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.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Digested Read: DEXTER IS DELICIOUS by Jeff Lindsay

Being the continuing stooooooory of a quack who has gone to the - no, hold on, that’s the Muppet Show. Herewith be the latest in an increasingly improbable line of Digested Reads, aka the Novel du Jour in 300 words. Roll it there, Collette …
“Hi, I’m darkly disturbed Dexter. Deeply, dizzily deranged, in fact.
  “My schtick is that I murder scumbags with alliteration overkill - but hey, you try living in Miami without cutting loose once in a while.
  “That’s a psychopath joke, by the way. ‘Cutting loose’. Because I’m not just a deliciously diseased destroyer of depraved desperadoes, I’m a hoot and a half too. Deliriously delightful.
  “Anyhoo, that’s all in the past now. Yep, no more migraine-inducing alliteration for moi. I’ve had a baby, y’see, and she’s lovely. Luminously, lushly, ludicrously lovely. I mean, those psycho kids my wife Rita had before we met want to play with her all the time.
  “Gosh, I feel almost human. Hey, maybe all that morbid mutilating malarkey is a teensy-weensy bit immoral, eh?
  “Woah, stall the ball! There’s cannibals loose in Miami! And if there’s one thing that’s going to stop an invasion of cannibals, it’s an alliterating psychopath like devotedly dedicated defender Dexter.
  “Get the knives, kids - it’s play-time.
  “Did I mention that I’m a blood spatter forensic scientist attached to the Miami Police Department, even though I can’t stand the sight of blood? Irony, that is. Pay attention at the back, or I’ll kill you.
  “No, I’m only kidding. A jocular jester of joking japestery, c’est moi.
  “By the way, did I mention that my psycho-freak brother has turned up, and that he’s even more disgustingly dedicated to deviously depopulating than I am?
  “Rita’s freaky kids seem to like him, though.
  “What’s that? The cannibals? Right, yes. They want to eat me, apparently.
  “Take that, cannibal-types! Boosh! Ka-blooey!!
  “Incidentally, has anyone here read that Hannibal Lecter book about the charming psychopath? No? Thank God for that.
  “Bam! Biff!!
  “Feeling peckish, cannibal-types? Well, here’s a side order of Dexter’s divinely dispensed disingenuous DESTRUCTION!
  “De End.”

  THE DIGESTED READ, IN A LINE: I scream, you scream, we all scream for Miami Vice cream.
  This article first appeared in the Evening Herald.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

“But When We Said ‘Stripped-Down Prose’ We Meant … Oh, Never Mind.”

Maxim Jakubowski has more than a couple of projects floating around right now with his editor’s imprint on them - the Dublin edition of SEX IN THE CITY features Ken Bruen, Colin Bateman, Sean Black and CSNI’s Gerard Brennan getting into a sweaty fret over erotic Dublin, while the eighth MAMMOTH BOOK OF BRITISH CRIME collection of short stories is due in the near future - but Maxim’s also got a novel of his own on the way. I WAS WAITING FOR YOU hits the shelves on November 1st, with the blurb elves wibbling thusly:
A young Italian woman flees her home in Rome and gets involved with the wrong man in Paris. Cornelia, the fearless stripper and killer for hire, who proved such a hit in previous novels, is back. And on another mission to kill. As the two women’s paths intersect, an English crime writer down on his luck is mistaken for a private eye and goes on a quest for a missing person. From New York to Paris, and then on a thrilling journey through Barcelona, Tangiers, Venice and then finally to a small medieval town outside Rome, the waltz with darkness of the three characters in search of love, lust and redemption becomes ever more poignant and mysterious. This is a sexy, sad, breathless, a memorable tale of lost souls caught in a spider’s web of their own making.
  Yes, yes, that’s all very fine and well, but here’s The Big Question: Where can we get a poster of that cover?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

