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, September 13, 2008

The Embiggened O: What’s In A Name?

Whenever it comes up in conversation that I’ve written a book, and people ask what it’s called, and I tell them THE BIG O, the reaction is very much split along gender lines. Women tend to raise an eyebrow and / or smirk, and say, ‘Oh, really?’ Men tend to say, ‘Oh.’
  Funny, that.
  People have asked as to why I picked THE BIG O as a title, and here’s the skinny. Its working title was ‘Karen King, Pirate Queen’, but my agent didn’t much like the idea of actually calling it that. ‘Any other suggestions?’ he said. ‘Well, I’m thinking of calling it THE BIG O,’ I said. All credit to him, he smirked and raised an eyebrow.
  Because the story was a comedy crime caper, I wanted a title that paid its dues to classic crime, but also had a little fun with it too. THE BIG SLEEP is, for me, the quintessential crime novel title, so I wanted a variation on that. That title, as everyone knows, was invented by Chandler as crime fiction argot for ‘death’ – as in, ‘he sleeps the big sleep’. And because my story’s central character was a woman, the feisty Karen, I liked the idea of working in a good dollop of sex too – ‘the big o’, as the French will tell you, is also ‘le petit mort’. So I came up with The Big Omega, aka THE BIG O.
  There was a more serious element to it too. I don’t know if many of you have ever had a loaded gun pointed at your face, but if you haven’t, I don’t recommend you go rushing out to try it. You have no idea of how that little ‘O’ can grow so huge in a heartbeat, until it’s virtually your entire world. The guy at the other end of the gun was a British soldier at a checkpoint near Derry, and he could have pointed that gun a million places and still got his message across. But he didn’t. He pointed the gun at my face. Not good. That ten seconds or so will stay with me for the rest of my life.
  I’d planned to have the ‘O’ in the title of the original THE BIG O designed as if it was the muzzle of a gun staring you straight in the face. That didn’t work out, but I was very happy with the retro cover art concocted by Carly Schnur when I saw it. Bizarrely, and without any prompting from me, the cover art boffins working on THE BIG O at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt came up with practically the perfect example of what I’d had in mind originally. And not only that, the cover itself is an homage to an old Elmore Leonard cover (right), with which I am very well pleased.
  Anyhoos, ‘the big o’ is slang for a variety of wildly different things, among them the female orgasm and Roy Orbison, both of which I reference in the book just for the hell of it. Over the last 18 months or so, people have offered me wildly diverse slang takes on ‘the big o’ – the Olympic Stadium in Montreal, the ‘Brotherhood of International Government and Order’ in Donald Hamilton’s Matt Helm stories, opium among the biker fraternity, and an arithmetic function in Number Theory.
  The latest, which arrived yesterday, is that ‘the big o’ is slang used by Navajo Native Americans to refer to ‘the toilet’, although I’m still waiting for official confirmation of that one. Talk about offering a hostage to fortune …

Friday, September 12, 2008

“All Changed, Changed Utterly / A TERRIBLE BEAUTY Is Conceived.”

