Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Eoin McNamee at No Alibis

Eoin McNamee is set to launch his latest masterpiece at the most excellent No Alibis bookstore in Belfast tonight. I'd highly suggest you go (in a do as I say not as I do kind of way -- my missus booked tonight off so I'm babysitting the three amigos tonight).

Orchid Blue is an amazing novel. I was tuned in to every poetic sentence, which was no mean feat as I read it in the early days of young Oscar's arrival into the Brennan household. And the author in no less interesting as I experienced first hand at a recent event in Derry.

And if you do make it, please let me know about it. I know I'm missing a great one.

Details from the No Alibis newsletter below.


Eoin McNamee
Wednesday 10th November at 7:00PM

No Alibis Bookstore are pleased to invite you to celebrate the launch of Eoin McNamee's latest novel, ORCHID BLUE, on Wednesday 10th November at 7:00PM.

Eoin McNamee was born in Kilkeel, County Down, in 1961. He was educated in various schools in the North of Ireland and at Trinity College, Dublin. His first book, the novella The Last of Deeds, was shortlisted for the Irish Times Literature Prize and his novels include Resurrection Man, which was later made into a film, and The Blue Tango which was longlisted for the Booker Prize. He lives in Sligo.

January 1961, and the beaten, stabbed and strangled body of a nineteen year old Pearl Gambol is discovered, after a dance the previous night at the Newry Orange Hall. Returning from London to investigate the case, Detective Eddie McCrink soon suspects that their may be people wielding influence over affairs, and that the accused, the enigmatic Robert McGladdery, may struggle to get a fair hearing. Presiding over the case is Lord Justice Curran, a man who nine years previously had found his own family in the news, following the murder of his nineteen year old daughter, Patricia. In a spectacular return to the territory of his acclaimed, Booker longlisted The Blue Tango, Eoin McNamee’s new novel explores and dissects this notorious murder case which led to the final hanging on Northern Irish soil.

We expect this free event to fill up quickly, so avoid disappointment and book your spot by emailing David, or calling the shop on 9031 9607.

ph. 02890-319601
fax. 02890319607

Friday, 22 October 2010

For my non-facebooking friends...

Time - Friday, October 29 · 1:00pm - 2:00pm
The Black Box
Hill Street

From Martin McSharry @ The Black Box

Following on from last month's excellent 'For Want of the Call', Lunchtime Theatre @ The Blackbox presents a brand new play this Friday!

Jim O'Neill is possessed and it looks like all his mother's love and valiums are powerless to save him. Can he put his faith and hope in Belfast's last Exorcist? Enter the mighty Father Silver of Clonnard Chapel. Things are about to get mental!

The perfect play to get you in the Halloween state of mind.

'An Irish Possession' was written by Gerard Brennan, and has been adapted for stage by Conor Maguire.

Gerard will make his stage debut in this one man show, and Conor directs.

Please pass this event on to as many of your friends as possible!

Tickets available at the door: £3

Food served in the front Cafe so get there early and make a meal of it.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Hardback Super Sale, One Day Only...

That's right, the Irish crime anthology, chock full of top names in the crime field: Ken Bruen, Maxim Jakubowski, Stuart Neville, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Sam Millar, John McAllister and many others... is on sale to you today, on not one but two formats:

The UK hardback edition price has been dropped from £12.99 (+ shipping) to only £7.99 (+ shipping). (To overseas buyers: if you contact me today, I will offer the book at a similar discount to your country - e-mail me a request and we can discuss.)

But not only that, the e-book edition (for all formats) is now $3.99 (USD) over at Smashswords! (Please make sure to use the coupon code: FA25T when ordering to get your $2 discount)

Remember, today only!

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Culture Night Buzz

I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow's Derry Library event in which I'll interview Stuart Neville and Eoin McNamee. I just wanted to post a quick thank you to Dec Burke for blogging about it and to Jenni Doherty of Guildhall Press for the many Facebook shout-outs as well as the rest of you good folk from my Facebook friends page who shared the love. I also wanted to share this link to Radio Foyle's Sarah Brett show in which Michael Bradley asked me a bunch of interesting crime fiction-related questions and I attempted to supply him with worthy answers. Did I succeed? Click the link and decide for yourself. My bit starts about 47 mins into the show.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Guess Who's Back...

The Demon Dog is returning to Belfast.

Once again, David Torrans of No Alibis will play host to James Ellroy.

The details:

No Alibis Bookstore are very pleased to announce the return to Belfast of James Ellroy, and to invite you to spend an evening with the man on Thursday 7th October at 7:00PM to celebrate the launch of his latest book, THE HILLIKER CURSE. This event will take place at the Belfast Waterfront Studio. Tickets are now available, priced £8 each.

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. His most recent novel, Blood's a Rover, completes the magisterial 'Underworld USA Trilogy' - the first two volumes of which (American Tabloid and The Cold Six Thousand) were both Sunday Times bestsellers.

America's greatest living crime writer gives us a raw, brutally candid memoir - as high intensity and as riveting as any of his novels - about his obsessive search for 'atonement in women'. The year was 1958. Jean Hilliker had divorced her fast-buck hustler husband and resurrected her maiden name. Her son, James, was ten years old. He hated and lusted for his mother and 'summoned her dead'. She was murdered three months later. "The Hilliker Curse" is a predator's confession, a treatise on guilt and the power of malediction, and above all a cri de cuur. Ellroy unsparingly describes his shattered childhood, his delinquent teens, his writing life, his love affairs and marriages, his nervous breakdown and the beginning of a relationship with an extraordinary woman who may just be the long-sought Her. A layered narrative of time and place, emotion and insight, sexuality and spiritual quest, "The Hilliker Curse" is a brilliant, soul-baring revelation of self. It is unlike any memoir you have ever read.

Anyone who attended the BLOOD'S A ROVER lanuch last year will tell you that this is an event not to be missed. Book your spot now by emailing David, or calling the shop on 9031 9607.

And to keep you going until then, courtesy of No Alibis TV, you can check out the man in action.

And yeah, I get the half-assed irony of using my blog to show a clip of the this rascal in which he dismisses "...the internet invaders." What are you going to do, like?

Monday, 20 September 2010

Night of Crime at Derry Central Library

Yes, I'm still alive. It's just been an insanely busy couple of months, but I thought I should break the silence with this bit of news from the Libraries NI website:

Thanks to the City’s first ever Culture Night, Libraries NI, in partnership with Derry City Council, is inviting fans of crime thrillers along to Derry Central Library’s ‘Night of Crime’ event.

Culture Night Derry takes place on Friday 24th September, which will see the city being joined by twenty towns, cities and counties across Ireland, who will come together to celebrate cultural activity. There’s also an international dimension with Culture Nights also taking place in Leuven in Belgium and in New York.

Over half a million people are expected to explore and engage with culture on the evening of 24th September and at this Derry Central Library event, fans of crime thrillers will be able to enjoy readings by two renowned local authors of crime fiction, Eoin McNamee and Stuart Neville, who read from their work from 8pm to 9.30pm. This will be followed by an open discussion, led by Gerard Brennan of the blog Crime Scene NI, about the emerging crime writing scene in Northern Ireland.

Trisha Ward, Business Manager with Libraries NI explains:
“Culture Night is a night of entertainment, discovery and adventure and Derry Central Library is proud to be involved. Arts and cultural organisation, including libraries, will open their doors with hundreds of free events, tours, talks and performances for you, your family and friends to enjoy – and Libraries NI is delighted to be working with Derry City council to make this ‘A Night of Crime’ event, featuring respected crime thriller novelists and bloggers, a success.”

Eoin McNamee, is originally from Kilkeel, County Down and saw his first book, the novella The Last of Deeds, shortlisted for the Irish Times Literature Prize. In his new novel, Orchid Blue, due out in November, he returns to the territory of his acclaimed Booker longlisted The Blue Tango. The evening will include readings from this book as well as from the crime fiction titles McNamee has published under the name John Creed.

