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, January 22, 2011

Wicka Wicka Wild West

I’ve no idea what it is they’re putting in the water over there these days, but the west coast of Ireland, if what we’re seeing on screen is to be believed, is going to hell in a hand-basket. RTE’s acclaimed TV series about a lone rural cop, ‘Single-Handed’, recently had its fourth run; Ken Bruen’s THE GUARDS was adapted as ‘Jack Taylor’, starring Iain Glen; now comes ‘The Guard’, which this week opened the Sundance Festival World Dramatic Competition. To wit:
‘The Guard’ is a thriller-comedy set on the west coast of Ireland where Sergeant Gerry Boyle (Brendan Gleeson) is a small-town cop with a confrontational personality, a subversive sense of humour, a dying mother, a fondness for prostitutes, and absolutely no interest whatsoever in the international cocaine-smuggling ring that has brought FBI agent Wendell Everett (Don Cheadle) to his door.
The film is written and directed by John Michael McDonagh, brother to playwright and film director Martin McDonagh (‘The Lonesome West’ et al, ‘In Bruges’), who doubles up here, along with Don Cheadle, as executive producer. The big attraction for me here is Brendan Gleeson, though, an immensely likeable and always watchable actor, and by all accounts a thoroughly nice bloke to boot. Variety likes him too, with the gist of its Sundance review running thusly:
“… it’s Gleeson who rightly owns the screen as a beer-swilling, crotch-grabbing, Derringer-firing crusader with one hell of a filthy mouth to go along with his heart of gold,” while the director John Michael McDonagh’s “filmmaking crackles with energy.”
According to Element Pictures, the movie will be getting a summer release here in Ireland. Should be a cracker.

Friday, January 21, 2011

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?”: Sean Cregan

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?
Assuming it counts as crime, as it’s a bit of an oddball, then China Mieville’s THE CITY AND THE CITY, no question. The writing’s top notch, Inspector Borlu is a great character, and the weaving of the story, which looks on the surface like a run of the mill murder mystery, through such a unique setting is fantastic. Awesome book.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
Spider Jerusalem. (I’ll let people who don’t know the name google it, and recommend that they buy the graphic novels.)

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t think I have any. At least, no “guilty pleasures” in the sense of reading - there’s all the other stuff, with the animals, and that Hawaiian nun, and the rubber masks, but there’s no reading involved in that.

Most satisfying writing moment?
In recent times, ignoring all the “moment of being first published” stuff, probably reading my notes for a finale that read, with only the names redacted: “X rappels in by helicopter. Y arrives by hovercraft. Z crashes a burning car through the wall.” The middle of the three was especially hard to include in an ostensibly serious urban thriller, rather than a James Bond tie-in. I’m clearly very easily entertained.

The best Irish crime novel is …?
I’d be amazed if anyone claimed it was anything other than THE BIG O ...

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
If AMERICAN SKIN counts as an Irish crime novel, I’d say that. Though it’s going to take the movie industry a long time to work through Ken’s whole back catalogue.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
The pay and the hours, respectively? More seriously, having to go over your own stuff so many times that you’d rather claw your own eyes out than read anything you’ve ever written, and having the freedom to come up with all that future boredom in the first place, ideas running free.

The pitch for your next book is …?
Ha! Now that’s a tricky one in the circumstances. A couple of weeks ago it would have been: “A wanted American assassin, a motorcycle gang member and a thief in hiding from his own guilt as much as his former employers go searching for a kidnapped child in a vast, abandoned Manila neighbourhood where the air’s toxic and the ground floods every high tide. They’re up against one of the world’s richest men, an insane unit of Filipino soldiers and every small-time villain in the city.”

Who are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished Justin Cronin’s THE PASSAGE, just starting on China Mieville’s UN LUN DUN.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Easy. I write, then stick to watching movies. I’ll just have to avoid the ones with subtitles.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
“Confused, plotless schlock”. Or “stylish, tight and exciting”. Much like the trousers I’m wearing.

