Wednesday, 31 December 2008

There Will Be Booze

I'm still not done with the festivities, and indeed tonight may prove the highlight of a debauched week, but I figured I should post something here, lest one or two people think I've dropped off the face of the blogosphere.

So, just a little heads up. Over the crimbo holidays, I've read and intend to review Everybody Knows This is Nowhere by John McFetridge and I'm neck deep in Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand. I hope to get stuck into Mystery Man by Colin Bateman next and then I'll be checking out some more Ken Bruen (can't get enough of that guy) and Walking The Perfect Square by Reed Farrel Coleman. I've also got three more David Peace books and... man, this could go on. Basically, I'm spoilt for choice in the new year, so there'll be no shortage of reviews as CSNI continues to grow.

Just for the record, I have a loose priority list with regards to promotion. Writers from the North of Ireland first, followed closely by those from the South. After that, it's kind of up in the air. Anybody who can be tied to Ireland in any way will get whim priority. For instance, McFetridge can trace some of his family back to Larne in Northern Ireland. Reed Farrel Coleman is releasing a book with Ken Bruen this year. I'll probably read Pariah by Dave Zeltserman as it's got Boston Irish gangsters in it. The rest, I'll read for fun, maybe reference it from time to time, but probably not review. I gotta write my own Northern Irish crime fiction too, you know.

So, thanks to everybody who's read, commented and emailed me about the blog. Thanks in general to the crime fiction community for being warm, friendly and cool. Thanks to all the authors I met this year, who ignored my stuttering awe and told me it was nice to meet me. It's been a great year, and I hope the trend continues.

In 2009, aside from reviews, I hope to progress my own writing. If I can't sell a novel, screenplay or stage play, then I'll be chipping away with short stories on the side. But I'm also lucky enough to be involved with a non-fiction project with Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty and a fiction anthology with Mike Stone. Both collections will contain work from some of my favourite writers. It's dizzying to think about it. You'll read plenty of updates on both here.

But for now, give me a few days to recover from an overindulgence of pies and beer and wine and crackers and cheese and whiskey and crisps. Then I'll be a slightly pudgier blogging dynamo bringing you as much news as you can handle, and more besides.

Happy New Year, folks.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Linky-Dink And a Holiday Hup-Ya to All

Just a quick round-up of stuff. T'is definitely the season round my place, so a bit of laziness is to be expected. January depression should get me buried in this aul craic again and the posts will be flying out. Until then, here's this:

Declan Burke has me furthering my unexpected editorial experience with this new project (working title) With Dark Joy, The Madness. God bless him and his family. It's a collection of non-fiction essays on all things Irishly crime fictiony. And I get to contribute. You're all going to love it. Click the blooming link for more info on it, but come back here and read the rest of the stuff, okay?

Stuart Neville is fairly getting about the aul publicity trail. Read the guy's brilliant story on his journey to publishing The Twelve / The Ghosts of Belfast, courtesy of The Belfast Telegraph.

And a new magazine has added to my wee list on the right (scroll up or down depending on when you're reading this). Thanks to Elaine Ash for bringing Beat to a Pulp to my attention. Any others out there, get in touch. I'd like to keep my list as current and up to date as possible, but I'm too busy to go looking for these wonderful sites. And a bit lazy, okay? Oh, and on that topic, if you're in the mood for some speculative fiction, the first issue of Three Crow Press has just gone live. That's the e-zine affiliated with Morrigan Books.

Finally, it's all about me. Read a funky interview with me on A Twist of Noir. I'm very pleased to have been asked to spread my wondrous words of whining. But don't worry, Christopher Grant did a great job of shaping by blathering into something quite entertaining. Check it out.

I'm hoping to post a couple of reviews in the next few days, but if I don't get around to it in the Christmas melee, Happy Holidays, whatever way you take 'em. It's been a good year, and a lot of you fine folk out there have contributed to that. Cheers.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Olé N Seville (stet)

So, Stuart Neville's latest blog tells us that the Spanish have welcomed him with open arms. The Ghosts of Belfast, AKA The Twelve, will be published by Ediciones Urano as part of yet another Neville two-book deal. Is there no stopping this Northern Irish crime fiction dynamo? I hope not. Stuart Neville is going to be the best thing since fried soda bread, it would seem, and we at CSNI salute him.

In slightly related news, Todd Robinson, the Big Daddy of Thuglit got in touch with me yesterday to let me know my short story, Hard Rock, will appear in the February issue of the e-zine. I'll post a link when it goes live.

How's that slightly related? Well, didn't Nat Sobel read Stuart Neville's The Last Dance on that very e-zine? Yes. Yes, he did. But you know, lightning rarely strikes twice. I wouldn't expect the same thing to happen to me. Dream about it, maybe. Expect? Not at all. I'm just happy to have another story out there!

Monday, 15 December 2008

Feelin' Not-So-Good

Might be a day or two before I get this show back on the road. I'm a bit under the weather and have been since yesterday. Lost some of my internet vim. It'll return at some point, I'm sure. Until then, here's a couple of links to keep you going.

Stuart Neville Secures French Publishing Deal

Tony Bailie Complains About a Couple of Bastards

Peter Rozovsky Gives Me and Mike Stone's Project a Hup-Ya

Enjoy! I'll be blech.

Thursday, 11 December 2008

Myths and Mobsters

I’m getting this announcement in before my co-editor lets the cat out of the bag over at Book Smugglers. Yup, I said co-editor. That’d be Mike Stone. And we’d be editing a collection of short stories. Crime fiction stories, as if you had to ask.

A while ago, I was contacted by Mark Deniz, who runs the ever-growing small press Morrigan Books. He’d read some of my work and enjoyed what was happening here at CSNI. He also happened to know that Mike Stone is a good friend of mine, and as he’d wanted to work with Mike on a project for quite a while, he figured I might be able to persuade him onto this one.

Morrigan Books aims to put out the very best in dark genre fiction, and who does dark crime fiction better than the Irish? Nobody, in my opinion. And luckily, Mark was willing to accept this opinion. It left one small problem, though. How to set this collection apart from Ken Bruen’s excellent Dublin Noir and Colin Bateman’s forthcoming Belfast Nights? Well, it’s Morrigan Books, right? Morrigan is the Celtic goddess of war. Why not ask for stories with an Irish mythology theme? Why not, indeed?

We asked a bunch of writers and they all seemed intrigued. We’ve even received a number of stories already. Ken Bruen, Adrian McKinty, Garbhan Downey, Sam Millar and Tony Bailie have each sent us something. And I know Paul Charles has completed a first draft of his contribution and that Neville Thompson is working on his. We’ve also received positive interest from Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Arlene Hunt, Aifric Campbell, Lucy Caldwell, Ian McDonald and John McAllister. Me and Mike might even write something, but next to the talent we’ve attracted, we’d need to write something special to justify a place amongst it.

So, what do you think?

