Monday 31 March 2008

An Interview - Tony Bailie

Tony Bailie
lives in Co. Down and works as a journalist in Belfast. He has previously published a collection of poetry, Coill (Lapwing, 2005) The Lost Chord is his first novel.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’ve finished my second novel which is provisionally called ‘ecopunk’ and which is basically about an eco warrior throwing himself in front of whaling ships, hanging from trees and generally trying to save the planet – and that is before he has even had lunch. Still tinkering with it and tightening it up

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

I work full time as journalist/sub editor for a daily newspaper in Belfast which means that I spend a lot of time rewriting other people’s stories, designing news pages and writing headlines. I would love to say that I do what all good writers are supposed to do and set aside an hour every day to work on my novel but that is of course bullshit. I seem to write in intense bursts which can be very productive but which then leaves me lethargic for a while until I get a fresh burst of energy.

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

Feel guilty because I am not writing. I read a lot but in the same way that I write – devour books and then for a few weeks find it hard to read a few paragraphs without my mind wandering. In between I walk and listen to music – rock, trad, African and lots of Dylan, Nick Drake and Leonard Cohen.

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

It would be far too patronising of me to do that.

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

I wouldn’t restrict myself to crime writers as such... but Jason Johnson – who is a good hack as well – seems to be pushing out the boundaries in that particular genre.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

The Black Soul by Liam O’Flaherty which was first published in the 1920s. It’s quite literary but superb.

Angels and Rabies by Manchan Magan which is a travel book with a difference about a very disorientated Irishman travelling in South America and later Canada and the US.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Get ‘ecopunk’ published, try to get an overseas deal for ‘The Lost Chord’ and do some more work on a new novel which has been kicking around for a while now.

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

No. You have to find your way as you go along and learn from your mistakes.

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

The Lost Chord is available online from the publisher:

Thank you, Tony Bailie!

Sunday 30 March 2008

Bloodstorm - Whipping Up a Media... Well... Storm!

It seems that Sam Millar can do no wrong as far as the critics are concerned. Here's the latest buzz about his recently released book, Bloodstorm.

“Irish author, Sam Millar’s writing has been compared to Nick Cave’s. His books are as cheerful as a Leonard Cohen song on a wet night. It's easy to see why. Millar is prime-placed to write the dark and disturbing crime novels that he does because in his past he has visited some very dark places indeed. His latest tome, Bloodstorm, keeps well within that dark tradition with a heart-stopping thriller…a relentlessly dark, page-turner of a book…”

The Village Voice, New York

“Bloodstorm is a disturbing, page-turner of a book, keeping you on the edge of your seat right to the very end. Highly recommended for those with a strong stomach…”

Belfast Telegraph

“From the very first line to the last, Bloodstorm grips your hands and refuses to let go, taking you on the darkest, scariest ride of your life. This is a compelling story of revenge and murder with an original voice worth dying for. Those with high blood pressure should avoid Bloodstorm – and indeed all of Millar’s books. The rest of us can only wait for the next one to arrive…”

Irish Herald, San Francisco

Belfast crime-writing giant, Sam Millar’s controversial new book, Bloodstorm is the first in a new series of crime novels. This is not a novel for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach, but those with a strong stomach and a penchant for crime novels are advised to pick it up, for a taste of a true, Belfast original.

The book opens cinematically, pulling no punches, warning of the darkness that lies in wait for the reader who carries on from here…this is an ambitious and gripping piece of work and Millar lays the groundwork here for a series which looks set to be addictive. Roll on the sequel.”

Catherine McGrotty, Verbal Magazine

You can read an interview with Mr Millar conducted by Verbal Magazine here.

Mr Burke the Grand Vizier over at Crime Always Pays scooped this article last week, but I'll get the next one first! He's bound to lose a little energy to the brand new Princess Lily. Congratulations, Dec!

Saturday 29 March 2008

Skulduggery Pleasant Returning Soon!

Like it says on the tin, CSNI is also highly interested in all Irish, Euro and international crime fiction. And this is my first non-NI post.

Last Halloween I took my little sis to a Derek Landy live interview and signing. I'd read my sister's copy of Skulduggery Pleasant before going to it and loved it. Some of the snappiest dialogue I've read in years, and an easy, fun read. So I bought my own copy and stood waist-deep in kids to await a signature from the witty and impressively patient Landy. And I got my favourite personalisation to date. Here's a wee picture of it.

