Monday, 29 September 2008

An Interview - Arlene Hunt

Arlene Hunt is 35 and the author of five novels. She lives in Dublin with her daughter, her husband, three cats and her beloved basset Opus. Her latest novel Undertow is in shops now so you should really go and buy it right away.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m writing my sixth novel Blood Money. Well, I say writing, in reality I’m doing a lot of glaring at the computer and finding other things to do, other vital things, like cleaning out the garage and staring into space.

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

I get up in the morning, check my mail, surf on line for a while, read the papers on line, glance over my notes, make tea, open Word and then, finally-depending on where I am in a book- I work flat out for about four hours or so. I have a daily word minimum and I’m quite disciplined about it. I won’t quit until it has been reached. Anything over it I consider a bonus. I edit my work for about an hour in the evening.

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

If I don’t have my nose buried in a book, I’m pretty active. I like running, going to the gym, kick boxing, walking the dog, faffing about basically. A good friend of mine is a cinema buff, so we usually go to the cinema together twice a month to see the most appalling films.

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

Keep at it. Write what you want and what you enjoy. Develop a thick skin, but not so thick that you can’t take good advice if you’re lucky enough to be presented with some.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

Brian McGilloway, David Simon and James Lee Burke.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

The Lucifer Effect- How Good People Turn Evil and it’s by Phillip Zimbardo. I’ve read it before, but it’s such interesting book about human nature. It’s based on the Standford University experiment and a real eye opener to discover how quickly humans can switch off humanity when it suits them.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Professionally, much the same as I’m doing now I’d imagine. Writing, talking about writing and being ridiculously pleased to have a job I love so much. Personally, my husband and I have just bought a house so I envisage many Saturdays traipsing around DIY stores discussing dowels and extolling the virtues of quick drying varnish.

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

Nope, it’s been a pretty decent learning curve. The mistakes I’ve made are mine and I wouldn’t have learned Jack if I hadn’t made them.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

When I was writing my first novel, Vicious Circle, I was sharing a computer with my husband and I somehow managed to lose the blasted file. I spent a number of hours pacing around saying’ Oh Jesus, oh Jesus oh Jesus’ while he searched for it. Eventually he found it and that’s when he introduced me to the concept of ‘back-up’. I’m not joking when I say that for those few hours I nearly had to be sedated.

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

Yes, advice for people who work from home and own pets. Never build your office on the ground floor. Never have access to the garden from your office, at least not if you have cats. Cats are annoying creatures and expect you to immediately open doors. A cat will invariably need to come in and go out approximately one hundred and sixty times a day. If you own three of the buggers that becomes lot of opening and closing of doors. Bassets are excellent creatures and like to sleep for eight hour stretches at a time. The moral of the story is thus- get a basset.

Thank you, Arlene Hunt!

Friday, 26 September 2008

We're Big in Japan!

Me and Ken Bruen (not pictured left) seem to have Japanese cyber-doppelgangers. Have a look at this recent interview with him.

Reads remarkably like another insightful post I read this week. The original was way better though. This lazy bugger's not bothered to use links or pictures! Pfft. If you want something done right...

So, do you reckon this is a good thing?

A Wee Review - Quiver by Peter Leonard

So, Peter Leonard, son of the great Elmore Leonard, has written a crime fiction novel titled Quiver.

I thought I’d get the father-son association out of the way as soon as possible, because I think it’s only fair to review this book as a Peter Leonard novel, not a work from the son of Elmore Leonard. You could argue that he’ll benefit from his association with his father, and if that wasn’t his intention, then why not use a pseudonym? Well, that didn’t work for Joe Hill, did it? Everybody knows he’s Stephen King’s son. And judging by the reaction to his work, everybody knows he’s a very good writer. Is Peter Leonard?

Read on.

Kate McCall is dealing with her husband’s recent death at the hands of her son, fifteen-year-old Luke, in a freak hunting accident. Suffocated by guilt, Luke has gone off the rails; failing at school, drinking and living recklessly. Enter Jack, an old flame from Kate’s past, fresh out of jail and already considering his next criminal endeavour. And as Jack bulls back into Kate’s life, he brings with him some lowlife associates from his past. And they’ve noticed that Kate isn’t short of a few greenbacks. In fact, she’s a two million dollar jackpot, primed to pay out.

Quiver brings together a colourful cast of ne’er-do-wells and pits them against our heroine, Kate. Jack’s old associates are a twisted triumvirate made up of Teddy the hick thug, Celeste the sociopath daughter of a white supremacist, and DeJuan the black hitman. Each of the key players brings a unique POV to the novel, and I think out of all of them, I enjoyed the sections written in DeJuan’s perspective the most. It’s not that he’s a likeable character. Far from it. But Leonard has given his inner monologues a distinct flavour. He doesn’t think. He busts rhymes internally. Each thought could find a place in a gangsta rap song. And it reads very well. Of course, as a whiter than white Irish man, I can only base this opinion on limited experience. Namely movies like Boys in the Hood and 50 Cent songs. Could be DeJuan is the hip hop equivalent of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins. But it works for me.

Kate is a strong heroine. An early flashback proves her worth as someone not to be messed with. So we know she’s tough. But what about Luke, her troubled son? Well, that right there is her weakness, and the source of most of the book’s suspense. Leonard uses this dynamic to impressive effect. This is Kate’s story, but to a certain extent, Luke’s personal journey (or in Hollywood terms – his redemptive arc), steals the show to a certain degree.

Which leads me on to my next point. This book exudes a very cinematic quality. Short, sharp scenes. Plenty of action. Multiple POV changes and cliff-hangers. I’ll not be surprised to see this pop up on IMDB in the very near future. And you know what? I’d buy a ticket.