And if the whimsy takes you, could you suggest a title? Me and Mike are stumped. At the moment, Stuart Neville’s suggestion is in the lead; Myths and Mobsters (which I've swiped for the title of this post). Mike’s decided to run a draw in which you can win a paperback copy of his novella collection, Fourtold. Each suggestion will be entered into it and the winner picked at random. I’ll sweeten the deal by adding a crime fiction book from my collection. I’ll give the winner a choice of books after the draw. Leave your answer here, or over at Mike’s Book Smugglers piece. It should go live in about four hours.

UPDATE -- Mike's Book Smugglers article can be found right here.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

A Wee Review - The Truth Commissioner by David Park

In the last year David Park’s The Truth Commissioner has been acclaimed by many as the most important book to come out of Northern Ireland’s current political situation. And maybe it is. I haven’t read all the books that aim to examine this stage of the peace process, and I doubt they’ve all been written yet, so I’ll reserve judgement on that count. What I can say, is that The Truth Commissioner left me thinking about Northern Ireland in terms of my own Northern Irish/Irish/British(?) identity and my confused and often ignored idea of personal politics. But the review isn’t about me and my political commitment problems. So, on with my impressions of the book.

On purely a story-telling level, there’s a strong but slow-paced plot driven by a huge amount of time spent inside the four protagonists’ heads. The structure of the book reads like a collection of four interlinking novellas until the final act, which then ups the pace with shorter chapters and a number of POV shifts. The prose is very dense, and unless you’re entirely plugged in, a lot of nuances could be glossed over. Luckily, Park’s writing is beautifully crafted, so it’s not as big a chore as the first glance at the page might suggest.

The four main characters are all very interesting, which they’d need to be. The book is minimal in action and big on introspection. Each character is believable in their flaws, entirely human and utterly miserable. I’m slightly worried that they’re a depressing representation of modern Northern Irish man, but then, one of them is English. I don’t want to go too deep in examining them, as Park has done that for you, so instead I’ll give you a quick run through:

Stanfield – The truth commissioner. He’s been drafted in to oversee a vital stage in the peace and reconciliation process in which the circumstances around the ‘disappeared’ are investigated. However professional he seems, his personal life is far from enviable.

Gilroy – The ex-provo politician. He’s tied in to a particular ‘disappeared’ case under investigation but the issue seems to be overshadowed by his daughter’s impending marriage.

Fenton – The ex-RUC officer. His involvement in the investigation has dragged him out of a peaceful retirement.

Danny – A young man trying to build a new life in America. But not even the Atlantic Ocean can insulate him from his past.

There’s a melancholy running though the book. Isolation and loneliness seem to be the predominant feelings shared by the cast. They’re all haunted in their own way, and for much the same reason in the cases of Gilroy, Fenton and Danny. Little comfort to those who believe they have suffered loss at the hands of these characters, but perhaps a hint of a way towards reconciliation? Yes, we’ve all been hurt by the Troubles, even those perceived to have done the hurting? Is that the book’s message? Possibly. I don’t want to get too cerebral about it, but I will say, it’s a decent, nay, strong read. But don’t expect to blast through it. This one will leave you thinking.

As far as an examination of the political situation in Northern Ireland goes, The Truth Commissioner is a well-balanced and very interesting assessment. It’s not preachy and nor does it lean towards any particular political opinion. We need more books like this, and I need to read them. If you’re Northern Irish, you could almost consider it therapy.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

Top Stuff 2008

Saturday brought good news for Sam Millar in the form of much lauding. The Belfast Telegraph (or Belly Telly in some quarters) did a top-ten-reads-in-2008 piece. Millar’s Bloodstorm took the top spot. To put this in perspective, he beat Maeve Binchy and Frank McCourt to get there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about my own top ten for 2008. Declan Burke over at Crime Always Pays beat me to the punch last week. John McFetridge did well there, didn’t he? Note to self; hurry the hell up and read his books. I’ve started reading his meta-fiction series on his Bouchercon road trip with Dec Burke to tide me over. It’s a lot of fun.

Also, Adrian McKinty posted Stephen King’s top ten albums for 2008, which is a bit of a cop-out if you ask me (sorry, Ade, going for that controversy thing). However, since a precedent has been set, I’ll give myself a bit of a cop-out top ten. You see, I’ve read a lot of great books this year, and it’d take ages to judge my best reads of 2008. And I don't have that kind of time. So, here’s a list of my favourite CSNI interviews – and it’s a baker’s dozen, rather than a top ten:

Ken Bruen
Colin Bateman
John Connolly
Lucy Caldwell
Ian Sansom
Declan Burke
Adrian McKinty
Brian McGilloway
Garbhan Downey
Arlene Hunt
Neville Thompson
Stuart Neville
Aifric Campbell

Honourable mention to Sam Millar for being the first CSNI interviewee. And the circle is complete.

Friday, 5 December 2008

Another Collaboration Bruen (Brewin’ geddit? No? Dec Burke’s much better at these pun things, and he knew about this before me, mutter-mutter...)

So, Ken Bruen. In 2008 he released Once Were Cops, Sanctuary and a UK and Ireland version of American Skin. He also teamed up with Jason Starr for the third time and released The Max through Hard Case Crime. Have we had enough of the most accomplished crime fiction writer to come out of Ireland? Hell, no. He’s the best for a reason. So I was delighted to learn that 2009 would see another collaboration release from the Galway gentleman.

Talk about prolific.

And who’s he teaming up with? Why don’t I let David Thompson of Busted Flush Press field that one?

“Coming fall 2009, Tower marks the first collaboration between crime writers Ken Bruen (The Guards, Once Were Cops) and Reed Farrel Coleman (The James Deans, The Fourth Victim), and the first original novel published by Busted Flush Press. With four Shamus Awards and four Edgar Award nominations (and plenty of other trophies!) between them, Bruen and Coleman combine forces with a novel that is steeped in metaphysics, baseball, and brutality...”

And how about a little bit about the book, David? Something blurb-like, maybe?

"Born into a rough Brooklyn neighborhood, outsiders in their own families, Nick and Todd forge a lifelong bond that persists in the face of crushing loss, blood, and betrayal. Low-level wiseguys with little ambition and even less of a future, the friends become major players in the potential destruction of an international crime syndicate that stretches from the cargo area at Kennedy Airport to the streets of New York, Belfast, and Boston to the alleyways of Mexican border towns. Their paths are littered with the bodies of undercover cops, snitches, lovers, and stone-cold killers.”

That sounds brilliant, man.

But I have to wait so frickin’ long. What’ll I do until then?

Well, thanks to David’s Busted Flush Press, I’ll soon be enjoying Reed Farrel Coleman’s Walking The Perfect Square and Ken Bruen’s A Fifth of Bruen. I’ll be sure to let you know what I think.

Pop on over to Busted Flush and see what else they have to offer.

