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Preview: Crime Always Pays

Declan Burke

Irish Crime Fiction

Last Build Date: Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:10:36 +0000


Feature: The Irish Spy Novel

Thu, 14 Dec 2017 08:10:00 +0000

I had a feature on the lesser-spotted Irish spy novel published in the Irish Times last week, which featured – among others – Joe Joyce, John Banville, Eoin McNamee, Stephen Burke, Michael Russell, Stuart Neville, Philip Davison, Joseph Hone and Andrew Hughes. To wit:
Brinsley McNamara always claimed that Garradrimna, the village which provides the setting for The Valley of the Squinting Windows, could have been any village in Ireland. Published in 1918, the novel can be read as an expression of a kind of colonial pathology, as the population of Garradrimna engage in constant mutual surveillance, monitoring one another’s weaknesses and ferreting out secrets in order to accrue what passes for power among the powerless.
  Naturally, any of Garradrimna’s upstanding citizens would take mortal offence at being called a spy. To the coloniser, every native is suspect until proven otherwise, and the only way to prove this logically fallacious gambit is to maintain a relentless scrutiny. Spied upon for generations, the colonised learn to abhor the spies, even as they absorb the tradecraft; it’s no coincidence that there are few Irish insults worse than that of tout, or informer.
  Perhaps this goes some way towards explaining why, despite the recent upsurge in Irish crime fiction, the Irish spy novel is notable by its absence. There is no Irish equivalent to Ian Fleming, for example, who served with British Naval Intelligence during WWII, or John le Carré, Somerset Maugham (Ashenden) and Graham Greene, all of whom worked with British Intelligence before going on to write spy fiction. The archetypal heroes of modern spy fiction were written from the perspective of the coloniser and empire builder; the methods employed by their protagonists may be less than savoury, of course, but the intelligent reader understands the realpolitik that means some eggs are destined for omelettes.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Launch: DISORDER by Gerard Brennan

Wed, 13 Dec 2017 08:45:00 +0000

Launch: THE CONFESSION by Jo Spain

Tue, 12 Dec 2017 08:38:00 +0000

Feature: Crime Novels of the Year 2017

Fri, 08 Dec 2017 15:51:00 +0000

’Tis the season for end-of-year round-ups, so here’s my half of the Irish Times’ feature on 2017’s best crime fiction. To wit: The year got off to a cracking start with Ali Land’s Good Me, Bad Me (Penguin Michael Joseph, €14.99), a genuinely unsettling novel of complex motivations that tests the reader’s capacity for empathy as teenager Milly struggles to cope with the horrors perpetrated by her mother. Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) was yet another densely plotted, blackly hilarious outing for Adrian McKinty’s protagonist Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’.   Melissa Scrivner Love’s Lola (Point Blank, €14.99) was a brilliant debut, a bleak and cynical noir set in the patriarchal gangland world of LA’s South Central, with smack-peddler Lola pulling her gang’s strings as she does whatever it takes to survive. The Late Show by Michael Connelly (Orion, €15.99) delivered a terrific new protagonist: Renee Ballard, a hard-nosed LAPD detective who can more than hold her own with Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller. Sabine Durrant’s Lie With Me (Mulholland Books, €17.99) was a superb comi-tragic psychological thriller set on an Ionian island, a novel which owes, and handsomely repays, a debt to Patricia Highsmith.   Dennis Lehane has written private eye novels, gangster novels and standalone thrillers. Since We Fell (Little, Brown, €16.99) offered another sub-genre variation as Lehane delivered a wonderful blend of melodrama and domestic noir. Spook Street (John Murray, €19.85) was the fourth, and arguably the best, in Mick Herron’s ‘Slough House’ series of spy novels, which feature spymaster Jackson Lamb and a charming collection of has-beens and never-will-bes.   Let the Dead Speak (HarperCollins, €13.99) was the seventh in Jane Casey’s series to feature police detective Maeve Kerrigan, a variation on the locked-room mystery as Maeve investigates the whereabouts of a missing corpse in a London suburb underpinned by religious fanaticism and patriarchal sexism. Stuart Neville published Here and Gone (Harvill Secker, €18.45) under the pseudonym Haylen Beck, delivering an adrenaline-fuelled thriller set in the badlands of Arizona. Insidious Intent (Little, Brown, €16.99) was the tenth in Val McDermid’s Tony Hill & Carol Jordan series, but there’s no sense that Val is resting on her laurels – the novel delivered one of the most shocking denouements of the year. Set in 1939, Michael Russell’s The City of Lies (Constable, €16.99) was the fourth to feature Dublin-based Special Branch detective Stefan Gillespie, with Gillespie dispatched to Berlin, a city drunk on power and triumph but already suffering from mass psychosis.  Finally, John le Carré’s A Legacy of Spies (Viking, €14.99) hauled George Smiley’s old factotum, Peter Guillam, out of his well-earned retirement, as London’s contemporary spymasters investigate the possibility that Peter, Smiley & Co. deliberately put civilian lives at risk when mounting the operation that led to the death of Alec Leamas in The Spy Who Came in from the Cold. It may not be vintage le Carré, but it’s a marvellously evocative trip down memory lane.  For other half – i.e., Declan Hughes’ half – of the list, clickety-click here …[...]