Stuart Neville burst onto the crime writing scene in 2009 with his Belfast set novel The Twelve. The sequel to that award- winning debut, Collusion, has just been published. Both books confront in an unsparing manner post-ceasefire Northern Ireland.

Gerard Brennan, of the Crime Scene NI blog, will also be in the library to chair the event and to stimulate discussion. He has edited Requiems for the Departed, published earlier this year, an anthology of short stories inspired by tales from Irish mythology. His work is due to appear in the Mammoth Book of best British Crime 2010

Eugene Martin, Branch Library Manager of Derry Central Library , said:
“We are certainly very excited to welcome two well established writers, Eoin McNamee and Stuart Neville, to the Foyle Street Library along with Gerard Brennan, who runs the Crime Scene NI blog. Eoin and Stuart will talk about their books, what inspires them and what drives them to write crime fiction. There will also be a general discussion of the recent explosion in the writing and following of crime fiction. Crime thriller enthusiasts must come along to what should be an enjoyable evening.”

The Night of Crime event will be held on Culture Night (Sept 24th) at Derry’s Central Library at 8pm. For more information, please call into the Foyle Street library, telephone 028 7127 2300 or email For details of all events taking place in Derry Central and Belfast Central Libraries to mark Culture Nights, go to the Libraries NI website at

For details of the full programme of events for Derry’s Culture Night visit

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

The Mammoth Book of Best British Crime 8

Thanks to Paul D. Brazill for the heads up on this. From the Constable and Robinson website:

Over 35 new short stories from the UK's leading crime writers. The must-have annual anthology for every crime fiction fan – the year’s top new British short stories selected by leading crime critic Maxim Jakubowski.

This great annual covers the full range of mystery fiction, from noir and hardboiled crime to ingenious puzzles and amateur sleuthing. Packed with top names such as: Ian Rankin (including a new Rebus), Alexander McCall Smith, David Hewson, Christopher Brookmyre, Simon Kernick, A.L. Kennedy, Louise Walsh, Kate Atkinson, Colin Bateman, Stuart McBride and Andrew Taylor.

The full list of contributors is as follows: Sheila Quigley, Nigel Bird, Jay Stringer, Paul D. Brazill, Adrian Magson, Colin Bateman, Gerard Brennan, Matthew J. Elliott, Andrew Taylor, Lin Anderson, Christopher Brookmyre, Ray Banks, Declan Burke, Liza Cody, Simon Kernick, Stuart MacBride, Allan Guthrie, Ian Rankin (two stories, including a new Rebus), Nick Quantrill, Edward Marston, Nicholas Royle, Zoe Sharp, Robert Barnard, Simon Brett, Peter Lovesey, A.L. Kennedy, Roz Southey, Phil Lovesey, David Hewson, Amy Myers, Marilyn Todd, Peter Turnbull, Keith McCarthy, Alexander McCall Smith, Stephen Booth, Denise Mina, Mick Herron, Kate Atkinson and Louise Welsh.

Flippin' heck, would you look at that list of talent? I have books on my shelf by Colin Bateman, Christopher Brookmyre, Ray Banks, Declan Burke, Allan Guthrie (who is also my agent) and Denise Mina. Why I haven't invested in an Ian Rankin or Stuart MacBride novel yet is as much a mystery to me as anybody else, but hey, I'm still a whipper-snapper. There's time to rectify this.

I've also read short stories by Paul D. Brazill, Nick Quantrill and most recently, Nigel Bird. Needless to say, I'm humbled by the company my tale now keeps.

According to the website, the collection will be released in April 2011 so I've plenty of time to get acquainted with some of the writers that I've yet to read. Must get on to that ASAP.

Friday, 6 August 2010

An Interview - Wayne Simmons

Belfast born, Wayne Simmons, has been loitering with intent around the horror genre for some years. Having scribbled reviews and interviews for various zines, Wayne released his debut horror novel, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS, through PERMUTED PRESS. The book was received well by both fans of the genre and reviewers alike. In April 2010, the rights to DROP DEAD GORGEOUS reverted back to Wayne. An extended version of DDG will be released through SNOWBOOKS in 2011.

Wayne released the zombie apocalyptic horror novel, FLU, through SNOWBOOKS in April 2010.

In what little spare time he has left, Wayne enjoys running, getting tattooed and listening to all manner of unseemly screeches on his BOOM-BOOM Box…


Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

At the minute, I'm writing the follow-up to FLU. It's to be called FEVER and will be both a prequel and sequel to the first book. All the surviving characters from the FLU will return (as well as some who haven't survived!) and there'll be new folks for readers of the series to get to know. With FEVER, readers can expect more of the same from me - Belfast-based, character-driven survival horror. With zombies, of course.

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

I try to write most days, aiming for at least 1000 words. The challenge is to fit my writing around the rest of my life: that's proving more and more difficult the busier I get. With FLU's ongoing success (the first print-run has completely sold-out), there's more promotion work, interviews, anthos etc. to give attention to alongside trying to maintain prolific writing output. Plus, I still work full time.

I find myself writing a lot on the train to and from work, transferring the scribbled notebook pages into my PC when I get home. I get inspired when surrounded by people and find I write best when in the company of others. I know that's not the norm, but it works for me!

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

I think about what I'm going to write. Hah! To a certain extent, that's completely true. I'll often be sitting at work or having a conversation with someone and an idea will suddenly come to me. Generally, I try to have a fairly healthy social life - getting out and about to gigs, eating sushi, drinking beer and collecting as many tattoos as my skin and modest wages allow.

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

Self-promotion is key. Get out to genre conventions and onto genre message boards and get the word out on who you are and what you're about. Talk to people in the industry - you'll find most folks are very approachable via facebook etc. Don't be afraid to ask questions. Oh, and my golden rule is to keep your feet on the ground - remember that no matter what success you enjoy as a writer in the genre (whatever genre(s) you decide to write within), you're a fan first and foremost.

Q5. Which writers have impressed you this year?

This year I've enjoyed writing by Simon Logan (Katja from the Punk Band), David Moody (Hater, Dog Blood), Rupert Thomson (Death of a Murderer), Jack O'Connell (The Skin Palace), Tim Lebbon (The Thief of Broken Toys), Stephen King (Duma Key, Cujo, On Writing) amongst many others. I'm interested in character-driven fiction that draws an emotional investment out of the reader. I don't always read sci-fi or horror stories.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Fiction-wise, I'm just finishing Tim Lebbon's The Thief of Broken Toys (which is an astounding read). Non-fiction wise, I'm reading a book on different variations of Left-Libertarianism and Rupert Thomson's autobiographical This Party's Got to Stop. I tend to read about three books at a time. Silly, I know!

Q7. Plans for the future?

A cleaned-up and extended version of my debut novel, DROP DEAD GORGEOUS is due for release in January 2011 (Snowbooks). I'm also keen to get FEVER on shelves next year as well as DOLL PARTS, the sequel to DDG. I've a cyberpunk thriller written at first draft stage which I'm keen to tidy up. After that, I'm seriously considering writing an Urban Fantasy set in Belfast.

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

Not really. I've made a few mistakes along the way, but those were a necessary part of my journey to date. I think the key thing for any professional writers starting out is to seek appropriate advice on contracts. the Society of Authors is a good resource. Basically, they're a trade union for writers.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

When I was in my early teens I tried writing a super-hero novel but lost faith in myself after about ten scribbled file pages. I ended up burying the fruits of my labour in a ditch in Portadown. I was a troubled child, let's just say...

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

Just thanks for the interview, Gerard! It's a pleasure to be on the CSNI blogspot. If anyone wants to find out more about my writing, ask me questions etc. they can catch up with me on my website:

Thank you, Wayne Simmons!

