“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “A sheer pleasure.” – Tana French. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville. “The effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak.” – Ray Banks. “A fine writer at the top of his game.” – Lee Child.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Review: John Banville on Georges Simenon’s THE BLUE ROOM

John Banville had a fine piece in last weekend’s Irish Times, in which he reviewed Georges Simenon’s THE BLUE ROOM, which has just been republished by Penguin Classics. Sample quote:
“Like all writers he wrote for himself, but before and after writing he had a lively sense of his audience: he wrote for everyone, and anyone can read him, with ease and full understanding. Not for him the prolixity of Joyce or the exquisite nuances of Henry James. This is what Roland Barthes called “writing degree zero”, cool, controlled and throbbing with passion.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Event: ‘Irish Noir’ at Harrogate

The Harrogate festival – wisely, in my opinion – corral almost all of the appearing Irish writers onto one panel this year, as Stuart Neville, Steve Cavanagh, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty and Eoin McNamee take to the stage under the banner of ‘Irish Noir’ (William Ryan also appears at Harrogate, albeit on a different panel). The festival runs from July 16 to 19, with the Irish Noir event taking place at noon on Friday 17th. The very, very best of luck to whatever unfortunate is scheduled to moderate that particular panel …
  Elsewhere, a couple of stand-out highlights of the festival include Val McDermid interviewing Sara Paretsky, and Arnaldur Indridason interviewed by Barry Forshaw.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Richard Beard

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects …

What crime novel would you most like to have written?

I love the Robert B. Parker Spenser novels (‘you remember more stuff that doesn’t make you money than anyone I know’). I’m also a big fan of the Australian crime writer Peter Temple. My favourite of his has to be The Fatal Shore, and if I were Australian and utterly brilliant, that’s the novel I’d like to have written.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?

Ah, I know the answer to this one - not anyone realistic. Otherwise I could become that person in real life. I’d like to be someone so obviously fictional that I’d live an entirely novel experience. Maybe one of the characters from The Da Vinci Code, though none of the ones that get killed (though how would it feel to be killed, if I were fictional?)

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?

Most writers will tell you, a little righteously, that no reading should feel guilty. I’m not among them. When nothing else hits the spot I go to the library and take out a celebrity biography. I’m a sucker for the rags (not always that raggy) to riches (usually surprisingly rich). Recent under-the-cover reads have included Chris Evans and Alex James. But like McDonalds, one is enough for a while.

Most satisfying writing moment?

There comes a time towards the end of writing a novel when it feels as if the plane is coming into land. The effort of getting this unwieldy contraption off the ground, then finding a destination, then managing the fuel (add other flying metaphors to taste) is almost at an end. Now there are small tweaks that can make significant improvements, and my fingers feel the music in the keyboard. I’m overcome by a physical sense of elation. The euphoria doesn’t last, but that’s the best bit.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?

This feels the wrong way round – Crime Always Pays should be recommending Irish crime novels to me. I’m pretty up to speed on the brilliant Stuart Neville, and would recommend him to anyone who enjoys a bit of finely-crafted mayhem.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?

Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane, with its dapper gangsters and eternal grudges, has to count as a crime novel (among other possible classifications). And even though the rhythms of the language are one of the great pleasures of the Kevin Barry reading experience, the world he creates is intensely visual. He writes a future in techni-colour, and a daring film-maker who could combine the Bohane plot with a cinematic equivalent to Barry’s language could make a film like no other.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?

I like being in charge of my own time, when I am. Not so keen on the anxiety, but mustn’t grumble.

The pitch for your next book is …?

Italian-born Claudia Moretti, as she approaches retirement as a state-employed Speculator, is assigned to Messiah Watch. In particular, she responds to reports of cults where the leader claims to be immortal - from experience the government knows that immortality is trouble. There’s an easy way to refute the claim to immortality, but when Claudia is sent to small town Ephesus in bible-belt Georgia, nothing is quite as it seems.

Acts of the Assassins is the second book in a trilogy, following Lazarus is Dead. This is a ‘trilogy’ in a very loose sense – all three books are self-contained. At the end of Acts of the Assassins all the disciples are dead, except John. This is his story. (Which doesn’t yet have a title – suggestions welcome).

