Wednesday 31 December 2008

There Will Be Booze

I'm still not done with the festivities, and indeed tonight may prove the highlight of a debauched week, but I figured I should post something here, lest one or two people think I've dropped off the face of the blogosphere.

So, just a little heads up. Over the crimbo holidays, I've read and intend to review Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by John McFetridge and I'm neck deep in Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand. I hope to get stuck into Mystery Man by Colin Bateman next and then I'll be checking out some more Ken Bruen (can't get enough of that guy) and Walking The Perfect Square by Reed Farrel Coleman. I've also got three more David Peace books and... man, this could go on. Basically, I'm spoilt for choice in the new year, so there'll be no shortage of reviews as CSNI continues to grow.

Just for the record, I have a loose priority list with regards to promotion. Writers from the North of Ireland first, followed closely by those from the South. After that, it's kind of up in the air. Anybody who can be tied to Ireland in any way will get whim priority. For instance, McFetridge can trace some of his family back to Larne in Northern Ireland. Reed Farrel Coleman is releasing a book with Ken Bruen this year. I'll probably read Pariah by Dave Zeltserman as it's got Boston Irish gangsters in it. The rest, I'll read for fun, maybe reference it from time to time, but probably not review. I gotta write my own Northern Irish crime fiction too, you know.

So, thanks to everybody who's read, commented and emailed me about the blog. Thanks in general to the crime fiction community for being warm, friendly and cool. Thanks to all the authors I met this year, who ignored my stuttering awe and told me it was nice to meet me. It's been a great year, and I hope the trend continues.

In 2009, aside from reviews, I hope to progress my own writing. If I can't sell a novel, screenplay or stage play, then I'll be chipping away with short stories on the side. But I'm also lucky enough to be involved with a non-fiction project with Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty and a fiction anthology with Mike Stone. Both collections will contain work from some of my favourite writers. It's dizzying to think about it. You'll read plenty of updates on both here.

But for now, give me a few days to recover from an overindulgence of pies and beer and wine and crackers and cheese and whiskey and crisps. Then I'll be a slightly pudgier blogging dynamo bringing you as much news as you can handle, and more besides.

Happy New Year, folks.

Sunday 21 December 2008

Linky-Dink And a Holiday Hup-Ya to All

Just a quick round-up of stuff. T'is definitely the season round my place, so a bit of laziness is to be expected. January depression should get me buried in this aul craic again and the posts will be flying out. Until then, here's this:

Declan Burke has me furthering my unexpected editorial experience with this new project (working title) With Dark Joy, The Madness. God bless him and his family. It's a collection of non-fiction essays on all things Irishly crime fictiony. And I get to contribute. You're all going to love it. Click the blooming link for more info on it, but come back here and read the rest of the stuff, okay?

Stuart Neville is fairly getting about the aul publicity trail. Read the guy's brilliant story on his journey to publishing The Twelve / The Ghosts of Belfast, courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph.

And a new magazine has added to my wee list on the right (scroll up or down depending on when you're reading this). Thanks to Elaine Ash for bringing Beat to a Pulp to my attention. Any others out there, get in touch. I'd like to keep my list as current and up to date as possible, but I'm too busy to go looking for these wonderful sites. And a bit lazy, okay? Oh, and on that topic, if you're in the mood for some speculative fiction, the first issue of Three Crow Press has just gone live. That's the e-zine affiliated with Morrigan Books.

Finally, it's all about me. Read a funky interview with me on A Twist of Noir. I'm very pleased to have been asked to spread my wondrous words of whining. But don't worry, Christopher Grant did a great job of shaping by blathering into something quite entertaining. Check it out.

I'm hoping to post a couple of reviews in the next few days, but if I don't get around to it in the Christmas melee, Happy Holidays, whatever way you take 'em. It's been a good year, and a lot of you fine folk out there have contributed to that. Cheers.

Thursday 18 December 2008

Olé N Seville (stet)

So, Stuart Neville's latest blog tells us that the Spanish have welcomed him with open arms. The Ghosts of Belfast, AKA The Twelve, will be published by Ediciones Urano as part of yet another Neville two-book deal. Is there no stopping this Northern Irish crime fiction dynamo? I hope not. Stuart Neville is going to be the best thing since fried soda bread, it would seem, and we at CSNI salute him.