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

An Interview - Spence Wright

I'm Spence Wright. I've been a horror fan since I was knee high to a Chucky Doll. Growing up as I did during the whole 80's VHS video frenzy I just fell in love with movies. Back then you got the video covers home with you I remember sprinting (well waddling) back home with my latest 'find' studying the sleeve wondering what lay ahead, effectively making up my own stories before the tape ever hit our Ferguson video star. The first chance I had to tell my own stories I did. Eventually I gravitated from short stories to screenplays with my first feature Red Mist released back in 2008 starring Arielle kebbel 'The Uninvited' and Directed by Paddy Breathnach 'Shrooms'.

Reviws have been .. er .. um .. mixed? My favorite being Bloody Good with "For a movie deemed not high enough quality to make it into theaters, it displays surprising maturity and balance. Yes it's gory, but there is a lot more going on under the surface for those willing to look." And in the interests of balance, Mark Kermode quoted, "Worrying about the dialogue in Red Mist is like worrying about the deck chairs on the titanic."

Laugh? I almost snapped a rib ... his if I ever get him .. grr grr grr etc.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

As usual I've managed to get myself embroiled and excited about a whole host of projects. Top of the List is RUNNERS another Generator entertainment project which is shaping up to be a 'Blade Runner' meets 'Gladiator' esque cyber-thriller. Currently at third draft this is a bigger budgeted affair than Red Mist with locations varying from good old Belfast to South Africa. Which is all very exciting. Not that I'll get to South Africa. I reckon being a screenwriter is like keeping pigeons. They see the world whilst you sit shivering in your shed.

I'm also co-writing Teenage Kicks (Lord of the Flies ... on speed!) with local writer John Cairns. The script is looking good and again we're hoping for a 2010 lift off with Michael Kelly of Geronimo producing.

Silent Screams is a locally set horror feature which has raised a few eyebrows (mostly of the approving variety) I just got an option and a first Draft deal with Crawford Anderson Dillon (erstwhile screenwriters ink member and now development exec at Hub Media.) We're working with horror hound Jake 'Evil aliens, Doghouse' West and thus far the Omens are all good.

Biosuite - is an experimental short film in conjunction with Gawain Morrison and Chris Martin of FilmTrip and SARC at Queens. The film is due to shoot next month and follows the story of an old, vulnerable woman who encounters an intruder in her home. (think Misery meets One Foot in the grave) What makes the film experimental is the plan to hook the audience to ECG's, and GSR's [Galvanic Skin Response] to measure their responses. These signals are captured by a computer running software, created to process the incoming data from the audience, and depending on what the audience's response is measured to be, at any particular point, determines what changes occur in the film that they are watching. PRETTY COOL, right? So for the first time the audience will be active participants in the story. The plot will change at certain story juncture points, literally who lives or does is in the hands of the audience (or hearts in this case) It was a challenging project to work on but I firmly believe this is a new way to write, watch and think about films. It goes beyond the 3d/4d trickery to actually immerse people in the story. The results are going to form the bedrock for bigger future projects, including features. But who is to say that some day we won't all be hooked to our tv's actively influencing the events on screen in the same way a computer gamer does? It has been a real kick to be there at ground zero. I think this could be the next big thing. Keep an eye on Film trips website for updates

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

I have the double edged sword set up of having a 9-5. That means the bills get paid but relegates writing time to; early morning intravenous coffee sessions, late nights and weekend shifts. If I'm not chasing down a deadline it works just fine, sometimes the limited hours mean you have to focus, get down and dirty fast rather than procrastinating a project to death. It makes for a slightly longer editing process but I think it's a small price to pay. If writing means time away from loved ones and the norms of society then I think you can afford yourself the luxury of enjoying the actual writing process. Everyone's different but I love working an idea in my head, hammering out some vague bullet point structure notes and then dive in to the white page like a ten year old finding a field of untouched snow. (soon to be blemished by a hundred other feet and oddly yellow pools :)But for a moment at least just yours.) That's where I get the buzz, the tingle when a character does something or gets themselves into a situation you seemingly had no idea about! A more measured approach for me has always been less satisfying. So I say 'work that laptop like you stole it', get some trusted editors around you for the next stage and enjoy the ride.

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

I suppose I go into a kind of recharge period. I catch up on whatever book I'm reading, dig out old and new movies, continue the battle to obsessively clear down my sky plus planner and just get on with the day to days with a slightly clearer head than usual. My wife would say when I'm not writing I'm a little more in the 'here and now' than when I am ie: not putting the tea bags in the fridge and the milk in the oven or staring gormlessly for hours at the toaster whilst my head is working through a never ending series of "What If?" or "What next?" questions.

In all honestly I probably never truly switch off. All it takes is an overheard line on the bus or a newspaper article and the wheels start churning. But downtime is essential to recharge and regroup. New ideas can suddenly solidify in your head or old ones re-invent themselves just by allowing yourselves some time away from the grindstone. So long as downtime doesn't become 'never again time' too many writers spend too long talking a good fight and not pinning their colors to the mast. The more comfortable my bum gets in the sofa the more likely I am to succumb. So I try to recharge and get back as soon as.

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

Now there's a question and a half! I suppose it plays a little into what I said above. You need to really love what you do to endure the late nights and rejections along the way. And like love (let's grab that loose analogy and thrash it to death shall we?) you'll make some mistakes along the way, so what? Who doesn't? Get your thoughts on paper, get it 'out there' and see where it takes you. With love comes respect; too many writers don't truly respect the craft, don't think they need to look at structure or even read other screenplays. They take an all too altruistic high ground and forget that we're writing primarily to entertain. That's not to say I think we should all follow some prescriptive formulaic, welcome to McDonalds, 'meet the new script same as the old script' blue print but I think to be a good writer you have to know the rules before you break em.

Be prepared to compromise. A lot of people need to invest in your script if that means changes I say go with them. There will be things you really won't want to lose. Been there buried the burned t-shirt at a cross roads. The only defense against that is to have damn good reasons up your sleeve for every moment in your story, that way when somebody suggests a cut or a change you can hit them with both barrels. The change may still have to happen as once a movie rolls so much is out of your hands, logistics and all kinds of factors come into play. The best you can do is make your case and roll with the punches. If the changes are going ahead you have the choice; let someone else make them and live with it or suck it up, make the changes yourself and try to bring something to these new moments which makes you proud.

See other people (but not too many!) there is a tendency for first time writers to court feedback early on and try to please everyone. Before you know it the story no longer seems your own. A double edged sword this as I think being part of a circle of similar minded people is invaluable, people you can trust for feedback when the time is right. I was a founding member of screenwriters ink, we done our best to raise the profile of writers in Northern Ireland but in a way which kept the attention on writing (not talking about writing) So be wary of getting too embroiled in groups and forums where the order of the day is slagging off every film that ever makes it to screen. You need a critical voice in your ear when you sit down to write but what you don't need is a legion of unseen nay sayers holding you back. The process is scary enough. Least for me.

Q5. Which writers have impressed you this year?

Graham Joyce - The Tooth Fairy. Was weird and wonderful whilst conjuring up very real memories of growing up. A great read. I also got to touch base again with Edgar Allen Poe via an anthology book which was a deliciously dark delight. I've been devouring the uber cool speak of Phillip Marlowe in Raymond Chandlers Playback. None of whom I realize are up and coming writers! I'm trying to get more hip and with it. I heard there is a compilation of Irish crime stories just released, worth checking out .... great editing by all accounts :)

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Just finished The Tooth Fairy by Graham Joyce borrowed from the wonderfully goateed and uber-talented Gerard Brennan. I have an anthology of ghost stories compiled by Roald Dahl which I'm looking forward to and Stephen King's Lisneys Story to come after that. I also had a week in Donegal and stocked up on a range of irish Myth and Wb Yeats collections which will ensure I'm scared witless next time I'm walking the dog at night. (I really must try to read a rom-com)

Q7. Plans for the future?

