Friday, 7 April 2017

Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty

I finished reading this one over a week ago, but I've been too lazy to write about it. Apologies for that. But luckily, this book has left a lasting impression on me. Adrian McKinty is officially the best in the business. Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly is the sixth instalment of the Sean Duffy series. When I read Rain Dogs, number five in the series, I proclaimed it the best of the lot. And, somehow, McKinty has found a way to make this one sing even louder.

The crime aspect of the novel is a nice puzzler, but for me, the investigation plays second fiddle in this novel. What I really enjoyed more than anything was the continual development of Duffy's character. Although he exists in the 80s (this particular mystery set in 1988), Duffy has been ageing at roughly the same rate as me since his debut in The Cold, Cold Ground. He's just turned 38 in this novel and seems much more world-weary than my bright-eyed and bushy-tailed self. I did find myself sympathising with his grumbles quite often, however.

Please God, let there be more Sean Duffy novels. It's officially my favourite police procedural series, and I hate the prospect of not spending more time with the wry bastard. If nothing else, we need to know what future titles Adrian can convince his publisher to make room for on his covers. Can he sell one even longer than Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly?

Blue Boy Tour Dates

Check out the tour dates for The Blue Boy of Glenmore:

The Brennan family lived very close to the area that this play takes place. When I was six, we moved to Warrenpoint, the town on the other side of Carlingford Lough. Joe Brennan has had a lot of time to reflect on his version of Omeath, and the surrounding areas, over the last thirty years. Expect brilliance.

Friday, 31 March 2017

Simon Maltman - An Interview

Simon Maltman is a Best-selling crime fiction author from Northern Ireland. 

Please check out the books available on Amazon and stay in touch through the links below. 

@simonmaltman on twitter

What are you writing at the minute?

1. I’ve just had my short story collection published last week, it’s called More Faces. That’s been taking up a lot of my time recently. I’m also working on the follow up to my novel, A Chaser on the Rocks, and have finished the first draft. The series is about a modern day PI with mental health struggles, who also writes about a 1940’s PI and the books function as a story in a story. I’m also trying to do anything but start the second draft because I start to lose interest and will eventually have to discipline myself to do it!

Can you give us an idea of Thomas Fitzsimmons’ typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

2. I’ve recently left my job as a health care manager and am looking after my kids full time during the day, and trying to write in the evenings. Usually I’ll get an hour or two at it most nights and I always have small goals in my head of what I want to get done. In-between tantrums and poo during the day, I try to do a bit of the networking and promo side of things. I keep a notebook and like to jot stuff down. I usually have a rough idea of where I want something to go, but the fun thing for me is definitely in the sitting down and writing and seeing where things end up.

What do you do when you’re not writing?

3. I like devouring TV series with my wife, though we usually take it turn about to fall asleep by about the second episode. I like writing and recording music and I love movies, particularly old Film Noir. I’m also very partial to going out for coffee and something sweet. Coffee, generally, is a big part of the day.

Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the genre fiction scene?

4. I think that once you have worked at it and think you have something decent, then the main thing is to put yourself out there. You have to also expect a ton of rejection, because that’s just the way it is. If you send enough emails and try enough times, you’ll get there if you have something in the first place that others will enjoy. You just have to put the work in, in every aspect.

Which writers have impressed you this year?

5. I’m not great at keeping up with the trends. I wish I found time to read more actually. Recently, I’ve been enjoying some of my favourites who I hadn’t read in a while- Raymond Chandler and Richard Stark. I read a couple of Rebus’s recently too. I’ve just finished the crime anthology Dark Minds, which I was very fortunate to be included in and there are forty great writers in that who I hadn’t read before. I have a huge list of authors I want to get into more.

What are you reading right now?

6. I’m reading an ARC of the indie author Frank Westworth’s new novel- The Redemption of Charm- I think it’s actually released today. He’s very good.

Plans for the future?

7. I need to start redrafting this novel and put it to one side haha. There’s a novella that I want to finish from a while back too and I’ve got the starting point for a new standalone novel. Hopefully I’ll be getting started on them in some way in a few weeks. I like to keep busy and don’t like things I want to do piling up in my mind!

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

8. I’m not sure, not particularly. I really think it’s all about building things up all the time and there’s a lot of pressure on authors now to manage every aspect of that. I’ve only really been writing fiction for about four years, so I just want to carry on and hopefully build up more of an audience as I go.

Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

9. Haha I’m not sure what that would be. My pet hate is going through pages and pages of track changes from my publisher- I’ll do anything to avoid that! Maybe the worst experience was talking to my Nana and Aunties after they had read my novel with all those ‘naughty words!’