Sean Cregan’s THE RAZOR GATE is published by Headline.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

21st Century Boy

I have no idea of when it’ll go live, but at some point today Mulholland Books will begin serializing a new novel by Sir Kenneth of Bruen (right). It all sounds splendidly Dickensian, albeit in a 21st century kinda way, and would be even more Dickensian were it a Jack Taylor novel exploring the squalor of recession-hit Galway (sorry, Galway), with soot-blackened urchins being shoved up chimneys to discover corpses and whatnot. Anyway, you can clickety-click here for more
  In other news, yesterday I received a long awaited decision on the future of my own current tome, which is at the moment languishing under the improbable title of THE BABY KILLERS. The news, disappointingly, was a negative, although the disappointment has less to do with the fact that the book won’t be published any time in the near future (I’m well used to that at this stage) as it has to do with the potential publisher, a small but perfectly formed press with some radical ideas on the future of publishing. It’s a pity, but there it is; upward and onward.
  It now looks very much like I’m going to self-publish THE BABY KILLERS, aka BAD FOR GOOD, aka A GONZO NOIR at some point later this year. I’ve had a good scour around the interweb for self-publishing deals, and I’ve come to the conclusion that I can’t in all conscience, given these straitened times and the need to put food on the table, etc., pump even a relatively modest sum of money into a project just for the sheer vanity of being able to hold an actual book. And so I’ll be e-publishing THE BABY KILLERS, and pretending that I’m doing it to be on the cutting edge of technology, especially in the context of Amazon claiming that they’re now selling more Kindles than McBurger sells cheeseburgers, etc, yadda-yadda.
  For those of you who’ve been keeping an eye on this project, the principle behind it will remain the same: any monies accruing will be donated to charity. That won’t amount to much more than a hill of beans, and probably a lot less, because the price of the book will probably be in the $1 range. Still, it’s the thought that counts.
  As to what I’ll do once THE BABY KILLERS is out there, I really have no idea. I’ve a couple of stories I’d really like to write, and one in particular that simply won’t go away, so I have plenty of material to work with. Whether or not there’s an actual point to writing it, or them, is another matter entirely. Yes, it’ll be that uniquely perverse kind of masochistic fun that is writing, which is roughly 90% of the reason I write; but I can only delude myself for so long, and eventually the other 10% - actually presenting the story to other people for the purpose of reading it, if for no other reason than to justify the time you’ve wasted writing the bloody thing - will kick in. And where do I go then, with my oh-so-precious m/s clasped in my clammy hands? Being practical, there’s only so many times I can tell the Three Regular Readers of ye olde blogge that good times are just around the corner; at some point they’re going to lose interest, or worse, start pitying me. Better perhaps to just accept that I’ve had a good enough run at this point, a better run than I’d even allowed myself to imagine starting out, and simply fall on my sword.
  We’ll see. Right now my priority is to get DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS to the publisher on deadline, and see it ushered onto a bookshelf near you in all its pomp and glory; and once that’s done, I’ll crack on with e-publishing THE BABY KILLERS, and apologies in advance to all of you who, like me, prefer actual books to the electronic version. After that, well, who knows? Only time, that notoriously doity rat, will tell.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Truth vs Fiction: And The Winner Is …