I love it!

Anyway, the follow up, Skulduggery Pleasant: Playing With Fire, is due out on the 1st 0f April. I'm looking forward to picking up a copy.

Friday 28 March 2008

A Wee review - Murphy's Law by Colin Bateman

Here's something slightly different for you. I thought it'd be interesting to get an English insight into a Northern Irish crime story. So I asked my good mate Mike Stone if he'd write a few reviews for me. Here's the first of them. He's got an interesting thought or two on Murphy's Law by Colin Bateman.


“Detective Martin Murphy is undercover – and over here. The man loves the music – but it makes him think too much. He loves the drink – and it dulls everything.

What he really wants is to get back on the streets, doing what he does best. Fighting crime. But his medical file (already thick and growing fast) says he should be retired. Then his boss, Murdoch (one realistic eye on retirement, the other fantastically set on late-life promotion), offers him one final chance: to infiltrate a gang of diamond thieves. They are tough, violent and ruthless. And Murphy will fit in perfectly.”

From the paperback of Murphy’s Law:

My previous foray into the world of Bateman was Divorcing Jack, and while I thought it was good, it didn’t make me want to rush out and buy more books featuring the international man of inaction. Perhaps it was because the first Dan Starkey novel was too steeped in sectarian violence for my liking, or the Irish politics made it less accessible to an Englishman.


However, the same cannot be said of Murphy’s Law: there’s violence aplenty, but it’s of the non-political, non-religious kind. So that’s all right, then. And in Marty Murphy we have a main character that is charming, witty and dangerous. A man all but destroyed by the murder of his young son and the ensuing collapse of his marriage, Murphy still possesses almost Holmesian powers of observation, can get a karaoke night swinging and deliver brilliant one-liners at the drop of a hat, even when there’s a gun barrel pressed to his head. He is a character with complex issues, but Bateman renders him so humanely we have no problem identifying with him.

Indeed, Bateman creates a sense of identity for all the supporting cast of Murphy’s Law -- the thieves, the cops, the priest, the bar manager -- without wasting words on tedious detail. That’s no mean trick and one I appreciated.

And the writing, ah, the writing is never less than superb. Take this simple yet effective line (I could have chosen any one of hundreds), where Murphy surprises his ex-wife at work:­ He says, “Lianne,” and she jumps. There’s an oh, you scared me look, a hint of warmth, then she remembers and the thunder mask descends. Even if we didn’t know anything about the Murphys, we could divine their past-relationship from this one line. Beautiful. Oh yes, and the whole book is written like that, in present tense. Some people don’t like it, arguing that present tense is best reserved for short fiction. And some folks dislike the sudden changes of POV, and I agree that head-swapping can lead to confusion at times. But hey, life’s too short to nitpick, and I have another Murphy book to read, Murphy’s Revenge.

And then doubtless I’ll return to Dan Starkey, to see if I missed something first time round. After this book, I’m thinking I must have.

Michael Stone

Michael Stone was born in 1966 in Stoke-on-Trent, England. Since losing most of his eyesight to Usher Syndrome, he has retreated from your world to travel the dark corners of inner space. To put it more prosaically, he daydreams a lot.

Read more about Michael and his fiction here.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

A Wee Review - BLOODSTORM by Sam Millar

If you haven’t heard about Sam Millar’s new novel, BLOODSTORM, where the hell have you been? Sam’s currently working hard to get word out there and it’s paying off. His latest offering has received multiple positive reviews, and has been chosen by Eason’s and the Belfast Telegraph as the book to mark the tenth anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement. And now I’m reviewing it! Impressive, yeah? Seriously though, I predict it’ll be a big year for Sam and his writing.

BLOODSTORM is a bleak aul Belfast crime yarn. We follow a PI by the name of Karl Kane who gets himself caught up in a disturbing string of murders after taking on a seemingly simple and well paid case. Kane’s connections to the underbelly of modern Belfast provide him with a gateway into the case, but it’s through these same connections that he becomes so tangled up in the death and brutality that carries him to the stomach-churning denouement.

