Wednesday, February 22, 2017

A Paragraph In A Notebook

6 years ago this week I wrote the first paragraph of what wd subsequently become book 1 of my Sean Duffy series. I wrote the paragraph in a notebook in longhand and forgot about it for about 6 months and when I found it again, I thought, I wonder what that's about and I began thinking. . .As Harold Bloom says we're all living under the anxiety of all our influences. Many influences jump out at me as I look at the paragraph. 'beauty of its own' is probably an echo of Yeats; the 2nd sentence is a deliberate homage to Gravity's Rainbow complete with the American word gasoline instead of petrol; the torpedoed prison ship is probably a reference to the sinking of Montevideo Maru; 'Knockagh Mountain' always struck me as amusing because Knockagh in Irish means 'mountain' so this is kind of a joke; the lovers/Afterlife line reminds me of a bit in Ursula LeGuin's Tombs of Atuin;  no one spoke, words...inadequate is something that Samuel Beckett said at the end of his life and of course its what Wittgenstein famously claimed; don't know where the 'God of curves' bit came from but I dig it....Anyway it all became paragraph 1 of book 1 and here it is, exactly as it appeared in my notebook:
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The riot had taken on a beauty of its own now. Arcs of gasoline fire under the crescent moon. Crimson tracer in mystical parabolas. Phosphorescence from the barrels of plastic bullet guns. A distant yelling like that of men below decks in a torpedoed prison ship. The scarlet whoosh of Molotovs intersecting with exacting surfaces. Helicopters everywhere: their spotlights finding one another like lovers in the Afterlife.
        I watched with the others by the Land Rover on Knockagh Mountain. No one spoke. Words were inadequate. You needed a Picasso for this scene, not a poet.
        The police and the rioters were arranged in two ragged fronts that ran across a dozen streets, the opposing sides illuminated by the flash of newsmen’s cameras and the burning, petrol-filled milk bottles sent tumbling across the no man’s land like votive offerings to the god of curves.
       
       

Monday, February 20, 2017

2 crimewriters pod

I'm interviewed on the latest 2 crime writers podcast with Steve Cavanagh and Luca Veste. Its mostly me complaining about Sherlock and Dr Who, telling old rugby stories and recollecting some of my more disastrous book readings. 

You can listen to it here. I'm on about 50 minutes in I think...

Saturday, February 18, 2017

StuffedShelves.de Q&A


q) first of all I want to thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. The first one is a classic within our interview-series. Who is the guy behind the Sean-Duffy-series?
I don’t know. I meet him in a dimly lit basement parking lot. He’s always in disguise. I hand him over the cash. He sends me the manuscript in a brown envelope. I think he works for other ‘writers’ too as the last Sean Duffy novel he did for me involves Sean becoming a boy wizard at a wizarding school in England.
q) The fifth Duffy novel ‘Rain Dogs’ has recently been released here in Germany. How do you feel about the fact your books are published in different countries and languages?
It infuriates me. I’ve been trying for years to narrow down my audience to a few like thinking individuals who will get all my jokes and music references. And now I have to think about random people in Germany, Sweden or France trying to get a Stiff Little Fingers reference? No thanks!
q) The sixth novel ‘Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly’ has already been released. Are there any plans for a German translation?
There may be plans, schemes, blueprints. That’s all I am allowed to say.
q) You mainly use real historic happenings for your plots (the Jimmy Savile affair for example is well known, even here in Germany). Then you create a fictional story around it. Due to this fact seem highly authentic to me. How much investigation do you have to do for one of your novels?
Yeah I’ve really dug myself into a hole there. Now people expect a little bit of historical accuracy in every book so I have to do months of research whereas right from the get go I should have just made shit up. No one complains to Isaac Asimov that his neutron engine wasn’t invented in 2008 like he said, because he just made it all up. And, also, because he’s dead.
q) Your novels won several prices like the Ned Kelly award or the Barry award. ‘In The Morning I’ll Be Gone’ was picked as one of the best 10 crime novels 2014 by the American Library Association. ‘The Cold Cold Ground’ was picked as one of the best crime novel by The Times. How important are those prizes for you?
Very important. Sometimes I fill a bath with all my awards and swim around in it laughing.
q) Since we saw some of your book titles in the previous questions: Are you a huge Tom Waits fan or what was the reason you picked his lyrics for the titles?
Tom Waits is very litigious and I had hoped that he would sue me. But alas that didn’t work out.
q) Do you get a lot of reviews? How do you deal with them, especially the negative ones?
I get a lot of reviews. I have never had a negative review. How could that possibly happen when the books are all masterpieces? Well, I suppose a mad person could not like them but I wouldn’t mind if a mad person said unpleasant things because I was taught very early on to pity: a) the mad b) dogs with three legs c) bald men with orange comb-overs who think they are President c) people who like Coldplay.
q) From what I know all your books are crime novels. Could you imagine to write a completely different story without any crime elements?

