Tuesday 26 January 2010


Have you visited the site yet?

Why not?

Keith Rawson says, "Issue #1 has new fiction from Ken Bruen, Frank Bill, Hilary Davidson (the Damage Done), Steve Weddle, Dave White (When One Man Dies and The Evil That Men Do) and features by Scott Phillips (The Ice Harvest, The Walkaway, and Cottonwood) Adrian McKinty (Fifty Grand) Gordon Harries and the Nerd of Noir."

You'll find it here.

Monday 25 January 2010


Easily one of my favourite Northern Irish movies is (Colin) Bateman’s Divorcing Jack. It’s the perfect example of what to do when converting a novel to a screenplay. In terms of subject matter, it’s an education in Northern Irish humour and politics. What I find very hard to believe is that it’s 13 years old! It’s amazing how much has changed and yet stayed the same in that time.

Anyway, here’s something you should check out if you get the chance (nicked from the QUB website):

Divorcing Jack, with introduction by Colin Bateman
Sunday 31 January, Queen's Film Theatre, 2:00 pm.

The regional youth work charity, Public Achievement, is hosting a fundraising event at the QFT on the theme of local pride. They will be showing Divorcing Jack with an introduction by Colin Bateman. A raffle sponsored by local companies will also take place. Tickets cost £5 and can be bought from Public Achievement.

Contact:Bronagh Weiniger, 028 9044 2813, bronagh@publicachievement.com, Other University Area

I have the movie on DVD (my second copy, I think) but I’d love to see it on the big screen. Bateman’s intro should be good too. And if it isn’t, you can throw popcorn at him!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

Waking Up

Where am I?

This blog post might be a little self indulgent. I’m trying to find my feet and focus my thoughts on reading and reviewing for 2010 and this could be a good way to do it.

First off, there’s a new review site in town. Well, in the city, actually. The Big Apple to be precise. The New York Journal of Books can be found here. The site is a bit rough round the edges right now but the editor-in-chief, Ted Sturtz, has big plans (in terms of aesthetics and content), so bookmark it now. Have a look today and you’ll notice a handful of reviews penned (or tapped) by me. There should be more to come. We’ll see how it works out.

In the post-Crimbo melee of determining ambitions, hopes and dreams and the subsequent reality checks, I’ve neglected to mention some items of interest. Allow me to make up for this in the following scrabble of info.

Tony Black’s Loss was launched the week before last. I have a copy and I can’t wait to get stuck in. I had planned on reading Paying For It before this one came out. I read Gutted last year and loved it to bits. Unfortunately, time (and money) is like sand. The more you grasp for it, the more it slips through your fingers.

Anyway, his short story titled Last Orders, featured on The Rap Sheet, whet my appetite for Black’s work again and I might just go on a two book Black binge when I’m finished my current reads.

I’m also itching to read Ian Sansom’s latest. Sansom was featured on Crime Always Pays this week. The Bad Book Affair is the fourth in a series featuring Israel Armstrong. Grab any of these books and get reading. Like any good series, I think they can be enjoyed as standalones (though where possible, I still try to read any series chronologically).

There are other books I intend to review for CSNI and/or NYJB but I don’t want to list them here. I have a bit of a system for choosing which book to review next but it’s fluid. I don’t want to put myself or my reading routine under pressure by making any promises I may not keep. A list of intended reading would create this pressure. Self-imposed, I know, but I am what I am.

Before, during and after Christmas I had a little bit of a graphic novel kick. I think I’m going to build on this. Garth Ennis’s The Punisher: In The Beginning impressed the hell out of me. I’ve a sketchy memory of reading and really enjoying Preacher in school (it wasn’t on the syllabus, before you ask). I never realised back then that Ennis was Norn Iron born and bred. Ten(ish) years later and the same friend who lent me his copy of Preacher gave me In The Beginning (I’ll return it soon, mate). I’ll have to pick up Kitchen Irish when I get the chance. Might even buy it...

So, plenty of reading to look forward to this year.

Writing? I’ll talk about that in more detail another time, but I’ll be pushing myself harder than I ever have this year. I got a bit lazy in 2009, I think. Pudgier too. That’s unacceptable.

