Sunday, 13 July 2014

Stumped by Rob Kitchin -- Cover and Blurb

Look at this cover:

Now read what I had to say about the book:

"As far as Irish crime fiction goes, Kitchin delivers all the major ingredients: mystery, psychos and a dash of drag queen farmers. This novel is frantic, fierce and fabulous. Skip the manicure before reading. Stumped is a head-scratching nail-biter that'll leave your fingers chewed down to the nub." 
---Gerard Brennan, author of WEE ROCKETS and THE POINT 

And now click on this link to read more nice words about the book and find out when you can get your hands on a copy.

Seriously, you'll want to read this one. I feel lucky to have read an advance version.

By the way, Rob's blog, The View From the Blue House turned five years old yesterday. You'll find a lot of excellent reviews there (since they've been distinctly lacking at CSNI lately). Check it out.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Flash Fiction from Dana King


Eldrick’s had a nice crowd for Tuesday night. About half full of the usual clientele, people with more money than was good for them, looking for peers to indulge what would be called perversion if practiced by a lower socioeconomic caste.
The sound system calibrated so you could hear everything your target said and still be able to plead ignorance if necessary. She came in halfway through The Eurhythmics’ “Sweet Dreams.” A redhead now, wearing an electric blue sheath. I almost didn’t recognize her, just the sensation of seeing a person who reminded me of someone else until I glimpsed her aquamarine eyes. No one who saw those eyes ever forgot them.
She sat at a table big enough for two drinks and a small bowl of nuts, had Eldrick’s been that kind of place. I waited until her drink arrived and sat down without being invited.
Hello, Lily.”
She looked at me without recognition for a couple of beats, then blushed to the roots of what used to be blond hair. “Nick Forte? Oh my God! What are you doing here?”
Working,” I said. “I hope you aren’t.”
Her eyes flickered to the table, then back. “I don’t do that anymore. Not since…my mother…you know.”
I’m glad. Really. Look, I won’t stay. Don’t want to limit your availability. I’m sorry. That didn’t come out right. You know what I mean. Like I said, I’m working. A cheating husband job. Lots of pre-nup money at stake. It really is good to see you. You look great.”
Can you stay a minute?” It popped out like she’d been holding it back.
Sure, if you want. I can watch for this guy just as well from here. I’ll get my drink.”
I’m in trouble.”
I left the drink. I didn’t owe Lily O’Donoghue a thing; I’d always owe her mother. “What kind of trouble?”
That money you gave me—”
Your mother gave you. I just delivered it.”
Okay, my mother gave me. I didn’t waste it. I got a Masters at DePaul and used the rest to buy into a psychology practice. We’re doing very well.”
I knew you would.”
She went on like I hadn’t spoken. “Someone recognized me. From before. Said he’d ruin me if I didn’t pay him.”
Does that kind of leverage work on a shrink?”
Not usually. A lot of psychologists have pasts they’d rather not talk about. It’s why we get into the field. The videos he has are the kinds of things you can’t live down. I’d have to leave the practice, leave Chicago. I worked hard for this, Nick. I don’t want to give it up. But I know it won’t stop with just once. He’ll be back for more and more and more. The money I have is tied up in the practice. He can ruin me.”
What was the plan before I showed up?”
She blushed. “Work out a deal for less money…”
I raised a hand. “I’ll do what I can. Point him out to me when he comes. Give him what you have, tell him you need more time, and make sure he leaves without you. Wait ten minutes, then go straight home. Now act like you’re shooting me down, in case he’s watching.”
He must have been, moved in before my seat had a chance to cool. Almost handsome, early forties, in good shape, nice suit. They talked for five minutes. She laid an envelope on the table. He opened it and counted the money—amateur, counting it in public—then took her wrist in his hand so I knew it had to hurt even though I couldn’t hear. I stayed put. He wouldn’t do anything dangerous in public, and she’d only scare so much, knowing I was around.
He stood and I left before he had a chance to notice me, waited outside by the valet station. He led me to an unlighted house in Elmhurst, pulled into an attached garage while I killed the headlights and drifted to a stop in front. A light came on inside. I took what I needed from my car and rang the bell.
He answered the door with a look between confused and irritated. I opened the switchblade from my car’s console and sliced his tie off right below the knot. His mouth fell open and I stuffed the tie in it.
I want the money you picked up in Eldrick’s and all the videos.”
He made a sound. Could have been, “What videos?” Hard to tell with the tie in his mouth.
I stuck a leg behind his knee and took him down hard. Pried his jaws apart and started feeding the tie down his throat. “I want everything,” I said. “Slap the floor when you’re ready. Don’t wait too long. You pass out and I’ll leave you for the coroner.” He gave the sign before I could start again.
I pulled out the tie. “The money first.”
On the island. In the kitchen.” I nodded that way and he led me to it.
Now the movies,” I said.
We went into a den near the front door. He handed me a jewel box with a disc in it. “That’s the only copy.”
I nodded toward his computer. “There’s a file in there, though. Isn’t there?” He didn’t say, but he might as well have.
Neither of us spoke while the laptop booted. When it finished he moved for the chair.
I got it,” I said. Brought up a command prompt, typed “format c:” and hit Enter.
Jesus Christ, that’s my business computer. You’ll ruin me. Who are you?”
I’m the guy who’s coming back here if she ever even sees you crossing the street again. We good on that?”
I mailed the money to Lily. Broke the disc before curiosity got the better of me.

Enjoy it? Check out Dana's novels, then!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Soldier, Soldier - A Dana King Guest Post

Detective Nick Forte, the hero of ASmall Sacrifice, has military experience in his background. Not a lot is made of it, but there are elements that help to shape his character between the lines, especially in later books. It stems from my at least partial adherence to the hoary adage, to “write what you know.”

I don’t say much about my time in the United States Army, mainly because I was in a band stationed at Fort McPherson, Georgia. Basically, Atlanta. We performed post ceremonies, did gigs in and around Atlanta, and traveled a few times a year for up to three weeks. Our most hazardous “mission” was to fly in the cargo hold of a C-130 to the Virgin Islands for a Veterans Day concert.

