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, March 27, 2010

You Can’t Handle The Ruth

Good news for Ruth ‘Cuddly’ Dudley Edwards: AFTERMATH: THE OMAGH BOMBING AND THE FAMILIES’ PURSUIT OF JUSTICE makes it onto Crime Always Pays’ long-list for the Longest Subtitle of the Year, alongside Fintan O’Toole’s SHIP OF FOOLS: HOW CORRUPTION AND STUPIDITY KILLED THE CELTIC TIGER. That both have also been nominated for the Orwell Prize, an award which recognises excellence in political writing, is a nifty little coincidence, as Irish Publishing News fails to report in its otherwise excellent coverage.
  Elsewhere, Marcel Berlins reviews Brian McGilloway’s THE RISING over in The Times. To wit:
“THE RISING continues Brian McGilloway’s excellent run of novels featuring Benjamin Devlin, the Irish Garda inspector. He unsuccessfully tries to save the life of a man trapped in a burning barn; the victim turns out to be a drug dealer. He’s called by a former police colleague whose 15-year-old son is missing; that too involves drugs. As the inquiries become more complex, Devlin is faced with a life-or-death crisis very close to him. Devlin bucks the crime-fiction trend by being just a good ordinary cop, a sympathetic family man without too many hang-ups or foibles. The novel is no worse off for that.” – Marcel Berlins, The Times
  Brian, by the way, will be launching THE RISING at the Verbal Arts Centre in Derry on Wednesday evening, the 31st, at 6.30pm, and all are welcome, but particularly those with an excess of cash and a keen interest in purchasing a very fine novel.
  Meanwhile, your humble scribe had a review of Louise Welch’s NAMING THE BONES published in the Sunday Business Post a couple of weeks back, which kicks off like this:
The conventional crime novel tends to unfold over three acts, but Louise Welsh’s fourth novel, NAMING THE BONES, is very much a novel of two halves. In the first half it’s an understated academic novel detailing the travails of Dr Murray Watson, a University of Glasgow English lecturer intent on reviving the reputation of a little-known poet, Archie Lunan, and solving the mystery of his death on Lismore Island 30 years before. Frustrated as he tries to piece together the scanty details of Lunan’s life, Watson is also the dominated party in an affair he’s having with Rachel, the wife of his department head ...
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Everything Is Connected To The Kneebone

I have no idea of who Robert Fannin might be, and I don’t even know if FALLING SLOWLY is intended as a crime novel, although it certainly sounds a fascinating prospect, and his DI Harry Kneebone a formidable new name – literally – in the canon of world literature. Certainly, as suicide becomes something of a creeping, invisible epidemic in post-boom Ireland, the novel is a timely one. Quoth the blurb elves:
When Desmond Doyle finds his girlfriend dead in the bath, having cut her wrists, he is devastated. But there are inconsistencies with how suicide wounds would be inflicted and he quickly comes under suspicion and is arrested for murder. Though soon released, Detective Inspector Harry Kneebone is convinced of Doyle’s involvement. As they await the coroner’s verdict, Doyle attempts some semblance of normality by returning to his job as curator for a new restaurant that will display original art. When he meets up with artist Gina Harding, he is deeply disturbed by paintings she has been strangely compelled to create in recent days. He recognises in them the likeness of his girlfriend’s death scene. Can they shed light on Daphne’s death, or is it all a bizarre coincidence? As Doyle’s grip on what is real and unreal becomes increasingly uncertain, a chain of events unfold that lead him to doubt his own sanity. FALLING SLOWLY is a compelling and fast-paced psychological drama that questions the nature of perception and experience, as one man struggles to uncover a dark truth.
  So there you have it. If anyone – preferably Robert Fannin – can shed some light on who Robert Fannin might be, I’m all ears …

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Blair Oliver

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 LAST GOOD KISS by James Crumley. Transcends the genre – a great American novel.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Charles Bovary.

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
Poker and fishing books. Oh, and 19th century women’s domestic fiction.

Most satisfying writing moment?
When a character says or does something I couldn’t see coming.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
THE GUARDS by Ken Bruen – it’s the standard, isn’t it?

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
THE MAGDALENE MARTYRS. Gritty, hardboiled, tradition rich and socially relevant.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The uniform is both a blessing and a curse. As are the legions of villanelle-loving women.

The pitch for your next book is …?
THE LONG SLIDE is a crime novel set in the new, roadside West, where bison graze alongside billboards of bison and even accountants pack heat. Henry Gavin, the narrator, is a bamboo fly-rod aficionado and editor of the Copper Falls Gazette, the only newspaper in a dying, Colorado mining town. Copper, the town’s last best resource, is also its curse. The land and its waters are beautiful, but deadly. Somehow, our man manages to survive. The other guys fuck up worse. So there’s going to be a sequel, which may turn out to be more of a novella because other guys can’t possibly keep fucking up worse. Maybe it’ll be flash fiction. Poems are always nice.

