Tag Archives: Adrian McKinty

Bookwitch bites #117

Oh, what a long time since I have ‘bitten!’

It’s also rather a while since it was relevant to mention Christmas trees, but I was intrigued to read about Adrian McKinty stealing one. He knows it’s wrong, though. The interview by Declan Burke is very good. Almost as good as…

Adrian’s been busy. He and Stuart Neville have been working on Belfast Noir, which is another short story collection I am looking forward to. It’s obviously got a Northern Ireland angle, so I’m not sure how they will explain away Lee Child. But anyway.

While we’re over there, I might as well mention Colin Bateman’s plans to reissue Titanic 2020 with the assistance of one of those fundraising ventures. I hope to assist by finally reading it, having long suffered pangs of guilt for not getting to it last time round.

The Costa happened this week, and it seems we have to wait a bit longer for the next overall winner to be a children’s book. But it will happen.

There are more awards in the sea, however, and I’m pleased for Teri Terry who won the Falkirk RED award on Wednesday. If you ever see photos from that event, you’ll realise quite how red it all is.

Shortlists and longlists precede awards events and the Branford Boase longlist was very long. It was also embarrassingly short on books I’ve actually read. But the thing is that it can be harder to know you want to read a first novel, purely because you may not come across a new writer the way you do old-timers.

The Edgar lists have appeared, and while pretty American, it was good to see they appreciate Jonathan Stroud’s Lockwood, as well as Caroline Lawrence’s Pinkerton and Far Far Away by Tom McNeal. (I know. Two of them are Americans.)

Finally, for the Oxford Literary Festival in March, one of the organisers has pointed out that they have a lot of fantastic panel events. They do. And that it might be easy to miss them, if you search for author name to find something you want to buy tickets for. So it might be wise to search even more carefully, and that way you’ll find all kinds of events you simply must go to.

One day I will learn not to read ‘chaired by’ as meaning that XX hits selected people with a chair. That it’s not a chair version of ‘floored by.’

OK, I’ll go and rest now. I’m not myself.

In the Morning I’ll Be Gone

From St Kilda (again) to Northern Ireland and straight into my own past. Adrian McKinty’s third – and hopefully not last – Sean Duffy novel changes so much of real history as to make me wonder whether things actually happened as he says. It’s plausible enough.

The first two Duffy books brought back modern Irish history and reminded me of what it was like back in the early 1980s. This one, set in 1984, takes several steps further, involving the IRA and the British Government in the most satisfying of ways.

Duffy is no fool. He was unlucky at the end of the second book, but he soon bounces back in his own inimitable way. He gets faced with a locked room mystery which is very interesting on its own. But it’s the ramifications it might have on the IRA terrorist at large after a jailbreak which make it better still.

Adrian McKinty, In the Morning I'll Be Gone

I’ve said it before and I have to say it again; Adrian just doesn’t get any better than when he writes about his home town of Carrickfergus. Admittedly, he wasn’t an adult in the early 1980s, but he makes things up very well indeed.

You could read this book first, but you’d be a fool not to start with the right Duffy novel and read them in order. You’ll thank me for it. Seeing as In the Morning I’ll Be Gone isn’t published for another few weeks, you will have just enough time to read the first two.

(If I hadn’t already interviewed Adrian, I’d be off to do so now. And they say the UK television rights have been sold. Northern Ireland is bound to be the new Scandinavia…)

The Lighthouse trilogy

It wasn’t until I went into the kitchen to make lunch that I realised the Resident IT Consultant had not even had breakfast yet. I knew he was awake, but had forgotten to ‘keep tabs’ on what he was doing.

But I didn’t need to go and have a look at him to know what. He was busy reading Adrian McKinty’s Lighthouse trilogy. I had, yet again, pointed out he might like to read all three Lighthouse books. Because they really are good. He’d read the first and given up.

Or so we thought. When he took a second look at The Lighthouse Land, he came to the conclusion he had probably (!) not actually read it at all. So he remedied that, and skipping breakfast was one way of getting more reading in, once he’d opened his eyes that morning. He didn’t skip breakfast so much as have it after I’d lunched, so it was lunch he missed in the end.