The back cover claims that the novel is leavened by humour, and I agree with that to a certain degree. But I warn you not to let this lull you into a false sense of security. This is a dark and gritty world Millar has created. As early as the opening paragraphs of the prologue you’re punched in the gut and the “visceral violence” continues to work the body throughout. The squeamish and faint-hearted need to step away from this book. It’ll leave a lot of lasting impressions, and even though the NI characteristic of laughing in the face of adversity shines through, I (a seasoned horror-connoisseur) found some of it pretty hardcore. The good news is that it’s not the pornographic blend of splatter-violence that the talentless rely on. Nope, Mr Millar is kind enough to let our imagination do most of the work in that department.

In places, I found the writing and dialogue came across a little formal, especially when compared to some of his real down-and-dirty prose. For example, “Varicose veins of rust webbed the spokes of the (wheelchair) wheels. Held lazily in his hand was a half-bottle of cheap wine. Half empty, half full, depending on Chris’s mood.” The book could maybe do with a tighter edit to bring it all up to this smooth-reading standard. But that's just me being fussy.

I enjoyed Mr Millar’s crisp and unrelenting style. He stays true to the characters at all times. Each player reacts exactly as they should in each situation. There are no unlikely redemptions. In fact, poor aul Karl Kane seems to find himself sinking lower into damnation with each plot turn. And most impressive is the story’s structure and how Millar chooses to reveal the final twists, catching the reader with a few surprises right up to the epilogue. So stay alert right up to the end, champ. There’s always one more body-shot coming.

So what’s in the future for Karl Kane? Well, in a recent interview with Crime Scene NI, Sam Millar revealed that he is currently working on two follow-ups to BLOODSTORM -- The Dark Place and Searching For The Dead. Sign me up for those. I want to know what happens next to our Karl.

Gerard Brennan

Here’s what some other critics have said about BLOODSTORM...

“Millar is rapidly building a reputation for pacy thrillers in the crime noir genre... He keeps the action rolling from the get-go with a rapid expanding plot that quickly head-butts the reader into submission. Those looking for a comfortable read should be warned... Even Sam Spade would be shocked at some of the company Karl Kane keeps and the situations he finds himself in.”

Irish Independent

“Millar’s ability to tap into the dark recesses of the human mind is brilliantly constructed, page after nerve shattering page... With Bloodstorm and Karl Kane, Millar has given us his best work since On The Brinks and The Redemption Factory. Highly recommended.”

Irish News

“Gripping and arrestingly violent, Bloodstorm is a well-written thriller with its share of disturbing insights into the dark side of the human psyche.”

Irish Mail on Sunday

“Millar whips up a storm in this brilliant, fast paced thriller. Gritty and gripping, Bloodstorm, is a real page-turner – and indeed a chapter-turner. Anti-hero Karl Kane, is the most original private investigator to grace a book, in years.”

Andersonstown News

“Bloodstorm is a powerful, relentless page-turner of a book, leaving you gasping for more…”

BBC Radio Ulster

“Bloodstorm is powerful and unsettling writing, that seeps into your bones like Belfast rain... Recommended reading by the NI Tourist Board this is not, but as a straight-talking crime thriller, it’s at the top...”

Shelley Marsden, The Irish World, London

Monday 24 March 2008

An Interview - Brian McGilloway

Brian McGilloway hails from Derry, Northern Ireland. By day, he teaches English at St Columb's College, Derry. By night, he’s an NI crime fiction writer. McGilloway's debut novel is a crime thriller called Borderlands. The sequel, Gallows Lane, was published in 2008. Borderlands, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger in 2007.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’ve started planning the fourth Devlin book, The Rising, at the moment. In addition to that, I’m doing a little follow-up work on the third book, Bleed A River Deep.

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

My typical writing day starts usually around 8.30 pm. I work full time as the Head of English in a large, all boys school in Derry which means I leave the house at eight in the morning and get home after five most days. Having a young family, little is done about the house until after the children go to bed around eight. Then, a mug of tea, a quick check of e-mails and I get started. I write for an hour or two per day for the months during which I’m actually writing. I aim to write 1000 words per day, though frequently I manage 2500, and sometimes I struggle to make 250.

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

I teach full time and have two young children. That fairly much takes care of it. That and the Playstation 3 which is taking up a lot of those wee small hours when I should be writing book 4.

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

I’m a green-horn myself, so I’m hardly in a position to advise. I’ve read crime fiction constantly for nearly a decade before starting to write. To be a writer, I think you need to be a reader first – to see what has been done and is being done.