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

10. No, I don’t think so, cheers. Thanks very much for having me along and thanks to everyone who has been supporting me along the way, take care!

Thank you, Simon Maltman!

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Blasted Heath Pull the Plug

I'm sad to see Blasted Heath go. Not just because they've published a lot of my books (three novels, three novellas and a short story collection), but also because they've published so many great stories from a great bunch of writers. I read fantastic work from Anthony Neil Smith, Ray Banks, Heather Hampson, Elaine Ash, Nigel Bird, Damien Seaman, Gary Carson, Len Wanner... as I list these names I remember their worlds, and I hope to read many more of their words in the future.

Quick shout out to the Heathens above: sorry if I've missed anybody. I read a lot, and some of those books might be tucked behind another memory.

But the real point of this post is to thank Al Guthrie and Kyle MacRae for helping me reach readers. It's been a Blasted blast indeed. Thank you, good luck, and don't forget to write/email/Tweet. Do either of you still do the social media? It doesn't matter. You guys rock and always will.

Here, remember I got that Heathen tattoo? Still don't regret it, feckers. And it's not wrinkly yet.

Anyway, the books are going to be available for a few more days, I think. You can't keep good talent down, so they won't be unavailable for ever, but if you want the Blasted Heath version of any of their great titles, you need to move your hole. I'm no mathematician, but you can get my entire Blasted Back-list for less than a tenner. I think. Somebody else can run the numbers and let me know for sure.

Heathen love, peeps. Watch this space for news of future projects. You'll know when I know, and right now I know sweet feck all.

Keep 'er lit.

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Here and Gone by Haylen Beck

Here and Gone, Stuart Neville's first novel under the pen name, Haylen Beck, will be published by Penguin in the summer. I was lucky enough to get my hands on an advanced review copy. The novel marks a new direction for the Northern Irish crime writer, and I delighted in following it.

The novel is set in Arizona, a far cry from Belfast, the backdrop usually favoured by Neville. And it's an idea that's simply too big for the wee city. In the opening chapters we learn that the protagonist, Audra, is driving across America to escape her abusive husband. She's about to start her new life, with her kids safely in her care. But an encounter with the law in a dying town in Arizona results in Audra's worst nightmare. Her children were here, and now they're gone. And the world is convinced that she's to blame.

While writing as Haylen Beck, Neville makes great use of the talents he honed in writing his Belfast-set books. The multi-POV narrative, and glimpses into the minds of the villains as well as the heroes, are delivered in short, breath-taking chapters that spur the reader on to make one more cup of coffee and read just three or seven more passages. The work isn't as dark as the preceding Neville canon, but it's going to get your heart pumping with suspense and well-placed action.

To be honest, I feel sorry for the readers who have to wait another three and a bit months to get their teeth into this one. Keep an eye out at your local independent bookstore for copies of Here and Gone that slip through before the release date. And thank me after you've read it. I know it won't take long.

Friday, 3 March 2017

The Blue Boy of Glenmore, by Joe Brennan

Love this poster.

It's getting closer. My dad's latest play. I'm really looking forward to seeing this one. To date, I've only read the script. Seeing it, with the high standard of acting long associated with Brassneck Theatre Company, will make for a fantastic experience. And yeah, all right. Because I'm family, it's likely I'm biased, but I know that of the four plays he's written on his own since we co-wrote The Sweety Bottle, this one best showcases Joe Brennan's strengths as a playwright. Can't wait to see how Tony Devlin's vision of it comes out on the stage.

Check out the Brassneck Theatre Company website for updates on venues, ticket sales, etc. If you can't make the opening run at the Roddy McCorley Social Club you might find a tour venue that suits.

So did you click it? Go on. Need more convincing? Check out the pitch:

Winter 1978. Cooley Mountains, Ireland.

Jemmy John is a tortured soul. The sheep on the glen and the farm are his life, but his younger sister Colleen yearns for something much more.

With the help of a local car mechanic, Colleen is determined to escape Glenmore for the chance at a better life... but her older brother Jemmy is having none of it! The life-long conflict between these sibling rivals is the catalyst that ignites the shocking events that unfold.

An absorbingly haunting and sensational dark-comedy, 'The Blue Boy of Glenmore' is a truly unmissable piece of theatre from the multi award-winning Brassneck Theatre Company, who brought you 'The Holy Holy Bus', 'Man in the Moon' & 'A Night With George'

Now click the link.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Ian Sansom's Latest

[Insert preamble about being behind on my reading here]

[Insert claims that 2017 is a good year to catch up on reading]

[Get to the point]

Did you know that Ian Sansom had a new book out? I've known for over a week, and I'm only telling you now. Sorry about that.