Oh, one more thing. Call it a cherry on top, or a belt of scotch. Allan Guthrie, Scotland's Noir Original, is feckin' editing Tower! A triumvirate of talent I tell you.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Speaking of Which - A Bit About Sam Millar & The CWN

Did you know that Glen Patterson judged the Brian Moore Short Story Award last year? Well, he did. And Sam Millar won it ten years ago, and believes it was a turning point in his writing career. He even told the folks at BBC Radio Ulster's Artsextra programme all about it. You can listen to it on the Artsextra website for the next five days. Better hurry.

Interviewed alongside him is Mark Madden from the Creative Writers Network. They run the Brian Moore competition every year. Although I've never won the award, I have benefited greatly from my membership there. They introduced me to Ian McDonald two years ago on their mentoring course, told me of an Ian Sansom workshop before I discovered The Mobile Library Series, and tipped me off on a Colin Bateman reading where he signed my copy of Divorcing Jack. I even attended a writing for radio course hosted by Annie McCartney last year. Ah, good times. So, thanks CWN. Keep on truckin'.

Oh, by the way, Tammy Moore did a lot of work for the CWN in her time. Nowadays she can be found writing for Morrigan Books, a new publishing house going from strength to strength in genre fiction. Best of luck to the lot of them.

Tammy's first publication, The Even, can be purchased from the publisher, Amazon or Waterstones. Take your pick.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Congrats Pat!

Okay, Glen Patterson isn't strictly a crime writer. He's of the Belfast literary set. But we won't hold that against him. Instead, let's focus on the positives:

I attended one of his readings at No Alibis this year and it was very good.

He's a friend of David Torrans, who owns No Alibis.

Peter Rozovsky went home to Philly with one of his books, purchased at... No Alibis!

So, I reckon there's a place here for him, and I thought this was great news:

Glenn Patterson, one of Northern Ireland's leading novelists, has been honoured by the Lannan Foundation in the USA with a two-year literary fellowship, worth 100,000. The Arts Council of Northern Ireland, in 2006, honoured him with a Major Individual Artist award worth £15,000.

You'll find a full report on the Arts Council of Northern Ireland website. Click here.

Best of luck, Mister Patterson!

Monday, 1 December 2008

John The Maun

It looks as if John Connolly is reading more Northern Irish crime fiction than I am at the minute. Just yesterday, Declan Burke counter-scooped my scoop with news that John Connolly had expanded on an already stellar blurb for Stuart Neville's debut, The Twelve (or The Ghost's of Belfast in the US). John Connolly thinks that it is, "...the best mystery to have emerged so far from the aftermath of the Troubles." Heady stuff for our always modest Mister Neville, I'd say.

Not only this, but Mister Connolly had only nice things to say upon reading Brian McGilloway's soon to be released, Bleed a River Deep:

Inspector Ben Devlin is that rare creature: a detective who is not violent or tortured, but who is intensely, movingly human, and it is his humanity and decency that grip the reader and give these novels a searing honesty. The Devlin books are set to become one of the great series in modern crime fiction.’

John Connolly (Best selling author of The Reapers.)

Great stuff! Crime fiction from Northern Ireland just keeps going from strength to strength. I fear I'm not going to be able to keep up with it soon. I'll always try to, though. You should too.

Thursday, 27 November 2008

A Noir Original? Me? Really?

It’s been a good self-promotion week. Allow me to bask...

Just two days ago, Stuart Neville described my short story, King Edward, as an example of Norn Noir. I’ve no argument with that at all. I think it’s a killer tag. Noir fiction from Norn Iron. Cracker. There were more kind comments at the story’s venue, A Twist of Noir, and an actual (quite positive) review of it on Eastern Standard Crime. This all pleases me.

And speaking of Noir, a couple of submissions I made to Allan Guthrie’s Noir Originals have passed muster and are now available on the site. Click here to read my interview with Adrian McKinty, and click here to read the first chapter of Piranhas; the post-Troubles crime fiction novel I’m trying to house right now.

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

The Twelve and Twenty Thousand

Back when CSNI got its 10,000th visit, I reported that Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand had been bought by Serpent's Tail for UK release. Well, just under another 10,000 visits have rolled around since then and I've news in a similar vein. Stuart Neville's The Ghosts of Belfast has sold to Soho Press in New York in another two-book deal worked out by agent Nat Sobel. And in the states it'll still be titled The Ghosts of Belfast. However, the UK edition, to be published by Harvil Secker, have decided to go with a name change. It'll be called The Twelve. And look at the pretty cover they've designed for it. A cracker, eh?

So, what's wrong with using Belfast in a title for a UK release? Well, Ian Sansom might have touched on it in a recent workshop I attended. He was told by a publisher, when pitching his novel set in Northern Ireland, that two of the most boring words in the book world are Northern Ireland. Well, I don't know about that, but let's just assume it's true for argument's sake. If the Norn Iron talent is getting out there with work that is sold on the basis of killer story and deft writing, rather than the diminishing interest the rest of the world has for anything to do with The Troubles, then fine. Just goes to show how good the new breed of Northern Irish writer really is. The most boring setting in the world, brought back to life by the huge talent that resides there.

That'll show the begrudgers.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Publishing Karma & A Twist of Noir

My story, King Edward, is now available to read on the newly established A Twist of Noir. John McFetridge pointed me to this site in a comment to a previous post, and if it's good enough for him...


Where did I leave that cigar?

The thought has no place in this situation. Vinto Feehan is pushing the stubby snout of his .38 revolver into my forehead. Twisting his wrist to grind it into the thin layer of flesh. It hurts just a little more than the wine-before-beer hangover, kicking the shit out of the inside of my skull. My stomach is scraped out from puking, brought on by binge-drinking and stress. I’d been expecting Vinto, you see. That’s why I’d sparked up the cigar in the first place.

You'll find the rest here.

Have a wee read of it, why don't you? It'd make me look a bit popular if you left a comment on the site.

Monday, 24 November 2008

A Wee Review - Fifty-to-One, by Charles Ardai

The concept of this book is an interesting one. Charles Ardai (along with Max Phillips) founded Hard Case Crime just about five years ago with the intention to bring the world “...the best in hardboiled crime fiction, ranging from lost noir masterpieces to new novels by today’s most powerful writers, featuring stunning original cover art in the grand pulp style.” A commendable mission statement, wouldn’t you say? Or is it a company objective? I can’t remember.

Anyway, back to the book’s concept. Fifty-to-One is the fiftieth pulp-style paperback to be released under the HCC label, and to mark the achievement, Ardai challenged himself to write an old fashioned crime caper with a chapter named after each of the books in the series. In the order they were released! What a cool idea. But what kind of a man puts himself through something like that?

A talented one, it would seem.

The more cynical among us might point out that Ardai is in a pretty nice position as editor of HCC, and to release a novel through your own publishing imprint isn’t as big an achievement as it would be to sell it somewhere else. Well, I’m not that cynical. Not anymore. Because in reading Fifty-to-One I’ve gained at least a little insight into what Ardai must have put himself through to make it fly. I mean, some of those chapter titles are just out there, yet they all snap into place to form a great tale.