News: Julie Parsons and John Connolly win at the Irish Book Awards

Thu, 07 Dec 2017 08:38:00 +0000

UPDATE: Following on from the Bord Gais Book of the Year awards on November 28th, the voting is now open for the overall Irish Book of the Year. I’m not say that you should vote for John Connolly or Julie Parsons, necessarily, but I am reliably informed that, should the spirit move you to do so, your reward will be in heaven. To vote, clickety-click here

Hearty congrats to Julie Parsons, who last night won the Irish Independent Crime Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards for THE THERAPY HOUSE; and commiserations to all the joint runners-up, i.e., Jane Casey, Haylen Beck, Cat Hogan, Karen Perry and Sinead Crowley.
  Elsewhere, John Connolly scooped the Ryan Tubridy Listeners’ Choice Award for HE, his marvellous novel about the life and times of Stan Laurel.
  For all the details of the winners in all categories, clickety-click here

‘A Letter from Evangeline’ by Lily Burke

Fri, 01 Dec 2017 20:51:00 +0000

Long-standing readers of this blog will know that our daughter, Lily, is a keen reader and writer. Recently she entered a competition run by Jacqueline Wilson, in which readers were asked to write a letter set in historical times, the best of which would be published in Jacqueline Wilson’s next book. Lily didn’t win, and she was disappointed about that, although she didn’t really expect to win; what she was really disappointed about was that she had put so much effort into the story, and now, she says, no one will ever read it. So I’m putting the letter up here, so people can read it, and if anyone feels like letting Lily know what they thought of her letter, she would be delighted. I think it’s very good, but then I’m her Dad, and Lily is now nine years old, so my opinion doesn’t count so much anymore.   Apart from some typos, the address at the top right, and some punctuation issues her OCD Dad just couldn’t let go, the letter is all Lily’s own work. To wit:Ward 7,St. Bart’s Hospital,West Smithfield,London. September 2nd, 1942Dearest Mother, You are in my closest thoughts and I hope that when I see you again you will be as healthy as when I saw you last. I felt awful leaving you. We were all in such a state, with Emily pregnant and Father going off to the war and Sissy, oh, it gets harder every day … She didn’t deserve to go, but I guess she’s better off where she is now. We loved her so, but we just couldn’t give her the home she needed. Sissy was so full of life and ideas and when she died all her ideas died with her.  It’s my fault, I know. If I hadn’t spent all that money on my own selfish desires, we would have been able to buy the medicine Sissy needed to live.  You simply must name Emily’s baby after Sissy. That way Sissy can be its guardian angel and be with us at the same time.  Last week (God bless her little soul) there was a girl on the children’s ward around Sissy’s age, she was very poorly, I think she had cancer. She died on Sunday morning, and it brought a tear to my eye for it was such a familiar pain. Everything in my instinct was telling me to go and comfort that poor child’s mother, and so I did, but when I arrived on the ward I found that the mother had killed herself from a broken heart. I cried myself to sleep that night.  The hospital is dreadful. We don’t get paid half of what we got in Manchester, and the other nurses look down on me because I’m not as posh as they are. One caught me crying in the hall after the little girl died, and said, in a very rude way, ‘Weaklings won’t survive this war.’ I didn’t say anything rude back because I know the reason that they’re so mean is because they’re trying to hide as much pain as I’m showing, and that’s only human, and I don’t see anything wrong with being human. The matron was coming, and I didn’t want her to see me crying, so I rushed off – and Mother, that’s when I met him.  Please don’t tell the children, but I have a sweetheart. His name is Robbie and he’s ever so handsome and kind, if only you could meet him. Father would simply die if he saw him, because he looks like a convict! But he’s actually quite well behaved. He’s one of the few who survived in my ward, his body is broken but certainly not his spirit. The other night I caught him limping out of the ward and when I asked him wherever was he going at that time of night, he said he was going back to the army. I asked how on earth he would get there and he told me he would follow the trail of death.  Often I hear him cursing someone, saying things like, ‘The day I meet you again is the day I will kill you.’ And oh, how it breaks my heart, but there is nothing I can do, for a man ought to put his health before his desire, and though no man should give up on his dream and should be ashamed to do so, he cannot let his spirit take him ove[...]

