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HEAD GAMES: the first review comparing the novel and the graphic novel

September 21, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Review published on September 21, 2018.

Whichever version of Head Games you choose to read, the novel or the graphic novel, you’re getting a juicy slice of Americana to feast on. I decided to tackle both books because I thought it would be interesting to read one straight after the other (starting with the novel, which was written first, so that the images in the graphic retelling weren’t influencing my idea of the characters in the novel). Head Games is noir with a touch of humour, in fact I may be underplaying that a bit because I suspect McDonald was having a lot of fun writing this novel and turning it into a graphic read too. Still, Head Games has that hard-boiled feel to it, in the best tradition of the pulp magazines of the 1930s and 40s. A treat for fans of the classic adventure thriller but there are a few knowing twists along the way that gives the give the books an edgy feel.

As McDonald put it in the introduction to the graphic novel, “….you’ll be riding shotgun in a ‘fifty-seven ragtop Bel Air….” [with Hector Lassiter]. That’s because Head Games has revolution, grave robbing, betrayal, ambush, a treasure map, a secret society, political corruption and a host of shoot outs. It’s an homage to a golden age of crime writing with a modern twist – there is so much fun to be had in these pages for fans of the classic American crime story and noir cinema.

It’s rare to get a chance to compare the original novel with the graphic rendition, these two seem apt for the experiment but to be very boring about it, you get the same kick, the same excitement from both (there are a few differences I’ve noted below). Head Games has a double meaning, it refers to the skullduggery in the plot (sorry!) but also to the fact that this novel is a bit of a mind game for the reader too. The main protagonist Hector Lassiter is a writer, he’s also the narrator of most of the novel, so we see things through his eyes but maybe we should take some of the things he says with a pinch of salt? It’s a playful format.

It’s 1957, South of the border. Three men are sitting at a table in a seedy cantina in Ciudad Juarez. There’s Eskin ‘Bud’ Fisk, a short-sighted reporter, poet, here to interview Hector Lassiter, a playwright and crime novelist turned screenwriter. Then there is Bill Wade, a mercenary, con man and a drunk. Wade pulls a bundle out of his duffel bag and unwraps the skull of Mexican general and bandit Pancho Villa. Lassiter knows in his water that the skull, with wisps of hair still attached, really is that of the general. Not least because of the mandibular prognathism (pronounced jawbone, an under-bite). Lassiter tells Wade to put it away before they attract attention. The locals would happily kill three gringos for such a prize and it wouldn’t be a pleasant end. Wade’s idea is for Lassiter to smuggle the skull across the border into the good old US of A. He has a buyer lined up, probably the guy who organised the grave robbing theft in the first place thirty years ago – Senator Prescott Bush. He is prepared to pay $80,000 (rumour has it that he personally stole the head of Geronimo some time past). The men should have been paying attention to what was coming because four Federales burst into the bar waving shotguns.

Lassiter just has time to get Fiske down when the shooting starts. In the gunfight Wade, ironically, gets his head blown off and Bud Fiske, the young journalist, saves Lassiter’s life. The problem is Federales usually come in a big posse so they need to get out of town sharpish. The two men torch Wade’s car as a distraction and flee. Across the border, they head for Lassiter’s house, not that he spends much time here, there are bad memories. That’s where they run into three more armed men. Most likely theory is that the good senator decided to reduce costs by having the skull repossessed by the hired help. Fiske and Lassiter give up the skull but this is only the beginning of the trouble. More than one person out there wants that skull badly! Including a couple of supposedly long dead bloodthirsty hombres.

There’s a healthy dose of violence and killing that follows, pretty much starting form the point I left off. Burned out cars riddled with bullets, amateur bounty hunters, stone cold killers, more grave robbing, sleazy politicians and bent spies not to mention the Skull and Bones secret society, an early forerunner of the “deep state”.

