Friday 28 February 2014


I attended the launch of David Park's The Poets' Wives last night at the Belfast Museum, an event organised by David Torrans of No Alibis Bookstore in Belfast. And it was an excellent affair all together.

Colin Reid's musical introduction was a hauntingly beautiful performance, despite the 'positive feedback' experienced by his guitar amp for a short time. Check out some of his mad guitar skills on YouTube. I've picked a tune that's slightly more upbeat than those performed last night (thought last night's pieces were well chosen for the venue and atmosphere), simply because it's Friday morning.

We also heard from Park's publisher (I should have written the lady's name down, feel free to nudge me if you know it). It was a glowing tribute, as you'd expect. Park has made Bloomsbury his literary home for a decade and a half now, and there are no signs that his welcome is wearing thin.

Damian Smyth from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland spoke for a short time (two pages!) about Park, his work and the achievements stemming from it. Smyth almost stole the show by announcing that The Poets' Wives will be Belfast's 'One City, One Book' this year; an honour previously bestowed upon Glenn Patterson and Lucy Caldwell.

Then David Park himself said a few words. It was my first time hearing him talk, and I was pleasantly surprised by his seemingly effortless wit and charm. For some reason (perhaps because he doesn't put himself out there that often -- or maybe I'm not looking in the right places for him) I thought he would be rather quiet and reserved. But he made me, and the audience, laugh more than once before reading from his novel.

Speaking of the audience, there had to be close to 200 people in attendance. A wonderful show of support for a writer that deserves it.

Belfast Poet Laureate and T.S. Elliot prize winner, Sinéad Morrissey, contributed to the night by reading poems connected to Park's novel; works by William Blake and Osip Mandelstam. The microphone may have played up on her a little, requiring some of us at the back of the room to lean forward and listen a little harder. And lean we did, quite precariously. Luckily, Morrissey's words gave us something to hang on.

David Torrans rounded up the event efficiently and then supplied me with the novel on my way out the door.

All-in-all it was an inspiring event, and one that gave me a feast for thought on my 30-mile drive home.

Incidentally, it was a pleasure to bump into a couple of young poets at the museum. All the best to Stephen Sexton and Stephen Connolly (and thanks for the free magazine, Mr Connolly), both PhD students at QUB, and a dapper pair of gentlemen. They made me wish I'd ironed my shirt.

Thursday 27 February 2014

Equal Danger by Leonardo Sciascia

At a little over 100 pages, I suppose this should be classified as a novella. It took me quite some time to read it, however. Longer than it's taken me to read some novels. The prose is dense, the sentences long and there is a hell of a lot of telling, and not much showing in those opening pages. Ordinarily, this is the type of book that I would happily avoid. However, one of my PhD supervisors recommended it to me as an example of behaviourist POV, and since that's my current literary obsession (and will likely continue to be for the next few years) I pushed myself to read it, rather than give up after those initial confusing pages.

Am I glad I persevered?


It took me about 15 pages to get used to Sciascia's style, and by then it had changed somewhat. With the introduction of the first suspect (the crime being the serial killing of of a district attorney and a number of judges) the writer introduces dialogue. This marks a switch from telling to showing, and the point from which the story became much more accessible to me. I was also able to get a better handle on the main character, Inspector Rogas, as he interacted with these suspects.

I wonder if Sciascia had started with a scene featuring dialogue, or a more focussed/detailed look at Inspector Rogas, would I have found this an easier read? Probably.

But that's by the by. In the end, the book won me over, and interestingly, when I flicked back to the start I found the opening pages much more accessible. I'm beginning to think that this read was a good burst of exercise for my brain. And I'll be thinking about Equal Danger (and what I can take from it as a writer) for a while to come.