Event: Anthony J. Quinn launches UNDERTOW

Tue, 28 Nov 2017 08:29:00 +0000

Now Reading … Mountains of the Mind by Robert MacFarlane

Thu, 09 Nov 2017 16:24:00 +0000

A man with an unerring eye for a good book, Hilary White was kind enough to pass on his copy of Robert MacFarlane’s Mountains of the Mind: A History of a Fascination – it’s a brilliant account of how the perception of mountains has changed over the millennia. The chapter on George Mallory’s obsession with summitting Mt Everest is particularly gripping – here’s a snippet from Mallory’s third ascent, in 1924, when Howard Somervell and Edward Norton go ahead of Mallory and Irvine, without oxygen:
Somervell has to stop, but Norton presses on to 28,000 feet before he realises that he will die if he does not turn back. Precariously he descends the slabs, and meets Somervell. They descend together back towards the col, with Norton perhaps twenty yards ahead of Somervell. Suddenly Somervell coughs hard, agonizingly hard, and feels something from inside him, some object, detach itself and jam in his throat. He begins to choke to death. He cannot breathe, nor can he shout to Norton. Norton turns, but thinks that Somervell is hanging back to make a sketch of the mountain. No, he is hanging back to die. He sits down in the snow, and watches Norton walk away from him. Then – a final effort – he hammers his chest and throat with his clenched fist, and simultaneously coughs as hard has he can. The thing dislodges itself and jumps into his mouth. He spits it out on to the snow. It is a chunk of his larynx, killed by frostbite.
  For more, clickety-click here

Event: Lee Child at the O’Reilly Theatre, Dublin

Wed, 08 Nov 2017 08:45:00 +0000

Lee Child (right) returns to Dublin to mark the publication of his latest novel, The Midnight Line (Bantam Press), which is the 22nd in the Jack Reacher series. Quoth the blurb elves:
Jack Reacher takes an aimless stroll past a pawn shop in a small Midwestern town. In the window he sees a West Point class ring from 2005. It’s tiny. It’s a woman cadet’s graduation present to herself. Why would she give it up? Reacher’s a West Pointer too, and he knows what she went through to get it.
  Reacher tracks the ring back to its owner, step by step, down a criminal trail leading west. Like Big Foot come out of the forest, he arrives in the deserted wilds of Wyoming. All he wants is to find the woman. If she’s OK, he’ll walk away. If she’s not … he’ll stop at nothing.
  He’s still shaken by the recent horrors of Make Me, and now The Midnight Line sees him set on a raw and elemental quest for simple justice. Best advice: don’t get in his way.
  The Eason Presents … event takes place on November 16th at 7pm at the O’Reilly Theatre, 6 Great Denmark St., Rotunda, Dublin, when Lee will be interviewed by Paul Whittington of the Irish Independent. For details of how to book tickets, clickety-click here