Lassiter and Fiske detour to Venice California where Orson Welles is filming Touch of Evil (one of the great noir movies). Lassiter knows Welles but he’s a big ‘friend’ of the Kraut, aka Marlene Dietrich. I won’t tell you what this is all about but it reinforced the noir credentials of the novel and adds to the playfulness of the story. When Welles is jealous about Marlene he abuses Lassiter, who notes as he leaves the set:

“I heard Marlena say to Welles, ‘Stop it you fool what does it matter what you say about him? He’s a man…..that’s all.’”

Thus insinuating himself into film history as the last line of the movie is:

“He was some kind of a man….What does it matter what you say about people?” [Tanya/Dietrich]

It’s a nice in joke/conceit. Lassiter also picks up a girl friend, Mexican beauty, Alicia Vicente.

Both the novel and the graphic novel have potted histories that add a bit of background colour (although it’s in black and white in the graphic novel): Pancho Villa was born Doroteo Arango in 1878, and was a bandit by the age of 17, having killed the man who attacked and raped his sister. In his early twenties he changed his name to Villa and became a robin hood style bandit. Originally fated by the Americans, General Black Jack Pershing was impressed when he was sent to parley with the Mexican Revolutionary, Villa, in 1913. In 1916, Villa’s men were blamed for a raid on Columbus, New Mexico, killing local inhabitants. Pershing was sent south to catch Villa dead or alive, a mission that was called off when the war in Europe ramped up. It wasn’t until Villa had retired that he was gunned down in the street, shot in the back, in 1923. His body was dug up in 1926 and the head taken, it was rumoured to contain a map to Villa’s treasure.

The dialogue is pure hard-boiled heaven – snappy, witty, cutting. There are echoes of the road movie and a great sense of place as the novel shifts from location to location. Lassiter is a great character and some of the set pieces are solid gold. As a bonus the novel contains a readers’ guide, a short story and an essay on Lassiter.

The novel has a breakneck pace but the graphic novel ramps it up a bit – spare, crisp and action packed. The drawings reinforce the dark atmosphere and the text bubbles are sparingly used, which is an indication of the clever visual interpretation of the original but the hard-boiled style is maintained. The images lead you to the double meaning of Head Games pretty quickly. I loved the sequence in Venice, CA, where the opening shot of Touch of Evil (one of the most iconic movie scenes) is recreated in the graphic novel – it’s a nice doffing of the cap to Welles and the masterpiece of the cinema. The shot of Wade reaching for the skull in the duffel bag makes his face look like a skull presaging his coming end. There are a few heads that get blown off in this story! The simplified story here is more direct than the novel but essentially the same. I’d have no problem recommending the novel or the graphic novel depending on your taste, both are entertaining and exciting reads.

Paul Burke @ https://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/09/head-games-novel-by-craig-mcdonald-and-graphic-novel-by-craig-mcdonald-and-kevin-singles/

“Novels are all about commitment” – Colin O’Sullivan’s profile in Books Ireland Magazine

September 12, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O’Sullivan, author of Killarney Blues (Winner of the Prix Mystère de la Critique 2018 in France), The Starved Lover Sings and The Dark Manual, features prominently in the latest issue of Books Ireland Magazine.

Nostalgic or futuristic, even visionary, his novels focus on characters “grappling with loss, the past and their lack of purpose”, in a turbulent political environment. But O’Sullivan firmly believes that “we have enough inside us to withstand, to cope, and eventually to surpass. We are still here, after all, or I should say, despite all.”

Meet a writer who “has an understanding of the power of words, their placing, their specific meaning” and “reflects the current malaise and modern preoccupations”*, “sends language out on a gleeful spree, exuberant, defiant”**, and who is “one of the finest storytellers out there, a lyrical master of the written word”***.

Books Ir & Colins books

* From a Book Noir review by Paul Burke

** Endorsement by writer Niall Griffiths

*** From a review by Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions

 

 

 

More praise for “The Dark Manual”

September 11, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Review published on Book Nudge / Book Noir, August 31, 2018.

