Thursday 26 February 2009

Good News, Everyone!

I don't know if it's the planetary alignment, karmic back-pay or just dumb luck, but this has been quite a month. Me and my da met Tony Devlin for a coffee at lunch time today and talked about our play, The Sweety Bottle. Tony is an accomplished actor who has branched out and founded Brassneck Theatre Company. Tony read, enjoyed and offered to professionally produce The Sweety Bottle in Spring 2010. We're gratefully taking him up on that offer.

It's a long way off, but Belfast theatre (like publishing) is dependent on funding, and since The Sweety Bottle is a six-man show, they're gonna need a lot of cash. So, Brassneck plan to put on a one-woman show, a two-man show and then our play.

If nothing else, this writing malarkey has taught me patience. When you think about the time it takes to write a novel, get an answer from a publisher or catch a lucky break, a year seems like nothing to me. But to sweeten the deal, they'll probably do a reading of the play in this year's West Belfast festival. August 2009. Doesn't seem too far away.

Anyway, another lesson learned. Make sure the next stage play only needs one or two actors.

Fancy a Link?

I've been a bit busy the last few days putting the finishing touches on the screenplay. It's just been delivered to Northern Ireland Screen. One project down (for now), seventy-six(ish) to go.

So, what's been going on in the blogosphere since I've had my head buried in the script?

Well, I've been unforgiveably remiss in failing to mention Mike Stone's excellent news. He's only gone and announced that he's working with super-agent Nat Sobel! I've read the first of the YA trilogy he's putting together, and I tell you, this news was a long time coming. Congrats, Mike. Just remember, I need your help on this Irish mythology anthology, so no slacking off to work on your career.

Declan Burke is on a roll over at Crime Always Pays. Today's post and yesterday's post both make for great reading. Today he's talking about reviewers and hints at their responsibilities, and yesterday he was trying to figure out if he could ever bring himself to not write. Pfft. Good luck with that, Dec. You're as hooked as the rest of us bitter, twisted fools.

And finally, Reed Farrel Coleman put in a guest appearance at the Busted Flush Press blog. A very thought-provoking look at crime fiction reflecting in true crime. It fair gave me pause for thought. Brian McGilloway treaded familiar territory in a Crime Always Pays post quite some time ago. Something to think about, eh?

But the mood is lifted slightly by the revelation of the cover for Reed's collaboration with Ken Bruen; The Tower.

That'll do you for now.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

Stuart Neville -- From The United States of America To Armagh City Library

Stuart Neville has just released the cover design for the US release of his debut novel, The Ghosts of Belfast (AKA The Twelve in the UK). Ain't it pretty? Pretty creepy.

Check out his blog post and see what he thinks of it.

Stuart also talks about the journey from Word document to ARC in said post. It's got a real Cat's in the Cradle feel to it. But I think it's good to see he's savouring every giddy moment. The best of luck to him.

He's also due to appear at Armagh City Library on Thursday 26th of February at 7:30pm. He'll be reading from The Twelve. There's also a chance to win an ARC the tome. I'd almost make the trip myself for a crack at that, but I've yet to perfect my flux capacitor, so I'll have to give it a miss. Bummer.

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Guildhall Quartet

Saturday 28 February 7pm


Jenni Doherty, Garbhan Downey, Dave Duggan and Felicity McCall reading from a selection of their books at Bookfinder’s Café, 47 University Road, Belfast.

£3 Hosted by Brian Bailey.

Jenni Doherty, poet and author, is co-editor and contributor to Eve: A Celebration of Creative Women and Wonderful World of Worders among others.

Garbhan Downey has published seven books, including Private Diary of a Suspended MLA, 'the best Northern Ireland political novel of the century' (Sunday Times).

Dave Duggan's work includes the Oscar-nominated film Dance Lexie Dance and The Stewart Parker award-winning play Gruagairí. His play AH 6905 was produced in Afghanistan in 2008.

Felicity McCall has produced numerous books, plays and screenplays, her most recent Finding Lauren. Winner of a Tyrone Guthrie award, Felicity is co-founder of three drama groups and a film company.

Books for sale and author signing.

Light refreshments available.

Guildhall Press ** Guildhall Press on MySpace...

Wonderful World of Worders...

Project EVE... Belfast Book Festival 2009 - Tuesday 24 February to Sunday 1 March 2009

BOOKING NOWGo to to download the programme.

The Belfast Book Festival 2009 is brought to you by the Linen Hall Library,, the Belfast Education & Library Board, Books NI, the Verbal Arts Centre, and supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council

Friday 20 February 2009

A Wee Review - Once Were Cops by Ken Bruen

I’ve noted in a previous post that 2008 was a great year for Ken Bruen and his fans. The Max (co-written with Jason Starr), American Skin (UK and Ireland edition), Sanctuary (UK and Ireland edition) and Once Were Cops (US edition) were all released last year. Having just finished Once Were Cops I’m now three for four on reading and reviewing these titles. Sanctuary will have to wait until I’ve read the other Jack Taylor novels, but I will get there. More than likely this year.