I was a “soldier” in only the broadest definition of the term. Real soldiers have jobs that place them at risk as a matter of course. I did get to spend some time around real soldiers—my drill sergeants were all Vietnam veterans, most of them from the same Air Cavalry outfit depicted in Apocalypse Now, which came out right before I left for basic—and I had the presence of mind to appreciate a chance like this would not pass my way again. I paid attention, asked questions when opportunity presented.

When I first came up with the idea of Nick Forte, I wanted to leverage as much of my experience as I could. We’re both “recovering” musicians with minor military backgrounds. His takeaway from the service—as was mine—is not of the flag-waving, “making the world safe for the American Way of Life ™, American Exceptionalism means we can do what we want” attitude so often portrayed in books, movies, and politics today, but the attitudes of the common soldier. He fights for the men on either side of him, trusting them to fight for him. He keeps his weapon clean and his mind clear under incredible stress, for his mates as much as himself. He may not have a lot of friends, but those he has he trusts with his life, and will exchange his for theirs if called upon. He also will place the task at hand—his mission—above his personal safety. He doesn’t advertise this—beware the man who wears any conviction too much on his sleeve—shows it through his actions. It’s far more deeply embedded in Forte’s psyche than in mine, if only because I routinely place him into at least one life-or-death situation per book.

My small experience with actual boots-in-the-mud soldiers piqued my interest and led me to books and movies that looked at things more from that perspective. Band of Brothers, Generation Kill (both the books and the TV series), Saving Private Ryan, and many non-fiction choices. A downside is, I can’t watch The Longest Day anymore without cringing; soldiers don’t make speeches like that.

The upside is, I hope this has given me an appreciation, if not an understanding, for the mind-set of a combat soldier. (Though I hate the idea of “You have no idea what’s it like unless you’ve done it” in general, I feel safe in saying no one who has not been in combat can truly “understand” what it’s like.) I know it’s helped to make Nick Forte a richer character in my imagination; only readers can decide if I have been able to transfer that to the page.

Short additional note from Gerard - A Small Sacrifice and 3 other Dana King books can be nabbed for free for the next few days. Be quick. Get yours now!

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Hail to the King, Baby

So, it looks as if THE POINT has come to the end of its run as a perma-free book on Kindle. Does that make it semi-perma-free? Who knows?

If you're into answering rhetorical questions, feel free to leave a comment.

Anyway, right now, THE POINT is selling for the princely sum of 29p on Kindle in the UK. In the US it's 49 cents. I know. Them Blasted Heath lads must be having a laugh. Who's going to throw that kind of cash away?

But the good news is (and it's especially good if you only read free books on your Kindle), Dana King's books are now free on Kindle, even the latest, Grind Joint, which I really enjoyed.

"GRIND JOINT by Dana King. The spirit of THE WIRE reincarnated with JUSTIFIED charm. Gangster-rich US crime fiction at its best." I said that on Twitter, like.

So, you know what to do. Save your 29p and get all those lovely free books. Just promise me one thing. Pass the word on, maybe review one of the books, and add Dana to your 'recommend to friends' list, if you enjoy his work. Okay, so that's three things, but it's hard out there for a pimp. I reckon it's even harder for a writer.



Tuesday, 17 June 2014

New Novel - Coming Soon*

*Don't ask me how soon, exactly... I'm not sure yet. But check out the cover!

Blurb to follow soon enough. Just know that it's the first of a new series that will be published by Blasted Heath. I'm excited about this project and not at all daunted by all those words that have to be written to back up the claim that Cormac Kelly is my new series character.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Conference on the Territorialisation of Crime fiction, Queen’s University, Belfast

International Conference on the Territorialisation of Crime fiction
Queen’s University, Belfast, 13-14th June 2014

The global and the local in contemporary world crime fiction
Circulation and exchanges

Friday 13th June 2014
9:00-9:30 Old Staff Common Room, Lanyon Building, Welcome address from Professor Margaret Topping, School of Modern Languages, Introduction

9:30-11:00 Maps and Regions in Crime fiction
Eva Erdmann (Munich) “Topographical fiction in relation.
International Crime Scenes in Literature and their cartographic Representation”
Christoph Baumann (University of Erlangen-Nürnberg) Geographies of crime – Regionalization in German crime series “

11:00-11: 30 COFFEE

11: 30-13:00 The Politics of Place
Benoît Tadié (Rennes University) “All Roads Lead to Hollywood... And the Pause That Refreshes:
-routing and Territorializing Hardboiled/Noir fiction in Los Angeles (1930-1950)”
Andrew Pepper ( QUB) Sovereign Power in an era of Neoliberalism:
State Coercion and Parapolitics in David Peace and Eoin McNamee

13:00-14:00 LUNCH, QFT Foyer, 20 University Square

14:00-15:30 Old Staff Common Room Patrimonialisation and Globalisation of the local
Kerstin Bergmann, (University of Lund) Europeanization and Regionalism in 21st Century Swedish Crime Fiction?
Gabrielle Saumon (University of Limoges) “From crime fiction to the making of a touristic place.
Ystad, Stockholm: two investigations
15:30-15:45 COFFEE

15:45-17:30 Ireland of Crime
Samantha Weyer-Brown (University Paris 3) Landscape, territories and 'ghost estates' in Tana French, Broken Harbour”.
Fiona McCann (University Lille 3) “Authority, Permeability and the State of the State in
Eoin McNamee’s
Blue trilogy and The Ultras”
Garrett Carr (QUB) “The Map of Connections, illustrated talk”
19:00 No Alibis Bookstore, Botanic Avenue, Reading and questions with invited authors Eoin McNamee and Brian McGilloway
21:00 CONFERENCE DINNER Mourne Seafood, 34- 36 Bank Street, Belfast, BT1 1HL