Thursday 14 January 2010

For your own sake, Peter, stop stealing my scripts

Fiction writer GARBHAN DOWNEY offers some belated advice to the First Family

If Peter and Iris Robinson have indeed been reading my novels, I must strongly appeal to them to stop immediately.

I watched Thursday night’s Spotlight programme with all the unfolding horror of a puppet-master whose charges have sprung to life and are racing towards a very messy finale.

So I am pleading with them now, NOT to buy my new book, out next month, as it could damage their lives irreversibly.

Let me explain.

Since 2004, I have published five black comedies set in the world of Irish politics, and the Robinsons, it seems, have now adopted all of them as life-coaching manuals.

Let’s start with Running Mates (2007), which centres on a crooked race for the Irish presidency. In it, the right-wing candidate is a lifelong advocate of family values to such an extent that he employs a perfectly lovely psychiatrist whose speciality is “curing” homosexuals.

My fictional doctor’s techniques include giving his “patients” copies of Readers’ Wives and instructing them to pretend they are “married” to some of the prettier ladies. I don’t know what methods Iris’s friend used...

Okay, this first hit could be a coincidence, I’ll grant you. But let’s go back a bit. In Off Broadway (2005), a Northern political leader is cuckolded by his glamorous wife. In my book, however, the hero is forced to forgive his wife as she knows where his bodies are buried - in his case literally. But luckily for Harry the Hurler, the media are too afraid of him to publish a word – and even collude in a cover-up.

Again, I accept, this could be a fluke. But by 2008, strange things are starting to happen, and my characters really seem to be morphing out of the pages. Yours Confidentially: Letters of a would-be MP tells the story of a planning scam, and at one stage we have a sitting Northern Ireland MP being forced to pay back cheques to developers. Maybe this happens all the time, I don’t know. But I’m starting to feel a little uneasy.

Then last year, in the novel War of the Blue Roses, I invented a totally improbable tryst between a teenager and a sixty-something hillbilly politician. It was so far off the scale, I nearly removed it from the book as I wasn’t sure readers would believe it.

But on Thursday night, up pops young Kirk and nearly blows my socks off. And people say life never imitates art.

There is some hope, however. During the Great Not Speaking Crisis of 2004, I produced Private Diary of a Suspended MLA, which predicted an eventual partnership between the DUP and Sinn Fein. So, I now feel fully entitled to claim the credit for Peter’s thawing towards Martin.

There is, however, always a moral balance to my books. Comedy by its very nature is concerned with righting wrongs and the judicial application of poetic justice. And I personally subscribe to Carl Hiaasen’s dictum that the nastier the villain, the more horrible his or her demise must be.

In my next book, for example, The American Envoy, the femme fatale, a real sun bunny winds up posted to Alaska for five years. And the lead villain is shot in the ass and forced to carry around a rubber toilet ring for all eternity. Others prove even less fortunate...

But that’s too much already. I’m giving the script away again.

The Robinsons really would need to stop reading now.

The American Envoy will be published by Guildhall Press in February 2010 and launched at the Dublin Book Festival.

Article appears on CSNI courtesy of the Irish News.

PSNI Public Consultation

Policing Policy &
Strategy Division
Northern Ireland Office
Policing Policy & Strategy
Block A, Level 4,
Castle Buildings
Belfast BT4 3SG
Telephone 028 90528375
Facsimile 028 90520063

Policing Powers & Custody Branch

Northern Ireland Office

8 January 2010

Dear Sir / Madam,


This letter is to inform you of the commencement of an 8 weeks public consultation process on the draft Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989 (Codes of Practice) (Temporary Modification to Code A) Order 2010.

2. PACE Code of Practice A governs the statutory powers for police officers to search a person or vehicle without first making an arrest. The draft Order will modify Code A to make it possible for police officers using mobile hand held technology to record electronically the details of a search as required under Article 5 of the Police and Criminal Evidence (Northern Ireland) Order 1989.

3. In practice the modifications to Code A will enable an officer to issue a receipt to persons who have been searched, advising how they can obtain a full copy of the search form at a police station at a later date should they so wish. The modifications do not change the current recording requirements under Article 5 or the powers which police officers have under current statute to carry out a stop and search.

