Monday, 29 June 2009

Garbhan Downey Event

Easons, Foyleside, 1pm to 3pm Saturday, July 4

Who said flower-growing was for pansies?

Guildhall Press are delighted to announce the release on July 4 of War of the Blue Roses, the riotous new novel from Garbhan Downey. The author will be signing copies of the book this Saturday, July 4 at Easons, Foyleside, from 1pm to 3pm.

War of the Blue Roses is a rollicking black comedy set in the world of gardening and international politics. A US sponsored gardening competition in the little country village of Mountrose ends up throwing three governments into turmoil when it sparks a worldwide race to grow the world’s first blue rose. The Irish premier is forced to team up with semi-reformed gangsters to stop British and American politicians shanghaiing the Mountrose Prize and walking off with a billion-dollar patent. Bugging, burglary, sabotage, murder and sexual deceit – it’s all part of the rose-growing business. And the bad guys are even worse…

Roses is Downey ’s fifth novel and is set to enhance his reputation as a top-class writer. His last book, Yours Confidentially: Letters of a would-be MP, was listed by a number of reviewers on their ‘Book of the Year’ lists – and was one of the Philadelphia Inquirer’s seven International Crime Fiction ‘must-reads’ of 2008. Early reviews of Roses suggest it is going to enjoy even greater success:

"Dazzlingly clever and laugh-out-loud funny - it would make a great film script" - Derry Journal

"Lashings of spying, killing and romance - a thrilling and intelligent send-up of global politics" - Culture NI

"Incredibly fresh and all-out riotous romp" - The Andersonstown News

The cover of Roses is designed by the award-winning animator John McCloskey, whose film Crumblegiant was nominated for a BAFTA in 2008.

For further information about the author and details of his books, you can visit the Guildhall Press website at And check out the video for the new book on Downey's own website

Contact, Guildhall Press, Tel: (028) 7136 4413; E:

Monday, 22 June 2009

Who Doesn't Like Free Stuff?

From Stuart Neville's website:

To celebrate the publication of Stuart Neville's debut novel, here is a collection of six stories to accompany any dark night. An ageing assassin, a damned bluesman, a jealous husband, an impatient drunk, a frightened antique dealer, and a haunted killer wait within.

PLUS you could be one of five people to win a special limited edtion paperback of THE SIX!* Only fifty signed and numbered copies will ever be produced, and they will not be available in shops. For a chance to win one of these future collector's items, just [click here and follow the simple instructions].

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

It'll Be Dark Come September

Sam Millar's tormented PI, Karl Kane, returns! The Dark Place, published by Brandon, will hit the shelves on the 2nd of September. Here's some nifty pics of the cover. Click the images for an extreme close-up.

Monday, 15 June 2009

An Interview - Tony Black

Tony Black is the author of the Edinburgh-set Gus Dury novels, GUTTED and PAYING FOR IT, both published by Preface/Random House. Marcel Berlins of The Times, said: “Tony Black is the latest in a seemingly unending stream of good Scottish crime writers … The dialogue fizzes and the whole is suffused with black humour. Celtic Noir is in rude health.”

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I'm just at the early mapping out stage for the fourth Gus Dury novel, which is going to be called LONG TIME DEAD. I've just finished the third, LOSS, and I had a really good experience with that one, got some great reactions from editor and agent, so I'm on a bit of a high and raring to go again ...

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

Well, there's no two the same ... chaotic's the word. I like to try and get to the laptop in the morning but sometimes I don't quite make it. So long as I get those words down though, it's been a good day. I stick to fairly rigid word counts, 2k minimum, and if I fall behind I double it the next day. I can get a first-draft together pretty quickly if I'm really working it, but the proper graft comes in the rewriting, I take my time over that.

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

Read. Study writing. Talk about writing. Quiz writers on writing. I'm shitting you ... I eat lots of take-away and bitch at the telly. Hang out. Y'know ... stuff.

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

If I knew the secret to cracking this racket, I'd have done it a lot sooner myself. At the outset it's like sticking your face in a fan ... wouldn't advise anyone to do that.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

Bruen, as ever, SANCTUARY is a ripper and ONCE WERE COPS is too good for words. The man is a genius. G-E-N-I-U-S. Russel D. McLean's THE GOOD SON kicks all kinds of ass. The reliable Ray Banks, soar-away talent that he is - loved GUN, haven't got to the new Inness yet but looking forward to it. And, Guthrie's SLAMMER is one of his best ever... but he'll top it, cos he's like that.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Would you believe, Leonard Cohen ... it's very dark. Like, you'd expect less, right?

Q7. Plans for the future?

I'm gonna take an extended trip to Oz, month or so, next year to map out a Melbourne-set thriller. Might go no further but I'll have a blast trying and I need some sun. Christ, I do ... much as I love Scotland, we don't see much of the big yellow fella in the sky.

