Wednesday 5 November 2008

A Wee Review - Eight Ball Boogie by Declan Burke - Tag Team Style

Mike Stone: Hiya, mate. I finished Declan Burke’s Eight Ball Boogie yesterday. Give it a day or two and the dust will have settled enough for me to do a write-up. Assuming you want one of course?

Gerard Brennan: Hey, man. Yeah, I could well use a review of Eight Ball Boogie. Thing is, I’ve only just read it myself. And I’m kind of in the mood to review it too. Not sure what to do. I like to get other opinions on CSNI when I can, but... hmmm, what say you?

MS: Well, I daresay you’re better qualified. I was going to prattle on about the banter – that for me was this novel’s signature. The story and characters were very good, but what raised the bar were the rapid one-liners and putdowns.

GB: Don’t know about my qualifications. I’m not much smarter than Burke’s protagonist, Harry Rigby. Wish I had his knack for one-liners though. As you say, they’re a defining feature of the novel. I didn’t do a formal count, but there has to be at least a couple of wisecracks on every page. I think Declan Burke mentioned in a recent blog that Rigby was one of the most autobiographical characters he’d ever written. Probably explains why he comes across as such a complete character. Wise mouth, cocky attitude, low self-esteem. If I ever meet Dec in person, I must give him a hug.

MS: Ah, you beat me to it. I was going to ask you if Dec’s anything like Harry Rigby. The dialogue – spoken and internal – just felt so natural. And there were sentences to die for. I’d give my eye-teeth to have written this one:

The shoes were Italian and suede because women look at your eyes first, shoes second, and I had eyes that made women take a long lingering look at my shoes.

You know when you asked visitors to CSNI to give you a page number and you’d recite a cracking piece of prose from Ken’s American Skin? I reckon you could do that with ­Eight Ball Boogie.

GB: And I reckon you’re right. Except as popular as that git Burke is on the blogosphere, I’d be inundated with comments if I did. I loved the book, but I’ve got a life, you know? It wasn’t just the cool dialogue that got me. The twisty-turny plot kept me guessing right up to the final pages. Okay, so that’s supposed to happen in crime fiction, and should be a given rather than a point of praise, but I think Burke is especially adept at this. It was equally apparent in The Big O and A Gonzo Noir.

MS: You anticipate me again. PI Harry Rigby’s poking into the goings on of crooked auctioneers, bent cops and politicians on the make was bound to be complex -- and for the most part Declan handled it well -- but were you able to keep with it? Because I got a bit lost towards the end. I got the gist of it . . . I think. The problem for me, in part, was that rapid-fire narrative we talked about earlier. When it came to Rigby unpicking the double dealings and backstabbings, I could have done with more elaboration.

GB: Hmmm. Good point. Personally, I didn’t feel short-changed when it came to figuring out who did what. I went away with a clear enough idea of all that went on. I do think that he resolved an awful lot in a very short space of time, which might have made the book a little ending-heavy. Is that what you mean?

MS: Yeah, it became too dense for me, or I’m too dense for the ending, one or the other. I was determined to give it a five star review up until then. As it stands, I’d probably chip a point off for making me feel thick. Any idea if there’s a sequel. I want to see more of Harry Rigby. And how does Eight Ball Boogie stack up against The Big O?

GB: Ah, man. Great question, thanks. As you know, I’m a regular reader of Dec’s blog, Crime Always Pays. Not so long ago he mentioned Eight Ball Boogie and how the publisher (a now defunct imprint of Lilyput Press) passed on the opportunity to buy a second Harry Rigby novel from him. Publishers, eh? What do they know? So I know there is more to come from Harry Rigby, but when we’ll get to enjoy it is anybody’s guess. I’m hoping the recent success that The Big O has enjoyed will bring with it an opportunity for Dec to launch a whole series of Rigby novels, starting with a shiny new hardcover of Eight Ball Boogie, because (and this brings me on to the second part of your question) I think The Big O rocks, but Eight Ball Boogie has a bit of an edge on it.

Right, listen. Which one of us is going to write this review, then?

MS: Well, you could always stick the heading “A Wee Review” above this exchange. I daresay that McKinty fellah will have a dig and call us the Chuckle Brothers, but I can live with that.

To me!

GB: Sounds like a plan, you savvy devil.

To you!


John McFetridge said...

This is a great way to do a review. I'd like to see a lot more like this. Maybe you could make this a regular feature.

The opening page of Eightball sets the stage perfectly:

"Imelda Sheridan was dead, which was tough cookies on Imelda, but then every silver lining has its cloud."

How can you not keep reading after that? Entertaining and slick, for sure, but if I was back in my student days that would mark the beginning of a pretty good term paper about the symbolism of the changing culture in Ireland and what was lost in the rush to the new prosperity.

Though if Declan read the term paper he'd have more colourful things ot say than even McKinty would.

Declan Burke said...

Much obliged gents. And - the big-ups aside - I reckon you might have hit on tasty little reviewing scenario - works a treat.

Oh, and who's this McKinty bloke?

Cheers, Dec

Gerard Brennan said...

John - It just so happens me and Mike were discussing how much fun this wee piece had been last night and decided we would indeed make it a regular feature. I think McKinty's on our hitlist next.

And yeah, Dec had me buckled in for the long haul after I read that line. It's criminal that this book hasn't received more kudos and become a successful series, but maybe someday...

Ah, and you've summoned the McKinty. He'll be awakened from his upside-down sleep soon (he's in Oz, not a vampire) and I'm sure he'll take issue with that!

Dec - I think you'll see more of these over the next few months. We just need to synchronise our reading list. It was a pleasure to give 8BB the first tag team treatment.

McKinty - That's twice he's been summoned now, lord help us.


Logan Lamech said...

That's a great review, I'll be looking for more like it.

Logan Lamech

adrian mckinty said...

Look if there's tag team work to be done I want to be teamed with Rowdy Roddy Piper from the WWF, he of fake kilt, bagpipe music, and a two by four piece of wood that he's allowed for some reason to carry into the ring.

RRP was in John Carpenter's They Live and he had this great line: "I have to come here to chew bubble gum and to kick ass...and I'm all out of bubble gum."

John McFetridge said...

Back in my movie crew days I worked on a Rowdy Roddy Piper movie called "Back in Action." Also starred Billy Blanks.

As an actor, Roddy is an excellent wreslter.

But he was always butting in at the craft services table and taking the last donut so a gaffer smacked him around.

Can I get teamed with Trish Stratus? She's Canadian, too.

adrian mckinty said...


Isnt your life a massive anti climax now after working with RRP?

John McFetridge said...

It's all been downhill, yes.

There was a slight up again when I got to work on a movie with Matthias Hues and Frank Zagarino:

(you'll notice I snuck my name in there as one of the many, many writers. It may be the first time in movie history someone worked their way up from location scout to location manager to writer by writing scenes for locations he could get for free. Oh, the movie biz...)

Gerard Brennan said...

Adrian - Sure, you can have Roddy. But what about Jake the Snake? He used to take the bloody big snake into the ring. That's gotta be scarier than a lump of wood. Oh, oh, oh, then there's the Undertaker. He took that wee fat guy everywhere with him. Paul Bearer, was it? He's creepier than a snake wielding a 2 by 4.

John - You worked with Billy Blanks? The Tae Bo guy? You'll have to put that in your memoirs.


Gerard Brennan said...

Hi Logan, thanks for stopping by. Just followed the link from your signature. Love the cover of your book. Best of luck with it!