Friday, May 26, 2017

Police At The Station

I'm very pleased to say that Sean Duffy #6, Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly, has been long-listed for the Crime Writers Association Steel Dagger Award 2017. I'm relieved that the, ahem, somewhat crazy title didn't put the judges off...Duffy#6 will be out in trade pbk in the next few weeks....

Monday, May 22, 2017

My Favourite Swimming Books

These are some of my favourite books about swimming, swimmers and the writers who have reflected on swimming. 

Find A Way - Diana Nyad. Diana Nyad's life and what inspired her to try - again - to swim from Havana to Key West and succeed this time at the age of 64. Diana Nyad is one of my heroes. 

Waterlog - Roger Deakin. The eccentric Englishman's attempt to swim wild (in rivers, canals, loughs, lakes & seas) all over Britain. A classic of the genre. 

Hell And High Water - Sean Conway. An unemployed man living with his mum decides to swim nearly 1000 miles (in stages) from Land's End to John O'Groats and raise money for the charity War Child. 

Haunts of the Black Masseur: The Swimmer As Hero - Charles Sprawson. The best look at swimming through literature and attempting literary swims (the Hellespont, The Grand Canal etc.) Everyone should read this book even if they don't actually swim. 

Swimming to Antarctica - Lynne Cox. Maybe the greatest long distance swimmer of all time the amazing Lynne Cox recounts her adventures all over the world including, of course, swimming to Antrarctica. 

The Man Who Swam The Amazon - Martin Strehl. Another ordinary bloke who decided one day to swim the Amazon River. Why? Cause no one else had done it, of course. 

Swim: Why We Love The Water - Lynne Sher. Does what it says on the tin. A nice book to have if you liked Sprawson's Black Masseur and want some more in a smiliar vein. 

The Swimmer - John Cheever. A classic. No point in buying this though. One of my alma maters (can you have more than one mater?) has put it online for nothing, here. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Rain Dogs Up For The Anthony Award

Sean Duffy #5, Rain Dogs, has been shortlisted for best paperback original crime novel at the 2017 Anthony Awards. I'm really thrilled! This book truly is the little engine that could. There were, ahem, six crime fiction awards Rain Dogs was eligible for and it got shortlisted for all six. 

These are the awards: 

Ned Kelly Award 2016

CWA Steel Dagger Award 2016

Theakston Crime Novel of the Year Award 2016

Edgar Award (best PO) 2017 WON

Barry Award (best PO) 2017 TBA

Anthony Award (best PO) 2017 TBA

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How To Read Thomas Pynchon

It's Thomas Pynchon's 80th birthday this week. I know that a lot of you out there are intimidated by Pynchon and haven't read anything or, maybe got to page 20 of Gravity's Rainbow and gave up. I am here to help. Thomas Pynchon is terrific but you have to walk through the savannah before wading into the jungle. Begin thusly:

1. Inherent Vice: read this one first. It's a crime novel set in a slightly exaggerated version of 1970's LA. It's full of stoners, groovy language, flower power with a crazy missing persons plot. Its got lots of pop culture references that anyone should be able to get if they've been paying attention at all for the last couple of decades. It's more or less Robert Altman's Long Goodbye crossed with a Cheech and Chong movie...
2. The Crying Of Lot 49: after reading Inherent Vice you should be able to handle Lot 49 which is basically set in the same milieu and is only a little bit weirder and more discursive. The plot roughly revolves around Oedipa Maas who has possibly uncovered a secret war between two clandestine postal delivery companies. Yes, it's that sort of book.  
3. Bleeding Edge: a paranoid shaggy dog detective novel set in the Manhattan of 2001 just before the 9/11 attacks. It begins with a Westlake quote and its a spicy blend of Westlake, Hammett, DeLillo and Woody Allen. (With a David Foster Wallace cruise ship homage thrown in there for good measure.) It's pretty funny and it concludes a thematic trilogy of sorts of that began with Inherent Vice and Vineland.
4. Vineland: America in the early 80's. Reagan, Star Wars, George Lucas, Brock Vond. And again most people should be able to get the refs. As I say Inherent Vice, Vineland and Bleeding Edge form a kind of paranoid alternative history contemporary trilogy that should be accessible to most general readers.
5. Gravity's Rainbow: Pynchon's WW2 novel which won the National Book Award. His best book? Probably, yes. It's quite a difficult text but by no means impossible to read especially in a trade paperback edition with big clear print. You'll need to know your mid twentieth century culture quite well to get all the refs this time. And just to warn you, amidst the humour and horror there is a pretty gross scene involving coprophilia.
6. V: my favourite Pynchon. A literary romp through early twentieth century history. Very abstract, strange and off putting for the uninitiated. But a great read once you get the momentum of the story. 
7. Mason & Dixon: the story of Mason & Dixon surveying the land that will become the North and South of the USA. This is my second favourite Pynchon. It's written in eighteenth century prose so it could be tricky for some people, but not for those with Clarissa, Tom Jones or even Neal Stephenson under their belts. 
8. Against The Day: This is possibly for completists only. A dense, difficult, but often very funny story of turn of the century America. My favourite scenes were set in a beautifully crafted wild west Denver. 
Additionally: Mortality And Mercy In Vienna, a strange out of print novella that I read in the Columbia University stacks before it got stolen and Slow Learner a nice collection of short stories, the highlight of which is probably Entropy.  