It’s been a busy time at CAP Towers recently (typical afternoon pictured, right), what with christenings and Electric Picnics and Irish crime writers weekends and YE BIGGE O heading for publication Stateside, although one reason for being so busy-busy-busy was self-inflicted. Basically, the notion is this – given the recent explosion in Irish crime fiction, I wondered if there might be any interest in putting together a book offering perspectives on the whys and wherefores of contemporary Irish crime writing. It would consist of a series of essays written by the Irish crime writers themselves, with each author taking a chapter according to his or her speciality. Aimed at a general reading audience, it would decidedly not be an academic tome, but an entertaining and informative read.
  Thus armed with my latest harebrained scheme, I farmed out the idea to some writers I’m in touch with. As of yesterday, those who have confirmed they will be taking part are: John Connolly, Colin Bateman, Declan Hughes, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Gene Kerrigan, Gerard Donovan, Brian McGilloway, Neville Thompson, Adrian McKinty, Gerard Brennan and yours truly, with the latter trio taking on the gig of compiling / editing. If you’re looking at that list and wondering where some glaring omissions are, rest assured that I’m still waiting for more writers to confirm interest or declare otherwise.
  The project currently labours under the working title of A TERRIBLE BEAUTY: A NARRATIVE OF IRISH CRIME WRITING, and yesterday was D-Day for applications for Arts Council funding. That deadline met, we now wait to see if the funding for commissioning the writers comes in. Should it do so, there is already an Irish publisher interested in taking the project on, although it would be unfair at this early point to name any names.
  The plan is to have the book on the shelves by September 2009. Should the project come to fruition here in Ireland, we’ll then be looking abroad to international markets. That’s all a long way off at this point, however, and there’s no sense in trying to run before we can roll over onto our collective tummies. What I’m wondering for now is this: If the project gets the green light, what kind of topics would you like to see explored between the covers? Over to you, people …

The Public Wants What The Public Gets: A Booker Prize Jam

Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but here’s a couple of snippets from items that have popped up in my inbox over the last day or so. First up, John Connolly (right) from the latest post to his rather excellent blog, the remit of which is to keep his readers abreast on the trials and tribulations of whatever novel he happens to be working on:
“I’m also trying to get a handle on what kind of book THE LOVERS is. In a recent interview, I said that each book I write seems to be a reaction to the one that preceded it, and I suppose that’s true of THE LOVERS. Where THE REAPERS was fast and linear, with a very straightforward narrative, THE LOVERS is more complex, more allusive. A lot of it concerns events that have happened in the past, and a large part of the second half is taken up with one character revealing, over the course of a single evening, the truth behind the death of Parker’s father. I want to see if I can retain the reader’s interest by juggling the desire to find out ‘what happens next’ with gradual revelations about what has gone before.”
  I’ve met John Connolly on a few occasions, and heard him speak publicly about books a couple of times. He is, as most of you know, a very fine stylist, a superb storyteller, and a best-seller to boot. And when John Connolly speaks about writing, the conversation tends to quickly narrow down to one thing: WHAT. THE. READER. WANTS.
  I don’t know if the following pair of snippets should be placed in direct contrast to Connolly’s approach, but both of them are just two examples of what seems to be a growing backlash against the Booker Prize. First, from Wednesday, author James Delingpole in The Telegraph:
“I reckon that, too often, what our literary prize panels confuse with proper writing is in fact just overwriting, and that the problem is exacerbated by a salon of smug, sanctimonious, mostly Left-leaning literary-tastemakers (and gullible book groups) who feel a novel isn’t “valid” unless it’s a) a bit hard to read, b) weighed down with purple prose or poetry, c) socially worthy (madness, disability, child abuse, etc.) and d) best of all, imbued with lashings of fashionable, Zadie-Smith-style, melting-pot ethnic exoticism.”
  Then, today, critic Boyd Tonkin in The Independent:
“Behind the storm-in-a-wineglass feuds that surround the Man Booker Prize, a true and even tragic sub-plot may be starting to unfold. To be mass-market blunt rather than literary-novel elliptical: is the British audience for ambitious fiction dying off, losing faith, or just drifting away? […] In the five weeks after the long-list announcement on 29 July, the 13 titles of the “Booker dozen” sold fewer than 14,000 UK copies; on average, barely 1,000 each. This is, frankly, pathetic.”
  Back at the end of July, the Bookseller published a list of the sales of the newly nominated novels:
1. The Enchantress of Florence 15,433
2. Child 44 8,278
3. Sea of Poppies 5,034
4. Netherland 4,023
5. The Clothes on Their Backs 3,592
6. The White Tiger 1,852
7. The Secret Scripture 1,568
8. A Case of Exploding Mangoes 1,000
9. The Northern Clemency 916
10. A Fraction of the Whole 392
11. The Lost Dog 363
  A week later, they were back with this update:
Whilst Salman Rushdie’s THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE (Cape) remains the overall sales leader with an increase in book sales of 56.5% since last week, Linda Grant’s THE CLOTHES ON THEIR BACKS (Virago) has seen the biggest proportional increase. From selling just 13 copies during the week ending 26th July, the book has gone on to sell 144 copies the following week.
  Another notable increase was for Tom Rob Smith’s CHILD 44 (Simon & Schuster), one of the most controversial choices on the longlist. Sales increased by 250% for the thriller that had already shifted over 8,000 copies prior to the longlist announcement.
  CHILD 44, of course, didn’t made the Booker shortlist announced this week. Neither did THE ENCHANTRESS OF FLORENCE or Joseph O’Neill’s NETHERLAND, previously the bookies’ favourites with Ladbrokes and William Hill respectively. Sebastian Barry is now the 2/1 favourite with THE SECRET SCRIPTURE.
  I can’t find any weekly sales figures for later than the week ending August 16, but in that week THE SECRET SCRIPTURE had sold less than THE LOST DOG, which had sold 127 copies that week.
  Erm, folks? Y’think the reading public is trying to tell you something?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

