Thursday 27 May 2010

Good Times

Flippin' heck. Has it really been two weeks since I last updated this blog? Shame on me.

Well, just so you know, I haven't squandered the time. I'm writing! Like a demon, actually. Cranking out more words than I have in nearly six months. The novel I'm working on, titled FINAL SCORE is approaching 25K words and the ideas are still coming. I doubt I'll finished the first draft before the baby comes along in early July, but if I can get to the final third before then I'll be whistling Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.

Anyway, I'll have to get the Requiems for the Departed series of interviews and introductions back on track. In the meantime, in case you missed the links on my Facebook page or over at Dec Burke's Crime Always Pays, click here to read an excellent feature on the collection at The Irish Times.

Friday 14 May 2010

An Introduction to BOG MAN by JOHN MCALLISTER

When the editors of Requiems for the Departed asked me to write a story for the anthology, an image of a bogman immediately clicked into my head. And that’s where it stayed for month after month until near the deadline.

All I had to go on was the fact that bogmen were either the victims of murder, or sacrificial victims. Then memories came to me: a story I read years ago about pre-history life around Stonehenge, where the Druid chose as that year’s offering a woman, who had annoyed him; a lone hill near Coalisland, in County Tyrone rising out of the bogs; and the seeming chance that some bog roads are maintained as important county roads and others abandoned to nature.

I don’t particularly believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night, but I do have experience of something out there, of portents and signs, so I buy into the crows and the old washerwoman foretelling the death of CĂșchulainn, which I have used in my story.

The rest came from two evenings spent turf cutting as a child and the feel of freedom that open spaces give me.

The story also allows me to make a belated apology by dedicating this story to Sorley O’Dornan. On the way to the bog, riding on the bar of his bike, I managed to poke my foot between the spokes. We cartwheeled into the — luckily dry — ditch.

Image by Sam Bosma

Edited by Gerard Brennan & Mike Stone

Requiems for the Departed
Irish Crime, Irish Myths.

Requiems for the Departed can now be pre-ordered on the Morrigan Books website.

John McAllister

This interview first appeared on CSNI 8th September 2008

John McAllister holds an M.Phil. in creative writing from Trinity College, Dublin and has being doing readings and giving lectures in creative writing for some years.

He has published poems and stories worldwide, and has read in places as far apart as Cork and Boston, Mass.

Major Publications:
THE FLY POOL and other stories (Black Mountain Press, 2003)
LINE OF FLIGHT, a novel (Bluechrome Publishers, 2006)

John was also joint editor for: BREAKING THE SKIN, twenty-first century Irish writing, (Black Mountain Press, 2002), and the editor of HOMETOWN (ABC Writers Network, 2003)

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

The news is catching up with me. I am writing a novel (working title THE MAFIA FUND) about a Russian attempt to control the economies and judiciaries of the Western World. This is the Cold War all over again, but now the ‘big guns’ is the Russian Mafia. Their first step is to take control of the only other international crime organisation, the Italian Mafia. As a sideline, the Russian plan to steal the contents of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of John McAllister’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

My day starts at six o’clock. I write until seven then I take my wife a cup of tea. At seven thirty we argue who is going to get up first. I start writing again at eight thirty and usually stop at eleven to take the dog a walk. I work and rest and correct Open College assignments for creative writing students until tea time. Serious planning of my writing I do for ten minutes before I go to bed at about eleven thirty. I actually plotted my published novel LINE OF FLIGHT (Bluechrome) that way. Ten minutes a day for three months and the story as finally told was more or less complete.

Two day as week I go into my old accountancy firm and work from eleven to five. Wednesday afternoons I attend the Queens writing classes. Usually on a Tuesday night and one Thursday a month I facilitate writing classes.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read books, visit friends, chase greyhounds, watch whatever my wife wants to see on television. Currently it’s ‘Hairspray’. I slid out of that one to write this. I usually, more or less, take the weekends off.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Forget the crime. Focus in on character. Think of it this way. What would happen if a gunman pulled a gun on?

A You
B The hero of ‘Die Hard’
C Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

You’d probably faint with shock. ‘The Die Hard’ hero would put the gunman’s lights out. Mother Theresa would pray for him.
As I say: Character – Character - CHARACTER

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

R. J. Ellory’s book ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ An absolutely fantastic book. I read it on holiday and went straight back to page one and started again. Ellory writes beautiful English and his plotting is absolutely superb. I came home and bought the rest of his published books.