Who are you reading right now?

I’m reading a Bible commentary by Richard Bauckham called The Theology of the Book of Revelation, and alternating that chapter by chapter with an idiot’s guide to physics: The Quantum Universe: Everything that Can Happen Does Happen, by Brian Cox and Jeff Forshaw. You did ask.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?

Would have to be reading. Other writers (especially all of them gathered together) have much more of interest to say than I do.

The three best words to describe your own writing are …?
Never knowingly unedited.

Acts of the Assassins by Richard Beard is published by Harvill Secker.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Publication: A POSTCARD FROM HAMBURG by JJ Toner

It sounds a lot like the title of an Alan Furst spy novel, but A POSTCARD FROM HAMBURG is the third in JJ Toner’s WWII series of crime thrillers to feature Kurt Müller, and the sequel to THE BLACK ORCHESTRA. Quoth the blurb elves:
1943. WWII is raging in Europe. Kurt Müller is living in London. While working for British Intelligence he discovers a photograph of his girlfriend, Gudrun, among the possessions of a German agent. Then he gets a postcard from Gudrun, posted in Germany, and he knows the Gestapo has taken her…
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2015

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles to be published in 2015, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis throughout the year. To wit:

GUN STREET GIRL by Adrian McKinty (January 8)

MARKED OFF by Don Cameron (February 9)
TAKEN FOR DEAD by Graham Masterton (February 12)

WHITE CHURCH, BLACK MOUNTAIN by Thomas Paul Burgess (March)
THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh (March 12)
THE LAKE by Sheena Lambert (March 19)

A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly (April 9)
KILLING WAYS by Alex Barclay (April 9)
THE ORGANISED CRIMINAL by Jarlath Gregory (April 9)

THE NIGHT GAME by Frank Golden (May 28)

FREEDOM’S CHILD by Jax Miller (June 2)
ONLY WE KNOW by Karen Perry (June 4)
AFTER THE FIRE by Jane Casey (June 18)
THE SILENT DEAD by Claire McGowan (June 18)
ALOYSIUS TEMPO by Jason Johnson (June 25)
THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville (June 26)

GREEN HELL by Ken Bruen (July 7)
BARLOW BY THE BOOK by John McAllister (July 21)

PRESERVE THE DEAD by Brian McGilloway (August 6)
A BEAUTIFUL DEATH by Louise Phillips (August TBC)
HIDE AND SEEK by Jane Casey (August TBC)

A DEADLY GAMBLE by Pat Mullan (September TBC)

DEATH AT WHITEWATER CHURCH by Andrea Carter (October 1)
EVEN THE DEAD by Benjamin Black (October 15)

DEAD SECRET by Ava McCarthy (November 19)

ARE YOU WATCHING ME? by Sinead Crowley (date TBC)

  If you’re an Irish crime writer with a book on the way, please feel free to drop me a line (including details on dates, publisher, etc.) if you’d like to be included in the ongoing updates.

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Review: THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh

Irish author Steve Cavanagh’s debut novel The Defence (Orion, €16.99) offers what is likely to prove the most implausible opening to a thriller this year, as New Yorker Eddie Flynn – ex-lawyer, ex-con artist – finds himself abducted by the Russian mafia, dressed as a walking bomb, and sent into a courtroom with 48 hours to ensure mobster Olek Volchek is found not guilty in his murder trial. One man’s implausible, of course, is another man’s bravura opening gambit, and Cavanagh’s high-concept legal thriller, barrelling along at a furious pace as Eddie schemes to escape the Russians’ clutches and take his revenge, reads a lot like a courtroom drama penned by Lee Child for Jack Reacher’s younger, more hot-headed but equally resourceful brother. Cavanagh, who is himself a Belfast-based solicitor, isn’t particularly interested in legal niceties here: The Defence is a gas-to-the-floor thriller that pulls out with tyres smoking and takes no prisoners until it judders to a halt 400 pages later. If subtlety is at a premium, there’s no mistaking the ambition: this is story-telling with the kind of verve and chutzpah last seen in an Irish debut crime novel in Stuart Neville’s The Ghosts of Belfast. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Publication: MICK MURPHY’S LAW by Michael Haskins