I don’t think I could imagine that. I have a very poor imagination. Which is why choosing ‘novelist’ as a profession was such a catastrophic mistake.
q) Duffy is a catholic cop in the mainly Protestantic RUC. How did you get the idea for this very special constellation?
Again, it was that guy in the parking lot, not me. I’ll ask him next time I see him.
q) You were born and raised in the North of Ireland. From my interview with Sam Millar I got the impression that it’s still not as friendly as it seems over here. What do you think on the current situation?
Have you seem Sam’s author picture? No one wonder he thinks people aren’t too friendly to him. He’s terrifying. Whereas they love me.
q) Let’s get away from your novels and put the focus on yourself for a while. How does a normal day in your life look like?
I usually wake up screaming, thinking that I have turned into a giant cockroach but the family calms me down even. Sometimes down from the ceiling. Once they’ve gone I pour myself a stiff double Scotch, have some Frosted Flakes and then the really serious drinking can begin.
q) How do you work? Do you have a special writing place?
I write in the shower. Its not a very productive place to work and I’ve ruined many a laptop but at least I come out clean.
q) Do you like to read? Are there any authors or novels that influenced your work?
I do not like to read. Reading is for saps.
q) If somebody came to you saying ‘Adrian, I want to become a writer, too. Can you help me?’ what would you answer? Any tips for that poor guy?
I would give him the address and phone number of a really good psychiatrist who hopefully would talk him out of it.
q) Are there any projects you dream to realize?
Emulating the Emperor Nero and the giant Finn McCool I would like to build a bridge of boats from Carrickfergus across the Irish Sea to Scotland.
q) How long does it take you to finish a new novel?
Oh I’m fast. Very fast. And good. Fast and good. Good and fast. Sorry what was the question?
q) What can we except in the future? Are you currently working on a new book?
In  the future we can expect sea level rises, Chinese global hegemony, famines and perhaps a merciful early death for our civilization from a comet strike.
q) Well, that’s it. Thanks again for taking the time to answer our questions. Finally, is there anything left you want to say to your German readers?
Ich weiß nicht was soll es bedeuten/Daß ich so traurig bin.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