David Thompson, RIP

I never met the man, and he refused (very sensibly) to publish my books on a number of occasions - so why has the death of David Thompson (right) come as such a shock? Possibly because he was a relatively young man, with so much enthusiasm for crime writing of all stripes; possibly because he had so much going on (Murder by the Book, the recent Busted Flush merger with Tyrus Books) right now; possibly because he had an unerring instinct for the underdog; and maybe it’s just that it’s possible to feel a real affinity with someone even when all of your communication is done via email.
  A couple of years ago, when I was even less well known than I am now, and was announcing to very little fanfare that I was travelling to the US to promote a new book I had coming out, David Thompson was the first to contact me and insist that I come to Houston, and Murder by the Book, to read and sign. In the end, I couldn’t make it to Houston; I only had a week to play with, and the ‘tour’ took in the East Coast instead; but the gesture was absolutely typical of David Thompson’s generosity and unflagging support for the new, the unchampioned and those most in need of a break.
  Really, it’s desperately sad. My thoughts are with David’s wife, family and friends. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

They Say It’s The Hope That Kills You In The End …

… although, in this case, it’s the HOPE Foundation that’s saving lives. Vanessa O’Loughlin and Hazel Larkin curate THE BIG BOOK OF HOPE, an anthology of short stories, memoirs and non-fiction which was launched last week with the aim of raising funds for the HOPE Foundation. To wit:
This book will save lives. To live without hope is the ultimate deprivation. The HOPE Foundation reaches out to the street children of Kolkata, India, on a daily basis: rescuing sick and abandoned children; delivering food and clean water to the slums; providing crèches where destitute and slum-dwelling mothers can safely leave their children while they do what they can to earn money; running its health-care programme, including its new hospital; fighting child labour and child-trafficking; breaking the cycle of poverty through education in its many coaching centres. This extraordinary collection celebrates The HOPE Foundation and hopefully will play a significant role in publicizing and supporting its courageous work. A potent blend of fiction, memoir and non-fiction, the contributions explore the theme of 'hope' and its vital presence in all our lives. With its astonishing range of bestselling authors, political figures, business people and media celebrities, THE BIG BOOK OF HOPE has something for everyone. Alex Barclay, Maeve Binchy, Claudia Carroll, Don Conroy, Brian Crowley, Evelyn Cusack, Derek Foley, Anne Gildea, Brian Keenan, Sinead Moriarty, Denis O’Brien, Joseph O’Connor and over thirty other unlikely bedfellows rub shoulders in this unique anthology the only common denominator being their considerable talent. Buy this remarkable book and help to break the cycle of poverty for the street children of Kolkata. Buy this book and help save lives.
  Declaration of Interest: yours truly has a short story in the anthology, but please don’t let that put you off buying a copy …

