Wednesday, 5 October 2016

McDojo by Gerard Brennan

“Tony, mate, what the hell are you doing?”

“Just a second.”

“You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“Shut up, I’m concentrating.”

“Would that not be easier if you put out the joint?”

“Ach… this is impossible. The guy on the video told me to get loose and relaxed before attempting the moves.”

“He probably meant you should do some stretches, Tony.”

“Are you a martial artist, John?”

“If I was I wouldn’t be using YouTube as a point of reference, mate. I’d go to a class and learn.”

“That’s rich. My dope supplier advocates education.”

“Well, that’s the difference between me and a low level dealer like… whatever the fuck you’re like. I’m educated… Um, is that a Bruce Lee costume?”

“It’s an oriental suit made from the finest Chinese silk available.”

“You’re not Chinese, though.”

“What’s that got to do with it, John?”

“This is exactly what I’m talking about, Tony. You don’t put enough emphasis on education. You’re not Chinese, how can you know that you’ve got the finest Chinese silk?”

“A Chinese man told me.”

“Proper Chinese, like?”

“You think you can fake being Chinese, Mister Education?”

“I think that a very good salesman told you that you’re wearing the finest Chinese silk and that he or she may have been a salesman of Chinese descent. But whether or not that person of Chinese descent actually travelled from China with a fresh batch of guaranteed finest silk…? Let’s say I’m a little cynical, Tony.”

“Come to think of it, he did have an English accent.”


“But, here, let me show you this move I learned.”

“Off YouTube?”


“No thanks.”

“I’m going to teach it tonight, though. I have to practice.”

“You teach a martial arts class now?”


“Have you ever been to a martial arts class?”

“Did a bit of kung fu when I was younger. It’s piss easy. I could teach you this wee move… no? And I’ve combined them with my knowledge of drugs to help—”

“I have a degree in business studies.”

“Good for you. Where did it get you?”

“I’m a businessman.”

“You supply drugs.”

“Goods and services. Supply and demand.”

“And you’ve to deal with the likes of me.”

“You’re entertaining, though, Tony.”


“Get off the floor. You obviously can’t do that.”

“I could if you weren’t here judging me. You going to help me up or what?”

“Come here… God, look at the state of you. You need a shave, Tony. And that finest Chinese silk is a holy mess of hot-rock burns. Why would anybody take instruction off you?”

“Hold your arm out and I’ll show you.”

“So you can…?”

“Put it in an arm bar.”

“And that’ll hurt, right?”

“Only if you fight back.”

“What if I fight back before I let you put it in an arm bar?”

“I won’t be able to do it, then.”

“Has nobody called you on that?”

“On what?”

“Never mind, Tony. Never mind. Have you many students?”

“About fifteen. A couple of them are wing nuts but they’re mostly cool. They respect me. And they’re all kind of like customers too, if you know what I… yeah, you know. But having a studenty-customer-type-thing is so handy. They trust me. And they’re loyal and they give me money. I don’t have to stand on street corners and deal with the lowlifes. Just the kind of people who want to improve themselves.”

“So you sell these students drugs.”

“No, I don’t sell the drugs. They come free with the lesson. It helps them to loosen up and learn.”

“Learn the stuff that you’ve gleaned from YouTube?”

“And I don’t get arrested on a street corner. Genius, right?”

“I’m not sure if I recognise true genius, Tony. You know that saying about the thin line…? But here, about that money you owe me?”

“Um. Can you come back later? I’ve a class to prepare for.”

“Yeah, I’ll be back. And maybe you could try that arm bar thing on big Frank. Show all your students how good you really are.”

“Hmmm. Or… I have a box of suits out back. Chinese silk. The finest Chi—”

This story was first published by Shotgun Honey, January 2012.  

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Writing Crime: Panel Discussion

This Thursday, 22nd September 2016, I'm hosting an event at The Aspect Literary Festival in Bangor. Here are the details:

Venue: North Down Museum

Time: 6 pm

Tickets: £7

Get an insight into the minds and practice of crime-writing authors Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh as they talk to Gerard Brennan (

Brian McGilloway is the New York Times bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Inspector Benedict Devlin and DS Lucy Black series. In 2014, Brian won BBC NI’s Tony Doyle Award for his screenplay, Little Emperors, an award which saw him become Writer In Residence with BBC NI. His latest novels in 2015 were The Forgotten Ones and Preserve The Dead.

