Monday 30 November 2009

No Alibis Event - Stephen Rea

From the No Alibis Newsletter...
Stephen Rea
Monday 30th November at 6:00PM

No Alibis Bookstore is pleased to invite you to an evening with Stephen Rea, who will be discussing his book, FINN MCCOOL'S FOOTBALL CLUB, on Monday 30th November at 6:00PM.

After jetting around the world, Stephen Rea left Belfast to settle in New Orleans in 2004. Life in the Deep South proved to be startlingly different from that in Northern Ireland, and Rea struggled to find an outlet for his love of soccer. Before long, the Ulsterman stumbled upon Finn McCool’s pub and the wonderfully eccentric, international crowd that gathers there to watch European football games.

Frank “the Tank,” the pot-growing Dutch national; Dave “the Rave” Ashton, a forty-six-year-old physiotherapist from Manchester dubbed “the world’s oldest teenager”; and Benji Haswell, a former political activist from South Africa, are three of the rare and vibrant characters who populated the pub’s stools. Soon Rea, along with this idiosyncratic mix of locals and ex-pat regulars, formed a pub soccer team, joined a league, and started dreaming of victory.

On August 27, 2005, with former pro footballer Scottish Steve “Macca” McAnespie as their coach, members of the team sat in the pub discussing their upcoming match. The next day, Hurricane Katrina enveloped the Gulf Coast, scattering Rea and his teammates around the world in seek of shelter and stability.

This luminous, gripping work follows the author and Finn regulars as they rebuild their lives and their team. With a masterful combination of dry humor and astute profundity, Rea reflects on his adopted city, providing powerful insight into the lives of the foreign-born and minority groups that stayed behind during Katrina due to the little they had to lose. Filled with equally hilarious and sobering anecdotes and no shortage of good soccer stories, Rea seamlessly weaves his experiences alongside his teammates’ harrowing survival stories. A breathtaking and incredible debut celebrating camaraderie, sportsmanship, and survival, Finn McCool’s Football Club stands out as a haunting and powerful memoir filled with laughter, loss, astonishment, and of course, soccer.

Stephen Rea is a freelance writer who has contributed to national and international newspapers, magazines, and Web sites for more than twenty years. He has worked for the Sun in the United Kingdom, as well as regional newspapers in the news, features, sports, and entertainment departments. He lives with his wife and daughter in New Orleans, Louisiana.

To book a spot for this event, email David, or call the shop on 9031 9607.

ph. 02890-319601
fax. 02890319607

Thursday 26 November 2009

Short Stories

Hey, hey. I have some good writing news for a change.

Writing short stories can be pretty therapeutic for me. It's a smaller challenge than a novel, but there's a disproportionatly sweet buzz to be had from nailing one. Last week I finished a story for an upcoming Maxim Jakubowski anthology. I had a blast writing this racy little tale. My good friend and first-time reader, Mike Stone, gave it the thumbs up then helped me rewrite the ending. And Mister Jakubowski liked it enough to include it! Woo hoo! It's due out in April 2010. I'll post more information as and when it becomes available, but for now; it's called Sex in the City, the city is Dublin and it's rumoured that two of my favourite writers also have stories in it. Colin Bateman and Ken Bruen.

I also got two very kind invitations to contribute to a couple of webzines this month. One's brand new and the other is a relaunch of an old classic with a worthy reputation. These short story venues will get dedicated posts in the near future.

And finally, if you'd like to read one of my brand new shorts, hop on over to Pulp Pusher and read Nothing But Time. Tell the pusher I sent you (but don't piss him off).

Wednesday 25 November 2009

Guest Review - T.A. Moore


Conor Maguire Presents… staged a reading of Troth by Rutherford Mayne on Tuesday 10th November in Castlereagh Civic Centre.

Troth is a powerful commentary on the complex web of loyalty and division that criss-crossed nineteenth century Ireland. An Ireland where ‘your place’ was an unsure, unsteady concept, where the reality of privation could bridge religious divides and where the Quality shared a religion with their tenants but spared them no sympathy.

