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.

Monday, 31 October 2016

Happy Halloween, folks.

Have a listen:

The image is my own tattoo. This was done by the fabulous Gigi McQueen of Timepiece Tattoo.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

McDojo by Gerard Brennan

“Tony, mate, what the hell are you doing?”

“Just a second.”

“You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Shut up, I’m concentrating.”

“Would that not be easier if you put out the joint?”

“Ach… this is impossible. The guy on the video told me to get loose and relaxed before attempting the moves.”

“He probably meant you should do some stretches, Tony.”

“Are you a martial artist, John?”

“If I was I wouldn’t be using YouTube as a point of reference, mate. I’d go to a class and learn.”

“That’s rich. My dope supplier advocates education.”

“Well, that’s the difference between me and a low level dealer like… whatever the fuck you’re like. I’m educated… Um, is that a Bruce Lee costume?”

“It’s an oriental suit made from the finest Chinese silk available.”

“You’re not Chinese, though.”

“What’s that got to do with it, John?”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about, Tony. You don’t put enough emphasis on education. You’re not Chinese, how can you know that you’ve got the finest Chinese silk?”

“A Chinese man told me.”

“Proper Chinese, like?”

“You think you can fake being Chinese, Mister Education?”

“I think that a very good salesman told you that you’re wearing the finest Chinese silk and that he or she may have been a salesman of Chinese descent. But whether or not that person of Chinese descent actually travelled from China with a fresh batch of guaranteed finest silk…? Let’s say I’m a little cynical, Tony.”

“Come to think of it, he did have an English accent.”


“But, here, let me show you this move I learned.”

“Off YouTube?”


“No thanks.”

“I’m going to teach it tonight, though. I have to practice.”

“You teach a martial arts class now?”


“Have you ever been to a martial arts class?”

“Did a bit of kung fu when I was younger. It’s piss easy. I could teach you this wee move… no? And I’ve combined them with my knowledge of drugs to help—”

“I have a degree in business studies.”

“Good for you. Where did it get you?”

“I’m a businessman.”

“You supply drugs.”

“Goods and services. Supply and demand.”

“And you’ve to deal with the likes of me.”

“You’re entertaining, though, Tony.”


“Get off the floor. You obviously can’t do that.”

“I could if you weren’t here judging me. You going to help me up or what?”

“Come here… God, look at the state of you. You need a shave, Tony. And that finest Chinese silk is a holy mess of hot-rock burns. Why would anybody take instruction off you?”

“Hold your arm out and I’ll show you.”

“So you can…?”

“Put it in an arm bar.”

“And that’ll hurt, right?”

“Only if you fight back.”

“What if I fight back before I let you put it in an arm bar?”

“I won’t be able to do it, then.”

“Has nobody called you on that?”

“On what?”

“Never mind, Tony. Never mind. Have you many students?”

“About fifteen. A couple of them are wing nuts but they’re mostly cool. They respect me. And they’re all kind of like customers too, if you know what I… yeah, you know. But having a studenty-customer-type-thing is so handy. They trust me. And they’re loyal and they give me money. I don’t have to stand on street corners and deal with the lowlifes. Just the kind of people who want to improve themselves.”

“So you sell these students drugs.”

“No, I don’t sell the drugs. They come free with the lesson. It helps them to loosen up and learn.”

“Learn the stuff that you’ve gleaned from YouTube?”

“And I don’t get arrested on a street corner. Genius, right?”

“I’m not sure if I recognise true genius, Tony. You know that saying about the thin line…? But here, about that money you owe me?”

“Um. Can you come back later? I’ve a class to prepare for.”

“Yeah, I’ll be back. And maybe you could try that arm bar thing on big Frank. Show all your students how good you really are.”

“Hmmm. Or… I have a box of suits out back. Chinese silk. The finest Chi—”

This story was first published by Shotgun Honey, January 2012.  

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Writing Crime: Panel Discussion

This Thursday, 22nd September 2016, I'm hosting an event at The Aspect Literary Festival in Bangor. Here are the details:

Venue: North Down Museum

Time: 6 pm

Tickets: £7

Get an insight into the minds and practice of crime-writing authors Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh as they talk to Gerard Brennan (

Brian McGilloway is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series. In 2014, Brian won BBC NI’s Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors, an award which saw him become Writer In Residence with BBC NI. His latest novels in 2015 were The Forgotten Ones and Preserve The Dead.

‘Preserve the Dead is storytelling of the highest order from one of Irish crime writing’s most unassuming masters’.
Irish Independent

Steve Cavanagh writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring series character Eddie Flynn. His debut novel, The Defence was long-listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards. His new book, The Plea, was described by Ian Rankin as, ‘A gripping twisty thriller’.

‘Lively, clever and enjoyable . . . Cavanagh writes vividly about American injustice . . . The constant action is interrupted only by absorbing courtroom scene’.
The Times

Book your place here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Noir at the Bar -- Belfast Book Festival


Belfast Book Festival
Verbal Arts -

Wednesday 15th June


Tickets £6 / £4 at Errigle Inn

Curated by Gerard Brennan

Literary history is littered with wasted writers. The pen and the bottle have gone hand in hand since the first scribble. The Northern Irish crime fiction set embody this spirit. Join Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Steve Cavanagh, Kelly Creighton and Gerard Brennan as they trade harsh words for hard liquor.

This is Noir at the Bar.

Book your tickets here.