Quiver is an exciting thriller with a plot as sharp as an arrow point and as quick as its Darton Apache-propelled trajectory. Read it now or wait for the inevitable movie release. Either way, this novel is a step in the right direction for Peter Leonard. And I imagine there’ll be better yet to come.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Something Special's Bruen

Yesterday I read of the feature adaptation of Ken Bruen's Blitz at Crime Always Pays. And the story popped up again at Crimespree Cinema. This sounds bloomin' fantastic to me. Especially since I very recently learned what a cool chap Mister Bruen is when I emailed him for an interview. The news originates from Variety Magazine:

Elliott Lester has been tapped to direct "Blitz,"the feature adaptation of Ken Bruen's police thriller, for Lionsgate U.K., Donald Kushner and Brad Wyman.

"Blitz" centers on a serial killer who's aiming for tabloid immortality by executing cops in southeast London.

So, I'm a little late throwing my two cents in. But I can offer somthing new. An email from the Galway gent himself confirms the rumour Dec Burke has gleefully spread as true. Jude Law will indeed play Brant. And shooting will begin in February 2009.


Mike's Second Opinion - A Triple Review

I think I’m under the CSNI influence. I’m predominantly a science fiction/fantasy man, so will somebody explain why I recently came home from a shopping trip with Lucy Caldwell’s Where They Were Missed, Adrian McKinty’s Dead I Well May Be and The Dead Yard (I won the third book, The Bloomsday Dead, in a CSNI competition), and two Ian Sansom books, The Case of the Missing Books and Ring Road.

There seems little point reviewing these books as the CSNI blogmeister has already done just that. Consider the following a second opinion.

First of all I read Lucy Caldwell’s book. I was a tad confused at first by the setting. What era was I in? The cover places it in the late sixties/early seventies, whereas the narrative suggested a later date. And so it was. The moral is: pay no heed to covers, they be the work of someone who hasn’t read the book!

This is the story of two young sisters growing up in the mid-eighties. scarcely comprehending the social chaos around them, whether it’s the Troubles, their Catholic mother’s depressions or their Protestant daddy leaving home. It’s told from the POV of the seven-year-old Saoirse and the innocent voice never falters: an adult perspective is not allowed to intrude on the child’s world. I was massively impressed when I turned a page and thought, oh, she’s grown up. Lucy Caldwell had advanced the timeline nearly ten years and I knew it straight away, just from the central character’s voice.

This is a quiet book, and there’s a melancholy undercurrent, but it manages to avoid being depressing. I actually found it uplifting without being sappy or mawkish, thanks mainly to Saoirse being strong and feisty. She makes mistakes, but learns from them and grows. At the end I closed the book and wished her well for the future. It’s that kind of read.

I could easily argue that Where They Were Missed isn’t a crime novel and doesn’t really merit a place on CSNI, but that would be silly. Who gives a fig about genres when a book is this good. I loved it. Four stars out of five.

For contrast, I then picked up Adrian McKinty’s Dead I Well May Be. I knew from the reviews I’ve read on these webpages that there was going to be violence, bloodletting and, most importantly, top quality writing. What can I say that hasn’t already been said?

The main character, Michael Forsythe, is a complex bloke. He genuinely looks for the good in people . . . but that doesn’t stop him from putting a bullet in a guy’s elbows, knees and ankles – a Belfast sixpack – in the first chapter. Well, Forsythe reasons, if he hadn’t done it, someone else would’ve, and likely made a hash of it too. Better for the victim that he does it. See? The guy’s all heart really. OK, I’m making a joke of it it, but really, Adrian McKinty does a bang-up job of presenting us with a central character who is incredibly resilient and at times ruthless, but allows us to see him experiencing pant-wetting fear, self-doubt and suicidal despair. Forsythe’s a bastard, but he has his reasons and you can’t help but admire him. From a distance.

I haven’t even waxed lyrical about the Adrian McKinty’s prose yet, which borders on the poetic, or how effectively he uses fragments, something I’ve hitherto not cared for. Nor have I said how bloody good he is at creating a sense of place, or how cleverly he uses foreshadowing to keep you reading one more chapter before you put the book down. I’m not going to prattle on about these things because this isn’t meant to be a review, just a quick appraisal. Dead I Well May Be is an awesome book, the best I’ve read in a long time. Some folks are telling me the second book is even better. That takes some doing. No hesitation, five stars.

I wanted to read the first of Ian Sansom’s Mobile Library books next, but my dad borrowed my copy without returning it so I started Ring Road instead. It’s not crime, but it’d be criminal to overlook it! (Ha bloody ha.)

How can I describe this book without making it sound as dull as ditch water? God knows how Ian Sansom pitched it to his agent. It’s about a small Irish town that has declined over the years, the decline symbolised by a busy ring road and a shopping mall. There is no central character, in the same way a TV soap doesn’t have a central character. Everyone’s life counts. And they have small town lives. Nothing exciting ever happens in this town, unless you consider a mayor on the make exciting, or a newspaper editor sacking the writer of the bat-watch column, or care about Mr Donnelly’s dog getting arthritis.

So how does Sansom make it all come to life? Well, I think this passage from the final chapter gives you a fair idea:
Strange, how even here in our town, a place where we all went to the same schools, wear the same kind of clothes, pretty much, give or take the occasional item of eccentric holiday headgear or party high heels, and where we watch the same television programmes, and eat the same kind of food at the same kind of time, and read the same papers, even here it’s possible for two people occupying the same space and time and the same brand of jeans and trainers to misunderstand each other completely and utterly. It does not bode well for the future of humankind – if we can’t read each other right around here, then where?
In the simplest language possible, and with the longest sentences possible, the author makes these insightful observations throughout Ring Road. It’s a warm and funny book, respectful to its subject and, dare I say it, slightly eccentric. Footnotes can go on for over a page. The acknowledgements run for three pages and throws up names like Stevie Wonder, Jim Carrey, the Specials, George Clooney. Ring Road is the only novel I’ve read that features an index.