After that I knew how it would go. He went straight on to The Lighthouse War, barely pausing for breath. And then he grabbed my rare, signed copy of The Lighthouse Keepers, and it was all I could do to tell him not to drop it in the bath.

The next morning he returned it, safe and finished. Knowing that he is sparing with the adjectives, even for marvellous books, I asked ‘was it OK, then?’

‘Reasonable, I suppose,’ said the man who had barely eaten or slept while reading.

If anyone else feels like depriving themselves over three reasonable books, do have a go. He is underrated, that Adrian McKinty. Even by Resident IT Consultants…

An Irishman from Down Under

Adrian McKinty

He talks a lot, that Adrian McKinty. And after I’ve pruned and edited, he still talks a lot, but that’s as it should be. He’s fun to listen to, and what if he rambles? He’s Irish, and if he didn’t have so much to say, maybe his books wouldn’t be worth reading?

Before we met for this interview in London in January, I was afraid I wouldn’t like him. Liking his books so much, surely something would turn out to be wrong?

Only wrong thing I could think of what that he was idiot enough to wear only a hoodie, with snow forecast. So maybe he talked as much as he did to keep warm?

After all, he rambled for almost two A4 pages (if you can accept that as a measure of talking) before stopping to ask ‘what was the question?’ But who am I to insist on my questions when someone entertains me so effortlessly?

Here it is. The slowly typed up rambles of my favourite Irish boy in all of Melbourne…

Slow and giggling

It’s amazing what fun it can be to revisit an interview! Unless I’ve been talking to someone really boring (pretty rare) all my victims have had interesting stuff to tell me. But it’s as if my mind goes blank in the aftermath. Traumatised?

Between the meeting and typing the whole thing out, I always forget just how many thoughtful and/or amusing answers to my often downright weird questions they had. So I might be sitting there listening and typing away and feeling ‘oh, I will be doing this for weeks…’ but I am also enjoying myself.

Sometimes more so than when it happened, because in the comfort of my own home it’s easier to relax than when I’m facing new bars or publicists with diligent time keeping. Or the couple of – embarrassing – times when you run out of questions before you have used up the allotted time.

Adrian McKinty

My current ‘typing chore’ is so funny and entertaining. I’m also realising I’ve lied to you a little about something he said, but I think I’ll just leave it as it stands.

The drawback is that I’m slow, and that you have to wait for the results. But at least I’m giggling while hogging the slow lane of blogging.

So hang in there! It will be done. One day.

Bookwitch bites #97

Let’s start with a stolen photo, shall we? (My thieving is getting worse. Or better, depending on how you look at it.) Here is a photo, which might have been taken by Gill Lewis, winner of the Salford award last week. It was on her Twitter, anyway. And the lady between Jamie Thomson and Josh Lacey is not Gill, but Barbara Mitchelhill, who narrowly avoided that dinner.

Jamie Thomson, Barbara Mitchelhill and Josh Lacey

Another award is Sefton Super Reads. They have announced their shortlist for the summer, and it’s pretty good. The lady above is on it, for instance. And so are some of my other favourites, and some unknowns (to me).

• Ruth Eastham, Messenger Bird
• Fabio Geda, In the Sea There Are Crocodiles
• Caroline Green, Cracks
• Barbara Mitchelhill, Road to London
• J. D. Sharpe, Oliver Twisted
• David Walliams, Ratburger

In fact, there are awards absolutely everywhere. Declan Burke could be in for an Edgar for his hard work on Books To Die For, along with John Connolly. I don’t know who or what they are up against, but if ever a book and its creators deserved an Edgar, Books To Die For must be it.

While we are in an awards kind of mood, it appears Adrian McKinty is on the shortlist for The Last Laugh for The Cold Cold Ground, which will be awarded at Crimefest later this year.

Nick Green, The Storm Bottle

Finally – in more ways than one – Nick Green’s The Storm Bottle is available to buy. That’s over three years since I reviewed it, which happened by some odd fluke (me looking into the future, kind of thing). So far it’s ‘only’ on Kindle, but if you only ever buy one Kindle book in your life (although that sounds a bit unlikely, now that I stop and think) this has to be it. The Storm Bottle! Very good book! Sad. Funny. Exciting. Does not end the way you expect it to.

Dolphins can definitely talk.