So, Once Were Cops --

Violence, corruption and heartache?

What do you think?


Buddy, you betcha.

Poetry in prose?

More so than American Skin, even.

Bruen was still able to make me burn with jealousy by delivering a killer line or two per page, but in this case, it was an even more impressive feat. There's not a whole lot of prose on those pages. The book’s typesetting is pretty idiosyncratic, (hanging line indents and white space between mostly single sentence paragraphs) but teamed up with Ken’s ability to deliver a knockout punch in three or four words, this worked to increase the urgency in the writing. Once Were Cops is a short book, but even so, for me to finish it in little over a day is something close to remarkable. I’m not exactly blessed with an excess of reading time these days. Thankfully, Bruen weaves his usual magic that keeps you reading, “Just one more paragraph, page or chapter!” It forced me to find the time.

Did he blow this reader away?

Sure, doesn’t he always? May as well have swung a hurling stick at me.

As with American Skin, Bruen uses both strict first person and shifting third person. The anti-hero, Michael O'Shea (AKA Shea), is the sole-focus of the intimate first person scenes, and through it, Bruen fully explores a blacker-than-night mind. A driven sociopath. A complete and utter... Well, Ken Bruen tells it better. Best you just read it and learn more about Shea from him.

Outside of Shea, we’ve a good cast of intriguing characters, but Kebar stands head and shoulders above them all, both physically and metaphorically. A big ol’ NYC psycho-cop, it’s inevitable that Shea, an Irish guard on an exchange programme with the NYPD, should be teamed up with him. What isn’t quite expected is how each of these cops relates to the other, and who gets what from whom. Cryptic? Yeah, sorry about that, but I want you to get what I got from this book without me interfering. So, I’m not even going to tell you about the short cameo at the start of the novel. It’s a good one, though.

In conclusion, Once Were Cops is so good that I’m itching to reread it already.

What more can I say?

Tuesday 17 February 2009

The Wee Rockets

Last year I attempted to sell my novel, Piranhas, without the aid of an agent. I came very close to doing this, but suffered quite a setback when the deal was withdrawn at the eleventh hour. Yeah, well, every writer has his sob story. That was mine. Life's moved on. Since then, I submitted to and was rejected from most of the publishers on the island of Ireland and a few in England. The reason was more often than not cited as cautious business practices in a recession.

So, in January, I got pissed off with all that malarkey and decided to change tactics. I started looking for an agent.

Well, it gives me great pleasure to announce that I'm now officially represented by Allan Guthrie of Jenny Brown Associates. We've hit the ground running and already I've applied Al's suggested edits and changed the name of the gang my novel is based on, and in turn, the book's title. Piranhas shall henceforth be known as The Wee Rockets, unless a publisher asks me to change it again.

Allan Guthrie is a highly regarded writer and a successful agent. He's also a hell of a nice guy, so I know I'm going to enjoy working with him. Watch this space. Maybe some day in the near future, I'll announce the sale of my Belfast street crime story, The Wee Rockets.

Monday 16 February 2009

A Wee Review - Walking The Perfect Square by Reed Farrel Coleman

I’ve very recently been introduced to Moe Prager, Reed Farrel Coleman’s Brooklyn PI. It was a far from unpleasant experience. In fact, (and I can’t believe I’m falling back on such an obvious cliché) Moe’s the kind of guy I could chat to over a few beers, I reckon. And I believe that’s what Farrel Coleman wanted to achieve in creating this well-layered nice-guy protagonist.

Walking The Perfect Square is a missing person mystery set in Brooklyn, New York. Retired beat cop, Moe, is enlisted as a last long shot in finding a young man, whose father is a rich and powerful politico. Moe has no real desire to take on a private investigation, but a sense of loyalty to an old colleague and a highly believable love interest soon sways him. This is another slow-revealer that would be spoiled by too much plot inspection, but you have my word that the story is always moving and gripping.

The book isn’t quite action-packed, but then Moe isn’t an action man. He’s a thinker. And as such, the few scenes of violence carry a lot of impact. Like many crime fiction fans, I like a lot of hard-boiled writers who write good violence, but I think there’s plenty to be said for how Farrel Coleman deals with it in Walking The Perfect Square. It’s the threat of violence that creates the tension, and that can be quite a difficult thing to pull off. This is the work of a writer who doesn’t take the easy way out.

Walking The Perfect Square is also a nice insight into Brooklyn, a place Farrel Coleman obviously has much love for. As Adrian McKinty joked in a comment to an earlier post on this blog, Brooklyn people love to tell you they’re from Brooklyn. Moe Prager does that too. And when he uses his contacts to pull in favours and information, you get an idea that a person can really feel like they belong on those streets.

