Friday, 28 August 2009

Are You Ready...?


Call in to the store for yours now!

(Open Monday to Saturday.)

David Torrans has outdone himself yet again. This from his mailing list:

James Ellroy


No Alibis Bookstore is very pleased to announce that we will be hosting an event with none other than the Demon Dog of American crime fiction, James Ellroy, in early November to celebrate the release of the final book in his Underworld USA trilogy, BLOOD'S A ROVER.

As with the Michael Connelly event that we hosted earlier in the year, we fully expect this one to grow beyond the confines of the shop, so we would like to gauge interest so that we can find a suitable venue for this once-in-a-lifetime event. If you would like to attend, please click here to send us an email with your details (or send an email to the address at the top of the page with the subject line "James Ellroy 1109", and include your name, phone number and the number of tickets you might be interested in in the body of the email message). We will be in touch closer to the time with a firm date, time, location and ticket price, and people who sign up for this event will be notified before we send the regular email to our wider email group.

James Ellroy was born in Los Angeles in 1948. He is the author of the acclaimed LA Quartet, The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, LA Confidential and White Jazz, as well as the first two parts of this Underworld USA trilogy, American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand which were both Sunday Times bestsellers.

It's 1968. Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King are dead. The Mob, Howard Hughes and J Edgar Hoover are in a struggle for America's soul, drawing into their murderous conspiracies the damned and the soon-to-be damned. Wayne Tedrow Jr.: parricide, assassin, dope cooker, mouthpiece for all sides, loyal to none. His journey will take him away from the darkness and into an even greater darkness. Dwight Holly: Hoover's enforcer and hellish conspirator in terrible crimes. As Hoover's power wanes his destiny lurches towards Richard Nixon and self-annihilation. Don Crutchfield: is a kid, a nobody, a wheelman and a private detective who stumbles upon an ungodly conspiracy from which he and the country may never recover. All three men are drawn to women on the opposite side of the political and moral spectrum; all are compromised and ripe for destruction. Only one of them will survive. The final part of James Ellroy's "Underworld USA" trilogy is set during the social and political upheaval of 1968-72. "Blood's a Rover" is an incandescent fusion of fact and fiction and is James Ellroy's greatest masterpiece.

ph. 02890-319601
fax. 02890319607

I imagine Stuart Neville will be there, and Adrian McKinty (very favourably compared to James Ellroy here) will be hopping mad that he's on the other side of the world. (gb)

Thursday, 27 August 2009

News Scraps – A Chain of Linkage

Stuart Neville is officially a Rising Star. If you’ve read The Twelve, please stop off at Amazon UK and leave a review for him. More reviews he gets, the more chance he has of becoming THE Amazon Rising Star. A kingpin of debut novelists, so to speak.

Tony Bailie has a story up on the Verbal Magazine website. That’s a prestigious spot to occupy, especially now that the magazine is bi-monthly and they only run one piece of fiction per issue.

And Sam Millar is making waves on the blogosphere ahead of the release of The Dark Place. See what they have to say about him on Liffeyside and Sons of Spade. I’ll have to crack the spine of my copy soon.

I doubt anybody will forget that James Ellroy is coming to Belfast in November. (I’ve a suspicion that Stuart Neville has some impressive news to reveal on that score, but I’ll not speculate on what it might be. Wouldn’t want to steal his thunder, you know?) Tickets will be on sale soon, according to the Waterfront website.

Here’s another big event that slipped under my radar -- Ian Rankin at the Belfast Waterfront as part of the Ulster Bank Belfast Festival at Queen's.

So there you have it, plenty going on in and around these parts crime fiction-wise.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Red Hand of Crime -- The Irish Mythology Anthology

Last week, I received the final story for the Irish mythology anthology I’m co-editing with Mike Stone. Me and Mike are now caught up in a flurry of activity in preparation for sending the manuscript off to the publisher, Morrigan Books. And I’ll tell you what; this editing malarkey is way tougher than I ever thought it would be!

We’ve been very lucky, though, and have received stories from the best of the best. Feast your eyes on this jaw-dropping list of contributors:

Adrian McKinty
Arlene Hunt
Brian McGilloway
Dave Hutchinson
Garbhan Downey
Garry Kilworth
John Grant
John McAllister
Ken Bruen
Maxim Jakubowski
Neville Thompson
Sam Millar
Stuart Neville
T.A. Moore
Tony Bailie
Tony Black
Una McCormack

Frickin’ awesome, right?

