Tag Archives: Declan Burke

Crime Always Pays

(Swish. Swish. Please don’t disturb! The witch is dusting, and that’s a very rare sight.)

So, what I’ve got here is an old review, and I find it mostly still works, which is why I will offer it up for inspection again. Many of you weren’t here back in 2008, so to you it will seem almost brand new.

It’s  complicated. Back then, Declan Burke had yet to see Crime Always Pays published. It’s the sequel to The Big O, and I read it in manuscript (the Resident IT Consultant printed it out on his office printer for me), and I loved it. Back then, it was titled The Blue Orange (which personally I still prefer).

Now, though, it is finally being published properly! It’s a real book. Not the US edition which was cancelled in the end, nor the Kindle version published to compensate. A Real Book! And I think you should read it. (After The Big O, obviously.) Below is my slightly edited, and very ancient, review.

Declan Burke, Crime Always Pays

“The Blue Orange, as he calls it, is a continuation of The Big O, with all the same characters, except those who may have died in the first book. Plus a couple of new ones. The Big O was very funny, if rather full of four-letter words, and had endearingly inept, mostly minor, crooks.

In The Blue Orange (Crime Always Pays) we meet them again, and this time I found myself quite fond of even the less charming ones. It’s a mad-cap race across the Continent, with everyone ending up in Greece, where Declan has totally taken over his favourite holiday island, which I understand was quite nice before this.

As is to be expected, there are so many double-crossings that the witch developed a squint trying to cope. The best thing is simply to sit back and enjoy, while laughing quite a lot. The story is crying out to be made into a film, and I know which part I can play.

And as Mother-of-witch so rightly said, crime is not nice. But this kind of crime is as nice, and as funny, as it gets. The worst baddies are killed or have lots of blood removed in interesting ways, and maybe the rest lived happily ever after. I’m hoping for more.”

It’s today! Get shopping!

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.

Daring to thrill

COUGH, cough, hrumph, cough! Pardon me…

You might recall me mentioning that I once thought Jo Nesbø was a woman. And Danish. I can still just about visualise the Danish Jo, but this image has half disappeared with the rather charming publicity photo of the handsome male and Norwegian Jo.

People frequently tell me they like my honesty. I frequently worry about being too dishonest at times. I shall worry no more.

I was a bit surprised at the news that Jo was having an on-train signing session as he travelled from Manchester to Glasgow and Stirling on Saturday. Fans on the 09.41 Pendolino from Preston could just toddle along and get their books signed. But why not? He was on his way to sign at Waterstones in Glasgow, before coming to Bloody Scotland, where he was the star attraction of the evening. Why not cover a few more angles of that stardom?

Jo filled the Albert Halls, with fans sitting upstairs as well as down in the stalls. He had Peter Guttridge as his chair, so it was all set up to be the perfect evening. Bloody Scotland’s Lin Anderson was sitting in my row. Peter began by listing all the impressive things you might say about Jo, before the man himself came on stage for his superstar reception.

He used to play football. I think Jo even claimed to have played in Inverkeithing (although that could be my hearing), before he got knees like mine and had to give it up. The team didn’t like him. He just scored goals. Now that he’s more famous they praise him for having been a really good player.

Jo Nesbø

(Here I thought it was getting a little boring with all the background. Peter clearly heard my thoughts, because he promised we’d get to the books. He just didn’t say when.)

After the football came the rock band career. The band got better and better until at some point venues and audiences actually wanted to hear them play. The others in the band played full time, while Jo had to have a day job. So he stock-brokered. He did his money job by day, and flew out to gigs by night.

My thoughts at this point was that book tours must seem like a holiday compared to that.

Henning Mankell was name-dropped. Harry Hole got a mention. Or at least we were told how to pronounce the name correctly. But we still didn’t seem to be quite ready for book talk.

I did some calculations. Assuming the hour was to be divided up in the normal fashion, we’d used half the time on the non-book background, mainly being told what a fantastic person Jo is. I suspect that most of the audience agreed. It could be why they’d come. If they were readers/fans they probably also knew a lot of the background already, so it was a waste of time.

Peter Guttridge is one of my favourite chair people, and I admire his work a lot. I don’t know what happened here, but it suddenly seemed to me I could use my evening better than fawning over this surprisingly un-charming writer. So I left.

Not sure if I was alone in my cantankerous-ness, I compared notes with one of Jo’s fervent admirers, to see what he thought of his hero ‘in action.’ I apologise for his language, but the words ‘arrogant’ and ‘t*t’ appeared very close together. I would never say anything like that, obviously, but this was one disappointed reader, who has resolved never to try to meet a hero ever again.

Thinking back, I rather miss the Danish woman I called Jo Nesbø. She was friendly, and a happy sort, despite being a professional killer.

(If you’re near Dublin, you can form your own opinion tonight, when Jo talks to Bookwitch favourite Declan Burke.)