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The Boston Globe Reviews Duffy 6

Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly
7th Street Books
Daneet Steffens
If newly-diagnosed asthma, fatherhood to six-month-old Emma, and mostly-happy domesticity with his girlfriend, Beth, has softened a few of Detective Inspector Sean Duffy’s edges, it hasn’t dulled his keen survival instinct or determined pursuit of dastardly criminals in the slightest. (That said, those two qualities are often in direct conflict with each other when it comes to Duffy.) In Adrian McKinty’s “Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly,’’ when challenged by a medical test, Duffy actually cuts down on his cigarettes-and-vodka-gimlet intake, but rest assured that nothing could ever cut down his curiosity-driven investigative work. There’ve been no murders in Carrickfergus in nearly a year, so when someone appears to be using drug dealers as targets for their crossbow practice, Duffy and his trusted colleagues, super brainy Detective Constable Lawson and semi-gentleman farmer Detective Sergeant McCrabban, jump on the case (two excellent sidekicks). But they are working in 1988’s Northern Ireland, a country mired in the violence of The Troubles: Are these new attacks the work of the Direct Action Against Drug Dealers group, or are they politically motivated? 

McKinty imbues his writing with same level of attention to wit and cultural touchstones as the scrupulous care he takes structuring the police-procedural aspects of the novel. In the first chapter alone, there are references to philosopher Gaston Bachelard, Ireland’s once all-encompassing Holocene forest, “The Wicker Man,” and Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick, creator of the iconic Che Guevara portrait; elsewhere we learn of Duffy’s favorite musical accompaniments to life (he’s partial to Arvo Pärt, can’t stand Kylie Minogue, and considers Ella Fitzgerald, Schubert and Mozart comfort music). 

All this, plus we get to observe the normally flying-by-the-seat-of-his-pants detective grappling intentionally with his future. Another terrific book from the underrated McKinty.  

Thursday, May 4, 2017

How Many Different Irish Accents Are There?

I've thought long and hard about this. I think there are probably about 24 or 25 different Irish accents. I'm hoping that non Irish speakers can tell the difference between all the accents this guy in the video below does (my kids can't tell all of them apart and can't understand half of what he says (which is fortunate because a lot of it is in Irish street demotic which, naturally, includes a lot of swearing)). I think he does a brilliant job here with Republic of Ireland accents however he drops the ball a bit when he comes to Ulster. He only does 1 accent for all of Northern Ireland. By my reckoning there are at least 9 different Ulster/northern Irish accents that are quite distinctive: Derry, West Belfast, Camp West Belfast (Julian Simmons), North Belfast, South Belfast/North Down (the posh BBC accent), Ballymena, Newry, Tyrone/Fermanagh. Some day I'll make a video of me doing all 9 Northern Irish accents but for now here's Richie Stevens doing his 15 regional Irish accents:

Friday, April 28, 2017

Holy Sh*t - I Won The Edgar Award

BIG thank you to my wife Leah who picked up the award for my novel Rain Dogs on my behalf and apparently gave a very funny speech. Big thank you too to the Mystery Writers of America. This is such an honour and definitely the highlight of my career! 
Thank you also my lovely daughters Arwynn & Sophie and all my family in Ireland, England and America. 
Also huge thank you to my agent Shane Salerno who has become a 3rd Dan master at talking me down from ledges. 
Also huge thank you to everyone at 7th Street and Serpents Tail and Allen&Unwin, Blackstone Audio and Suhrkamp. And the crime fiction community in Ireland, Australia, the UK, America and across the world for being nothing but supportive. I want to single out three bookstores too: The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, No Alibis in Belfast and Pages & Pages in Sydney who always treated me like a best seller and a winner when that clearly wasn't the case. 
And big thanks in no particular order to: Ian Rankin, Don Winslow, Val McDermid, Rebecca Gray, Dan Woodrell, Dec Burke, Stu Neville, Steve Hamilton, Steve Cavanagh, John McFetridge, John Connolly, Brian McGilloway, Ger Brennan, Bob Mecoy, Anna-Marie Fitzgerald, Jill Maxick, Peter Rozovksy, Seana Graham, Candice Fox, Daneet Steffens, Jason Steger, the Irish Times, The Boston Globe, The Guardian, The London Times, The Irish Indy, The Wall Street Journal, The Melbourne Age, The Australian, every mystery blog who ever reviewed me, everybody who reviewed me on audible, amazon and good reads (even the stinkers) and all my book readers and blog readers for all your encouragement and support over the years. 
finally I'd like to thank the late great Muhammad Ali whom I met in 1992 and who a star struck Duffy meets in chapter 1 of Rain Dogs - a little of The Champ's magic rubbed off on me... 
go raibh maith agat 

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Handmaiden, The Handmaids Tale

The Handmaiden is a South Korean erotic thriller directed by Park Chan-wook based on the novel Fingersmith by Welsh writer Sarah Waters. Both works are about a pair of grifters (a man and woman) who attempt to con a naive young heiress out of her fortune by having her fall in love with the man and elope with him. The female con artist goes into the house as a maid to work the plan from the inside while the male conman poses as a drawing instructor. Part 2 of the plan is that after the elopement they consign the heiress to an insane asylum and split the dough. Fingersmith the novel has that set up too but it's also qot quite a lot of cool stuff about pickpocketing, the short con and the long con. Fingersmith has a famous end of the first act twist and then a great second act twist too. It is set in Victorian England and is maybe a little long but otherwise perfect as an erotic twisty thriller. The Handmaiden moves the action to Japanese occupied Korea which I thought was going to be awesome but it wasn't because they do absolutely nothing with this premise. I've never seen a movie that takes place in Occupied Korea and I was stoked for some kind cool resistance motifs or Japanese-Korean tensions but there's nothing like. I'm a fan of Park Chan-wook, though, I, like every other man in my forties, have watched the corridor hammer fight in Old Boy about 20 times. However I was expecting a bit more from him with this adaptation. Like I say, the setting is not really used much, the erotic elements are a bit too leery and male gazy (while railing against male gaze eroticism as subtext (a beautiful example of attempting to eat your cake and have it too)) and the torture scene at the end is completely unnecessary. I liked the movie but if you haven't read the book the twists will come as more of a surprise and the film will probably work better.  
The Handmaids Tale is a science fiction novel by Margaret Attwood about a future America run by a quasi Mormon religious right. It's a book that everybody should read both as a warning and as, you know, a great work of art. Attwood, building on the tradition of Ursula Le Guin, Angela Carter, Aldous Huxley, George Orwell etc. creates an entirely believable universe where a young Handmaiden must endure Winston Smith type suffering simply because she is a woman. The TV series adaptation is faithful and a little dull so far (I've only seen three episodes) and even perhaps a little tame. Some of those involved in the production have been running away from the word 'feminist' which is absurd because the Handmaids Tale is transparently a feminist masterpiece. But things augur well for the rest of the series and it really couldn't be more timely. 

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Sydney Morning Herald Reviews Police At The Station

Checking in on the progress of Detective Inspector Sean Duffy of the Carrick Royal Ulster Constabulary in the 1980s is always such a delight. Duffy is one of those smart-mouthed rogue policemen we have learned to love precisely because he has no respect for authority, a ferocious intelligence, and enough bad habits to endear him to every sinner.