“We’re Goin’ Up The Country / Baby Don’t You Wanna Go …?”

All three regular Crime Always Pays readers will be aware that John McFetridge and I are planning a road-trip in the week leading up to Bouchercon, kicking off on John’s home patch of Toronto on October 4 and meandering down through New England via Vermont, New York and Philadelphia to Baltimore, to arrive on Thursday, October 9. The full itinerary isn’t in place yet, and it will very probably involve some guerrilla-style tactics of hitting bookstores as we go, but we have some interesting gigs set up already, to wit:
John and Dec’s Most Excellent Road-Trip Adventure
Sunday, October 5
Sleuth of Baker Street

Monday, October 6
Brattleboro, Vermont
Mystery on Main Street

Tuesday, October 7
New York
The Mysterious Bookshop (signing only)
Time tbc

Wednesday, October 8
The Noir at the Bar: Fergie’s

Thursday, October 9
The 'Charmed to Death' Bouchercon
  Incidentally, John and I are appearing on a few panels at Bouchercon. To wit:
Thursday, October 9, 11.30am-12.30pm
‘KILLING FLOOR: Getting cops right in fiction.’
Dave Case(M), Mike Black, Martin Edwards, John McFetridge, Caroline Todd, Raffi Yessayan.

Thursday, October 9, 3-4pm
‘LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETHER: Authors you should take home.’
Jennifer Jordan (M), Declan Burke, Michael Allen Dymmoch, Tim Maleeny.

Sunday, October 12, 8.30-9.30am
‘CALL ME WHEN YOU'RE SOBER: Sunday hangover.’
Declan Hughes (M), Declan Burke, Stuart MacBride, Martyn Waites.
  A Sunday morning panel entitled ‘Sunday hangover’? Art imitates life imitates art imitates you-get-the-head-pounding-drift ...
  Anyhoos, that’s the basic set-up for now. I’ll be updating the itinerary as and when changes come in, and if any booksellers / stories / reading groups / bar mitzvahs in the New England area fancy having John and I along for some book-signing / Stadler and Waldorf action, just drop me a line …

Swan, Swan, Hummingbird – Hurrah!