Failing tenant farmer McKie has suffered too much – the loss of a son, the threatened loss of his farm – to take comfort in his illusory kinship with the distant, never seen Colonel Fotheringham. Unlike his labourer John Smith, who exhorts Mrs McKie to remember that Colonel Fotheringham and blames the ‘Moores and Maguires and Maguinnesses’ for the tenants plight. Smith’s defence of the Quality earns him a job up at the demense, but earns him rebukes and distrust from his master and mistress.

It is Moore, a Catholic tenant farmer in even worse straits than McKie, to whom McKie feels a connection. They are not insensible of the traditional tensions between them , it goes unsaid throughout the text there but there is a powerfully unstated stage direction that captures it – He starts up and reaches for he gun, then suddenly suspicious of MOORE, he stops and looks around at him - but in their shared suffering, with Moore’s ill-fortune not only matching but surpassing that of McKie, they find common ground. And it is to the language of that suffering that they return to again and again, shaping incitement and need for assurance around the reminders of the pain they had both gone through. Moore conjures the memory of hardship and death when he speaks to McKie: Then the sickness come and the wee children – they slippit away one by one. One was to be called after you, McKie of Ballhanlon, and two of my own wee childreNow they are lying rotten under the sod and their wee souls are crying. You can hear them in the wind crying – crying to the God that made them for vengeance! And later when McKie seeks the surety of a sworn oath from Moore he again invokes their dead children: I want a promise of you, Francey Moore. We two have seen our wee children, as you say, slip beyont us, and we have seen the brown earth shovelled them the way you would bury a dog. They were buried the same day – my son and your own.’

Troth is a sere and unrelenting piece of work, brutal despite the lyric moments that escape into the dialogue, and well suited to Conor Maguire’s frugal staging. With only a stage and a few chairs the actors, under Maguire’s direction, captured not only their characters but their surroundings. When Paul Kennedy reached for Mr McKie’s gun and hesitated, you could practically see the metal of it. And when Jo Donnelly, whose portrayal of the reeling Mrs McKie was perfection itself, held herself and threw her head back, wild eyed, to listen to the corpse pass by…you felt the chill.

Faolán Morgan who played Moore was less instantly impressive. His entrance as the shaken, grieving Moore, fresh from his wife’s death bed, was muted, but as he rose to his feet to deliver Moore’s crow-harsh indictment of the landlord he was riveting. Each word was pitch perfect, whether it was intended to convey contempt, anger or grief. Nor should Mark Claney as John Smith go unmentioned. In a play full of tension and high emotion his character had the least to work with, yet he was perfect as the good-natured but ultimately untrustworthy Smith. The eager suspicion in his voice as he demanded ‘Did the Master go out with Moore next the Glen?’ fed perfectly into Donnelly’s carefully controlled terror.

It was a powerful performance of a powerful play, with Conor Maguire hitting his stride as director to orchestrate an almost perfect production. With only one more Rehearsed Reading left for the programme – on the Tues 8th December – I look forward to seeing how he follows this up.

Tuesday 24 November 2009

US Slammer

Allan Guthrie's SLAMMER was very recently released in the US.

Here's the funky cover.

Looks like a Metallica album. In a good way.

The book's even better. Have a look at the review below (originally written in July after I read the UK version).

A Wee Review - Slammer by Allan Guthrie

I picked up Allan Guthrie’s Slammer expecting a multi-POV crime caper. Before then, my Guthrie experience consisted of the books featuring Gordon Pearce, a Scottish hard man with a violent past, present and, most likely, future. But what I got was something very different. Where books like Two-Way Split, Hardman and Kill Clock are gloriously action-packed and at times comic-bookish in their violent joy, Slammer is a more thought-provoking psychological thriller. Now, I loved the Pearce books, but this latest one... I think it has the potential to pull a whole new breed of fan to Guthrie’s work.

In Slammer we get to know Nick Glass, a young Scottish prison guard who just isn’t cut out for the job. His colleagues see him as a soft target for practical jokes and the prisoners see him as an easy touch. So much so that he gets bullied into a very awkward situation. But then he gets pushed too far. Thus the tagline; “And when Glass breaks he might just shatter...”

