“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Crime Fiction Workshop: ‘Mystery and Suspense with Declan Burke’

*taps mike*
‘Hello? Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me?’
  Apologies for the radio silence in recent weeks, folks, but – as mentioned below – I’m up to the proverbial oxters in a new book, which is proceeding with all the measured calm of a herd of parched pachyderms scenting a waterhole in the deepest Kalahari. Anyhoo, I break said silence in order to mention that I’ll be hosting a crime fiction workshop at the Irish Writers’ Centre on March 11th, titled ‘Mystery and Suspense with Declan Burke’, with the details as follows:

Starts: Saturday 11th, March 2017
Time: 10.30am – 4.30pm
Duration: 1 day
Cost: €80/€70 Members


All great crime fiction stems from the fact that character is mystery. From whodunits to psychological thrillers, via private eyes and police procedurals, we’ll uncover the crucial elements that make for a memorable crime/mystery novel. Embracing plot, character, style, language, setting, tone and the authorial voice, this course employs classic and contemporary crime writing to illustrate the way forward for authors seeking to hone their craft and maximise the impact of their writing.
  Declan Burke is an award-winning author of six novels, and the editor / co-editor of two non-fiction titles on crime writing. He is the editor of the short story anthology Trouble is Our Business (New Island).

  For all the details, clickety-click here

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Review: THE LAST FOUR DAYS OF PADDY BUCKLEY by Jeremy Massey

“Life is just a dream from which we all awaken,” claims the eponymous narrator in the prologue to The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley (Riverhead), and Paddy Buckley knows of what he speaks: an undertaker given to philosophical musing, Paddy is speaking to us from beyond the grave.
  It’s an ambitious opening, especially as this is Jeremy Massey’s debut offering, but the story quickly delivers on its early promise. Paddy is a widower still mourning the loss of his wife Eva, who died suddenly whilst seven months pregnant; when Paddy calls on the beautiful Lucy Wright, to make the funeral arrangements for her husband Michael, he is stunned when the traditional pieties lead to an amorous encounter. Distraught at his unethical behaviour, Paddy is even more shocked when Lucy dies immediately afterwards, of an angina attack, leaving Paddy to break the bad news to Lucy’s daughter Brigid when she arrives at the family home. Worse again, Brigid is more beautiful than Lucy, and Paddy finds himself falling for the doubly bereaved daughter.
  With his blackly humorous farce underway, Massey piles on the comi-tragedy: driving home from work in the early hours, an exhausted and distracted Paddy knocks down a pedestrian. No ordinary pedestrian, either: Paddy has run over and killed Donal Cullen, beloved brother of Dublin’s most notorious criminal, Vincent Cullen. And it’s only a matter of time, of course, before Paddy gets the call to make the funeral arrangements for Donal …
  In a remarkably assured debut novel, Jeremy Massey delivers a hugely entertaining take on the Irish noir novel. Steeped in death, and narrated by the disembodied voice of Paddy Buckley, the novel is nevertheless a rollicking tale of life’s absurdities, as the guilt-ridden Paddy twists and turns in a desperate bid to outrun the fate he has already told us awaits him. Persuasively blending crime and comedy is no easy matter, but Massey strikes exactly the right tone: the scene in which Paddy explains the embalming process to a creepily attentive Vincent Cullen, for example, is both darkly hilarious and spine-chillingly unsettling.
  This is largely due to Massey’s talent for crafting well-rounded characters – Paddy, our flawed hero, is sympathetically drawn, a good man who finds himself the butt of Fate’s sick sense of humour. Vincent Cullen, for his part, is initially every inch the intimidating bruiser we might expect from a crime fiction villain, but it’s in his other facets – the thoughtful strategist, the loving father, the grieving brother – that Vincent truly comes to life. Even the minor characters (including an unusual hybrid guard-dog) are expertly sketched in.
  Unsurprisingly, given Jeremy Massey’s background, the ‘privilege of being an undertaker’ is beautifully detailed, with Paddy offering an intriguing insight into mindset of those men and women who are death’s attendants on a daily basis. Indeed, the most poignant scene in the novel occurs when Paddy and his associates carry away a corpse from a dormitory housing down-and-outs, their progress mutely observed by terrified old men wondering if it will be their turn next.
  Ultimately, and despite the fatalistic tone established in the prologue, The Last Four Days of Paddy Buckley is a comic tour-de-force that blends high farce and slapstick (the high-speed chase involving a hearse is priceless) into a classic noir tale of a man doomed and damned before the story ever begins, its frantic pace underpinned with sobering observations on mortality that linger long after the tale concludes. It’s a heady combination, one that establishes Jeremy Massey as a unique voice in the new generation of Irish authors as a comic novelist of the first order. ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Examiner.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Review: SPOOK STREET by Mick Herron

