Tuesday, 28 July 2009
It's been quiet around here, and that's because I've spent a long weekend saying good bye to my twenties. Yup, hit the big three-O, which would suck if I was a footballer or a rent boy, but since I'm nearly a writer it seems to be a good thing. Thirty's young in this profession. Maybe people will take me more seriously in the publishing world now.
Anyway, enough about me. I've been remiss in not mentioning Rob Kitchin's new blog, The View from the Blue House. Rob's also a writerly type and has sent me his novel The Rule Book, and if Critical Mick is to be believed (which he is) then I'm in for a treat when I finally get to it. So, consider this my belated welcome to the blogosphere, Rob.
Another new blog I've noticed is Galway Print, Neil Mount's new blog. Neil has recently set up a publishing company and has released a book I'm very eager to read. Go here to read a sample chapter or two of Barbelo's Blood, courtesy of Dec Burke.
Reviews and whatnot of TOWER, and three post-Celtic Tiger novels set in Dublin to follow in the next few days. But while you're waiting for that, skip over to Busted Flush Press and have a gander at a very good interview with Reed Farrel Coleman.
Wednesday, 22 July 2009
I learned a few cool things about London Boulevard. I knew Colin Farrel and Kiera Knightly were cast in it. But I didn’t know that it also stars Stephen Graham, ANNA FRIEL (pictured below), Ray Winstone and David Thewlis. Seriously, I already know I’m going to love this movie.
The Blitz entry gives away a little less info, but it’s damn good info. Jason Statham and Paddy Considine have been cast. Nice.
But there’s one thing about Blitz that imdb doesn’t know yet. Ken Bruen will make a cameo appearance! But if you’ve read an ARC of TOWER and then read the Bruen interview with Craig McDonald included as bonus material you already know this. But here’s something not even revealed there. Ken Bruen will play...
You read it all here first, folks.
Saturday, 18 July 2009
I received Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman recently (courtesy of Busted Flush Press). Since then, I’ve been thinking... I’ve read a fair number of Ken Bruen novels this year, both new and old, and I’ve found it a very interesting experience.
Thanks to Busted Flush Press you can read some of Bruen’s earliest work in a collection of novellas and short stories they’ve released titled A Fifth of Bruen. I read the opening piece in the collection not long after reading The Guards. Funeral: Tales of Irish Morbidities, as pointed out in the introduction by Allan Guthrie, is not a crime story, but the protagonist is almost an early version of Jack Taylor. Drunk, surly and difficult to get on with, but with a soul that springs deepest sympathy at the most surprising moments. And even with a cluttered mind like mine, you’ll spot a scene that has made its way into both texts. Some people might think of this as recycling. I prefer to think of it in fanboy terms -- like the books share a little overlap in the space-time continuum or something. Both Jack Taylor and Dillon, the protagonist from Funeral, visit a sick wino on his deathbed bearing the gift of socks. It’s a nice scene, brimming with righteous indignation and grief, and it adds a lot to the multidimensional characters from each story.
Another book that can be linked to The Guards via this space-time continuum thing is Dispatching Baudelaire. Mike Shaw, the turbulent accountant who provides the narrative for Dispatching Baudelaire, hints at a rocky relationship with his mother. Just like Jack Taylor. And both characters blame their mothers for the early death of their fathers. And both of their fathers had ten identical suits... Dispatching Baudelaire is a very different book than The Guards. The former is of a quirky American Psycho or Dexter mould whereas the latter is a hard-as-nails PI tale. But the little snippet of back-story works equally well in both novels.
Jack Taylor may be Bruen’s most popular character, but I think his genesis is an interesting one. If you haven’t read his early work, I’d say it’s definitely worth seeking out. It’s not too hard to find. Just look here. As well as the nerdy rush to be had at spotting space-time continuum overlaps (or recycled scenes), the reader will find that Bruen’s idiosyncratic way with prose has been constant (though refined) throughout the years. And let’s face it, the speed most of his fans burn through one of his novels? It’s good to know there’s a little more out there to keep you going until his next release.
Friday, 17 July 2009
Kat Sanders (isn't that a brilliant name?) is a Forensic Science Technician, and as such, you'd be pretty damn interested in finding out what kind of crime fiction she enjoys. So I was delighted to hear from her. She offered to take a break from the site she regularly writes for (The Forensic Scientist Blog) to pen me a short article on her favourite Irish crime writers.
Take it away, Kat!
5 Must-Read Irish Crime Fiction Writers
If there is one genre that makes for easy reading, it is crime fiction, particularly the books without too much gore and brutality. If you’re a fan of crime fiction, and if you like the way the Irish write, here are five authors you could try out:
· Declan Burke: One of the more popular and well-known faces of Irish crime fiction, Burke has been hailed as “the future of Irish crime fiction” because of his novels Eight Ball Boogie and The Big O. His blog Crime Always Pays is extremely popular on the Internet.