I’ve always been interested in prison based stories. Having studied books, movies and TV programmes like The Shawshank Redemption, Animal Factory and Oz, I consider myself quite well versed in the crime fiction subgenre that is the prison drama. And I was impressed by how real the prison scenes in Slammer came across. Now, in a CSNI interview Guthrie revealed that he’s not one for in-depth research, but for this novel he did pick the brains of an ex-prison guard by the name of Tom Laird who helped him add a little gritty reality to the novel. And these anecdotes obviously added quite a bit to the feel of the scenes. Right now, Slammer is at the top of my list of favourite prison stories, in any medium.

But the book does not survive on prison anecdotes alone. It’s so much more than that. Through the character of Nick Glass, Guthrie demonstrates a thorough understanding of the psychology of a man on the verge of a breakdown then goes deeper still when Glass is dipped even further into a mental abyss. It is a scarily believable decline. Unfortunately, there’s not much more I can say about the plot or the protagonist that won’t spoil some excellent twists and reveals. Just know that you’ve a lot of impressive stuff in store when you pick up Slammer. And existing Allan Guthrie fans needn’t worry. He hasn’t forgotten his roots either. He still manages to kill a small animal and dismember a character or two, just to keep it old school.

Monday 23 November 2009

No Alibis Event - Jack O'Connell

From the No Alibis newsletter...

Jack O'Connell
Wednesday 25th November at 6:30PM

Attendees of our Evening with James Ellroy, and followers of the excellent Crime Scene NI will be aware that we have Jack O'Connell lined up to appear at the store. Now, we're pleased to invite you an evening with the man, to celebrate the UK launch of his fifth novel, THE RESURRECTIONIST, on Wednesday 25th November, at 6:30PM.

Described as a "cyberpunk Dashiell Hammett", Jack O’Connell is the author of five critically acclaimed novels, which have earned him something of a cult status. His work has been praised by James Ellroy, Neil Gaiman, Katherine Dunn and Jonathan Carroll, among others.

Another fan, George Pelacanos (author of The Night Gardener), wrote, “In [his] remarkable books, Jack O'Connell has riffed on language, fire-cleansed genre conventions, and stripped the artifice from the modern noir novel, creating a body of work both exciting and entirely original.”

The author lives with his wife and two children in Worcester, Massachusetts.

ph. 02890-319601

Thursday 19 November 2009

Snatched from the NoirCon Blog

A Picture of Ken Bruen drinking Carlsberg lager while Ann McCabe enjoys what looks like a spritzer.

I feel vindicated! Peter Rozovsky will understand my delight.

For more cool pics and an inside scoop on one of this year's Bruen screen projects, visit the NoirCon blog.

Thursday 12 November 2009

No Alibis Event - BATEMAN

Colin Bateman - Monday 16th November at 6:00PM

No Alibis Bookstore are pleased to welcome back one of our favourites, Colin Bateman, to celebrate the launch of his latest novel, THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL, the sequel to his hugely successful MYSTERY MAN, on Monday 16th November at 6:00PM.

Black Books meets Lead Balloon meets Gavin and Stacey in this hugely entertaining follow-up to MYSTERY MAN, from acclaimed author Bateman.

The Small Shop Keeper With No Name is back. Hired to find the vandals responsible for spraying graffiti on an aspiring insurance magnate's advertising hoarding, he soon finds himself up to his ears in intrigue and battling to solve murders which echo in the corridors of power. With MI5 getting involved and everyone on the hunt for a missing Jack Russell, can Our Man Behind the Counter stay alive as well as keep his world renowned but criminally ignored No Alibis mystery bookshop afloat?

We expect this event to be very popular, so book your spot now by emailing David, or by calling the shop on 9031 9607.


Wednesday 11 November 2009

Photographic Evidence...

(L-R Nat Sobel, Stuart Neville, James Ellroy and David Torrans)

Some joker said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Fair enough, says me. Makes for a very short blog post when you've photos like these to display. Many thanks to Hilary Knight for sending the pics through.

(Ellroy, Neville and Sobel in deep literary discussion in the super-chilled surroundings of No Alibis.)

The event itself was one of the best I've attended to date. Ellroy is a showman. He didn't read. He performed. During the performance, it struck me; if this writing business hadn't worked out for him, he could have fallen back on a career as an evangelist. Of course, the subject matter of his sermons might have been a bit close to the knuckle. This cat doesn't hold back.