Saturday 14th June 2014
9:30-11:15 Seminar Room, 21 University Square From Close Reading to Data Visualisation: varying Focalisation in Approaches to Crime Regionalization
Dominique Jeannerod (QUB) “Northern Scenery and Mise-en scène of the Genre in French Crime Fiction”
Jean-Philippe Gury (Université de Bretagne Occidentale) Blue Guide of Crime: Welcome to Brittany!
Natacha Levet (University of Limoges) “Building a database for Mapping Regional Crime Fiction in France”

11:15-11:30 COFFEE

11:30-13:00 Negotiating the American Model domestically and globally
Barbara Pezzotti (Wellington) Giorgio Scerbanenco's Milan and the Domestication of the American Hard-Boiled Novel
Andrea Hynynen, (University of Turku) “A Feminism too foreign for France? – necessary change of Territory
in the case of Maud Tabachnik’s Feminist Crime Fiction”

13:00-14:00 LUNCH, QFT Foyer, 20 University Square

14:00-15:45 Seminar Room, 21 University Square Localisation and Globalisation
Kate Quinn (University of Galway) “Beyond Chilenidad.
Transatlantic crossings and local inflection in Chilean Crime Fiction”
David Schmid (University of Bufffalo) City, State, and Globe in the Crime Novels of Paco Ignacio Taibo II
David Platten (Leeds) Crossing Bridges: Crime Stories as International Currency”

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

No Alibis Event - Paul Charles

An Evening With Paul Charles-The Lonesome Heart Is Angry
Friday 6th June at 6:30PM

No Alibis Bookstore is pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch of Paul Charles' latest novel, THE LONESOME HEART IS ANGRY, on Friday 6th June at 6:30PM. This is a free event.
What seems like a routine job for the matchmaker, Michael Gilmour, in a 1960s small Northern Irish town becomes something very much more when events take an unexpected turn. The brothers Kane have an idea for their matches that will set tongues wagging, light the fires of jealousy in more than one heart, and open the door to tragedy.
The Lonesome Heart is Angry explores life in a small town and the darker side of the human condition. It doesn't shy away from the gossip, the fear, the violence and desperation that can build up inside people and behind closed doors.
Set in Castlemartin, home of the Playboys who featured in Paul Charles' The Last Dance, The Lonesome Heart is Angry is a gripping novel that will keep you reading until the last page.
Paul Charles is a noted author of crime and music books. He works as a music agent and is based in London. New Island published his previous Castlemartin novel, The Last Dance, in 2012.
Book your spot now by emailing David, or calling the shop on 9031 9607.

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Sunday, 18 May 2014

The Reading I Haven't Written About...

Back in January of this year, I blogged about reading and set my self the task of reading and writing about 100 books this year. I've written about 12 books and we're 5 months into the year. Now, I don't claim to be a genius mathematician (seriously, my brain just doesn't do mental arithmetic any more) but I'm pretty sure that I'm running behind schedule here.

Here's the thing; I've read a bunch of books this year that I haven't gotten around to writing about. Maybe I finished reading a book in bed and woke up the next day with too little time to scribble down some thoughts, put it off for a day or two, then forgot to return to it. Maybe I just had something else I wanted to do right after closing a book, put off writing about it for a day or two and forgot about it... you get the picture already, right?

So, I've read more than 12 books this year. Off the top of my head some of the books I've liked or loved enough to remember without a written record are:

Blue is the Night by Eoin McNamee
Steal Like An Artist by Austin Kleon
The Front Seat Passenger by Pascal Garnier
The Thin Man by Dashiell Hammett
The Hunter by Richard Stark
(I suspect there are a few more books that belong on this list, but they've slipped my mind)

I also reread The Maltese Falcon and a good portion of The Glass Key (both by Hammett) as well as the unfinished first draft of The Thin Man in the Library of America edition of Hammett: Crime Stories and Other Writing. A few short stories here and there (from mammoth collections like Hemingway's First Forty-Nine Stories and the Black Lizard Big Book of Pulps, mostly) and the odd chapter from a bunch of books that I wanted to refresh my memory of.

I'd still be running behind schedule, even if I'd written about the listed books, of course, but I'd be comfortable enough knowing that my summer reading boost would have helped a little. I've delivered this year's PhD work to QUB, and following my differentiation at the end of the month, I get a few months to myself (sort of) to read and write before the new academic year starts. This means I'll be free to read whatever I fancy and I'll probably take a break from the academic texts I've been dipping in and out of (I could list those, but I don't think you'd care).

So, do I write about the listed books in retrospect? I'm not sure I want to. I think I'll have lost some of the enthusiasm that sticks with you for a day or two after reading and that'll come through in my short reviews. Plus, I'm clocking up more titles that should go on the list every week or two. But then, these are all books worth talking about. Also, I've a bunch of fiction writing I want to get done (and reading of the work I've written, as the process goes). Or do I just abandon the whole 100 books thing and simply write what I feel like writing about when I feel like it?

You know what? My son wants me to make his some grub right now. I'll think about this later. If I feel like it.

Currently reading The Friends of Eddie Coyle by George V. Higgins and Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction by Patricia Highsmith, by the way.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

Four Writers - On Writing...

There are three writers who have been very kind to me over the last year. Each of them has helped promote my books and have reviewed a number of my titles. Without them, my profile would have been noticeably lower. I really believe that. They’re also pretty good friends with each other, so I always think of them as a collective; and as friends of mine.

Now, the thing is, due to my lifestyle, I can’t read and review every book that I’d like to. I barely get the time to read the books essential to the PhD I’m currently working on. But I had an urge to show these writers how much I appreciate all they’ve done for me. Best I could come up with was this lousy four-way interview. But here, I think it turned out all right. So, without further ado, here’s what happens when Ryan Bracha, KeithNixon, Mark Wilson and I get together via a long-ass web chat.

GB - Keith: You're an active reviewer on Big Al's Books and Pals and Crime Fiction Lover; what have you learned from the experience?

KN - The two sites have a different focus - Al's is on self and indie published books, whereas typically (but not exclusively) CFL is on larger, more established authors and publishers.