The Dark Manual defies easy categorisation; it’s a literary novel, a very desperate tale of love and loss, a noir thriller, of real and imaginary threats and a sci-fi speculation (which could be read as prescient future gazing). O’Sullivan has carved himself a distinct niche in the blackly comic noir world. The Dark Manual proves that he is as comfortable writing about Japan, the place where he has lived for many years, as he was writing about his native Ireland in his earlier novel Killarney Blues. The Dark Manual is a mature rounded work, assured and confident, at times lyrical and beautiful but also punchy and sharp. Susie Sakamoto’s bleak world is painful and depressing but compelling and honest. Yet this isn’t a hard read, it’s engaging, inventive and thought-provoking.

So The Dark Manual takes us into the world of Susie Sakamoto, an Irish woman trapped in a nightmare since the disappearance of her husband and son, Masa and Zen, in a terrible plane crash at sea. Susie is alone in her grief, except for the homebot, Sonny.

“Her deep despair. Her piteous and addle-egged mind….Gravity pinning her right down. Gravity seems so much heavier these days; her bones, now leaden and so hard to move. She is rooted. Rooted to this spot. So firmly, so horribly stuck.”

The description of Susie’s home life is so stark and brutal, it could be an interior scene from Blade Runner 2049. As Susie sprawls on the couch unable to relieve the torpor she is irritated by the hoover, is it just a symptom of her malaise or something more insidious? Her life is managed by the homebots, particularly Sonny, model SH.XL8. Susie can cook, she can clean, she used to be able to manage her life, but now the machines do all the work. Even though she doesn’t want to acknowledge their presence they become one of her only means of discourse. Sonny is male, he responds to commands, but is there a touch of sarcasm in his answers, an independence, is he manipulating her life? Is Sonny arguing with her? For the reader the exchanges with the homebot are witty, for Susie they are both necessary, invasive and disturbing. Did she ask the health information monitor to tell her, her weight, to suggest a revision in her diet?

Susie is adrift after the death of her family, mired in grief and not coping. She was a confident woman working for an online news outlet compiling a column: “a foreigner’s interpretation of Japan”, which was translated from English to Japanese by machine and checked, but rarely corrected, by a sub-editor. She’s not ready to return to work and fills the void with bars and booze with her friend, Mixxy. Are her problems with the robots in her head, are these computers a benign or malignant force. What is The Dark Manual, and what did her husband have to do with it?

There are so many facets to this novel, subtleties to the story, but I have want to concentrate on three major themes. Grief – this is a study of a woman on the edge of a nervous breakdown, suffering the profound grief of losing her loved ones (grief the devouring monster). It’s grief in an alien environment, or perhaps more accurately, the realisation that any environment becomes alien when grief strikes. Susie’s grief is all she is left with in the world where she has so little real contact to other humans, where everything is done for her by machines but nothing fills the void. Artificial intelligence – the fear of a future in which we may not be in charge, think of a more intellectual Humans (the Channel 4 series). It’s deja vu, the re-emergence of Frankenstein’s monster, except this time there is a genuine concern that the machines will outstrip us. Will we be consumed, altered, rendered helpless by machines? Truth and memory – was Masa the man she thought he was? We all want to believe we know the people who are close to us but do we really know others? What if the human impetus for the robot programmes is not benign? O’Sullivan has an understanding of the power of words, their placing, their specific meaning, that reminded me a little of Bernard MacLaverty’s use of language to conjure images in Cal. This bleak, but also witty novel is a philosophical musing on what we are and how we respond to life; grief, the future, a world inhabited by AI. The dystopian future has been the staple of sci-fi (1984, Brave New World). This is a modern novel that reflects the current malaise and modern preoccupations. As a thriller this is a page turner, a really intriguing read.

The publisher, Betimes Books, is about to announce a major film deal for the The Dark Manual, which will be one to keep an eye out for. [SOON!!!]