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

Hmnnn ... probably loads, but what's the point looking back? I'm chuffed to bits with the editor I have and my publisher so I can't grumble.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

It's not quite the 'wife loses manuscript on train' that Hemingway suffered but I have lost an entire first draft of a book before. I had the second and third drafts but losing the first fucked things up for me at the time ... the novel was never published but I don't think the two incidents are related. I was sore at the time.

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

Don't do drugs, kids.

Thank you, Tony Black!

Thursday, 11 June 2009

A Wee Review - War of the Blue Roses by Garbhan Downey

The tagline for Garbhan Downey’s War of the Blue Roses reads: “Who says flower growing is for pansies?” And, as it should, it sets the tone perfectly for this novel. Again, Downey has combined political satire, crime fiction and comedy to produce a work that takes an incredibly fresh and entertaining look at Northern Ireland’s politics, and in the case of this novel, politics in the South of Ireland, England and America. It’s an ambitious and far-reaching story, and though his past record proves he’s the man for this kind of literary challenge, it’s still a pleasant surprise that he does it so well.

The plot follows a large cast of politicians, crooks and botanists as they compete in a gardening competition held in Mountrose, a small village in Derry that serves as a microcosm for the North of Ireland. The village is split by the catholic and protestant divide and every year, during the marching season, the whole place descends into an orgy of sectarian rioting. The competition runs from the start of spring right through to the end of the summer and the gardeners must adhere to two simple rules: Each team should promote cross-community relations (i.e. have both catholic and protestant members) and if there’s even a sniff of politically motivated trouble, the penalty is disqualification. With serious money at stake, this could be a peace-keeping scheme to beat all others. Little surprise it was born of the slick political mind that is ‘Rubber’ John Blake the Taoiseacht of Ireland and backed by Barney O’Brian, the Irish American president of the USA.

What a premise, right? Well, add bugging technology, political backstabbing, family feuding, romantic shenanigans and a quest for the elusive blue rose, and you’ve got an all out riotous romp with more twists than a Derry country road. And although it can be considered a standalone, Downey fans will be delighted to see the return of some of his greatest recurring characters; Harry the Hurler and ‘Switchblade’ Vic to name but two.

Downey employs a light-hearted and uncomplicated voice in the telling of this tale. Considering the intricacies of the plot, that’s probably a blessing. But what I found most intriguing is how he goes against a lot of the modern advice on writing crime fiction. He head-hops like a madman, sharing multiple character perspectives within paragraphs, and he has nothing against dialogue tagging or adverbs. These are the kind of things that would normally pull me out of the story and make me reach for my editing hat. But when Garbhan Downey does it, it’s okay. He’s that good.

If there’s any justice in the literary world, this will be the book that raises Garbhan Downey’s profile to its full potential. Because the world of politics he has explored encompasses all of Ireland, England and the USA in an accessible and unintimidating way, there is a greater potential for a worldwide audience in this book than in any of the previous tomes. Carl Hiaasen? Christopher Brookmyre? Watch your backs, lads. There’s a new social commentator clawing his way up the ranks and he’s taking no political prisoners.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Depression Obsession

There's an interview with Declan Burke over at Rafe McGregor's blog. Dec makes some very insightful comments on a range of crime fiction and literary topics. But the following really caught my eye:

"Ireland has just fallen out of a boom into a depression, and I think that’s going to have a very interesting effect on the kinds of books that are written over the next few years. In fact, it’s already provided the backdrop to three terrific novels – Gene Kerrigan’s Dark Times in the City, Declan Hughes’ All the Dead Voices, and Alan Glynn’s forthcoming Winterland."

And as of today, I have all three of the above mentioned books on my shelf. Thanks to Gemma Lovett from Faber for sending me the Winterland proof. Alan Glynn's second novel has garnered serious kudos from the likes of Ken Bruen, Allan Guthrie and, of course, Declan Burke. Can't wait to get stuck in.

In fact, I think I'll read the triumvirate of Celtic Tiger death throes in quick succession. And here was me thinking I was done with the prozac thing after I got over my David Peace binge...

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

GUTTED I Can't Be There

Just read on Twitter that Tony Black is launching GUTTED in Edinburgh tonight, so I've reposted the Wee Review it inspired in May. See the post below. Incidentally, after much raving from me, my wife read and enjoyed this one. Then I got her to read Ken Bruen's Dispatching Baudelaire. A new crime fiction fan, ladies and gentlemen!

A Wee Review - Gutted by Tony Black

I read Tony Black’s Gutted amid a binge of Allan Guthrie novels. Both writers are Edinburgh based and both set their novels in and around Leith. Their work is very different in style and tone, but it’s undeniable that they each possess a huge talent for writing. Black has received high praise from Ken Bruen, and the protagonist of Gutted, Gus Dury, is reminiscent of Bruen’s recurring character, Jack Taylor. But again, differences in style and tone set the two characters apart. Dury is not the poor man’s Taylor. He’s a devastated and tragic hero whose strong moral compass is sometimes clouded by the ‘scoosh’ (cheap scotch).

