Friday 15 November 2013

Detectives Beyond the Octagon

I was delighted to have Peter Rozovsky weigh in on my Fight Card title, WELCOME TO THE OCTAGON, the other day. Please do visit his blog, Detectives Beyond Borders and look beyond the Octagon post. Here's a taster of his opinion:

"Brennan knows how to keep a story moving, planting narrative hooks toward the ends of his chapters and throwing in at least one character wrinkle unlikely to have shown up in an old-time boxing story. But what may have impressed me most is his engagement with MMA, a sport until now shoved somewhere back in my consciousness next to street luge, half-pipe, and bicycle motocross. MMA is compounded of styles and techniques taken from many fighting sports, and Welcome to the Octagon is full of observations about the resulting complexity and the demands it places on the fighters."

Thank you, Peter!

The post kicked off an interesting comment thread that highlights two very opposite opinions of the sport. Swing by, check out the original post, and please do scan the comments section. It touches on architecture in Barcelona and in one of my comments, I showcase my HTML skills.

MMA. Something for everybody.

BTW - although the cover gives credit to Jack Tunney for writing this story, it's a co-op pen name. This is a Belfast-based novella written by yours truly. Check out the Fight Card website for more info on the team of authors writing in the series.

Wednesday 6 November 2013

Guest Post - Steve Cavanagh on Killer Books, meeting your heroes and the verisimilitudes of poo.

Stephen King is probably the greatest living writer.

If you read that statement and immediately thought it was wrong and such names as Martin Amis, Jonathan Franzen or Salman Rushdie sprung to mind, you would be well advised to stop reading at this point, have a lie down and then enjoy some herbal tea.

I’m not an intellectual. I don’t enjoy literature (whatever that is) as much as crime fiction or thrillers. Kingsley Amis, Martin’s father, felt the same way. He liked thrillers and preferred Ian Fleming to Flaubert (much to the chagrin of his son).

By the way, in case you’re wondering whether you yourself are an intellectual, you can always tell by taking Billy Connolly’s test.

The test is simple – If you can listen to the William Tell overture without thinking of the Lone Ranger, you’re an intellectual.

Still here?


Apart from his considerable gifts as a novelist, Stephen King is a marvellous wit, raconteur and a man of considerable patience. One of his tales concerns an encounter with an elderly fan who had particularly poor timing. When touring, King would usually spend his early mornings doing the rounds of various television and radio breakfast shows, promoting his latest novel. In the afternoon there would be signings and events, in the evening a dinner with booksellers and industry people before either a late flight or a ridiculously early start the next day. Even if you’re doing something that you love, that kind of schedule is exhausting and when this particular story takes place, King is at that stage of the tour where he was feeling pretty wrung out.

During one such dinner, King felt a dark and powerful force take hold of him. It started with a fever, then cold clammy skin, followed by a surge in his bowels that could only be described as ‘commanding.’ He left the table in a hurry and dashed to the newly refurbished bathrooms in the stylish 80’s restaurant where he was being treated to dinner. The bathrooms were, well, very new, in that the bathroom stalls had no doors. By that I mean, no door, not a half door, not even a screen, nothing - just a cubicle wall on either side of a proud, and very public, toilet. King rushed past the bathroom attendant who looked to be 105 years old and sat down to empty what, at that stage, felt like his very being.

Head resting against the cold tiles lining the stall, his trousers at his ankles, wondering (a) if he would ever walk again and (b) how much ice he could pack into his underwear - King shuddered, swore under his breath and closed his eyes as the ancient bathroom attendant shuffled towards him, pad and pen in hand – ‘I saw you on breakfast TV Mr King, can I have your autograph?’

Did he sign it?

Of course he did.

He’s Stephen King.

The attendant was obviously star struck and no matter what, he wanted that autograph.

I can relate to that, to an extent. Over the past year I’ve met some of my writing heroes; writers that I admire enormously and read greedily. When I met some of them I was also in the process of writing my first novel, The Defence. There was that awkward, nervy moment before I blurted out ‘oh, I kinda’ do a bit of that writin’ stuff too, you know,’ and immediately wished that statement had remained unblurted. But I needn’t have worried, Colin Bateman, John Connolly, Declan Burke, Jeffrey Deaver, Brian McGilloway and others, were more than encouraging. But I suspected that some of them had that ‘LA actor’ story in the back of their minds. You know the story -

‘Did I mention I’ve moved to LA? Yeah, I’m an actor now.’

‘Really? Which restaurant do you work in?’

That kind of thing.

If they did have that ‘LA actor’ impression in their minds, and who can blame them, then they were both kind and sensitive enough not to show it. I suspect it’s because many of them were once an aspiring, frustrated writer trying desperately to get published and maybe they had that moment when they met one of their writing heroes.

This brings me neatly to a legend of crime fiction, who must remain nameless, and their story about not meeting Lee Child. The nameless legend was at a crime writing festival and wanted to meet the creator of Jack Reacher. A group of writers were outside the venue talking to Lee Child. The unnamed legend described that awkward kind of hanging-back-thing we all do whilst nervously awaiting that opportune moment to interject and introduce oneself.