So yes, definitely eccentric, but also a work of genius, I think. A five star book I will read again.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

An Interview - Ken Bruen

Ken Bruen, born in Galway in 1951, is the author of The Guards (2001), the highly acclaimed first Jack Taylor novel. He spent twenty-five years as an English teacher in Africa, Japan, S.E. Asia and South America. His novel Her Last Call to Louis Mac Niece (1997) is in production for Pilgrim Pictures, his "White Trilogy" has been bought by Channel 4, and The Guards is to be filmed in Ireland by De Facto Films.

Bruen was a finalist for the Edgar, Barry, and Macavity Awards, and the Private Eye Writers of America presented him with the Shamus Award for the Best Novel of 2003 for The Guards, the book that introduced Jack Taylor. He lives in Galway, Ireland.

(All this, and a genuine gentleman to boot. A real class act – Gerard.)

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

The finishing touches to me memoir which comes out in Nov and is unlike any memoir, totally threw out the usual model for those things and did it in a whole new format.

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

I get up at 5.00 every day and write for 2 hours, end of the day, I read what I've written into a tape recorder and if the music isn't there, I bin it.

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

Spend time with me daughter who is 16, feed the swans, answer email, read like a bastard, and be-moan the fact I can't ride me Harley anymore.

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

Read, read, read and check out the mystery blogs on the Internet, everything is there, about agents, publishers, the whole nine.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

Seamas Quinn, Declan Burke, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty ( as always), KT Mc Cafferty, Pat Mullan.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Go With Me by Castle Freeman Jr.........he's like D. Woodrell at his best.

Q7. Plans for the future?

Sequel to Once Were Cops which comes out in Nov, a whole slew of new short stories.

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

Have followed me own instincts more and not listened to editors...................

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

Writing what I thought was the best 100 pages I've done and having them edit the whole lot out of the book, I was gutted and dismayed, still am.

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

Gerard, I always like to ask writers if they think they've written their best book?......they all say no as they think it's a trick question and that their best might be behind them. I wrote, what for me, is me best book, titled Garbage and Robert Lowell, I actually really liked it and felt I'd finally hit all the levels I try for and remains..........unpublished

Thank you very much for inviting me to do the interview and the evening I read at Dave's No Alibis was one of the highlights of me career and it was just great to be back in N. Ireland.

Warmest wishes


(Pictured above - left to right - Ken Bruen, James Crumley and John Connolly. In memory of James Crumley 12/10/39 - 17/09/08)

Thank you, Ken Bruen!

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

A Wee Review - The Dust of Death by Paul Charles

With The Dust of Death, Paul Charles introduces a new detective onto the Irish crime scene. Charles originally made his mark in crime fiction charting the career of Inspector Christy Kennedy, an Irish cop on the streets of Camden Town; where Charles himself lives and works in the music industry. For the first of a new series, Charles takes us to rural Donegal. And it’s not just a new setting he’s experimenting with. There’s something very interesting about Inspector Starrett. Something a little supernatural.

Charles wastes little time with lackadaisical introduction to his new character. He simply throws the man in at the deep end and allows the reader to watch him react. The book opens with Starrett arriving onto the scene of a brutal crucifixion. In a church. The victim is quickly identified as a local; master carpenter, James Moore. An altogether inoffensive and self-contained family man. And so the key to solving the case lies in determining why anybody would want this quiet, unassuming man dead, and in such a brutal way, more so than who carried out the act.

Paul Charles is incredibly adept at painting a large cast of three dimensional characters. We see all kinds in this novel, from the morally conservative to the ethically questionable, each one painted to exquisite detail. And they interconnect and interrelate in the manner expected in a rural setting. As the mystery unwinds, each player contributes to the denouement. I find this quite remarkable, as in a recent CSNI interview, Paul Charles admitted that he doesn’t know who has committed the crime while he pens the first draft of his mysteries. He prefers to travel the same journey as the protagonist and solve the case alongside him. I suppose it’s only fair when you think about it, though.

Naturally, the most interesting member of the cast is Inspector Starrett, the humble protagonist of The Dust of Death. An affable and intelligent chap, he is the son of a woman said to possess the gift of healing. And he has a gift of his own. It’s not something he fully understands, or even believes in; but he has a knack for identifying when somebody is lying to him. A handy skill for a police inspector to possess. He has also escaped some brushes with disaster in the past, following an instinct to avoid certain places and situations. But like I say, this gift seems to be in a raw, unnourished form. There’s potential there, though, and I look forward to seeing how this facet of his character may develop as the series progresses.

So, The Dust of Death has set up an intriguing premise in this new series, and I’m glad to be jumping aboard on the ground floor. A second Inspector Starrett mystery will be published through Brandon Books some time next year. I believe the title will be Family Life. But if you’re jonseing for another Charles fix a little sooner than that, the ninth Inspector Kennedy novel was released last month. Go on and treat yourself to The Beautiful Sound of Silence, why don’t you? I have.

Monday, 22 September 2008

An Interview - Neville Thompson

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!

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Blog Love

Some might see this as a bit of back-patting between mates, but those people can feck off.

Did I grab your attention? Good, let's continue.

My mate, Mike Stone, has written a few kind words about CSNI on his Live Journal. Me and Mike originally came into contact when he edited my story, Pool Sharks, for the Badass Horror anthology which was released back in 2006 (though we did all the work in 2005). After that, Mike suggested I join, an online writing workshop, to help me smooth out some of the rougher edges in my writing style. I learned a lot in the time I spent at, but mostly because Mike submitted a critique to every story I posted there. The guy knows his stuff.

Anyway, like I said, Mike is a mate, but he's not the sort of person to blow smoke up any sort of orifice. Mike's honesty played a large part in the improvement of my writing, and to this day I'm confident that he'll always be the type of friend who puts the truth before my feelings. For that, I might want to slap him for that from time to time, but luckily the Irish Sea separates us, and I'll always cool down before I can jump on the first Easyjet over to England. So I was chuffed to read how much he approved of this little project of mine.

That said, thanks, Mike!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Guest Spot -- Adrian McKinty on Arthur & George

Adrian McKinty, a favoured writer here at CSNI, has been blogging away merrily both on his own 'The Physchopathology of Every Day Life' blog and on frequent guest spots at Crime Always Pays. I felt a wee bit left out, so I begged him for an article to post here. And it goes a little something like this...