I guess I'm still hoping to earn enough from writing to reduce some of my 9-5 hours just to make the writing process a little easier. The over arching dream of penning a locally set horror/thriller is edging ever closer with Silent Screams and Teenage Kicks looking good. (We almost got there with Red Mist.) So in terms of script writing I have plenty on for 2010. I've been thinking about having a pop at novel writing. I started out writing short stories and as you said novel writing would be 'exercising a whole different muscle' which I think would be challenging but well worth doing.

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

I'd like to have been a little more 'contract savvy' before I signed up to some projects ... 'any other drafts as needed' can be a killer in the small print! But that's a minor quibble (now the rose tinted specs are on anyway) At times I cringe at the drafts I sent way back in 2000 to EVERY producer in the artists' yearbook! But even the most raw of them had some kind of energy, at least enough to get me a contact and/or a meeting. So every cringe has a silver lining. This answer has turned out a lot more Sinatra "regrets I've had a few, then again too few to mention." than I thought it would! I'm 37 with a locally shot horror feature under my belt so all told I'm happy with things. BUT the longer in the tooth you get the longer the development road can seem. Once you are on the road you get whisked along but I'm getting a little more wary before making the first step than I was. I've tied up some decent projects to companies who, it has later transpired, didn't have the backing to make them.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Are you sitting comfortably?

I attended a read through at which I was doing all the reading, although a useful experience it also served to remind me that the words you write actually do get said. I had a few tongue twisters which played better in the head than from the mouth. Also in Red Mist; Kenneth the 'Monster' possesses people and wreaks his vengeance etc. In script that character's possessed introduction was Kenneth/Bill or Kenneth/Sally etc. I didn't get the sniggers until Kenneth possessed Clark ...

On Red Mist I fought my corner a little too aggressively with the then director Peter Howitt. It was one of those breakdowns in communication that happen when fast and furious emails start flying in the heat of production. It certainly would not have occurred in a face to face. Peter and I got on well before and since. Anyway, it ended with me threatening him with a bone mallet insertion to the rectal area and him writing a five page diatribe and sending in the production big guns to scold me ... naughty, naughty ... I was right though :)

On one project I discovered at the eleventh hour that a character was killed, autopsied, buried and mourned within the course of a day ... you don't lay long in my stories.

I volunteered to be in a key scene for a short script (DOA) entered as part of the short steps scheme years ago. It involved me laying half naked on a morgue slab, complete with wooden neck block, cold metal and eerily hot heating pipes .. freaky ju ju, chief.

That was cathartic, this house feels a little cleaaannnnnner than before.

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

Nah my friend I'm spent. Keep truckin.

Thank you, Spence Wright!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Taylor on the TV

Oh how I wish I had access to TV3... Unfortunately, I don't have Sky TV nor an external aerial and I'm stuck behind the Mourne Mountains so digital Freeview can't find me at all... Instead I rely on BT Vision's TV Replay for all my televised needs and guess what? They don't have TV3 on there.

So, unless TV3's website have this on their I'm going to miss the first of the televised Jack Taylor series. Boo!

For those of you lucky enough to have access to the channel, check out this little appetiser.

I read Ken Bruen's Cross while on paternity leave (among other great books... might post about them in a round-up soon) and was as impressed as ever.

And, I forgot to post a link to this Ken Bruen interview I did for Culture NI last month as well. My wife calls this temporary absent-mindedness baby brain. Expect a lot of it over the next few months as our little bundle of joy deprives us of our God-given right to sleep. Bitter? Me? Well, only when I'm not doting over the little fellah.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Sex, Dubs and Rock 'n' Roll

Thought I'd share the cover of an upcoming anthology one of my short stories has made it into. Purty, ain't it? Edited by Maxim Jakubowski, SITC: Dublin also features stories by Ken Bruen, Colin Bateman, Sean Black, Stella Duffy and others... Pretty good company, am I right?

The collection, I'm very reliably informed, is due back from the printers in a matter of weeks and is on schedule for a September release. It can already be pre-ordered now at Amazon, though...

And in other quite related news, I've also managed to blag my way into the Best British Crime antho (the 8th volume) that features crime fiction stories published in 2009. My story's a crazy little tale of Rock 'n' Roll excess. This collection is also edited by Maxim Jakubowski and the 7th volume had stories by Alexander McCall Smith, Colin Dexter, Christopher Fowler, Robert Barnard, Anne Perry, Peter Lovesey, Ken Bruen and Allan Guthrie. I'm more than a little excited about this sale. Can't wait to see the table of contents for this new one. I heard a rumour that Nick Quantrill has a story in it but that's all so far...

Monday, 19 July 2010


Right, let's face it. This blog has gone downhill in the last few months. I'm big enough and ugly enough to... who'm I kidding? I'm not ugly. I'm just tired and prematurely greying. I know that whole "big enough and ugly enough" thing is just a saying and all but this post isn't about self-pity. It's about things changing a little.

So anyway, as I was saying, CSNI has lost some of its raison d'etre. This used to be a blog where I posted reviews, interviews and news about the upsurge of Northern Irish crime writing. Now it's that thing I feel guilty about doing a half-assed job at. And it's not going to improve much now that we've got fifty percent more kids in the Brennan household (see evidence below).

For two years the blog went strong and seemed to get quite popular (considering the niche-market nature of the subject matter) and put me in touch with pretty much all of my favourite Irish crime writers. And I like to think it made me some real friends too. But I simply no longer have the time to hunt out new and established writers to bother them for interviews or offer them a place to spread the word about their work. So I'm rebooting the site as a personal blog.

I'll still spread the word about NI crime fiction when it falls into my lap, and I welcome anybody to get in touch with me through the blog, but I'm now focussing the ever-diminishing amount of spare time I have on promoting my own writing and other writing-related projects through CSNI.

The release of Requiems for the Departed, a book I consider to be the tangible product of the two year project that was CSNI 1.0, seems to be as good a place as any to draw a line under the original mission statement of the blog (you know, the one that went, "Primarily devoted to the boom in post-Troubles crime fiction, yadda, yadda...") and launch the new one (which I admit needs a bit of a spit-shine); "It's mostly about me now."

I figured that the remaining visitors to CSNI deserved to know about this...


(My wee family -- left to right, Jack, Oscar and Mya)

Friday, 9 July 2010

Black on the Box

Tony Black has got some very interesting stuff going on here...

And here...

My Father's Coat - 1st Cut from Pete Martin on Vimeo.

I was thinking about asking my multi-media multi-talented brother to have a go at doing some sort of promo vid for Requiems for the Departed, though I got a little sidetracked by recent events (I'll post about that in an hour or two for the benefit of those readers who haven't hooked up with me on Facebook).

Of course, it'd never have the professional and polished look of Tony Black's videos... no offence to my bro, but he just wouldn't have the resources for that. But I'm interested in knowing if people think this kind of thing is worthwhile. And if I ever did get something like this sorted out, after I post it on the blog, what else would I do with it?

Answers on a postcard or in the comment box. Whatever suits you.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


I can’t remember how small I was when I first came across the legend of St Patrick having rid Ireland of its snakes, nor the book in which I read it — although I can almost make out, in my mind’s eye, the open spread of text and the black-and-white illustration that filled the upper half of the left-hand page. My guess is I must have been seven or eight. What fascinated me about the legend at the time was not so much the mere banishment of the snakes — that seemed to my youthful mind the kind of feat any self-respecting saint could knock off before breakfast — but the fact that Patrick was supposed to have gotten rid of them all. This still seems to me the crux of the miracle. Surely snakes are like lice and fruit flies and memories of old embarrassments: try as you might, you can never quite eliminate the last of them.