· Patrick McCabe: Mostly known for his psychotic thrillers, this author is a Booker Prize nominee for his book Breakfast on Pluto. Both this novel and The Butcher Boy are dark thrillers set in small Irish towns.
· Joseph O’Connor: This man’s initial claim to fame was being the brother of Sinead O’Connor, the bald crooner. But with his historical thriller Star of the Sea, he came into his own as a novelist who could engross the reader with his way with words. Star of the Sea was listed by The Economist as one of the best books of 2003.
· John Banville: Banville has been nominated for the Booker Prize for The Book of Evidence and has won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sea. He also writes under the pseudonym Benjamin Black, with books like
· Liz Allen: This former newspaper correspondent turned her hand to writing crime and struck it rich with the bestseller Last to Know. She has put to use all her knowledge and experience about being a crime correspondent in order to come up with a really engrossing tale. Now a full-time author, she is involved in churning out other best-selling novels.
This article is written by Kat Sanders, who regularly blogs on the topic of forensic science technician schools at her blog Forensic Scientist Blog. She welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: email@example.com.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
The latest No Alibis event I attended was Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand launch on Wednesday the 8th of July. Just over a week ago now. In fact, this time last week, I was nursing a slight hangover.
Like last year's Bloomsday Dead launch, McKinty decided that an actual reading from the book wouldn't be all that impressive in itself. Having read Fifty Grand, I'd have begged to differ. But anyway, McKinty instead told us the story of his visit to cuba and how it birthed the first 100 pages of Fifty Grand. Then he got a bit of a Q&A on the go. And that was excellent! Most of the discussion centred on libel laws and he may or may not have slandered a few people, but I can't quite remember that.
After that he signed a bunch of books, including some spanking reprints of Dead I Well May Be and The Dead Yard in the lovely new Serpent's Tail editions for my good self. And while I queued for my signature I got talking to McKinty's charming mother, aunt and sister. Three wonderful ladies who have actually read my blog!
But the night got better and better, as I joined McKinty, Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville and David Torrans for a few jars after the event. It was a surreal experience for a fanboy like myself, but a bloody enjoyable one too.
Here's a few pics from that night and also a few from the John Connolly and Stuart Neville event that I never got around to posting. And if I can figure out how to upload it, a little video of Stuart Neville. Apologies for the quality. I'm not much of a photographer and I took all the pics and the video with my phone.
Wednesday, 15 July 2009
GARBHAN DOWNEY pays tribute to the industry’s last remaining quality controllers
There are three websites I check out every time I switch on the computer – Declan Burke’s ‘Crime Always Pays’, Peter Rozovsky’s ‘Detectives Beyond Borders’, and this one.
And it’s not just because these sites have highlighted my books in an era when papers just aren’t interested. Though if I’m to be strictly honest, that’s how I came across these guys in the first place.
But now, it’s a lot more than that. In the year and a half or so since I discovered crime-writing blogs, I’ve learned more about good writers and good writing from Dec, Peter, and Ger than I did from a lifetime of reading literary supplements.
Dec, for example, put me onto Ken Bruen; Peter opened my eyes to Stieg Larsson (a Swede ffs, who’d a thunk?) and now, Mr Brennan, bless his kung fu-loving heart, has switched me onto the greatest Irish crime-writer of my generation, Adrian McKinty.
Now there’s a bold statement – the greatest? But dammit, there are times you just have to stand up and say it. I have read some very good Irish thriller-writers (and some truly awful ones). But McKinty, I was just stunned by.
And I wasn’t expecting it at all. When I picked up my first McKinty, ‘Hidden River’, about two months ago, I did so with dread. There have been so many complimentary reach-arounds (*copyright Aaron Sorkin) handed out in review circles recently that it has become impossible to gauge true quality anymore, unless you read the books for yourself. And as a consequence, I currently have a stack of bad crime novels in my study, about 20 high, which I started over the past few months and never finished.
But in spite of all this, I thought I’d give McKinty a go because Ger clearly rated him – and Ger, along with Peter and Dec, is one of the few reviewers I still respect. If they have an angle, I don’t see it. And I say that as someone who has spent his life in journalism looking out for angles.
And ‘Hidden River’, thank the stars, was duly brilliant. Pace, dialogue, plot – it had the lot. Couple of caustically insightful Northern Irish touches too, for trainspotters like me.
But was it a one-off? Any chance, Ger, you could send me up a free copy of ‘Fifty Grand’, McKinty’s latest? I’ll pay you back, I lied.