Saturday 22 February 2014

No Alibis Event, 27/2/14

David Park
With Special Guests Sinéad Morrissey & Colin Reid

Thursday 27th February 7:00PM
Venue: Ulster Museum

No Alibis Bookstore, in association with Bloomsbury Publishers and the Ulster Museum, invite you to celebrate the launch of David Park's latest novel, THE POETS' WIVES, on Thursday 27th February at 7:00PM in the Ulster Museum, Botanic Gardens, Belfast.
Special Guests Sinéad Morrissey & Colin Reid will also be on hand to read and play music. Sinéad will read poem by Russian poet Osip Mandelstam, who features in the novel. Colin will be playing guitar….well, as it is Colin, he will be making it Sing.
This is a FREE event, but tickets are required, and are now available from No Alibis Bookstore.


One Bite at a TIme

Author Dana King has posted a Q&A with yours truly over at his excellent blog, One Bite at a Time. It starts out like this:

"Twenty Questions With Gerard Brennan

Gerard Brennan came to my attention through his essay, “The Truth Commissioners” in Declan Burke’s comprehensive examination of Irish crime fiction, Down These Green Streets. His contribution to the Fight Card series (Welcome to the Octagon) hooked me on his fiction, and The Point reeled me him. His sequel to The Point—Breaking Point—has recently been released, and Gerard was kind enough to take a break from his PhD studies to play Twenty Questions.

One Bite at a Time: Tell us about Breaking Point.

Gerard Brennan: I like to think of it as belonging to the same sub-genre as the movie Pineapple Express and other slacker-type flicks and TV shows. Notice I didn't mention books? Yeah, me too. Because I can't think of a novel or novella that attempts the same. Could well be down to a deficit in my reading, though..."

Thanks, Dana!

Get the rest of the questions and answers here.

Tuesday 18 February 2014

The Glass Key by Dashiel Hammett

My latest read in the pursuit of tales told using 3rd person objective POV (AKA behaviourist/behaviorist POV) was Dashiell Hammett's The Glass Key. I read somewhere on the internet that this was said to have been Hammett's own favourite of his novels (a quick internet search kind of supports this: Wikipedia - be wary of spoilers), and I think I see why. The Maltese Falcon is also written in this cinematic POV, and in my opinion is a pretty straightforward caper. The Glass Key is a more complex work, and yet many of the answers to the mystery are incredibly simple - in a good, non-convoluted, way. A neat trick to pull off. I guess that's why Hammett is cited as a master time and again.

The protagonist in The Glass Key seems to be pretty heavily based on Hammett himself (physical appearance, contrariness, shared health ailments) which may explain why Ned Beaumont struck a chord with many, more so than big Sam Spade, the blond devil. Personally, I enjoyed the deficit between Beaumont's hunger for action and the lack of physical ability to get himself out of harm's way. He's as bull-headed as Spade, but more likely to come off worse in an altercation.

Also, Beaumont describes himself as an amateur detective, a gambler and a political hanger-on at different points in the novel. His self-awareness carries a charm at odds with some of the shitty things he says.

With regards to the POV, in The Maltese Falcon it basically conceals the intentions of the characters, especially those of Sam Spade. The Glass Key seems to be less concerned with intention or motive, and instead what is held back is personal knowledge and emotional attachment. It's more concerned with longstanding relationships and how they might be affected by betrayal, self-preservation, suspicion of murder... all that good stuff.

I liked this one a lot, and I think it could well be my favourite Hammett book. I haven't read them all yet, but I will, so I'm interested to see how the rest hold their own as I get to them.

That's all folks. I should be writing.

Wednesday 12 February 2014

New Neville on the way...

The UK cover for Stuart Neville's new book, The Final Silence, published in the UK/Ireland July 17th 2014. Will be published spring 2015 in the US. Back cover blurb:

"Rea Carlisle has inherited a house from an uncle she never knew. It doesn't take her long to clear out the dead man's remaining possessions, but one room remains stubbornly locked. When Rea finally forces it open she discovers inside a chair, a table - and a leather-bound book. Inside its pages are locks of hair, fingernails: a catalogue of victims.

Horrified, Rea wants to go straight to the police but when her family intervene, fearing the damage it could cause to her father's political career, Rea turns to the only person she can think of: DI Jack Lennon. But Lennon is facing his own problems. Suspended from the force and hounded by DCI Serena Flanagan, the toughest cop he's ever faced, Lennon must unlock the secrets of a dead man's terrifying journal."