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

I really liked Declan Burke’s The Big O. Ian Rankin and James Lee Burke’s most recent were both superb. And I rocketed through CJ Samson’s Sovereign.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

In addition to Year 12 English coursework, Prayers For Rain by Dennis Lehane. I recently saw Gone Baby, Gone and it reminded me how much I enjoyed the Kenzie & Gennaro novels. Sadly, I’m struggling with time to read it at the moment so I might have to save it for the Easter holidays.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Pan Macmillan has signed up to Devlin 5, which will keep me going for another year or two yet. After that will depend on whether or not anyone wants to read more of my books and whether or not I have more stories to tell. I’d like to develop some of the other characters from the Devlin books into stories of their own at some stage. I’m happy to take it a book at a time and see how they go.

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

No – I’m perfectly happy with the way things have gone. Had I done anything differently, it would have changed the knock on effect that has been part and parcel of the Devlin books path to publication.

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Not that I can think of, thanks!

Thank you, Brian McGilloway!

Sunday 23 March 2008

A Wee Review - Orpheus Rising by Colin Bateman

(Colin) Bateman’s latest offering sees a big change in direction from the likes of his Dan Starkey series. Orpheus Rising still has that cool dry wit that the Bangor man employs with casual ease, but it’s less frequent and more understated in this novel. And for this particular story, it seems to be the perfect amount of humour. I think that Bateman had a story to tell and although it was very different than anything he’s tried before, he’s listened to his instincts and told it the way he thought best. I have to say, it worked a bloody treat.

I coasted through this book with utter ease and loved every sentence. It seems as if he’s really upped his game since I Predict a Riot. The writing is much denser than his usual minimalistic style, but I didn’t feel bogged down by description or superfluous detail. Each word counted. And so the result is a huge story that still manages to weigh in at a smidge under 400 hardback pages.

Orpheus Rising is the poignant tale of Michael Ryan, an Irish writer who found the love of his life under dramatic circumstances (involving a shark and grisly amputation) and lost her soon after to a violent death (even more violent than the shark thing). Without spoiling the plot for potential readers, I’ll tell you that we accompany Michael on his return to the Florida town of Brevard, ten years after he found happiness and had it ripped from him, to face up to the ghosts of his past.

I was very surprised by the supernatural content in Orpheus Rising. Again, I’m wary of spoilers and there’s not a lot you can talk about without robbing the book of some of its impact, so I’ll not go into how or why he uses it. Just trust me when I say, he does it with the aptitude of the likes of Stephen King or John Connolly, and I hope it’s an area he revisits in future work. He sets up a powerful world and sticks rigidly to his own rules, and the transition into suspension of disbelief is an easy one for the reader as a result.

His next book will see a return to form, with Mystery Man, a detective story set in the real No Alibis bookshop in Belfast, but featuring a fictional owner. Not David Torrans. But maybe in the book after next he’ll bend the boundaries of his chosen genre? I hope so. He does it very well.

Orpheus Rising is a rare example of a perfect book.

Saturday 22 March 2008

Sam The Man - Millar Topping The Charts

News just in.

Sam Millar's Bloodstorm went straight in at number 3 in today's best-sellers (Source: Belfast Telegraph/Easons).

Easons have said that it will probably top the list next week because of new sales coming in.

And he's still impressing the critics.

“Acclaimed Northern Irish author Sam Millar has delved yet again into the murky depths of his imagination and come up with Bloodstorm, a dark thriller set in Belfast. It resembles its predecessors in its brutal language and bleak, darkly comic undercurrents. And in the fact that it’s hard to put down.

Bloodstorm is powerful and unsettling writing, that seeps into your bones like Belfast rain. As a Belfast native, it gave me quite a buzz (and sometimes a shiver) to recognise the various landmarks, speech patterns and self-effacing humour of the city and its inhabitants. Recommended reading by the NI Tourist Board this is not, but as a straight-talking crime thriller, it’s at the top...”

Shelley Marsden, The Irish World, London

I'm five chapters in and already agree with Marsden. "
...brutal language and bleak... darkly comic undercurrents"

Friday 21 March 2008

Good Friday

Just want to say thanks to all the well-wishers, pimps and writers who have made the first couple of weeks of blogging for NI crime fiction a real treat. In such a short time, the blog has attracted close to 600 views and I've been in touch with a heck of a lot of writers and prolific bloggers, all willing to lend a hand in making it what it is.