Half a century later and an ocean away, that childhood fascination has given rise to the story ‘The Life Business’. I don’t think any other story of mine has taken quite so long in the nurturing.

Other elements from my youth play their part in the story. At the time in which ‘The Life Business’ is set Magilligan Point — later to be the site of a high-security internment camp for terrorist suspects during the troubles and now, I gather, a low-security prison with a focus on (and reportedly impressive reputation for) rehabilitation — was a run-down British Army camp. I have no idea what other purposes it might have been put to, but one of its uses was as a training base where, during the holidays, school Army cadet forces could send contingents of teenaged boys like Peter Greenham.

And, in fact, like me. Although all the people and situations in the story are born from my imagination, as is the story itself (and most emphatically Peter bears no resemblance to the teenaged me), the described layout of the camp is as close as my memory will permit to the real thing. Certainly the details of the lavatory building are seared into my brain: that intimidating outhouse really existed, and rather than use it we cadets did indeed pepper the surrounding landscape with unpleasant surprises for future foot-travellers.

One other vividly recalled element of my fortnight at Magilligan I was unfortunately unable to work in. This was an Army-issue mechanical potato peeler, a device that weighed about a tonne and in which I foolishly displayed interest the first night we were there, thereby defining my kitchen duty for the next two weeks. Imagine if you will a hand-operated tumble dryer, the metal inner surfaces of which have corrugations like those on a file, although larger. You tipped in a bucket of potatoes, cranked like a mad thing for twenty minutes, and were rewarded with . . . well, you couldn’t exactly say the potatoes had been peeled, but much of the skin was off them. Then you had to empty the device of all the scrapings. I think I was still finding the occasional tiny fleck of potato skin in my hair a week after I’d got home.

I visited Ireland, both north and south, a number of times during my teens, and developed a great fondness for the land and for almost all of the people I met there. Eventually, alas, it became too dangerous for a mainlander to visit, so I acquired myself an Irish girlfriend instead. But that really is a completely different story.

Requiems for the Departed is now available worldwide, with a 28% discount in the US through Barnes & Noble and free shipping worldwide through The Book Depository. So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on some top quality Irish Crime and Irish Myths easily! Our paperback edition is also still available at the Morrigan Books site too, along with the limited edition hardback (now down to less than 30 copies available).

John Grant

John Grant is author of some seventy books, of which about twenty-five are fiction, including novels like The World, The Hundredfold Problem, The Far-Enough Window and most recently (2008) The Dragons of Manhattan and Leaving Fortusa. His “book-length fiction” Dragonhenge, illustrated by Bob Eggleton, was shortlisted for a Hugo Award in 2003; its successor was The Stardragons. His first story collection, Take No Prisoners, appeared in 2004. His anthology New Writings in the Fantastic was shortlisted for a British Fantasy Award. His novella The City in These Pages, an Ed McBain homage/cosmological fantasy, appeared from PS Publishing early in 2009; another novella, The Lonely Hunter, is to appear from PS later this year.

In nonfiction, he coedited with John Clute The Encyclopedia of Fantasy and wrote in their entirety all three editions of The Encyclopedia of Walt Disney’s Animated Characters; both encyclopedias are standard reference works in their fields. Among his latest nonfictions have been Discarded Science, Corrupted Science and, in Fall 2009, Bogus Science.

As John Grant he has received two Hugo Awards, the World Fantasy Award, the Locus Award, and a number of other international literary awards. Under his real name, Paul Barnett, he has written a few books (like the space operas Strider’s Galaxy and Strider’s Universe) and for a number of years ran the world-famous fantasy-artbook imprint Paper Tiger, for this work earning a Chesley Award and a nomination for the World Fantasy Award.

A Scot by birth, he now lives in northern New Jersey with his wife and an alarming number of cats; their back yard features more wildlife than the average zoo, up to and including wild turkey and black bears, both of which are frequent visitors in season. His website is at

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I'm working on my next nonfiction book, which is to be published next Spring by Prometheus. Provisionally called Denying Science, it follows along the same stream of thought, as it were, as my earlier books Discarded Science, Corrupted Science (particularly), and Bogus Science. I'm also writing the 500 or so artist/illustrator entries for the new (massive, online) third edition of the Clute/Nicholls Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, which this time has David Langford as a primary editor alongside the other two. Oh, and I'm writing a chapter about time travel stories for an academic book on science fiction's subgenres. That's in addition to the usual drizzle of short stories and such. It's a busy time.

I should also mention this cute illustrated rhyming book for kids about a velociraptor for which I've done the doggerel (the illustrator's set to be Chris Baker, a.k.a. Fangorn). It's currently being shopped around publishers.

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

I'm not sure I can, to be honest. I get up in the morning; go through countless e-newsletters and the like, filing pieces that could come in useful for any of the various nonfiction books I have on the stocks; do necessary e-mail and some chattering with the informal list I belong to, The Spammers; drag myself to the exercise bike for a while; then, if I'm on a deadline or I'm really involved in my current piece of writing, I write for what can seem an obscene number of hours; conversely, if there are no deadline pressures and I'm working on something boring, I do my best not to skive. There's no set pattern, in other words.

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

I read. I'm a cricket nut, so follow the sport as best a US resident can on I listen to music. I also watch movies, mainly – when Pam allows it – golden age films noirs and neo-noirs. One of my down-the-line projects is a book on noir cinema – so, you see, I can count my couch potatoing as research!

(I wrote a little book on beer a few years ago. At the outset I had this excellent research plan outlined in my head. Alas, it was vetoed.)

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

Don't be tempted to self-publish, even though doing so is cheap and (with the advent of e-books) becoming cheaper. You'll be told tales of how self-published authors have made major breakthroughs; but those successes are the one-in-a-million exceptions – you're looking at a winning-the-lottery-level outside chance. More likely, self-publication will destroy your career before it has even started, because people will assume your book is, like 99 out of every 100 of the other self-published novels on offer all over the internet, complete crap.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I assume the question means "within the past twelve months or so". It's still a hard one, though.

I was engrossed by Carlos Ruiz Zafon's The Angel's Game, which I imagine could be described at least loosely as a crime novel. I read (on occasion reread) and enjoyed various crime novels by some of the usual suspects – Ruth Rendell, Peter Robinson, Harlan Coben, Robert Barnard, John D. Macdonald, John Dickson Carr. Other crime books, not necessarily good (and in some cases lousy), that stick out in my memory for one reason or another include: Peter Lovesey's Diamond Solitaire, a charming sequel to his equally charming The Last Detective; James Hadley Chase's I'll Bury My Dead, the first Chase novel I've read and probably the last (it was sort of fun and I'm glad I did it, but . . .); Stephen Humphrey Bogart's Play It Again, an attempt at a hardboiled detective novel by Bogie's son (somewhat better than its exploitative title might suggest, but the guy should see someone about the issues he seems to have with Lauren Bacall); Dorothy Bryant's Killing Wonder (regarded as pioneeringly feminist back in 1981, but readable today as a pleasing mystery with a laudable tang of wry social satire); John Searles's Boy Still Missing (grossly overwritten in places – many places – but it still somehow succeeds by the end in being both riveting and moving and real). I know there have been lots of others but, as I say, these are ones that come to mind.