In Walking The Perfect Square, Farrel Coleman takes the classic PI formula, updates it and gives it a little more humanity. Moe Prager is aware of his limits and has the good sense to try and stay within them as far as he can. It’s just the situations he finds himself in that put him in danger. This is how real people act and I like reading about real people. So call me a Reed Farrel Coleman fan.

I’ll be looking forward to the rest of the Prager novels, three of which can be bought from David Thompson’s Busted Flush Press. But I’ll be especially interested in what Reed Farrel Coleman and Ken Bruen have created in their collaboration project, Tower, which will be published by Busted Flush this year. Both writers employ very different styles in their writing, but I’m sure they’ve found a happy medium between them. Should be a very interesting result.

Sunday 15 February 2009


The February issue of Three Crow Press went live today. I've got a story in it. Lucinda. In the interest of full disclosure (am I using that phrase correctly?) I should tell you that this is not a crime story. It's a work of speculative fiction and it features in the, um, erotica issue of the webzine. Two sex stories in one month. Thank God my ma doesn't read this blog.

I may have to think about expanding my themes...

I've been quiet for over a week now, but for good reason. Writing and family stuff. There'll be more on the writing stuff some time next week. The family stuff, I'll keep to myself. this blog's meant to be about crime fiction, after all.

Luckily, while I've been posting nothing, Declan Burke's been as busy as ever. His latest Indo article reviews four upcoming crime fiction novels. Three of them are written by writers from the North. Go see what he has to say.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

A Rinky Dinky Linky Post

This first link's all about me! My story, Hard Rock, has just been published in issue 29 of Thug Lit. Won't ya go on over? I'm proud of this story, but I feel obliged to warn you; there's quite an ick factor at work in it. The premise is not one bit pretty.

I just noticed the other day that the BBC has put this excellent collection of video interviews on their Get Writing web page. Funny how most of them are Norn Irish crime fiction writers, eh? By the way, Ian McDonald is a master in the science fiction genre. If you read beyond crime, do yourself a favour and pick up one of his books. Start with Sacrifice of Fools.

And Dec Burke wrote a very thought-provoking post over at Crime Always Pays last Saturday. Who's to blame for the state of publishing right now? The publishers, according to Dec. Oh, and the writers too. Daring statements from our Mister Burke? Whatever next? If you're wondering who's side the scallywag is on, go read the post.

Stuart Neville's in writer heaven right now. The proofs for The Twelve thumped his doormat this week. Great news, as it means we're all a step closer to reading the much anticipated debut.

And finally, Verbal Magazine have revamped their website. It's gone all php and there's a handy search feature. Tap in my name and three of my reviews pop up. I think they've still a little content to add, but I hope that eventually you'll also be able to find my story, Bouncer, on there as well as an opinion piece I did a while back.

So, that'll keep you busy while I finish up reading Walking the Perfect Square. You should get a review of that at the end of this week or the start of next.


Monday 2 February 2009

Writers in the Community: A Showcase

Derry Central Library Thursday 5th February 7.30pm

On Thursday 5th February at 7.30pm Central Library, Foyle Street, is delighted to welcome three renowned local writers, Claire Allan, Brian McGilloway and Garbhan Downey who will talk about their writing and what inspires them.

Claire Allan has worked as a reporter with the Derry Journal since 1999 and has been writing a weekly column called Skirting the Issue since 2003. She lives in Derry, is married to Neil and has a young son called Joseph. She has written two novels Rainy Days and Tuesdays and Feels Like Maybe. She is working on a third at the moment, which has a working title of Jumping in Puddles. She is hailed as brand new talent from those who discovered Marian Keyes, Cathy Kelly and Patricia Scanlan.

Garbhan Downey has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, and newspaper Editor and literary editor. He lives in Derry with his wife Una and Children Fiachra and Bronagh. Now writing full-time, Garbhan has published five books, including The Diary of a Suspended MLA which was described by the Sunday Times as 'the best Northern Ireland political novel of the century'. His latest title Yours Confidentially was published by Guildhall Press in April 2008 and he is currently researching a political biography. He has also completed an advanced draft of a sequel to Running Mates, called Across The Line, in which the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister are compelled to join forces to prevent gold-digging northerners from redrawing the border.

Brian McGilloway is author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin series. He was born in Derry in 1974. After studying English at Queen’s University, Belfast, he took up a teaching position in St Columb’s College in Derry, where he is currently Head of English.
His first novel, Borderlands, published by Macmillan New Writing, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger 2007 and was hailed by The Times as ‘one of 2007’s most impressive debuts'. The second novel in the series, Gallows Lane was published in April, with the new Devlin novel, Bleed a River Deep, due next year. Brian lives near the Irish borderlands with his wife and their three sons.


This is sure to be an entertaining and interesting evening and if you are an avid reader, a budding writer or just want to sit back and enjoy listening to three local talented writers then come along to Central Library on Thursday 5th February at 7.30pm.

All are welcome and light refreshments will be available.


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