I think ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ is based on ‘The Ice Man’ by Philip Carlo. The biography of a horrendous Mafia killer. Ellory’s hero is quiet and controlled where the real hit man was pretty unstable.

Having said that, I had intended to keep Sam Millar’s latest book ‘Bloodstorm’ for my holidays. Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist having a peek – and of course I finished it. More of ‘Karl Kane’ Sam, please. Say for my Christmas holiday.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

R.J. Ellory’s ‘Ghost Heart’ I’ve just got a few pages read so I can’t tell you much about it. I have just finished a reread of Jennifer Johnston’s novel ‘Foolish Mortals’. Her writing is so far removed from anything I do that I can only read and admire.

Q7. Plans for the future?

This sounds a bit daft. I finished the first draft of THE MAFIA FUND at Christmas. I intended to take January off then re-plot and do characterisation and get back into the second draft by Easter. However, a few years ago I published a collection of short stories, THE FLY POOL (Black Mountain Press). The first five stories were about an old policeman in the nineteen-fifties, Sergeant John Barlow. A friend of mine kept nagging for a new Barlow story – and I’ve got to admit that most people who mentioned the collection, focused in on Barlow - so in January I sat down to write one more. 56,000 words and six months later the third draft of that story(?) is finished. I’ve just sent it off to a publisher. I call it A SOFT HANGING. My friend who encouraged me to write the story in the first place, helped me come up with that title. It was the least he could do.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

To be honest, I don’t think so. I’m not being arrogant when I say that. I had to grow up the way I did, mature the way I have. Make every stupid mistake in the book and then invent some more. I think, if anything, I’d have done a lot more structured reading.

Q9. Worst writing experience.

Reading a story about date rape (SCORING) to a room full of women.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Writing isn’t easy. It’s like banging your head off a wall. Lovely when you stop. BUT when you’ve done a solid piece of writing you can get a lift that transcends any high available in drugs. The wonderful thing is that it can be repeated day after day after day. And it is utterly utterly addictive.

Finally to paraphrase Damon Runyon. If you want to be a writer, what are you doing reading this? Why aren’t you writing?

Thank you, John McAllister!

Tuesday 11 May 2010

Radio Gaga

I happened to catch a couple of very interesting and Northern Irish crime fiction-related interviews on Radio Ulster over the last couple of days.

First up, Stuart Nevellie chats to William Crawley about winning the LA Times Book Prize here.

And Colin Batemen chats to Marie Louise Muir about The Day of the Jack Russell and The Sunday Times right here.

Listen to them as quickly as you can, folks. These Listen Again links have a very short life span.

An Introduction to RED MILK by T.A. MOORE

I love mythology, all kinds of mythology, anyone who has dipped into the world I created in The Even won’t be surprised to read that. I have well-thumbed copies of The Heroes’ Journey and The Masks of God by Campbell on my shelves and I am fascinated by the similarities and even more by the differences in myth cycles. If I’d known it was an option when I was a child I’d have told people I wanted to be a mythologist (instead I told them I wanted to be a jockey).

Irish mythology though, that has a special place in my heart. Amidst all my promiscuous myth loves, it’s the one I always come back to. It resonates with me, my ideas and my narrative aesthetic.

So when the editors approached me to write a story for this anthology I wasn’t lacking in ideas, if anything I had too many of them. Partholon and his sorry fate? Fercherdne’s homicidal loyalty to his lord? How could I choose? In the end, and again no one who knows me will be surprised, the story I picked is one of the less heroic of the heroic tales: the fate of King Bres.

It was the pragmatism that appealed — there is a surprising vein of it running through Irish myth. Once I had that idea in my head, the rest of the story took shape around it. My shabby, seedy world of drug dealers, mother’s grief and compulsion. I hope you like it. I certainly enjoyed writing it.

Edited by Gerard Brennan & Mike Stone

Requiems for the Departed
Irish Crime, Irish Myths.

Requiems for the Departed can now be pre-ordered on the Morrigan Books website.