When Satire Fails

When Peter Cook founded the "Establishment Club" - a revue bar featuring satirical humour - in London in 1968 he expressed the hope that the venue wd be "just as successful as those satirical cabarets in Berlin in the 1930s that did so much to prevent the rise of Hitler." Satire often doesn't work. The more biting and clever the satire the less effective it often is. I remember reading the reviews of Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers with incredulity: respected critics like Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin didn't get that it was a satire on Leni Riefenstahl. Indeed it seems that a majority of the critics at the time didn't understand that the film was an allegory about the growth of fascism. A fortiori cinema goers - many of whom seem to have rejected the director and screenwriter's intent and imposed their own meaning on the film. In their eyes Starship Troopers was not a satire on xenophobia and fascism at all but a warning about foreigners/aliens and a trumpet blast against weak liberals who can't be trusted to keep us safe. 
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Not only does satire often fail but sometimes it does the very opposite of what it is meant to be doing. For those of you who think SNL is skewering the Trump administration, I have some news for you, I bet you, in fact, it's actually bolstering the views of Trump's supporters and fans. Malcolm Gladwell in a great podcast on satire shows how SNL's piss take of Sarah Palin actually helped Sarah Palin. Similarly the famous puppet show Spitting Imagine that supposedly mercilessly mocked Mrs Thatcher was actually a boon for Mrs Thatcher's image and reputation. And there are numerous other examples. (Listen to the Gladwell. He gets on my nerves too but he's great here.) My point is that if Roger Ebert and Janet Maslin can't see the joke don't be surprised if a supposed 'low information' voter doesn't see the joke either. [Its rarer of course that really bad art gets thought of as 'satire' when it isn't but I assume that the occasional Springtime For Hitler situation does exist in real life too.] I wonder too if there are any anti-war satires that actually work at all? Apocalypse Now and Full Metal Jacket - supposedly blistering anti-war bromides were in fact favourite films of soldiers and marines in the Iraq war...
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Anyway here's RedLetterMedia's recent review (below) of Starship Troopers where they point out what should have been obvious. Two of their more interesting observations are about the lighting (deliberately bland) and the casting (the leads were cast because they appeared to be 'dead behind the eyes'.) None of this, however, has stopped Starship Troopers from becoming a favourite film of skinheads and the Alt Right. Perhaps Maslin & Ebert weren't so naive after all....

Sunday, February 12, 2017

The Australian Reviews Police At The Station

its tough to get newspaper reviews for the sixth book in what essentially is a cult series, but there have, fortunately, been a few. Here's Peter Pierce in the Weekend Australian: 

There are abundant talents in the crime fiction business, one of them an immigrant to Australia from Northern Ireland, via the US. Adrian McKinty had originally planned a Troubles trilogy, set in Northern Ireland in the 1980s and featuring detective (and sometimes inspector, depending how much strife he has caused) Sean Duffy, a bleakly joking, poetry-quoting Catholic in the Protestant-dominated Royal Ulster Constabulary.
McKinty is alert both to the deep past and the present agonies of the province. In the Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly, and it’s perhaps the best of the lot in the wit of its dialogue, inwardness with the sectarian bitterness of the damaged province, and — essentially — in having a complex and memorably flawed hero in Duffy. In a brilliant opening scene — deadly and funny — Duffy is taken into an ancient word, ‘‘a relic of the Holocene forest that once covered all of Ireland’’, where ‘‘a huge fallen oak lay like a dead god’’. His captors are an IRA hit squad intent on silencing Duffy before he detects a long-rumoured mole within the upper tanks of the RUC.The first three books were so successful that Melbourne-based McKinty has stretched to a sixth, 
As Duffy ruefully reflects, ‘‘there’s no future in this country’’. That means there isn’t one either for his partner Beth, who is writing a thesis on Philip K. Dick at Queen’s University, or their infant daughter Emma.
Meanwhile Duffy is able to skip a St Patrick’s Purgatory pilgrimage with his father because a drug dealer has been killed with a crossbow bolt on a housing estate which may be, ‘‘[an Ulster Volunteer Force-] ridden shithole filled with whores, druggies and scumbags’’. Duffy arrives at ‘‘the unhappy window between people returning from their morning dole appointments and daytime TV kicking in’’.
The novel is sympathetic, funny and despairing in depicting the social landscape that McKinty acutely recalls from his youth. Belfast is a paradigm for future cities: ‘‘mined and fractured, walled and utilitarian’’. Textile plants and shipyards have closed, and the showdown is staged in a dank, abandoned factory. Some, such as the dour, upright, hilariously deadpan Sergeant McCrabban (a triumph of the series) resist the collapse stoically.
Duffy prefers mordant wit that graces nearly every page. When the Bulgarian translator called in to help with the crossbow murder praises the local beer, Duffy reflects that ‘‘Harp was an acquired taste like coprophagia or getting pissed on by hookers’’.
More direly, he has to repulse an attack on his house, investigate the murder and find a scheme to entrap his suspect.
McKinty handles all this business with intelligence and elan. Crime is the subject, but Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly will prove to be one of the best novels to be published in any genre this year. 