Arthur & George by Julian Barnes
A Wee Review by Adrian McKinty

Holmes: What is that you have there, Watson?

Watson: A novel, Holmes. Have you read Arthur & George by Julian Barnes?

Holmes: I have not, nor have I read a review of the book, however from the title alone I can deduce many things.

Watson: You astound me Holmes, go on.

Holmes: It was written by an Englishman, a postmodern fiction writer, someone confident of their own ability to tell a story, but someone who might be taken as pretentious and even a little condescending by others. The prose style is no doubt of the careful Flaubertian mode: dry, slow, at times witty, but like so much of today’s prose, perhaps a little lacking in passion. Perhaps a little dull.

Watson: How did you deduce that Holmes?

Holmes: The use of the ampersand in the title when ‘and’ would have done just as well. It is the sort of trick that impresses a certain set of readers in Hampstead and Islington, subscribers to the Times Literary Supplement no doubt. But you did not let me finish, my dear Watson, I have reached other conclusions about the book as well.

Watson: Go on.

Holmes: It is the story of two men, Englishmen, almost certainly (‘Arthur’ is not common in the colonies) who are linked somehow, they lead parallel but separate lives and one assists or does mischief to the other. Since it is written in the modern style, I would venture that neither man is the “hero” of the story, and their lives intersect in complex rather than neat ways. Am I correct?

Watson: Indeed. It is the story of a young Indian solicitor who is accused of killing horses, is subsequently sent to prison and the attempt by Arthur Conan Doyle, the famous novelist, to get his conviction overturned. It is a true life case, imagined by English writer Julian Barnes. A detective story of sorts, but also a biography of two very different men and their families.

Holmes: Yes I should have mentioned families. That unseemly modern urge to pry beneath the surface of even the most respectable households. . .And how does this book of yours turn out?

Watson: That you won’t get from me, Holmes. I never reveal details of a patient or a plot.

Holmes: Indeed? Well, I am patient man, Watson, I will wait until your Afghan wounds are playing up again and you are crying out for the laudanum, then I will make my attempt to get the synopsis from you.

Watson: You fiend, Holmes.

Holmes: I have been called worse. Now, pass me The Times, Watson, let me see what those infernal, beggarly Irishmen have been getting up to…

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Radio Boy

Back in July, BBC Radio Ulster's The Book Programme ran a story on the boom in Northern Irish crime fiction. They kindly got in touch with me and asked me to take part. I did a wee bit of blathering for them and they edited in such a way that I came across almost intelligibly. It's amazing what they can do these days.

Anyway, usually the BBC listen again links only stay live for seven days, and that was indeed the case for the episode I appeared in. But yesterday I was having a look around The Book Programme website to see if there was a new series coming along any time soon. Much to my surprise, the links to the previous series are now live again! So, if you missed it the first time around, you can listen again, see?

Just go to The Book Progrgamme's web page and click on the Maeve Binchy episode. The crime fiction piece is about fifteen minutes in, just in case you haven't time to listen to the whole show.

Go on, click the link. What else do you have to do?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

A Wee Review - The Big O by Declan Burke

Declan Burke’s writing has earned recognition and praise from the likes of John Connolly, Ken Bruen and Adrian McKinty, and no doubt it will garner more when The Blue Orange is released by Harcourt in the near future. So I cracked open Declan Burke’s The Big O with pretty high expectations. It is, after all, the work of a crime connoisseur. Burke runs the popular Irish crime fiction-focused blog, Crime Always Pays, and knows more than a thing or two about the genre. So has all his virtual rubbing-of-elbows with crime fiction’s elite paid off? In a word, yes.

In The Big O, the cool and sexy Karen meets Ray, a mysterious Morrissey lookalike, while she’s sticking up a convenience store. She invites him for a drink and it’s not long before she finds out that there’s a lot more to this guy with the dodgy fringe than meets the eye. Could be they could work together on a pretty big score. So long as they don’t let a little thing like love get in the way. Unfortunately, Karen’s ex-boyfriend, Rossi, is getting out of jail and he wants his Ducatti, his .44 Magnum and his sixty grand back. Things are about to get... complicated.

The Big O is a furiously-paced crime caper employing a huge cast and shifting character perspective. The novel is chockfull of Hiaasen-esque humour and there’s a distinct lack of 2D bit-players. The plot is great fun, but on a slightly negative note, relies heavily on coincidence. However, as a reader, I enjoyed myself so much that I was more than happy to accept it.

What struck me most was Burke’s skill at painting very believable female characters. I’m no expert myself, but the bits I read out to my wife met with a nod of approval. You couldn’t say fairer than that, could you? Burke has taken the effort to present us with a female protagonist that isn’t just a perky pair of boobs and a few witty double-entendres. Karen, Madge and Doyle are three very real ladies with very real strengths and... not exactly weaknesses... idiosyncrasies, maybe?

The format makes the book a perfect candidate for newspaper serialisation. Reading it, I was reminded of Bateman’s I Predict a Riot. The story is told in bite-sized chapterttes that are conveniently labelled by the character driving the POV. In the early stages of the novel, this structure makes it a bit difficult to connect with the characters, but twenty-odd pages in, the aul brain gets into the swing of it and the sheer fun of the story and character-development fairly carries you along.

As a setting, Burke decided to go with Anywhere USA/UK/Ireland, with, in my mind, leanings towards the States. Knowing his penchant for the Irish crime scene I was expecting the novel to be set on the Emerald Isle with all sorts of wittiness smacking of blarney. However, this shrewd move may have contributed towards his securing a US publication deal, so more power to his elbow.

The Big O is a fun-filled and intense joyride that’ll dump you on the kerb way too soon. The humour’s great, but there’s a lot of poignancy too, so don’t sink too far into that sense of security. Burke whips it out from under the reader ruthlessly as he persuades you to feel sorry for the bad guys but shows them no mercy throughout to keep ‘em mean. The dialogue is wicked and the prose slick and stylish. This man’s going to go a long way.