Special thanks to Declan Burke at Crime Always Pays for encouragement and multiple shout-outs.

Also, fellow bloggers for linking to the site and commenting - Norm, Pete, Karen, Rhian, BV, Mike Stone, Colman and Critical Mick.

And the writers who've been kind enough to take part so far (in some cases their posts are pending or they've simply wished me luck), Sam Millar, Brian McGilloway, Tony Bailie, Adrian McKinty, Jason Johnson and Colin Bateman.

If I left you out, sorry. Just nudge me and I'll fix that.

Happy Easter, if that's your cup of tea, or have a great weekend, if it isn't.

Thursday 20 March 2008

A Wee Review - The Lost Chord by Tony Bailie

If you’re a capable googler like myself, you’ll find more than a few articles written by Tony Bailie, a journalist from County Down. If you’re not proficient in the subtle art of search-engineering, click here to read his piece on Rory Gallagher, an Irish rock legend.

But what is criminally underrepresented when googling Mr Bailie’s name, is the lack of web-space devoted to his debut novel, The Lost Chord, A Novel of Music and Mystery. So here’s a wee review of it.

The Lost Chord is a story told by a washed up musician called Manus Brennan who never really got his act back together after the musical frenzy that was Duil faded. This excellently named protagonist tells the story from his introduction to the band through their peak and all the way to their final downfall. in Duil, Mr Bailie has created a celtic rock band led by the charismatic Gino Morgan. The book’s plot revolves around the mystery of Gino’s disappearance after a concert in Munich. But it’s so much more than just a straight missing person’s tale.

Tony Bailie examines the world of Sex Drugs and Rock & Roll as if he’s lived it. The Lost Chord is basically a fictional autobiography of a band that is so fascinating and real, I actually wished I could listen to their music. I wanted to experience Duil’s mystical sounds and Gino’s cryptic lyrics while I read about it. I wanted to watch their videos on youtube. I would have bought their “Best Of” album. In this tragic tale, the band experiences the turmoil of a chopped and changed line up, jealousies, suspicions, narcotics, conspiracies, groupies, artistic integrity, more narcotics, failure and success. Everything you’d expect from a world-famous rock quintet. The writing is strong and the characters real and memorable.

I devoured this book and it deserves a lot more recognition than I can provide, but if you’re reading this, do yourselves a favour and buy The Lost Chord. I picked it up at Waterstones in Newry as an impulse buy, but you overseas readers can buy it online from Lagan Press. I can vouch for their trustworthiness if you haven’t heard of them. They supply a good portion of the books to the Belfast Central Library’s Belfast, Ulster and Irish Studies section, and put together many a tidy paperback.

Here's what a few other critics have said...

“The frenetic world of rock music is combined with the tranquillity of the Irish countryside to produce a remarkable debut novel by Tony Bailie.”

Irish Emigrant website

“The Lost Chord has real life echoes in the deaths of Jim Morrison and Elvis Presley and the myths suggesting they faked their own deaths and, more recently, the disappearance of Ritchie Edwards from the Manic Street Preachers. There is no doubt it will make a fantastic movie.”

Citizen magazine

“It is in characterisation the Bailie triumphs... The Lost Chord is a well-written and seemingly authentic take on the rollercoaster life of the rock musician interspersed with a tale of mystery that adds a new dimension to a well-worn theme.”

The Boston Irish Reporter

“Tony Bailie grabs the clich├ęs of the world of rock ‘n’ roll by the horns and tames them for the benefit of his debut novel The Lost Chord. Bailie has taken all the great myths and lives of the rock’s greatest protagonists and weaved them into the fictional story of the rock band Duil.”

The Irish News

“It is an entertaining and fast-moving novel in the style of an autobiographical account of life in a successful band... [it] is an intriguing, sometimes funny, sometimes tragic look at the life of a tormented genius.”

The Mourne Observer

And rumour has it that there’ll be an interview with Mr Bailie a couple of Mondays from now.

So don’t be a stranger.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

Verbal Magazine - Maria Rejt and Jane Gregory

Remember that post about the asexualisation of crimewriters last week?