In slightly related news, Todd Robinson, the Big Daddy of Thuglit got in touch with me yesterday to let me know my short story, Hard Rock, will appear in the February issue of the e-zine. I'll post a link when it goes live.

How's that slightly related? Well, didn't Nat Sobel read Stuart Neville's The Last Dance on that very e-zine? Yes. Yes, he did. But you know, lightning rarely strikes twice. I wouldn't expect the same thing to happen to me. Dream about it, maybe. Expect? Not at all. I'm just happy to have another story out there!

Monday 15 December 2008

Feelin' Not-So-Good

Might be a day or two before I get this show back on the road. I'm a bit under the weather and have been since yesterday. Lost some of my internet vim. It'll return at some point, I'm sure. Until then, here's a couple of links to keep you going.

Stuart Neville Secures French Publishing Deal

Tony Bailie Complains About a Couple of Bastards

Peter Rozovsky Gives Me and Mike Stone's Project a Hup-Ya

Enjoy! I'll be blech.

Thursday 11 December 2008

Myths and Mobsters

I’m getting this announcement in before my co-editor lets the cat out of the bag over at Book Smugglers. Yup, I said co-editor. That’d be Mike Stone. And we’d be editing a collection of short stories. Crime fiction stories, as if you had to ask.

A while ago, I was contacted by Mark Deniz, who runs the ever-growing small press Morrigan Books. He’d read some of my work and enjoyed what was happening here at CSNI. He also happened to know that Mike Stone is a good friend of mine, and as he’d wanted to work with Mike on a project for quite a while, he figured I might be able to persuade him onto this one.

Morrigan Books aims to put out the very best in dark genre fiction, and who does dark crime fiction better than the Irish? Nobody, in my opinion. And luckily, Mark was willing to accept this opinion. It left one small problem, though. How to set this collection apart from Ken Bruen’s excellent Dublin Noir and Colin Bateman’s forthcoming Belfast Nights? Well, it’s Morrigan Books, right? Morrigan is the Celtic goddess of war. Why not ask for stories with an Irish mythology theme? Why not, indeed?

We asked a bunch of writers and they all seemed intrigued. We’ve even received a number of stories already. Ken Bruen, Adrian McKinty, Garbhan Downey, Sam Millar and Tony Bailie have each sent us something. And I know Paul Charles has completed a first draft of his contribution and that Neville Thompson is working on his. We’ve also received positive interest from Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Arlene Hunt, Aifric Campbell, Lucy Caldwell, Ian McDonald and John McAllister. Me and Mike might even write something, but next to the talent we’ve attracted, we’d need to write something special to justify a place amongst it.

So, what do you think?

And if the whimsy takes you, could you suggest a title? Me and Mike are stumped. At the moment, Stuart Neville’s suggestion is in the lead; Myths and Mobsters (which I've swiped for the title of this post). Mike’s decided to run a draw in which you can win a paperback copy of his novella collection, Fourtold. Each suggestion will be entered into it and the winner picked at random. I’ll sweeten the deal by adding a crime fiction book from my collection. I’ll give the winner a choice of books after the draw. Leave your answer here, or over at Mike’s Book Smugglers piece. It should go live in about four hours.

UPDATE -- Mike's Book Smugglers article can be found right here.

Wednesday 10 December 2008

A Wee Review - The Truth Commissioner by David Park

In the last year David Park’s The Truth Commissioner has been acclaimed by many as the most important book to come out of Northern Ireland’s current political situation. And maybe it is. I haven’t read all the books that aim to examine this stage of the peace process, and I doubt they’ve all been written yet, so I’ll reserve judgement on that count. What I can say, is that The Truth Commissioner left me thinking about Northern Ireland in terms of my own Northern Irish/Irish/British(?) identity and my confused and often ignored idea of personal politics. But the review isn’t about me and my political commitment problems. So, on with my impressions of the book.

On purely a story-telling level, there’s a strong but slow-paced plot driven by a huge amount of time spent inside the four protagonists’ heads. The structure of the book reads like a collection of four interlinking novellas until the final act, which then ups the pace with shorter chapters and a number of POV shifts. The prose is very dense, and unless you’re entirely plugged in, a lot of nuances could be glossed over. Luckily, Park’s writing is beautifully crafted, so it’s not as big a chore as the first glance at the page might suggest.