It's hard to find good writers, I mean really good ones, skilled in their craft. There's a huge number of books out there, and more being added every day. Of the self publish stuff I see about 10% are top notch.

The indie published authors have already been in effect filtered and generally they are of a higher quality - they have a contract for a reason.

Having a traditional publisher contract doesn't guarantee the reader is going to pick up any better books, however. I don't suddenly find a huge step up over at CFL, for instance.

Finally, unless you're a major name like Ian Rankin, visibility is key.

KN - So Bracha, name the three best and one worst decision that has meant the most to your success as an author?

RB - Good question that. The best three decisions... Okay, first and foremost has been the decision to do everything myself. I've learned to create cover art, edit, publish and market it to my own standards, so if any part fails it's on me. If it's a success I get to congratulate myself. Plus it means everything I do is cost free, ensuring maximum return on investment, which goes only to me. Or the wife. Which is nice.

Second one, um, I suppose it lays with my decision to never revise my work other than for continuity issues or typos. It gives me a chance to hammer the work out and get promoting it. I reckon I've done well so far, in that the work has been greatly received and performed far higher than I ever hoped. The longer it goes on though, the more the expectation that the bubble's gonna burst with the next book when it turns out to be utter garbage.

The third one is to know when to take advice. I've been known to think I know it all, but with my writing I'm always happy to learn from more experienced hands and apply it to my increasing arsenal of skills and knowledge. It's been a huge case of slowly slowly catchy monkey. I want to make a real success of myself in the literary arena. The worst decision I made was to ignore my wife the first ten times she told me to self publish. I could be a year more experienced if I'd listened to her!

RB - Mr Wilson, your 4 main works of fiction have been 4 vastly different genres, each with various influences. Which one taught you the most about your art and why?

MW - In all honesty I only began to feel like I was becoming a competent writer by my third book, Head Boy. By the end of it I reckoned I was developing enough to start thinking of myself as a writer. Writing from the mindset of a sadistic sociopath brought me right out of my literary shell.

MW - Question for Gerry: For a writer who sets his books in Northern Ireland, you do a good job of focusing on issues that don't directly involve the sectarian aspect of the region. Ever feel like shining a literary light on any experiences you'll have had of this?

GB - Most of my Troubles experiences are now blurry memories. I remember British soldiers who emerged from a graveyard next to our house in Warrenpoint in the eighties at regular intervals. I remember being searched by prison guards at Long Kesh prison when I visited family members at the ripe old age of 6. I remember my mother handing her handbag over to security guards at the front door of Castlecourt Shopping Centre in Belfast and wondering why they were allowed to poke around in there when I wasn't. But there's also a stock-pile of primary and secondary source Troubles stories in my memory banks from lips lubricated by liquor; mostly from a Republican perspective.

It took a long time to get everything almost straight in my immature brain. And I'm one of the lucky ones. I was shielded by a lot of the shite by my father and his decision to raise his family outside of Belfast. I was still aware of the conflict and the roles that people I knew played in it, but those aren't my stories. I think if I wrote about the Troubles (and I probably will) it would be with the intention to explain my own opinions and experiences to my children, who will have as many questions as I had as they grow up. I just don't know when will be the best time to do that. I think I need a little more distance first. Until then, it'll remain peripheral to my work.

GB - Ryan: One of the things we seem to have in common is a pretty eclectic taste in music, at least according to the Facebook updates you've written that have caught my eye. Do you draw on music for inspiration in your writing? And do you listen to music when you write?

RB - Most definitely, is the answer to your first question. Music is one of my truest passions, and yeah I do consider my tastes eclectic. I love that feeling you get when you hear a band or artist for the first time and you just instantly know that you've found something that's gonna be with you forever, and then seeing it performed live is another level altogether.

As far as influences go, yeah, I take a fair bit of influence from artists who stretch themselves, and don't play it safe to compromise what they're trying to say. Scroobius Pip is one such artist. Or Beck, I love how he changes direction with every release. I like instrumental music to write to, because I find myself sidetracked by singing along otherwise! The soundtrack to Amelie, by Yann Tiersenn is a consistent favourite in the headphones when I'm tapping away.

RB - Keef! We're all authors who set our books particularly local to ourselves, as I'm sure most are, what is it about Margate that inspires you to set you work there?

KN - Ok several reasons. One is write about what you know. Margate is on my doorstep. But the biggest factor was the backdrop, ie a once successful town gone to seed, suited the narrative and characters.

KN - Wilson, you've produced work across a wide range of genres - memoir to superhero thriller to crime to dystopian. Are you a restless writer?

MW - Restless is a good way to describe my head, so, yes I suppose. I'm a bit of a slut to my brain's whims. The business side of my brain wants to pick a genre and stick to it. The writer part just wants to go with whatever story is tugging at my literary knickers. I can't sleep until I empty my head so I just crack on. I don't really think about what genre a particular book fits into until I'm about half way through the manuscript, then I start marketing to that genre and the business brain lets out a long fart of released tension.

In all honesty, despite the obvious benefits of sticking with a genre or style of writing, I don't think I'll ever be able to stay faithful to one. I'm quite happy to be a genre-tart.

MW - Bracha: More than once I've seen comments (and made them) noting your very 'Scottish' writing style. Even in your books that lack Scottish characters, a very Celtic humour and tone comes through. Explain yourself.

RB - I dunno mate. Maybe it's the Scots who have a very Bracha humour and tone? Nah, it's just the way I've always written, I think I've told this story before, but when I first started writing Strangers, I would hand out the first few chapters to anybody that would take them, and one fella who read it handed me a novel saying I'd probably enjoy the writing, based on my style, and it took me months to finally read it. It was Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs by Irvine Welsh and it blew me away. Superior to mine without a doubt, but it set me on course for a love affair with Scottish writing that shows no sign of abating, and has no doubt filtered into my own writing. I completely associate with the total disregard for convention, the foul mouthed humour and sometimes inhuman ability to be inventive with the language that the best Scots have. The short answer, though, is I dunno.

RB - Brennan: If you were stuck in the Andes with your characters, which would you eat first? Which would you kill in a fit of fury? And which would you be happy to chill out and shoot the shit with?