Well, if you enjoyed that, you should have a look at this interview with the Godmothers of Crime Fiction.

They've more than a few interesting things to say in it. Among them -- "What do they hate to see landing on their desks? Not that it does – they have minions for that these days – but if they had to say…? ‘Bad writing,’ says Maria, ‘Dull, predictable; and explicitly described violence against women and children.’ Jane is more blunt..."

Go on over there and read the rest, will ye?

Monday 17 March 2008

An Interview - Sam Millar

Yes, it's St Patrick's day, but crime doesn't take holidays, and neither does CSNI. Unless you count yesterday. Ahem. So here's a very special treat to mark the day that doesn't involve shamrocks or green Guinness or whatever else the eejits in green foam hats enjoy. It's an interview with Sam Millar.

Sam Millar has a huge list of achievements -- Author of three best-selling novels; Dark Souls, The Redemption Factory, The Darkness of Bones. His newest novel, Bloodstorm, has been selected by Eason and The Sunday Times to mark the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

“Bloodstorm is a powerful, relentless page-turner of a book, leaving you gasping for more…”

BBC Radio Ulster

He’s also the author of the best-selling memoir, On The Brinks, recently acquired by Warner Brothers.

Mr Millar has won the prestigious Aisling Award for Art and Culture, the Martin Healy Short Story Award, the Brian Moore Award for Short Stories and the Cork Literary Review Writer’s Competition. There’s more, but I’ll let him talk about it.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

A: The Dark Place and Searching For The Dead. These are the follow-ups to Bloodstorm. I have a couple of stand-alone projects in the oven, but they are not fully baked yet.

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

A: Right now it’s 5am. That’s when I usually hit the screen (unlike cops hitting the street). I am blessed with insomnia - a writer’s dream (notice I didn’t write cursed with an ailment!). I’m eating marmalade and toast because my wife says it’s good for me, even though my doctor has firmly advised me never to touch the stuff as I am allergic to oranges, and it could cause a massive heart attack. Hey, always trust your wife, right…? I can’t be too precise as to where my ideas come from, because they usually sneak up on me. But sometimes the most mundane incidents can be the spur to kick-start the next paragraph. They say the greatest ideas are always accidental. Unfortunately, I haven’t had too many accidents, lately…

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

Er, you really don’t want to know. Trust me on that…

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

Stop being so modest, Mister Brennan. We’ve all seen your work – and damn good it is too. For those just starting in this dirty, bare-knuckle business my advice is simple (a bit like myself): write. Keep writing. There is no wrong time to write. Have balls as big as the Hulk’s. Believe in yourself and with a good bit of hard grafting, you will make it. Never forget luck. You need plenty of that, as well. Oh, did I mention the Hulk…?

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

A: Er…have to skip that one…sorry any crime writer reading this…(bang goes the promised eye-catching blurbs for my next book).

Q6. What are you reading right now?

A: No Country For Old Men. (I think this is the tenth time) and The Road (the twentieth time.) I’ve been a big follower of Cormac McCarthy for years. ‘Discovered’ his work about ten years ago while I was resting in the penitentiary in America. It’s great seeing him getting the recognition he deserves so richly (boy, is he rich). In a strange twist of fate, my French publisher, Fayard, translates the great reclusive man’s work, and as I have a notorious brass neck, I have numerous signed copies from Cormac – I mean Mister McCarthy. I would kill anyone who dared touch them. No seriously. I would.

Q7. Plans for the future?

A: That’s a secret, in case my publisher is reading this…(which he probably is). Very sneaky of you, Steve…

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

A: Wouldn’t we all?

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

A: You haven’t asked me the million-dollar question, the one everyone else normally asks: what did you do with all the money from the biggest robbery in American history? Well, seeing you didn’t ask, I’m sure as hell not telling. Buy On The Brinks…

Thank you, Sam Millar!

Saturday 15 March 2008

Sam Millar - Marking the 10th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

This just in. I learned this morning that Sam Millar's BLOODSTORM has been selected by Easons and The Sunday Times, to mark the 10th Anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement.

So his book will be in the window of all the Eason stores, North and South, as well as featuring on a load of posters.

Congratulations, Sam. We're delighted to hear it.

Of course, this also means he'll have plenty to talk about when we interview him in the very near future. Keep coming back for more.

And have a look at what the critics are saying already...