Given that the ever-radiant Marsha Swan is the mastermind behind Hag’s Head Press, the original publisher of THE BIG O, it might seem like incestuous log-rolling for me to plug her forthcoming pair of interlocking novellas, THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC. But the story runs thusly …
  Marsha was the editor on my first novel, EIGHTBALL BOOGIE, which was published by Sitric, a now defunct imprint of Lilliput. Given the – shall we say – idiosyncratic way Lilliput goes about its business, I still hadn’t even heard of Marsha Swan by the time her independently published debut novel, DIRTY SKY, appeared some years later. But I was hugely impressed, and said that it reminded me of a more dynamic Raymond Carver when I reviewed it. Later again, Marsha got in touch to promote another Hag’s Head Press offering, Sean Harnett’s AISLING LTD, and in passing asked if I was working on anything on the time. As it happened, I was sitting on a cushion stuffed with rejection slips for THE BIG O …
  So it’s with a crystal clear conscience that I thoroughly recommend to you THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC. Quoth the blurb elves:
In THE PUNCHING MAN, Remus, a young Roma boy adrift in Dublin, becomes intrigued by a man he sees punch a stranger on the street. When Remus and his friends begin following the man, it quickly becomes unclear who is following whom. But Remus has even less comprehension of the biggest things in his life: the family who will adopt him, the country he will live in, how he will make his way in a new and daunting city.
  In BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC, Ruth abandons her life and career in Chicago to move to Dublin. She marries a man she met on holiday there, even though she doesn’t fully understand why—at 46—she’s suddenly ready to gamble on romance. The life she might have had changes abruptly when she is diagnosed with breast cancer and decides to take a challenging job in the Christian Brothers school where Remus is now a student.
  These interlocking novellas, published in one edition, offer two foreigners’ perspectives on a city where they quickly find themselves fighting against shadows: a culture they don’t understand and don’t have access to; bullies on the schoolyard and in the staffroom; a mysterious stranger or a mysterious disease. In this finely observed portrait of Ireland at the turn of the 21st century, Marsha Swan writes with a stark lyricism, giving voice to two very different characters navigating enormous change with hope and dignity.
  So there you have it. For those of you interested in such things, Marsha will be launching THE PUNCHING MAN / BOYS ARE ELASTIC, GIRLS ARE FANTASTIC in Dublin next week, on Thursday, September 18, in Toner’s of Baggot Street. The evening kicks off at 6.30pm, and all are welcome. Oh, and I’ll be the guy at the bar mumbling about Ray Carver …

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Beautiful Women, Dangerous Minds

Brace yourselves, folks – there’s a couple of new offerings coming your way via the fiendish minds of the uber-glam ladies of Irish crime fiction. First up is UNDERTOW, Arlene Hunt’s follow-up to MISSING PRESUMED DEAD, with the blurb elves wittering thusly:
A missing boyfriend … a heavily pregnant girlfriend … just another ordinary case for QuicK Investigations. But the trail they follow suggests something far from ordinary. Who is Orie Kavlar and why has he gone to ground? What is the connection to the body of a dead girl found on waste ground in Sandyford? And what is his relationship to Darren Wallace, ex-gangland criminal? With their personal relationship at a new all-time low, Sarah and John are straining under the weight of their own problems, such as the murder of Sarah’s ex-boyfriend Vic. Vic was a dangerous psychotic, but murder is murder. So why won’t she accept John’s help? In no time John and Sarah’s investigations alert others to their search, and as they dig deeper into Orie Kavlar’s life, one man decides he has too much to lose to allow them to continue. Sarah and John are about to be caught up in an undertow of violence that will suck them into their most perilous case yet.
  Nice. Meanwhile, BLOOD RUNS COLD, Alex Barclay’s third novel, arrives on December 1st. Quoth the blurb elves:
Kidnap and murder collide in Alex Barclay’s heart-stopping new thriller featuring FBI Agent Ren Bryce. When an FBI agent is found dead on the white slopes of Quandary Peak in Colorado, a brilliant but volatile agent is drafted in from Denver to lead the investigation. Fighting personal demons, pressure from Washington and dwindling leads, the case stalls and a career falters. But as summer comes, Quandary Peak has disturbing new secrets to give up. And as one agent fights failure and hopelessness, another has left behind a trail that leads to a man with a dark past and even darker intentions.
  So there you have it. Beautiful women, dangerous minds. No wonder we like this crime fiction malarkey …