‘Preserve the Dead is storytelling of the highest order from one of Irish crime writing’s most unassuming masters’.
Irish Independent

Steve Cavanagh writes fast-paced legal thrillers set in New York City featuring series character Eddie Flynn. His debut novel, The Defence was long-listed for the Crime Writer’s Association Ian Fleming Steel Dagger, and shortlisted for two Dead Good Readers Awards. His new book, The Plea, was described by Ian Rankin as, ‘A gripping twisty thriller’.

‘Lively, clever and enjoyable . . . Cavanagh writes vividly about American injustice . . . The constant action is interrupted only by absorbing courtroom scene’.
The Times

Book your place here.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Noir at the Bar -- Belfast Book Festival


Belfast Book Festival
Verbal Arts -

Wednesday 15th June


Tickets £6 / £4 at Errigle Inn

Curated by Gerard Brennan

Literary history is littered with wasted writers. The pen and the bottle have gone hand in hand since the first scribble. The Northern Irish crime fiction set embody this spirit. Join Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Steve Cavanagh, Kelly Creighton and Gerard Brennan as they trade harsh words for hard liquor.

This is Noir at the Bar.

Book your tickets here.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Writing Achievement Unlocked

In the writing game, good news mostly comes in small measure. So you need to be grateful when something good happens. Imagine I'm typing this with my happy face on.

I finally signed with a new literary agent. Svetlana Pironko of the Author Rights Agency decided to take me on after reading my novel SHOT. The story goes a little bit like this:

"You can’t choose your family. This fact becomes a major career obstacle for DS Shannon McNulty when she takes up a post with the Police Service of Northern Ireland following a decade on the force in London. The move from England back to her hometown of Warrenpoint in Northern Ireland coincides with the untimely death of her gangster uncle, Brendan McNulty. Now Shannon must balance an unofficial investigation into her uncle’s shooting with her first official case for the PSNI. A swift resolution to the disappearance of a politician’s daughter could lay the tracks for a stellar career as a Belfast detective. But if she fumbles her family and career juggling act, she’ll lose everything."

I'm very happy about this development. Relieved too. One of my goals during the three-year career break I'm currently enjoying was to secure a literary agent. With only five months of that time remaining, it's finally happened. Many thanks to Les Edgerton, by the way, for introducing me to Svetlana. Pretty cool to share an agent with such a legend. The fact that she has worked with Ken Bruen -- a noir god -- is gravy.

Emerging writers, don't give up. I'd almost abandoned this book when Svetlana's email pinged through. I'd almost given up on writing crime fiction altogether, in fact. This current agent hunt began in June 2015 and I got really close with a few agents, but until last week I just didn't get close enough. Form rejections are almost kinder than those 'close but no cigar' emails. But it's a trial most writers will have to endure. I accept that.

I'm sure there'll be more disappointments ahead. Getting an agent is still no guarantee that they can get your work published. However, I'm a step further along than I was at the start of this month. So watch this space. Hopefully I'll have another bit of good news to share in the near future.

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Closing in on 50

Monday, 29 February 2016

Ian Sansom Event Inspires Sporadic Blogger To Get His Act Together

That's right, folks. It's that time of the year when I realise that I haven't blogged at all since I resolved to blog more. I'm that blogger. Always.

But this isn't about me. It's about (Professor) Ian Sansom, a wonderful writer. He's also been a source of inspiration for my own writing, and was then directly responsible for helping me improve it when I did the Creative Writing MA at QUB from 2011 to 2012. But don't let that colour your judgement. You'll find some pretty dated reviews and interviews with Prof Sansom from before my time at QUB right here. Since then I've been to a few of his launches (and you'll find an account of one in that link above) and had a fun time at each of them.

Don't you want to have fun too?

All right, then. Here are the details for the launch of a great writer's third latest book at a great bookshop. Great!