The anonymous legend waited. Some people departed. There was space to nip in and hold out an open hand to a fellow legend. He seized his chance to introduce himself to Lee Child and he duly nipped, he extended the hand, he took a breath and…. at precisely the same moment an excessively large bird turd exploded across the impeccably tailored jacket that contained Lee Child. The moment was gone, along with Lee Child who presumably departed in order to assemble his sniper rifle before exacting Reacher-esque revenge on the offending bird.

So you see, poo doesn’t always assist in meeting writing legends. Particularly when said poo is released from a high altitude.

Is there a lesson in this?

You’re damn right.

If you want to meet Lee Child, wait until he sits his ass on the toilet.

Well, actually, no, don’t do that. Lee is well over six feet tall, charming and polite, of course, but even so, if you approached him inappropriately whilst in a lavatory, he would probably snap your neck with his bare hands (a sniper rifle would be a tad unwieldy in a toilet cubicle).

The truth is, if you wanted to meet Lee Child you should have gone to Killer Books.

He’s super-cool. I met him last weekend at Brian McGilloway’s brilliantly curated Killer Books Festival in Derry/Londonderry. I met lots of other fantastic writers including – said Mr McGilloway, Andrew Pepper, Stuart Neville, Declan Burke, Gerard Brennan, Claire McGowan, Alan Glynn and fellow solicitor/writer Des Doherty and all of them made me feel really welcome. Declan and Brian even introduced me to Lee Child. It is often remarked that crime writers are overwhelmingly supportive and welcoming of new writers. So they are, and I’m immensely grateful for their generosity.

This time (being only a semi-not-yet-published-idiot with the ink still wet on my publishing contract) after a genuinely friendly chat with writers that I admire and look up to, who have no business talking to a newbie like me, but who do so because they too are super-cool, I didn’t feel so much like an actor who had just moved to LA.

Well, actually, I did - a bit.

And I suspect I always will.

Tuesday 5 November 2013

#killerbooks reading

Check out this reading from my #killerbooks novella, BOUNCE. As far as I know, you can still get free copies at Eason in Derry. The recording isn't 100% perfect, but I'd practiced it a few times by this stage. Seems a shame to let the file sit there doing nothing.

Let me know if you enjoy it. Still thinking of releasing THE POINT as an audiobook in the near future.

Guest Post -- Des Doherty on meeting heroes and teenage kicks...

What a great success the first Killer Books Festival was in Derry at the weekend. I had a fabulous time and it was an honour for me to meet so many authors and hear all about them. There is a support in the crime writing community for colleagues and friends that I rarely see in other walks of life. Also the encouragement of successful and established authors to novices like me is so much appreciated.

The success of the weekend is down to the brilliant work of the staff at the Verbal Arts Centre and of course Brian McGilloway. The launch of 'Hurt' by Brian was one of the highlights of the weekend for me. I cannot thank Brian enough for all his work over the weekend.

These events just don't happen. It was clear to me the Verbal Arts Centre and Brian put a massive amount of work into making all the pieces fit together and getting everyone in the right place at the right time. Well done.

One of those pieces was having over an hour of private time with Lee Child at Easons and buying him a filtered grande coffee with no milk. And at his request being asked to pose with his new Jack Reacher novel for a photo. Then to top it all he wanted a photo with my Valberg novel. I couldn't believe it. Then a photo of us both together when the press arrived. We talked about so many things and he gave me encouragement and advice. He really went out of his way to ask me about my novel and with a shaking hand I signed my novel for him. As I hear often in court -'I have no recollection of that'- I have no recollection of signing the book for him and I dread to think of the state of it as I was in a surreal Valberg moment. Bloody Hell.

The weekend continued into Monday night at Colin Bateman's Teenage Kicks. What a show. What brilliant songs and performances from people so young they would not even have been born when the songs were written. Middle Age Kicks are really hard to beat and Colin's musical was the perfect grand finale to a brilliant weekend. Everyone with an ounce of punk in them should get to this show. Even if you don't have an ounce of punk in you get to the show and see what you are missing. Get away from horrific reality television spectacles and support Teenage Kicks. The young actors and the young punk band will invigorate you and take you back to a time, atmosphere and attitude that perhaps we can only dream about, and write about now. The kids are united in this show and we should be united in supporting them.’

Sunday 3 November 2013

Dad, Dad, Daddio!

The picture above was sent to me by my father and co-writer of THE SWEETY BOTTLE. The email was titled WEE ROCKETS, though he suggested an alternative in his email, "Oul Crockets, Granda Joe's Revenge".

Interesting fact, the first time I heard the term 'rocket' used in the Belfast context (translates as unpredictable, crazy, fun in a scary way) it was a family friend's description of Granda Joe. Second, third and fourth time too, I think.

This may help you understand me a little more.

Happy birthday, dad. You rock.

I'll have some #killerbooks content on the blog over the next week or two. I'm mostly reflecting on everything I experienced/learned right now.