Saturday, December 25, 2010

Quinn - Not quite Zorba, not quite Greek

I've read quite a few crime novels in my time. Mostly American Crime, but also British and, of course, Irish.

I've already expressed my admiration for Irish Crime authors (see the old post below on how Irish Crime is wonderful) and without wanting to echo what Declan Burke has written over on my favourite blog of all, Crime Always Pays (which in itself would always be a good thing), I have to agree with him.

Seamus Smyth's 'Quinn' should be republished.

It was released in 2000 with the cover you see to the right (that's the version I have on my bookshelf) and it needs to be available again. What you see to the right is what is left from the original print run. Buy it while you still can...

Killing a Friend

My latest novel, Killing a Friend, will be going live live over on soon.

It's not my usual hardboiled crime novel sorta thang... this is more a mainstream literary effort with elements of crime, betrayal, sex, greed, jealousy, grief, regret, passion, revenge etc. So you might say it is a crime story in disguise. The apple, it seems, never falls too far from the proverbial tree.

As you might be able to gather from the cover it does contain some raunchy bits, but also some social commentary and romance.

Check it out!

IMDB Noir List...

Without wanting to overload you with Noir stuff, below you'll find the link to IMBD's Noir List.

IMDB Film Noir - the list...

Here's another one of my favourite films... The Third Man, from 1949 with our friend Orson Welles as the anithero, Harry Lime.

That mandolin tune is omnipresent... but as it's a nice one who cares?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Yuletide!

As a newcomer to the world of blogging, this is my first Xmas blog greeting. So it should be special....
But I have a sore head from the party last night and can't think of anything witty or charming or unusual to say - so I'll just say, thanks for dropping by and I hope you and yours have a great holiday and an even better new year.

May your stockings be filled with the things you want, ladies, and gents, may your ladies fill the stockings you bought them!

As a lover of Jim Reeves tunes I've made a recommendation for your festive pleasure. One can only listen to Uncle Frankie boy for so long...

Be good, be thoughtful; be the best you can be.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Candy Says Kill

I've gotten around halfway through writing a new story that is as dark as it gets. It's a classic Noir tale that uses mistaken identity, sexual attraction, murder, deceit and general underhandedness... with a tricky femme fatale at the centre...

It's a long short story, for want of a better description, and here's a taster for those of you who have taken the time to visit my wee blog...