The Florida branch of the Irish crime writing diaspora – aka Michael Haskins – publishes the ninth offering in his series featuring Mick Murphy, MICK MURPHY’S LAW. To wit:
A pregnant woman friend of Mick Murphy’s is beaten to death. As she lies dying Murphy promises to make the killer face justice. His pursuit takes him and his mismatched eclectic friends to the Ocala National Forest looking for a meth lab run by outlaw bikers. That brief, deadly encounter leads them to the Tit-4-Tat strip club in Dayton Beach where they run into a FBI/DEA/ATF stakeout and investigation. Cooperation is short lived and the Feds are not what they seem as Murphy and his friends head back to the forest and St. Johns River to get their man.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Festival: Mountains to Sea

The Mountains to Sea festival runs from March 18-22 this year, and while Irish crime writers are for the most part notable by their absence, there’s a couple of very interesting events you might want to take note of. To wit:
Wednesday March 18th
Jilly Leovy, Ghettoside
In conversation with Declan Hughes

Jilly Leovy’s Ghettoside is true crime like you never heard before, leaving all the crime thrillers and blockbuster TV series for dead, which is how a frightening number of young black Angeleno males end up. Based on a decade embedded with the homicide units of the LAPD, this gripping, immersive work of reportage takes the reader onto the streets and into the lives of a community wracked by a homicide epidemic. Ghettoside provides urgent insights into the origins of such violence, explodes the myths surrounding policing and race, and shows that the only way to fight the epidemic successfully is with justice.

Post-Ferguson, this is the book you have to read to understand the issue of policing black neighbourhoods. Jill Leovy has been a reporter for the LA Times for 20 years, and has been embedded with the LAPD homicide squad on and off since 2002. In 2007 she masterminded and wrote the groundbreaking Homicide Report for the LA Times, ‘an extraordinary blog’ (New Yorker) that documented every one of the 845 murders that took place in LA County that year.

Local author Declan Hughes is well known to festival audiences. Hailed as ‘the best Irish crime novelist of his generation’, his latest novel is All the Things You Are.

Venue: dlr Lexicon / Time: 6.30pm / €10/€8 Concession

Friday March 20th
SJ Watson & Paula Hawkins
Chaired by Sinéad Crowley

How well do we know our family, our closest friends? How well do we really know ourselves? S.J. Watson’s new novel, Second Life, explores identity, lies and secrets in a nail-biting new psychological thriller. Watson’s debut novel, Before I Go To Sleep, became a phenomenal international success. It has now sold over 4 million copies around the world and has been made into a hit Hollywood film starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train has become a publishing sensation before it has even hit the shops with early reviewers anointing it as “the new Gone Girl”. The central conceit is brilliant. Rachel catches the same commuter train every morning. Each time it waits at the same signal, overlooking a row of houses. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but now everything’s changed.

Sinéad Crowley is Arts & Media correspondent with RTÉ News. Her debut thriller Can Anybody Help Me? was published in 2014.

Venue: Pavilion Theatre / Time: 6.30pm / €10/€8 Concession
  For all the details, including how to book your tickets, clickety-click here

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Overview: The St Patrick’s Day Rewind

A very happy St Patrick’s Day to one and all, and to celebrate the day that’s in it I thought I’d offer up some of the highlights of Irish crime writing (aka Emerald Noir) from the blog – book reviews, interviews, features, etc. – from the last five years or so. To wit:
An interview with Tana French on the publication of BROKEN HARBOUR
In short, Tana French is one of modern Ireland’s great novelists. Broken Harbour isn’t just a wonderful mystery novel, it’s also the era-defining post-Celtic Tiger novel the Irish literati have been crying out for.

An interview with Alan Glynn on the publication of WINTERLAND
“I think that the stuff you ingest as a teenager is the stuff that sticks with you for life,” says Glynn. “When I was a teenager in the 1970s, the biggest influence was movies, and especially the conspiracy thrillers. What they call the ‘paranoid style’ in America – Klute, The Parallax View, All the President’s Men, Three Days of the Condor, and of course, the great Chinatown … We’re all paranoid now.”