GB - Right; eat, kill, shoot the shit... I'll pick WEE ROCKETS as the basis for the answer since (judging by sales and reviews) it's my most popular book. So, I'd probably eat Liam Greene, as he's the meatiest and he deserves it. Feckin' parasite.

I'd probably kill Joe Phillips in a fit of rage, because he's pretty gormless and frustrating. He's not a bad lad, really, but I know how irritable I can get from time to time. Put me on the Andes with no food, you better not break wind.

And for shooting the shit, it has to be Wee Danny Gibson. He's the most likely to have remembered to pack a carry out and he's pretty funny. I should point out, that in my mind, these kids aren't 14 years old anymore. They're almost 20 now. That makes me a little less creepy, right?

GB - Mark... I imagine it took a lot of courage to write Paddy's Daddy. Reading the dedication alone almost broke my heart. How do you feel about your son reading this book in the future? I ask because I'm playing with a similar idea myself and I'm a bit scared of it.

MW - Good question Gerry.

I thought about that a lot in the months after I published the autobiography. Spent a lot of time worrying that my son would be disappointed when he grew up and realised his da' isn't who he thought he was. Two things happened to take that worry away. First I realised that every son gets to a point when they lose their illusions about the hero dad they believe in, and then they grow up and hopefully reconnect in a different way. 

Secondly, I spoke to my wife about it and she pointed out that I was forgetting who the boy is. 

He's only five but is a very self assured, confident, empathetic and funny as fuck wee dude. Seriously, my five year old is the best man I know. My Mrs reminded me of that and asked me what I thought Paddy's reaction would be when he was a grown man and understood the childhood I'd had and the resulting problems that followed.
Simple answer. He'll be well proud of his old man for changing his life for his kids.

Problem solved.

KN - Where the fuck did Fireproof come from? Quite different to your other books - religion, God and the devil none of which figures elsewhere…

GB – I’m actually surprised that this is the first time I’ve been asked that question. The answer’s pretty simple, though. FIREPROOF was published after WEE ROCKETS, but it was actually written before. Back then (about 2006, I think – other books were written and abandoned back in my earlier writing days and I didn’t keep date records), I considered myself a horror writer rather than a crime writer. But then I realised that I was actually better at writing crime. However, Al Guthrie, once my agent and now my publisher via Blasted Heath, thought that FIREPROOF was a decent read when I showed it to him. It needed work, of course, and Al helped me with that. Al’s input and reassurance made me realise that the book was a lot better than I’d originally thought.

The next thing was to decide whether or not to release it under a pseudonym, even an obvious one, like how the late, great Iain Banks put an ‘M’ in the middle of his name to denote when he’d switched to science fiction. My middle name happens to begin with an M as well, but I’d have gone with something a tad more original. However, after some thought, it seemed like I’d be making work for myself by trying to handle two writing careers side by side. So I let it come out under my name and waited to see if anybody called me on it. Two years later, and you’re the first to do that…

But yeah, why a supernatural book that’s heavy on religious and social piss-taking? It was just good fun to write, to be honest. I’ll return to that universe some time soon, I hope, because there are readers who prefer it to my other stuff and I think it’d still be fun to just let my imagination and mischief run riot again. But I’ve a bunch of crime stuff lined up first.

RB - (Round-up question)  So the film or TV show of one of your books has been made, and the opening credits are rolling, I don't care who made it or who's in it. What's the song that's playing over those credits? For me, I'm choosing Prodigy, Invaders Must Die for PAUL CARTER IS A DEAD MAN. Might be a bit obvious but it's frantic enough to cover that opening scene.

GB - I'm going with Thin Line by HoneyHoney to open BREAKING POINT.

KN - Flyswatter by The Eels for THE FIX.

MW - I'm having Brasco by Hopeless Heroic for dEaDINBURGH.

And there you have it. Enjoy the interview? Why not check out some of their work, then? They've got Amazon pages and whatnot, like proper pros:

Ryan Bracha Amazon Page

Keith Nixon Amazon Page

Mark Wilson Amazon Page

Saturday, 3 May 2014

The Writers in the Photo

Photo by David Torrans

As always, a wonderful night at No Alibis. The #QUBLitFest event was very well attended and everybody seemed to have a great time. Plenty of smiles and good vibes. It was a pleasure to chat with Hélène Gestern, first for the benefit of an engaged audience, and then again over dinner at Molly's Yard after the event. Gestern is as intelligent, thought provoking and entertaining as her novel, The People in the Photo. Can't wait for the next Queen's French Literary Festival.

Many thanks to David Torrans of No Alibis for hosting the event and, as always, for his work in promoting the literary scene in Northern Ireland. And to Claudia, who helpfully pointed out that my own books wouldn't sell if I left them on their kitchen countertop in a cardboard box. Also, thank you to Dominique Jeannerod, Amelie Rougeot, Catriona Seth and all the fine people in the School of Modern Languages at QUB for their parts in organising the event, and to all the cool cats who showed up to make it such a fun night. Hat tips to Michael Nolan, Stephen Sexton, Laura Garland, Allen McKay and Andrew Pepper for adding some familiar faces to the crowd.

Thursday, 1 May 2014

The People in the Photo by Hélène Gestern

The People in the Photo is Hélène Gestern's first novel to be published in English. Originally released in France under the title Eux sur la Photo, this is a book that has racked up over 20 literary awards. The English version that I read, published by Gallic Books, sports a quote from La Magazine Littéraire on the front cover; 'A wonderful book about the archaeology of memory'. and that pretty much nails the theme.

In a nutshell, the story starts out with Stéphane Crusten's response to an ad placed by Hélène Hivert who is seeking information about a picture of a woman and two men from a previous generation. It comes to pass that two of the people in the photo are Hélène's mother and Stéphane's father. The twist is that both Hélène and Stéphane's respective parents from the photo are dead, and that Hélène has never met her mother. And so, the mystery plot thickens... The pair continue their correspondence so that the novel becomes an epistolary (it's practically a dialogic or two-way epistolary, except for the introduction of three other POVs towards the end of the book) that builds to an emotional crescendo seamlessly.