But Duffy's trying hard to break the bad habits now there is so much more at stake. Girlfriend Beth has moved in, baby Emma has arrived, and the need to check under the BMW in the event of a mercury tilt bomb has never been more pressing. Duffy's also been diagnosed with asthma and various other dependency issues. 
Police at the station etc. opens in medias res as Duffy is lead through a dark wood to the place of his intended death by a posse of hapless and incompetent executioners. Facing impending doom, he regretfully considers his legacy, "Over the last 15 years I've done my best to fight entropy and carve out a little local order in a sea of chaos. I have failed. He has failed and "made one mistake too many."  He's also forgotten his asthma inhaler, although looking on the bright side, as Duffy is inclined to do, "a bullet in the head will fix an incipient asthma attack every time". 
He may be up against it, but Duffy's sense of humour is as mordant as ever. Hang in for much caustic wit, funny observations, exciting twists, trenchant political commentary, and a splendid conclusion

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Mystery People Interview

Molly Odintz: So the idea that Sean Duffy can quit smoking is rather laughable to me. Will he ever get his health together in the context of life in such a stressful position? 
Adrian McKinty: I seriously doubt it. I knew many coppers in that era and all of them were huge social drinkers and chain smokers that you would be foolish to try and keep up with. But there’s always hope. I think he’s probably off the cocaine for good now which is nice.
MO: In your latest, you show how entrenched and mafia-like the paramilitaries have become by the late 80s, especially when it comes to drug crimes. By the late 80s, do you think more paramilitaries were motivated by power and money than politics? 
AM: By the early 80s it was obvious that the Troubles were not going to end anytime soon so the smarter/more cynical ones diversified into protect rackets and drugs. At a famous meeting in Belfast in 1985 supposedly mortal enemies the IRA and UVF met to divide Belfast into drug territories. And that is still the case to this very day.

“Life in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s was utterly surreal and bizarre. There’s no other way to talk about it except in wry tones, cynical tones with shades of black humor and horror.”

MO: Like many of your Duffy novels, a small crime reveals a vast conspiracy. Without getting specific on the plot details, how do you craft a story that starts so small and gets so big? 
AM: It’s different every time, sometimes you write the story and ideas pop up along the way but other times you do the research and start plotting. I've written 2 locked room mysteries and those had to be densely plotted in advance. Other books are more seat of the pants. I recently finished a 42 page synopsis for a standalone book I haven’t written yet, which is a new record for me…maybe that was a bit excessive but it’s often smart to map out the territory esp in a twisty conspiracy.
MO: You do an excellent job of showing how the Troubles weren’t one continuous pitched battle, but lots of little flareups, based on how closely paramilitaries, soldiers, police and civilians adhered to a set of complex social behaviors. Ordinary life continues, but in severely curtailed forms. How do you pick the moments for your settings? How much were the Troubles an excuse to be a libertine (for example, Duffy’s drug use) versus reinforcing conservative behavior standards (for example, marriage within one’s primary religious group)?
AM: That’s a good question. Remember I was a school kid in the 80s and every day even after a major bombing or atrocity life went on as normal. We had to get up and go to school. And people had to shop, work, get unemployment whatever in the midst of this low level civil war. Some weeks it felt comparatively normal but other times it felt like a war, like the evacuation of Aleppo or something. It’s been a challenge to convey that tone in these novels and also not to forget the mordant, black (very black) Belfast humour that people used as a coping mechanism. The thing a lot of those Troubles movies made by outsiders get wrong about Ulster in the 70s and 80s is the sarcasm and the dark humour. You wouldn't know it but Belfast people are actually pretty funny.
MO: Duffy’s gone domestic, but he’s still in as much danger as ever. What did you want to explore about having a family in a troubled time? 
AM: I like the idea of encumbering a lone wolf with wife and child. Makes his life more difficult and interesting for me as a novelist. I’m not knocking other mystery thrillers here but I get a bit weary with series titles that merely hit the reset button at the beginning of each instalment. I like characters who change and arc and grow….
MO: I love how you point out the absurdities within a serious situation without detracting from the reader’s sense of imminent danger for the characters, a skill shared by many of the great noir writers. Is that the genre talking, or a cynicism entirely your own? 
AM: Life in Northern Ireland in the 70s and 80s was utterly surreal and bizarre. There’s no other way to talk about it except in wry tones, cynical tones with shades of humor and horror. Sometimes something would happen that seemed like a classic French farce or an episode of Fawlty Towers, other times your heart was breaking. Tonally that’s a BIG challenge to get across. One moment you're laughing, crying the next. The crime novel, the noir crime novel in particular is a great vector for those kind of ideas with its abrupt changes of mood and its world weary stance. Everyone was always cracking jokes. Often they worked, often they didn't. I remember as a kid finding a shell casing in the street and smuggling it into my sister Diane's handbag so that it would be found the next time she had her handbag searched going into the centre of Belfast (you had to be searched just going into the city centre in those days). My sister ended up nearly getting arrested and thrown in jail when she couldn't explain how the .303 cartridge got there. Now at the time me and my little brother thought that was absolutely hilarious, but in retrospect maybe not so much...