Set in the 1950s the story is told, for the most part, through Tricia Heverstadt, a wet-behind-the-ears country girl from South Dakota. She arrives in New York City at the start of the book and in the first chapter, titled Grifter’s Game, she learns what kind of place the Big Apple is. Penniless and homeless in a city she doesn’t know, and there’s so much more bad luck to come. There are less than a handful of POV switches, including a chapter from a fictional not-so-true crime novel (published by a shady house with a name you might recognise), but Ardai has a nice method of passing the baton from one character to another that keeps it all tidy.

Ardai spins us a fun, comedic yarn featuring smokin’-hot dames, Keystone-type cops, ‘Shut Uppa You Face’ Italian mobsters, crooked bookies, blackmailers, unlicensed boxers, smut-peddling publishers and crime fiction writers. And that’s only the half of it. The writing is straight-forward, the dialogue snappy, and the excitement, twists and action scenes are ever-present. Characters by the name of Spillane, Block and Westlake show up too! It’s a book about bad luck and moxie in the face of adversity. The only thing that disappointed me was the underuse of the word ‘moxie’ but I’ve made up for that now.

The plot is of the variety employed by Declan Burke in his crime caper, The Big O. Fun-filled and coincidence-ridden with some dark undercurrents driving the characters’ motivations. It’s a lovely combination and I’m impressed. But then, you’d expect quality from a writer whose past work has earned him a Shamus Award. Yup, that’s right, folks, a little bit of amateur detection turns up the fact that Charles Ardai’s pseudonym is Richard Aleas (Dick Alias?), and his novel Songs of Innocence won best PI paperback in 2008.

Fifty-to-One is a wisecracking novel from a wizened and highly-respected era. Thanks be to Hard Case Crime for bringing back this kind of book. I want more. Luckily, I’ve a copy of The Max by Ken Bruen and Jason Starr at hand. And I wouldn’t mind a few more titles from the range for Christmas. Just putting it out there guys. Still plenty of shopping days left...

Sunday, 23 November 2008

A Mini Interview - Allan Guthrie

ALLAN GUTHRIE (Kiss Her Goodbye)
Allan Guthrie’s first novel, Two-Way Split, was shortlisted for the CWA Debut Dagger Award and his short stories have appeared in a variety of magazines and anthologies. He is also the creator of the Noir Originals Web site and commissioning editor for both Point Blank Press and the Pulp Originals line of e-books. Guthrie lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, on whose mean streets his books are set

Q1. Hard Case Crime seems to have become almost a sub-genre over the last five years. To be involved in it must feel like you’ve become part of an exclusive club. What have been some of the highlights of this membership?

Any club that lets me in can't be that exclusive! But, yeah, when I signed my contract with Hard Case I was unpublished. For a new writer trying to kickstart a career, Hard Case was a godsend. Charles Ardai had a very clear vision of what he wanted to do, and the passion and expertise to make it happen. So although I was signed up very early on, I knew I was in safe hands. Highlights for me have to include being edited by Charles, who is one of the most insightful editors in the business, and the Edgar nomination that ensued. The latter would never have happened without the former.

Q2. It’s all about hardboiled, noir and pulp fiction at Hard Case Crime. The golden age of paperback novels in revival. What do you think the future holds for this type of book?

When I first started writing in 2001, noir was a dirty word. The market's a lot more inclusive now, and noir has become much sexier (that's a technical term used in marketing, btw). Hardboiled/noir/pulp is still a niche market, but it's a lively one and if it continues to attract good writers, it'll be around for a while yet.

Q3. One of the most striking things about the Hard Case novels is the beautiful cover artwork. How did you feel when you first saw the cover for your book? How did it compare to the conception of the characters you had in mind when you were writing your book?

I'd have to add seeing the cover for the first time as one of the highlights of my HCC 'membership'. Charles asked if I had any ideas for the cover, so I mentioned a particular scene that contained some interesting dynamics. And a few weeks later, he sent a mock-up of exactly that scene. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe how breathtakingly brilliant it was. The artist, Chuck Pyle, did a helluva job. The characters bear absolutely no resemblance to the ones I had in mind when I was writing the book, but that's not a bad thing.

Q4. What are some crime novels or authors, either within or outside Hard Case, that have impressed you this year?

I'll restrict myself to Hard Case-type noirs or we'll very likely be here till Hard Case's 100th anniversary. Bent cops have made quite an impact this year. Dave Zeltserman's SMALL CRIMES is his best novel to date, with the promise of even better to come next year with PARIAH. Another bent-cop noir is Anthony Neil Smith's YELLOW MEDICINE, with a sequel due out next year called HOGDOGGIN', which blew me away when I read it in manuscript. Tom Piccirilli's become one of my favourite writers over the last couple of years and THE COLD SPOT is a terrific noir about a getaway driver (check out last year's THE FEVER KILL too -- a modern Gold Medal if ever I read one). Debut Canadian author Mike Knowles wrote a hardboiled gangster novel called DARWIN'S NIGHTMARE that reminded me an awful lot of Paul Cain's THE FAST ONE (Knowles's book is intelligible, though!). Christa Faust's MONEY SHOT is a superb unsentimental hardboiled revenge story. SEVERANCE PACKAGE is another classic from Duane Swierczynski. Here in Scotland, Ray Banks continued to show why he's one of the best crime writers in the country with NO MORE HEROES, Edinburgh got a new voice in Tony Black's Gus Drury, who debuted in PAYING FOR IT, and Dundee finally got on the crime fiction map with Russel D McLean's dark and lean PI debut, THE GOOD SON.

Thank you, Allan Guthrie!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

A Mini Interview - Peter Pavia

PETER PAVIA (Dutch Uncle)
Peter Pavia is a writer whose work has appeared in many publications, including GQ, The New York Sun, The New York Post and The New York Times, among others. In addition to Dutch Uncle, he is the author of The Cuba Project—Deception, Dirty Doings, and Double Dealing in Post-Castro Miami and co-author, with Legs McNeil and Jennifer Osborne, of The Other Hollywood: An Oral History of the Adult Film Industry. He has been a faculty member of The New School’s Writing Program since 2001. A Rochester, New York native, Mr. Pavia moved to Manhattan in 1984, where he currently resides with his wife and daughter.

Q1. Hard Case Crime seems to have become almost a sub-genre over the last five years. To be involved in it must feel like you've become part of an exclusive club. What have been some of the highlights of this membership?

I came to Hard Case Crime and to the series’ award-winning writer, editor, and publisher Charles Ardai through an overlapping series of events that were spearheaded by an old school publishing exec by the name of Larry Hughes. (Hughes's quote adorns the back cover of Dutch Uncle). From my very first conversation with Charles, I was convinced that he was totally with the novel in the way it was written, recognized its strengths and its shortcomings, its references and influences. I thought, finally, a kindred spirit. Everybody loved Dutch in manuscript, but nobody knew how to sell it. Charles had a strategy. His enthusiasm and know-how were extremely encouraging. He gave me a break when I needed one, and gave me the guts to write another day. I'm not a numerologist, but Dutch squeaked under the wire as the 12th Hard Case Crime novel on the original list of 12, the number of fullness, of completion. The publication of Dutch Uncle convinced me to stop attributing everything to coincidence and further persuaded me that there is some positive force in the universe. How's that for a highlight?