The old weltschmerz and other fun stuff

‘Never, never, never kill a customer.’ I like a book where the bad baddie – who is still not quite as dead as you’d like – actually takes on board what others say to him.

And I like a book where 15-year-old boys in a small village near Belfast can talk about weltschmerz and get away with it. To be more precise, it was Lord Ramsay who said it, and Lord Ui Neill who puts up with him.

I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to mention that Thaddeus doesn’t die in chapter one, from hunting whatever that creature he was out hunting was. He was needed to babysit the two Lords and their alien friend Wishaway, and that’s a job almost worse than being eaten by a large cat in the first chapter.

I’m glad Thaddeus got an outing in the third book in Adrian McKinty’s (I haven’t mentioned him for several days!!) Lighthouse trilogy, The Lighthouse Keepers. He had sort of hovered for long enough that the time was ripe. And travelling through wormholes is so much more amusing if you can have someone new along each time.

Have to admit I was disappointed to have the old baddie still with us, and in Northern Ireland at that. But they have to be somewhere.

There were new baddies too. The CIA. And the clairvoyants. They know for a fact that Jamie – Lord Ui Neill – will cause the end of the world, which means they need to cause the end of Jamie before he does his bit. He has to be killed.

And there is the other world, Altair, and it also has bad people. Or maybe not. They could just be enemies, which isn’t the same thing. Their world is coming to an end, too.

The Lighthouse Keepers is funny and exciting;  and just the right mix of comedy and thriller, with a suitable amount of science fiction-cum-astrophysics thrown in. It’s very Irish. There is also a hilarious description of Larne. Although I might just think so because I have never been to Larne.

Reading The Lighthouse Keepers after the end of the world on 21st December 2012 posed a little bit of a problem, and Adrian was totally wrong about Starbucks, and hopefully a wee bit wrong regarding Paris Hilton and Lindsey Lohan. But not necessarily very wrong, which is worrying.

While the second book in the trilogy probably was better than this one, it is so good that you really must try it. The whole trilogy could do with being re-issued, and preferably by a British or Irish publisher. To me it is much more of a European story, and I feel so many people are missing out on a terrific read.

Riots and other black holes

Trust the two witches to pick the day with ‘snow’ to travel to London. But we got there, and we made it home too. Daughter and I each had an interview to conduct, wanting to kill two birds with one Pendolino train. Two, if you count the return journey.

And what birds we got!

We played it safe by snaring Lucy Hawking for a scientific fiction chat at the Euston Ibis. On account of her being intelligent, and likely to talk about complicated stuff to do with black holes, etc, she was Daughter’s to deal with. I relaxed and took unbelievably blurry photos.

Lucy Hawking

She brought us the new paperback of George and the Big Bang. The one where she has altered something at the end to acommodate the Higgs Boson discovery last July. Lucy apologised for having folded the corner of a page. She’d read her own book on the way to see us…

Not content with giving us a book, she pressed a copy of The New Scientist on Daughter. And once the interview was over, they settled down with more science and space talk, with Lucy looking pretty relaxed in her armchair.

When it was school home time, Lucy had to dash off to do motherly stuff, while we had an iPod to feed before our next bird.

Adrian McKinty had flown all the way from Australia via Seattle and Ireland to meet us. And the BBC, but still. We forced more tea down Adrian’s throat, which could be why he appeared to have overdosed on caffeine. Or it might have been jetlag.

We began by talking brothels, about which he seemed surprisingly knowledgeable. It was mainly a discussion about us not meeting in one, since I had come to the conclusion that the Wellcome Collection’s Café might be better after all, despite well-meaning advice on facebook. Especially as it had a Death exhibition on. (Not on a Monday, obviously.)

Adrian McKinty

Adrian talks a lot, even for an Irishman. At one point he broke off after a long monologue, wanting to be reminded what the question was. How should I remember?

My Photographer was relieved to find Adrian didn’t look like his mugshot which she’d found online. I was relieved he’d had the sense to run away when he encountered unexpected riots in Belfast at the weekend. I mean, if the M&S Foodhall is that empty, you should suspect riots round the corner. The armed police could also be a clue.

We could easily have gone on forever. Before Adrian’s publicist dragged him away, I forced Adrian to doodle in my copy of I Hear the Sirens in the Street. He did so – almost – as well as he writes books. Daughter’s gasp had more to do with how it looked upside down.