Friday, February 10, 2017

David Peace's New Novel

Is David Peace the best novelist in England? Yes. Yes he is. That is if he still lives in England. Sources are conflicting about that. Some people say he lives in rural Yorkshire with his Japanese wife and family (God help them) other sources say he lives in Japan. In either case he's still the most exciting contemporary English (very English in fact) novelist whose books are at the forefront of a completely new way of telling stories. Experimental, dark, weird (but not like, you know, Tim Burton weird - proper weird, weird) Peace is an inheritor of JG Ballard's trick of examining society through an exploration of psychology; but Peace, of course, looks backward into the disturbing near past not into the disturbing near future...
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Anyway, I like David Peace and it was with some small measure of excitement that I noticed this amazon.co.uk listing. Faber are not saying what this is but someone on twitter told me it might be a book about MI5 and Harold Wilson. Sounds intriguing but actually it doesn't matter what its going to be about, it's a new David Peace novel and that is cause for celebration. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Irish Cannonball Run

I recently read a review of one of my books where the reviewer deducted a star because I had a fictional character drive from Donegal to Belfast in 90 minutes. She said this was frankly impossible because Google had told her that that drive takes 3 hours. Hmmmm. Let me just say that I have done that journey considerably faster than Google thinks is possible. In the wee hours when the peelers are asleep is the time when you can really fly...But let's leave that to one side. Complaining about that kind of thing in a novel is rather silly to me. In the fictional universe that these fictional characters inhabit one of them drove from Donegal to Belfast in 90 minutes. It happened. It just did and it says so right there in black and white. For more on what 'mistakes' matter and won't mistakes don't matter you can read this. But that's not what I wanted to talk about here. What I want to talk about here is the Cannonball Run Record. 
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Google also tells you that the time it takes to drive from New York to Los Angeles is 42 hours. But in fact, the current holder of the Cannonball Run Record, Ed Bolian, has done it in 29 hours. Ed did this by modifying his car with a bigger petrol tank and buying sophisticated speed trap radar. The American Cannonball Run Record has a venerable tradition going back nearly 100 years but as far as I can see there is no record anywhere on the internet for the fastest crossing of Ireland, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Irish Sea. Without encouraging or condoning any illegality whatsoever and emphasising that dangerous driving can cost lives I'd like to maybe suggest a little Irish version of the Cannonball Run.  
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There are many different ways to cross Ireland from the Atlantic to the Irish Sea/North Channel. The shortest route, of course, is to cheat and go from somewhere like Ballycastle to Cushendun or Kilmore Quay to Rosslare but that's, uhm, cheating. For this to count you have to drive right across Ireland from sea to shining sea. As the inventor of this contest (again without encouraging any wrong-doing, violation of traffic laws or dangerous driving) I'm going to say that three routes and three routes only are acceptable: Bundoran to Belfast, Galway to Dublin or Tralee to Wexford (Limerick to Wexford doesn't count I think because Limerick is not really on the Atlantic). Probably the fastest route is Galway to Dublin. When I drove this route a few years ago I started by throwing a stone into the Atlantic at Nimmo's Pier, Galway and finished it by throwing a stone onto the beach at Sandymount, Dublin 2 hours and thirty minutes later. I didn't authenticate my drive the way the Cannonballers do so I'm not going to claim this as the record. And its a crap time anyway, slower even than the Google time. I drove the route in a 2009 BMW 320i, leaving Galway at 5.45 in the morning hoping to avoid rush hour traffic in Dublin (I didn't). Almost certainly you can do better. 