Event: ‘A Constable Calls’ at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace

Tue, 07 Nov 2017 08:46:00 +0000

And so to Bellaghy. I’m hugely looking forward to taking part in the ‘A Constable Calls’ event at the Seamus Heaney HomePlace this Saturday, November 11th. David Torrans of No Alibis fame will be chairing a discussion between Liz Nugent, Eoin McNamee and yours truly on ‘the rise of crime writing following political changes in Northern Ireland’, so you can expect much by way of Colin Bateman, Stuart Neville, Claire McGowan, Brian McGilloway and Steve Cavanagh, among many others.
  The event takes place at The Helicon at 3pm on Saturday November 11th; to book tickets, just clickety-click here

News: Dublin City Council Writer-in-Residence

Mon, 06 Nov 2017 17:02:00 +0000

I had some rather wonderful news last week, when I was appointed – along with Elizabeth Reapy – a writer-in-residence with Dublin City Council. It’s a one-year position which will afford me a little elbow room in which to write, but it also involves working with various creative writing groups around the city, which I’m really looking forward to – I got the idea for my current work-in-progress when I was conducting a creative writing group last December (and, no, I didn’t steal someone else’s idea; I was responding to the energy in the room, which is something you tend to miss out on when you’re slogging away by yourself day after day). Anyway, the official announcement runs thusly:
Dublin City Council is pleased to announce that Declan Burke and Elizabeth Reapy have been appointed as Dublin City Writers in Residence. The residency runs for the period October 2017 to September 2018 and will be managed by Dublin City Public Libraries through the Director of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature, and will be supported in kind by The Irish Writers’ Centre.
  For the rest, clickety-click here

Now Reading ... Flappers by Judith Mackrell

Fri, 03 Nov 2017 09:18:00 +0000

Judith Mackrell’s Flappers is a terrific account of six fascinating women – Diana Cooper, Nancy Cunard, Tallulah Bankhead, Zelda Fitzgerald, Josephine Baker and Tamara de Lempicka – and the way they shaped, and were shaped by, the 1920s. A sample:
Samuel Hopkins Adams, in the foreword to his 1923 bestseller Flaming Youth, anatomized the flapper as ‘restless and seductive, greedy, discontented, unrestrained, a little morbid, more than a little selfish’. As she casually spent her money on a new powder compact or string of beads she also seemed shockingly a-political. She seemed oblivious of the battles that had so recently been fought on her behalf: the right to control her own wealth, to vote and to enter professions like the law. Even to wear the clothes of her choice. For decades, adherents of the British Rational Dress Society – or the Aesthetic Dress Reform movement in Europe – had been ridiculed as cranks. Yet as they correctly claimed, the freedom to wear comfortable clothes was almost as crucial a right as universal suffrage. No woman could claim effective equality with a man while her organs were being slowly crushed by whalebone corsets, and her movements impeded by bustles and petticoats that added over a stone to her body weight.
  For more, here’s Anna Carey’s review of Flappers for the Irish Times

Event: Something Wicked 2017

Sat, 07 Oct 2017 17:58:00 +0000

Now Reading … Treason’s Harbour by Patrick O’Brian

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 17:53:00 +0000

  ‘You might say that Duns Scotus stands in much the same relationship to Aquinas as Kant to Leibnitz,’ said Graham, carrying on their earlier conversation.
  ‘Sure, I have often heard the remark in Ballinasloe,’ said Maturin.