It’s A Fair Cop’s Union, Guv

Adrian McKinty (right) has his own interweb doohicky, and yet for some reason he insists on sending me top quality material for use on Crime Always Pays. To wit:
Alaska Schmalaska
In Michael Chabon’s universe, a self-described redneck like Sarah Palin could never have become governor of Alaska. Why? Because in his world Alaska isn’t a frontier bastion for moose-killing survivalists but rather is the transplanted home for two million cosmopolitan Jewish refugees crammed into the sprawling city of Sitka just south of Juneau in the Alaskan panhandle. This is the central conceit of Chabon’s THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION, a murder mystery and alternative history noir, that follows Detective Mayer Landsman’s quest to find the person or persons who killed the quiet chess master who lived in his overcrowded flop house.
  In what used to be called ‘the Jonbar Hinge’ among us sci-fi buffs, the moment Chabon’s Earth diverged from ours was sometime in the late 1930s, when the US government allowed unlimited Jewish migration from a Hitler dominated Europe to refugee camps in Alaska.
  The book is a kind of a ghost story, imaging the unlived lives of hundreds of thousands of people who, in the real world, were murdered by the Nazis. Chabon’s fantasy is that instead of this vibrant, rich, literary Yiddish culture becoming extinct in 1945, it crossed the Atlantic and survived in America.
  So that’s the premise but what of the book? In many ways it’s a standard police procedural of the Ed McBain / Mickey Spillane school that Chabon has composed in an affectionate pulp 1940’s style. He writes in the urgent present tense with a great deal of panache and economy. Chabon’s metaphors aren’t quite as rich as Raymond Chandler’s (whose are?) and his steeliness isn’t up there with Hammett, but his jokes are as good and sometimes better. His humour is Yiddish humour. Dry, slightly surreal, dark. There’s a gag or Chandlerism every few pages: ‘She took a compliment the way some people take a can of soda that they suspect you’ve shaken first.’
  The plot takes a while to get going but that’s ok, as you want to get to grips with Chabon’s Alaska, the alternate time-line and the offbeat characters. When the murder mystery does start to unfold, Chabon spins the yarn with intelligence, style and tight plotting.
  Alternative History novels are en vogue and a different outcome for World War II is by far the most popular scenario. Philip Roth’s THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA covered similar terrain only three years ago and we’ve also had FATHERLAND, SS GB among many recent others. Chabon himself is a fan of Philip K Dick’s AH novel THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE, which towers above all contenders in the ‘Nazis win the war’ field.
  Although Chabon isn’t quite off in terra nova, what really stuck with me was the idea that every single person in Sitka – the former capital of Russian America (now there’s an idea for an AH novel) – was speaking Yiddish. There’s Yiddish TV, newspapers, radio, songs. Even the Irish newspaper hack talks a kind of low German. I liked this notion because although now virtually extinct as a literary tongue, Yiddish produced an extraordinary corpus of poems, plays and novels in its brief flowering, and today its influence can be felt in everything from Woody Allen films to Mel Brooks and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Irony is the default stance of Yiddish prose. Irony, embedded with black witticisms and a kind of grim fatalism. I have read a critique that Chabon’s style is ‘not Yiddish enough’ and certainly compared with Nobel Prize winner’s IB Singer’s it seems mannered and even a little forced. But actually Chabon does have a precursor in the lesser known Yiddish master Lamed Shapiro, whose American stories were influenced by the US hard-boiled school and seem strikingly similar to Chabon’s mix of paranoia, violence and defiant logic-inverting humour.
  THE YIDDISH POLICEMAN’S UNION is a thoughtful, introspective novel which did well on release and it’s probably going to do even better when the Coen Brothers make the movie version in 2010. My only criticism is that I don’t think the AH scenario really adds that much to the narrative and I wonder if the novel might not have worked just as well in our universe. Chabon said that the AH was necessary because ‘the Yiddish world is dead’, and while it is true that the Nazis destroyed Yiddish Europe (and the survivors mostly migrated to Israel where they had to speak Hebrew), Yiddish did not die out completely. My own wedding ceremony was in Yiddish at a Yiddish-Bundist commune in Putnam Valley, New York, and anyone who’s been to Kiryas Joel, NY, will find an entire town of 20,000 Haredi Jews with Yiddish newspapers, Yiddish street signs, Yiddish coffee shops, Yiddish schools, self published Yiddish spy novels. And yes, Kiryas Joel even has Yiddish speaking policemen. – Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty’s FIFTY GRAND will be published by Holt in 2009