From the opening sentences we immediately get the measure of Gus Dury. He hears screams in the woods and although he knows it’s a stupid thing to do, he hurls himself directly at the source. And when he discovers a bunch of youths torturing a dog tied to a tree, he lets rip on them, outnumbered or not. Unfortunately, he literally stumbles upon something downright gruesome during the scuffle. And being the man that he is, he allows the discovery to suck him in to an investigation that’ll fair put him through his paces.

Black brilliantly captures the damaged mind of a man who can’t see a life for himself without drink. Dury was once a great investigative journalist with a wife and a good life. But, as is so often the case, alcohol, that demanding mistress, stripped him of everything but a bar he inherited from a late friend. Yeah, an alcoholic with his own bar. Couldn’t be healthy. But his contacts from his former life are still at his disposal, all be it unwillingly in most cases. And so, he’s become something of a private investigator. But he’s more than that. He’s also a drunken social commentator. Dury is exasperated by the modern world of celebrity worship, trendy bars and reality TV. The fury of Dury is let loose more than once in Gutted and he rants his pants off on just about any topic he can think of. And if you’re not careful, you’ll find yourself nodding along to this grizzled nutter’s diatribes.

Black has rejuvenated the often imitated drunken PI in his work. He’s also rejuvenated an interest in Edinburgh that I first worked up while reading Irvine Welsh’s work. We get an inner city tour as Dury travels the street in ‘jo-baxis’ (taxis), buses and on foot. And reconnecting with wonderful Leith slang-words like jakey, chibbing and schemie was a real treat. And in reading the slang and enjoying the moments of black humour, it struck me again and again how closely tied the Scottish are to the Northern Irish. I look forward to more work from this guy and his Scottish contemporaries.

You want something even more refreshing than a pint or two of the black stuff? Then give Tony Black’s stuff ago. And the morning after, your head will be clearer and you won’t smell as bad either.

Gutted will be released in June 2009.

Monday, 8 June 2009

A Wee Review - The Twelve by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville is of a new generation of writer. He cut his teeth on the internet through short story sales to small press publications, and is the perfect example of a writer who’s taken note of all the advice out there for the literary minded. He honed his craft through online critiquing and the internet played a big role in his road to publication. Cherry-picked by super-agent Nat Sobel after his short story featured on ThugLit, an online magazine, his literary profile has rocketed over the last year and it seems that the sky’s the limit for this budding writing career.

Neville’s debut, The Twelve, is a blistering Belfast-set thriller. The narrative centres on the actions of Gerry Fegan, a Republican hitman put out to pasture in the new Northern Irish political climate. But Fegan’s past has come back to haunt him, in the form of twelve ghosts, and they’ve driven him towards a bloody road to redemption.

The Twelve is marketed as a thriller, though there are crime, noir and horror elements in this genre straddling novel. The reader can’t be sure if the twelve ghosts are real or only exist in the protagonist’s mind, but they create a creepiness that pervades the story. Neville accomplished the difficult task of making a brutal killer a sympathetic character. Fegan’s guilt and the resulting alcoholism contradict his reputation as a cold-hearted assassin somewhat, and this softens the reader a little. But it’s not until the realistic love interest enters the equation that we really get to see, and begin to like, Fegan.

The novel’s antagonist, Campbell, is a very interesting character too. Really, by traditional values, he should be the good guy. His task is to end Fegan’s rampage before it destroys the peace process and cripples Stormont. And yet, I didn’t really like the sneaky fecker for most of the novel. But where Neville exercises his writing skill once again, is in making the reader care about Campbell, even if he is a git.

Paramilitaries, ex-paramilitaries, politicians and all the mixes in between are drawn perfectly and act and speak authentically in The Twelve. And I think Neville achieves this with the right balance of contempt and respect. There is no mistaking Neville’s feelings for the Troubles in reading this book, but his personal politics are not shoved in your face. He stays true to the story and the characters, and for that, Stuart Neville deserves serious kudos.

I predict The Twelve will launch Neville’s career -- that’s a no-brainer. But as excellent as it is, I’m dying to read his next one because I reckon he’ll raise the bar (no pressure, like). Just another year to go, I suppose. A top class effort from a top class writer. Essential reading for anybody who wants to get to grips with the new Northern Ireland. Be sure to grab a copy when it hits the shelves in early July. Oh, and if you’re an American reader, you should look out for the same novel under the title The Ghosts of Belfast in a few months time.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

Just Back

Been in Galway for a week without internet access, or even a computer. Just enjoyed my family, the weather, good food, some beer and some reading.


War of the Blue Roses by Garbhan Downey
Dispatching Baudelaire by Ken Bruen
The Killing of the Tinkers by Ken Bruen

And I started Slammer by Allan Guthrie.

Brilliant time!

I've emails and blogs to catch up on. After that, normal service? I hope.