Friday, January 20, 2017

Rain Dogs Up For The Edgar

My novel Rain Dogs has been shortlisted for the 2017 Edgar Award and I'm thrilled to bits. I'm up for the best paperback original Edgar for the 2nd year in a row. Wow. Rain Dogs really seems to have made an impression on people. I believe it's the only novel out there to have been shortlisted for The Ned Kelly Award, The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, The Dagger Award and now the Edgar which are four of the most prestigious awards in my genre. 
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This book is truly the little engine that could. It's been a long hard road for me to get this series noticed especially in America. Unless you're a reader of that fabulous newspaper The Boston Globe you won't have read a single review of Rain Dogs anywhere in the US and unless you came to see me at the Kinokuniya bookstore you wont have heard me read. (A very famous American mystery bookstore refused me a reading point blank because they said I wouldn't be able to get the punters in. Yah boo sucks to them.) If your publisher wont promote you and the newspapers wont review you there is no bloody chance of your book selling any copies no matter how good it is. Sigh. Anyway this isn't the time for my habitual glass half empty bullshit. I'm up for the bloody Edgar and that's a sweet thing. 
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Thanks to all my loyal blog readers, book readers and audiobook listeners! Nil carborundum illegitimis 

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Sixth Starred Booklist Review In A Row

No, this is not a reblog. Last month I had a post with the headline: my sixth starred Kirkus Review in a row. Starred reviews in Booklist are also rare. This is my sixth in a row:

Issue: February 1, 2017 Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly. McKinty, Adrian (Author) Mar 2017. 320 p. Prometheus/Seventh Street, paperback, $15.95. (9781633882591). e-book, $11.99. (9781633882607).

*starred*

The chronicles of Sean Duffy could not be contained in Adrian McKinty’s Troubles trilogy, and this is the sixth novel in this excellent series (after Rain Dogs, 2016). For readers who have not shared in the rapture, there is no time like the present to join. In Royal Ulster Constabulary Detective Duffy, McKinty has created a Chandleresque character who goes down the mean streets of Belfast, “a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability.” He is a conflicted man in a very conflicted 1980s Belfast, where warring factions both demand protection money from drug dealers and execute them under the auspices of DAADD (Direct Action against Drug Dealers).

Duffy’s investigation into the death of a pusher takes him down some dangerous roads, always checking under his Beemer for a mercury tilt switch bomb before he careens off in it. Like his literary hero, Jules Maigret, Duffy considers himself “thoroughly existentially jaded.” But he is also very much like his TV idol, Sonny Crockett, from Miami Vice. [Brenda: How do you go from this tranquility to that violence? Crockett: I usually take the Ferrari.] They each operate effectively in their own demimonde and are supported by high-caliber bromance. Driving it all is McKinty’s compelling literary style: Duffy’s first-person narrative and internalized musing are lyrical and lengthy at first, then reduced intermittently to terse one sentence statements that move the story along at an astonishing pace. A must read for fans of Stuart Neville and Celtic noir.

— Jane Murphy

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Sunday Times reviews Sean Duffy #6: Police At The Station

Duffy 6 was reviewed last weekend by the Sunday Times. This is the very first newspaper review and it isn't too spoilerific so go ahead feel free to read.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Big Thrill Q&A

Dear authors,
Congratulations again on your upcoming release. Although you were not one of the 10 authors selected for an interview through the (new) and random lottery, we're pleased to tell you that your book will still be featured in the March issue of The Big Thrill. If you haven't already, please send your responses to the questions on the submission form so that we can build your "landing page." In addition to your responses, the page will include a picture of your new release, along with the jacket copy blurb provided.

Bellow (sic) you will find the questions for your reference. 
1) What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
2) How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
3) Was there anything new you discovered as you wrote this book?
4) No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
5) What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

1) I believe readers will take away a deep seated feeling of anger that will turn into full blown rage at the waste of their time and money in reading my new novel. I hope their growing fury motivates them to demand their money back from the publisher or possibly ignites a Michael Kohlhaas style over reaction that leads to the fall of the imprint, the publishing house, the Republic and capitalism itself. 

2) I trust that this book will kill the genre stone dead and discourage future efforts along this road. 

3) Yes, I discovered a new continent south west of Tasmania but that's all I'm saying about it here because I want to keep its riches (largely edible kelp) to myself.