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Rafe McGregor

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?
PLUM ISLAND by Nelson DeMille.
What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Philip Marlowe.
Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Sherlock Holmes pastiche – a mixed bag if ever there was one.
Most satisfying writing moment?
Receiving the cheque for the advance on my first novel.
The best Irish crime novel is …?
What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I have to go for your own THE BIG O, Dec.
Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The worst thing is trying to find the balance between what I want to write and what I think has the best chance of being taken on by a publisher – sometimes these seem mutually exclusive. The best is probably the same as every other writer, the thought that people are reading my stories.
The pitch for your next book is …?
Twenty thousand war dead, the will of the wealthiest man in the Empire, the coronation of Edward VII, and a hero with post traumatic stress disorder … Murder and mayhem on the mean streets of 1902 Westminster.
Who are you reading right now?
MONEY SHOT by Christa Faust.
God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Write. While I’ve been reading for as long as I can remember, I’ve already spent too much of my life not writing.
The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Original, authentic, uncompromising.

Rafe McGregor’s THE ARCHITECT OF MURDER will be published by Robert Hale in February, 2009

The Book Wot Changed My Life

The Sunday Tribune was kind enough to ask me what book changed my life, and kinder still to run my answer in Sunday’s edition, the opening gambit running thusly:
“In the very first paragraph of THE BIG SLEEP, there’s a line that runs, ‘I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it.’ I’d been a voracious reader all my life but when I read that line for the first time, at the age of 21, I felt like I’d come home. At the time, I was a student in Coleraine University, studying film. I had to write an essay on The Big Sleep, starring Humphrey Bogart. The university library didn’t have a copy, but the bookshop did. I was broke, paying my way through college by working whatever shifts I could get as a barman, but when I read that line I couldn’t resist: I stole.”
  Over to you, folks – what one book changed your life?

Monday, September 8, 2008

Around The Web In 80 Seconds*

Being a pick-‘n’-mix selection from the interweb of stuff we were too busy / lazy to plug when we should have, to wit:
  Gerard Brennan over at CSNI mocks up a cover for Adrian McKinty’s forthcoming FIFTY GRAND (right), and does a damn fine job. GB is plugging the fact that Serpent’s Tail will be published FIFTY GRAND this side of the pond, and he’s also got an excellent interview with John McAllister of LINE OF FLIGHT fame going on. All of which is very nice …
  Over at the Sunday Indo, Alison Walsh has a piece on forthcoming Irish novels of interest, among which are the latest from Andrew Nugent, Alex Barclay, Benny Blanco and Sir Kenneth of Bruen …
  A couple of new blogs for your delectation: the inimitable Book Witch has branched out into non-book matters of culture and whatnot with CultureWitch – just don’t dare ask who Roger Whitaker is. Meanwhile, Michael Donnellan embarks on The Great Search for Truth, with the latest post pertaining to ‘Roscommon’s Roswell’. Erm, Michael? Those little green men in Roscommon are actually the indigenous natives …
  Upward and onward, and KT McCaffrey lets us know that he’ll be swanking around Trim Castle Hotel, Co. Meath, on September 20th, spraffing away about crime fiction in the rather elevated company of Laura Wilson. Nice. KT? Tell Laura we love her. For all in the info on the day, jump on over to KT’s interweb malarkey
  Finally, we haven’t mentioned John McFetridge on Crime Always Pays for, oh, it must be minutes now. John, for those of you recently arriving, will play Stadler to my Waldorf as we partake in a road-trip from Toronto to Baltimore, via NY, Vermont, Boston and Philly, in the week leading up to the Baltimore Bouchercon. I’ll be posting up an itinerary sometime this week, but in the meantime I’m wondering if the guy ever gets fed up being compared to Elmore Leonard. To wit:
“It’s natural to compare McFetridge to Elmore Leonard. He has a similar deadpan humour and a knack for evoking complex, three-dimensional lives with just a few lines of dialogue. It would be equally apt to compare his examination of urban life with that of the television series, The Wire, in the way the cops and criminals operate on parallel tracks, crime and big business are synonymous, and the portrait of a city, bit by bit, comes together in all its squalid, teeming glory.” – Barbara Fister, Reviewing the Evidence
“This top-notch Canadian novel does noir with a wry cynicism that will remind you of Elmore Leonard … The sharp and funny dialogue on both sides is sometimes so terse it’s hard to follow – but well worth it.” – Jane Dickinson, Rocky Mountain News
  John? Just say the word and I can have a cease-and-desist out on the Elmore Leonard references in three minutes flat …