Best of all among the crime books I've read in the past few months, aside perhaps from the Zafon (it's kind of apples and oranges to compare the two), has been Stieg Larrson's The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. A curious thing: One day someone on one of the LinkedIn groups was urging me most strongly to read this book, of which at the time I'd only vaguely heard. That evening Pam and I went into NYC to see an Interstitial Arts presentation at the fantastic Manhattan bookstore Housing Works, all of whose proceeds go to helping the homeless. Pam shot straight off to the loo when we got there, leaving me by a book trolley of recent arrivals. Idly, my eye fell on these, and you've guessed what it was . . . at a mere $6 for the near-mint hardback! I felt that someone up there was trying to tell me something so bought the book on the spot – and am extraordinarily glad I did so.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

In my leisure time, Audrey Niffenegger's The Time Traveler's Wife – although really it's not leisure reading but towards this essay I'm writing (op cit.) on time travel stories. During working hours I'm reading – as part of the research for Denying Science – James Hansen's Storms of My Grandchildren, a book that's frightening on two scores: it lays out what's really coming down the pike as our planet's climate changes, and it recounts some pretty vile persecution and intimidation, both officially sanctioned and "freelance", that scientists can face should they insist on reporting the results of their science rather than bending the truth to suit other people's ideological preconceptions.

Q7. Plans for the future?

As noted above, I want to do a major book on film noir. I'm also developing ideas for books on past predictions of the end of the world, on Fundamentalist hate groups, and on the profitless interaction between science and the supernatural – both how scientists who've probed claims of the supernatural have ended up with egg on their faces and how the "supernaturalists" spew pseudoscientific "explanations" for their claims. I'm also slowly beginning to get my ass in gear to put together – and find a publisher for – my second story collection, provisionally called Tell No Lies. Oh, and there are other notions bubbling around.

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

Too many things for me sensibly to list.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I don't know if it counts as a "worst writing experience", but this is certainly the most annoying (in an ironic sort of a way) that's happened for quite a while:

A few years ago I had an idea for a fantasy story in which, in the distant past (so far as my far-future protagonists are concerned), a religiously puritanical Galactic Emperor had cracked down on the casino space cruisers then in vogue, having them hurled into black holes. What he didn't realize is that he thereby granted the gamblers, croupiers, their bosses, their environment, etc., a form of immortality, because, while the matter of which they were made up was destroyed, the information that underpinned their existences is still swirling around in a 2D film, as it were, on the black holes' event horizons; further, it has now become a popular – albeit expensive – tourist recreation to send one's avatar, which is similarly an entity derived by stripping the individual down to her/his information, from orbiting spacecraft down onto the event horizon "surface" to intermingle with the gamblers, who're still tugging away on those fruit machine handles, or whatever, aware that something's dreadfully wrong but not sure what it is.

I thought it was a very pretty fantasy image, but clearly I was using a bunch of sciencefictional tropes. It struck me as my duty to give these some superficial level of scientific plausibility, so I invented a new universal law – "The Law of Conservation of Information" – to explain why there was this thing about the casino people's information still existing even if the rest of them were long destroyed. Hm. The expression would read better if I called it "The Law of Conservation of Data", and that became the title of my story.

The trouble was that the story proved infernally difficult to write – partly because of working out the ramifications of the "Law", partly because I was trying to make my far-future humans as different from us, culturally and otherwise, as I could. I managed a few thousand words, then put the thing to one side to be gone back to again later when my brain was feeling a bit stronger. That hasn't happened yet.

And now almost certainly won't.

A few weeks ago, we were watching a Horizon documentary about how, after long years of wrangling with a US physicist called Leonard Susskind, Stephen Hawking had felt compelled to modify his original contention that even information itself is lost to the universe at black holes. I discovered that, according to Susskind and his allies and indeed most physicists, there actually is a law of conservation of information. Well, stap me – my idea's been retroactively stolen. It got worse. Apparently Susskind's latest notion of what's going on, the holographic principle (in fact originally derived by a Dutch physicist called Gerardus 't Hooft), maintains that all the information from the 3D items which fall into the black hole survives in 2D form at the event horizon. (More accurately, the 2D information forms a hologram of the 3D items . . . leading to the further notion that we and the universe we know are not 3D at all, but merely a holographic representation of the true, two-dimensional, information-composed universe. But that's another story.)

So all of the elegant flights of fantasy I'd constructed in order to build my story were not original at all – well, they were original to me, it was just that other folk had got to some bits of them first. Perhaps I'd come across these ideas in my reading and forgotten about them? In the case of the law of conservation of information, this is very possible; but it seems the popular accounts of the holographic principle, as it relates to what I've been talking about, didn't start emerging until about 2008 – which is long after I was working on my story.

My, did I swear a lot when I discovered all this.

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

One of the things I find when chattering with people who don't know my fiction (which, let's face it, is just about everybody) is their frequent desire for me to pigeonhole myself in one genre or another. "Oh, you're a science fiction writer!" they cry, and I have to explain that, no, although I do sometimes write SF I wouldn't call myself an SF writer, more of a fantasist making use of SF tropes and venues and styles. "Ah, a fantasy writer, then!" Well, yes and no, depending on what you mean by "fantasy": if you mean high fantasy with fighting barbarians and usurped princesses and pigboys an' stuff, well, um, while I've written quite a lot of this I think it must be nearly twenty years since the last time. If by "fantasy" you mean the stuff that swallows up and smears itself across all kinds of other genres, very notably including crime (most especially noir), then I guess that could be me, in a sort of slipstreamish fashion. Really, though, I like it best when people think of each new fiction by me as just a piece of fiction, and don't expect it necessarily to be anything like the last piece of mine they read.

Despite what I've just said, I guess that in some ways – while the plot and voice of "The Life Business" are original to the piece – subtextually it has something in common with much of my other fiction in the sense that the story it's telling turns out not to be the one you've been thinking it was. I'm interested in the way our minds and memories construct past realities that relate to, but may not particularly well match, what objectively did happen. It's been a recurring theme of mine. "The Life Business" has something to say towards it.

Golly, but I hate talking about my fiction like this. I always end up sounding like a pompous twerp.

Thank you, John Grant!

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

A Murder of Scribes

Thanks to Tony Bailie for sorting us out with a copy of this picture. It first appeared in the Irish News the day after the Requiems for the Departed launch and I think it's a cracker. Pictured below we have the motley crew that showed up to read at No Alibis that night and me. Proud editor that I am, I'm the only one not holding a copy of the book. I was hiding my beer behind my back like a nabbed teenager, in fact.

Anyway, from left to right we have Stuart Neville, John McAllister, T.A. Moore, Arlene Hunt, Tony Bailie, Brian McGilloway and me.

I reckon we all scrub up pretty well.

It's a nice pic to have. A reminder of one of the highlights of my year, only to be topped next week when the newest member of the Brennan household is due to arrive.


The myth of Finneagas is one that has always stuck with me and, as may be evident from the story I wrote using it, it is the one key incident that really stood out; the blistering of the fish skin and the nature of accident. I also liked the idea that the fish confers knowledge, as this is what a policeman is constantly seeking. In this case, it’s not so much the fish as the character of Finneagas who has the knowledge, of the river and those who fish it. And the pressing of the blister struck me as something that a man who means well but often makes mistakes would do — perfect for Devlin then. As for the nature of accident in crime? Not all killings are planned, nor are they motivated by the promise of millions.

Image by Brian Boylan.

Requiems for the Departed is now available worldwide, with a 28% discount in the US through Barnes & Noble and free shipping worldwide through The Book Depository. So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on some top quality Irish Crime and Irish Myths easily! Our paperback edition is also still available at the Morrigan Books site too, along with the limited edition hardback (now down to less than 30 copies available).

Brian McGilloway

This interview first appeared on CSNI on 24th March 2008

Brian McGilloway hails from Derry, Northern Ireland. By day, he teaches English at St Columb's College, Derry. By night, he’s an NI crime fiction writer. McGilloway's debut novel is a crime thriller called Borderlands. The sequel, Gallows Lane, was published in 2008. Borderlands, was shortlisted for the CWA New Blood Dagger in 2007.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’ve started planning the fourth Devlin book, The Rising, at the moment. In addition to that, I’m doing a little follow-up work on the third book, Bleed A River Deep.