4. The draft Order can be downloaded from the current consultation link of the Northern Ireland Office website at www.nio.gov.uk. Alternatively, copies can be obtained on request, by mailto:e-mailingpolicepowers@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk. or telephoning the above contact number.

5. Any comments on the draft Order should be sent to the above address or forwarded by e-mail to policepowers@nio.x.gsi.gov.uk by no later than 5 March 2010.

Policing Powers & Custody Branch
Northern Ireland Office

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Great News for 2010

Consider this:

'All fathers are intimidating. They’re intimidating because they are fathers. Once a man has children, for the rest of his life, his attitude is, "To hell with the world, I can make my own people. I’ll eat whatever I want, I’ll wear whatever I want, and I’ll create whoever I want."'

Jerry Seinfeld

I've always liked that quote. Probably because it rings so true to me.

Michelle, my most excellent wife, is fourteen weeks pregnant. The latest addition to the Brennan household (#3) is due to arrive in July 2010 and we're absolutely delighted. Anything else that happens this year is just gravy.

Just thought you might like to know...

Monday 11 January 2010

Word from Ian Sansom

From Ian Sansom's newsletter...

Dear friend/former friend/acquaintance/colleague/distant family member/reader/person who-once-signed-up-to-the-very-irregular-email list-and-never-heard-a-thing,

Sorry to bother you, but I thought you might like to know that the new Mobile Library book is about to be published. (Frankly, if I didn't tell you, it's unlikely news of it would reach you).

The Bad Book Affair tells the unlikely story of a Unionist politician trying to make a comeback after a scandal involving sex and money.

Actually, that's no longer unlikely - it's happening! In the next book I am going to predict the National Lottery winning numbers.

Anyway. Israel rides, grumpily, again. He's nearly 30. He is reading David Foster Wallace.

There are rumours of a BBC tv series based on the books. You'll be the first to know should it all work out.

Here is a link to Amazon. In the UK. Other retailers are available.


The book is published by Harper Collins, UK and USA. If you are German, Norwegian, Italian or Norwegian, translations are coming soon - but you could always buy the English version and use it as a parallel text.

There. That's all my publicity done for another year.

Belated New Year greetings.

I remain, etc.,

Ian Sansom


Thursday 7 January 2010

Lunch and Literature

Info courtesy of the No Alibis Newsletter...

Happy fifth birthday for ‘Out to Lunch Arts Festival’

The Out to Lunch Arts Festival is back in 2010, bigger, better and bolder than ever.

From 6 – 31 January, the precocious younger sibling of the Cathedral Quarter Arts Festival impresses once again with a wildly diverse, attractive and affordable a la carte selection of music, literature, theatre, comedy and art.

Since it started in 2006, Out to Lunch has become the winter arts festival in Belfast, offering those living in, working in or just visiting the city nutritional and cultural sustenance through the long dark lunchtimes and teatimes of January.

Proving that quality and quantity aren’t mutually exclusive, Out to Lunch kick-starts the cultural calendar for 2010 with a dizzying array of entertainment, talent and food. And all from just a fiver a ticket.

A full programme of events is available at No Alibis Bookstore www.noalibis.com , you can also view events and book tickets online at www.cqaf.com or in person at The Belfast Welcome Centre, 47 Donegall Place, Belfast

LITERATURE EVENTS taking place at this year’s Out to Lunch Festival include:

Brian Keenan

Wednesday January 13

The Black Box


Brian Keenan became known around the world as a hostage in Beirut and author of the extraordinary testimony of imprisonment, An Evil Cradling.

In this special ‘Out to Lunch’ event, Brian Keenan joins us to discuss his life and talk about his new memoir, Ill Tell Me Ma, in which he captures the vanished world of 1950s Belfast and his own disaffected childhood.

Chris Mullin: A View from the Foothills

Friday January 15

The Black Box


Chris Mullin has been a Labour MP for twenty years and has held several prominent posts. He was for a time the only person appointed to Government who voted against the Iraq War. He also chaired the Home Affairs Select Committee, giving him direct access to the court of Tony Blair.

