Friday, 30 October 2009

A Wee Review - The Dark Place by Sam Millar

Sam Millar could be labelled Northern Ireland’s answer to Edward Bunker. But I wonder if it’s a disservice to Millar and his craft to describe him as a man who writes what he knows intimately -- has lived 'the life'. Certainly, in the case of The Dark Place, there is very little that could be gleaned from time spent in Long Kesh or even an American prison.

There are humorous references within The Dark Place describing it as ‘the Belfast version’ of Silence of the Lambs and even night-vision goggles play a part in the tale. But this is no cheap spoof. It’s a brutal and ugly tale. Merciless in its nihilism. Exploring loss and misery is what Sam Millar does best in his maturing Karl Kane series.

Karl Kane is a Belfast private investigator and a martyr to his haemorrhoids. He has a knack for saying the wrong thing at the worst time. The bookies love to see him. Kane’s tendency to operate outside the law means he’s not a hot favourite with the cops... Kind of a PI prototype circa 1950. Apart from the arse scratching, that is.

Plot-wise, homeless, drug-addicted young girls are disappearing off the Belfast Streets. Karl Kane takes a slightly unwilling interest in the case. Homeless people are practically invisible in Millar’s Belfast, so not much of a fuss is made when bodies start to show up. But with the slight chance of some cash and pressure from debtors always on his mind, Kane tries to engage with the homeless. His less than subtle methods lead him to... If you’re still interested, read The Dark Place. Millar tells this one better than me.

As with my previous experience of Sam Millar’s work, I was disturbed by The Dark Place. Millar has a way about him; like he’s smiling and shaking your hand while he cocks the .45 to shoot you in your gut. Be aware of Millar’s intentions (and the cover makes them pretty clear) before you crack the spine. He’s the anti-cosy. You have been warned...

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Legendary US crime novelist James Ellroy at Waterfront Hall

(I could introduce the following piece, but I think it speaks for itself in all its PR professionalism. As for what this event is doing for the crime fiction scene in Northern Ireland? Just have a look at the smile on Stuart Neville's face in the accompanying photo [Stuart is the slightly smaller giant on the left]... gb)

Following the success of his recent book ‘The Twelve’, internationally recognised Armagh author Stuart Neville will be joining legendary US crime writer James Ellroy, at the Waterfront Hall on Saturday 7th November.

The evening audience with Ellroy is an opportunity to hear one of the greatest crime novelists in recent years speak about his work, read from his latest and long awaited new novel, ‘Blood’s a Rover’ and listen to his views on crime fiction literature. Local crime novelist Stuart Neville will interview Ellroy as part of the evening.

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

The forthcoming event has been organised by Belfast’s specialist crime bookstore No Alibis, a bookshop becoming well known for the role it plays in the crime fiction scene in Northern Ireland. Even the shop itself is the setting for the latest Colin Bateman thriller ‘The Day of the Jack Russell’, which will be released in November.

No Alibis owner and crime fiction guru David Torrans said, “It is the first time that Ellroy has visited Belfast and the event is an opportunity to hear the inspired and critically acclaimed crime fiction novelist face to face. The ‘Demon Dog’ of American crime fiction Ellroy, will be talking about his new book, ‘Blood’s a Rover’, which is the third and concluding part of the ‘Underworld USA’ trilogy.”

“It’s great to have one of our most recent novelists Stuart Neville, interviewing Ellroy as part of the evening. Ellroy himself said of Stuart’s first novel ‘The Twelve’ that ‘it is an all out-terror trip and the best first novel I have read in years,’” explained David.

Stuart will have just have returned from a book signing tour of the US to launch his book there, where it is receiving excellent reviews. It was during one of the booksigning events in Denver, that Stuart met up with the literary giant, Ellroy

“James Ellroy was one of the first supporters of my own work, which was fantastic for a first time author like me. It was so great to finally meet up with him over in the US. I’m really looking forward to the event at the Waterfront Hall, when we will get the chance to hear Ellroy talk more about his work and what inspires him.”