4) One PR man wrote the following (but they wouldn't let his copy go on the jacket): "It's clearly the unedited ravings of a lunatic - Do Not Publish."

5) Philip K Dick's period when he wrote 12 novels in six months under the influence of acid, horse tranquilisers and meth amphetamines. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly

Sean Duffy #6, Police At The Station, is released in the UK and Ireland today. If it's your sort of thing you can get it at all the usual places. American, Australian and Audio editions will be forthcoming in the coming months...5000 experience points and my eternal gratitude if you leave me a review s'where. 
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Coimhead fearg fhear na foighde.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why Carrickfergus Is The Happiest Place On Earth


Far and away my most popular post of the year for some reason...
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According to the British National Statistics Bureau the happiest place in the United Kingdom is Northern Ireland. Even more surprisingly the happiest place in Northern Ireland is the borough of East Antrim. In other words Carrickfergus is the place in the entire United Kingdom where residents are most content and happiest. If you're a math geek like me you can explore these stats even further. The happiest country in the world with a happiness rating of 7.7 is, famously, Denmark. But East Antrim's happiness rating is 8.3 according to the most recent stats. The methodology of the surveys is slightly different but the results are pretty clear: Carrickfergus is actually the place on planet Earth where residents are the most contented. Not Hawaii, not the Rive Gauche, not the vineyards of Northern California, not Disneyland. No, Carrickfergus. According to the Guardian newspaper even the civil servants reporting on this survey found this all very hard to believe. But I believe it and I have some theories as to why this is so: 

1. The strong sense of community. Go shopping with my sisters or my mum and you'll be there all day. They know everybody and everybody knows them. When I lived on Coronation Road I knew every single person on the street and could have dinner at anybody's house and any of those kids could have dinner at my house. You want to know why the Troubles were so terrible for so long? Because it was a family dispute and those things are the worst. 
2. We know our history. Every kid in Northern Ireland knows where he came from and his context in the history of Ireland and the world. How can you not when there's graffiti everywhere telling us to "Remember 1690" or "Remember 1916" etc. Knowing that you are part of a narrative that stretches all the way back to the Great Rift Valley gives one a tremendous feeling of comfort and well being. There's a pub in Carrick that is 500 years old. The castle has been standing there for 800 years. We also remember our recent history. A lot of people walking the streets feel like Private Joker at the end of Full Metal Jacket. Everybody that lived through the Troubles is just relieved and grateful that those desperate days are behind us. 
3. Everyone plays an instrument. They just do. Its part of the culture. And when you've got the blues you can play the blues and that helps. 
4. Kids in school are forced to memorise poetry. That helps too when you're feeling depressed. Trust me. 
5. Sense of humour. The worst thing you can say of someone from Norn Irn is that "they have no sense of humour". That I'm afraid is a deal breaker for potential boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Pretty much everything else can be tolerated but if you're humourless you are toast. Trust someone who has lived in 14 different cities in 4 continents - Belfast people have the driest, dourest, blackest sense of humour on Earth. Thats what EVERY single Troubles movie has gotten wrong. The shocking sentimental bullshit music and the lack of jokes. 
6. The sense of humour again. This cannot be overemphasised. You know why my Duffy novels are funny? Because they are mimetic. 
7. Sang froid. We don't take ourselves or life too seriously. We like to think we keep a cool head in a crisis. cf Thomas Andrews, Lord Alanbrooke, Blair Mayne etc. etc.
8. The food and drink. Much maligned but maligned without reason. An Ulster fry is by far the greatest breakfast on Earth. A pint of Guinness or porter in my sister's pub, Ownies, is surely the greatest drink on the planet. Irish stew? The trout, the salmon? One of the best chippies in the world (The Victoria HotSpot in Victoria). And you should try my mum's baked goods...
9. The scenery. Up there on the high bog behind the Glens is God's Own Country and there's a reason why all the most spectacular shots in Game of Thrones were filmed on the Antrim Coast.  
10. Mustn't grumble. Over the water people whinge about bloody everything. In Ulster people are made of sterner stuff. Visit someone in Belfast on their death bed and this is the sort of thing you'll hear. "Ach, Archie, they say you have a week to live? How are you doing, mate?" "I can't complain."  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Books of the Year