Welcome to Slough House, ‘the administrative oubliette of the intelligence service,’ where the ‘slow horses’ – aka those British spies who are damaged, broken or simply useless – are put out to grass. Slough House provides the hub for Mick Herron’s ‘Jackson Lamb’ spy novels, of which Spook Street (John Murray) is the fourth, a series that is by some distance the most impressive new body of work in spy fiction.
  The novel opens at London’s Westacres shopping centre, where a bomb explodes and ‘something like the sun bloomed in all the wrong places.’ Meanwhile, David Cartwright, a legendary Cold War spymaster and the grandfather of ‘slow horse’ River Cartwright, is targeted for assassination. When River goes AWOL in France to investigate why the senile David was targeted, Slough House commander Jackson Lamb finds himself embroiled in a plot rooted in a post-Glasnost scheme to breed the ultimate ‘sleeper’ – the fanatical terrorist who believes he’s working for the other side.
  In synopsis it sounds like a typically modern spy novel, with its technological horrors and war-on-terror paranoia, but the Jackson Lamb novels are deliciously irreverent throwbacks. The tone is set by Herron’s characterisation of Jackson Lamb, a belching, farting, swearing sloth of a man who favours low cunning over high-minded principles.
  Herron, steeped in the genre, enjoys poking fun at his literary antecedents. ‘Bond never had this trouble,’ River Cartwright observes when he finds himself lost in France and struggling to communicate with a waitress. ‘Bond, though, would have been talking to a waitress twenty years younger, with inviting cleavage.’ There’s also a neat nod to John le Carré, when Louise Guy, another ‘slow horse’, notes that a Slough House operation ‘was like a circus would be if circuses involved fewer clowns.’
  A lesser writer might baulk at invoking le Carré, for fear of inviting odious comparisons, but Mick Herron is fully entitled to his indulgence (which extends to inventing his own vocabulary, as did le Carré: the novel is thronged with ‘weasels’ ‘stoats’, ‘slow horses’, and ‘vampires’). He is superb at evoking the le Carré-esque air of ennui, cynicism and self-loathing which permeates an intelligence service on its uppers, but which remains – the alternative being too awful to contemplate – duty bound to keep calm and carry on. Even so, the reader steeped in spy fiction may discover that Herron’s beautifully detailed characters more closely resemble the grubby, penny-pinching creations of Len Deighton, those put-upon civil servants charged with defending the realm despite a complete absence of the noble impulse.
  Either way, Spook Street is an absorbing tale peppered with fascinatingly flawed (and in some cases plain awful) characters, while the downbeat tone, and the paralysing self-doubt that afflicts many of the protagonists, is entirely apt for our turbulent times. Herron has a flair for the incongruously unsettling: in the midst of some office banter, during which two characters practise enhanced interrogation techniques, one of them declares that, ‘Blowing up forty-two kids in a shopping centre is murder. Waterboarding a suspected terrorist to death, that’s housekeeping.’
  That said, Herron also leavens the mood with flashes of mordant humour (‘The Dogs sniffed out all manner of heresies, from the sale of secrets to injudicious sexual encounters: the honeytrap was older than chess, but stupidity was even older.’), while the hilariously repellent Jackson Lamb – the anti-Smiley – is a constant source of politically incorrect one-liners.
  Most importantly, Mick Herron possesses that intangible gift given to all great writers, the ability to persuade the reader that he or she alone is privy to an intimate conversation. Here Herron draws his readers so fully into the world of Slough House that the incautious might find themselves slipping between the pages and transformed from reader to spook. Which wouldn’t be entirely surprising; as Jackson Lamb points out, ‘Spooks love their stories: it’s why they’re spooks.’ ~ Declan Burke