The US edition of The Big O will be released by Harcourt on 22 September 2008.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

That Burke Fellah Fairly Gets About

So, this must officially be Declan Burke week as it seems as if the entire blogosphere is counting the hours to the US release of The Big O.

Dec started out the week by hosting Barbara Fister's Carnival of the Criminal Minds on Monday. He put together a characteristically well thought out and nicely presented piece on the merits of a crime fiction blog.

Next up, the revelation that he'll be guest blogging over at The Rap Sheet for the entire week. And the first post is again well thought out and nicely presented. This one attempts to wrestle with the whys and what fors of the success Ireland has enjoyed in the realm of crime fiction. So, we'll have to stay tuned there.

I figure, I should think well and nicely present a post based on a bit of a coincidence I experienced earlier, related to The Big O. Coincidence, after all, is pretty much the book's central theme.

I'm reading Peter Leonard's Quiver right now. This, of course, got me thinking about his papa, Elmore Leonard. I've been meaning to bone up on the guy for a while now and chow down on some of his books. And for a very long time, I've managed to miss Get Shorty and Be Cool every time they've played on the telly. I want to see them, but it just hasn't happened yet.

So, anyway. I'm on wikipedia, reading about the big E when I notice that a new film based on one of his books is hitting the theatre in November 08. Cool, yeah? Well, dig this. The book it's based on is only Killshot. Where's the coincidence? Check out these covers.

A Wee Review - Hidden River by Adrian McKinty

We just can’t get enough of this Adrian McKinty bugger here at CSNI. And Hidden River offers the same standard of hard-boiled, poetic prose that jumped off the pages of the Michael Forsythe trilogy. But Alex Lawson is a very different protagonist to Michael Forsythe, and to me, I found Hidden River all the more appealing because of it. An ex-RUC detective at the tender age of twenty-four with a heroin habit and some seriously hard men keeping a close eye on him, Alex is a superbly interesting individual. Where Forsythe deals in lead, Lawson is all about the leads. Hidden River’s body count is a fraction of what you’d encounter in any of the three Forsythe novels, but what it lacks in shootouts and explosions, Hidden River makes up for in plot twists and red herrings.

Carrickfergus man, Alex Lawson, jumps at the chance to take a trip to Denver Colorado when he learns of the murder of his ex-girlfriend, Victoria Patawasti. Victoria’s father doesn’t think the Denver police have arrested the right man, and he knows that before his mysterious resignation, Alex was a high-flying detective in the Royal Ulster Constabulary. Who better to go learn the truth? And of course, Alex really needs to get out of Northern Ireland.

Writing from experience, McKinty shows us Denver Colorado through the eyes of a Northern Irish man. Like most cities, there’s smooth and rough, and we see both here, though mostly the rough. Alex and his friend John find a nice place to stay on Colfax Avenue, where a good hooker or drug dealer is only a stone’s throw away. As the boys find their way around, they help the reader establish a very definite sense of place. Nothing takes place in the white void. Well, except for the odd scene that sees Alex on a heroin nod. One can’t help but wonder, whose experience are these powerful scenes written from?

I’ve said it once, and no doubt will say it again, McKinty’s novels ooze elegant prose and poetic internal dialogue.

As has always been my experience when reading McKinty’s work, I blazed through this novel like nobody’s business. It’s not that the books are short. He just seems to have a knack for planting a lovely cliff-hanger at the end of most chapters. And he does the odd wee bit of foretelling, which is used to very good effect. At one point in Hidden River, he gives up the jig and lets the reader know that one of the characters is doomed. Rather than spoil the impact of the player’s final moment, the tension is heightened at every point of danger. You know that panicky, hitching feeling you get in your chest seconds after you almost crash your car or that adrenaline-spiked moment before a bar brawl kicks off? Well, McKinty’s suspenseful writing can recreate that lovely feeling for you. Incidentally, so can three cans of Red Bull.

The final chapters are a great lesson in how to mess with the reader. When it seems that it will take the “road less travelled”, a final twist/turn/revelation throws out something all the more satisfying. There’s little more I can say here without skirting spoiler territory. Just know that the fecker keeps you guessing right up to the final page.

So, Hidden River is a standalone in every respect. Written between Forsythe novels, there’s a different feel to the characters and the situation here, but everything about it is further proof of the quality of Adrian McKinty’s work. From start to finish, the writing draws the reader in and holds him in a white-knuckled grip until the final revelation. It’s so good I’ll end on a cliché. Hidden River is a must read!

Monday, 15 September 2008

A Wee Read - Bouncer by Gerard Brennan

If you fancy a wee read with your afternoon tea, why not jump over to the Verbal Magazine website? The pdf of their latest issue is now available, and they've published a story by yours truly in the New Writing section. You'll need to download issue 17 from the list on the left as they're currently updating the website and it won't appear in html format until they've sorted that out. But there's the added bonus that you'll be able to see the lovely illustration by David Campbell that accompanies it.

And sure, let's have a wee bit of fun while we're at it.


There's a mistake hidden in the story's text. The first to identify it and post the answer as a comment here wins a free copy of my horror-comedy chapbook, Possession, Obsession and a Diesel Compression Engine. Just make sure you include your email address in the comment so I can contact you for you meatspace address.

An Interview - Declan Burke

In preparation for the imminent US release of Burke's The Big O, I've decided to rerun his interview which was originally posted in May of this year.

Declan Burke is the author of The Big O (2007), which has been described as ‘an Irish Elmore Leonard with a harder Irish edge’, and not only by Declan Burke. He lives in Wicklow with his wife, Aileen, and new little girl, Lily, and is not allowed to own a cat. Boo, hiss, etc. He also runs a blog dedicated to Irish crime fiction, Crime Always Pays.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

A: I swore I’d pack in writing for six months after Lily was born, and I lasted about three-and-a-half weeks. As a compromise, I’m not actually writing; I’m redrafting a story that goes under the ludicrously pretentious working title of A Roominghouse Madrigal, which I’ve stolen from Hank Bukowski. It’s about a hospital porter who decides to blow up the hospital where he works.