“….I was a school kid in the 80s and every day even after a major bombing or atrocity life went on as normal. We had to get up and go to school. And people had to shop, work, get unemployment whatever in the midst of this low level civil war…”

MO: I know you considered Duffy’s story finished after you completed the Troubles Trilogy, but you’ve returned to the character multiple times and I couldn’t be happier about it. There seem to be an endless number of tales of corruption, cynicism, greed, and failed revolution for Duffy to explore. What’s next for him? 
AM: I’m afraid I have no idea about that one. I’ll know in a few months what’s next. Hopefully.
MO: Northern Ireland has a long and complex history, and in your Duffy series, you’ve focused on the 1980s, which seems the perfect setting for a mixture of violent crime and decadent music. If you were to write a historical crime novel set in a different period of Northern Ireland’s history, what settings would you want to explore? 
AM: Oh my God I would love to do Belfast today, right now. It’s so weird to go back there with its trendy cafes and Michelin starred restaurants, Game of Thrones tours, hipster bars, stag and hen nights, celebrity spotting etc. Its bizarre walking around with all these happy young people and remembering the apocalyptic nightmare of just 2 1/2 decades earlier….
MO: How would the Duffy novels read differently, do you think, if they had been written in the midst of the Troubles? Does a writer need a certain distance from their subject matter to properly tackle the traumas of history (at least, via crime novel)? 
AM: I think if I’d written these books in the 80s or even 90s they would be a lot angrier and more bitter. You definitely need to get a perspective on people. I don’t say tout comprendre c’est tout pardonner but I do feel temporal and geographic distance helps a lot.
You can find copies of Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly on our shelves and via

Monday, March 20, 2017

Writing Advice From Raymond Chandler

Raymond Chandler to Frederick Lewis Allen (Harper's) dated May 7, 1948.  

"A long time ago when I was writing for pulps I put into a story a line like "he got out of the car and walked across the sun-drenched sidewalk until the shadow of the awning over the entrance fell across his face like the touch of cool water."  They took it out when they published the story.  Their readers didn't appreciate this sort of thing: just held up the action.  And I set out to prove them wrong.  My theory was they just thought they cared nothing about anything but the action; that really, although they didn't know it, they cared very little about the action.  The things they really cared about, and that I cared about, were the creation of emotion through dialogue and description; the things they remembered, that haunted them, were not for example that a man got killed, but that in the moment of his death he was trying to pick a paper clip up off the polished surface of a desk, and it kept slipping away from him, so that there was a look of strain on his face and his mouth was half open in a kind of tormented grin, and the last thing in the world he thought about was death.  He didn't even hear death knock on the door.  That damn little paper clip kept slipping away from his fingers and he just wouldn't push it to the edge of the desk and catch it as it fell."

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

My Favourite Albums Of All Time

Rejigging the list for 2017... 
A list which is always changing, always evolving, sometimes devolving. At the moment the present state of play is below and in a month or two it'll be different again. You'll notice no Beatles (with one kind of exception) or Stones or Springsteen or even Led Zeppelin (?!) (played to death unfortunately, but with R&R they will come back) or much rap. This isn't a PC list like Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Albums or a hipster collection like the NME list. Its merely my favourites. Old fashioned? Out of touch? Sure. I've limited myself to one album per artist and you'll notice that most of the records are in that sweet spot 1965 - 1979 when books, films and records were just better. 