T.A. Moore

This interview first appeared on CSNI 10th September 2009

T.A. Moore
lives in Northern Ireland and shares her space with a cat, too many books and a very kick-ass pair of boots. She was one-time leader of the Performance Pros performance group and has plans involving asparagus, a small bus and the kick-ass boots that should come to fruition in 2012.

Her first novel The Even was published by Morrigan Books in 2008 and the sequel will be out in 2010. In addition to her writing Tammy has designed Creative Writing Workshops, written reviews and judged short story competitions.

"A darkly humorous edgy descent into the world of the forgotten gods. Moore's THE EVEN is like a cocktail with hidden spices: a drop of Terry Pratchett, a dash of Justina Robson, a slurp of crushed legends, with the smeared essence of a fallen faery frosting the glass. Lenith is a glittering gothic anti-hero presented against the splattered canvas of a newly imagined underworld. A stark and thoroughly memorable rebellion against sanitised fantasy."
Greg Hamerton, author of The Riddler's Gift

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

It’s a chick-lit detective novel set in Dublin. My friend wants me to call it Dick-Lit, but I think that will cause confusion. (I know, I know – chick-lit is dead! I’ll think of something else to call it when I’m pimping it around town.) I just finished writing Shadows Bloom, the sequel to The Even, and I’ve my PhD novel sitting in a drawer waiting for the edit.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of T.A Moore’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

You make it sound more interesting than it actually is! And more full of time. I tend to work 9-5. The mornings I do freelance work – articles, reviews, critiques and the like – and in the afternoons I work on whatever I have going creatively at the time. I tend to sneak an hour late at night to write too. Discipline is important for me, particularly if the WIP (work-in-progress) isn’t flowing as smoothly as I’d like. I’m a world class procrastinator – one of those kids who spent weeks colouring in their complex revision charts and had to cram all the actual revision into two nights – and if I’m not firm with myself I’ll spend the time making buns or cleaning or playing solitaire on the computer.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Not writing? I kid, I kid. It’s important to keep a balance, otherwise you burn out and they find you hiding under a table with a watermelon and a colander. I read a lot. It sounds like a busman’s holiday, I suppose, but it’s nice to just immerse myself in other people’s worlds sometimes. Sometimes I knit – not well, but doing something with my hands that requires concentration but no real THOUGHT (at least, not at the ‘it’s a scarf!’ level of knitting I do) helps me untwist my brain.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the urban fantasy scene?

I think the same advice I’d give anyone looking to break into any genre field. Read a lot, write what you’re passionate about and don’t give up. Get BETTER, you always have to be just a little dissatisfied with what you’ve written, but never give up.

What else?

Be ready to publicise yourself. Even if you get a big book deal with a major publishing company, they’re going to want you to put yourself about. If you’re working with an indie press, then you’ll need to be willing to put in the work. If no-one knows about your work they can’t read it.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

Dashiell Hammett. I know he isn’t a new writer, but I’ve been re-reading Red Harvest and I’m just in love with it. Perhaps because it isn’t a style of writing I envy – or want to emulate – so I can just enjoy the brusque, restless pace of it. Besides, I adore the shameless Dinah Brand.

As far as writers who are still alive go, I am enjoying Stuart Neville’s short story collection ‘The Six’. I like his writing, the taste of Belfast in the prose, the poetry and the prosaic all wrapped together in one.

My favourite fantasy author at the moment is C.E. Murphy. (I don’t think she reads this blog, so it isn’t sucking up.) The Inheritor’s Cycle has pretty much everything I want in a novel – a rich historical backdrop, a cast of distinct, clever characters and endings the simultaneously satisfy and leave me desperate for the next book to come out.

And I haven’t read these yet, but I am really looking forward to Laura-Anne Gilman’s Vineart series. They look fascinating and I can’t wait to see how the world and the magic weaves itself together.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Ill-Met in the Arena by Dave Duncan.

Q7. Plans for the future?

To become implausibly successful and be feted the world over! Or to make at least part of my living doing what I love, I’d settle for that.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Maybe not listen to my third form English teacher when she told me my writing was sordid and disgusting? Mostly though, I’ve no aching regrets about anything I’ve done with my writing. Maybe I should get some?