(Sobel, Neville, Ellroy and Torrans a few hours before the big event.)

Stuart Neville did very well as Ellroy's onstage interviewer. With an audience of close to 800 in front of him and James feckin' Ellroy beside him, it couldn't have been easy to play it cool. He fell right into the role, though.

(Ellroy and Torrans waiting for Adrian McKinty to make a bald joke.)

So, Mister Torrans, proprietor of No Alibis bookstore and proven event manager... what's next?

Friday 6 November 2009

It Was All Right on the Night

Well, last night’s reading went better than I could have hoped. About fifteen people made it to the Lock-Keeper’s Inn. Tammy (T.A. Moore) kindly warmed the audience up with the opening from her first novel, The Even. Then I read a story from Brendan Garner’s chapbook, Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine. It went down better than I expected it to considering the rather colourful language and blasphemous content.

After the reading, Tammy invited the audience to ask us about writing. Tammy related her experience of being an actual real-life novelist and I talked about how lucky I am to have a literary agent. I think we could have sat there all night, but we were ushered out of our seats eventually. Tammy sold a good few books as far as I could see, and deservedly so. The chapbooks I’d ordered arrived in Dundrum around about the time I was leaving work to go to the Inn, so with nothing to flog, I ducked out early. But hopefully I made a bit of an impression on the good folk who showed up.

I had just enough time to take a spin out to Lisburn City Library where Garbhan Downey was promoting War of the Blue Roses. It’s always great to meet writers you admire and listen to what they have to say about their own work. After reading from his most recent release and giving us an insight into the workings of his comic-genius mind, he read a brief extract from the novel he’s just finished. Looking forward to that one hitting the shelves.

So, I’d a great night last night and was buzzing off the good vibes all morning. Up until my agent emailed me with some bad publishing news. Basically, The Wee Rockets won’t be hitting the shelves any time soon. A bit of a pisser, that. I’ll feel sorry for myself for a few days, get drunk once or three times, and then get back to work. I’ve two novels and a short story on the go at the moment and I doubt much more will happen for me publishing-wise until I get my finger out and finish something.

As of now, CSNI’s going on a bit of a hiatus for a few weeks. If anybody want’s to send me some material, I’ll post it, but I need to focus on fiction for a bit.

Chat to you later


Thursday 5 November 2009

Readings, Readings and More Readings

So, today’s the day of my first reading. Less than four hours from now I’ll be at the Lock-Keeper’s Inn with T.A. Moore. I plan to read a short story from my chapbook, and if there’s time, a short extract from The Wee Rockets; the novel that earned me an Arts Council SIAP award and a literary agent. I’d hoped to bring copies of Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine with me to flog, but (possibly because of the postal strike) they didn’t make it from the printers. Ah well.

I don’t seem to be as nervous as I should be. Maybe it's because I spent a year and a half as a kung fu instructor. I’m kind of used to standing at the top of a room and talking about something I’ve studied inside-out for years. But it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when I actually get to the venue. I doubt it’ll run smoothly, but I think I’m a big enough now to get over myself if my reading isn’t on a par with all the great writers I’ve seen at these things over the past two years.

Speaking of which, after my own reading, I’ll be taking a spin over to Lisburn City Library to see a veteran at work. I haven’t seen Garbhan Downey read before, but his material is top notch. Unless he’s speaking in another language, he’s bound to please the crowd.

After his No Alibis Launch for Mystery Man, (Colin) Bateman explained that he let his writing do the entertaining. He’s gifted with a fantastic sense of humour and his readings always earn real belly-laughter. He’s due back in No Alibis on the 16th November at 6PM, incidentally. I’m reading Day of the Jack Russell now. It could well be even funnier than Mystery Man, so do your best to make it to that one. I’ve encouraged my wife to accompany me for the first time since the Connolly and Hughes reading last year. Really looking forward to that.

I’ve mentioned the James Ellroy event more than once, but it’s a very big deal, so bear with me while I mention it again. In fact, just click here to read my article for International Thriller Writers. I devote the first paragraph to where, when and how to get the tickets for The Demon Dog of American Literature’s visit to the Waterfront Hall in Belfast.