Q2. It's all about hardboiled, noir and pulp fiction at Hard Case Crime. The golden age of paperback novels in revival. What do you think the future holds for this type of book?

The whole idea of pulp bugs me. Tabloid newspapers are pulpy, formulaic westerns are pulpy. Chop-socky movies are pulpy. This doesn't mean that I don't love those things, but in terms of what I like to think of as crime fiction, 'pulp' suggests badly written books cranked out at a couple of pennies a word, and a complete manuscript that's dashed off in about a month. I'm not going to name names here, past or present, and this stuff has its place, but it is in the main, unreadable crap that isn't worth anybody's time.

Hardboiled is a style more or less invented by Dashiell Hammett and yes, Ernest Hemingway (and James M. Cain), in the 1920s. Go back and look at the stylistic similarities between say, The Maltese Falcon and The Sun Also Rises. These writers were craftsmen who created real literature; Hemingway won a Nobel Prize for Christ's sake. I could make the argument that Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby is a crime novel, and some grad student probably should probably take up that mantle. (Are you listening, MFA candidates? I just gave you a thesis.) I think the future holds a healthy respect for the genre, but in the form of well-wrought books that strive to expand noir's (if you will) somewhat narrow parameters. This is precisely what I've set out to accomplish with my current novel, This Fallen Kingdom, and I'll be very curious to see what Hard Case fans make of it.

Q3. One of the most striking things about the Hard Case novels is the beautiful cover artwork. How did you feel when you first saw the cover for your book? How did it compare to the conception of the characters you had in mind when you were writing your book?

Hey, man. Close enough for rock n' roll. This guy Farrell is an artist, and what he sees in his mind is different than what I see in mine, or what you might see in yours. How did I feel? I was so gratified I almost cried. Maybe I did cry. "Awfully easy to be hard-boiled about everything during the day," Hemingway said, "But at night it is another thing."

Q4. What are some crime novels or authors, either within or outside Hard Case, that have impressed you this year?

Dirty little secret time: I don't read much crime fiction. I spend a great deal of time writing, and I tend to read non-fiction that's going to inform my own work. Having bloviated thusly, I'm a huge admirer of George V. Higgins, especially The Friends of Eddie Coyle. I think James Ellroy is wildly entertaining. As for my Hard Case Crimeys, Pete Hamill was my hero when I was a kid, and that's not an exaggeration. He was the guy I wanted to be when I was 14. I'm dying to read Charles Ardai's Fifty to One, and I'm curious about E. Howard Hunt's House Dick. I was fortunate enough to become friendly with Hunt near the end of his days, and the guy was simply larger than life, even in his 80s. There was almost nothing he hadn't done, and he had participated in so much dark history, including falling on his sword for the Nixon gang after the Watergate mess. Howard Hunt was a great American.

Thank you, Peter Pavia!

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Mini Interview - Seymour Shubin

SEYMOUR SHUBIN (Witness To Myself)
In 1953, Seymour Shubin published his first novel, Anyone’s My Name. It quickly became a New York Times bestseller and went on to be recognized as a classic of the field, published in numerous international editions and taught in college courses on both literature and criminology. Subsequently, Shubin wrote more than a dozen other novels, including one, The Captain, that was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award and selected for the mystery reference work 100 Great Detectives.

Q1. Hard Case Crime seems to have become almost a sub-genre over the last five years. To be involved in it must feel like you’ve become part of an exclusive club. What have been some of the highlights of this membership?

The first highlight that comes to mind is my experience with Charles. His editing was always right on target. He was quick to reply to whatever questions or comments I had. I was delighted too by the general reaction to the novel. I had wondered whether my story of a man who was tortured by the memory of a murder he'd committed when he was a teenager, whether that fit under the umbrella of noir. The reactions my book got--some the highest praise any writer could hope for--quickly put that concern to rest. Noir is not a stereotype of hardboiled characters, shootings, and so on. Among so many other things, it can include the horrors that the mind under stress can inflict.

Q2. It’s all about hardboiled, noir and pulp fiction at Hard Case Crime. The golden age of paperback novels in revival. What do you think the future holds for this type of book?

I think the future of the noir novel, in all its forms, is strong and bright. For one thing, to put it simply, these novels offer sheer entertainment. For another, and far more complex, they enable the reader to enter a world of emotions and action that he/she shares with the writer in a you-are-there way.

Q3. One of the most striking things about the Hard Case novels is the beautiful cover artwork. How did you feel when you first saw the covers for your books? How did they compare to the conceptions of the characters you had in mind when you were writing your books?

I was delighted with the cover. Although it did not specifically portray a particular scene in the book, it conveyed far more--the essence of the novel itself: entrapment and pursuit. I wish I owned it.

Q4. What are some crime novels or authors, either within or outside Hard Case, that have impressed you this year?

I'm afraid I've been so busy writing my own new novel, and haven't wanted to be influenced, that I haven't read any crime novels this year.

Thank you, Seymour Shubin!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

A Mini Interview - Ken Bruen

KEN BRUEN (Bust, Slide, The Max)
The Galway, Ireland-born author of more than a dozen extremely dark crime novels, Ken Bruen was nominated for nearly every major award in the mystery field (and won the Shamus Award) for his book The Guards, the first in his series about Jack Taylor and his first book to be published in the United States. In addition to his work as a novelist, Bruen has a Ph.D. in metaphysics and spent 25 years as a teacher in Africa, Japan, Southeast Asia, and South America.

Q1. Hard Case Crime seems to have become almost a sub-genre over the last five years. To be involved in it must feel like you’ve become part of an exclusive club. What have been some of the highlights of this membership?

To really be part of the most innovative, exciting publishing event of the past 50 years, the covers, who wouldn't kill to see their name on one of those stunning collectors items and to work with Charles, not only fun but a great challenge.

Q2. It’s all about hardboiled, noir and pulp fiction at Hard Case Crime. The golden age of paperback novels in revival. What do you think the future holds for this type of book?

I think it will make the fat cats sit up and clean up their snotty act, to see that a real committed publisher, who obviosuly cares deeply about the readers is going to make them get off their ivory towers.

Q3. One of the most striking things about the Hard Case novels is the beautiful cover artwork. How did you feel when you first saw the covers for your books? How did the art compare to the conception of the characters you had in mind when you were writing the books?

I went...Holy Fook...still do, and the third cover is the most stunning of all.

Q4. What are some crime novels or authors, either within or outside Hard Case, that have impressed you this year?