To celebrate Ellroy’s first visit to Belfast, the Queen’s Film Theatre, Botanic Avenue is also showing a special matinee edition of his best known films, the modern classic LA Confidential, on Saturday 7th November at 2pm.

The Waterfront show starts at 8pm. The ticket includes free entry to the Tiger Room after the show to help celebrate the event and will allow guests to mingle with authors from the vibrant Northern Ireland crime fiction scene. Musical entertainment will be provided by The Sabrejets.

Tickets, price £12 are available from Waterfront Hall Box Office and from No Alibis Bookshop, Botanic Avenue, Belfast on 028 9031 9601

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Garbhan Downey Event

The comic novelist Garbhan Downey is the guest author at Lisburn City Library’s Big Big Reading Group on Thursday 5 November. He will be reading from and discussing his new novel War of the Blue Roses, a political satire in which a gardening competition in a little Irish country village ends up throwing three governments into turmoil when it sparks an international race to grow the world’s first blue rose. Bugging, burglary, sabotage, murder and sexual deceit are all part of the mix in this romp through the undergrowth of local politics. The Big Big Reading Group meets at 8pm. All are welcome. Admission is free but booking is essential. Ring Lisburn City Library to reserve your place(s) 9266 9350.

(Hmmm, I should be able to make this after the Lock-Keepers event... gb)

Monday, 26 October 2009


From the No Alibis newsletter







ph. 02890-319601
fax. 02890319607

Friday, 23 October 2009

Amazon - WTF?

A recent email from Amazon:

Greetings from,
As someone who has purchased or rated The Twelve by Stuart Neville or other books in the Content Stores > Amazon Vine category, you might like to know that Ice Princess (Skate School) will be released on 30 October 2009. You can pre-order yours for just £3.99 (33% off the RRP) by following the link below.

Ice Princess (Skate School) Kay Woodward
You Save:
£2.00 (33%)
Release Date:
30 October 2009

This is why I shop at No Alibis...

And I'll be there on Monday 16th November at 6PM when Colin Bateman launches his latest book, THE DAY OF THE JACK RUSSELL.

You should go too.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Look Who's Reading!


In a series of four Thursday evening workshops at the Lock-Keeper’s Inn Ian McDonald, Annie McCartney, Stuart Neville, Gerard Brennan and T.A Moore will read extracts from their novels and answer questions about their experience of a writer’s life.

After the talk there will be a ‘write-in’ for the nanowrimo’ers, but you don’t have to be a writer to attend the event. After all, writers are nothing without readers!

These events are an amazing opportunity to see some of Northern Ireland’s literary stars in an intimate setting.

5.30pm - 7.00pm 5th November - T.A Moore and Gerard Brennan
5.30pm - 7.00pm 12th November - Stuart Neville
5.30pm - 7.00pm 19th November - Annie McCartney
5.30pm - 7.00pm 26th November - Ian McDonald

You will also be able to buy books and get them signed at the event.

Admission FREE. Bookings essential. Call the Arts Officer Conor Maguire on 028 90494566. Refreshments Available.

This event forms part of the year long Castlereagh Arts Programme, Cultural Connection, editions published three times a year.


For a copy of the autumn edition of Cultural Connection, the Castlereagh Borough Council Arts Programme, please contact the Arts Officer Conor Maguire on 90494566

A Wee Review - Family Life by Paul Charles

Family Life is the second of the Inspector Starrett mysteries set in the town of Ramelton in County Donegal. Dangerously close to Brian McGilloway’s stomping ground, but there’s room enough for both of them, thanks to the diversity in styles.

Family Life kicks off with the murder of a young farmer by the name of Joe Sweeny. By all accounts, a downright decent bloke who played well with others. His body is discovered on the day of Liam Sweeny’s 64th birthday. Liam is the patriarch of the Sweeny clan. The immediate family extends to Liam’s wife Collette, two more sons, Tom and Ryan, and a daughter, Teresa. All have returned back to the Sweeny farm to celebrate Liam’s birthday with their significant others in tow. It comes to light very early on that almost every guest at the party has a motive for the murder related to Joe’s place in Liam’s will. And so Starrett, though mildly depressed by the prospect, has no choice but to start his investigation with the dead man’s immediate family.