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

A: Hmmmm … up to the armpits in ideas? Up to the little toenail, maybe … Right now my writing ‘day’ starts at 6.30am, and I get about an hour-and-a-half done before I have to head off to work … or, should I say, ‘work’ – it involves watching movie screenings. That’s fine at the moment, because I’m redrafting … If I was actually writing, I’d be doing three hours a day, seven days a week. I have to write first thing in the morning, preferably early enough so that everyone else in the house is still asleep. With the new arrival pootling around, I don’t know when I’ll get the time to get back into that routine, but I don’t mind too much – (a) she’s worth it, and (b) I’ve at least three novels I really should be redrafting anyway.

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

A: Change nappies, mostly. I also spend quite a bit of time reading, for pleasure, work and research (if I’m lucky, all three at once). I review movies for a living too, and theatre. The blog, Crime Always Pays, is time-intensive but hugely enjoyable, as is surfing other blogs. I like watching football and hurling on the TV – I used to play quite a bit of both in my misspent youth. And I like good TV, science and history documentaries, good sitcoms, occasionally a movie. I’m also an incredibly bad but very enthusiastic gardener. And a scoop or two with the lads is bearable enough once in a while.

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

A: Always be writing. The crime fiction ‘scene’ isn’t any different to any other, and the same principles apply, or principle … keep writing. I had to write a whole lot of rubbish out of my system over ten years or so before I got down to the quality, mother-lode rubbish … Also, take every opportunity to engage with any writer who’ll talk to you, and keep your ears pinned back. Very little of what anyone else says will be of use to you personally, because ultimately you need to do your own thing, but it’ll help you to not make the same mistakes they did. And buy a copy of John Gardner’s On Becoming A Novelist.

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

A: The writers I’ve been tempted to take out a hit on over the last year are Adrian McKinty, Allan Guthrie, Brian McGilloway, Ray Banks, Gene Kerrigan, Sandra Ruttan and John McFetridge. There’s been loads of other really good writers, of course, but those names are all relatively new on the block – to me, at least.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

A: I generally have a few books on the go, for a variety of reasons. Right now they are: Fifty Grand, Adrian McKinty; The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy; Shalimar the Clown, Salman Rushdie; The Tao of Physics, Fritjof Capra; The Dalkey Archives, Flann O’Brien.

Q7. Plans for the future?

A: At the risk of being mawkish, and bearing in mind that Lily is only a month old, I’m hoping to be the best dad I can be for the foreseeable future. Other than that, I’m looking forward to seeing Harcourt’s version of The Big O, which comes out in hardback in the U.S. in August; finishing the current redraft of the hospital porter story; starting another redraft, of a story set on Crete, which has attracted some tentative interest; and then redrafting the sequel to The Big O, currently titled The Blue Orange, which is due with Harcourt this coming October.

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

A: I wouldn’t have let my first publishers, of Eightball Boogie (2003) take full control of the publicity / promotion end of things; I’d have taken on the responsibility for that. At the end of the day, no one is going to care more about your book, or work harder for it, than you. Otherwise, even though it’s been fairly low-key to date, I’m happy with the way things have gone – the books could be better, of course, but they were as good as I could make them at the time, and it wasn’t for lack of effort or imagination that they weren’t better. Besides, if things had gone differently, I wouldn’t have met the people I’ve met along the way, which sounds vaguely Zen-ish … and I’ve met some terrific people. Actually, scratch that – I’ve met a ton of terrific people. And yes, I’ve weighed them all, and they add up to exactly one ton …

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

A: Kudos on Crime Scene Northern Ireland, sir. Just in case everyone else is too dazzled / awed by your brilliance to mention it, you’re doing a fantastic job up here. Many and rich shall be your rewards when that karma boomerang comes whizzing back this way …

Thank you, Declan Burke!

Sunday, 14 September 2008

A Terrible Beauty

Declan Burke made an interesting announcement on Friday. Briefly, he came up with the idea to do a collection of non-fiction essays from Irish crime writers on the topic of... well, Irish crime fiction. The confirmed list of contributors so far include: John Connolly, Colin Bateman, Declan Hughes, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Gene Kerrigan, Gerard Donovan, Brian McGilloway, Neville Thompson, Adrian McKinty, Declan Burke and me!

Yes, that's right. The ever-charitable Dec has included me among that list of talented feckers. Not just as a contributor, but I get to help Adrian and Dec edit the thing too. I feel a bit like an apprentice or something. It's going to be quite an experience.

So, stay tuned, because I'm sure there'll be plenty more to come on A Terrible Beauty: A Narrative of Irish Crime Fiction in the coming months.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Paul Charles in the House

So I attended the Paul Charles reading at the Linenhall Library last night. And, like any event that David ‘No Alibis’ Torrans has a hand in, it was a cracker.

I arrived a little late, so I missed the wine reception. But it looked like the library had pulled out all the stops in that area. I caught a glimpse of fresh fruit, cheese and crackers. I inhaled a sniff of wine. I could sense the rosy-cheeked joviality in the air. But late or not, as soon as I arrived, David gave me a warm welcome and kindly introduced me to Mister Charles. As is the trend in crime fiction, he was a charming and friendly individual. I’ve yet to meet a crime writer I didn’t like. Maybe that’s a niche I should aim for, if I ever manage to sell a few books. To be known as the one and only obnoxious crime writer in Ireland. Shouldn’t require much effort. I just need to make sure I’m either drunk or hungover at all my signings.

As well as meeting Paul Charles, I also met one of my three CSNI readers. Hiya, Allen McKay. It was great chatting to you. Especially since I attended the event on my Jack Jones.