“Millar is rapidly building a reputation for pacy thrillers in the crime noir genre. This latest offering, Bloodstorm, will not disappoint his expanding fan base. Set in his hometown of Belfast, this is a violent tale of murder and revenge told in brutal prose that makes no concessions to the faint-hearted. Millar has a gift for sharp dialogue and a lively imagination to match. He keeps the action rolling from the get-go with a rapid expanding plot that quickly head-butts the reader into submission. Those looking for a comfortable read should be warned. Karl Kane is no gentlemanly Hercules Poirot. Even Sam Spade would be shocked at some of the company Karl Kane keeps and the situations he finds himself in.”

Irish Independent

“Karl Kane takes no prisoners – literally as well as figuratively – in this dark, page-turner of a book. Millar’s ability to tap into the dark recesses of the human mind is brilliantly constructed, page after nerve shattering page. Bloodstorm is a triumph from a master storyteller. With Bloodstorm and Karl Kane, Millar has given us his best work since On The Brinks and The Redemption Factory. Highly recommended.”

Irish News

“Gripping and arrestingly violent, Bloodstorm is a well-written thriller with its share of disturbing insights into the dark side of the human psyche.”

Irish Mail on Sunday

“Millar whips up a storm in this brilliant, fast paced thriller. Gritty and gripping, Bloodstorm, is a real page-turner – and indeed a chapter-turner. Anti-hero Karl Kane, is the most original private investigator to grace a book, in years. The promise of more to come from this chilling and dark series should keep Millar’s growing army of fans content - at least for the time being…”

Andersonstown News

“Bloodstorm is a powerful, relentless page-turner of a book, leaving you gasping for more…”

BBC Radio Ulster

Thursday 13 March 2008

Bateman at No Alibis

Tonight I got to attend (Colin) Bateman's book launch for Orpheus Rising. There was free beer, but I had the car with me and it's still lent, so I had a healthy glass of mineral water. I also had the pleasure of listening to Mr Bateman read from the manuscript he finished today! How up to date am I? The newest one sounds a cracker, but until it hits the shelves, I've a signed copy of Orpheus Rising to keep me going. Can't wait to get stuck into it.

As he was signing my book, the man himself told me that he'd seen the new blog and thought it was a great idea. How do you like them apples? Um, Mr Bateman didn't say the apples thing, that was me acting smug. Did it come across okay?

I also picked up a signed first edition hardback of Brian McGilloway's Borderlands. It's a bloody great shop that No Alibis on Botanic Avenue, Belfast. Get yourself in there and buy some cool new books immediately!

Wednesday 12 March 2008

Where the Crime Women At?

Declan Burke, that wily evil genius over at Crime Always Pays, threw me a scrap from his table earlier today and posted a link to CSNI on his latest entry. So I thought I should post a new article, lest new visitors think I’ve abandoned this project already. After minimal thought, I figured I’d share some things I learned at a literary discussion held at the Linenhall Library back in January. A little late to be writing about it now, I know, but I didn’t have this blog back then, did I?

Anyway, this was a discussion on crime fiction featuring guest speakers Jane Gregory (Gregory and Company Authors’ Agents) and Maria Rejt (Publishing Director of Macmillan, Pan, Picador and Macmillan New Writing). They’re responsible for the success of Minette Walters and Mo Hayder among many others.

The prestigious guest speakers offered the gathered wannabe writers advice on how to snag an agent and/or publishing deal. This mostly boiled down to advising the writer to read the submission guidelines set out by a publisher and sticking to them. Almost every talk aimed at new writers I’ve attended starts with this piece of advice, so I’d say it’s pretty important.

They discussed the importance of reading the new stuff out there. And you know, I’m all for that. And during that segment, Brian McGilloway got a mention. The Derry man impressed them so much they invited him to the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.

I enjoyed their industry stories, which included how much Minette Walters was paid for her first novel and how she never forgave Maria Rejt for the offer, and how it pained Colin Dexter to lose two superfluous paragraphs in one of his Morse mysteries which described a flock of pigeons fluttering about. It was nice to see a human and humorous side to the publishing world.