Me and Mike are pretty much on track time-wise, so hopefully our projected publication date of Summer 2010 will still stand. Any earlier than that, would be a bonus, of course, but Morrigan Books seem to have a very busy publication schedule on their hands, so we’ll just see what happens, eh?

Stay tuned for more updates!

Monday, 24 August 2009

No Alibis Event - Liam McIlvanney

Liam McIlvanney

All the Colours of the Town

Launch Party and Reading

No Alibis Bookstore

Wed 26th August 7pm

When Glasgow journalist Gerry Conway receives a phone call promising unsavoury information about Scottish Justice Minister Peter Lyons, his instinct is that this apparent scoop won't warrant space in the Tribune. But as Conway’s curiosity grows and his leads proliferate, his investigation takes him from Scotland to Belfast. Shocked by the sectarian violence of the past, and by the prejudice and hatred he encounters even now, Conway soon grows obsessed with the story of Lyons and all he represents. And as he digs deeper, he comes to understand that there is indeed a story to be uncovered - and that there are people who will go to great lengths to ensure that it remains hidden.

Compelling, vividly written and shocking, All the Colours of the Town is not only the story of an individual and his community, it is also a complex and thrilling enquiry into loyalty, betrayal and duty.

Liam McIlvanney was born in Ayrshire. He is the Stuart Professor of Scottish Studies at the University of Otago, New Zealand. He won the Saltire First Book Award for Burns the Radical in 2002, and his work has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books. He lives in Dunedin with his wife and three sons. All the Colours of the Town is his first novel






ph. 02890-319601

fax. 02890319607

Friday, 21 August 2009

Moving Along...

Hopefully everybody is getting over the cruel blow Declan Burke dealt his readers (including me) the other day. He announced a closure of sorts of his top class blog, Crime Always Pays. This is a big loss to the online crime fiction community but, as life is a big set of swings and roundabouts, it's also a good thing for th online crime fiction community. Declan's a terrific novelist and I respect his decision to reorganise his time to bring us all new work.

Dec, fair play to you, squire!

This isn't exactly speedy reporting, but I have a valid excuse. I attended my brother-in-law's wedding yesterday. Congratulations Peter and Ciara Earley! Here's a pic of the happy wee Brennan family that might put a few smiles on people's faces (so long as you ignore the goatee'd boyo bringing down the standard of loveliness). I'm a lucky man.

(Mya, me, Jack and Michelle August '09)

Monday, 17 August 2009

And speaking of Paul Charles...

Paul Charles now has a rather swanky web presence in the form of his brand new website and accompanying blog. It's very well put together and easy on the eye. And it got me thinking about writing websites in general. It's something I've noticed that the typical Norn Iron writer is a little lacking in. Why is that?

Maybe Adrian McKinty was on to something with his recent blog post. When relaying an excellent Guardian review of his latest, Fifty Grand, he admitted that he didn't feel all that comfortable with blowing his own trumpet. And his blog, interesting and thought-provoking though it is, doesn't feature a great many posts about his writing processes or career highlights.

But if we take a look at Stuart Neville's internet activities you'll get a lesson in using the internet to its full marketing potential. Stuart has a website dedicated to his writing career, a blog, a Facebook account and a Twitter account. He's also published a number of stories online (which is how he was first noticed by Nat Sobel, his agent) and been active in getting his novel into the hands of bloggers.

I've met both McKinty and Neville in person and they share a lot of similarities. Neither of them have humongous egos, despite their jealousy-inspiring achievements, and they both have a good sense of humour and the ability to spin a yarn outside the pages of their books. Is it to do with when and how they got published? McKinty, as far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong, Ade), went the more traditional route; paper manuscripts and postal submissions; whereas Neville's publishing success is an internet fairy tale of online magazines and email submissions.


Thursday, 13 August 2009

Garbhan Downey on Adrian McKinty - Mk II

And to think I nearly missed this!

I've just read a fantastic review of Adrian McKinty's Fifty Grand written by Garbhan Downey for the Culture NI website. I know that this site and Verbal Magazine have some close links, so hopefully it'll make it's way in there too. This is a thoughtful, well-written and insightful review that would make Declan Burke smile. And I agree with Downey 100%.

