, sirrah, and a jury of your belly-dancing dwarf peers shall decide your fate. “My new novel, King of Swords, is out on August 2nd,” says Nick. “It’s a prequel to Mr Clarinet, set in Scarface-era Miami (1980-82). By the way, do you want a proof?” Erm, case closed. Especially if King of Swords is anywhere near as good as Mr Clarinet: “Gritty and unremittingly dark, replete with super-villains, Mr Clarinet pays homage to pulp fiction and film noir – more James Ellroy than Graham Greene,” said Tibor Fischer over at The Guardian. “But perhaps because of Stone’s Haitian roots, Mingus’ mishaps in Port-au-Prince have an immediacy and an authenticity that are absent from many thrillers.” Which is nice …

The Embiggened O # 235: Bring On The Dancing Trumpets

Crumbs! Not content with bigging up Eightball Boogie a few weeks ago, International Noir has gone and love-bombed our humble offering The Big O, to wit:
“Burke’s The Big O … moves out of classic pulp-noir territory into a kidnap caper with style and plotting more like Elmore Leonard (or maybe Donald Westlake) than Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler … The result is a kaleidoscopic narrative that moves forward at a rapid pace – and the result is also quite funny, in the way that Leonard’s novels are frequently funny: expectations are overturned, characters move inexorably toward an unforeseen climax, and we glide past unbelievable coincidences without hesitation … The Big O is, ultimately, a crime farce of the first order (that is to say, it stands up very well to the Leonard comparison …) … the plotting seems casual, unplanned, with the random pattern of life – but looking back, the story is as tightly structured as a jigsaw puzzle … I highly recommend The Big O, and wish for the sake of its potential readership that it soon finds wider distribution – in the U.S., for example …”
Were we physiologically capable of having another blog’s baby, we’d be snuggling up under the duvet with International Noir right now. We loves ya, baby!

Nobody Move, This Is A Review: Dead I Well May Be by Adrian McKinty

Take Parker. Put him in a Cormac McCarthy novel and give him a sense of humour. Okay, now you have the basics of Michael Forsythe, a young Belfast lad knocking around the lower levels of an Irish mob in New York during the early ’90s. Cynical, smart, funny, ambitious and ruthless, Michael has what it takes to rise to the top, although it’s that kind of charisma that finds him taking liberties with the girlfriend of the boss and sent on a drug deal to Mexico, there to be double-crossed, framed and left for dead. Sketched out like that, Dead I Well May Be sounds like a throwback / homage to the B-movie noirs of the ’40s and ’50s, but what makes it one of the most invigorating novels of the last decade is Michael’s distinctive voice as he effortlessly blends poetry, Greek philosophy, quantum physics, social observation, pop music lyrics and a whole lot more in a deadpan delivery that is the narrative equivalent of a Lee Marvin stare. Beautifully detailed, grittily realistic and infused with an intoxicating sense of imminent apocalypse throughout, the first instalment in the ‘Dead’ trilogy (The Dead Yard and The Bloomsday Dead complete the triptych) is the kind of novel to restore your faith in the power of storytelling. Because McKinty doesn’t just tell a great story, which is a skill in itself; he’s a great storyteller, and that’s a rare gift. - Declan Burke