This, obviously, is a book that's somewhat outside of the normal scope of this blog, but as a writer, I feel reading outside of your chosen genre can only strengthen your skills. Plus, I'm 'in conversation' with Hélène Gestern tomorrow night (Friday 2nd May at 6.30pm at No Alibis in Belfast), and figured this blog post would make for a nice warm-up.

So, the CSNI verdict? The People in the Photo is an engaging and thought-provoking read that worked incredibly well within the confines of the epistolary form. Gestern puts meat on the bones of the skeletons in her characters’ closets. A masterclass in imagery.

If you want to know more, and you're within travelling distance of Belfast, come to the event! Details can be found here.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014


First off, thanks to Steve Cavanagh for the kind invitation to contribute to this bloggy chain-letter-type thing. Steve is Northern Ireland’s latest crime fiction success story, and if you want to find out more about him, go read his Writing Process blog post, right here. Then read more of his blog posts. They’re always good. You’ll notice that he’s one of those writers who does things the right way. That’s how come he’s got a swanky deal with one of my favourite publishers, Orion. Lucky (hardworking) fecker.

You back from Steve’s gaff yet? Sound. Here’s my post:

a) What am I working on?

Thanks for asking! Today I finished up a short story for an anthology I was invited to contribute to. It’s a noir piece with a bunch of supernatural stuff loosely based on the Morrigan myth. It would have fit well with the Requiems for the Departed brief, but I chose not to contribute to the Irish myth/crime fiction anthology because I co-edited the book and that seemed like a liberety.

Other than the short story, I’ve got a creative writing PhD keeping me busy, for which I must produce a new and ‘highly original’ crime fiction novel along with a critical piece on some old school greats. And I’m working on a Northern Irish police procedural during all those awesome university holidays.

b) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

People tell me I have a unique voice, so I guess I’ve set myself apart stylistically. I’m quite proud of myself when somebody says that, actually, so it must be important to me. I set pretty much all of my stuff in Northern Ireland, though I tend to avoid the Troubles. That’s not to say I won’t examine the Troubles in the future. In fact, I plan to do just that. But for now, that’s something else that readers point out as somewhat original. Also, my work has a noir quality to it. The great Stuart Neville once described by work as Norn Noir (a play on the term Norn Iron which is how some of the natives pronounce Northern Ireland). A shame that many agents and publishers aren’t interested in the Northern Irish noir sub-genre at the moment, though.

c) Why do I write what I do?

Writing is a long and solitary process. If I wasn’t spending time with the type of characters I create, I’d get bored very quickly. In fact, I’d jack writing in if it didn’t entertain me. So I guess it’s just a case of writing the kind of stuff I’d like to read.

d) How does your writing process work?

Most of the time it doesn’t work. I get distracted really easily, unfortunately. However, in those moments when the writing machine is firing at full tilt, I’ve found I do my best work in the morning, so long as I’ve prepared a little the night before. And the preparation doesn't have to be all that time consuming either. If I have a decent outline written, I can read the beats for the chapter or chapters I hope to write the next day. Sometimes I'll add additional notes to clarify the beats or to incorporate a new idea. Then I can get cracking on the actual writing the next morning. This is a relatively new process for me, but it helped me write my latest novella, BREAKING POINT, in less than a month. That's an output record I want to beat in the summer, after I've met my PhD deadlines in May.

There’s a writer called Sean Platt who penned a great blog post that describes a process similar to mine right here. This guy’s output is pretty stunning; he’s much more productive than I am. So read that, and you’ll find out how I’d like my process to work.

Right, so, the three writers that I’d like to continue this chain-letter-type bloggy thing are:

I met both Michael and Caroline on the MA in creative writing at QUB a couple of years ago. Their writing rocks and they’re starting to get the recognition they deserve. I met Mark McCann at No Alibis and again at Kitty Daly’s pub in Belfast. Turns out he’s a good friend of a good friend of mine, and he’s a rather funky author of supernatural noir. What’s not to like?

Keep ‘er lit, folks!

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

No Alibis/QUB Event -- Hélène Gestern

Click image for full-size version.

I'm currently reading Eux sur la Photo (translated as The People in the Photo for those of us who are linguistically challenged), and so far it's great. Looking forward to the chat, though I hope Hélène Gestern's English is better than my French; or at the very least that my PhD supervisor, Dr Dominique Jeannerod, is willing to act as interpreter. I say this for effect, of course. Dominique will be there. Everything will be grand!

You can get a copy of this excellent epistolary at No Alibis right now. Why not grab one before the event?

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

An Interview - Mark McCann

Mark McCann is a Self Published Author of hard boiled supernatural thrillers and Co-Owner and Senior Editor of Cult Nerd Website Star of YouTubes 'The BAD MAN Show' he also contributes feature articles to Bad Haven among other online outlets and news hubs - a habit he formed from his tenure as film critic for local newspapers around his hometown of Belfast.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute? 

I just finished up a few horror shorts for an upcoming Horror/Sci-Fi Anthology called
‘Inside I’m Darkness’ and I’m working on a fairly personal novel based on a lot of my own familial experiences called Return of the Scapegoat Kid.

It’s the tale of two estranged brothers and their awkward, painful, manic and mostly blackly comic journey towards reconciliation. I’m billing it as an Irvine Welsh style commentary meets a family drama - equal parts debauched humour and genuine insight into the dysfunctional family unit.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of your typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

My day is mostly composed of frantically trying to fit everything in. I come home, powernap, drink copious amounts of coffee, put some music on and settle into my chair with my laptop and get started. I usually write down ideas as I have them and always have a mental concept of what I’m going to be writing next.

I then process those ideas into my loose plot outline until something coherent emerges at the end. A lot of writers have a much tighter structure, but I’ve always liked mine loose. I like to surprise myself with twists that might occur to me as I go, and I find those surprises translate well for a reader.