The Directors of 4th Estate and No Alibis Bookstore are very pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch WESTMORLAND ALONE, the new novel from Ian Sansom, on Friday 4th March at 6:30PM. Tickets are free, but are limited, so please reserve your spot now.

Welcome to Westmorland. Perhaps the most scenic county in England! Home of the poets! Land of the great artists! District of the Great lakes! And the scene of a mysterious crime…

Swanton Morley, the People’s Professor, once again sets off in his Lagonda to continue his history of England, The County Guides.

Stranded in the market town of Appleby after a tragic rail crash, Morley, his daughter Miriam and his assistant Stephen Sefton find themselves drawn into a world of country fairs, gypsy lore and Cumberland and Westmorland wrestling. When a woman’s body is discovered at an archaeological dig, for Morley there’s only one possible question: could it be murder?

Join Morley, Miriam and Sefton as they journey along the Great North road and the Settle-Carlisle Line into the dark heart of 1930s England.

Born in Essex, England, Ian Sansom is the author of the popular Mobile Library Mystery Series. He is also a frequent contributor and critic for The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The London Review of Books, and The Spectator. He is a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4.

He studied at both Oxford and Cambridge and is a former Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge. Currently, he teaches at Warwick University.

Book your spot now: email David or call the shop on 028 9031 9607.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

As 2015 Closes

I'll do my best not to ramble, and keep this to a tight 700-word post.

As is my habit, I’ve been thinking about what comes next as opposed to what has happened. My main concern is that the current situation I find myself in is going to come to an end. Jeepers creepers. The end is nigh!

That sounds dramatic, right? Indulge me. I’m a writer.

Right now, I’m a PhD student at Queen’s University Belfast. The highlights: I got through my differentiation in June 2014. I taught on the Introduction to Creative Writing Module as a University Tutor, September-December, 2014 and 2015. I’ve completed a novel for the creative component of the thesis (insofar as a novel can be complete before it’s published), and I’m working on the critical component. I’ve attended many interesting courses and conferences. I’ve also taken part in a number of conferences and festival events.

I’m many other things besides a PhD student, but I’m trying to keep this focussed.

If it were possible, I’d be a PhD student for the rest of my days. I love this life. It suits me and my family in that (apart from the teaching aspect), my timetable can be moved about to suit childcare needs, etc. It stimulates me intellectually and allows me time to look after my health, mentally and physically. Before the PhD, I completed an MA in creative writing at QUB while working a full-time job and doing my best to be a husband and father in the time left over (thank you for your patience, Mrs B). I feel that the privilege of working to earn a PhD was the reward.

And as 2016 looms, all I can think about is the fact that my target date to complete this massive project is September 2016.

That’s still nine months away. I know.

But I’m the father of three children. I also know how quickly nine months can pass while you worry about the future.

And yes, I have to think about the future, but I also have to think about the now. If I take my eye off either vague concept of time, I could forget to enjoy the privilege I’ve earned. And so, I have had little time to think about what I’ve actually achieved as a writer and a student. Those achievements – stripped of their attachments of pride and relief – can be viewed in the previous blog post here.

As I read back over this piece, I’m slightly concerned that this will come off as braggadocious. But rather than go back and downplay the achievements, I’ll learn from a criticism that’s levelled at me from time-to-time.

I lack confidence.

Because there’s a fine line between self-deprecation and self-hate, I suppose. When I make fun of myself, people sometimes laugh. When I play the part of arrogant wee shite, people sometimes laugh. When I mock others, people sometimes laugh. I like to make people laugh. It sets them at ease. Gives them a wee oxygen boost to the brain. And when you do it often enough, people smile when they see you. I like that.

My humour tends towards making fun of myself, because I’m an easy target and I know I can take it. I’m not proud to admit that I’ve hurt more sensitive people in the past with my attempts at making others laugh. Taking the piss out of myself is safe.

I also thought that the ability to make people laugh is directly proportional to how confident you are. But I guess other people don’t see it like that.

Let me be clear… I’m pretty fucking confident, people. And I like that about me.

What I don’t like is laziness, especially when I sense it getting in the way of my own ambitions.