Who are you reading right now?
Capote’s IN COLD BLOOD for the fifth time. And TEAM OF RIVALS, for the obvious connections.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. I couldn’t do without the good, literate company.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Cinematic, skewed, lively.

Blair Oliver’s THE LONG SLIDE is available now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Appy Bird-Day To Daggy; and John Connolly Goes Posh

This morning I woke to breakfast in bed (well, coffee) served by the Lovely Ladies (right) and a rousing rendition of ‘Appy bird-day to Daggy’ courtesy of the Princess Lilyput. I may never have a finer morning again. I’ll leave the existential ruminations on turning 41 to another day, and just say ta kindly to everyone who’s been in touch with good wishes. Much obliged, folks.
  Meanwhile, a rare birthday treat awaits me later tonight, when the Dark Lord, aka John Connolly, is the subject of an Arts Lives documentary on RTE TV. Swish stuff – surely it’s only a matter of time before Connolly is elected to (koff) Aosdána. Anyway, I’ve seen the trailer, in which Connolly claims that evil exists, not as an entity but as the absence of empathy, which is a fascinating concept, and Connolly’s natural gift as a raconteur suggests that the documentary could well be a cracker. Quoth the blurb elves:
Shot in Dublin, Maine, Baltimore and Washington, John Connolly: Of Blood and Lost Things traces 40-year-old Connolly’s literary trajectory from jobbing freelance with The Irish Times newspaper to publishing superstardom on the sale of his first novel, Every Dead Thing, which launched his flawed protagonist, P.I., Charlie (Bird) Parker. The roots of the novel and its location go back some years to his coverage for the Irish Times of the murder of Sri Lankan prostitute Belinda Perreira in Dublin and a student summer spent in Portland, Maine … Featuring dramatised readings from his work John Connolly: Of Blood and Lost Things examines the sense of place and atmosphere in Connolly’s work but also includes a biographical narrative of his Dublin childhood and journey toward becoming a writer. The documentary features interviews with iconic American crime writer George Pelecanos; David Simon, creator of TV’s The Wire; American novelist and friend Laura Lippman, and fellow Irish crime writer Declan Hughes.
  Nice. The documentary goes out at 10:15pm tonight (Tuesday) on RTE1; if you happened to miss it, it’ll be available on the RTE iPlayer for three weeks after the broadcast date. Enjoy …

UPDATE: John Connolly’s THE GATES has just been nominated for the Bisto Children’s Books Ireland Book of the Year, with Bob ‘No Relation’ Burke’s THE THIRD PIG DETECTIVE AGENCY nestling in there snugly too. Nice one, chaps ...

Monday, March 22, 2010

Norn Irons

Yon Brian McGilloway has more than a few irons in the fire these days. Not only is he going to be yakking and yukking with one Lee Child over in Belfast’s No Alibis on Wednesday evening, the 24th, he’s also releasing THE RISING, the fourth in the Inspector Devlin series. the following week, Wednesday 31st, this time in Derry, at the Verbal Arts Centre. Quoth the blurb elves:
When Garda Inspector Benedict Devlin is summoned to a burning barn, he finds inside the charred remains of a man who is quickly identified as a local drug dealer, Martin Kielty. It soon becomes clear that Kielty’s death was no accident, and suspicion falls on a local vigilante group. Former paramilitaries, the men call themselves The Rising. Meanwhile, a former colleague’s teenage son has gone missing during a seaside camping trip. Devlin is relieved when the boy’s mother, Caroline Williams, receives a text message from her son’s phone, and so when a body is reported, washed up on a nearby beach, the inspector is baffled. When another drug dealer is killed, Devlin realises that the spate of deaths is more complex than mere vigilantism. But just as it seems he is close to understanding the case, a personal crisis will strike at the heart of Ben’s own family, and he will be forced to confront the compromises his career has forced upon him. With his fourth novel, McGilloway announces himself as one of the most exciting crime novelists around: gripping, heartbreaking and always surprising, THE RISING is a tour de force – McGilloway’s most personal novel so far.
  For more details on both gigs, clickety-click here
  Meanwhile, and staying oop North, the firm-but-fair guardian of Crime Scene Norn Iron, Gerard Brennan, announces the publication of REQUIEMS FOR THE DEPARTED, a rather intriguing collection of crime short stories adapted from Irish mythology. Gerard was kind enough to ask me if I wanted to submit an offering to the anthology, which generosity I was stupid enough to decline, and I’ve already dislocated one hip trying to kick my sorry ass. Anyway, the line-up of contributors includes Ken Bruen, Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, Garbhan Downey, Arlene Hunt, Maxim Jakubowski, Sam Millar, Tony Black and – oh yes! – Brian McGilloway, among others. Gerard and Mike Stone are on editing duties, and it sounds like an absolute cracker, chaps. Come the launch party, the dry Pimms are on me …