A triptych of reviews of John Connolly’s THE LOVERS, Stuart Neville’s THE TWELVE (aka THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST) and Declan Hughes’ ALL THE DEAD VOICES:
“But then The Lovers, for all that it appears to be an unconventional but genre-friendly take on the classic private eye story, eventually reveals itself to be a rather complex novel, and one that is deliciously ambitious in its exploration of the meanings behind big small words such as love, family, duty and blood.”

“Whether or not Fegan and his ghosts come in time to be seen as a metaphor for Northern Ireland itself, as it internalises and represses its response to its sundering conflicts, remains to be seen. For now, The Twelve is a superb thriller, and one of the first great post-Troubles novels to emerge from Northern Ireland.”

“As with Gene Kerrigan’s recent Dark Times in the City, and Alan Glynn’s forthcoming Winterland, Hughes’s novel subtly explores the extent to which, in Ireland, the supposedly exclusive worlds of crime, business and politics can very often be fluid concepts capable of overlap and lucrative cross-pollination, a place where the fingers that once fumbled in greasy tills are now twitching on triggers.”

A review of Eoin McNamee’s ORCHID BLUE
“Students of Irish history will know that Robert McGladdery was the last man to be hanged on Irish soil, a fact that infuses Orchid Blue with a noir-ish sense of fatalism and the inevitability of retribution. That retribution and State-sanctioned revenge are no kind of justice is one of McNamee’s themes here, however, and while the story is strained through an unmistakably noir filter, McNamee couches the tale in a form that is ancient and classical, with McGladdery pursued by Fate and its Furies and Justice Curran a shadowy Thanatos overseeing all.”

A review of Jane Casey’s THE LAST GIRL
On the evidence of THE BURNING and THE LAST GIRL, Maeve Kerrigan seems to me to be an unusually realistic and pragmatic character in the world of genre fiction: competent and skilled, yet riddled with self-doubt and a lack of confidence, she seems to fully inhabit the page. This was a pacy and yet thoughtful read, psychologically acute and fascinating in terms of Maeve’s personal development, particularly in terms of her empathy with the victims of crime.

Eoin Colfer on Ken Bruen’s THE GUARDS
“I was expecting standard private-investigator fare, laced with laconic humour, which would have been fine, but what I got was sheer dark poetry.”

A review of Adrian McKinty’s THE COLD COLD GROUND
As for the style, McKinty quickly establishes and maintains a pacy narrative, but he does a sight more too. McKinty brings a quality of muscular poetry to his prose, and the opening paragraph quoted above is as good an example as any. He belongs in a select group of crime writers, those you would read for the quality of their prose alone: James Lee Burke, John Connolly, Eoin McNamee, David Peace, James Ellroy.
  For updates on the latest on all Irish crime writers, just type the author’s name into the search box at the top left of the blog …

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pre-Publication: HIDE AND SEEK by Jane Casey

Jane Casey has been rather busy of late – new books on the way, Edgar nominations, etc., – but she’s somehow found time to write the third novel in her YA mystery series, HIDE AND SEEK (Corgi Childrens). To wit:
“If I hadn’t walked into the room at that moment, maybe everything would have worked out differently. Maybe everything would have been all right after all . . .”
  Port Sentinel may be a beautiful seaside tourist trap, but in the short time Jess Tennant has lived there, it has seen its fair share of tragedy. Tragedy that somehow Jess keeps getting caught up in.
  A schoolgirl from the town goes missing, leaving her diary behind and a lot of unanswered questions. Has she run away from her unhappy home or is there something much more sinister going on? And can Jess find her before it’s too late?
  HIDE AND SEEK will be published in August. For all the details, clickety-click here