As the plot develops, so does a rather interesting study into the dynamics of family life that extends beyond the Sweeny clan and gives the thoroughly introspective Starrett food for thought. His own personal situation is far from perfect due to the fact that he spent his early years running from a vocational mistake he made as a teenager. Now, well into his forties and with romantic notions for his childhood sweetheart, he has the urge to overcome his emotional awkwardness and achieve the sense of ‘belonging’ he equates with family.

There are some surprising flashes of humour in Charles’ writing, considering the dark premise of a murder in which those closest to the victim are suspected. They caught me off guard from time to time, but served to keep me interested in the book at points where it began to feel like just one interview after another. Charles achieves the admirable task of keeping the reader interested in the slower side of police work. He goes with old fashioned detection over gunfights and body counts.

Charles’ background as a music promoter infuses the book with lots of great references to the industry. But he keeps them subtle and in line with the story, which is not to be sniffed at. The temptation to show off his personal knowledge (and detract from his characters in the process) would be hard to resist. If Starrett ever makes it onto the screen, Charles should definitely be drafted in to work on the soundtrack.

Family Life is a clever work of detective fiction set against a homely background that seems to magnify the brutality of a serious crime like murder. And there’s more Inspector Starrett to come. I have it on good authority that this series will form a trilogy at the very least. After that... we can but hope.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

A Nifty Top Fifty

I’ve been keeping my eye on the BSC Review website that features reviews, interviews and articles from the likes of such crime fiction connoisseurs as Brian Lindenmuth, Sandra Ruttan, Keith Rawson and Gerald So. Earlier today, Lindenmuth’s Top Favourite 50 Novels of the Decade article caught my eye. I read it wondering if any of my favourites were in there, whether any of the unread books on my shelf would feature and to see if I could pick up a few recommendations (though God knows I don’t need to be spending cash on more books any time soon). Turns out a goodly portion of these books are CSNI favourites.

Adrian McKinty and Stuart Neville each got a mention, and Ken Bruen featured in the list twice.

Their entries went like this:

The Guards by Ken Bruen – This was the gateway book for most fans of Bruen’s work and introduced us to this original voice, great character and unique stylist.

American Skin by Ken Bruen – American Skin is Bruen’s masterpiece.

Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty – This book, along with Safer by Sean Doolittle, represents what commercial, popular fiction SHOULD be.

The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville – Simply put, this is a great novel that will change you.

Some high praise indeed. And who’s to say what might be added to Lindenmuth’s favourites from this neck of the woods in 2010? I don’t think this surge in Irish crime fiction is going to die out any time soon.

Check out the rest of Brian Lindenmuth’s article for a year’s worth of highly recommended reading. As Allan Guthrie said on Twitter, “Brian recommends, I read.”

Friday, 16 October 2009

A Wee Review - Dark Entries by Ian Rankin and Werther Dell'Edera

Ian Rankin is best known and often lauded for his Rebus series of crime fiction novels set in Edinburgh. He’s written relatively few standalones to date. So I was quite surprised when I found out he’d penned a graphic novel. And as I read it, I was even more surprised by the hybrid genre he’d thrown himself into. Dark Entries is one part nihilistic private detective story and one part Barker-esque demonic horror. Now, I have to confess that I am disgracefully uneducated in Rankin’s work for a self-confessed crime fiction junky, but I imagine his hardcore fans would have been pretty surprised by this deviation in style, form and genre. Pleasantly, I hope.

Rankin’s protagonist in Dark Entries is a well-seasoned recurring character best known as the star of the Hellblazer series. Now, I admit that I’m no expert in comic book trivia, and had to refer to Constantine’s Wikipedia page to learn a little about his history at DC Comics. However, as far as I can decipher, Rankin is sticking his neck out quite a bit by taking on this character. With so many chronicled adventures under Constantine's belt and a very solid fan base, the smallest of slips in characterisation are sure to draw criticism like flies to poop. But based on my slapdash learning, Rankin seems to have handled it well.