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Oh, that would be the first rejection letter I got from an agent. It was SCATHING. I think that is one of the reasons I’ve never let rejections put me off for long, nothing could be as harsh as that first letter. It said that my novel wasn’t right for their agency and that ‘perhaps another agency would have lower standards.’

I don’t, by the way, think the actual agent involved had anything to do with the letter. In my experience, agents are far too busy to waste time being snide to aspiring writers. It was probably some intern with ideas of being the next Ms Snark, but it was still a shock to read first time out of the submitting gate.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

I will be doing a reading and Q&A session in the Lock-Keeper’s Cottage in Castlereagh this November, along with some bloke called...Gerard? Come and see us!

Thank you, T.A. Moore!

Friday 7 May 2010


Mea culpa. I’ve only been to Dublin twice. The first time was a fleeting visit which involved taking a cab from the airport to the railway station and then a train to County Westmeath to work with J. P. Donleavy on a book he was writing for the publishing house I then worked for. We completed our edit discussions, had smoked salmon sandwiches and I got back to Dublin around midnight to find my hotel reservation had been lost. The next occasion, two decades later, was for New Year’s Eve and I inevitably made my way to Temple Bar. Felt like the right things to do, even though I’m a non-drinker (purely taste; no principles involved). So, I’m no expert but the spirit of the city did somehow connect with me.

I’m also a die-hard fan of the way that traditional Irish music has influenced so much of modern folk and rock ‘n’ roll in strange and wonderful ways that speak to my heart and guts. So, when the invitation to write this story came about, I knew it had to be a ballad of some sorts. A dark ballad, with death and soul heartbreak at its centre. I was working on a novel about an involuntary private eye seeking a missing young Italian girl, a story that took both characters to Paris and Rome, amongst other places, and couldn’t get the theme out of my mind. So the new tale subconsciously became a variation on this story I couldn’t escape, albeit with both characters somewhat changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.

As for the MorrĂ­gan, I needed an angel of death, and three for the price of one was a temptation I could not resist. I willingly succumbed.

Image by Greg Staples

Edited by Gerard Brennan & Mike Stone

Requiems for the Departed
Irish Crime, Irish Myths.

Requiems for the Departed can now be pre-ordered on the Morrigan Books website.

Maxim Jakubowski

Maxim Jakubowski is a Paris-educated British writer and editor. For 14 years he has edited the bestselling Mammoth Book of Erotica series, as well as two volumes of erotic photography. In his own right, The Times once labelled him 'the king of the erotic thriller' for his provocative novels, and Time Out featured him as one of London's most sexy writers, alongside Chaucer, Shakespeare, JG Ballard, Hanif Kureishi and very few contemporaries. He teaches creative erotica writing for the Faber Academy.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I am just about to embark on a companion novella to my THE STATE OF MONTANA, published many years ago, which went into several foreign editions and sold film rights, so about time to follow up on it. My last novel, the first in 4 years, I WAS WAITING FOR YOU, was completed in December and appears 1st November 2010 from Accent Press.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Maxim Jakubowski’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I'm an early riser, and tend to do all my writing end editing work in the morning between 7 am and midday. Afternoons are usually devoted to reading and movies.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

Read, listen to music, watch films, travel, collect books, CDs, DVDs and magazines.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Just write and don't talk about it.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

The new Toby Litt and Scott Turow novels, and a book by Noah Boyd (alias Paul Levine), but am way behind on crime, as have been reading a lot of stuff outside the genre recently.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

About to begin Justin Cronin's THE PASSAGE.

Q7. Plans for the future?

To keep writing, editing, reading and living

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Everything and nothing, depending on my mood and the day

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I wrote a novel THE PHOSPHORUS WAR, which sold to 3 publishers and they all went under and the book was never published. Although I still have a set of galleys. Maybe a good thing, in retrospect as it's not very good and much too episodic (but then a lot of my stuff is...). But it held my confidence and career back for at least 5 years.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

No. At least you didn't ask unanswerable questions... And I know of several.

Thank you, Maxim Jakubowski!

Wednesday 5 May 2010

No Alibis Event Tonight!

Wednesday 5th May
No Alibis Bookstore, Belfast.
Brian McGilloway and Declan Hughes
Book Launch, Chat & Reading

ph. 02890-319601
fax. 02890319607