And while I’m linking to other sites, check out this post from BlackWaterTown, who’s written a great article on his recent trip to Ireland. Note that he’s taken a certain someone’s advice and called in to No Alibis... It’s nice when people listen to you.

Wednesday 4 November 2009

Garbhan Downey Event

The world's first genetically-modified blue rose called the "SUNTORY blue rose APPLAUSE" will hit flower shops in Japan today, 4 November 2009, although Derry author, Garbhan Downey has already nipped the subject in the bud, four months to the day to be exact, with his best-selling novel War of the Blue Roses published by Guildhall Press.

War of the Blue Roses – the much-anticipated sequel to Downey’s widely-acclaimed comedy-thriller Running Mates published in 2007 – is a rollicking black comedy set in the world of international politics.

In the book, a US-sponsored gardening competition in the little village of Mountrose outside Derry ends up throwing three governments into turmoil when it sparks a worldwide race to grow the world’s first blue rose. The Irish premier is forced to team up with semi-reformed gangsters to stop British and American politicians shanghaiing the Mountrose Festival and walking off with a billion-dollar patent. Bugging, burglary, sabotage, murder and sexual deceit – it’s all part of the rose-growing business. And the bad guys are even worse…

Downey’s fifth novel has enhanced his reputation as a top-class writer. His last book, Yours Confidentially: Letters of a would-be MP, was listed by a number of reviewers on their ‘Book of the Year’ lists – and was one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s top seven International Crime Fiction reads of 2008. Downey’s debut novel, Private Diary of a Suspended MLA, was described in the Sunday Times as “the best Northern Ireland political novel of the century”.

Praise for War of the Blue Roses:

“A new peak, a personal best so far.” Derry Journal

“Lashings of spying, killing and romance – a thrilling and intelligent send up of global politics.” Culture NI

“If you think gardening is a clean pursuit, this book will shock you.” Detectives Beyond Borders

“Could well be his finest work to date.” Crime Scene NI

Downey, a former newspaper editor and BBC journalist, will be giving a public reading at Lisburn City Library this Thursday, 5 November at 8pm. For more details, see poster below.

War of the Blue Roses, priced £6.95, is available from all good bookshops and direct from and

For further information about the author and details of all of his books, please visit: Guildhall Press and

For more about the subject of Japan's new 'blue rose': My love is like a blue, blue rose.


Published 4 July 2009. ISBN: 9781906271190. Paperback £6.95.

Hughes & Hughes Irish Book of the Month for August 2009.

Garbhan with his parents, Áine & Gerry, at the Book Launch in Easons, Foyleside, Derry. Sat 4 July, 2009.

Free public reading @ Lisburn City Library, Co Antrim.
Thurs 5 October, 2009 @ 8pm.

Monday 2 November 2009

A Bastard Evil Twin Stole My Chapbook!

As I normally do before reviewing a book, I've been ignoring (as much as possible) the internet activity promoting Sam Millar's The Dark Place. Which is why I missed this extract from his interview with Critical Mick:

CM: Have you read Gerard Brennan's short story collection, Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine?

SM: Not yet, because he keeps saying he's going to send me a signed copy, but never does. Too tight, the tight-arsed git. He had a great run of 'short stories' in the AndyTown News, a while back. Everyone was talking about it, saying how great it was. I have to admit, he scares me sometimes, what's going on in his head...

Read the rest of that very funny interview here.

Thanks to Mick raising the question in the first place, and Sam reminding me that I did very little to push it, I've been thinking. Maybe I should have promoted that wee short story collection a lot harder. But its publication just happened along at the wrong time. I'd just finished writing a book that had taken me well away from the black-humoured horror I'd been working on in the years before. I wasn't sure if the collection was really representative of the kind of writer I wanted to be.

But now I've found this rather alarming news report on the Baysgarth Publications website telling me that some pup, who claims to be my evil twin, has swiped the chapbook and taken control of it. According to a tweet I came across, Garner claims that he's 'always been sicker' than me. It's a weird situation, and I'm not sure how I'm meant to deal with it just now... I'm just going to ignore Brendan Garner and hope he goes away.