"The festering Cuba so evocatively sketched by McKinty is redolent of the dying eastern Europe, right down to the petty corruption and institutionalised paranoia. And his unflinching depiction of an America riddled with selfishness, opportunism and racism contains some of the most acerbic social comment I’ve ever read on the long-term consequences of the Bush family."

For the rest, click here. What are you waiting for?

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

An Interview - Captain Joseph Barbelo

Captain Joseph Barbelo is the nom de plume of author Joseph Ferri, AKA Joe, AKA J.J. San Martín.

Born of Basque parentage, and a visual artist by profession, he travelled extensively throughout Europe and the Far East where he studied Eastern philosophies and martial arts with leading masters.

Since living in the West of Ireland, Joe blended his knowledge of the wider world with Irish mythology and finally found time to write. Barbelo’s Blood is the first in a series of novels that weave innovative, thought-provoking concepts with exciting stories and hard-hitting action.

Given his maverick nature, however, this might yet be another of the author’s covers and is by no means indicative of true identity.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m working on my second novel in the Barbelo’s Blood series; set in the Middle East, 1947, with nefarious Nazis hunting Solomon’s lost treasure, ancient Sumerian free-energy devices, and the obligatory flashbacks to Jesus and revolutionary Zealots in 1st century Jerusalem. A crazy yarn, no doubt, but abundant in fit-birds and skulduggery galore.

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

Typically, 24/7 driven fucking bananas with theory and research. I barely have time for my second favourite passion anymore, reading good fiction. In terms of actual writing, that can often go on for days and nights, when it takes me, where it needs me – hopefully into realms I’ve never dared go before, and the darkest beyond…

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

Oh you know, bit of this and that...

Drink beer, bounce off walls around Galway, and try to get home before sun-up without hitting anybody or losing my keys. And I swing swords in my spare room, that too. Second best hangover cure I know. I have a house full of weapons; particularly fond of those two katanas I got from a videogame’s shop here, €28 a piece. Stainless steel, but sharp and classy.

Love the paranoid dichotomy of toyshops selling classy weapons.

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

In all seriousness, I’m not altogether sure I’ve broken into any scene, not yet. I’m maybe stalking around in the shadows, tooled up, waiting to bludgeon my way in (thanks to Ken Bruen and Declan Burke giving me the thumbs up) but the penny only dropped recently that Barbelo’s Blood fits under crime fiction. Or that it would come under any genre at all, I might add, so it’s a great encouragement (and an honour) to feel I belong somewhere.

In regards giving writing advice, I suppose just continue to learn the craft, be honest with yourself, know your limitations and then lie, scam, and cheat the reader into submission. Let the blood flow. Follow through and before you know it, job done.

The thing to remember is your book is already written, in its future, waiting for you to catch up with it. Do the legwork and you will.

In many ways I don’t have a monkey’s clue what I’m writing half the time, where it will go or even agree with half the things my characters say and do. That’s the best part, that’s when you know you’re onto something: when it all comes to life in a world of its own.

Any time I get stuck, I treat them like living people, ask questions, cast them Tarot Card readings (seriously), that kind of thing. Works, I shit you not.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I’m particularly impressed with anything the government writes. They never fail to dazzle me with their skulduggerous twists and sub-plots. This year’s dodging of the State’s role in institutionalised child abuse, along with the Church itself, was another outstanding contribution to crime fiction as a whole, in my opinion. Sorry, alleged role, of course.

Another thing to remember, what works on the big end, works on the small end. A governmental psyops is identical in essence to any common con-trick, but on a massive scale. Same intent, only the 'mark' is the whole population of a country.

Growing up in Brixton, I suppose I had the fortune of seeing firsthand how things really work: from the bottom up, the entire world functions under the principles of organised crime, with ever-increasing levels of higher organisation. That’s one of the themes I explore in Barbelo’s Blood.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Half-way through re-reading the Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco, but truth be told I’m totally sidetracked with Codex Alimentarius: the proposed WTO foods guidelines which class all nutrients as toxins, effectively making a criminal out of anybody possessing high dose vitamin pills or growing their own organic veg. It’s gonna be implemented in Ireland next year, allegedly.