Constantine is an occult detective of questionable morals and sarcastic charm. In Dark Entries, he is approached by a network executive at the helm of a new reality TV series. The idea of the TV show is basically Big Brother in a haunted house. Said house is set up with all manner of technical jiggery-pokery designed to freak the housemates’ beans. But there’s a ghost in the machine. Or several. And so Constantine’s mission, should he choose to accept it, is to go into the house in the guise of a surprise contestant and see what’s what. After a little bartering and a tonne of sarcasm, Constantine agrees to go in, armed only with nicotine patches and a flimsy cover story. And then things get a bit FUBAR.

Dell'Edera’s art is bang on the money for this story. Working in stark black and white with little-to-no grey shading, somehow he manages to make each panel seem softer than it should and very easy on the eye. Constantine looks as badass as he should and some of the more imaginative art that features in the second half of the novel... bloody marvellous. Literally. Something else caught my eye in the novel’s presentation – at the midpoint, the story takes a From Dusk to Dawn-type twist when things just go nuts. From that point on, the panels are framed in a black background which distinctly marks out the change in direction and sanity. It’s a neat little trick.

Dark Entries will take you to hell and (part of the way) back. In it you’ll find a fascinating satire of soulless reality TV and a thoughtful study in flexible morality. It represents another string to Ian Rankin’s bow and Vertigo Crime should be applauded for allowing him the opportunity to experiment.

So, who’s the next crime fiction writer to pull out all the stops for this DC Comics imprint?

Jason Starr.

Bring on The Chill!

Thursday, 15 October 2009

CSNI Top Ten Paperbacks 2009

Okay, this is late, but in response to The Times Top Fifty Paperbacks article I blogged about here, I’ve compiled a list of ten paperbacks released this year that floated my boat.


Each book was released in paperback for the first time in 2009 (or in the case of Winterland, will be released in November this year).

They aren’t all mass market paperbacks, but I didn’t count those paperbacks that come out at the same time as its hardback release (AKA C-format or trade paperbacks). An honourable mention goes to Gene Kerrigan’s Dark Times in the City which was disqualified on this rule. I loved it, though.

The list isn’t in order of preference. That sort of decision making process would take up too much energy.

And that’s pretty much it. The list:

All the Colours of the Town by Liam McIlvanney
Fifty Grand by Adrian McKinty
Gallows Lane by Brian McGilloway
Mystery Man by Colin Bateman
Slammer by Allan Guthrie
The Dying Breed (US Title - The Price of Blood) by Declan Hughes
The Twelve (US Title - The Ghosts of Belfast) by Stuart Neville
The War of the Blue Roses by Garbhan Downey
Tower by Ken Bruen and Reed Farrell Coleman
Winterland by Alan Glynn

So, yeah, buy all these books, people. They rock.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Adrienne Carlson Guest Blog

Adrienne Carlson is well clued up on Forensic Science, and as such, you should be pretty damn interested in finding out what kind of crime fiction she enjoys. So I was delighted to hear from her. She offered to take a break from the site she regularly writes for (The Forensic Science Schools) to pen me a short article on her favourite Irish crime writers.

You may remember a similar article from Kat Sanders who also writes for The Forensic Scientist Blog. There's a danger of this becoming a series. No bad thing, as it allows me to concentrate solely on my fiction for the day.

Take it away, Adrienne!

Why Irish Crime Fiction is Gaining in Popularity?

There’s no doubt about it – there’s a wave of crime sweeping through the Irish community, and it sure is arresting. Now before you think that Ireland is becoming a nation of bloodshed and violence, let me reassure that it’s all on paper, and it’s all very good. A host of Irish authors are making names for themselves, adding to the crowd of already established ones like Declan Hughes and John Connolly. And considering the fact that Ireland is a tiny nation where everyone seems to know everyone and the crime rate is relatively low when compared to most other parts of the world, it’s surprising that crime fiction is a genre that has gained immense popularity in recent years.