I have been reliably informed that this novel is available from all good bookshops. It's definitely stocked by the greatest bookshop, a shop that nurtured this series in more ways than one.

And we're getting close to payday.

Get thee to No Alibis and buy a book by my favourite genius, Ian Sansom:

Essex Poison (The County Guides)

About the Book:

October 1937. Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, sets off to Essex to continue his history of England, The County Guides. Morley’s daughter Miriam continues to cause chaos and his assistant Stephen Sefton continues to slide deeper into depression and despair.

Morley is an honorary guest at the Colchester Oyster Festival. But when the mayor dies suddenly at the civic reception suspicion falls on his fellow councillors. Is it a case of food poisoning? Or could it be murder?

Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton on another journey into the dark heart of England.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

BBC Radio Ulster Noir

I finally got around to listening to the "Belfast Says Noir" documentary, a Marie-Louise Muir and Steven Rainey investigation. Adrian McKinty actually blogged about this over three weeks ago, but I've been to Texas and back since then (seriously, Austin, Texas). A chest infection has slowed me down a little, and I was lucky enough to catch up with it 4 days before it disappears from the BBC Listen Again service. Jump on it now. There's an impressive list of contributors too. You'll find further info about each of the Northern Irish crime writers featured on this here blog:

Stuart Neville
Adrian McKinty
Claire McGowan
Steve Cavanagh
Brian McGilloway

Quite a lot to pack into one half hour programme! There's an even longer list of established and upcoming Northern Irish crime fiction writers who weren't featured, which kind of proves one of the points Brian McGilloway made in his interview: "A rising tide lifts all the boats." I'd be delighted to see this continue to grow. The sky's the limit, after all.

I imagine it's simply a timing issue, but Steve Cavanagh didn't mention the new podcast he does with Luca Veste: Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. I listened to episode 7 of their new show today. I laugh-coughed out loud more than once. Check it out through iTunes, YouTube or whatever Android podcast app you use (I listen via BeyondPod).

If you don't happen upon this post within the next four days, you can content yourself by checking out the writers' work instead. All of the above were featured, or had an editorial role, in Belfast Noir.

I might actually listen again, again to Ulster Says Noir if I need some motivation to write, and I'll definitely continue to listen to Two Crime Writers and a Microphone. It's the podcast I've been waiting for. More on that in a future blog post.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Still Playing About With Old Thoughts

I'm thinking about writing a lot lately (as a precursor to writing a lot). In order to get this blog active again, I think I'm going to post a series of links to interviews or blog posts I've done about writing. I'll either signpost it and say I still agree with what I thought then, or challenge that past version of me by calling bullshit on whatever advice I have since learned is no pearl of wisdom.

Because of yesterday's post about my dad's upcoming play, The Blue Boy, set in Omeath (just across Carlingford Lough from Warrenpoint where I've set a bunch of stories myself), I figured I'd start with this fun interview we did for Owen Quinn's Time Warriors site in the midst of The Sweety Bottle's modest success.

Click here, people!

And while I work on the second Shannon McNulty novel (one of my Warrenpoint based works), I'll be thinking about these encouraging words from my father:

"Of course he got his skills from me. I won five shillings for writing, at the age of ten. That was forty eight years ago. I can still remember the two big silver half crowns, it was a fortune in those days. Seriously, I won’t try to take any credit for Gerard’s achievements, there was too much hard work and determination on his part to get where he is now. We worked very well together I think that was quite unusual."

This might be one of my favourite writing interviews. It's like a virtual pat on the head.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Papa's Got a Brand New Play

A quick apology to Declan Burke for stealing his blog title style. Imitation and flattery, squire.

And so, you lucky people who read this, should get ready for the latest Joe Brennan play. I've been reliably informed that The Blue Boy is in production with Brassneck Theatre. I've read this play, but had no hand in editing or rewriting. This is a true blue Joe Brennan piece. And it's incredibly powerful. I really can't wait to see this one. And that's not just because I'm Joe Brennan's son. My father has been writing solo for years now, and this play is his masterpiece.

I would have bummed and blown more about The Sweety Bottle (set and writers pictured above) had I not been one of the co-writers. My braggadocios nature needs to be kept on a short leash. And I don't lie about other people's work. If I don't like it, I'll rarely attack it (unless it's a measured critical essay or something boring like that). I won't talk about it at all, really.

Anyway, I'll post a blurb for Joe Brennan's new play as and when it becomes available. Watch this space.

He has me thinking about working on another play (I've written a couple solo myself the last few years) but I really need knuckle down and finish the second book featuring my Warrenpoint detective, Shannon McNulty.

Peace, folks.