Saturday 31 December 2011

2011 Books

I didn't review a lot of crime fiction for the blog this year so I figure I'll use what I did review as a top whatever-the-amount for 2011. It was a funny year for reading. I took on the entire Booker shortlist for an event at Derry Library and critiqued a lot of unpublished fiction from classmates on the creative writing MA at Queens. Oh, and there were five novels on the essential reading list for one of the modules. But here's the skinny on a bunch of cracking crime fiction:

The Burning Soul by John Connolly - This is an outstanding novel. It’s chockfull of dense and powerful prose that isn’t intimidating but, in fact, is addictively consumable. The portrayal of a violent and unpredictable Boston Irish mob (post-Bulger) in constant crisis is chilling. And the supernatural twist? Cross your heart and bless your burning soul. This one’s coming to get you.

Truth Lies Bleeding by Tony Black - Truth Lies Bleeding is a brutal read; dark as the author's name, some of the characters will haunt your thoughts for a very long time after turning the last page. Gritty, urban and heart-wrenching, Black has discovered a darker shade of noir.

Collusion by Stuart Neville - Neville proves yet again that he is a writer to be reckoned with. His writing style pulls no punches and he is a master of creating tension. This Belfast thriller will take hold of you like a fire ravaging a stately home. Brutal, ruthless, breathtaking... Collusion is a blistering read.

Bloodland by Alan Glynn - Bloodland follows the trend set by Glynn’s previous novel, Winterland. It explores the far-reaching ramifications of corruption in politics and global business right down to the frontline casualties. Shit runs downhill. Glynn’s writing is engaging and urgent. Each line counts as he expertly develops his characters and plot without sacrificing his wonderful skill for evocative prose. Bloodland will enrage that sleeping anarchist within. More of the same, please, Mister Glynn.

Little Girl Lost by Brian McGilloway - Little Girl Lost is quite a different book from anything McGilloway has written in the Devlin series. From the protagonist to the writing style, McGilloway has made a lot of changes, and all for the better. It should come with a warning, though. This one tugs, pulls and gnaws at your heart strings. Prepare to invest a lot of emotion into this read and don't expect to be paid back with the perfect Hollywood ending. McGilloway has gone all out. Little Girl Lost is darker than a Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Word on the street is that this is the start of a new series (though we can expect a new Devlin book in the coming year) and this book proves that DS Black will be a welcome addition to the Northern Irish crime scene.

The Back of Beyond by CJ Box - Back of Beyond is an expertly plotted and paced wilderness thriller; a great example of Box’s literary forte. He brings Yellowstone National Park to life and impresses upon the reader the awesome power of nature with his skill for descriptive prose. But he is equally adept at exploring the darker side of humanity. He constantly juxtaposes the beauty of nature with the brutality of mankind and vice verse. Tense, tumultuous and ever-twisting. Back of Beyond proves yet again how C.J. Box is worthy of the prestigious crime fiction awards he’s collected over the course of his career.

I also reviewed a couple of books for Culture NI this year:

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald (technically science fiction but there's a tonne of crime and a boy detective in there) - McDonald serves up a master class in writing that would give the literary elite the sweats. The novel doesn't rely on high concepts or geeky gimmicks to sell itself (although the ‘cepteps’ the characters wear are an enviable projection of smart-phone techno-joy). McDonald is, above all, a wordsmith. Interestingly, since his novels rarely stray too far ahead of the present day, we’ve already caught up with his early novels. Sacrifice of Fools portrays a pretty bang-on version of Northern Ireland in the early 2000s (sans the aliens) and yet it was written in 1996. If McDonald's observations and predictions about trends in technology, politics and sports in The Dervish House have even a grain of truth to them there are exciting times ahead. If you read one science fiction book this year, pick this one. McDonalds fans already have.

Falling Glass by Adrian McKinty - McKinty takes advantage of this being the most contemporary setting of his canon to dabble in social commentary; in particular the global economic recession, how it affected Northern Ireland’s property crash, and the place of Irish Travellers in contemporary Irish society. He provides a measured and intelligent account of Irish Traveller life, which might go some way to debunking the lazy, sensationalist drivel churned out by that awful reality TV show that shall not be named. Falling Glass cuts deep and leaves its mark. If you haven’t discovered McKinty yet, brace yourself and pick this one up.