When we look at the reasons for the surge in the demand for Irish crime fiction, we find that:

• Well established authors like Hughes, Connolly and Gene Kerrigan have inspired other wannabes to try their hand at writing whodunits; and with the new generation like Alex Barclay, Brian McGilloway and Arlene Hunt jumping on this bandwagon and tasting success on a grand scale, others are bound to follow suit.

• Irish crime authors base their books and stories in the USA because plot lines and police procedurals work more effectively when the tales are set in cities and locations where crimes do tend to take place as a matter of routine.

• The Irish Book Awards have included Alex Barclay’s Blood Runs Cold, Arlene Hunt’s Undertow and Brian McGilloway’s Gallows Lane, a move that goes to show that crime fiction is now gaining acceptance into elite literary circles.

• Crime fiction rarely makes it to the acceptable list of must-read books, so when one gets picked to be the Book of the Month, it is bound to boost the popularity of this genre. With author Alex Barclay receiving tumultuous applause for her debut novel, Darkhouse, her new bestseller Blood Runs Cold was included in the Book Club Choice. Other authors have since followed suit what with various discussions and programs boosting the popularity of this genre.

• Booker Prize winner John Banville has now turned to crime fiction using the pseudonym Benjamin Black, thus showing that this is a genre that even award winning authors endorse.

• Besides this, the sheer number of current Irish crime writers – Brian McGilloway, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan, Declan Hughes, Arlene Hunt, John Connolly, Tana French, Ken Bruen, John Banville and Ava McCarthy, Adrian McKinty, Pauline McLynn, Stuart Neville and Ed O’Loughlin - to name just a few, are making this genre more and more appealing to not just fans in Ireland, but all over the world as well.


This guest article was written by Adrienne Carlson, who regularly writes on the topic of forensic scientist schools. Adrienne welcomes your comments and questions at her email address: adrienne.carlson83(at)

Monday, 12 October 2009

An Interview - Liam McIlvanney

Liam McIlvanney was born and raised in Ayrshire, Scotland. He now lives in New Zealand. His first novel, All the Colours of the Town, was published in August 2009 by Faber.

‘An authentic, atmospheric and ambitious debut. Liam McIlvanney nails it.’
- Val McDermid

‘Liam McIlvanney holds all the aces of a really vital young novelist … a brilliant study in the harsh, pawky affinity between those two majestic cities, Glasgow and Belfast.’
- Richard T Kelly, author of Crusaders

‘I read it almost at a sitting… smart, generous and compelling’ - Gordon Burn

‘With a bravura nod at classic north of Carlisle crime writing, All The Colours of the Town swaggers onto the Larne-Stranraer ferry and brings noir home. Razor-sharp prose and laser-sharp observation makes this a brilliant fiction debut.’ - Eoin McNamee

Q1. What are you writing at the minute?

Right now I’m trying to get started on the second novel. I’m still at the note-taking stage, but will be knuckling down to a proper writing schedule in a few weeks’ time. The book is a sequel to All the Colours in the Town, and features the same central character, Gerry Conway. I did plan to set the second novel in New Zealand (where I now live), but I recently had an idea that will keep Gerry in Glasgow for the time being. Maybe I’ll take him to NZ in a later book.

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

With three young sons and a full-time job, I write whenever I get the chance. Typically, I write early in the morning and sometimes last thing at night. I set a realistic target of 500 words a day and try to stick to it. I don’t really have time for writer’s block so I try to get stuck in straight away.

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

Erm, see above. I also play the odd game of five-a-side footie and do a bit of ‘tramping’, as they call hiking in this part of the world.

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

Read a lot and write a lot. The two go together.

Q5. Which crime writers have impressed you this year?

I’ve been very impressed by Stuart Neville’s The Twelve. Great premise; brilliant execution: a top crime novel.

Q6. What are you reading right now?