My favourite 12 books that I read and/or listened to in 2016. Not all of these obviously were published in 2016 but they were new books to me: 


1. The North Water - Ian McGuire 
2. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline 
3. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon - Rebecca West
4. Country Road, A Tree - Jo Baker
5. War Music (complete ed.) - Christopher Logue
6. Symphony for the City of the Dead - MT Anderson
7. An Encyclopedia of Myself - Jonathan Meades
8. Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
9. Rogue Heroes - Ben MacIntyre
10. Chanson douce - Leïla Slimani  
11. Dreamland - Sam Quinones
12. Hillbilly Elegy - JD Vance

Two of my favourite novels of the year have an interesting Queens University Belfast connection: The North Water's hero attends medical school at QUB and we get the occasional Belfast flashback; Jo Baker studied English at QUB where she encountered the works of Samuel Beckett, hearing from her tutor there that Beckett's experiences in WW2 were an influence on his plays and fiction.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Sixth Starred Review In A Row

POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON'T LOOK FRIENDLY *[STARRED REVIEW]*

starred reviews are rare. this is my sixth in a row. Kirkus Jan1 2017

Author: Adrian McKinty
Review Issue Date: January 1, 2017
Online Publish Date: December 17, 2016
Publisher:Seventh Street/Prometheus
Pages: 340
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-1-63388-259-1
ISBN ( e-book ): 978-1-63388-260-7
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

Detective Inspector Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Rain Dogs, 2016, etc.) tries to cut back on the smoking and do decent police work despite bombs, riots, and bureaucracy.By 1988, the Troubles have turned any high-minded nationalism, loyalist or republican, into little more than a front for drug runners and sociopaths. Still, no one trusts the likes of Duffy, a Catholic taking the king's shilling. When a penny-ante heroin dealer is found dead, the only surprise is that he was shot with a crossbow. For once, the paramilitaries aren't claiming credit for wiping out the scourge of drug dealers (read: their competition), and the silent, untraceable, and perfectly legal crossbow is a devilishly clever murder weapon. The victim's widow, Elena Deauville, has clearly been smuggling their stock in from Bulgaria, and though she's not talking, Duffy knows she knows something. Meanwhile, Duffy's posh, Protestant girlfriend, Beth, wants to move to a posh, Protestant house. When Duffy hesitates, Beth packs herself and their baby off to her parents'. The brass are pushing Duffy to write off the case—no one cares about a dead drug dealer—when suddenly Elena disappears. While Belfast riots, Duffy then uncovers a part of Ulster's bloody history casting its long shadows over his case, as over everything else in this world. McKinty's hero is irreverent, charming, and mordantly, laugh-out-loud funny, and his eclectic personal soundtrack and bitter, pragmatic politics make for vivid period detail.

Kirkus *starred*

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rain Dogs is The Boston Globe's #1 Mystery of 2016

It's the little engine that could isn't it? Sean Duffy#5, Rain Dogs, has been picked as The Boston Globe's #1 Mystery of 2016. I'm so pleased. With no advertising and no book tour it's a real struggle to get noticed so this kind of thing completely helps. May I also add that in the last 12 months I've been shortlisted for the Edgar Award, Dagger Award, Anthony Award, Theakston Award and the Ned Kelly Award. And, ahem, a couple of weeks ago the great Ian Rankin was on the BBC's Desert Island Books. He picked 6 books to be stranded on a desert island with forever and he chose only 1 mystery: The Cold Cold Ground - the first novel in the Sean Duffy series.  My amazon ranking climbed 35,000 places after that. 
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I am so grateful that so many of you out there appreciate this plucky little series (see below) and the good news is that there will be a new one out in just a few weeks. Ciao. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