I kind of wish I'd kept a better track of my reading this year. I know I read (and in most cases enjoyed) a hell of a lot but I just didn't get time to review them all... I should keep a list in 2012 but I can't be arsed with resolutions.

Happy New Year, everybody!

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas from CSNI

Well now... just a quick post to wish anybody who stumbles upon this page a very happy holiday season (whatever the heck ye choose to believe or not believe) and urge you to remember to take the opportunity wherever you can get it to power down for a few days at least. Go on. You know you deserve the break.

I for one am in a terribly good mood. This is the first time I opened the laptop today. The baby is in bed, the older two kids are about to go brush their teeth after the Phineas and Ferb Xmas special and the first piece of feedback I've gotten on Wee Rockets can be read here (bottom right-hand corner).

It doesn't get much better, folks.

Friday 16 December 2011

CSNI Social Satire?

Brennan’s Existentialist and (not so) Literary Bollocks

Waste of Space Department

Minutes of a meeting of the Waste of Space Management Team (WoSMT) held on Tuesday 31November 2011 at 2.00 pm in Meeting Room 7

Present: Gerard Brennan (Chair), Aaron Aardvark, Angel, Michael Jackson, MC Hammer, JoJo Monkeybrains and Nigel Zombie

Apologies Sam Adams Beer

1 Previous Minutes

The minutes of 31 September 2011 were considered to be a true record.

2 Matters Arising from the Minutes of 31 September 2011


3 Existentialism Reports

3.1 Gerard Brennan reporting

GB posed the question: What the fuck’s the point, really?

Board Members told him to shut up. GB threatened to take the ball home and tell his ma. BM reminded GB of his flexisheet projections and extended teabreak violations. GB huffed and refused to participate further.

3.2 Aaron Aardvark reporting

“Apologies. Am apparently absent and apathetic. Am attending attitude alignment and astrology assembly afterwards.”


3.3 Angel Reporting

Angel wished to raise a personal issue. When reminded by the chair that this was not the venue the chair was in turn reminded that he was on huff leave and so had surrendered all pretences of actual power in a system that rewards diligence and enthusiasm with career dead ends and panders to the ineffective through legislation and fear of anachronistic unions. GB returned to huff leave.

Angel regained control of the meeting. She reminded the chiefs (and by assumption all their indians) that it is against inequality legislation to remark that there is space at the top of the Christmas tree in a knowing and (allegedly) humorous manner. Attending chiefs (and by association all their indians – including those on long term sick leave, disciplinary suspension and suicide watch) apologised profusely. Nigel Zombie offered a pedicure and fellatio as a quantitative measure of repentance. He was referred to HR for a refresher course.

3.4 Michael Jackson Reporting

MJ complained that he wasn’t taken seriously… It was close to impossible to make out anything else he said after this point as the board members began to mock him in high-pitched harmony. GB’s PA believes that he may have said something along the lines of “Sha-mon” but reserves the right to withdraw this remark should evidence be presented to the contrary. Fortunately, MJ has had to develop a sense of humour since he came to the organisation on a graduate entry scheme and he isn’t really entitled to the same level of respect as wee Mickey No-Stars who should have gotten the job, in fairness. Mickey’s been loyal to the organisation since his ma pulled the glue bag out of his hands and pushed him through the door in the early seventies. People don’t even mind his nervous tics anymore.

3.5 MC Hammer Reporting

Stop. Hammer Time. Just for a minute, the board members did the bump. Do-do-do-do-do dooooo dooooo.

3.6 JoJo Monkeybrains reporting

JM apologised for throwing faeces at the last meeting. GB remarked that it had become a regular feature of the meetings that, though unpleasant, was almost bearable so late in the fiscal year. JM asked if her duties could be revaluated. MJ sniggered and said, “You said doodies.” JM threw faeces at him and the BM approved the motion.