Thanks, Siobhan!

Siobhan Dowd NYC 80s-90s, by Helen Graves

Easter brought back my earliest memories of Siobhan Dowd, and of The London Eye Mystery. It was as we left the local bookshop just before Easter 2007 that Daughter grabbed the proof of this wonderful book, and once she had read it, she gave me permission to read it as well.

I’d like to think that this ‘illustrious’ blogging career of mine would have gone in much the same direction even without Siobhan and The London Eye Mystery. Hard to say. It made me do my fan email thing, which in turn meant Siobhan wrote back to me, opening up a more personal view of herself; one which I might never have encountered otherwise.

Looking back, it seems so dreadfully unreal that she would die just a few months later. And who would have thought that her work would just go on and on afterwards? I won’t be alone in blessing her strength, writing four novels in such a very short time, giving us her fantastic books to read after she was gone. And her trust, which she had time to plan, helping young people to read.

This was the very beginning of my moving in literary circles, and I marvel at how I dared get on that train to Oxford for Siobhan’s memorial service in November. I met so many people there, who I would probably have met at some point, but not quite like that. Would I have known that Siobhan’s friend Fiona Dunbar would make the perfect Bookwitch Profile as seen here last month?

The London Eye Mystery made more magic later with the stage version. Again, lots of people met up, and for me a lasting pleasure was meeting her best friend Helen who came over from New York, and who provided the photo above. (You could ask why it’s important to meet the American friend of an author you never met. I don’t know. But it feels good.)

Siobhan Dowd and Helen Graves: friends at Blenhaim Palace spring 2006

When I think back to first meeting literary people – online or in person – I can link back to Siobhan surprisingly often. It’s not just Declan Burke of Irish crime fame who popped up. He brought with him all those Irish crime writers that I’d never heard of before. Other bloggers. And in turn, these writers have taken me further in many different directions. I find paths doubling back on themselves.

Rings on the water, is what it seems like. Once this idea had come to me, the rings just grew and grew. I am not going to bore you with long lists of authors and publishers (although the lovely David Fickling must be mentioned). I started counting how many facebook friends originated with Siobhan, but gave up…

There was something in the way my brief contact with Siobhan encouraged more mad behaviour on my part. It wasn’t only meeting people. It was learning other things I could do. Was allowed to do. I owe Siobhan a lot, and I hope she’s sitting up there looking down at all of us, having a bit of fun herself. Maybe with a fluffy dog by her side, and a glass of something.

(I know. This is very much a me, me kind of post. But whenever I think ‘how did that come about then?’ my inner detective notices footprints going all the way back to this great author and person.)

The Big O as an e

It’s his birthday tomorrow. That’s why I’m letting Declan Burke have two reviews in one and the same week.

I’ve already reviewed* The Big O. It was back in 2007, when I didn’t know what to make of this Irishman with his entertaining blog. Could he write crime novels?

He could. And for anyone who is now feeling traumatised after reading Slaughter’s Hound (if you haven’t had time yet; don’t worry. You will feel in need of something lighter), The Big O is just the thing for you.

As good, but less bloody. The characters swear, and they commit crimes, but the tale is more humorous than brutal.

The paper version of The Big O is long gone. And Declan found it was hard to interest people in its sequel when there was no way of reading the first book. Hence the move to a new ebook. I think it’s an opportunity you should take. If only because it will then ease your way to reading Crime Always Pays. The sequel. Which is even better. And funnier.

Declan Burke, The Big O (ebook cover)

I know what you are thinking. That witch is besotted. But then, so is Eoin Colfer. I’m in good company. Join us?

*Please note. Back then I didn’t imagine there would be much more Irish crime for me to read. Hah!

Slaughter’s Hound

This Sligo Noir novel turned out to be noirer than expected. It is very good, and extremely well written, and it’s funny in parts, and it’s intelligent. But it is noir. No getting away from it.

Phew.

I survived, but that’s more than can be said for some of the characters. Several of them die, and quite spectacularly so. I’m not sure how anyone can come up with some of the graphic ways of killing people, or the descriptions of what you can do to a human being without actually killing them.

But I suppose that’s what makes a good author, being able to write about that which (I sincerely hope) we haven’t experienced in real life. Declan Burke is a very good writer. I know I keep going on about that, but he is. Even when noir.

Declan Burke, Slaughter's Hound

Harry Rigby from Eightball Boogie is back. It’s been a while, and he’s done time for you-know-what. (If you don’t, you will read Eightball Boogie first, before being allowed Slaughter’s Hound.) He’s quite likeable for someone not very likeable, and he has surprisingly good taste in women.

In this book he watches his friend Finn fall from nine floors up, flattening his taxi on landing. So he really has to find out how Finn came to fall, and why. Most people seem to think Harry pushed him.