Friday, March 13, 2015

Pre-Publication: A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly

A new Charlie Parker novel tends to be one of the highlights of my reading year, but John Connolly’s forthcoming A SONG OF SHADOWS (Hodder & Stoughton) promises to deliver even more bang for buck than usual. Quoth the blurb elves:
Grievously wounded private detective Charlie Parker investigates a case that has its origins in a Nazi concentration camp during the Second World War.
  Recovering from a near-fatal shooting, and tormented by memories of a world beyond this one, Parker has retreated to the small Maine town of Boreas to recover. There he befriends a widow named Ruth Winter and her young daughter, Amanda. But Ruth has her secrets. She is hiding from the past, and the forces that threaten her have their origins in the Second World War, in a town called Lubsko and a concentration camp unlike any other. Old atrocities are about to be unearthed, and old sinners will kill to hide their sins. Now Parker is about to risk his life to defend a woman he barely knows, one who fears him almost as much as she fears those who are coming for her.
  His enemies believe him to be vulnerable. Fearful. Isolated.
  But they are wrong. Parker is far from afraid, and far from alone.
  For something is emerging from the shadows ...
  A SONG OF SHADOWS will be published on April 9th.
  Incidentally, the image above is one of a series from Mexican graphic artist Humberto Cadena, who has created a whole gallery of heroes and villains from Charlie Parker’s world. For more, clickety-click here
  Finally, yet more good news for Connolly fans: John is currently preparing a second volume of NOCTURNES, which will include his Edgar- and Anthony Award-winning short story, ‘The Caxton Lending Library and Book Depository’. The collection should appear in September. For lots more news from John, including a US reissue of the entire Charlie Parker series, clickety-click here

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Essay: ‘The Irresistible Rise of Irish Crime Fiction’

There’s a very nice essay on the rise – irresistible, it seems – of Irish crime fiction over at the 746 Books blog, which provides a concise appraisal of the last decade or so in Irish crime writing. Sample quote:
“What Ireland couldn’t offer pre-Celtic Tiger, pre-Stormont was anonymity. The country was too small, too parochial with a lack of big cities. With the economic growth of the boom all that changed and suddenly cities were booming and immigration was on the rise. It was possible to be a stranger in Ireland, to go unnoticed. With the crash came a growing distrust in politicians and those in power and coupled with a lack of faith in the Catholic Church, the old hierarchies were being disassembled and the lines between good and bad were being blurred even more. Society was no longer a hierarchy of authority with the priests and the politicians at the top. The gangsters were as likely to be in expensive offices as on the streets. Society had been shaken up and that makes for great subject matter for crime writers.”
  For the rest, clickety-click here.
  Meanwhile, Claire Coughlan contributes a very nice piece to the Irish Times’ ‘In Praise Of’ series celebrating Irish women writers, with a short but heartfelt paean to Tana French. You’ll find it here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Publication: WHITE CHURCH, BLACK MOUNTAIN by Thomas Paul Burgess

Described as a ‘punk pioneer’ by no less an authority than Glenn Patterson, Thomas Paul Burgess – now a senior lecturer at University College Cork – publishes his debut crime novel WHITE CHURCH, BLACK MOUNTAIN (Matador). To wit:
What links a traumatic childhood secret with the murder of a high-ranking police officer and two young men facing terrorist death threats? In Belfast, Northern Ireland, the fragile Peace Process is still haunted by the crimes of the past. Truth and justice have become the currency through which victim and terrorist alike must purchase their closure regarding the conflict ... When Detective Inspector Dan Watson of the Historical Enquiries Team enters an interview room for a routine consultation, he is astonished by the recognition of an eerily familiar face - Eban Barnard, the younger brother of his late partner and mentor Detective Superintendent Alex, who was brutally assassinated by the Provisional IRA twenty years earlier. What Dan learns in that room defies credulity and threatens to open up a Pandora’s Box of secrets that will unhinge the lives of all those involved - and endanger the very peace process itself. Based on actual events, and set against the backdrop of a society’s hunger for redemptive catharsis, White Church, Black Mountain is a tightly-constructed, fast-paced novel that follows the dysfunctional life of the misanthropic Eban as he traverses a generation of secrets and lies. Unlike many of the novels about ‘the troubles’ in Northern Ireland, White Church, Black Mountain is at the forefront of an emerging ‘post-conflict’ canon, considering the legacy of the conflict as it impacts upon those who seek to build a future in its aftermath.
  Colin Bateman, for one, is impressed: “White Church, Black Mountain just sucks you in. Like Brian Moore given a make-over by James Ellroy. Excellent stuff.”
  For more, clickety-click here