If you like The Dark Manual I would thoroughly recommend O’Sullivan’s earlier novel Killarney Blues, an unconventional crime novel of small town living in Killarney – everyone seems to be in a funk. Bernard Dunphy loves American Blues but he’s troubled by his father’s suicide. The sins of the past always have ramifications in the present. A sudden violent act has an impact on Bernard and the young people of the town. Killarney Blues is engrossing, witty, depressing and uplifting. Winner of the Prix Mystère de la critique 2018.

Paul Burke

The Dark Manual by Colin O’Sullivan
Betimes Books 9780993433177, May 2018

Original review here: https://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/08/the-dark-manual-by-colin-osullivan/

“Exciting Poetic Thriller” – exactly!

August 7, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

We just have to share this reader’s review! It’s wonderful when somebody REALLY gets the book! Thanks to @fatorange23, whoever he/she is, for sharing this with other readers:

5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Poetic Thriller

4 August 2018Published on Amazon.com

Format: Paperback

In order to be a great writer one’s style must be distinct. However, by daring to have a distinct voice a writer runs the risk of annoying or irritating the reader. O’Sullivan implements an obvious technique that’s often tried but very rarely succeeds. He builds the foundation of the plot with brief passages that are equal parts poetry and prose.

Honestly, if someone told me that I would NOT be inclined to read the book because I’ve seen it fail so many times. But the reason why it almost always fails is the poetry (or maybe more correctly put the poetic prose) doesn’t advance the plot. Usually, it will only serve to re-establish something. O’Sullivan advances the plot, economically even, while showcasing his skill as a poet – all the while, keeping the reader fully engaged and turning the pages.

I read comparisons to Murakami, Aldiss, and even Black Mirror writers. I love all that stuff but I personally think O’Sullivan offers us something we really needed much more deeply: a modern-day Edgar Allan Poe. Horror that dares to be great.

Does it get any better than that?
viewbook.at/TheDarkManual

A glorious review of Colin O’Sullivan’s new novel “The Dark Manual”

June 15, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Isaac Asimov had Three Laws of Robotics:

1. A robot may not injure a human being, or through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.

2. A robot must obey orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.

3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

Asimov’s laws are sourly tested in Colin O’Sullivan’s new novel, The Dark Manual. The author, Winner of the Prix Mystère de la critique 2018, just gets better with each book, and with this, his third, he is becoming one of the finest storytellers out there. His prose keeps one glued to the page, with delightful concentration.

Colin O’Sullivan does not write a bad line. His characters become a part of the reader as they turn the pages, and they dwell in the mind between reads. I found myself setting the book down, two or three times, but not able to leave it until I picked it up again, and read some more. Colin O’Sullivan’s writing style reminds me so of jazz, with its one-word, then two-word, then three-word sentences. Bop, bop, bop-bop, until you realize you have read a paragraph, then onto a new riff. Lyrical, powerful, humorous, poetic, emotional. He is a lyrical master of the written word. There are sections of the book that are heartbreaking, in their emotional and physical sense of loss, and moments of humor, surprise, suspense, pure sudden horror, and stark naked joy.

Susie Sakamoto, came from Ireland, to live in Japan with her husband, Masa, who designed and built “homebots,” domestic robots. Their primary role: clean the home, cook, make drinks, tend to the owner, and stand still in the corner when turned off for the night.

With their little boy, Zen, Masa and Susie have a happy life, until the day when Susie bids goodbye to her son and husband at the airport, where they are setting off on a trip to South Korea. A trip that becomes a tragedy when an errant missile launched from North Korea causes the plane they are on to break apart, its pieces and bodies of those on board falling into the sea. Her dear husband and darling son, suddenly gone. Their bodies never recovered.

Susie now spends her days in a deep depression, going over the what-ifs, coming to hate the homebot that lives with her, and staying drunk most of the time. Appearing at work, where she is a reporter, occasionally, but contemplating suicide, and spending nights in a bar getting wasted and mourning the tremendous loss she has suffered. A drunken Irishwoman in Japan, with little reason to get up in the morning, except to order the home robot to bring her another drink, while outside, in the trees, the owls are gathering, as if something was amiss.