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

My typical writing day starts usually around 8.30 pm. I work full time as the Head of English in a large, all boys school in Derry which means I leave the house at eight in the morning and get home after five most days. Having a young family, little is done about the house until after the children go to bed around eight. Then, a mug of tea, a quick check of e-mails and I get started. I write for an hour or two per day for the months during which I’m actually writing. I aim to write 1000 words per day, though frequently I manage 2500, and sometimes I struggle to make 250.

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

I teach full time and have two young children. That fairly much takes care of it. That and the Playstation 3 which is taking up a lot of those wee small hours when I should be writing book 4.

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

I’m a green-horn myself, so I’m hardly in a position to advise. I’ve read crime fiction constantly for nearly a decade before starting to write. To be a writer, I think you need to be a reader first – to see what has been done and is being done.

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

I really liked Declan Burke’s The Big O. Ian Rankin and James Lee Burke’s most recent were both superb. And I rocketed through CJ Samson’s Sovereign.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

In addition to Year 12 English coursework, Prayers For Rain by Dennis Lehane. I recently saw Gone Baby, Gone and it reminded me how much I enjoyed the Kenzie & Gennaro novels. Sadly, I’m struggling with time to read it at the moment so I might have to save it for the Easter holidays.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Pan Macmillan has signed up to Devlin 5, which will keep me going for another year or two yet. After that will depend on whether or not anyone wants to read more of my books and whether or not I have more stories to tell. I’d like to develop some of the other characters from the Devlin books into stories of their own at some stage. I’m happy to take it a book at a time and see how they go.

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

No – I’m perfectly happy with the way things have gone. Had I done anything differently, it would have changed the knock on effect that has been part and parcel of the Devlin books path to publication.

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Not that I can think of, thanks!

Thank you, Brian McGilloway!

Tuesday, 29 June 2010


I wrote this piece in late 2004 for a book of short stories I was finishing, called Off Broadway (Guildhall Press, 2005). The collection, set in the North’s post-ceasefire underworld, owes considerable stylistic debt to New York’s finest son Damon Runyon. And in deference to the master, most of the yarns were blackly comic escapades, loosely based on unprintable stories I’d come across as a working journalist.

First to Score was a little different. As a ten-year-old Horslips fan, I’d become enthralled by the legend of Diarmaid and Grainne after hearing their take on the story in the song Warm Sweet Breath of Love (Book of Invasions, 1976). So, almost thirty years on, in a bid to leave a subtle Celtic stamp on my new book, I thought it’d be fun to transfer the couple’s doomed elopement to present-day Derry, to see if they’d fare any better.

Image by Pamela Silin Palmer.

Requiems for the Departed is now available worldwide, with a 28% discount in the US through Barnes & Noble and free shipping worldwide through The Book Depository. So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on some top quality Irish Crime and Irish Myths easily! Our paperback edition is also still available at the Morrigan Books site too, along with the limited edition hardback (now down to less than 30 copies available).

Garbhan Downey

This interview first appeared on CSNI 28th April 2008

Garbhán Downey has worked as a journalist, broadcaster, newspaper editor and literary editor. He lives in Derry with his wife Una, and children Fiachra and Bronagh. His fourth novel, the comedy-thriller Yours Confidentially: Letters of a would-be MP, has just been published by Guildhall Press.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

Lots - a historical biography, two novels (at advanced draft stage), two plays about smuggling, and I’ve just been asked to edit a troubles-related book.

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

Every weekday, I try to spend between nine and six in the study – and while it doesn’t always work out that way, I’m pretty disciplined. When I was in full-time journalism, I worked long weeks and late hours that kept me away from my wife and young children. Happily, I copped myself on and remembered that no-one ever looked back on their deathbed and wished they’d spent more time in the office.

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

Ferry youngsters to soccer, Gaelic, swimming and Irish dancing. Sky Sports also features occasionally, though less and less since the weans learned how to use the remote control.

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

Stick at it and the breaks will come. Oh – and be lucky!

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

Chris Brookmyre, Carl Hiassen, Colin Bateman and Brian McGilloway.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Nell McCafferty’s autobiography, Penance for Jerry Kennedy by Boston crime great George Higgins, Deterring Democracy by Noam Chomsky, and The Cat in the Hat (nightly) by Dr Seuss.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Carry on chopping wood and carrying water.

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

No. Of course, I’ve made mistakes - you have to. But the great part is learning from them - that way you never get the same slap in the mouth twice.

For more information on Downey’s books, visit

Thank you, Garbhán Downey!

Monday, 28 June 2010


I think the first time I heard of Tir-na-nÓg was on the sleeve notes of The Book of Invasions by Horslips. That would have been back in the late 70s, and Tir-na-nÓg wasn’t actually mentioned by name, if I remember correctly, but the story of the Tuatha Dé Danann outlined in the notes stuck in my mind. And it really is a cracking album, too.

The next time I heard of Tir-na-nÓg was sometime in the mid-80s, in the booklet that accompanied a computer game called, reasonably enough, Tir Na Nog. If you were a Spectrum or Amstrad gamer in the mid-80s, the chances are you know what I’m talking about.

The idea of this land of the ever-young, this far-off place beyond the edges of the map, has stuck with me for years.

Requiems for the Departed is now available worldwide, with a 28% discount in the US through Barnes & Noble and free shipping worldwide through The Book Depository. So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on some top quality Irish Crime and Irish Myths easily! Our paperback edition is also still available at the Morrigan Books site too, along with the limited edition hardback (now down to less than 30 copies available).

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Requiems for the Departed goes Worldwide!

After a successful launch at No Alibis in Belfast, Requiems for the Departed is now available worldwide, with a 28% discount in the US through Barnes & Noble and free shipping worldwide through The Book Depository. So no matter where you are in the world, you can get your hands on some top quality Irish Crime and Irish Myths easily! Our paperback edition is also still available at the Morrigan Books site too, along with the limited edition hardback (now down to less than 30 copies available).

Friday, 11 June 2010

It WAS All Right on the Night... Frickin' Brilliant, Actually

I'm a little bit strapped for time today, and slightly hungover, so this is going to be a pretty short report. But I feel like I should let you all know how the launch for Requiems for the Departed went last night.

Frickin' brilliant, as the title suggests.

The shop was packed, six of the contributors came along to read, copies were sold and signed, and I got to have a few sociable pints with a group of great people.

It was a pleasure to meet John McAllister and Arlene Hunt for the first time, and Arlene's hubby, Andrew. And it was great to see Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Tony Bailie and Tammy Moore again (and congrats to Stuart and his lovely fiancee, Jo, who he introduced us to last night). Unfortunately, Garbhan Downey didn't make it, but I think he was there in spirit alongside Peter Rozovsky and Sean Patrick Reardon.

Adrian McKinty didn't make it either, citing the pitiful excuse that he lives in Melbourne... BUT I was delighted to see Adrian's mum and sister there. Two absolute angels.

I met Wayne Simmons for the first time too. Look out for this guy. He's brought Zombies to Belfast!

Old and new friends showed up and I think I managed to get a couple of minutes with each of them. If I missed anybody, I apologise.

Oh, and there was beer.

By the way, if you're into pub quizzes, you want to get Stuart and Jo on your side. We won a £10 voucher! Go team No Alibis.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

All Right on the Night?

We're just hours away from the launch of Requiems for the Departed at No Alibis Bookstore. The books are at the store, there's wine in the boot of my car, we've generated as much buzz as we could manage and there's nothing much I can do now but wait for 6:30pm to come around...

Damn you, Father Time. Give that egg-timer a shake, will you?

Anyway, I hope we get a decent crowd and that Dave sells a boatload of books. And I hope we don't run out of white wine. I nicked a bottle from the stash last night and would feel a bit wick if anybody's left wanting.