Launch: THE DEFENCE by Steve Cavanagh

Steve Cavanagh launches his debut novel, the legal thriller THE DEFENCE (Orion), at No Alibis in Belfast at 6.30pm on Thursday, March 12th. Quoth the blurb elves:
The truth has no place in a courtroom. The truth doesn’t matter in a trial. The only thing that matters is what the prosecution can prove. Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren’t that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter Amy. Eddie only has 48 hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Review: BLUE IS THE NIGHT by Eoin McNamee

There’s a very short line in Eoin McNamee’s Blue is the Night (Faber) that could serve as a calling card for the entire trilogy it completes. “Dark blue, very sharp,” is the description given of the eyes of Thomas Cutbush, a suspect for Jack the Ripper, on his admission to Broadmoor Hospital in 1891. McNamee’s ‘Blue’ trilogy – The Blue Tango was published in 2001, and Orchid Blue in 2010 – is distinctively noir, but it’s one shaded by more nuance, and given more depth and breadth, than conventional noir tends to offer – more dark blue than plain black, and very sharp indeed.
  The trilogy largely concerns itself with the historical figure of Sir Lancelot Curran, a brilliant and ruthless lawyer and politician whose career took him to the heights of Attorney General and Member of Parliament. Set in 1949, Blue is the Night takes us back to the case that made Lancelot Curran’s name, when he served as prosecution in the murder trial of Robert Taylor, a Protestant man accused of killing a Catholic woman, Mary McGowan.
  While the high-profile case had social, political and religious overtones particular to post-WWII Northern Ireland, Blue is the Night is by no means a traditional courtroom drama. Around this main narrative strand, and between the past and the historical present to draw together threads from the previous two novels, McNamee weaves in a number of other plots, which include the brutal murder of Curran’s own daughter, Patricia, outside the family home in 1952, and the possibility that Curran’s wife, Doris, was responsible. The events of the story come to us via the fictional Harry Ferguson, Curran’s right-hand man, confidante and political fixer.
  Ferguson, a pragmatic man in his public utterances, is given to philosophical wanderings in the privacy of his own mind, and thus allows McNamee to extrapolate from a historical crime to investigate the murkier depths of human nature. “If wrong had a human form,” is Ferguson’s own verdict on Robert Taylor, the accused in the murder trial, which opens up the story to the possibility of the existence of pure evil. The suggestion is further amplified by Doris Curran’s experience in Broadmoor Hospital, where she was reared, and where she encountered the Jack the Ripper suspect Thomas Cutbush, and may – or may not; McNamee’s storytelling does not lend itself to absolutes – have absorbed a murderous insanity by a kind of spiritual osmosis.
  It’s a theme that crops up again and again in the book, from Jack the Ripper and Ferguson’s time working at the Nuremburg Trials to Patricia Curran referencing wolves in the forest, which brings to mind the original, darker versions of the old European ‘fairytales’, those Charles Perrault tales that served as cautionary fables for the unknowable malign forces that lurked beyond the flickering lights of the village. At one point Ferguson visits a Belfast museum and sees the mummy Takabuti, and is moved by its aura of ‘ancient malice’.
  Nailed to the page by McNamee’s at times brutally stark prose, the story gradually reveals the extent to which the characters, despite their intelligence, ambition and ruthlessness, are helplessly bound by forces much greater than they, by a fate decided upon long before they were born. That’s a rather lurid claim in a novel based on historical fact, but McNamee is hugely persuasive even as the story grows increasingly gothic in tone. Sympathetic to even his most callous of characters, McNamee has crafted a beguiling, gripping tale that deserves to be considered a masterpiece of Irish noir fiction, regardless of whether its hue is black or the darkest blue. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Event: The Franco-Irish Literary Festival

The 16th Franco-Irish Literary Festival takes place from April 24th – 26th, with the theme this year Crime Fiction / Festival du polar:
“The sustained popularity of the crime novel has long shown that the genre cannot be dismissed as second-class literature. From the early works of Edgar Allan Poe in the 19th century, to the recent TV series The Fall, by way of the French literary collection “Le Masque”, launched in 1927, the crime novel has always moved with the times, and today, in its many different forms, its reach extends across all layer of society. In the 1970s, the slang term “polar” was coined in France. Initially referring to the crime film genre, the term was soon universally adopted to describe the crime novel. The “polar”, this multifaceted and seldom anodyne genre, period-specific and bearing witness to all the power of the pen, is surely every bit as enigmatic and complex as the crimes and mysteries it presents to its readers.”
  Contributing authors include Stuart Neville, Sinead Crowley, John Banville and Cormac Millar on the Irish side, while France is represented by Hervé Le Corre, Chantal Pelletier, Jean-Bernard Pouy and Didier Daeninckx. The weekend will also incorporate a Crime Fiction Masterclass at the Irish Writers’ Centre hosted by Jean-Bernard Pouy.
  The events take place in Dublin Castle and at Alliance Française. For all the details on the scheduling, and how to book places, clickety-click here