Candy Says Kill
A short story by
T.S. O'Rourke
She gave me two days. I didn't ask for more, yet I knew I needed it.
It started with a beer and some loud music in a bar in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. She was twenty something and already showing signs of being tired – at least in the emotional sense. Physically she was firm and strong. She waited the tables and worked the bar.
I was on Highway 59, making my way back to New York City. I'd been down south taking care of some unfinished business for some friends in low places. The work was dirty, but the pay was good.
I was tired. The lights on the road had begun to form a long streaked blur across my consciousness and sleep was defeating my attempts to keep it at bay. I tried rolling the windows down and turning the radio up, but even cold night air and Jesus-freaks couldn't keep me awake. I pulled into the first motel and bar I saw, and it was hers.
Her hair was as black as the night. She was pretty, she was sassy. She wore tight jeans and a knotted check shirt, revealing a pierced belly-button and the mysterious line of a tattoo that only just crept over her waistband. Just enough eyeliner, and some off-purple lipstick, cemented her beauty for me.
The bar was full. It was a Sunday night and it seemed that no one had to get up for work the next morning. Live music filled the warm, smoky air.
Once I'd booked a room at the motel reception I went back outside and crossed to the bar, which was located in a separate building. I took a seat. I planned to have a few beers and crash out for the night before recommencing my journey north eastwards in the morning.
She was behind the bar, moving effortlessly back and forth between orders, occasionally braving the crowd to collect glasses, or empty food baskets and napkins. I tried to catch her attention and she studiously ignored my efforts. Only as I stood up to leave did she acknowledge my presence. She threw me a smile that made me sit back in my seat with an air of hope and impending charity.
“What imported beers have you got?” I asked as she approached, hoping to be spared the usual Bud or Miller taps.
“We've got Heineken,” she replied distractedly.
“Anything local?”
“ Old Towne,” she replied. “They do a nice ale, if you like that sort of thing.”
“I'll take one, and a shot of Irish whiskey,” I replied, thinking that an ale in Alabama deserved some sort of company from across the big pond to add a touch of authenticity.
“Jamesons or Black Bush?” she asked. She raised an eyebrow, as if she expected me to say something.
“Black Bush,” I said.
She seemed strangely dissatisfied with my reply – it felt like I was expected to say something else entirely, that I was playing some sort of game.
“Where are you coming from?” she asked, almost casually.
“I've come up from Louisiana. This is just a quick stopover,” I said.
She smiled, looked me in the eyes and then headed back about her business.
The drinks were duly delivered. I started with the Black Bush. It went down smoothly, sweetly. The ale was good, too. As I lifted the glass to my lips I saw her watching me from across the bar. Something in our exchange had sparked her interest. Perhaps it was just the fact that I wasn't a local. Who knows what she thought, but when she realized I had seen her looking she did not look away. She simply raised that eyebrow again and sort of smiled as though she hadn't quite decided what to do with me.
The drinks disappeared and she returned, wiping the counter in front of me.
“You want more?” she asked.
“Always,” I replied.
“Anything specific?” she returned, expecting a crass remark that would ruin everything.
“I'll let you decide,” I said, hoping that she had already understood that this game was going to go her way. I had no intention of diverting the undercurrent of our conversation. It was heavy and dripping with promise, and just one word could rip asunder the potential for more.
“You'll need to eat something,” she replied. “Wings?”
“That will be fine.”
“And another beer?” she said, fixing me with her gaze.
She wasn't allowing me a second whiskey, it seemed. Things were looking up.
“Thanks – that would be great.”
Off she went, carelessly wiping her hands on her rear as she strode the length of the bar. She shouted through the serving hatch to the cook and then disappeared again out on the floor, collecting empties and food baskets.
I felt her squeeze in beside me as she put empties on the bar, her breasts soft, her hips hard, her stomach flat. She seemed to linger briefly and smell me, as if this was her second test. I wondered how many more there might be. She seemed to push herself forwards slightly, emphasizing the contact she had already made, as if to elicit a reaction. I waited for her next move, to see if she would be irritated by my inaction or attracted by it.
“You wings will be ready soon,” she said, almost smiling. “I'll go get your beer.”
I stared deeply into her eyes hoping for the reaction we were both waiting for. She smiled and patted me on the hand, and said “I've been waiting for you”. She turned and disappeared again, leaving a brief essence of fresh sweat and perfume hanging in the air. It was sweet and yet somehow tainted with spice.
The wings and beer were delivered without comment or eye contact, but her touch lingered when I passed the twenty-dollar bill to her. Her hands were soft and cold. I imagined them doing things to me, of releasing my inner demons and opening my consciousness to the possibilities of her firm body.
The music continued, but it was clear that the band was nearing the end of its set. People had started to finish their drinks and leave. It was getting late.
My phone vibrated irritatingly in my jacket pocket and I reached for it, removing my motel room key and placing it on the bar as I did. It was one of the gang back in New York, asking for a progress report. “It's done,” I said and hung up. I was too tired to listen to more and I could always use the excuse of poor coverage, being, as I was, in the middle of nowhere.
I put the phone back in my jacket and looked up. She was standing there right in front of me with my beer.
“You staying here tonight?” she asked, seeing my key on the bar.
“Yes – I'm here for the night,” I replied.
“Room 20. I'll remember that,” she said.
I was unsure if she was joking, or if she was serious. There seemed to be room for both interpretations.

© T.S. O'Rourke, 2010
I hope to have this published early next year...

More Noir for your digestion...

I've found another nice site that pulls together some well-written essays on the subject of Noir and it's origins, implications and effects on society.

Some nice images on this site as well as its parent site, Modern Times.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Big Sleep

Watched this one last night... great movie...

I was gonna write a review... but then I found this site...

Noir of the Week

If you haven't read it, read it. If you haven't seen it see it. If neither, do both. I'd usually say read it first, but in this case I'd say the film is as good as the book. Doesn't get any better than Chandler's Marlowe, or Howard Hawk's Marlowe for all that...


Saturday, December 11, 2010

Modern Femme Fatales...

Am I allowed to just link to another site like this?

I think so...

There are loads of great photos on this blog. Enjoy!

Modern Femme Fatales

The Junkie of Oz

Junkie Pilgrim
I'm a hardboiled sorta guy that thrives near the underbelly of our society.