Barry Forshaw, reviewing Eoin McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE in last weekend’s Sunday Tribune, asks an interesting question. To wit:
How legitimate is it to plunder real-life crime as grist for a fiction writer’s mill? And how long an interval should be left before picking over the bones of a murder? Celebrated crime novelists who have transmuted grim reality into uncompromising books include James Ellroy, who fictionally confronted his own mother’s murder in THE BLACK DAHLIA, and David Peace, who controversially used the Yorkshire Ripper’s reign of terror in the Red Riding Quartet. Eoin McNamee steps into this dangerous territory with ORCHID BLUE – less visceral than these predecessors, but equally provocative, as he deals with the last hanging on Irish soil …
  I was asked a similar question - How legitimate is it to plunder real-life crime as grist for a fiction writer’s mill? - during a panel discussion last year, when the mood seemed to suggest that such ‘plundering’ wasn’t a good idea at all, although that was in the context of Edna O’Brien’s IN THE FOREST. At the time I’d recently read ORCHID BLUE, though, so it all seemed a pretty good idea to me. And, in general, I’d tend to believe that the writer’s obligation is to write the story as well as he or she can, with all other considerations trailing in a poor second. But that’s just me.
  Anyway, it was a good weekend for McNamee in terms of reviews. Jake Kerridge gave ORCHID BLUE the thumbs up in The Telegraph, and was very approving of Jane Casey’s THE BURNING into the bargain; while yours truly had reviews of ORCHID BLUE, The Artist Formerly Known as Colin Bateman’s DR YES and Benjamin Black’s ELEGY FOR APRIL in the Sunday Independent.
  Meanwhile, both McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE and THE BLUE TANGO (2001) featured Lord Justice Curran, who presided over the trial of Robert McGladdery (ORCHID BLUE) despite the fact that his own daughter was murdered 10 years previously in very similar circumstances (THE BLUE TANGO). Word is that McNamee is planning a third novel to feature Justice Curran; ‘legitimate’ or not, I for one can’t wait.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

William Golding, Rapunzel And Me

One of my favourite quotes about writing comes from William Golding, in an interview in which he was asked about his writing schedule was like. “Well,” he said, “when I’m writing …”
  Whoa! ‘When I’m writing …’? You’re saying you don’t beat yourself up for not putting down 500 words minimum every day? Nice one, sir.
  I’m not writing right now. Haven’t written a single sentence of fiction in weeks. Took a break for the Christmas holidays and haven’t gone back since. It’s marvellous.
  There’s a few reasons for such sluggardly laziness. One is that I’m a lazy sluggard. Another is that I’m torn between a couple of stories I’d like to write, and I can’t decide which one I’d prefer to follow through on - although that suggests that maybe neither one has sufficient gravity to pull me in. Another reason is that I have a book under consideration at the moment, and it’s getting past the point where a decision will be made, and I find it very difficult to write with the guillotine blade creaking overhead. There’s also the fact that (actual paying) work is keeping me quite busy, and that we’ve turned the last bend into the final furlong on the DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS project, and it’s sapping all the spare energy I have to pretend I’m not a carthorse among thoroughbreds.
  There’s also the fact that I have been busy telling stories, to a captive audience, and revelling in the feedback, and if there’s anything more likely to undermine your drive to write, I really don’t know what it is. These stories tend to get told around about 8pm every night, to a sleepy little girl who demands one last story before she’ll close her eyes, and feature princesses, dragons, castles, dark forests, pink magic (pink magic is good, green magic bad), trolls, witches, fairy godmothers, mermaids, et al, although the most crucial element tends to be a feisty heroine called ‘Lily’, who is invariably to be found wearing a ‘bootiful swirly-twirly dress’. Last night it was Rapunzel’s turn to get an outing, and the little girl listened in wide-eyed silence, only interrupting to correct her daft old dad when he got a detail or six wrong, as he generally does; and then, once everyone was living happily ever after, the sleepy little girl announced, as she generally does, “My turn.” For the 55-second, stripped down, all-you-need-to-know version of Rapunzel, roll it there, Collette …
  I’m biased, obviously. But if Ray Chandler himself were to rise from the grave and read one of my stories, and declare it a third-rate knock-off but not bad, all things considered, it still wouldn’t be a patch on the buzz I get from telling Lily stories and hearing her version in return. A bit of a closed feedback loop, it’s true, and highly unlikely to set me on the path to fame, riches and glory. Still, when it all boils down, the whole point of this writing malarkey is for the pure joy of telling stories. Right?
  Apologies for the sentimental interlude. Normal cynical service will be resumed as soon as possible …