Right now I’m reading Ian Rankin’s The Complaints, featuring Malcolm Fox, who looks like being a worthy successor to DI Rebus. I’m also re-reading The Big Sleep for the umpteenth time.

Q7. Plans for the future?

I’m planning to write at least three novels with Gerry Conway as the hero and narrator. After that, I’m not sure.

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

Nope. I’d do things quicker, if I could, but that’s another story.

Q9. Do you fancy sharing your worst writing experience?

I have my worst writing experience (as I imagine most writers do) every time I sit down in front of a blank screen. Then, if you’re lucky, the words trickle through and things start to look up.

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

I’d like to say thanks for having me on your website. I’m a big fan of writers like Eoin McNamee and Brian McGilloway, so I’m chuffed to be getting a mention on Crimescene NI.

Thank you, Liam McIlvanney!

Friday, 9 October 2009

A Wee Review - Barbelo's Blood by Capt. Joseph W. Barbelo

Capt. Joseph W. Barbelo made quite an impression on me after he accepted my invitation to partake in a CSNI Q&A. And judging by the comments there and on the Crime Always Pays post that referenced it, I wasn’t the only person intrigued by this new force in Irish writing.

So I was looking forward to reading Barbelo’s Blood, even, if at 440 pages packed with text, it would be one of the longest books I’ve read in years.

Barbelo’s Blood is basically a ‘quest’ novel. The book was blurbed by the mighty Ken Bruen, and as such I’d mentally lumped Barbelo in with the ever mutating Irish crime fiction fraternity. And there are quite a few gangster crime fiction tropes in there; crime firms and vigilantes to name a couple. But I’d equate this to something closer to a Neil Gaiman dark fantasy than anything else. At eighty-two years old, the books protagonist, Joe Barbelo is rediscovering himself. And he’s an ultra-violent kind of guy.

Wait, though. Isn’t Joe Barbelo the writer too? Ahem, that’s Capt. Joseph W. Barbelo to you -- but yes, the writer is the character is the writer, but judging by the fact that most of the story takes place in Brixton in the eighties, I’m going to take a chance and assume that Capt. Barbelo is a pseudonym. Otherwise the dude’s at least 104 years old. And judging by the content, I have to hope it’s a work of fiction, not a biography.

But as all good fiction should, Barbelo’s Blood gave this reader plenty to chew on. Conspiracy theories, the nature of life, immortality, morality and legal loopholes... it’s all in there. Is it a little too much to cover in one novel? Hmmm, possibly. Personally, I think it might have worked well as two books with more emphasis on certain themes in each one, but the publisher, Galway Print, might argue that they’ve provided value for money. And as a very small outfit in a competitive market of titans, I guess I can’t fault them for that. The novel is split into four parts, so there’s nothing stopping a reader from taking breaks in between each one to read something else.

On the whole, the writing is pretty tasty. Snappy and with a real London twang. Yeah, sorry, I should have mentioned; the story has some strong Irish connections but Barbelo is a Londoner. Written in first person with lapses from past to present tense, which works to keep the tone conversational, I found myself completely plugged in to the writer’s voice. And with an attention span like mine, Barbelo has to be doing something right.

The very nature of this novel makes it impossible to sum it up in a snappy closing paragraph, so just let me say this; Barbelo the character does all the things you wished you could do, then takes it to the extreme. Barbelo the novel almost makes you believe he’s doing the right thing. Barbelo the writer is probably pissing himself laughing. And juggling grenades with no pins.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

No Alibis Event - John Connolly

(From the No Alibis website)

No Alibis Bookstore is pleased to be hosting the launch party for John Connolly's latest novel, THE GATES on Friday 9th October at 6:30PM.


Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Hallowe'en. Which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Avenue.

The Abernathys don't mean any harm by their flirtation with Satanism. But it just happens to coincide with a malfunction in the Large Hadron Collider that creates a hole in the universe, a hole through which can be glimpsed a pair of enormous gates.

The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out...

John Connolly was born in Dublin and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.

His first novel, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999, and introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. THE LOVERS is his tenth novel, and the eighth featuring Parker.