By the way, I was interviewed by the cool, elegant and scarily intelligent Marie-Louise Muir on BBC Radio Ulster last night. If you missed Artsextra, here's a link to the Listen Again thingy. It turned out quite well, I thought.


When I was eight years old I read the novel The High Deeds of Finn MacCool by Rosemary Sutcliffe. The most compelling part of the story for me was the tale of Diarmaid and Grainne. I’ve never forgotten it and I liked the idea of putting a contemporary spin on this classic.

You can buy your copy of Requiems for the Departed exclusively at No Alibis today!

What are you waiting for?

Adrian McKinty

This interview first appeared on CSNI 7th April 2008

I also interviewed Adrian on Allan Guthrie's Noir Originals

Adrian McKinty was born and grew up in Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland at the height of the Troubles. He studied politics at Oxford University and after a failed legal career he moved to the US in the early 1990s. He found work as a security guard, postman, construction worker, barman, rugby coach and bookstore clerk before becoming a school teacher in Denver, where he now lives.
Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

A novel called Fifty Grand about a cop from Havana who comes to America to investigate a suspected murder.

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

I’m not one of those up at six and write 1000 words before breakfast types. For me its more like an hour here and an hour there in between dealing with the kids and school (I’m a teacher).

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

I play rugby when I get the chance and lately I’ve been doing a bit of skiing here in Colorado.

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

Read tons and not just in the genre.

Q5. Which crime writer(s) have impressed you this year?

I’ve discovered James Ellroy’s later fictions The Cold Six Thousand and American Tabloid and they’re both fantastic.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Take a Girl Like You by Kingsley Amis

Q7. Plans for the future?

I’d like to write a book about the year I spent in Jerusalem but what exactly I don’t know.

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

I’d do everything differently. If I’d known how important promotion was going to be I’d have gone mad promoting Dead I Well May Be. The book got starred reviews in all the trades but Simon and Schuster didn’t spend a dime on advertising so the starred reviews meant nothing. I should have stopped everything and gone around the country promoting the book on my own dollar and really tried to make a big splash. The lesson is you can't rely on the publisher, you have to work all the angles. Writing the book is only half the story, you have to go out there and sell the bloody thing with or without the help of your publisher.

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Nope, not really. When you read Dead I Well May Be you’ll have some questions about knee capping, but until that happy time…ciao…

Thank you, Adrian McKinty!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Tony Black

As he lives in Scotland, Requiems for the Departed contributor, Tony Black, won't be able to make the launch in Belfast tomorrow night. But check this out (well worth going to if you're in his neck of the woods):

ISSUED: 8-june-2010

Two of the country's leading crime writers are teaming up to pass their know-how on to the next wave of upcoming authors.

Edinburgh-based Tony Black and Allan Guthrie have had 10 novels published between them. Now they're getting together to present a unique workshop in the Scottish capital, called Writing Your Crime Novel - Seven Steps to Success.

Crime-writing is one of the most popular genres among readers in Britain and beyond, and it remains one of the very few growth areas in publishing. With many new writers eager to turn their hand to this area, the workshop is designed to help authors hone their skills by providing a unique insight in the creative process of planning and writing a crime novel. It covers such key areas as plot development, story structure and characterisation.

Tony says: "The potential market for crime writers is massive these days, but finding a pathway through it is more difficult than ever.

“Publishers are all looking for the next big thing - but are very specific about what they want. This course is aimed at pointing out just what it is they’re looking for, and how to go about delivering it."

Tony will host of the majority of the event, while Allan will present a section dealing with how to go about attracting the interest of a literary agent.

Tony says: "This is probably the most valuable insight you can afford a new writer as without an agent, there’s simply very little chance of being published."

Writing Your Crime Novel workshop takes place at the Royal Over-SeasClub, 100 Princes Street, Edinburgh, on Friday 16 July. For more details, go to

And Tony is due to launch the fourth Gus Dury novel, Long Time Dead, at Blackwells Bookshop, Edinburgh, on the 1st July at 6pm.


I liked the Children of Lir, as a child. I never was really into the folklore but I liked that one.

For me to totally relate to most things I have to bring them back to what I know.

So in this day and age I reckon that three children getting lost for years to normality could only mean one thing, drugs.

Once I thought of that concept the story kind of wrote itself.

You can buy your copy of Requiems for the Departed exclusively at No Alibis today!

What are you waiting for?

Neville Thompson

This interview first appeared on CSNI 22nd September 2008

Neville Thompson is the best selling author of Five Novels and has edited three books of short sotries. His work has been translated into French, German and Greek. The French are making a film of his first novel and he has also written and directed plays.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

Fuck all. And its not writers block I am just organising a festival in Castlecomer Kilkenny. I went down to do a writers workshop and the group ended up writing a play and a book of short stories. To celebrate their success we are having a festival and that is taking up all my time. But its good fun I am enjoying it.

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

When I write it takes up nearly a whole day. Normal writing day I get up and doss till around nine thirty, then work through on writing til five, only breaking for endless tea. At five I eat, check emails and watch tv for a while to chill, usually until ten and then its back to the writing again until two in the morning. I have terrible sleeps when writing cause I am thinking it all out, so I cant wait to get back and get it finished. It usually takes a twelve week stint once a year so I guess I am lucky.

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

The gym is big for me, I get very low if I don’t exercise so I like to stay fit. If I am in the money I like to holiday for a few weeks but I also do a lot of workshops with Poetry Ireland and Fetac so most of the school year I am working. Other than that you will find me sitting drinking tea on the boardwalk in Dublin.

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

Believe in your work and fuck the begrudgers. Don’t get caught up with trying to be smart, just write it straight and to be honest don’t get caught up with the idea of getting published it seems to be getting harder every year and to get a good story on paper you can’t get too caught up with it. I would say don’t get genre driven. Don’t pigeon hole your work. To be honest I don’t think my work is crime I think it’s life, its’s just nowadays there are a lot of crimes happening.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I really haven’t read anyone in ages, I love Irvine Welsh but his books have all disappointed since Filth, I kep buying hoping he will do something amazing but I think his edge is gone. I reread George Dawes Green’s Caveman and just think it’s amazing.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

How to make a film on a micro budget. I am trying to make movies and noone is interested in bring any of my work to screen here, it seems Fair City is as cutting edge as RTE want to go. So I am trying to make a film on a budget of zero and show what I can do so I will get a shot at something decent. The book is great. I am also reading a play called “Clerical Errors” that I am directing in the Castlecomer festival.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Just keep on working. Or win the Lotto but I will probably just keep on doing what I do. I am talking about starting a publishing house for small runs on new writers to be a stepping stone for the next big thing. I hate the devastation to Irish Writing that the Arts Council and the Chic Lit have done, they have ruined years of great work and stopped true talent emerging, I would like to try and stem that tide.

Re my own writing I have all the groundwork done for two books one I think is going to be very controversial as it is about a rape, the other is a lighter comedy type.

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

Yes. I would have taken the money originally offered for Jackie Loves Johnser the film and stopped being self righteous about doing the book justice. I would not have allowed an editor run me out of Poolbeg because I do believe I could have made a bigger break having stayed with them. But life is about life choices its only a mistake if you don’t learn from it and I have learned.

Q9. Anything you want to say that I haven’t asked you about?

Naw, I rant when given my space I think Pennys having their Christmas shop up so early is a disgrace and I think the fact that Pat Ingoldsby is selling his books on the bleeding street is a disgrace, when he dies they will all say what a great man he was and start spouting about him but he is alive they ignore him. I think someone has to stop the Arts Council funding shite, get the Abbey to realise that there are Irish writers who are still living and are not called Brendan or Roddy and make RTE realise that they can’t do comedy!

I would also like to know why I never get asked to do the Dublin Writers Festival or why this year is my 14th unsuccessful bid to get a grant from the Arts Council.

Like I say, I rant.

Thank you, Neville Thompson!