At the bar she hangs out at each night, Susie becomes somewhat friendly with the ultra free spirit and flamboyant Mixxy Makanea, a Japanese woman who speaks English, and pretty much does what she wants, when she wants, and with whomever she wants. When Mixxy struts into a bar, all heads turn. Green streaked hair, fishnet stockings, glossy lips, and just a touch of white powder under her nostrils, she is ready to steal the evening. Mixxy is one of the great characters from the author. With her flash flamboyance and pizzazz, she colors the novel with her profane antics, and so-what attitude. Mixxy also feels the presence of the owls. Knows they are in the trees. Watching.

Susie continues to struggle with whether to live or die and blacken it all out once and for all. Her anguish palpable. Her loss profound. Her hatred for the annoying domestic robot growing each day. Then she begins to hear about the Dark Manual, a legendary means to shut off all the machines, that might or might not exist. Susie starts thinking that if she could find it, she could shut the damn thing off. Shut them all off. If she gets Mixxy to help her, could they find it? Did her husband write it? Is it close by, within her reach?

Meanwhile the homebot waits. All the homebots wait. Lights flashing on and off. Eerie sounds emitting from where there mouth would be. Do they come into the bedroom at night to watch the sleeper? Are they capable of harm? If Susie and Mixxy find the Dark Manual, will the machines know, and try to stop them from shutting them down? Can they think? Can they communicate with other homebots? Are they evil?

Worst of all, can they kill?

Meanwhile, outside, more owls gather in the trees, and now also the crows. They too gather and caw in the trees and rooftops. More and more of them. Watching. Waiting.

–Marvin Minkler of Modern First Editions

read an excerpt here

“Colin O’Sullivan writes gloriously”

April 16, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

In Tom Russell’s song about Lightnin’ Hopkins, ‘Scars on His Ankles,” he writes of Lightnin’s scars on his ankles where the chain from the chain gang cut his skin. In Colin O’Sullivan’s jewel of a first novel, Killarney Blues, winner of the “Prix Mystere de la critique,” in France, the main characters also have scars, but they are the emotional ones, ones that were thought to be buried, ones that lie scratching deep beneath the surface of their skin, never to be forgotten.

Thirty year old Bernard Dunphy is a jarvey by trade, driving a horse-carriage, that carries the many tourists, who flock to the lovely Irish town of Killarney each year. Pulled by his old worn-out, dying, but gallant horse, Ninny, Bernard is considered by most a town weirdo. Gap-toothed, overweight, and grubby in his old tobacco and sweat stained black coat, that he wears on even the warmest of days. Walking alone through the town, large headphones in place, listening and mumbling along with the likes of blues-man Son House, as his raw, passionate, stomping sound tears up out of his body and soul, filling Bernard’s ears. “That rhythm is the beat of Bernard’s heart.”

He knows all the old blues-men, from Muddy Waters to Howling Wolf, Sleepy Ma Rainey, John Estes, and Robert Johnson. They are his heroes, and Bernard cannot get enough of them. In his small room alone at home with his guitar and voice, he records blues songs, then gives them to his childhood crush, and love of his life, the beautiful Marian, though she is less than pleased about it. In fact, her two childhood friends, Cathy and Mags, delight in teasing her relentlessly about poor old goofy Bernard’s ongoing devotion to her.

Bernard’s other childhood friend is the handsome, popular footballer, heavy drinker and ladies man, Jack Moriarty. Jack is supposed to be Mags steady, but he is spending a lot of bed time with her best friend Cathy behind Marian’s back. Bernard and Jack share a dark secret that remains a scar on their souls from a terrible night back when they were little boys, young and innocent. A terrible night that also scared Bernard’s father John Dunfey, who also loved the blues and taught Bernard to play, and his mother, Brigid, who smothers Bernard with love and devotion, since her husband John Dunfey’s questionable death by drowning in the lake. They only have each other, a home that once held lovely memories, but also a never-mentioned shameful secret. A secret that during this green, glorious summer will finally scratch through their skins, and alter all their lives.