20 Funniest Novels Of All Time

Most of the funniest novel ever lists on the internet are completely useless because the list compiler is not well read. For example this list in The Daily Telegraph contains almost no American novels and this one for GQ contains very few British novels. Neither has Michel Houellebecq on there. I am well read however. Too bloody well read. I really need to get out of the house and go for a walk or something. Ok, my list. Some rules I've made for myself: These have to be novels which is why one of the funniest books ever The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain isn't on the list. I'm pretty loose with my definitions though which is why I allow Hunter Thompson and Jerome K Jerome on there (they claim to be memoirs but are mostly made up). Another rule I have is only 1 book per author otherwise we'd have 15 Waugh and Wodehouse on there, wouldn't we? It's got be funny throughout too. One really funny scene as in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim for example just doesn't cut it. I'm also not allowing anything that people say is funny but which actually isn't or perhaps used to be funny but isn't anymore. I've read Gargantua and Pantagruel and they are not funny. Shakespeare's comedies are not funny. Dickens is not funny. Despite what English Lit professors claim Tristram Shandy is wryly amusing but not fucking funny. Maybe they all used to be but humour dates faster than literature which is why they are still great pieces of literature but just not very funny anymore. Don Quixote is another one - terrific novel (esp the self referential post modern 2nd part) but not so hilarious. Some authors who just avoided my top 20 were Don DeLillo, Zadie Smith, Colin Bateman, Christopher Moore, Clive James, Nora Ephron, Jonathan Coe. A final word about my number #1 pick. This is the blackest of black comedies. So funny its actually not funny. Or perhaps so not funny its actually funny. One of those. Most of you will hate it.


20 Puckoon - Spike Milligan
19 The Mezzanine - Nicholson Baker
18 Murphy - Samuel Beckett
17 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
16 Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - Hunter S Thompson
15 Portnoys Complaint - Philip Roth
14 Vineland - Thomas Pynchon
13 Guards, Guards - Terry Pratchett
12 The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien
11 Lanzarote - Michel Houellebecq
10 This Charming Man - Marian Keyes
9 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
8 The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
7 The Code of the Woosters - PG Wodehouse
6 Decline And Fall - Evelyn Waugh
5 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
4 Three Men In A Boat - Jerome K Jerome
3 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Dog of the South - Charles Portis
1 The Restraint of Beasts - Magnus Mills

Friday, December 2, 2016

Love, Nina

We're all aware of the TV and film trope of the "magical Negro" a mysterious older black man or woman who dispenses wisdom to square or sometimes racist white folks. Morgan Freeman played a lot of these parts. In Britain they have a similar concept and it's basically the magic working class person. When a member of the upper classes encounters a working class person it can be a field ripe for the magic Negro treatment or, worse, condescending mockery. I despair of these programmes and there are a lot of them because almost all of the UK's cultural product is produced by a super posh privileged minority (which is why they are generally very bad). Previews of the new BBC show Love, Nina seem to suggest that it's about a working class nanny helping super posh people in North London learn about life and love. This is the kind of show I would have run a country mile from especially since Helena Bonham Carter plays one of the posh people. Fortunately for me I didn't see any of the previews. I chanced upon the show changing channels and was immediately captivated by the writing. The writing is fucking brilliant. When you're surfing through the channels you notice how bad the writing is on everything so when you come across good writing by random it really makes an impression. And after 60 seconds of really good dialogue of Love, Nina episode 1 I was bloody hooked. The writing, I learned from the credits, was by Nick Hornby. So that explained that. The acting is also good. No, great, the acting is also great. And the story inverts the magic Negro idea by having Nina learn from the posh people just as they learn from her. It's a two way street. It's a meeting of equal cultures not colonialism. 
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It's also very sweet. The sweetest, gentlest show I've seen since The Detectorists Season 1. It's as British as a decent cup of tea and a plain digestive. And funny, humane, well observed and, um, well, nice. I liked it very much. Look for Love, Nina when you're out channel surfing next time and I think you'll like it too.