This review was first posted on CSNI in November 2008, but since the book has recently been published in e-format for the first time, I figured it wouldn't hurt to fire it up again. Please excuse any dated references. gb
Mike Stone: Hiya, mate. I finished Declan Burke’s Eightball Boogie yesterday. Give it a day or two and the dust will have settled enough for me to do a write-up. Assuming you want one of course?
Gerard Brennan: Hey, man. Yeah, I could well use a review of Eightball Boogie. Thing is, I’ve only just read it myself. And I’m kind of in the mood to review it too. Not sure what to do. I like to get other opinions on CSNI when I can, but... hmmm, what say you?
MS: Well, I daresay you’re better qualified. I was going to prattle on about the banter – that for me was this novel’s signature. The story and characters were very good, but what raised the bar were the rapid one-liners and putdowns.
GB: Don’t know about my qualifications. I’m not much smarter than Burke’s protagonist, Harry Rigby. Wish I had his knack for one-liners though. As you say, they’re a defining feature of the novel. I didn’t do a formal count, but there has to be at least a couple of wisecracks on every page. I think Declan Burke mentioned in a recent blog that Rigby was one of the most autobiographical characters he’d ever written. Probably explains why he comes across as such a complete character. Wise mouth, cocky attitude, low self-esteem. If I ever meet Dec in person, I must give him a hug.
MS: Ah, you beat me to it. I was going to ask you if Dec’s anything like Harry Rigby. The dialogue – spoken and internal – just felt so natural. And there were sentences to die for. I’d give my eye-teeth to have written this one:
The shoes were Italian and suede because women look at your eyes first, shoes second, and I had eyes that made women take a long lingering look at my shoes.
You know when you asked visitors to CSNI to give you a page number and you’d recite a cracking piece of prose from Ken’s American Skin? I reckon you could do that with Eight Ball Boogie.
GB: And I reckon you’re right. Except as popular as that git Burke is on the blogosphere, I’d be inundated with comments if I did. I loved the book, but I’ve got a life, you know? It wasn’t just the cool dialogue that got me. The twisty-turny plot kept me guessing right up to the final pages. Okay, so that’s supposed to happen in crime fiction, and should be a given rather than a point of praise, but I think Burke is especially adept at this. It was equally apparent in The Big O and A Gonzo Noir.
MS: You anticipate me again. PI Harry Rigby’s poking into the goings on of crooked auctioneers, bent cops and politicians on the make was bound to be complex -- and for the most part Declan handled it well -- but were you able to keep with it? Because I got a bit lost towards the end. I got the gist of it . . . I think. The problem for me, in part, was that rapid-fire narrative we talked about earlier. When it came to Rigby unpicking the double dealings and backstabbings, I could have done with more elaboration.
GB: Hmmm. Good point. Personally, I didn’t feel short-changed when it came to figuring out who did what. I went away with a clear enough idea of all that went on. I do think that he resolved an awful lot in a very short space of time, which might have made the book a little ending-heavy. Is that what you mean?
MS: Yeah, it became too dense for me, or I’m too dense for the ending, one or the other. I was determined to give it a five star review up until then. As it stands, I’d probably chip a point off for making me feel thick. Any idea if there’s a sequel. I want to see more of Harry Rigby. And how does Eight Ball Boogie stack up against The Big O?
GB: Ah, man. Great question, thanks. As you know, I’m a regular reader of Dec’s blog, Crime Always Pays. Not so long ago he mentioned Eightball Boogie and how the publisher (a now defunct imprint of Lilyput Press) passed on the opportunity to buy a second Harry Rigby novel from him. Publishers, eh? What do they know? So I know there is more to come from Harry Rigby, but when we’ll get to enjoy it is anybody’s guess. I’m hoping the recent success that The Big O has enjoyed will bring with it an opportunity for Dec to launch a whole series of Rigby novels, starting with a shiny new hardcover of Eight Ball Boogie, because (and this brings me on to the second part of your question) I think The Big O rocks, but Eight Ball Boogie has a bit of an edge on it. Right, listen. Which one of us is going to write this review, then?
MS: Well, you could always stick the heading “A Wee Review” above this exchange. I daresay that McKinty fellah will have a dig and call us the Chuckle Brothers, but I can live with that. To me!
GB: Sounds like a plan, you savvy devil. To you!