From the bottom up life looks a whole lot better. From the top down it looks hugely depressing, if you choose to look down, that is... Some of us will never reach the top. But wherever you are you are within a stone's throw of reality.

I cut my writing teeth in Dublin as a journalist in the early 90s covering the huge heroin problems that plagued the city and its unemployed class. I interviewed quite a few junkies and dealers in that time, not to mention prostitutes and of course the ever-present menace of 'vigilantes' out to reclaim their neighbourhoods.

I also spent some time in Australia in the early 90s, moving between Sydney and Canberra, so when I found Wayne Grogan's Junkie Pilgrim in a friend's book collection I devoured it in a couple of sittings. Here's a wee taster...

 Chris Coates is a junkie, heavy drinker and criminal, trying hard to hold down the dockyards job he "inherited" from his dad, Jack. He had his first heroin hit "on a winter night" in 1975 and now it's the early 1980s. He knows the denizens of Kings Cross, where he buys most of his heroin, unless police or shortages force him further afield. He tries - successfully, for a time - to kick his habit but is drawn back into its world.

There are no happy endings in Grogan's book, as befits the world of the junkie. It starts out bad and gets incrementally worse.

Unfortuantely this book doesn't seem to be available except as a used title at present. Perhaps Wayne would do us a favour and get it out as a eBook.

If there's any question about its pedigree, forget it... Junkie Pilgrim won the 2004 Ned Kelly Award for First Book of Crime - so it has earned its place in the pantheon of Crime classics. 

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pulp Fiction....

Here's another nice find for today...

BEAT TO A PULP - a repository of free short stories that are, as the man said, quite acceptable...


Dark days of winter

I'm still stuck in my Film Noir buzz. I've been there for many years and when I analyse my reasons for writing crime I realise that it is based on a number of things...
  • Film Noir influence (those Edward G and Cagney movies)
  • A love of society's underbelly (we're all just two pay packets from the street)
  • A belief that bad leads to good, via a somewhat circuitous route (crime, punishment and redemption)
  • A love of make or break situations for characters (character-building stuff, as they say)
  • My ongoing love affair with La Femme Fatale, as highlighted in an earlier post....  (pure, unadulterated sexuality)
Mix these reasons together and you have my approach to crime writing - hard-boiled, sexy and peppered with a little social commentary, aimed at exposing our propensity for double standards and turning a blind eye to the less than palatable truths that surround us.

I've attempted to write from both the criminal and police side of the equation in an effort to understand where my favourite spot on the proverbial tarmac is, and I've come to the conclusion that I'm comfortable anywhere there's something underhand taking place with a suggestion of seduction and deceit.... the question is, what does that say about me?

I found another nice link that provides a gallery of Noir Fiction cover art... check it out for yourselves...

Friday, November 12, 2010

Keeping it real and tripping through memory lane

I've been watching old films again. In the last two days I've watched Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard - some old favourites that I've neglected for years.

They feel like old lovers. You remember their embrace, their specialities, their 'way' of being which you were so taken by, way back when. And it hits you hard, remembering that time, those places, those tastes, that music, those clothes, that lipstick, those shoes... you get my drift.

Sentimentality is for suckers. But golden memories that still make you smile - that's not sentimentality - that's just recognising a good thing that's gone.

These old films remind you where you are and where you've been, where you meant to go but perhaps got distracted, the colours you wanted to paint, the language you wished to write, the scenes in your head that have yet to be played out in print. Wonderful.

I'd like to suggest you buy something you like, something you remember - that dream you put on the shelf when you met her/him/it/them. Dust it off, take a taste and see if it doesn't make a difference - even if just fleetingly. It's almost enough. But I'll let you decide that.

Don't kill your dreams, my friend. For by killing your dreams you kill your true self. The mirror reflects the you you have chosen to be - not who you are or can be. Or perhaps should have been....

Watch a few old films, create some new memories to add to those old ones.

The rum was good tonight.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

You're My London Girl....

Ken Bruen is the unsung hero of Irish Noir.

Long since a raging success everywhere in the wide and wonderful world, Mr. Bruen has a string of awards and a long list of works to his name, dating back over a decade.

Some of his work is now finding its way onto celluloid for the first time - London Boulevard, with Colin Farrell, Hollywood's hottest Paddy, playing the lead, and Blitz, starring Jason Stratham, a real London hard man.