And we really do want to see that YA space adventure!

… and rock ‘n’ roll

This week we’ve mentioned the sex, and the alcohol. That leaves the rock ‘n’ roll. Wine, women and song. All bad stuff.

There’s so much music in novels these days. Perhaps there always was, and I’ve been deaf and blind. Adrian McKinty (yes, him again) puts lots of music in his books. Sergeant Duffy listens to a wide repertoire. He’s a bit of a show-off, that Duffy.

In Adrian’s YA novel The Lighthouse Keepers, which I’ve read but not yet reviewed, the young main character raves about music. Not so sure he’s not too precocious in his musical taste, but never mind.

Might be an Irish thing? When I first ran into John Connolly – outside the Ladies, before an event, and before he knew who I was – he pressed a CD into my hands. I gather he listens to a selection of music each time he writes a book, and those tracks end up belonging to that particular novel.

I added John’s favourites to my iTunes, and every time a track I can’t identify pops up on shuffle, I can be certain it’s one of his. I only added the CD because it contained a Lee Hazlewood track. I used to be a great fan.

A Jodi Picoult novel from a couple of years ago also included a CD. I passed the book and CD on to someone else, while making sure I put the tracks into iTunes first. I like them a lot.

It can be inspiring having an author’s choice of music for when you read. But what if you don’t like the music that helped them write? If every time the characters play their favourite tracks, you just can’t stand the music? Would you rather do without it?

Rather like when you find out which actor inspired someone’s character. If it’s the ‘wrong’ actor, you’ll have to quickly re-imagine them as someone you’d prefer. (Nobody tell me their heroine was inspired by that Keira woman! I’d have to burn your book.)

Music is an age thing, too. Adrian – again – is the wrong age for me. He doesn’t pick the music I listen to, nor the stuff forced on me – I mean, made available to me – by Offspring. I have a whole decade, that’s been almost completely blacked out. (When Son did a GCSE project on a decade in pop music, he was given the 1980s. Naturally. And we could offer no help.)

It’s not only the music behind a book, or the albums enjoyed by a fictional character. The whole book can be based on music. Obviously. Recently Son translated extracts from a couple of music based novels written by a Norwegian author. That was 20,000 words featuring an opera and all the backstage stuff. Luckily it was a made-up opera, so it ended up being less of a fact checking nightmare.

And we get YA books about pop groups, and wannabes. With the current talent programme epidemic on television we will probably end up with many more of them. It beats vampires, though.

Although having said that, I seem to recall that one of Anne Rooney’s vampires played in a band.

And Elvis lives.

I Hear the Sirens in the Street

Others have said that Adrian McKinty’s second crime novel about Sean Duffy – I Hear the Sirens in the Street – is better than the first. I find it hard to say. Despite my admiration for Adrian’s writing, The Cold Cold Ground was such a fantastic surprise, that I suspect I simply took it for granted the sequel would be marvellous – which it is – so I am unable to rate them against each other.

Adrian McKinty, I Hear the Sirens in the Street

It starts gruesomely enough, with a bloody torso, which is never nice to find. And how to identify it, in the days before DNA? I thought what Adrian/Sergeant Duffy came up with was pretty good. I just don’t know what’s fiction, and what’s fact.

He mixes real people into his plots, and does it with conviction. I loved last year’s Gerry Adams, and was amused by the appearance of Mark Harmon’s ex-brother-in-law in the new one. The cast seemed smaller this time, which almost made it harder to decide on the culprit(s).

Never mind how good a crime novel this is; it’s yet again more about the period in which it is set. 1982 is a year I remember well. At the time I could never have imagined the new Northern Ireland, and as I was reading I Hear the Sirens in the Street, there was stuff in the news that made me wonder how far we really have come.

The torso – yes, we get to know it quite well. We also see more of Duffy’s neighbours than we might want to, and it’s quite interesting what you can achieve with frozen meat, even when there is a good amount of it. I also – finally – had an explanation to something I was always rather hazy about, so all in all, I am very satisfied.

I can’t recommend the book highly enough. Read The Cold Cold Ground first, and then this. I’m already counting the days to when I can see Duffy for the third time.