The four main characters are all very interesting, which they’d need to be. The book is minimal in action and big on introspection. Each character is believable in their flaws, entirely human and utterly miserable. I’m slightly worried that they’re a depressing representation of modern Northern Irish man, but then, one of them is English. I don’t want to go too deep in examining them, as Park has done that for you, so instead I’ll give you a quick run through:

Stanfield – The truth commissioner. He’s been drafted in to oversee a vital stage in the peace and reconciliation process in which the circumstances around the ‘disappeared’ are investigated. However professional he seems, his personal life is far from enviable.

Gilroy – The ex-provo politician. He’s tied in to a particular ‘disappeared’ case under investigation but the issue seems to be overshadowed by his daughter’s impending marriage.

Fenton – The ex-RUC officer. His involvement in the investigation has dragged him out of a peaceful retirement.

Danny – A young man trying to build a new life in America. But not even the Atlantic Ocean can insulate him from his past.

There’s a melancholy running though the book. Isolation and loneliness seem to be the predominant feelings shared by the cast. They’re all haunted in their own way, and for much the same reason in the cases of Gilroy, Fenton and Danny. Little comfort to those who believe they have suffered loss at the hands of these characters, but perhaps a hint of a way towards reconciliation? Yes, we’ve all been hurt by the Troubles, even those perceived to have done the hurting? Is that the book’s message? Possibly. I don’t want to get too cerebral about it, but I will say, it’s a decent, nay, strong read. But don’t expect to blast through it. This one will leave you thinking.

As far as an examination of the political situation in Northern Ireland goes, The Truth Commissioner is a well-balanced and very interesting assessment. It’s not preachy and nor does it lean towards any particular political opinion. We need more books like this, and I need to read them. If you’re Northern Irish, you could almost consider it therapy.

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Top Stuff 2008

Saturday brought good news for Sam Millar in the form of much lauding. The Belfast Telegraph (or Belly Telly in some quarters) did a top-ten-reads-in-2008 piece. Millar’s Bloodstorm took the top spot. To put this in perspective, he beat Maeve Binchy and Frank McCourt to get there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about my own top ten for 2008. Declan Burke over at Crime Always Pays beat me to the punch last week. John McFetridge did well there, didn’t he? Note to self; hurry the hell up and read his books. I’ve started reading his meta-fiction series on his Bouchercon road trip with Dec Burke to tide me over. It’s a lot of fun.

Also, Adrian McKinty posted Stephen King’s top ten albums for 2008, which is a bit of a cop-out if you ask me (sorry, Ade, going for that controversy thing). However, since a precedent has been set, I’ll give myself a bit of a cop-out top ten. You see, I’ve read a lot of great books this year, and it’d take ages to judge my best reads of 2008. And I don't have that kind of time. So, here’s a list of my favourite CSNI interviews – and it’s a baker’s dozen, rather than a top ten:

Ken Bruen
Colin Bateman
John Connolly
Lucy Caldwell
Ian Sansom
Declan Burke
Adrian McKinty
Brian McGilloway
Garbhan Downey
Arlene Hunt
Neville Thompson
Stuart Neville
Aifric Campbell

Honourable mention to Sam Millar for being the first CSNI interviewee. And the circle is complete.

Friday 5 December 2008

Another Collaboration Bruen (Brewin’ geddit? No? Dec Burke’s much better at these pun things, and he knew about this before me, mutter-mutter...)

So, Ken Bruen. In 2008 he released Once Were Cops, Sanctuary and a UK and Ireland version of American Skin. He also teamed up with Jason Starr for the third time and released The Max through Hard Case Crime. Have we had enough of the most accomplished crime fiction writer to come out of Ireland? Hell, no. He’s the best for a reason. So I was delighted to learn that 2009 would see another collaboration release from the Galway gentleman.

Talk about prolific.

And who’s he teaming up with? Why don’t I let David Thompson of Busted Flush Press field that one?

“Coming fall 2009, Tower marks the first collaboration between crime writers Ken Bruen (The Guards, Once Were Cops) and Reed Farrel Coleman (The James Deans, The Fourth Victim), and the first original novel published by Busted Flush Press. With four Shamus Awards and four Edgar Award nominations (and plenty of other trophies!) between them, Bruen and Coleman combine forces with a novel that is steeped in metaphysics, baseball, and brutality...”