Can't wait to see them. They're being shot around now as far as I can tell from Ken Bruen's site and from the Crime Always Pays blog by Declan Burke.

If you can't wait for these to appear on screen (and you shouldn't - crime is best served in print) then buy the books!!!!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Henning Mankell and the Lovey Dovey from Belfast

I've been watching the latest installment of Ken Branagh's Wallander interpretation from the BBC.

I've read all of the Wallander books - even read one in Swedish... fewer words, but just as punchy......

These books are already dramatised on film in Sweden, in Swedish, with Swedish actor Rolf Lassgard playing Kurt Wallander. He's great in the role, and it is patently obvious that Branagh has taken a few cues from him in his depiction of the scruffy Ystad detective inspector.

I must say I like the Branagh job. He's suitably removed and over involved at the same time. What is remarkable in its oddity is the fact that it is shot in Sweden but everyone speaks the Queen's English. Odder still is that any written words (signs, notes from killers etc.) in the series are in Swedish....

Even so - if you haven't see the Wallander series yet, give it a blast. You'll be happy you did.

Better still, buy a few Mankell books and do it the proper way first... and you'll find the TV show is remarkably true to the books.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Whatever happened to the femme fatale?

Whatever happened to the femme fatale? You don't see her all that much these days, do you? At least I haven't seen her in a while in modern crime literature.

I like my female characters strong, sassy and sharp. It's not too often you find male writers that fully appreciate the smarts of the criminal female mind, and getting behind the eye shadow can be tricky for most men. There are exceptions, of course... Hammet, whose seminal Maltese Falcon lies to the right, was one of the few to get it just about right.

But what is a femme fatale and where does the character type originate? I found this great site with all things Noir and Nasty explained as simply as can be... check it out for yourself...

Her origins date back to the Middle Ages and Christianity: a female demon, known as a succubus, was thought to visit men whilst they slept, seduce them and steal their souls - much like our nice 'modern' femme fatale, at least in theory.
So - finally - something we have the church to thank for... a sexual predator that leads honest men astray.... who'd a thunk, eh?

To my female readers I will say this... I promise to be a better man and do justice to the devious  mind of the female of the species. For without the femme fatale there can be no hardboiled hero.

Let's celebrate our lying ladies and devious dames, our borderline broads and victimless vixens...

Hats off!

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Hunter and the hunted...

I love Ed McBain, or Evan Hunter to use his real name. I've read nearly all of his 87th Precinct crime novels and to be honest, I have yet to read his equal in the police procedural genre. This guy has been writing for what seems like centuries and it just gets better.

If you like your cops smart and troubled, your crooks bent and dodgy, your women alluring and unobtainable (occasionally) then I'd recommend dipping your tootsies in the waters of the 87th Precinct.

These stories are from when cops were still cops - not scientists or college graduates - just hard men with the law behind them and a small monthly paycheck for their troubles.

The man turned me to crime, what can I say....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Crime Ink - those notorious bastards in print....

It's not every day that you get the main criminal profiles from a nation all gathered together and in one place, so to speak, at the same time.

In this collection of interviews by renowned Irish investigative journalist Jason O'Toole, we meet all the usual suspects and get to hear the story from their point of view.

Highly recommended - easy to dip in and out and a real insight into the minds of the people we like to write about :)

Pain Management from the man with the eye-patch

I'm one of those readers/writers that loves the underbelly of our wonderful fluffy and consumerist world. Just knowing that it is there, ready to bite your hand when you least expect it, gives me goosebumps.
Andrew Vachss is a great writer. His ability to draw the reader into his underworld of abuse and a parallel universe of runaways is second to none. Thanks to him and his ilk you can get the necessary constant reminder that trouble is right around the corner if you know what you are looking for, and if you ain't looking for it, just wait a while - it'll most surely find you....

In this great 'Burke' novel Vachss once again does his thing in consummate style, sending his anti-hero out after a runaway teen in the mean streets of Portland, Oregon.

As harboiled noir goes, this is brass knuckles and baby faces. Excellent book! I read it in two sittings....

The Republican: An Irish Civil War Story

Just had a very nice review of my Historical Faction novel, The Republican: An Irish Civil War Story, over on the Irish Story Blog/Web site.
You can find it  here.

Here's a wee snippet to whet your proverbial whistle...
The depiction of the Republicans as young, determined but not terribly clear about where they were headed, is a fairly good representation of what actually happened. O’Rourke has clearly done his homework and many of the set-piece events of the civil war are here.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Irish Crime writing is amazing!