It’s A Long Way From Licking Goobers Off The Cobbles

You hear a lot of guff these days from Ireland’s literati about Irish literature’s failure to produce the Great Celtic Tiger Novel. ‘Where, oh where, is the Great Celtic Tiger Novel?’ is the general gist of it, followed by, ‘Why, oh why?’ and ‘Oh when, oh when?’. Well, a little birdie tells me that the wait is almost over. Once Amadán O’Lungamhain concludes IT’S A LONG WAY FROM LICKING GOOBERS OFF THE COBBLES, his five-volume epic ring cycle on the eradication of TB, he’s setting his sights on the Celtic Tiger years. A HILL OF MAGIC BEANS should be arriving on shelf near you by 2051 at the very latest.
  At the risk of sounding a tad more obtuse than usual, I really don’t get this obsession with the Great Celtic Tiger Novel. Yes, I understand that Ireland is a post-colonial country that has yet to shuck off its inferiority complex, and that a reluctance to engage, as Brian Cowen might say, with ‘we are where we are’ is a symptom of that. And yes, I understand that writing novels about the past offers the opportunity of rewriting the past, and thus making the official version of our tawdry history that bit more palatable. And I understand too, if the post-boom years are any marker, that Ireland is one of the very few modern nations for which the past is not another country where they do things differently; Ireland, as the newspaper headlines on any given day will tell us, is a country that bears an eerie similarity to the psychological landscape of Flann O’Brien’s THE THIRD POLICEMAN, in which past, present and future are locked into a hellish cycle of eternal return. If our politicians, financiers, bishops and electorate are all doomed to repeat their mistakes over and over again, never truly escaping tragedy into farce, then why should our novelists be any different?
  Maybe it’s the case – and bear in mind that some days I’m more wilfully obtuse than others – that I’m simply too callow or uneducated to appreciate the subtle nuances of a body of literature that glories in its inability to come to terms with the present, or at least to try. But it seems to me that any self-respecting novel should be more interested in raising pertinent questions than providing belated answers, in wrestling with current dilemmas than offering quasi-philosophical interpretations of historical events. The point of any art, surely, is to reflect and / or investigate the culture from which it springs. That’s not as easy as it sounds, of course, especially when it comes to the novel. A good book can take an author years to write, so that he or she finds that the zeitgeist has long sailed by time the book lands on a shelf. It’s also true that a crucial moment in a nation’s development can take many years for all the sediment to sift down, so that an author can see it clearly enough for what it really was. By which time, unfortunately, the novel is no longer relevant as a tool to aid our understanding of ourselves, which is the fundamental point of art.
  You wouldn’t know it if you only listened to the Irish literati, but there is a body of writers engaging with modern Ireland. Only time will tell if they are entitled to call themselves artists, but right now they are asking hard questions of our society, our mores, challenging our ethical stances. This is the kind of thing that good crime fiction does as a matter of course, and that a number of Irish crime writers are doing on a regular basis. Brian McGilloway, Ken Bruen, Tana French, Declan Hughes, Gene Kerrigan, Alan Glynn, Stuart Neville – these are some of the writers who do not allow themselves the luxury of elapsed decades before confronting the issues that are relevant to a country bedevilled by corruption at virtually every strata of society. Yes, yes, I know I cut a pathetic figure bleating on yet again about the relevance of Irish crime fiction, but you’d need to be a far more obtuse figure than I not to appreciate the fact that there is a phenomenon at play here; and more, that such writers – like Liam O’Flaherty publishing THE ASSASSIN in 1928, or Colin Bateman publishing DIVORCING JACK in 1995 – deserve credit for their courage in grappling with crucial issues when they are still live, messy and important.
  All of which protracted preamble leads me to the ever-radiant Arlene Hunt, who appeared on TV3 last Thursday morning chatting about her new tome, BLOOD MONEY. I can’t say too much about the novel just yet, as I won’t get to start reading it for another day or two, but I do know that the story dips a toe into the murky waters of organ tourism, aka the black market in organ transplants, and subsequently tip-toes through an ethical minefield. Now, I have no idea of how prevalent organ tourism is here in Ireland, although I’ve no reason to believe it’s not as common-place here as it is anywhere else; nor do I know how qualified or otherwise Arlene Hunt is to write about the topic. I do know that Arlene Hunt is a terrific story-teller, though, and that I’m looking forward to reading a topical novel about contemporary Ireland.
  Topical novels about contemporary Ireland, eh? When literary Ireland finally gets around to pulling its head out of its ass, and stops whining about how the Arts Council trough is no longer as full as it used to be, and realises that it’s not entitled to consider itself an heir to Joyce, Beckett, Shaw, O’Casey, et al simply because there’s a harp on its passport, it might want to consider the following question: Is a topical novel about modern Ireland once in a blue moon really too much to ask?