John Connolly is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States, where each of his novels has been set.

You can find out more on John's website.

We expect this to be a popular event, so reserve your spot now by emailing David, or by calling the shop on 9031 9607.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Qui est Ken Bruen? Breaking News from France!

So, who is Ken Bruen? Well, most recently, he’s the winner of Le Grand Prix de la Littérature Policière 2009 for his novel La Main Droite du Diable. That’s PRIEST to his English-speaking fans.

Some recent international recipients include Ian Rankin, Larry Beinhart, Arnaldur Indriðason and Camilla Läckberg. Check out this Wikipedia page for a history of the award and a full list of winners from as far back as 1948. And now Mister Bruen has done Irish crime fiction proud (as always). Congratulations to the man!

Funny thing, I planned to reread PRIEST this month as I’d finally read the copy of THE DRAMATIST me lovely missus had furnished me with when I passed into my thirties. PRIEST was the novel that introduced and hooked me to Ken Bruen’s work, and now that I’ve read the preceding four Jack Taylor novels, I intend to see if I enjoy it as much again.

My guess?

Je le ferai!

Family Life, Marketing and Bill Hicks

As a follow up to yesterday’s post on Paul Charles’ charm, I thought I’d share a line from Family Life that kind of nailed me when I read it. To put the quote in some context, a wet-behind-the-ears cop is conducting an interview with a murder victim’s brother, who happens to work in marketing. And then this:

‘There didn’t seem to be any apparent common denominator between marketing and murdering, so Casey decided to move on.’

Now, it may be cynical of me to latch on to this line as humour. After all, I’ve no basis at all with which to assume that marketing can be synonymous with murder...

Bill Hicks might disagree, though.

I don’t remember there being as much humour in the Dust of Death, the first Inspector Starrett novel, but that’s most likely due to the fact that I read it quite some time ago. Family Life deals with a very grim situation, a murder in which the victim’s siblings are the most obvious suspects, but Charles deals quite a few leavening moments along with the bleak. It’s disarming but it’s keeping me hooked.

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Paul Charles' Charm

I’m currently reading Family Life by Paul Charles. It’s a police procedural set in a small Donegal town, the second in his new series featuring Inspector Starrett. Charles’ writing is of a no frills, matter-of-fact variety, but that isn’t to say that it lacks the panache and charm that I feel most writers of the Irish crime fiction set are bestowed with. But he approaches it quite differently than a lot of his contemporaries.

The following exchange between the protagonist and his father illustrates it pretty well, in my opinion:

'“Oh you should always be wary of someone who walks at least a step or two behind his wife.”

“Ach, sure, that’s only because city girls walk faster, Dad.”

“Aye, I did hear they were faster all right,” Starrett’s dad replied, and then he muttered something Starrett couldn’t make out.'

I think Charles has painted an honest representation of small town mentality here. Both humorous and disparaging, but true to the kind of characters he has created in this world. Starrett is a relaxed and mostly unflappable character (though quite innocent and shy at times for an inspector) who’s a bit more worldly from time spent living in London. Sometimes he’s a little dismayed at the old fashioned attitudes held by those close to him, and yet at other times he’s equally likely to embrace them. It’s an interesting mix.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A History of the Paperbacks (accordin’ to the Times)

An interesting article from The Times Online the other day gave a brief history of the paperback in all its money-saving glory. It concluded with a paragraph on the perception of how the e-reader or Kindle may eventually replace it. The writer seemed to doubt that this may happen, but who knows what the future will hold, eh?

Sit down, Nostradamus.

Anyway, if you click on the link, you’ll also find a list of the top fifty paperbacks as judged by a triumvirate of Times-type folk. Only two of the fifty actually feature on my bookshelf, though. Bateman’s Mystery Man and The Reapers by John Connolly. I wonder if I should construct my own top fifty... Mightn’t be worth the effort. I mean, it’s not like I’m in a position to offer a cash prize to the top three or anything. Still, might mean more to the average CSNI reader, legion that you are.