  This review was first published in the Irish Times.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year

A belated Happy New Year to All Three Regular Readers, the more eagled-eyed of whom will be aware that posts have been at a premium over the last month or so. That’s due in part to my annual hibernation during the festive season, but mainly because I’ve started work on a new book, which is still in the honeymoon period (i.e., that all-too-brief window in time when you can kid yourself that all will be not only well, but perfect), and thus soaking up much of what I laughingly refer to as my ‘free time’. No doubt the hell-bound handcart will be drawing up, tumbril-like, at my front door any day now; but for now, I’m afraid, posts are likely to continue in sporadic and erratic fashion. In the meantime, and as always, if any author wishes to draw my attention to a forthcoming tome, just drop me a line and we’ll take it from there …

Publication: POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty

Adrian McKinty publishes the sixth offering in the increasingly impressive and award-winning series featuring RUC DI Sean Duffy, with yet another title – POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY (Serpent’s Tail) – culled from the lyrics of Tom Waits. To wit:
Belfast 1988: a man has been shot in the back with an arrow. It ain’t Injuns and it isn’t Robin Hood. But uncovering exactly who has done it will take Detective Inspector Sean Duffy down his most dangerous road yet, a road that leads to a lonely clearing on the high bog where three masked gunmen will force Duffy to dig his own grave.
  Hunted by forces unknown, threatened by Internal Affairs and with his relationship on the rocks, Duffy will need all his wits to get out of this investigation in one piece.
  POLICE AT THE STATION will be published on January 5th. For more on Adrian McKinty, clickety-click here

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Publications: Irish Crime Fiction 2017

Herewith be a brief list of Irish crime fiction titles published / to be published in 2017, a list I’ll be updating on a regular basis. To wit:

POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON’T LOOK FRIENDLY by Adrian McKinty (January 5)

LET THE DEAD SPEAK by Jane Casey (March 9)
BLOOD TIDE by Claire McGowan (March 23)
HEADBANGER / SAD BASTARD by Hugo Hamilton (March 23)

A GAME OF GHOSTS by John Connolly (April 6)
HERE AND GONE by Haylen Beck (April 6)

BAD BLOOD by Brian McGilloway (May 18)

WOLF ON A STRING by Benjamin Black (June 6)
UNTITLED NOVEL by Stephen Burke (June 15)
ONE BAD TURN by Sinead Crowley (June 29)

CANDYLAND by Jax Miller (July 13)

CARDINAL WITNESS by Conor Fitzgerald (August 15)

SLEEPING BEAUTIES by Jo Spain (September 21)

INISHOWEN BOOK 3 by Andrea Carter (October 5)

  NB: Publication dates are given according to Amazon UK, and are subject to change.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Event: Writing the Crime Novel with Declan Burke

The lovely people at the Irish Writers’ Centre have been in touch to ask if I’d be interested in facilitating a one-day course on writing the crime novel. It takes place on December 3rd in Co. Tyrone (details below), and I’m very much looking forward to it. To wit:
All great crime fiction stems from the fact that character is mystery. From whodunits to psychological thrillers, via private eyes and police procedurals, we’ll uncover the crucial elements that make for a memorable crime / mystery novel. Embracing plot and character, the authorial voice, style and language, setting and tone, this course employs classic and contemporary crime writing to illustrate the way forward for authors seeking to hone their craft and maximise the impact of their writing.
  Declan Burke is an award-winning author of six novels, and the editor / co-editor of two non-fiction titles on crime writing. He is the editor of the short story anthology Trouble is Our Business (New Island).