‘Fifty Grand’ arrived, and I devoured it. Finished it in two sittings and let the youngsters take themselves to bed. It was outstanding – international class. All the finest attributes of his first book, with added atmospherics and prose so colourful it bordered on poetry. How the hell could something this good not be in airport bookshops throughout the world?
What a story too – and that for me is always the thing. I didn’t want it to end. I wanted to stay in Cuba with Mercado, just as I wanted to stay in the White House with Bartlet.
All of which brings me back to my main point. As a former reviewer, I understand entirely the reluctance to tell the reader when a book stinks.
Writers in particular tend to be sympathetic to other writers. You know the hellish amount of work that goes into a) scripting and re-scripting a 70,000 novel, and then b) getting the shagging thing published. And you don’t want to disrespect anyone who’s got that far.
Plus of course, if you do have a slap, you’re worried about being seen as jealous (big one for published writers this); or you’re worried that you’re actually being jealous and are being unfair (big one for conscientious published writers); or, most importantly of all, you don’t want to get sued. (Stop for a minute and think, when was the last time you saw the line “This book is pure shite” in any review?)
Yes, the central problem with being a reviewer, as I discovered in a past life, is that for all these reasons, you wake up one morning and find you’re praising bad books; books you don’t like and books your readers aren’t going to like either.
But as an author you know exactly how much bad reviews sting, discourage and disillusion. So you can’t do that either.
That’s why sites like this one, Peter’s and Dec’s are vital for the industry. They serve, for me at least, as the last remaining quality control on crime books. They assess, fairly, new work and old. They report, encourage, inform and, where necessary, judge. They have teeth – but they also have the authority of their impartiality.
Ger Brennan and Crime Scene NI have made my summer. I now have seven more McKinty’s to find and read, along with one of Stieg Larsson’s. Most years you’re lucky to find one great author, this year I got two.
I haven’t been this excited since I discovered George V Higgins.
Garbhan Downey’s new comedy-thriller War of the Blue Roses, published by Guildhall Press, is Hughes & Hughes ‘Irish Book of the Month’ for August.
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Joel and Ethan Coen have said that the biggest literary influence on their cult stoner movie The Big Lebowski (1998) was Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. And from the title and structure of their film you can certainly see what they are talking about. Both works are classic visions of Los Angeles and both films follow similar trajectories: a foil gets involved with a disabled rich man, the rich man's daughter, and a runaway from his family who gets mixed up in pornography. Joel Coen has also said that he was influenced by Robert Altman's 1970's remake of Chandler's The Long Goodbye which gave us a slightly baked version of Marlowe played by Elliot Gould. So the Chandler influences are real and obvious but I want to argue that there's a deeper structure to The Big Lebowski which comes not from Raymond Chandler but from Dashiell Hammett...
Let's backtrack a little first. The Coen Brothers first foray into Hammett country came with Millers Crossing. This is a fairly explicit remake of Hammett's Red Harvest which the Coens apparently became of aware through Kurosawa's version Yojimbo (which later was remade by Sergio Leone as A Fistful of Dollars and again by Walter Hill as Last Man Standing). Miller's Crossing (and Red Harvest and the others) is a classic story of an outsider playing off two rival gangs for his own benefit, however the Coens not only appropriated Dashiell Hammett's plot-line but also his entire argot: "What's the rumpus?" "She's just a twist," "The high hat," "We're not muscle we don't bump guys" etc. The Coens don't seem to have read Hammett as much digested him, absorbing his street talk, his cadences, his slang, his American tough guy voice. (As a wee aside here I actually think their use of "What's the rumpus?" as "hello" in Millers Crossing is a complete misreading of Hammett's use of the phrase in Red Harvest) The Coens of course are suburban college boys with little experience of the actual "streets" but Hammett was a Pinkerton Detective for nearly two decades investigating murders, robberies, insurance frauds with a little union busting thrown in for good measure. The Coens seem to have used Hammett as one of their touchstones for Americana and the more you read him the deeper you see his influence on their work: Blood Simple, Fargo, Miller's Crossing, No Country For Old Men sometimes read like undiscovered Hammett screenplays; but so also do the comedies Raising Arizona and The Big Lebowski. Hammett and humour don't seem to go together but he could be very funny in both his private life and in his books - The Thin Man is as witty as any PG Wodehouse and here's an experiment: try re-reading The Maltese Falcon as a black comedy and you'll get exactly what I'm talking about. Chandler has those great lines about a blonde so beautiful she would make a bishop kick in a window but Hammett has those lines too and a dark, satirical edge as well.