Patrick O’Brian, Treason’s Harbour

‘Pick-Me-Ups’ from PG Wodehouse

Fri, 06 Oct 2017 17:19:00 +0000

Hutchinson / Arrow will publish a new series of PG Wodehouse’s short stories later this year, each one a veritable bracer for the soul. Quoth the blurb elves:
In recognition that Wodehouse is “a tonic for the soul”, Hutchinson will be publishing a series of four pocket-sized paperback “pick-me-ups” – each containing three of the best Wodehouse short stories – for “those moments when you’re in need of a small dose of joy”. The new four books will be published in November 2017 as £4.99 paperbacks in Arrow.
  The Pick-Me-Up series will be aimed at the literary gift market for both devoted Wodehouse fans and curious new readers. The titles in the set – The Amazing Hat Mystery, Mulliner’s Buck-U-Uppo, Goodbye to All Cats and The Smile that Wins – are among Wodehouse’s most absurd, featuring repeating characters Jeeves and Wooster, Ukridge, and Mr Mulliner, the Oldest Member at the Golf Club.

Event: ‘Lady Killers’ at Bray Literary Festival

Thu, 21 Sep 2017 08:20:00 +0000

The inaugural Bray Literary Festival, founded by Tanya Farrelly (right), takes place over the weekend of September 22nd – 24th, and it would be a quixotic literary festival that dared go ahead these days without at least one crime fiction panel. Which brings us rather neatly to ‘Lady Killers’, a panel composed of Arlene Hunt, Louise Phillips and Sam Blake, who will be talking all things crime fiction at Bray Town Hall on Sunday 24th, from 2-3.30pm.
  For all the details, including how to book your tickets, clickety-click here

“Ya Wanna Do It Here Or Down The Station, Punk?” Cat Hogan

Mon, 04 Sep 2017 07:51:00 +0000

Yep, it’s rubber-hose time, folks: a rapid-fire Q&A for those shifty-looking usual suspects ...What crime novel would you most like to have written?Probably RED DRAGON by Thomas Harris. It’s the first time we meet Hannibal – one of the best fictional characters ever created. Every other bad guy has to measure up to that murderous anti-hero. What fictional character would you most like to have been?Oh – that’s a good question. I should probably choose a really powerful female character such as the eponymous heroine, Jane Eyre, or even Éowyn from the Lord of the Rings trilogy – but I’m going to stick with Hannibal and his more redeeming attributes of course- the intelligence, the culture, the art and the love of food (non-human). Who do you read for guilty pleasures?Reading should never have any form of guilt attached to it but there’s one or two books I wouldn’t be caught dead reading – FIFTY SHADES springs to mind, but I’m sure EL James is not going to lose any sleep over that as she laughs her way to the bank. That said, I wouldn’t really be shouting from the rooftops the fact that there may be a couple of Enid Blyton books under my bed, specifically the Malory Towers and St Clare’s books. Who doesn’t enjoy a good midnight feast? There’s also a few Jackie, Bunty and Beano annuals knocking around the place at home. I got more excited than I should have really when my son arrived home from school with a Siamsa annual last year. Most satisfying writing moment?I was reading a short story I’d written for a cabaret last year. When I came to the end of the tale, the whole room had been moved to tears. I had taken a real punt, moving away from my comfort zone of conjuring up madmen and had gone in a very different direction with the story. It was a validation of sorts for me – as a writer, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into a certain category. If you could recommend one Irish crime novel, what would it be?I’m not sure if you would label THE BUTCHER BOY by Pat McCabe as crime but it’s one of the most terrifying and disturbing books I’ve ever read. As readers, we’re fascinated with crime and depravity – looking at it from the safety of the pages. If it gets too much, we can put it in the freezer and switch on the TV or pick up a lighter book. It’s an adrenaline rush. THE BUTCHER BOY stayed in my head for a long time after reading it. It’s certainly not for the faint of heart. But you can’t talk about Irish crime novels and not mention Liz Nugent’s UNRAVELLING OLIVER and LYING IN WAIT.What Irish crime novel would make a great movie?THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, of course! Before the first novel was complete, I had the cast list written for the movie. Aidan Gillen was cast to play the role of my anti-hero, Scott. It was his voice I heard in my head as I completed THEY ALL FALL DOWN. In THERE WAS A CROOKED MAN, Scott is back and he’s up to no good. Here’s hoping, eh? I’m a step closer that I was – Aidan loved the novel and gave me a cracking cover quote. If you are going to dream, dream big! Worst / best thing about being a writer?Worst thing? The crippling self-doubt. The best thing? Getting an email from a reader or them telling you, in person, that they couldn’t put the book down – they stayed up all night and now have a book hangover. I’ve always been a huge bookworm and I’ve sat up all night reading. That’s the biggest compliment you can ever give a writer. The pitch for your next book is [...]