So if I act like I’m not all that impressed with myself, it’s because I’m not. I’ve finally figured out that I can do a lot more than what I’ve done. And I refuse to rest on my laurels. Next year, I need to stop worrying about what’s ending and think about the new beginnings that I’ve yet to experience.

Right now my kids are on Christmas holidays. They’ve been to their granny’s and they’re just home and getting loud. I’ve gone a little over 700 words. Rather than edit and lose some of this honesty (typos be damned), I’ll just finish here and go join my family.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays or Enjoy Whatever You Subscribe To.

Come at me, 2016.

Writing CV, as at December 2015

  • Novella, The Point, Pulp Press 2011 (re-released by Blasted Heath in 2013)
  • Novel, Wee Rockets, Blasted Heath, 2012
  • Novel, Fireproof, Blasted Heath, Fight Card Books, 2012
  • Novella, Welcome to the Octagon, 2013
  • Novella, Wee Danny, Blasted Heath, 2013
  • Novella, Bounce, Verbal Arts Centre (commisioned for the Killer Books festival), 2013
  • Novella, Breaking Point, Blasted Heath, 2014
  • Novel, Undercover, Blasted Heath, 2015

Relevant Work History
  • Freelance Writer at Culture NI (, 2010 to 2011
  • Webmaster at Crime Scene NI, a blog devoted to Northern Irish crime writing
  • University Tutor at QUB on the Introduction to Creative Writing module; September 2014 to present. Module includes prose, poetry and drama (screen, stage and radio)

Writing Awards
  • Arts Council of Northern Ireland, SIAP award, received five times between 2007 and 2015 (four times for literature, once for drama)
  • Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Travel award, received to support a trip to Long Beach CA to attend Bouchercon (a crime fiction convention) as a panel member and a representative of Northern Irish crime fiction, 2014
  • Northern Ireland Screen, Script Development award, for screenplays titled The Point and Time, 2008 and 2014 respectively

Theatre Production
  • An Irish Possession, One-man show written and performed for The Black Box Lunchtime Theatre, directed by Conor Maguire, 2010
  • The Sweety Bottle, Regional tour via Brassneck Theatre Company, 2013 (March to April)
  • The Sweety Bottle, Eight performances at The Grand Opera House via Brassneck Theatre Company (transferred from the Baby Grand to the Auditorium due to popular demand – the first play to achieve this at the Grand Opera House in its history), 2013 (August)


  • Masters, Creative Writing, Queen’s University Belfast, 2011-2012
  • PhD student (post-differentiation), Creative Writing thesis titled Radical Crime Fiction, Queen’s University Belfast, 2013-present

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

New Downey

About the author

Garbhan Downey has spent 25 years in the publishing industry in northwest Ireland as a journalist, writer and editor. He has also worked for the BBC as a producer and presenter. A graduate of University College Galway, he lives in Derry with his wife Úna and two children. Once Upon a Time in the North West is his eighth novel.

Back Blurb

Chronicle of a Century

The death of a well-connected Irish newspaper publisher triggers a clandestine hunt to recover his memoirs.

The Americans, concerned that Sean Madden’s private record of the past century will jar with the official account, need to get their hands on it before the British and Irish. But Madden’s hardnosed granddaughter, heir to the North West Chronicle, has her own interests to protect as well.

This pulsating page-turner takes the reader on an epic journey of war and peace, love and loss, politics and criminality right across the twentieth century.

Every secret has its season, and all Sean Madden’s – and all of Derry’s – are about to be laid bare.

‘Expect a literary smack in the mouth’

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Shameless Advertising

I've reduced the price of the paperback versions of Undercover and Wee Rockets on Amazon. The prices will remain low until after Christmas.

Let me be clear, I'd prefer it if you bought my books from No Alibis in Belfast, but that just isn't physically possible for everybody. So this is for the readers who can't make it to my favourite bookshop.

If you want to put a physical copy of one of my books into a friend or relative's hand, using one of the following links is probably the easiest way to do it:

Paperbacks (Ireland &) UK

Paperbacks US

Paperbacks CA

Merry Christmas, folks.