Yes the Coens used The Big Sleep as their skeleton for The Big Lebowski but the irony comes from Hammett: Donny's death, The Nihilists, The Porn King, The Malibu Sheriff - these seem like straight out of Dashiell's playbook not Ray's. The eccentricity and odd digressions are more like Hammett and of course the snap of the dialogue is more authentically Hammettian too. I think subconsciously the Coens knew this and they either gave us a Freudian hint or a deliberate clue late in the film when Jeff Bridges as The Dude encounters a private detective working for Bunny's parents, the Knutsons. "Why are you doing following me?" The Dude asks. The Private Dick played by Joe Polito (who also played one of the rival gang bosses in Miller's Crossing) shrugs and explains: "It was a wandering daughter job." And of course if you know your Hammett you'll recognise that as the opening line of the great Continental Op short story "Fly Paper". The Big Lebowski was a wandering daughter job all right and ultimately the daughter stays lost, an innocent guy dies and the bad guy keeps the money, but what else would you expect in Hammett's bleak, entropic and blackly comic universe?
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
no alibis bookstore. 83 Botanic Avenue Belfast
WED 8TH JULY 6pm
Cuban cop Mercado has a score to settle, on behalf of a deadbeat dad, a ‘traitor’ who skipped free from Castro’s control to set up a new life working illegally in Colorado. He settled in a ski resort popular with the Hollywood Scientology set, where a façade of legality is maintained by the immigrant cleaners and labourers working for below minimum wage while the local sheriff is bribed to turn a blind eye. Hernandez Sr’s dreams of fortune and freedom are shattered when he is killed in a hit-and-run accident.
Sworn to avenge his death, Mercado has some obstacles to overcome – not least getting out of Cuba, where visas are as elusive as constant electricity.
‘Those who know McKinty will automatically tighten their seatbelts. To newcomers I say: buckle up and get set for a bumpy ride through a very harsh landscape indeed’
Matthew Lewin, Guardian
‘Packed with sharp dialogue and unremitting action’ Marcel Berlins, The Times
Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Carrickfergus. He studied politics at Oxford University and after a failed legal career he moved to the US in the early 1990s. He found work as a security guard, postman, construction worker, barman, rugby coach and bookstore clerk before becoming a school teacher, Adrian now resides in Melbourne, Australia
RSVP: 02890319601 firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, 6 July 2009
FILM FESTIVAL NEWS!
'OF BLOOD AND LOST THINGS', an hour-long documentary on John's work filmed on location in Ireland and the US, and featuring contributions from Laura Lippman, David Simon, George Pelecanos, and Declan Hughes, will be screened as part of the Maine International Film Festival in Waterville on July 10th at 6.45pm, with John in attendance. This will be the only screening prior to its broadcast on Irish television in 2010... further details:
Read about John's upcoming book, THE GATES, including an excerpt!
Info gleaned from the John Connolly Newsletter. Sign up for it here!
Wednesday, 1 July 2009
Neville was first up, and following a brief and complimentary intro from John Connolly, he read a ten minute extract from The Twelve. An excellent choice, as it displayed Neville’s ability to mix action, dialogue, inner dialogue and snatches of humour. His reading was confident, and although he shared the stage with the book tour veteran that is Connolly, (a wonderful yet daunting experience I would imagine) he really held his own and did a great job of drawing his listeners in.
Connolly charmed the entire room with his easy humour and energetic reading. He read from two works; The Whisperers, his current work-in-progress and a particularly eerie one by the sounds, and The Gates, which promises to be a hilarious a quirky read on the topic of Satanism and quantum physics... for kids. I was surprised nobody shouted encore after his performance. It was brilliant. I’ll probably do a bit of shouting and maybe even throw roses at the stage when he returns around September to launch The Gates.
Then Connolly and Neville enjoyed a little discussion on the state of publishing, the pros and cons of the internet magazine and writing in general. A fascinating conversation that was opened up to the audience. A few brave souls quizzed the writers and each one received a thoughtful answer.
Unfortunately, I had to scoot early so I didn’t get as much time as I’d have liked to chat to the authors and David, but I did get their signature on their respective books, a free bumper sticker and David gave me an interesting collectors’ item that I must frame at some point. So I left No Alibis a happy chap, as per usual. Unfortunately, I failed to spot Brian McGilloway in the crowd, so I missed the chance to get a quick chinwag with him. There’s something weird going on there. I’ve been out of the country for Brian’s last two No Alibis launches and failed to spot him at the last John Connolly reading as well...
Wait a minute, you don’t think he’s trying to avoid me do you?
Anyway, if you missed the Connolly and Neville event, don’t despair. Adrian McKinty is set to launch Fifty Grand from the best bookshop in Ireland on the 8th of July. And I’ve arranged a lift home, so there will be beer!
(Oh, and Josephine; photos of the event will follow as soon as I upload them from my phone.)