News: Adrian McKinty Wins Second Ned Kelly Award

Sat, 02 Sep 2017 09:57:00 +0000

Hearty congrats to Adrian McKinty (right), late of Carrickfergus but now living in Melbourne, Australia, who yesterday won his second Ned Kelly award, for POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY, which will no doubt look nice on the mantelpiece beside the Edgar he won earlier this year. Quoth The Australian:
As crime fiction twists go, this is up there with Arthur Conan Doyle: Belfast-born, Melbourne-based Adrian McKinty last night won a book prize for a novel starring a character he wanted to kill ages ago.
  For the rest of The Australian piece, clickety-click here.
  Herewith be yours truly’s review of POLICE AT THE STATION, which was first published in the Irish Times:
Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) is the sixth in Adrian McKinty’s increasingly impressive series to feature Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during Northern Ireland’s ‘Troubles’. The mystery begins with a bizarre murder, when drug dealer Francis Deauville is shot to death with a crossbow, but when Duffy starts to wonder why an ‘independent’ drug dealer who has been paying protection to the paramilitaries has been assassinated in such an exotic fashion, he finds himself assailed on all sides. Persecuted by Internal Affairs and fending off IRA attacks, Duffy digs deep into Northern Ireland’s recent past to uncover a tale of collusion and unsolved murder. The plot is as tortuously twisting as McKinty’s readers have come to expect but it’s the tone that proves the novel’s most enjoyable aspect, as Duffy delivers a first-person tale of cheerfully grim fatalism and Proddy-Taig banter, the story chock-a-block with cultural references, from NWA and Kylie Minogue to Miami Vice and The Myth of Sisyphus.


Fri, 01 Sep 2017 17:13:00 +0000

I was born in Sligo, Ireland, in 1969.

I have published six novels to date:

The Lost and the Blind (2014)
Crime Always Pays (2014)
Slaughter’s Hound (2012)
Absolute Zero Cool (2011)
The Big O (2007)
Eightball Boogie (2003)

I am the editor of three titles:

Trouble is Our Business (2016)
Books to Die For (with John Connolly) (2012)
Down These Green Streets (2011)

Absolute Zero Cool won the Goldsboro Award for Best Comic Crime Fiction in 2012. Books to Die For won the Anthony, Macavity and Agatha awards in 2013.

Eightball Boogie, Absolute Zero Cool and Slaughter’s Hound were all shortlisted in the crime fiction category at the Irish Book Awards.

As a journalist and critic, I write and broadcast on books and film for a variety of media outlets, including the Irish Times, RTE and the Irish Examiner.

Contact: dbrodb[@]

Event: NOIRELAND Crime Fiction Festival, October 27th to 29th

Fri, 01 Sep 2017 12:45:00 +0000

The inaugural NOIRELAND International Crime Fiction Festival will take place in Belfast from October 27th to 29th, featuring – and here, as always, we defer to the blurb elves – “the best in local talent, guest appearances by international crime-writing stars, and in-depth conversations with some of the greatest screenwriters to put crime dramas on the screen.
  “NOIRELAND is the brainchild of David Torrans who established the No Alibis Book Store twenty years ago and has been at the forefront promoting Irish crime fiction and bringing the greatest international crime writers to Belfast.”
  The three-day event will feature Irish writers Stuart Neville, Liz Nugent, Brian McGilloway, Adrian McKinty, Benjamin Black, Jo Spain, Claire McGowan, Anthony Quinn, Andrea Carter, Steve Cavanagh and Eoin McNamee, while Sophie Hannah, Arne Dahl, Robert Crais, Martin Edwards, Ruth Ware, Louise Welsh, Graeme McCrae Burnet, Abir Mukherjee, Ali Land and Steve Mosby are some of the international authors taking part.
  For all the details, including how to book tickets, clickety-click here