Richard Aleas, and here's rooting for that Shamus award; Brian McGilloway, he knocks me out; Tony Black, Megan Abbot, Adrian McKinty, the guy is a friggin genius; Christa Faust; Jason Starr, with his new standalone due soon.

Thank you, Ken Bruen!

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A Mini Interview - Max Allan Collins

MAX ALLAN COLLINS (Two For the Money, The Last Quarry, Deadly Beloved, The First Quarry)
Author of Road to Perdition, the acclaimed graphic novel that inspired the movie starring Paul Newman and Tom Hanks, and of the multiple-award-winning Nathan Heller series of historical hardboiled mysteries, Max Allan Collins is one of most prolific and popular authors working in the hardboiled field today. He is also a filmmaker whose work includes "Shades of Noir," "Real Time," and the documentary "Mike Hammer’s Mickey Spillane."

Q1. Hard Case Crime seems to have become almost a sub-genre over the last five years. To be involved in it must feel like you’ve become part of an exclusive club. What have been some of the highlights of this membership?

I knew from the start that I wanted to be part of Hard Case Crime -- it reflected exactly the kind of book I grew up on, the quarter/35-cent reprints of Spillane, Hammett, Chandler, James M. Cain, and the Gold Medal and Dell originals, Jim Thompson, Richard S. Prather, John D. MacDonald. Those books, with their vivid sexy covers, connected with me as a teenager, and led me to where I am, for good or ill.

Frankly, some people advised against getting involved, at least doing originals, because I can get better money elsewhere. But Hard Case has given me the opportunity to write whatever I choose, essentially -- getting to re-visit my Quarry character, for example, or do a Ms. Tree prose novel. The bonus has been that these books of mine have connected with both readers and reviewers, and have attracted attention to my work in general. THE LAST QUARRY is now a film called THE LAST LULLABY, from a script co-written by me.

Q2. It’s all about hardboiled, noir and pulp fiction at Hard Case Crime. The golden age of paperback novels in revival. What do you think the future holds for this type of book?

There will always be a place for the noir novel -- the crime novels that have heists at their center, or murderous love triangles, or private eye novels with vengeance and/or femme fatales as their engines. They may change physically -- although I think the retro look, recalling not just old paperback covers but movie posters and the films themselves will have enduring appeal. Beautiful women and masculine guys in provocative situations, both in the stories and on the covers, have a lasting drawing power.

Q3. One of the most striking things about the Hard Case novels is the beautiful cover artwork. How did you feel when you first saw the covers for your books? How did they compare to the conceptions of the characters you had in mind when you were writing your books?

I was disappointed in TWO FOR THE MONEY, because I'd been keen to have a really strong, old-fashioned paperbacky cover and I got a fairly stilted design with a guy as my Nolan character (who was overtly described as Lee Van Cleef) looking like Nick Nolte. And I only did my first original because I dared Charles Ardai to get me Bob McGinnis. I said, "Get me a McGinnis cover, and I'll do a new Quarry novel." By God, he came through. The subsequent covers have been fabulous, including the Ms. Tree cover by her co-creator, my longtime collaborator Terry Beatty.

But striking covers aren't enough. Hard Case would be gone by now if the books themselves hadn't been worthwhile.

Q4. What are some crime novels or authors, either within or outside Hard Case, that have impressed you this year?

I read very little fiction. I am almost always researching for the historical crime novels I'm doing or hoping to do. And when I do read crime fiction, I often pick out a series and read straight through. I did that with Perry Mason, Poirot and Nero Wolfe, and not long ago did the same with the Inspector Morse novels, having loved the TV series.

The mystery stuff I've loved in recent years has been TV series, mostly British -- LIFE ON MARS and its sequel ASHES TO ASHES, FOYLE'S WAR, the MORSE spin-off LEWIS, SPOOKS (M1-5), HUSTLE and one American show, VERONICA MARS, which is one of the great PI series.

Thank you, Max Allan Collins!

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

4Talent Northern Ireland

Just a brief interruption to Hard Case Crime Week. There's an article about me, my site and I over here at 4Talent NI. Couldn't wait another week to share. Now, if I could just publish a novel or something, I'd be flying!

Charles Ardai - Guest Blog

Hard Case Crime came into existence five years ago after Max Phillips and I had one too many at a neighborhood watering hole and goaded each other into starting a publishing company. Since then, we've published 50 books, with another dozen in the pipeline; have won the Edgar and Shamus Awards (and been nominated multiple times for both, as well as the Barry, the Anthony, and more); have been written up in every major newspaper in America and most major magazines; have been featured on CBS televison and NPR radio; have been called "the best new American publisher to appear in the last decade"; and have had the privilege to work with giants of our field such as Mickey Spillane and Stephen King and Robert McGinnis. It's been a wild ride. And when Gerard suggested we come to CSNI to celebrate our "50th anniversary," I jumped at the chance. What a terrific chance to spend a little time both looking back and looking ahead! Over the next few days, we'll be hearing from some of our authors about their Hard Case Crime experience and from Gerard about his impressions of our special anniversary title, FIFTY-TO-ONE, and I'll be spilling the beans about some of what's coming up next year. Meanwhile, if you've got any questions, feel free to post 'em in the comments section and I'll do my best to tackle them.

--Charles Ardai, Editor

Hard Case Crime

Monday, 17 November 2008

Hard Case Crime Week

You're in for a treat for the next few days, folks. CSNI is going Hard Case Crime for a week, see? Got a problem with that, talk to Charles Ardai. He's got a guest blog due to pop up here tomorrow that explains it all. But he ain't no rat, see? He's a businessman. Respectable, like.

An Interview - Tom Bale

Tom Bale is the author of SKIN AND BONES, a fast-paced thriller set in the Sussex countryside. He lives in Brighton with his family.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m just finishing the first draft of my next book, provisionally entitled TERROR’S REACH, which introduces a possible series character, a former undercover cop. The book is set on a fictional island in the vicinity of Chichester harbour in West Sussex, and the story can best be summed up as “DIE HARD on Sandbanks”!

Q2. Can you give us an idea of Tom Bale’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I drag myself out of bed in time to take my daughter to school, then go for a walk around my little corner of Brighton. During the morning I do my best to write but often seem to lose a few hours on household chores, surfing the Internet, drinking coffee and watching Homes Under The Hammer (oh, the shame!) When the kids get back from school I flee to my study and usually fare a bit better. And recently I’ve developed the habit of returning to work late at night, sometimes till one or two a.m., which doesn’t seem quite such a good idea when the alarm goes off a few hours later.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

A lot of reading: mainly crime and thrillers, plus some non-fiction and dozens of crime-related websites and blogs. I really do spend far, far too much time on the Internet. Other than that, I try to give my family the benefit of my scintillating company (ha!); in the summer I swim in the sea as often as possible, and I have something of a love/hate relationship with DIY. I’m putting up a fence at the moment, which so far has entailed fewer tantrums and a lot less swearing than usual. Perhaps I’m finally getting the hang of it…

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

Only the tried and tested. Read voraciously. Write what interests you. Rewrite again and again. And when you come to submit, make use of the incredible wealth of information about agents and publishers that can now be found online.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I really enjoyed SHATTER by Michael Robotham, Mo Hayder’s RITUAL and KING OF SWORDS by Nick Stone.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

I usually have several books on the go at once, and I’m currently reading Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s THE BLACK SWAN, I SEE YOU by Gregg Hurwitz and NO KISS FOR THE DEVIL by Adrian Magson. I’m also re-reading John Sandford’s PREY series featuring Lucas Davenport. They’re a masterclass in thriller writing.