3.7 Nigel Zombie Reporting

Austerity Report Workshops: Workshops to help departments with their austerity reports are ongoing. The Waste of Space department’s workshop took place on 31 November and it was reported to have gone very well. A workshop will be held for other equally wasteful departments on 32 December. Staff are getting used to the new format and it is hoped to carry out a quick review of austerity for 2012/13 after Christmas. This will contribute to society in no way whatsoever, nor will it imbue participants with a feeling of job satisfaction. It will, however, justify the inflated salaries of the upper-middle and middle-upper management drones. This will strain the economy a little but eventually improve consumer spend in Marksies. However, GB is still not permitted to camp out on Writers’ Square with all the interesting-looking hippies who have pet dogs on strings and instant barbeques bought from ASDA (AKA Walmart) using JSA payments funded by the 99 percent who are actually at work and not really to blame for the global deficit, whatever that is. #occupybelfast

Admin Review: Officers noted that AA and JM represented the Waste of Space department on the working group set up to conduct a review of the board’s administration. AA offered JM a prayer book. JM said something very off-colour about AA’s higher power.

4 Strategic Issues

4.1 Keep the staff demotivated.

No need for further clarification. Staff wouldn’t understand it.

4.2 Savings Delivery Plan:

‘Strategic’ redundancy payments will save money in twenty years time.

4.3 Severance

GB explained that there had been a number of expressions of interest for voluntary severance across the organisation and that business cases had been submitted to the ether. Fortunately, many of the applicants did not read the small print. Medical research will be very interesting this year.

4.4 Vacancy Control

Sick Pay has been cast as the bad guy to distract from the real forces of deceit at play. Smoke and Mirrors, baby.

4.5 Business Cases

GB extended his thanks to A for her work on the business cases for voluntary severance and for the refreshments provided at the meeting. He did not get the irony intended in serving finger foods.

On behalf of the finance management team, GB wished all staff a very happy and peaceful Christmas. HR will issue him with a memo to reprimand him for only wishing Christians a happy holiday season.

There being no further business and an absence of Sam Adams Beer, the meeting ended at 3.20 pm.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Culture NI

I'm getting a bit of attention over at Culture NI. And they were kind enough to feature both the digital reading from Wee Rockets and this here Blasted Heath vid.

What with this and the radio bit with Arts Extra I'm feeling like Media-Man today. Thank the higher power that so many other people have the talents that allow me to show up and start talking, eh? I'd never get so many opportunities to spread the word about my books without those kind souls in my life. Thank you all.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Arts Extra

I was on BBC Radio Ulster's Arts Extra programme today. Here's a link to the Listen Again thing.

I forgot to mention that:

Signed copies of The Point are available at No Alibis.

I will be doing an author event in Waterstones Belfast on Saturday 17th December at 2PM and Waterstones Ballymena on Monday 19th December at 6:30PM. These events have been postponed. Details of new dates to be confirmed.

The kindle edition of Wee Rockets has popped up on Amazon a little ahead of its release date in the UK and US.

I'm a terrible salesman.

Still, it was nice to chat to the delightful Marie-Louise Muir.

Saturday 3 December 2011

Wee Rockets Reading

Jeezum Crow. It's December. Probably a good time to point out that my novel Wee Rockets will be released by Blasted Heath in less than a month! If you fancy a taster of said novel, have a listen to this here reading:

You gotta love the way these Blasted Heathens roll, right?

For those of you who don't know, or have forgotten (highly likely given my absence from the blogging world these past weeks), the official release date of Wee Rockets is 1/1/12. And here's what some rather excellent writers have said about it.

“The Wire? This is Barbed Wire. A cheeky slice of urban noir, a drink soaked, drug addled journey into the violent underbelly of one of Europe’s most notorious ghettos, Wee Rockets make The Outsiders look like the Teletubbies.” - Colin Bateman

“Gerard Brennan stands apart from the Irish crime fiction crowd with a novel rooted in the reality of today’s Belfast. The author’s prose speaks with a rare authenticity about the pain of growing up in a fractured society, shot through with a black humour that can only come from the streets. Wee Rockets is urban crime fiction for the 21st century, and Brennan is a unique voice among contemporary Irish writers.” - Stuart Neville

“In Wee Rockets Gerard Brennan has written a fast paced, exciting story of West Belfast gang culture; brimming with violence, authentic street dialogue and surprising black humour. This is a great debut novel. Brennan takes us into the heart of Belfast’s chav underclass, in a story that lies somewhere in the intersection between The Warriors, Colin Bateman and Guy Ritchie. This is the first in what undoubtedly will be a stellar literary career.” - Adrian McKinty

Feels like Santa's already pulled some strings for me...