Competition: CAN ANYBODY HELP ME? by Sinead Crowley

Sinead Crowley’s debut CAN ANYBODY HELP ME? (Quercus) has just been published in paperback, and to celebrate Sinead is offering a signed copy to one lucky reader. First, the blurb elves:
It was crazy really, she had never met the woman, had no idea of her real name but she thought of her as a friend. Or, at least, the closest thing she had to a friend in Dublin.
  Struggling with a new baby, Yvonne turns to netmammy, an online forum for mothers, for support. Drawn into a world of new friends, she spends increasing amounts of time online and volunteers more and more information about herself.
  When one of her new friends goes offline, Yvonne thinks something is wrong, but dismisses her fears. After all, does she really know this woman?
  But when the body of a young woman with striking similarities to Yvonne’s missing friend is found, Yvonne realises that they’re all in terrifying danger. Can she persuade Sergeant Claire Boyle, herself about to go on maternity leave, to take her fears seriously?
  To be in with a chance to win a signed copy, just answer the following question:
What is the title of Sinead Crowley’s second novel, to be published later this year?
  Answers to dbrodb[at]gmail.com by 5pm on Friday, March 6th please, and don’t forget to include a contact email address. Et bon chance, mes amis

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Pre-Publication: THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville’s latest, THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND (Harvill Secker), is the first in a new series to feature DCI Serena Flanagan, who previously appeared in THE FINAL SILENCE, a novel currently shortlisted for an Edgar award. Quoth the blurb elves:
When 12-year-old Ciaran Devine confessed to murdering his foster father it sent shock waves through the nation.
  DCI Serena Flanagan, then an ambitious Detective Sergeant, took Ciaran’s confession after days spent earning his trust. He hasn’t forgotten the kindness she showed him – in fact, she hasn’t left his thoughts in the seven years he’s been locked away.
  Probation officer Paula Cunningham, now tasked with helping Ciaran re-enter society, suspects there was more to this case than the police uncovered. Ciaran’s confession saved his brother Thomas from a far lengthier sentence, and Cunningham can see the unnatural hold Thomas still has over his vulnerable younger brother.
  When she brings her fears to DCI Flanagan, the years of lies begin to unravel, setting a deadly chain of events in motion.
  THOSE WE LEFT BEHIND is published on June 26th. For more, clickety-click here

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Interview: Adrian McKinty

Jason Steger interviewed Adrian McKinty for the Sydney Morning Herald last week, most of the conversation centring on the Sean Duffy series of novels, of which GUN STREET GIRL (Serpent’s Tail) is the latest. Sample quote:
It was after Dead I May Well Be, his New York novel, came out in 2004 that McKinty first considered writing about Northern Ireland. He had originally pitched a cop show set in ‘70s Belfast along the lines of The Sweeney.
  “Seventies nostalgia with the added frisson of the Troubles in the background. They couldn’t have been more horrified. This guy said ‘we won’t be able to sell it in Northern Ireland, nobody wants to watch anything to do with the Troubles; we can never sell it across the water in England – they just want to forget it ever happened. And as for selling it to the US, that’s a joke; they have a very nostalgic view of what Ireland is’.”
  Although there had been novels about Belfast and the Troubles – Brian Moore’s Lies of Silence and Glenn Patterson’s The International, for example – everyone he asked told him the same thing: don’t touch the Troubles. And he took the message on board for years. But a few years back he had his epiphany – the thing that no one wants you to write about is exactly what he should be writing.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Monday, March 2, 2015

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Steve Cavanagh

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...