Q7. Plans for the future?

I hope to go on writing and being published, but I’m taking nothing for granted. It’s a very precarious industry, so best to approach it one book at a time.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

Going back to my teens, when I first started submitting work, I’d do a lot of things differently. Seek more advice, for a start. Submit more widely is another thing – but this was the era of the typewritten top copy and a carbon. After just one or two submissions the top copy was battered, so I would simply ditch it and go on to the next novel, the next short story. I sound like a terrible old fogey, but the advent of home computers and printers has made it so much easier to get your work out in the market.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I had my fair share of heartbreak over the years. One of the worst occasions was when I submitted the opening chapters of a novel to an agent, who replied very quickly by email, saying she was loved it and wanted to see the whole book. I sent it off, thinking I’d made a significant step forward and was in with a good chance, but after waiting six weeks I was woken one morning by the thud of a parcel on the doormat. It had been returned with just a pre-printed rejection slip: not so much as a scribbled signature or comment. I was devastated.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Just to thank you for the time and effort you put in to Crime Scene NI. Sites like this are an enormously valuable resource for crime writers and readers alike.

Thank you, Tom Bale!

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Criminally Good Magazines

Okay, crime fiction magazines, e-zines, web-zines, whatever. It turns out there’s more than a handful of them out there. After a previous post in which I yapped about a lack of venues for crime fiction short stories, constant reader, Colman Keane, emailed me to subtly hint I should dry my eyes, and to point me in the direction of some of his favourite websites. He’s a good lad. Spurred on by this generous time donation, I web-hunted a little more and found an additional few of them myself.

So, I’ve decided to gather the links and collect them all in a wee sidebar. Look to the right and scroll down a little. When I’ve finished the first draft of the current novel-in-progress, I’m going on a short story kick with an aim to go guerrilla on this scene. All out proliferation! Watch me fail miserably with interest, indifference or sadistic pleasure, why don’t you?

And in the meantime, why not check the sites out? If you’re a reader, spend a little time reading. If you’re a writer, check out the up-and-coming competition. Some of these markets pay and some don’t. They all publish crime fiction in some shape or form. I’m not advising writers to give their work away for free, nor am I advising against it. Your work, your call. But feel free to comment on the paying vs. non-paying market if you feel strongly either way. I’m not particularly passionate on the topic, but I prefer to send my short stuff to paying markets.

If you know of any other magazines that I haven’t mentioned, drop me a comment or an email and I’ll add them to the little bunch. Alternatively, if any of the links are dead or the 'zines are dying, I want to hear about that too.

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

NI Writers - Could youse slow down with the greatness for a wee bit?

Seems like Northern Irish writers just don't rest.

What a week!

Ian Sansom is running a series of NaNoWriMo workshops from the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen's University every Wednesday at 1:00 pm throughout the month of November. I attended the first one, and was once again blown away by what an energetic, funny and excellent creative writing teacher he is. And who says those who can't teach? Next guy that does, I'm lobbing a copy of The Delegate's Choice at them.

Tomorrow's workshop will include a Q&A with Stuart Neville. I'll have to get there early and get a good seat.

And I told you about Brian McGilloway, right?

Sam Millar, media junky that he is, had even more kind words splashed about the papers this week.

Bloody Terrifying (This was the large headline across the page and cover of Bloodstorm).

Bleak, but written stylishly, this grim thriller frightened me to death and I don’t mind telling you it scared the living daylights out of me. I was almost trembling as I finished each page and began the next one. So much so, I’ll be sticking to Maeve Binchy for a few days, just to get over the shock of reading Bloodstorm.

So if you’re a man or indeed a woman who finds satisfaction in seeing the crime solved at the end, thought quite often seeing the baddies get away with it, then you’ll love Bloodstorm. If you don’t mind threading where angels fear to tread, this book is for you. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted.

As I said at the start of my review, I’m now delving into my Maeve Binchy collection to try and purge the nightmare imagery of Bloodstorm from my mind. An accomplished but absolutely terrifying read.

Sharon Owen, editor, Belfast Telegraph, Books Weekend

Yes, when you write the kind of hard-hitting fiction Sam specialises in, these are indeed kind words.

What else? Well, he may not be crime fictiony, but he is Northern Irish, and his last two book launches were held at No Alibis, so that qualifies him. Ian McDonald's latest novel, Brasyl, was long-listed for the Warwick Prize for Writing, which kicks back a monetary prize as generous as the Man Booker does.

And speaking of Norn Iron writers who launch their books from David Torrans's fine establishment, literary Belfast man, Glen Patterson did a bit on Good Morning Ulster while I was stuck in traffic in an effort to teach the nation how to use the humble apostrophe. Green grocers, take note.

And Tony Bailie is still plugging away over at ecopunks. He has some interesting stuff to say about John Banville/Benjamin Black.

No doubt McKinty, Bateman, Downey et al those unmentioned also did some marvellous things this week, but I'm meant to be writing here. I've signed myself up for NaNoWriMo and I've still 35K words to write. Thank you, Ian Sansom and Stuart Neville.

One more thing. Check out Tammy Moore's revamped website. On this page alone you'll find articles aplenty I wish I'd written.

What you waiting for?

Monday, 10 November 2008

An Interview - John McFetridge

John McFetridge – I live in and write about Toronto – cops and criminals, usually organized. Reviews have most often called me a disciple of Elmore Leonard which is fine by me. I like the idea of the writer not poking his nose in and letting the characters tell their own stories. One of the best things said about my books is that the criminals aren't as smart as they think they are and the cops aren't as dumb as they let on.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

My novel Swap is finished and I hope it will be published in '09. I don't have dates yet.

So now I'm working on a new novel called Tumbling Dice. It's about a rock band that broke up in the mid-80's getting back together to play the casino circuit – and rob a few along the way. At the last stop on the tour the casino is being run by the guy who was their manager (and who ripped them off) back in the day and who's now tied in with organized crime. Some band members decide to extort a couple million dollars out of him and, well, it doesn't go exactly as planned. It's sex and drugs and rock'n'roll.

Q2. Can you give us an idea of John McFetridge’s typical up-to-the-armpits-in-ideas-and-time writing day?

I'm almost embarrassed to say. Ten years ago when my wife and I decided to have kids I was working freelance and she had a nice steady job (she's an engineer). When our son Doug was born I became a stay at home dad (sahd, pronounced sad). Now, Doug and his brother Jimmy are both in school all day and I'm still at home.