1. The Velvet Underground - The Velvet Underground & Nico
2. Her Best: The 50th Anniversary Collection - Etta James
3. Blood on the Tracks - Bob Dylan
4. OK Computer - Radiohead
5. Astral Weeks - Van Morrison
6. Very Best Of - Joan Armatrading
7. Nevermind - Nirvana
8. Pink Moon - Nick Drake
9. Wu Tang vs The Beatles - Tom Caruana, The Wu Tang Clan, The Beatles
10. Franks Wild Years - Tom Waits
11. Parallel Lines - Blondie
12. PJ Harvey - PJ Harvey
13. I'm Your Man - Leonard Cohen
14. At Folsom Prison - Johnny Cash
15. Dummy - Portishead
16. Horses - Patti Smith
17. Kind of Blue - Miles Davis
19. Are You Experienced - Jimi Hendrix
20. The Undertones - The Undertones
21. Automatic For The People - REM
22. The Black Album - Jay Z
23. Never Mind The Bollocks - The Sex Pistols
24. Wish You Were Here - Pink Floyd
25. Liege and Lief - Fairport Convention
26. Coat of Many Colors - Dolly Parton
27. The Smiths - The Smiths
28. The Violent Femmes - The Violent Femmes
29. Best Of - The Talking Heads (but David Byrne's best song Nothing But Flowers isn't on it!)
30. Dusty In Memphis - Dusty Springfield

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Irish Times Reviews Police At The Station

Declan Burke in the Irish Times reviews Police at the Station thusly:

Impressive series

Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly (Serpent’s Tail, €15.99) is the sixth in Adrian McKinty’s increasingly impressive series to feature Sean Duffy, a Catholic detective working for the RUC during the Troubles.
The mystery begins with a bizarre murder, when drug dealer Francis Deauville is shot to death with a crossbow. When Duffy starts to wonder why an “independent” drug dealer who has been paying protection to the paramilitaries has been assassinated in such an exotic fashion, he finds himself assailed on all sides. Persecuted by the RUC's internal affairs unit and fending off IRA attacks, Duffy digs deep into Northern Ireland’s recent past to uncover a tale of collusion, corruption and unsolved murder.
The plot is as tortuously twisting as McKinty’s readers have come to expect but it’s the tone that proves the novel’s most enjoyable aspect. McKinty delivers a first-person tale of cheerfully grim fatalism and often hilarious Prod-Taig banter, the story chock-a-block with cultural references, from NWA and Kylie Minogue to Miami Vice and The Myth of Sisyphus.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Rain Dogs Up For Its Fifth Major Award

I just found out today that my novel Rain Dogs has been shortlisted for the 2017 Barry Award for Best Crime Novel of the year (paperback original). I am very honoured to be nominated and I would like to thank the jury for thinking of me and shortlisting the book. 

Rain Dogs is the fifth of my Sean Duffy novels and I guess its the one where I finally got everything right, judging from the impact its been having! In case you don't know: Rain Dogs is a locked room mystery (more of a locked castle really) that takes place during the Northern Irish Troubles in 1987 featuring my copper, RUC Detective Inspector Sean Duffy and his comrades in arms. 

Rain Dogs has also been shortlisted for the 2016 Ned Kelly Award, the 2016 Theakston Crime Novel of the Year Award, the 2016 (Steel) Dagger Award and of course the 2017 Edgar Award (best pbk original). So far I'm 0/3 in the big prizes. I didn't win the Ned Kelly, or the Theakston or the Dagger but I'm still in with a shot of an Edgar and of course the Barry. 

Rain Dogs is the only book that I know of to have been shortlisted for five major crime fiction awards. 

Many thanks to everyone who has somehow found this book which came out with little fanfare in a limited edition with 2 tiny presses. You, the readers, have kept me going with your emails and tweets and letters and I wd long ago have given up writing, period, if it hadn't been for your support.  

Here's me reading chapter 1 of Rain Dogs, when Muhammad Ali came to Belfast: 

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:
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...

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 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. 
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 respected critics 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...
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 the critics 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...
Anyway, I like David Peace and it was with some small measure of excitement that I noticed this 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.