What crime novel would you most like to have written?
There’s a few that spring to mind; The Black Echo by Michael Connelly, Silence Of The Lambs by Thomas Harris, The Killing Kind by John Connolly and I’d even throw in The Firm by John Grisham. I think The Firm is one hell of a thriller with great themes running all the way through it. It’s very much a class warfare book, and a modern dissection of the American dream.

What fictional character would you most like to have been?
One of my favourite fictional characters is Horace Rumpole. He believes in the presumption of innocence, Legal Aid, cheap Claret and teasing judges. I can’t fault that. I think John Mortimer is often overlooked in the crime fiction canon but I’d put the Rumpole of the Bailey series right up there with Holmes – it’s that important. In later books Mortimer even used Rumpole like a moral scalpel for society by examining ASBO’s and knee jerk anti-terrorism legislation. It would mean I’d have to put up with She Who Must Be Obeyed. Maybe I should rethink that one?

Who do you read for guilty pleasures?
I don’t believe there are guilty pleasures when reading. If I enjoy something and I think it’s good then I don’t feel guilty about it. But I know what you mean. I’d probably say the late David Gemmell, as he is my favourite fantasy writer. He wrote fantasy novels, but wrote them as thrillers. David Gemmell was labelled as writing “heroic fantasy” which puts some readers off as they think it’s all about white knights on horses rescuing damsels in distress. I would say Gemmell was the master of unheroic fantasy – as most of the supposed heroes in his novels are almost as bad as the villains. Character is the key in his books and doesn’t spend the first 50 pages with world building. The first two books of his Celtic quadrilogy are stunning page turners. Gemmell also wrote the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. Read Legend – Gemmell’s hero, Druss, is basically a sixty-year old Jack Reacher with an axe. I can see why some might think this a guilty pleasure – I just see it as pleasure.

Most satisfying writing moment?
There is a scene in the second Eddie Flynn novel, The Plea, where the book shifts up several gears in a single sentence. It’s a moment that nobody sees coming and sets up a really tense action sequence. I think it’s probably the best thing I’ve written.

If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?
I can’t recommend just one. The latest novel from my host, would be high on my recommended reads list, as would Brian McGilloway’s Little Girl Lost, Stuart Neville’s The Twelve, Adrian McKinty’s Sean Duffy series and Gerard Brennan’s Undercover. I read Gerard’s last year and I thought it was the best thing he’s written, I loved it.

What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?
I think Stuart Neville’s The Twelve will make a great movie. And I really hope that does get made as it would transfer brilliantly to the screen. If I had my wish list – HBO would take a Charlie Parker book and adapt it over a whole season. That would be awesome.

Worst / best thing about being a writer?
Best thing is when someone reads your book and tells you they enjoyed it. Worst thing? The worry. I constantly worry about everything; the writing, promoting, the whole shebang is like a brilliant, exciting but nerve wracking dream.

The pitch for your next book is …?
It’s my debut novel, The Defence.

Eddie Flynn used to be a con artist. Then he became a lawyer. Turned out the two weren't that different. It’s been over a year since Eddie vowed never to set foot in a courtroom again. But now he doesn’t have a choice. Olek Volchek, the infamous head of the Russian mafia in New York, has strapped a bomb to Eddie’s back and kidnapped his ten-year-old daughter, Amy. Eddie only has forty-eight hours to defend Volchek in an impossible murder trial - and win - if he wants to save his daughter. Under the scrutiny of the media and the FBI, Eddie must use his razor-sharp wit and every con-artist trick in the book to defend his ‘client’ and ensure Amy’s safety. With the timer on his back ticking away, can Eddie convince the jury of the impossible? Lose this case and he loses everything.

Who are you reading right now?
I’ve just finished Lee Child’s Never Go Back, and I’m starting CJ Sansom’s Lamentation. I’m a real sucker for the Matthew Shardlake novels.

God appears and says you can only write OR read. Which would it be?
Read. I love to read but most of all I enjoy reading to my kids. Yeah, that’s the best. I couldn’t give that up.

The three best words to describe your own writing are…?
Fast. Tense. Funny. The three words I’d use to describe my process of writing are – Shit. Noooo. AARRGHHHH!!!!

Steve Cavanagh’s THE DEFENCE will be launched at No Alibis bookstore on March 12.