I’d love to pretend I’m more organised and locked down, but truthfully I’m not. When I get going however, I enter ‘the zone’ and type like a champ.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I work part-time for an online comic book retailer by day and up until the last few months I was editor on cult website in the evenings until it became consumptive to the point where I needed to take a step back and focus on my writing again.

I train as a power lifter a few nights a week and I read a lot, whether it be books, articles, graphic novels, comics – the heap. I enjoy nights out to the cinema and the odd bit of travel, but my favourite thing is lazy days with my girlfriend in those fleeting moments when we can just chill out and read together. They are too few.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Work hard, improve your style, take creative criticism well - but don’t listen to small minded or negative people and/or anyone with advice that’s off key.

Trust your gut, take heart in that nobody ever made it by not trying and always finish what you start. But most importantly - never, ever regardless of what anyone tells you or how utterly impractical, financially difficult or unrealistic it may seem – never ever give up! It’s your dream. So it’s up to you to live it.

Writing can be hard, but it’s like Bruce Lee says; don’t pray for an easy life. Pray for the strength to endure a hard one. Truer words!

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

This year I’ve mostly been back at the classics - re-treading Hammett and Crumley. But as I write crime with a supernatural edge I’ve always enjoyed Mike Carey’s
Felix Castor series. He makes me feel so fiercely inadequate about my own writing that the competitor in me is continually driven to improve.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

I just finished Markus Zusak’s
The Book Thief and now I’m re-reading Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon along with Peter V Brett’s fantastic fantasy shorts The Great Bazaar and Brayan’s Gold.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Finish my current novel, pitch the anthology and begin the dogged submissions process. And maybe get an artist for a little graphic novel I’m plotting called
That Dame’s Unstoppable! But that’s another story.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

I’d network more. Submit more definitely. I have a tendency of wanting to do things NOW! And with the cold mistress of harsh experience as my teacher I’ve learned to be much more patient.

I always end up doing things the hard way and I have a tendency to jump before I look. I decided to self-publish all of my books and didn’t even try for an agent or publisher past the first one, so I think I’d go back and just be more dogged with submitting the first novel while working on the others and improving my style.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I don’t think I’ve really had any awful experiences writing. I know that’s pretty boring, but outside of my experience as a writer I’ve had plenty of unpleasantness to act as a counterweight. I’ve been beaten up, knocked out, threatened with knives/ baseball bats, almost killed by a mugger with a crowbar, followed home by paramilitaries, threatened by paramilitaries, almost had my head run over by a car (in a motorbike accident) and had a chunk bitten out of my back by a highly aggressive Alsatian. Writing by comparison has always been a positive delight.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

I’d just like to say thanks to everyone who’s been so supportive of my writing so far, including my dear old mum, my girlfriend, all my pals and the fantastic Crime Scene N.I. And also to give my books a quick pimp: Deadfast, The Generous Dead and The Mog Princess are all available at a great price via Amazon - Hardboiled supernatural horror set in my old home town of Belfast.

Thank you, Mark 'Bad Man' McCann!

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Deadfast by Mark McCann

This is a book I've been meaning to read for a very long time. I saw the first few chapters back in 2010. Mark introduced himself at the Requiems for the Departed launch and asked if he could send some of his writing my way. He seemed like a decent bloke and I had a beer buzz on, so I said, "Go for it, mate," or something similar. I read the first chapters in early draft form, offered some advice and left him to it. In the intervening years, Mark McCann has become a force to be reckoned with. He's now best known as the Bad Man, founder of the geek-tastic mega-site Bad Haven, but is also moonlighting as a Norn Iron horror hack, following in the big footsteps that Wayne Simmons has laid out over the last few years. You'll learn more about the Bad Man if and when he agrees to do a Q&A. In the meantime, this post is meant to be about his first novel.

Deadfast appeals most directly to the part of me that penned Fireproof. But I think McCann pushed the premise further than I managed. Read that as, if you liked Fireproof, you'll love Deadfast. It's a supernatural-crime fiction combo set in Belfast as narrated by an 'odd job' man with a penchant for vampire slaying by the name of Terry Fennell. If Joss Whedon were to set a Buffy spin-off in the wee big city of Belfast, he'd be hard-pressed to top Deadfast. In Terry Fennell, McCann invokes the spirit of Dashiell Hammett's Spade, possesses Bateman's Dan Starkey and sets him loose on the undead underbelly of Ulster.

Upon mentioning the Bateman, I feel it necessary to point something out. My keen investigative eye spotted that Deadfast's cover unabashedly imitates those of the latest Bateman books, but that seems fair enough. I don't know for sure, but if McCann isn't a Bateman fan, I'll be very surprised, so I'm counting the similarity as an homage to one of his influences. Of course, the Bateman-esque, smart-alecy black humour that permeates the novel could simply be McCann's default setting.

For the more nitpicky among you (and I lump myself into that category), you should know that this is a self-published title and McCann hasn't quite smoothed out all the rough edges of his writing style, but what I read was a huge improvement on my first introduction to his work. He's working hard at his craft and will only get better. And let me be clear, bar some minor typos and a bunch of missing commas, Deadfast is pretty close to professional level. Close enough for me to recommend it, whatever that may be worth to you.

If you're looking for Northern Irish crime fiction with a supernatural flavour, look no further than Deadfast. And if you like it, guess what... a sequel's already available! Looks like it features The Saint more heavily. I could write another paragraph about why that's exciting, but you could figure it out yourself by reading either novel, I'm sure. Also, as you can plainly see on McCann's Amazon page, a shorter work is available that looks like it spends more time with Mister Malawkus, Fennell's raucous tomcat pal. I'm more of a dog person myself, but I'm likely to give this one a go in the near future anyway.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Hurt by Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway now writes two different police procedural series. His Inspector Devlin series, set in Lifford, Donegal, launched his career. It seems as if his second series, featuring DS Lucy Black (a PSNI officer operating in Derry), has boosted him to higher echelons. And for good reason.

HURT is the second in the DS Lucy Black series and now that I've read it, I'm counting the days until I can get my hands on part 3.