Before being elected as an MP, he was a journalist working for the Granada Television current affairs programme World in Action. His book Error of Judgment was pivotal in securing the release of the Birmingham Six.

Mullin is irreverent, wry and candid. He offers humorous and incisive takes on all aspects of political life: from the build-up to Iraq, to the scandalous sums of tax-payers’ money spent on ministerial cars he didn’t want to use. His diary is a joy to read.

Grace Maxwell

Friday January 15

The Black Box Café



Grace Maxwell: Falling & Laughing The Restoration of Edwyn Collins.

In February 2005, Edwyn Collins suffered two devastating brain haemorrhages. He then went on to contract MRSA as a result of an operation to his skull and spent six months in hospital.

He had lost all movement in his right side and was suffering from aphasia – an inability to use or understand language.

With the help of his partner Grace and their 18-year-old son Will, Edwyn fought back. Slowly, and with monumental effort, he began to teach his brain to read and speak all over again – with some areas of his mind it was if he had been a slate wiped utterly clean.

Through a long and arduous road of therapy he began to re-inhabit his body until he could walk again. Grace’s story is an intimate and inspiring account of what you do to survive when your husband is all but taken away without warning by a stroke.

Black Books

Sunday January 17

The Black Box

12noon – 5pm

Free entry

Inspired by the crafty resourcefulness of the Black Market and a cult tv-show about a dusty bookshop and a taciturn, alcoholic Irishman, trans in association with the Black Market, present a new, grass-roots book fair.

With a cacophony of stalls manned by book-sellers, zine writer’s and literary enthusiasts and an afternoon of word-based entertainment, Black Books is a revival and a celebration of the multiplicities of language and printed word.

Stalls will include new and second hand books, zines, rare books & antiquities, comic books, magazines, papers and children’s literature.

Come and enjoy a laid-back Sunday afternoon, and have a hoke through some dusty old books sitting side-by-side with cutting edge writing from both the local and international avant-garde.

Readings, spoken word performances, DIY publishing workshop and zine-related film screenings in the Black Box Café throughout the day.





ph. 02890-319601

fax. 02890319607

Wednesday 6 January 2010

A Wee Review - The Chill by Jason Starr and Mick Bertilorenzi

Of the three Vertigo Crime graphic novels I’ve read to date, The Chill is by far my favourite. From the subject matter to the writing to the art, the whole package just spoke to me.

As far as I know, this is Jason Starr’s first foray into the world of supernatural fiction and he hasn’t held back. The storyline is an exploration of Irish mythology and how it could play out in modern society. We’re introduced to the ultimate femme fatale, a series of brutal killings in New York and a police force completely stumped by all the conflicting evidence. Could it be that one Irish cop from Boston with a penchant for Jameson is the key to uncovering the truth?

Well, read it and find out.

I think Jason Starr’s association with Ken Bruen shines through in the writing of this graphic novel. Convincing vernacular, Jameson whiskey, a startling pessimism towards human nature... Really, Starr’s done this job as well as any black-hearted Mick could. Starr balances the reader’s perception just enough to sway sympathy away from the victims. At times, it’s actually quite easy to root for the murderer. By the final chapter, you just don’t know who should come out on top.

As I mentioned earlier, I think Mick Bertilorenzi’s artwork is terrific in The Chill. Good clean lines, soft grey shading and the perspective in a lot of the action frames rocked my socks off. I’d call it cinematic. I was particularly impressed by the frames that didn’t contain any dialogue. Real ‘show don’t tell’ stuff. I’m not sure how much of this is dependent on Starr’s script direction, but whatever way the effect is achieved; both artists are very well matched. I’d like to see more from each of them in this medium.

By the way, a lot of the scenes are highly sexual and I’m not too ashamed to admit that my inner teenager would have killed for a copy of this. But as a respectable adult, I have to say, I found the eroticism matched the tone without being gratuitous. Bertilorenzi’s artwork really adds to the dark beauty Starr presents in his writing.

So, if the weather outside ain’t frightful enough for you, get your mitts on a copy of The Chill. It’ll fairly put a tingle in your spine. Best treated with a wee hot toddy, by the way.