It’s a complicated tale of art and drugs and an old death, played out in the shadow of what’s left of the Irish economy. Harry has to contend with rich women, crazy women, angry ones, and also some pretty dubious men, such as the police and lawyers.

Harry’s adopted son Ben has got older and is having trouble at school. Ben’s mother expects Harry to behave honourably and do the proper Dad thing. But with bad guys on your heels, there is less time for fatherhood than there should be.

As with Declan’s other novels, Greece plays a part in the plot, and as you can tell from the title, there is a doggy, too.

If you can take the gruesomeness, this book is one of the best. A lot of people have been saying so, and I can confirm they’re right. But you might want to look for something splashproof to wear for when the blood starts to flow.

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.

When the witch met Petrona

The world of blogging is a rather nice place to be. You meet interesting people, like other bloggers with whom you share so much. And the really good ones make you wish you were that little bit better at it.

Maxine Clarke who blogged as Petrona was one of them. She knew a lot about crime, which turned out to my advantage that evening in 2008 when I invited myself onto her team for the crime pub quiz in Bristol. We’d never met, but she came highly recommended by Declan Burke, so I felt free to borrow the friend of a friend. (We came third, mainly thanks to Maxine and her colleague Karen of Eurocrime.)

I always had the feeling that I ought to know more about the Nordic crime scene because of my background, but it would have been impossible to beat Maxine. From what I knew of her, she had a good job, a family, and she still managed to read all the interesting crime novels and write reviews for her own as well as Karen’s blogs.

By the time I ran out of time for too much daily blog reading, I tended to use Petrona as somewhere I would go to look for information. I could generally be sure of finding anything relevant on there.

Every now and then Maxine would leave a comment on Bookwitch, either because I’d blogged on crime, or because there was something YA that she also knew about. I believe our daughters are about the same age, which is how we ended up reading the same books for that age group as well.

This is what makes it especially sad that Maxine died earlier this week; leaving someone young behind. Because for all her expertise on the Scandinavians, it was sharing YA books that I found the most fun.

Bloggers at Crime Fest copy

I stole this photo of Maxine (left) with Rhian, Karen and Declan some years ago. I’m not sure who from, but it was in a good cause.

There is a collection of blogs posts about Maxine here.

(And as an amusing aside, I have to thank Rhian for pointing me in the direction of a long ago post by Maxine, featuring Mark Harmon. If only I’d known…)

Two more bests

There are two more books I really feel deserve another mention for their general excellence. My ‘best of’ for the year is for children’s books. But 2012 had a lot of good books to offer, and some of them are for the ‘older reader.’

If I had had a best adult novel category, the award would go to Adrian McKinty for The Cold Cold Ground, which is as close to perfect as you get with a crime novel.

And I don’t often read reference books, but Books To Die For, edited by Declan Burke and John Connolly, is just that. A reference book to die for. Except we don’t want to die. We only want to read about the most fantastic crime novels, in which people might well die.

Those Irish know a thing or two about crime.

The Burkes at the Irish Book Awards

To finish off in style – it is the weekend, after all – I give you the glamorous face of Irish crime. The other one just writes books.

Bookwitch bites #92

Thank goodness for these bites where I can complain on a variety of subjects almost every week. Occasionally I have lovely news as well. Let’s see if I can find some.

I don’t often (like never, obviously) receive invitations from the Canadian High Commission in London, but this week I had to make myself say ‘no thanks’ to them. But as Disney’s Cinderella says, what could possibly be nice about a visit to Canada House? (Only all of it…)

Came across the programme for Book Week Scotland at the end of November. Can’t go, even though I can be found north of the border that very week. So no Frank Cottrell Boyce. No Debi Gliori and no Steve Cole. Nobody.

Offspring are my reasons for travelling, and Son had some news this week, relating to the literal translation he did earlier this year. We are finally able to say it was Strindberg, for the Donmar at Trafalgar Studios. The Dance of Death. Will get back to you on that.

Before leaving Scotland, let me just mention the Grampian Children’s Book Award 2013. Apart from Patrick Ness who is on every single shortlist these days, the shortlisted authors are Barry Hutchison, Cathy MacPhail, Mark Lowery, Dave Cousins and Annabel Pitcher. Tough competition.

South to Newcastle, where the good news is that Seven Stories can call themselves National Centre for Children’s Books, as the only ‘national’ place in the Northeast. Well done to a special place!

Launch of Jacqueline Wilson exhibition at Seven Stories

Actually, I am coping with the happy business, after all. We’ll finish with a decisive jump across the water to Ireland, where they have The Irish Book Awards. You can vote, but you might want to follow my example and only vote in categories (they have so many!) where you have read the books. Luckily I didn’t have to choose between Declan Burke and Adrian McKinty. Not quite so lucky with Eoin Colfer and Derek Landy, though.

A witch can always flip a coin.