Paul Charles read from his latest Inspector Kennedy novel, The Beautiful Sound of Silence. A very humorous excerpt that the whole audience enjoyed. But the highest point of the evening was the Q&A. John Killen, the Deputy Librarian, warmed up Mister Charles with some excellent fanboy questions. Then he threw the poor man to the mercy of the audience. Mister Charles answered all questions very well, and I can honestly say I learned a little more about the elusive craft of writing. Very encouraging stuff.

So I got him to sign my copy of The Dust of Death, which I’m currently enjoying, and picked up a copy of The Beautiful Sound of Silence for future consumption. All in all, a great wee night.

David Torrans? When's the next event, eh?

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

One For The Diary

I got this info from the No Alibis Newsletter, so I'm guessing Dave Torrans has had something to do with it, even though it's happening in the Linen Hall Library. I'd imagine this'll be pretty good, so I'll be phoning up for a place tomorrow morning. Quite fortuitous that I happened to pick up The Dust of Death last time I stopped in at No Alibis.


In conversation and reading from,


The latest DI Christy Kennedy Mystery

Thursday 11th September 7.30pm

Linen Hall Library

Free Event/Limited Places

To Book A place for this event contact


Yeah, I'm going to enjoy this.

Monday, 8 September 2008

An Interview - John McAllister

John McAllister holds an M.Phil. in creative writing from Trinity College, Dublin and has being doing readings and giving lectures in creative writing for some years.

He has published poems and stories worldwide, and has read in places as far apart as Cork and Boston, Mass.

Major Publications:
THE FLY POOL and other stories (Black Mountain Press, 2003)
LINE OF FLIGHT, a novel (Bluechrome Publishers, 2006)

John was also joint editor for: BREAKING THE SKIN, twenty-first century Irish writing, (Black Mountain Press, 2002), and the editor of HOMETOWN (ABC Writers Network, 2003)

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

The news is catching up with me. I am writing a novel (working title THE MAFIA FUND) about a Russian attempt to control the economies and judiciaries of the Western World. This is the Cold War all over again, but now the ‘big guns’ is the Russian Mafia. Their first step is to take control of the only other international crime organisation, the Italian Mafia. As a sideline, the Russian plan to steal the contents of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

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

My day starts at six o’clock. I write until seven then I take my wife a cup of tea. At seven thirty we argue who is going to get up first. I start writing again at eight thirty and usually stop at eleven to take the dog a walk. I work and rest and correct Open College assignments for creative writing students until tea time. Serious planning of my writing I do for ten minutes before I go to bed at about eleven thirty. I actually plotted my published novel LINE OF FLIGHT (Bluechrome) that way. Ten minutes a day for three months and the story as finally told was more or less complete.

Two day as week I go into my old accountancy firm and work from eleven to five. Wednesday afternoons I attend the Queens writing classes. Usually on a Tuesday night and one Thursday a month I facilitate writing classes.

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

Read books, visit friends, chase greyhounds, watch whatever my wife wants to see on television. Currently it’s ‘Hairspray’. I slid out of that one to write this. I usually, more or less, take the weekends off.

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

Forget the crime. Focus in on character. Think of it this way. What would happen if a gunman pulled a gun on?

A You
B The hero of ‘Die Hard’
C Mother Theresa of Calcutta.

You’d probably faint with shock. ‘The Die Hard’ hero would put the gunman’s lights out. Mother Theresa would pray for him.
As I say: Character – Character - CHARACTER

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

R. J. Ellory’s book ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ An absolutely fantastic book. I read it on holiday and went straight back to page one and started again. Ellory writes beautiful English and his plotting is absolutely superb. I came home and bought the rest of his published books.

I think ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ is based on ‘The Ice Man’ by Philip Carlo. The biography of a horrendous Mafia killer. Ellory’s hero is quiet and controlled where the real hit man was pretty unstable.

Having said that, I had intended to keep Sam Millar’s latest book ‘Bloodstorm’ for my holidays. Unfortunately, I couldn’t resist having a peek – and of course I finished it. More of ‘Karl Kane’ Sam, please. Say for my Christmas holiday.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

R.J. Ellory’s ‘Ghost Heart’ I’ve just got a few pages read so I can’t tell you much about it. I have just finished a reread of Jennifer Johnston’s novel ‘Foolish Mortals’. Her writing is so far removed from anything I do that I can only read and admire.

Q7. Plans for the future?

This sounds a bit daft. I finished the first draft of THE MAFIA FUND at Christmas. I intended to take January off then re-plot and do characterisation and get back into the second draft by Easter. However, a few years ago I published a collection of short stories, THE FLY POOL (Black Mountain Press). The first five stories were about an old policeman in the nineteen-fifties, Sergeant John Barlow. A friend of mine kept nagging for a new Barlow story – and I’ve got to admit that most people who mentioned the collection, focused in on Barlow - so in January I sat down to write one more. 56,000 words and six months later the third draft of that story(?) is finished. I’ve just sent it off to a publisher. I call it A SOFT HANGING. My friend who encouraged me to write the story in the first place, helped me come up with that title. It was the least he could do.

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

To be honest, I don’t think so. I’m not being arrogant when I say that. I had to grow up the way I did, mature the way I have. Make every stupid mistake in the book and then invent some more. I think, if anything, I’d have done a lot more structured reading.

Q9. Worst writing experience.

Reading a story about date rape (SCORING) to a room full of women.

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

Writing isn’t easy. It’s like banging your head off a wall. Lovely when you stop. BUT when you’ve done a solid piece of writing you can get a lift that transcends any high available in drugs. The wonderful thing is that it can be repeated day after day after day. And it is utterly utterly addictive.

Finally to paraphrase Damon Runyon. If you want to be a writer, what are you doing reading this? Why aren’t you writing?

Thank you, John McAllister!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A Titanic Among Young Men (and Women)

My reading pile has gotten ridiculous. At this point, 43 books remain unread. And the thing is, I’ll not be able to justify buying anything else until I’ve reduced the mountain to a molehill. So I’m on a self-imposed crusade to read a book a week.