* Providing you don’t actually click on any of the links

Sunday, September 7, 2008

No Sex, Please – We’re Irish Crime Writers

The great thing about these writers’ events is that you get to swank around for a few hours pretending that you’re a writer. And all the other writers play along. Which is nice of them, but then crime writers do tend to be a fairly friendly and generous bunch …
  Anyhoos, on Saturday morning – for the ‘Forty Shades of Grey: Real Fiction, Real Ireland’ panel, moderated by Mick Halpin, aka Critical Mick – I got to hang out with Ruth Dudley Edwards (right), Brian McGilloway, Gene Kerrigan and Arlene Hunt. All went well, with the conversation developing into something of a debate on journalism as the first draft of history versus crime fiction as its second, and the notion of social realism and truth / fact being mediated through fiction got a good airing too. And not only that, but Critical Mick did his best to give the gig a bit of added class by reciting some Louis MacNeice poetry relevant to crime fiction. Nice.
  After lunch, Declan Hughes interviewed John Connolly, during which John read from next year’s THE LOVERS, and chatted at length about THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. Which was pretty cool, because we don’t hear John Connolly – or indeed anyone else – talking enough about THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. It’s a stone-cold classic, and the good news is that there’s a rumour circulating that he may be gearing up for another non-crime standalone. If we hear anything, you’ll be the first to know …
  The afternoon panel was ‘Sex and Violence: How Far is Too Far?’, with John Connolly stepping in at the last minute to moderate Alex Barclay, Arlene Hunt, Brian McGilloway and yours truly. The content was a bit odd for me, given that I’d tried to write THE BIG O with an absolute minimum of violence, and I generally don’t write about sex at all (in fact, everyone on the panel dealt with violence, which forced John Connolly to read aloud a snippet about Charlie Parker’s trouble with socks and sex, a Homeric effort on his part given that his mother was in the audience). The questions basically centred on the extent to which crime fiction glamorises violence, with the general consensus being that writing violence is the means by which writers and readers strive to understand the kind of mind that will achieve what it wants regardless of others’ discomfort and pain, not an end in itself.
  The hard work (!) out of the way, yours truly headed for the pub for a dry sherry and a 2-0 win for Ireland over Georgia in the first World Cup qualifier, a fine result which set the tone for an evening’s blather about books in the company of fellow scribes Stuart Neville (right) and Shay Bagnall, and blogger extraordinaire Peter Rozovsky, who has just been nominated for a blogging award. Nice. Talking books with a drink in your hand – is there a finer way to waste a Saturday evening? If there is, I’m all ears. Although not just yet … yon hangover is just starting to kick in. Slainté.