Saturday 3rd December
Time: 10.30am – 4.30pm
Duration: 1 day
Venue: Ranfurly House, Co. Tyrone
Cost: €28/£25
  For all the details, clickety-click here

Monday, November 21, 2016

Launch: TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS at No Alibis

I’m hugely looking forward to my annual pilgrimage to No Alibis in Belfast, where we’ll be conducting the Northern Ireland launch of TROUBLE IS OUR BUSINESS (New Island) on Friday evening. If you’re in or around Belfast that evening, we’d love to see you there. The details:

Fri 25th November 6.30pm,
No Alibis, 83, Botanic Avenue, Belfast


An evening of chat about Crime Fiction on the Emerald Isle with Declan Burke, John Connolly, Louise Phillips and Others

Thrilling, disturbing, shocking and moving, Trouble Is Our Business: New Stories by Irish Crime Writers is a compulsive anthology of original stories by Ireland’s best-known crime writers.

Patrick McGinley, Ruth Dudley Edwards, Colin Bateman, Eoin McNamee, Ken Bruen, Paul Charles, Julie Parsons, John Connolly, Alan Glynn, Adrian McKinty, Arlene Hunt, Alex Barclay, Gene Kerrigan, Eoin Colfer, Declan Hughes, Cora Harrison, Brian McGilloway, Stuart Neville, Jane Casey, Niamh O’Connor, William Ryan Murphy, Louise Phillips, Sinéad Crowley, Liz Nugent.

Irish crime writers have long been established on the international stage as bestsellers and award winners. Now, for the first time ever, the best of contemporary Irish crime novelists are brought together in one volume.
Edited by Declan Burke, the anthology embraces the crime genre’s traditional themes of murder, revenge, intrigue, justice and redemption. These stories engage with the full range of crime fiction incarnations: from police procedurals to psychological thrillers, domestic noir to historical crime – but there’s also room for the supernatural, the futuristic, the macabre. As Emerald Noir blossoms into an international phenomenon, there has never been a more exciting time to be a fan of Irish crime fiction.

Reviews:

‘This collection can be confidently recommended to anyone who reads any type of crime fiction. They will find something to tease and tantalise their inner detective.’ – The Irish Times

‘Trouble Is Our Business is one of the essential literary fiction compendiums in Irish publishing this year.’ – Sunday Independent

‘A crime anthology certain to keep you on the edge of your seat’ – The Sunday Times

Thursday, November 17, 2016

News: Tana French Wins the Irish Crime Novel of the Year Award

Hearty congratulations to Tana French, who last night won the Crime Fiction Book of the Year at the Irish Book Awards with THE TRESPASSER. No shocks or surprises, then – it’s been a very strong year for Irish crime fiction, but Tana French is a phenomenon, and THE TRESPASSER is one of her finest offerings to date.
  Happily, Tana’s wasn’t the only crime novel to win on the night – Liz Nugent’s LYING IN WAIT (which was also shortlisted for the crime fiction gong) scooped the RTE Radio One Ryan Tubridy Listeners’ Choice Award, and Graham Norton’s HOLDING won the Popular Fiction Book Award.
  Commiserations, of course, to all the other shortlisted authors – there’s always next year. For the full list of winners at the Irish Book Awards, clickety-click here

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Publication: A HUNT IN WINTER by Conor Brady

A HUNT IN WINTER (New Island), set in Victorian Dublin, is the third in Conor Brady’s series of mystery novels to feature Detective Inspector Joe Swallow. Quoth the blurb elves:
Joe Swallow, newly promoted to detective inspector, is back, and life looks to be taking a turn for the better. But his new-found peace will soon be chaotically upturned, with far-reaching consequences.
  In Dublin, a series of violent attacks against women leads to an outbreak of panic and fear, and things on the home front are about to change in an unexpected way.
  In London, Charles Stewart Parnell tirelessly pursues the Irish cause for Home Rule. While the British are eager to discredit the Irish parliamentary leader and to quash the growing movement towards independence, Swallow’s conflicted loyalties pull him in different directions.
  Swallow has no choice but to traverse this volatile political scene, while his continuing hunt for a terrifying killer takes him across Europe in pursuit …
  For a review of Conor Brady’s THE ELOQUENCE OF THE DEAD, clickety-click here