Auld Mary down the road here (the mad one) won’t be happy when they come for her; she loves her garden – but that’s okay, I’ll point her to a great little toyshop I know 

Q7. Plans for the future?

Presuming half the planet isn’t wiped out from vitamin deficiency and man-bird-pig, or some likewise bio-engineered terror virus, I plan to procure land. High ground. Defensible position. Or a boat. A gunboat. Failing that, a well-armed fit-bird with a boat – head for the Philippines.

Trust me, the way things are going, good future plan by anybody’s standards.

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

Do anything differently? Blimey… nothing, meaning if I’d known what all this entailed I wouldn’t have started! Sitting on a chair hour, after hour, sucked into a screen ten inches by six, the ashtray piling up, the lungs caving in, being misunderstood by all other life forms except the neighbour’s cat – and only because she likes gone-off milk.

Don’t do it guys, I’m serious, if you’ve not got a screw loose already, don’t go near this writing lark. Do anything else, go out there, frolic in the sun, dance in the rain – buy a gun and rob a bank – stop while you can, if you can.

I can’t.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Hmmm, not really… I’ve had many, truly awful experiences involving writing… Alright, here’s two, on a par but for different reasons.

One, the classic. Was living in a truck at the time, down in Dingle, running an ancient Toshiba Satellite off some solar panels. Lost over a month’s work when it crashed, fucking thing said it was ‘saving’ but wasn’t. Was the best stuff I’d ever written, or could ever write, ever. It was so fucking good I can’t even remember how good it was. It was THAT good… and gone, all gone.

First rule in this game, if you believe your laptop’s not demonically possessed by lower astral entities, let me guarantee ya it is – always back up your work 300 times.

Two, another classic. If you ever write your girlfriend a sexy love letter and her mother gets it by mistake (and they’re both called ‘Raunchy Rachel’) don’t let it take ten years before you realise that yes, that smile did mean exactly what it meant.

Damn it.

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

Good question, how long have ya got? LOL! Nah, I don’t wanna risk boring you tit-less with any more of my personal life, have me on again if anybody’s interested. Will just say, I’m delighted you’ve picked up on what I’m doing; Barbelo’s Blood can be read in many different lights, but it takes the subtle mind of a fun-loving criminal to see it for what it is.

As they say, takes one to know one.

All the best, and keep yer heads down,


Thank you, Captain Joseph Barbelo/Joseph Ferri/Joe/J.J. San Martín!

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Time to Revamp?

I’ve become increasingly aware of the fact that I’m not updating the CSNI blog anywhere near as often as I did this time last year. A number of factors contribute to this that range from family life to a greater focus on my own writing. Another difference is that this time last year I was still actively seeking out writers for interviews and the like. At this point, there aren’t many crime writers from the North or South of Ireland left to contact. However, after maintaining it for so long, I’d hate to see CSNI go by the wayside.

I’ve thought of a few solutions:

Expand beyond the crime fiction genre – Not a bad idea, as there are a number of science fiction, fantasy and literary writers from the North and beyond that I haven’t contacted. Also, I do read beyond the crime fiction genre, so it’d still be interesting to me. And there’s the strange fact that of the three novels I’ve sent to Allan Guthrie, my agent, none are straight crime fiction... I know! It came as a shock to me too. I’m not sure what I write. My whole belief system is at odds. I don’t think novels are literary; it’s more like... Wait, no. This is a topic for another self-indulgent post. No doubt I’ll write it some time in the near future.

But there’s something that niggles about that idea. The site is called Crime Scene NI, after all. It should really do what it says on the tin.

Expand beyond fiction – Yeah, why not comment on news items? There are enough of them, and in the post-Troubles climate, they’re certainly more varied. I could point out an article from the BBC NI website, on the days when I have nothing book-related to write about, and rattle out a paragraph or two surmising my personal thoughts.

But that seems a little ghoulish to me. Using real crime as filler. Plus there are enough websites out there that write about local news and the politics. Plus I don’t want to turn into an internet ranter. All self-righteous and shit. It’s not really me. And at the end of the day, people are perfectly capable of keeping up with the news on the BBC NI website without me pointing the way for them.

Expand beyond form – There are other forms out there, aren’t there? Big screen, little screen, stage play, radio play... I could get in touch with many a talented and worthy writer who works in either of these areas. And they’ll have interesting thoughts and insights of their own. What’s the problem with that, eh?