As much as I love the Ben Devlin books, and am eager to read more from the Gadra Inspector, I think Lucy Black is my favourite of the two. Devlin's uniqueness of character comes from the fact that he's an ordinary man, which in itself is a neat trick, but I identify more fully with the flawed Lucy Black. And her flaws became more apparent in HURT. She has her secrets (the fact that her mother is the current Assistant Chief Constable in the PSNI being one) and she has hang-ups (like how she often feels as if she's not being taken seriously), and she seems more unpredictable than Devlin.

HURT's premise is a dark one. An examination of the type of men that prey on teenage girls with self-esteem problems. And then there's the continuation of the major plot point laid out at the end of LITTLE GIRL LOST, which is far from resolved by the end of HURT, but is looking good for some development in part 3. Dammit, when is part 3 out?

Get yourself on the McGilloway wagon right now, people. Though I've a feeling that I might be preaching to the converted. Two great developments in the Derry scribe's career certainly suggest that he's far from operating in obscurity. In recent weeks McGilloway has landed the Tony Doyle Award for screenwriting and LITTLE GIRL LOST has stormed the New York Times Bestseller list. And CSNI congratulates him.

Keep 'er lit, Brian.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Tropic Moon by Georges Simenon

I'm a little frazzled from lack of sleep and the tail end of some annoying virus (infecting me rather than my laptop -- ho-ho-sigh) so I don't expect any major insights to hit the screen as I rattle through the motions here.

I do not blame Simenon for this mood, incidentally. Bet that's put him at ease.

He MIGHT Google this, no...? Ah, a Bing man, eh...? Oh, right. RIP, then.

Really enjoyed this read. Simenon made me feel uncomfortable, impressed and satisfied with a book that had a lot to say about racism. It was first published in 1933. 81 years on and it still seemed relevant. Mind-blowing.

My original reason for picking this up was that I was trying to find another example of behaviourist* POV. Took a roll of the dice with this one. French writer, same publisher as the Manchette translations I've read, it post-dates Hammett's The Maltese Falcon by four years (though I haven't looked into when TMF might have seen a French translation)... alas, this was an example of third person limited (a good example) and not third person objective POV. Still, a worthy read. I'll hunt out more of these romans durs and probably look for a Maigret omnibus too. Some time.

Here's a link to a recent(ish) review of the book on The Guardian website. It seems entirely on point to me.

*a current obsession mentioned and poorly explained in a good portion of the books I've documented since January. I'll actually write a post about the writing POV when I'm more adept at explaining it.

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Nivelli's War by Charles Way - presented by Cahoots NI

Last night I attended the opening performance of Nivelli's War by Charles Way with my wife and my nine-year-old daughter at The MAC Theatre in Belfast. I am indebted to the play now, as it provided such a spectacular introduction to 'grown-up' theatre to my first-born.

Cahoots NI presented an intensely atmospheric play that had my daughter giggling one second and squeezing my hand in anticipations of danger the next. The cast is stellar: Dan Gordon, Sam Clemmett, Kerri Quinn, Abigail McGibbon, Bob Kelly, Michael Lavery and Faolan Morgan. The seven actors interact with each other like a well-oiled machine, each one providing their own special brand of magic in a show that relies heavily on suspension of disbelief. But if you believe in the magic, the payoff is more than generous.

Following the tribulations of young Ernst, a boy evacuated from his home in Frankfurt and then abandoned by his new carer, Tante Sophie, in mysterious circumstances, the play is set during the tail-end of the Second World War. German aristocracy, Russian and American soldiers and a snarky hobo contribute to what is at heart a tale about family and honour with a dash of the fantastical thrown in.

Every element of the production team was on point. If anybody missed a beat, I didn't pick up on it. The beautiful piano music, combined with a trigger-happy fog machine and moody lighting, created a world of smoke and shadows with occasional and powerful licks of colour, such as the wondrous image of a simple red balloon.

One of my performance highlights was the lesson in shrugging passed down from Mr H (Bob Kelly) to Ernst (Sam Clemmett). I was also steadfastly captivated by the understated yet mischievous performance of Dan Gordon as The Great Nivelli of the future who served as an active filter to the sad past.

Loved it. I urge you to go see it.

Nivelli's War will play at The Mac Theatre from 4-11 March. Book your tickets here.

Monday, 3 March 2014

The A26 by Pascal Garnier

My first Pascal Garnier read, and far from a disappointment. It was chosen in the pursuit of another example of behaviourist POV (it seems to be a particularly popular choice in French fiction, you see), although on reading I found that The A26 didn't employ a very strict use of the perspective. Thoughts from the main characters were divulged in a number of places, and little was withheld from the reader.

And yet it still makes for an interesting study. At multiple points in the book there is a very definite narrative disconnect. In the opening chapter, for example, Yolande is described as "anywhere from twenty to seventy" and "You would catch a glimpse of her sometimes in a way she had of sitting down, tugging her skirt over her knees, of running a hand through her hair, a surprisingly graceful movement in that wrinkled skin glove." A powerful picture of an aging woman, and very much one from the author's perspective rather than Yolande's. This style of description pops up throughout and serves to present the characters, almost like displays in a glass case.

Especially in Yolande, this style contributes to a separation from the real world. Her self-imposed isolation is tempered only by the fact that her brother, Bernard, lives in the same house as her. But he's not really company. More of an enabler of her strange behaviour. He entertains her, provides for her, goes out to get the groceries that she won't leave the house for. But he won't be around to act as Yolande's carer for much longer. It is quickly revealed that he is terminally ill, and not for this world much longer.

And this illness provides a freedom for Bernard that allows him to take on a perverse crusade along the developing A26 motorway that is being constructed close to his house.

The A26 is an odd little book, but incredibly captivating. It's an addictive read and a fascinating insight into a couple of very damaged people. This is not a story that will provide a satisfactory resolution to crime, but rather it explores how the deeds themselves can punish the perpetrators. I loved it for its ugliness, and will read more Garnier quite soon, no doubt.