Out in time for my birthday! I want two.

Monday 10 February 2014

Eleven Days by Stav Sherez

Eleven Days is a London-based police procedural featuring the detective duo, DI Carrigan and DS Miller. It's the second in a new series (the first being the excellent A Dark Redemption), and according to the author's note at the end of the book, far from the last.

The continuation of the series is incredibly good news, if you ask me. I loved A Dark Redemption, but Eleven Days offered more in terms of plot, character development and incredible writing. Sherez is an intellectual and he's not ashamed of it. He does not dumb down his writing, as far as I can see, and the effect is all the more pleasing for it. There is plenty of room for intelligence in crime fiction.

Sherez handled the POV throughout the book a little different than most. DI Carrigan enjoys the lion's share, but DS Miller lets the reader in on plenty of what's going on in her head too. There's the occasional head-hop within the same chapter, but Sherez executes this seamlessly. That's not all that easy to do.

The story is a grim one. There is little hope for many of the characters in Eleven Days. Not much smiling either. But then the book starts out with a burning convent, the death of ten nuns and one mystery victim. You wouldn't expect too many chuckles.

Sign me up for the Sherez newsletter. I'm an honest-to-God fan.

Wednesday 5 February 2014

From the Blasted Heath Newsletter

Blasted Heath logo
Hello heathens

Good news!

Breaking Point by Gerard Brennan is:
  • OUT TODAY...
  • FREE UNTIL FRIDAY (so be quick)
Get it on Amazon here.

If you'd rather have an EPUB or PDF version, you can download that here

Breaking Point by Gerard Brennan

Brian Morgan's relationship with his weed dealer has moved on to the next level.

Stony Tony is a kung fu enthusiast with ambitions to become a master in his own style. But first he needs to establish a loyal following of students.

Brian could use some time away from Rachel O'Hare to figure out whether he loves her or is afraid to leave her, although it's hard to focus on anything after a few tokes of Tony's Blueberry Cheesecake.

Rachel is as indecisive about their relationship as Brian, but she knows that no good can come of a strange little pot-head getting involved in their lives.

Meanwhile, a goon with a bad ear a big grudge also has eyes for Brian...

Breaking Point (book two in The Point series) is a 23,000-word novella by the author of Wee RocketsWee Danny andFireproof


Tuesday 4 February 2014


THE POINT is currently free on Kindle. That's kind of all you need to know, isn't it? Go download it, okay? Not convinced? Right, cover, copy and blurbs, then:

Paul Morgan is a bad influence on his brother, Brian. When Paul crosses one thug too many, the cider-fuelled duo flee Belfast for Warrenpoint, the sleepy seaside resort of their childhood memories. For Brian a new life in The Point means going straight and falling in love with Rachel while Paul graduates from carjacking by unusual means to low-level racketeering. Brian can't help being dragged into his brother's bungling schemes, but Rachel can be violently persuasive herself . . . and she isn't the only one who wants to see an end to Paul's criminal career.

THE POINT is a 27,000-word novella by the author of WEE ROCKETS and FIREPROOF.

*** coming very soon -- BREAKING POINT (THE POINT: 2) ***

What They're Saying About THE POINT

"The Point is the real deal — the writing is razor sharp, the characters engaging, the ending a blast. From start to finish it's true Northern Noir, crafted with style and wit." – Brian McGilloway 

"The Point is top stuff. Engaging from the start, the characters are loveable, the story is strong and the pace never lets up." – Adrian McKinty 

…a Coen Brothers dream, via Belfast… Gerard Brennan grabs the mantle of the new mystery prince of Northern Ireland…" – Ken Bruen

"It needs to be said that Gerard Brennan's The Point is terrific. Scorchingly funny, black humour at its finest and the most inventive car theft ever!" – Arlene Hunt

"Noir from Norn Iron! A lean slice of grindhouse from Belfast's new crime hack." – Wayne Simmons


UK (and Norn Iron)
US (and ROI)