And how about a little bit about the book, David? Something blurb-like, maybe?

"Born into a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, outsiders in their own families, Nick and Todd forge a lifelong bond that persists in the face of crushing loss, blood, and betrayal. Low-level wiseguys with little ambition and even less of a future, the friends become major players in the potential destruction of an international crime syndicate that stretches from the cargo area at Kennedy Airport to the streets of New York, Belfast, and Boston to the alleyways of Mexican border towns. Their paths are littered with the bodies of undercover cops, snitches, lovers, and stone-cold killers.”

That sounds brilliant, man.

But I have to wait so frickin’ long. What’ll I do until then?

Well, thanks to David’s Busted Flush Press, I’ll soon be enjoying Reed Farrel Coleman’s Walking The Perfect Square and Ken Bruen’s A Fifth of Bruen. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

Pop on over to Busted Flush and see what else they have to offer.

Oh, one more thing. Call it a cherry on top, or a belt of scotch. Allan Guthrie, Scotland's Noir Original, is feckin' editing Tower! A triumvirate of talent I tell you.

Thursday 4 December 2008

Speaking of Which - A Bit About Sam Millar & The CWN

Did you know that Glen Patterson judged the Brian Moore Short Story Award last year? Well, he did. And Sam Millar won it ten years ago, and believes it was a turning point in his writing career. He even told the folks at BBC Radio Ulster's Artsextra programme all about it. You can listen to it on the Artsextra website for the next five days. Better hurry.

Interviewed alongside him is Mark Madden from the Creative Writers Network. They run the Brian Moore competition every year. Although I've never won the award, I have benefited greatly from my membership there. They introduced me to Ian McDonald two years ago on their mentoring course, told me of an Ian Sansom workshop before I discovered The Mobile Library Series, and tipped me off on a Colin Bateman reading where he signed my copy of Divorcing Jack. I even attended a writing for radio course hosted by Annie McCartney last year. Ah, good times. So, thanks CWN. Keep on truckin'.

Oh, by the way, Tammy Moore did a lot of work for the CWN in her time. Nowadays she can be found writing for Morrigan Books, a new publishing house going from strength to strength in genre fiction. Best of luck to the lot of them.

Tammy's first publication, The Even, can be purchased from the publisher, Amazon or Waterstones. Take your pick.

Wednesday 3 December 2008

Congrats Pat!

Okay, Glen Patterson isn't strictly a crime writer. He's of the Belfast literary set. But we won't hold that against him. Instead, let's focus on the positives:

I attended one of his readings at No Alibis this year and it was very good.

He's a friend of David Torrans, who owns No Alibis.

Peter Rozovsky went home to Philly with one of his books, purchased at... No Alibis!

So, I reckon there's a place here for him, and I thought this was great news:

Glenn Patterson, one of Northern Ireland's leading novelists, has been honoured by the Lannan Foundation in the USA with a two-year literary fellowship, worth 100,000. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in 2006, honoured him with a Major Individual Artist award worth £15,000.

You'll find a full report on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland website. Click here.

Best of luck, Mister Patterson!

Monday 1 December 2008

John The Maun

It looks as if John Connolly is reading more Northern Irish crime fiction than I am at the minute. Just yesterday, Declan Burke counter-scooped my scoop with news that John Connolly had expanded on an already stellar blurb for Stuart Neville's debut, The Twelve (or The Ghost's of Belfast in the US). John Connolly thinks that it is, "...the best mystery to have emerged so far from the aftermath of the Troubles." Heady stuff for our always modest Mister Neville, I'd say.

Not only this, but Mister Connolly had only nice things to say upon reading Brian McGilloway's soon to be released, Bleed a River Deep:

Inspector Ben Devlin is that rare creature: a detective who is not violent or tortured, but who is intensely, movingly human, and it is his humanity and decency that grip the reader and give these novels a searing honesty. The Devlin books are set to become one of the great series in modern crime fiction.’

John Connolly (Best selling author of The Reapers.)

Great stuff! Crime fiction from Northern Ireland just keeps going from strength to strength. I fear I'm not going to be able to keep up with it soon. I'll always try to, though. You should too.