Of course, I would say that.... but I mean it. And I'm not talking about my own work here...
Have a look here: Irish Crime on Amazon. You'll find a long list of great books by Irish crime writers of high repute.

Some of my favourite Irish crime writers, include, Declan Hughes, Ken Bruen, Seamus Smyth, Allan Guthrie, Adrian McGinty, Declan Burke, Benjamin Black, John Connolly... the list goes on and on....

Here's one to consider for starters...

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Mirror Mirror on the wall - who needs a good seeing to?

I've prepared a new cover for my erotic short story, Mirror Mirror, which first appeared in print in the 2006 Short Story anthology Off the Edge: A Freefall into Modern Irish Literature.
Someone asked me what it was about, as the original product description was a bit on the short side, so I've attempted top update the product description. Here goes....

Mirror Mirror is an erotic and psychological exploration of self and the boundaries between people, centered on a man and a call girl. The question it attempts to approach is: how close is too close? What can you learn from a distance that you cannot in the sexual act? Are our relationships with others more about self-knowledge, or the desire to feel less alone?

This short story does not provide any answers, just some questions. It is not pornographic, but it is mildly erotic, if you like that kind of thing...

The Unquiet by John Connolly

I began reading The Unquiet a few weeks back. Great book and in the tradition of 'Every Dead Thing', Connolly is taking us on a journey of shadows that move from oddly menacing to chilling, with the odd laugh in between.

Connolly's strong point is his ability to move the story along at a beautiful pace whilst building up the tension and bringing on those subterranean clouds of his.

Angel and Louis make another entertaining appearance in this Charlie Parker novel, complete with their continuous stream of one-liners. They must be the most interesting and off-beat characters to ever grace the pages of a mainstream crime novel of this caliber.

The plot centres on a woman who is being harassed by a known felon and his connection to her father, a missing child psychologist. Including child abuse, insane criminals, off-beat thugs and the social mores of New England society, The Unquiet connects the dots between the lower echelons and those that proclaim to be worthy of higher things.

Great book, as ever, from our man, John!

Impact of the eBook reader on the publishing business

Some of my early works are now available via Amazon Kindle and I've been amazed at how straightforward and instant the publishing process is using this channel.

I remember in 2000 a company called ePublish Ltd. based in Ireland published my novel 'The Republican: An Irish Civil War Story' in eBook format. It tanked, mainly due to the fact that people didn't want to read books whilst sitting in front of their computer screens. In fact the entire eBook publishing industry tanked for several years until the Nook, Kindle and now the Sony eBook reader emerged. And then of course you have the iPad and iPhone and Blackberry, which can also double as eBook readers, once you have the right 'App' installed.

eBooks continue to rewrite the rules of the publishing game on a daily basis, with companies like Barnes & Noble and Amazon claiming huge increases in the number of eBooks sold in recent months and predicting that they will surpass traditional printed tomes in the very near future.

So what effect does this have on the written word? Well, what effect does a Blog like this have, or a private Web site? It's all much of a muchness. Natural selection and effective marketing campaigns will, as ever, separate the wheat from the chaff. Time, effort & capital investment = reward and notoriety. What will have to change, however, is the business model used by publishing houses. Already we see legal wrangles between agents, publishers and booksellers.

Think of eBook publishing as the new Napster, the new Pirate Bay, of the publishing world. People see the money, smell the opportunity but the business hasn't quite found its feet yet. A lot will depend on the sale price of the next version of the Kindle and how fast tablet PCs take off I suppose... but one thing is for sure, things are changing very quickly indeed....

Crime Sometimes Pays...

The Big O
The Big O
Anyone who is anyone that knows someone who would like to be such a fella might think that I'm one of those types that likes to blow his own horn (I can't quite reach it) - however I'm not. I've received some wonderful support from my mate Declan Burke, crime author extraordinaire in the last few years, and in my humble attempt to return this favour, please find 'The Big O' above for your personal enjoyment.
There are very few books I will shout out loud about and recommend to complete strangers, but this is one of them. There, I said it. Oh... and if you have the time, drop by Declan's Blog, too, Crime always Pays is the best spot on the Blogosphere for up to the minute news reviews and attitudes on Crime Fiction - both worldly and 'other worldly' or Irish, if you prefer....
Crime Always Pays