Well, I don’t get to go to the theatre or cinema as often as I used to, so I wouldn’t exactly be cutting edge. And I sacrifice a lot of TV time in order to get a few words down on the screen. The programmes I do take the time to follow, such as The Sopranos or The Wire, don’t really need the help of some little guy from Northern Ireland in order to reach a slightly larger audience. So why devote the time?

So, I’m wondering... how can I shake things up a bit and breathe some new life into the aul blog?

Suggestions welcome, folks.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mickey B (But What About Me?)

Here’s something I found pretty interesting...

"Belfast-based film charity, the Educational Shakespeare Company (ESC) have produced the first ever feature film to be made with by and with prisoners in a maximum-security prison anywhere in the world...

ESC chose to adapt Macbeth – which eventually became Mickey B – for a number of reasons, a key one being that the ultimate moral of Macbeth is that crime does not pay. It is a play about violence and the repercussions of violence. Taking part in the film enabled non-conforming life-sentence prisoners to act out and understand the implications of their violent crimes. Using the lens of fiction provided them with a stepping-stone towards examining and understanding their own motivations and relationships with violence."

The rest of the article is here.

It’s certainly a ballsy idea, isn’t it? And probably not unlike the kind of thing Neville Thompson has done in the past with his STREETWISE anthologies in which Irish prisoners contributed fictional accounts based on their criminal experiences. And the article does push the point that the project has focussed on rehabilitation throughout, which is where the focus needs to be; especially since crazy remission laws in Northern Ireland mean that most prisoners serve half their sentences.

But there’s a jealous wee part of me that wonders why I can’t work on a movie like this. Am I too upstanding? Improvements to their behaviour aside, have these guys earned the right to the kind of privileges so many budding writers, actors, directors, etc strive for? I guess it’s not for a bitter wannabe-writer like me to decide.

And I’ll more than likely watch this movie at some point, so I guess I’m not THAT jealous.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A Wee Review - Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman

I’ve read Walking the Perfect Square by Reed Farrel Coleman and a number of novels by Ken Bruen this year. When I heard that these two accomplished writers were collaborating on a novel I was excited. But to be honest, I was a little dubious too. Their styles are so completely different that I couldn’t visualise a way to package them together in a neat little novel that would do both writers the justice they deserve. No doubt I wasn’t the only person to hold this opinion, and I’m sure others with louder voices than mine were quick to voice it. But I have to say, I’m glad Ken Bruen and Reed Farrel Coleman decided not to listen to anybody but each other (and at a later date Allan Guthrie as editor) on this one.

TOWER is a collaboration novel in a much different mould than the trilogy Ken Bruen wrote with Jason Starr, now available from Hard Case Crime. With the HCC novels, the style is constant and you’d be hard pressed to figure out which writer delivered which line. And that’s cool, because in my opinion, that works. BUT the approach Ken Bruen took with Reed Farrel Coleman, though different, also works. You could almost say it’s two novellas that retell the same story in two different POVs, but that doesn’t do any justice to the efforts of either writer here. This short, sharp heartbreaker was years in the making, and it shows.

TOWER tells the tale of Nick and Todd, two childhood buddies from the tough streets of Brooklyn whose forays into crime drive a wedge between them. In their adulthood, they each take a different path that crosses over until they eventually meet one last time for an explosive conclusion to their journeys. And along the way, that word that raises the bile and strikes fear into the New York criminal underbelly – rat – throws everything they’ve ever known or thought about each other into disarray.

Nick’s perspective is written by Bruen and Todd’s by Farrel Coleman. There is a distinction in voice and style, but the writers make this work as a distinction in the characters’ inner dialogues and all-round make-up. The genius in this collaboration lies in the things that each writer hasn’t implicitly said, but that the reader is more than able to glean from the subtext and by cross-referencing the thoughts of the two protagonists. I’m lucky to have read this one ahead of its release date.

If you want a flat, plot-driven piece of s—s—summer reading, then this isn’t the book for you. And in any case, it’s not released by Busted Flush Press until September. However, if you want a read that’ll make you feel like you’ve had your heart scooped out (in a good way, like); you better get your hands on TOWER.

For the New York Readers

Click on the image for a clearer version.