So far so good. This week, I’ve read Hidden River by Adrian McKinty. Last week it was Colin Bateman’s Titanic 2020. A review of Hidden River will follow in a day or two, when I’ve digested the final chapters a little, but what of Titanic 2020? It’s written by Colin Bateman, so it probably deserves some publicity here. But it’s young adult fiction, and not crime at all. It’s almost science fiction, but there’s very little science. Post-Troubles fiction? Well, there’s no reference to the Troubles, though the main character, young Jimmy, is a Belfast born scallywag. Maybe post-apocalyptic fiction is closer to the mark? Yeah, a little; that’s the backdrop but not the defining theme, if you ask me. It’s an adventure story, with a few scoops of Bateman’s excellent wit, less some of his more colourful language.

Whatever the label, Titanic 2020 is a great book.

So, it’s not quite getting the full CSNI Wee Review treatment, but I will take the time to recommend it. If you’ve a young ’un, say 12-ish or older, buy this for them, read it yourself and badger them into reading it too. It’s a fun, easily-read smart Alec of a book, and an award winner too! I wish there’d been books like this and Skulduggery Pleasant when I was a kid.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Ten and Fifty Thousand

With the passing of the 10,000th page visit to Crime Scene NI (can I get a woo hoo?) comes news of Adrian McKinty's latest publishing development. Fifty Grand's UK release will be published by the ultra-cool Serpent's Tail; the UK independent publishers who brought us The Dead Trilogy by Adrian McKinty, Hidden River by Adrian McKinty, The Semantics of Murder by Aifric Campbell, The Red Riding Hood Quartet by David Peace and The Prophet Murders by Mehmet Murat Somer, among many others.


Serpent's Tail have confirmed that they aim to publish Fifty Grand by next summer. Better get your finger out and finish the darn thing, Mister McKinty.

Monday, 1 September 2008

An Interview - Paul Charles

Paul Charles was born in Magherafelt, Ireland and is one of Europe’s best known music promoters and agents. He is the author of seven previous Inspector Christy Kennedy novels: I Love The Sound of Breaking Glass, Last Boat To Camden Town, Fountain Of Sorrow, The Ballad Of Sean And Wilko, The Hissing Of The Silent Lonely Room, I’ve Heard The Banshee Sing and The Justice Factory.

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

I’m just concluding work on the second instalment of the Inspector Starrett series, which is set in Donegal. It’s called FAMILY LIFE. I actually started work on the book the same day I completed work on the first Inspector Starrett mystery, THE DUST OF DEATH. FAMILY LIFE concerns a farming family called the Sweeney’s. All twelve members of the extended family meet upon one fine August evening on the farm to celebrate the birthday of the father Liam. I realised after I’d written the first 20 pages that I need to stop and go off and get to know this (fictional) family before I could continue writing. The getting to know them was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

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

I write most days. I like to write first thing in the morning, 06.30 (ish) for three (ish) hours. If I’m working on a first draft I like to go to it every day. I find it easier this way to keep up to speed with everything that’s going on. A lost day costs two days (easily) to catch up. I, my detective (and hopefully the reader) work our way through the story at the same time. At the beginning of the this process I, like my detective, and hopefully the reader, do not know “who did it, why they did it or how they did it.” We all pick up the information simultaneously. I love to try and keep my stories realistic and I find this method (not knowing) helps. I don’t work on any other writing projects while working on the first draft but I’ll happily attend to other matters, such as short stories etc while working on additional drafts. I love the space you go to while trying to catch that vital first version of the story.

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

I love to go to the movies. I read a lot. I listen to music a lot. I go to a lot of concerts. I walk around the scenes of my stories continuously considering the plot, thinking about characters and trying to keep my stories real.

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

Always serve the story. First and foremost always try and have a great yarn to tell. Let your characters and the plot rule the page; keep yourself off the page. Be careful when you cross the road. Be wary of taking advice from people you don’t know. Remember that everyone has to start somewhere and, to quote Colin Dexter, “the first line is as good a place as any.” Prepare yourself for rejection but never lose faith in your work. Mary Martin a lady with immense patience who (way, way back) used to manage Van Morrison and Leonard Cohen used to say, “Perseverance pays.”

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

John Connolly, Stephenie Meyer, Alan Bennett, Sheldon Siegel and I’ve a lot of time for the Ulster gang: Colin Bateman, Sam Millar, Eugene McEldowney and Eoin McNamee, a giant amongst writers.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Stieg Larsson’s amazing and highly engaging The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo - should be given out free at Underground Stations instead of The Metro.

Q7. Plans for the future?

The new Christy Kennedy mystery, THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF SILENCE, is published on Sept 2nd by the good people at Brandon. It’s the 9th in the series. I’ll be doing promotion on that in Ireland, UK and America and while in USA I’m going to see Ry Cooder, Nick Lowe and Jim Keltner doing a benefit concert in SFO. They haven’t played together since the Little Village days and the concert is sure to be a major treat. Then I’m going to see Jackson Browne in concert in Seattle. As soon as I’ve sent FAMILY LIFE to the publishers I’ll be starting work on the next Christy Kennedy mystery, A PLEASURE TO DO DEATH WITH YOU, which I’ve been bursting to start work on for a wee while now. Last summer I was up at the Giant’s Causeway and while there I spotted this phenomenally beautiful Indian princess. She was with her family who were busy, hyper and happy, happy go lucky all around her. She had such a powerful but sad presence as she moved gracefully through the tourists. To me she looked very sad and incredibly lonely. I started to wonder how someone with such stunning natural looks could look so sad and lost. Right there in that thought I found the genesis for A PLEASURE TO DO DEATH WITH YOU.

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

It’s been too enjoyable for me to want to have changed anything.

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

You should have asked me, “And what’s the title of your new book again, Paul?”
And if you had, I’d have replied, “It’s called, THE BEAUTIFUL SOUND OF SILENCE, Gerard, and it’s published by Brandon on Sept 2nd.”

Thank you, Paul Charles!