Here’s one of the points of discussion that I remember most. They talked about the “asexualisation” of crime writers. Apparently it’s a fact that 80% of crime novels are bought by women. And although that 80% are more likely to give a male author a chance than the 20% of us barbaric males are to give female writers a chance, female writers are more likely to enjoy success in the genre than their male counterparts. And so, a lot of male writers are choosing to go with non-gender identifying initials. Examples include, KT McCafferty, CJ Sansom and most recently DB Shan. Interesting, n’est pas?

Okay. These charming ladies know their stuff, so I’ll accept that statistic. But something doesn’t quite tally. These last few weeks I’ve been trawling the internet in search of lady Northern Irish crime writers to add to my list of links. I can’t find any! None. Are they out there? If so, I apologise for my deficient googling skills and will appreciate correction from any source. But if not, I guess we will have to groom one of these chick-lit dudettes and convince them to up the bodycount in their work.

Who’s with me?

Sunday 9 March 2008

A Wee Review - Woundlicker by Jason Johnson

It’s not often that I find a book containing the kind of violence that makes me cringe. Woundlicker is one of those rare finds. But it’s not all about the violence. Sure, it’s shocking, and the internal dialogue that the protagonist, Fletcher Fee, describes is disturbing, and the gritty-gritty descriptions of the urban decay in Fletcher’s neighbourhood force you to look at Belfast without the post-Troubles rose-tinted glasses. But this is a book that was born of political frustrations. The main message is tied to the mid-noughties. Surely things have moved on? We’ve got the Assembly now. Is this book still relevant to modern Northern Ireland? God, I hope not. I’m an optimist.

But apart from the bleak outlook on NI politics, and the uneasy feeling you get in your stomach when the violent wee git makes you go, “Get in there, my son!” there’s a lot to be said for the story Johnson tells and the way it’s written. And you can see why he was described as the “Irish Irvine Welsh” when Woundlicker first landed on the shelves.

Personally speaking, I found it hard to put down, and read it in a few short days. Fletcher Fee is a fascinating character, and how he relates his woes to the reader is expertly handled. I have no complaints on a nuts and bolts level of writing. I was hooked in from the first “confession” and felt satisfied with how the tale ended. Johnson resisted what must have been a bit of a temptation to make Fletcher Fee a real hero. It’s obvious the man (Fletcher, not Johnson) is a complete lunatic. And he’s not harmless. But you can identify with some of his insanity. Or maybe I just need help. Read it and let me know, will you?

Johnson went on to write another novel titled Alina, also published by Belfast house, Blackstaff Press. I intend to pick it up and hope to enjoy it as much as I did his debut novel. Although I’ve heard that the Eniskillen man has no immediate plans to put out a third book, I wish he would.

Gerard Brennan

Thursday 6 March 2008

The First Report!

(Colin) Bateman's Orpheus Rising was published this week.

There'll be a launch at No Alibis on Botanic Avenue on Thursday the 13th of March. You should go. The man says so himself on his own blog... have a look here.

Wednesday 5 March 2008

Who am I?

I'm Gerard Brennan, a fan of dark fiction and an emerging writer. You like that? Emerging writer. Yup, that means I don't make enough money to quit my dayjob. I can't even introduce myself as a writer at social gatherings without feeling like a bit of an eejit.

"Oh, where can I buy your books?" the party-people ask.

"Um, I've published some short stories and a wee collection of Belfast horror tales, and I have this website,, and..."

"No. I mean, what shop? Waterstones?"

"No, just on the internet at the moment. But my stuff is quite good. And I've a few manuscripts out there. I could be on a bookshelf this year, if I'm lucky."

"Right. Still, everyone's got a good book in them, eh?"

"Ah, fu..."

Ahem, I digress.

Here's what I'm trying to say. I write horror and crime fiction, usually set in Northern Ireland. I'm concentrating on crime fiction at the moment, and reading tonnes of it. Especially anything I can find that is written by Northern Irish crime writers, such as Colin Bateman, Jason Johnson and Brian McGilloway.

I've found Crime Always Pays a great place to track down these Irish knaves. After emailing the Grand Vizier over there, Declan Burke, we realised that a whole blog could be devoted to the booming scene of Northern Irish Crime Fiction.

"Why don't you do it?" Mr Burke says.

"Why not?" says I. *

So here it is. Crime Scene NI. Northern Irish crime writers beware! If I can track down your email address, I will be bothering you soon with interview requests.

* This conversation was paraphrased to improve pace. How slick am I?