Monday, September 13, 2010

Fiddling With His Funny Bits: The Bateman Interview

With his latest ‘Mystery Man’ novel, DR YES, on the horizon, and a new play in the works, I recently interviewed Colin Bateman (right) for the Evening Herald. It went a lot like this:
FOR A MAN who recently lost his first name, The Artist Formerly Known As Colin Bateman is in remarkably chipper form.
  The prolific writer (25 novels and counting) of comedy crime novels that began with DIVORCING JACK was recently rebranded ‘Bateman’ to coincide with the publication of a new series character who goes only by the name ‘Mystery Man’ as Bateman spoofs the conventions of the traditional crime thriller.
  “It’s kind of a mixed blessing,” he says of his new moniker. “It has undeniably worked as far as the books are concerned - or maybe the books are getting better - in that there’s a recognition factor there. The downside, I suppose, is that if you don’t know it’s tongue in cheek, you’d think it was a bit self-important. And of course, now that I have that doctorate from Coleraine University, I’m officially a Doctor, so the new book could be DR YES by Dr Bateman. If I chose to, ahem, yank my own chain.”
  Fiddling with his funny bits, of course, is what led to the creation of Bateman’s choicest character to date.
  “Most of my books have been launched in Belfast’s No Alibis mystery bookstore,” he says, “and at a launch I generally read the first chapter of the new book: you don’t have to set it all up or confuse people with back stories and asides. But when I was launching DRIVING BIG DAVIE about six years ago I had a bit of a problem – the first chapter was all about masturbation, and my mother-in-law was in the audience. So I had to read something, and that something was a story I wrote over the weekend before the launch, actually set in the bookstore, and with a fictional version of the owner [Dave Torrans] cracking a humdrum crime in ‘The Case of Mrs Geary’s Leather Trousers’. It really was just to fill a gap, but it went down so well that at the next book launch I wrote another short story featuring the same character, and those two stories eventually evolved into the first novel.”
  Mystery Man’s schtick is that he is the antithesis of the conventional crime fiction hero: he’s a cowardly neurotic, a hypochondriac with all the fighting qualities of a cloistered nun, a man who excels only at “being paranoid and foolish and saying the wrong thing, mostly. Yep, it’s a thinly veiled autobiography,” laughs Bateman. “I think Mystery Man and Dan Starkey [the wise-cracking hero of Bateman’s previous series of novels] have a lot in common in that they both tend to open their mouths before they put their brains into gear. The difference is that Dan’s a bit of a jack-the-lad, and if he doesn’t exactly get away with it, he does have a bit of charm and swagger to him. Mystery Man you’d probably just want to hit with a hammer. I suspect I’m probably half way between the two of them.”
  The first in the new series, MYSTERY MAN, was a Richard and Judy ‘Summer Read’, while the second, THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL, scooped the Last Laugh award at the recent CrimeFest bunfight in Bristol. The third, DR YES, will be published on September 30th, but Bateman isn’t resting on his laurels.
  “I think it’s important to keep the writing fresh,” he says, “so I’m always open to new challenges – the most recent being writing an erotic short story for Maxim Jakubowski’s Dublin-set anthology, SEX IN THE CITY, which story is chiefly notable for having no discernable erotic content.”
  Having previously written for TV, most notably the Murphy’s Law series that starred James Nesbitt, Bateman has now turned to writing for the stage.
  “‘National Anthem’ is about a composer and a poet,” he explains, “both exiles for twenty years, and with a certain level of fame, who are commissioned by the Government to create a national anthem for Northern Ireland to coincide with the visit of the American President. They’re very much up against a deadline: two men in a room with one day to compose it. But this isn’t the country they left, and they both have secrets which are exposed during the course of the play, secrets which also come back to haunt them. I should add that it’s a comedy, a farce, but maybe with a few points to make about how ‘we’ see ourselves, where we’ve been and where we’re going.”
  After that it’s back to another Mystery Man novel, and using comedy to continue to carve out a niche in what he believes is quickly becoming a depressingly homogenous genre.
  “In publishing terms,” he says, “crime fiction is the biggest genre, and the best-selling authors are selling phenomenal amounts of books. But I genuinely believe that 99 per cent of crime readers, if they were given just the books minus their covers and any identifying information, really couldn’t tell the difference between any of them.
  “I was at the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival a couple of months ago and I met many crime fiction fans, and they were all perfectly nice and lovely and I got a great reception and they laughed at my jokes, but it was absolutely clear to me that at the end of the day what they actually wanted was the next Jeffrey Deaver, or Patricia Cornwell or Karin Slaughter. They like the safety of knowing what they’re getting every time they buy a book, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but most of them just aren’t comfortable with the idea of crime comedy and won’t take a chance on it.
  “I think maybe readers have forgotten that there was a strong element of humour in crime fiction in the past - Sherlock Holmes and Raymond Chandler had it in spades - but it seems to have been sucked out of it over the years in favour of blood and guts.
  “It’s not so much that comic crime is cutting edge,” he continues, “it’s just that I think anything that varies from the norm is always worth checking out. Comic crime fiction at least dares to be different. It also,” he grins, “dares not to sell very many copies.”

  DR YES is published by Headline on September 30th. National Anthem debuts at the Belfast Theatre Festival on October 20th.
  This interview first appeared in the Evening Herald.