So, the boys go to school and I write. Uninterrupted for two and half hours. We have lunch together and then I get another two and a half hours. Really, I should be writing two or three series under different names, or at least a kids' series like McKinty.

Q3. What do you do when you’re not writing?

I play with the kids. I walk the dog. I do “research” which is what I call endless internet surfing.

Q4. Any advice for a greenhorn trying to break into the crime fiction scene?

All those old cliches are true – write the book you want to read. Only put in the stuff you really like, entertain yourself. There are no rules.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

George V. Higgins' The Friends of Eddie Coyle. I don't know how I got this far without reading it. Fantastic stuff.

Q7. Plans for the future?

More novels. My books are a sort of loose series with a large ensemble cast – main characters in one book are minor characters in others so I plan to keep going with that.

Q8. With regards to your writing career to date, would you do anything differently?

That advice I gave about writing the book you want to read? I'd have done that a lot sooner. When I finished university I got sidetracked into movies and tried to write screenplays for years. That was all about rewrites and getting notes from producers and directors and chasing “demographics” and markets and it wasn't till I said, “fuck it,” and just wrote the book I wanted that I had any success.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

All the movie stuff was bad. But also, when I was in university in the early 80's I wrote a private eye novel and spent a long time sending out queries (typewriters, snail mail, it was the dark ages!) and actually got a few agents to read the whole manuscript. They all said the same thing – it wasn't literary enough to be a hardcover novel and it wasn't hardboiled enough to be a paperback original. I wrote another novel and heard the same thing a lot more times. I say this was my worst experience because I got so close a few times and the reason I was rejected was because my writing wasn't good enough – I hadn't fully committed to it and was wishy-washy. Those agents were right. It was really another twenty years before I wrote another novel, finally getting to the point where I just wrote what I wanted.

Q10. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

I want to say how much I like websites like this one and Declan's Crime Always Pays and Detectives Beyond Borders and International Noir and so many more that have really opened up the world to me. People are saying a lot these days about newspapers cutting back on reviews (and they are, and that's terrible) but I've discovered more great writers in the last year than I would have in ten years of newspaper reviews. And from all over the world. I think it was McKinty who said the internet is our Paris of the 30's and as much as I'd prefer to be in some cool cafe, this is a good second choice.

Thanks for taking the time and putting in the effort.

Thank you, John McFetridge!

Friday, 7 November 2008

BIG BIG Borderlands

I attended the Big Big Reading Group discussion at Lisburn City Library last night. The subject was Borderlands by Brian McGilloway, and the debonair Mister McGilloway was there in person to give us an insight into his debut novel. Not many people attended, which quite surprised me, but on the bright side, it made for a more intimate evening and meant that no question went unanswered. And boy, when a question was asked did McGilloway give his audience value for money? Aye, he did. (The night was free actually, if you want to get technical. But then, to be even more technical, time = money, and we spent a good hour and a half listening to him.)

He spoke at length of the reasons behind his choice to write crime fiction. It seems David Torrans of No Alibis has a lot to answer for. He was the man who recommended Ian Rankin and Colin Dexter to a young bright-eyed McGilloway, fresh out of Queen’s University with a head full of literary tomes and looking for something a little lighter. He soon realised that crime fiction did not necessarily mean a lighter, easier read, but by then he was hooked on the genre.

Six years ago, McGilloway’s wife was expecting their first child. Big, big life-changing stuff. And at that time all his favourite crime fiction characters seemed to be on their way out. Morse was dead, Rankin close to retirement, James Lee Burke’s Robicheaux was coming to terms with his mortality, and so were his fans. Did McGilloway cry himself to sleep? Well, maybe once, but then he got up, dried his eyes and decided he didn’t need Dexter, Rankin or Burke. He’d write his own character! And so, Inspector Benedict Devlin was born.

This we found out in the first ten minutes of the discussion. We also learned of how McGilloway decided Devlin should be a family man first and a cop second, unlike the work-obsessed crime fiction protagonists that came before him. How Devlin did the things that McGilloway no longer could, like smoking or walking a Basset Hound. But also, Devlin shared a lot of McGilloway’s concerns for the society he was bringing his family up in.

And we learned so much more, but at this stage, I’d abandoned the notebook and concentrated on listening to the man.

The evening was capped with a glass of wine and a sneak preview reading from the latest McGilloway novel, Bleed a River Deep. And those guys at the Lisburn City Library know how to make you feel at home. Lovely place, by the way. It was my first time there, and I was very impressed. And you know, I had a pretty wild youth, saw a lot of libraries, so I know what I’m talking about!

Also, I had the pleasure of grabbing a few minute’s of Mister McGilloway’s time. We had a good aul natter about writing and the not-so-easy task of fitting it into a hectic family life. A real gentleman. I look forward to meeting him again.

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

A Wee Review - Eight Ball Boogie by Declan Burke - Tag Team Style

Mike Stone: Hiya, mate. I finished Declan Burke’s Eight Ball 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 Eight Ball 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 Eight Ball 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!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

We Need to Talk About Devlin

If you're in the Lisburn area on Thursday night, here's something you might consider doing.

And while we're talking about Brian McGilloway, I figure you might like a wee peek at the cover for the third in the Inspector Devin series.

It's a beauty, ain't it?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Sam on the Lam - Another US Bloodstorm Review

Sam Millar continues to do us proud on the review front. Here's one that appeared in Booklist for the US release of Bloodstorm:

Irish crime writer, Sam Millar (The Redemption Factory) is back with a brand new anti-hero, Karl Kane…

Thirty years ago Robert Mitchum and Michael Winner reprised The Big Sleep, setting their version of Raymond Chandler’s classic California crime novel in modern-day London. Surprisingly, the change of venue worked. In Bloodstorm, Millar’s wisecracking PI Karl Kane, though navigating the cockeyed lanes of twenty-first-century Belfast, could just as well be rambling the mean streets of prewar L.A. in tandem with Philip Marlowe. Private-eye-novel conventions that no longer are believable in the U.S.—the presence of an admiring (and foxy) Girl Friday, who draws a paycheck and does nothing, for example, or the hero’s habit of spouting off for the heck of it to the police (in the age of Homeland Security)—somehow seems right at home in the context of Millar's contemporary Belfast...

Millar’s story line, too, will remind fans of the Marlowe stories; it’s as masterful as anything Chandler concocted by stitching together unrelated short stories. Crime noir doesn’t get much darker or grittier than this shocking tale of corruption and revenge...

Altogether, Bloodstorm is a real find for aficionados of the classic hard-boiled novel who would like to see the form updated without it smelling like an anachronism.

— Steve Glassman, Booklist

And at the weekend Sam dropped me a line to ask that I pass on a thank you to all those who attended the Take Two for Crime event in Dublin featuring Sam and Paul Charles and "special thanks to song master extraordinaire Paul Brady for his excellent contribution to the show," says Sam.

Happy days.