The green and blue lake beauty of Killarney, Ireland, runs through this wonderfully written novel, and the blues are the glue that holds it all together. Colin O’Sullivan writes gloriously. Hope, frailty, sadness, joy, resilience and surprise. The novel jumps back and forth in time and character viewpoints, but never once does it alter in any way the grand flow of this lyrical and compelling story as it moves forward. The reader carried along steadily, and then hurriedly, as the pages fly by a bit faster, eyes reading in a hurry to find out what happens next, until finally the last paragraph, and a large smile spreads across the face.

Killarney Blues is what the pleasure of reading a totally enjoyable novel is all about.

–Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions

Original review: https://www.facebook.com/MarvinMinklerModernFirstEditions/posts/1498995423542236

More praise for Sam Hawken’s LA FRONTERA five years after its release

April 3, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

If, like us, you value long-sellers over best-sellers and content over marketing, this book might be for you:

Book Noir review, published on March 30, 2018

Every time I read one of Hawken’s novels I enjoy it immensely; he is a consummate storyteller with a real knack for getting to the heart of the matter. La Frontera is a powerful novel because is deals with the lives of real people in tough situations. That has been a feature of Hawken’s writing since his first novel, The Dead Women of Juarez, a blistering thriller based on the murders of 1500 women in Ciudad Juarez during the drugs wars on the border. This was an important novel but Hawken has gone on to write much better thrillers (from a stylistic point of view). I don’t think anybody writes about La Frontera with the same depth of knowledge of the borderlands (north and south). Hawken is a Texan, and he brings the many stories of real people to life with compassion and honesty. In this case it is Ana, Luis and Marisol. That depth of characterisation sets his novels apart from a lot of thrillers and it’s totally engrossing. The people we meet on these pages are nuanced and complicated. Hawken seems to be able to make ordinary detail seem fascinating and once he introduces a character you will want to know their story. Most importantly Hawken knows how to tell a story with verve and depth; La Frontera is fast paced, absorbing and exciting – it is one of his best and that is saying something.

Full review here: https://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/03/la-frontera-by-sam-hawken/

Richard Kalich acknowledged as an notable postmodernist author

March 14, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Do you know the difference between Modernism and Postmodernism in literature?

This Pediaa.com article gives a clear definition of each movement and, importantly, mentions Richard Kalich, author of The Nihilesthete, Charlie P., and Penthouse F, published as Central Park West Trilogy by Betimes Books, as one of the notable postmodernist writers, along with “household” names like Nabokov, Eco, Auster, and Vonneghut:

What is Postmodernism

Postmodernism was a reaction against modernism, brought about by the disillusionment followed by the Second world war. Postmodernism is characterized by the deliberate use of earlier styles and conventions, a mixing of different artistic styles and media, and a general distrust of theories. It can be seen as a radical break from modernism when we look at some unique features of postmodernism. Some of these features include,

Irony and parody: Postmodernism works are often characterized by irony and satire. They demonstrate playful, mischievous vibe and a love of satirical humor.Pastiche: Copying ideas and styles from various authors and combining them to make a new style.

Metafiction: Making the readers aware that of the fictional nature of the text they are reading.

Intertextuality: Acknowledging other texts and referring to them in a text.

Faction: Mixing of actual events and fictional events without mentioning what is real and what is fictional.

Paranoia: The distrust in the system and even the distrust of the self.

Some notable writers in postmodernism include  Vladimir Nabokov,  Umberto Eco, John Hawkes,  RICHARD KALICH, Giannina Braschi, Kurt Vonnegut, William Gaddis,  John Barth, Jean Rhys, Donald Barthelme, E.L. Doctorow,  Don DeLillo, Ana Lydia Vega, Jachym Topol and Paul Auster.

Full article here: http://pediaa.com/difference-between-modernism-and-postmodernism-in-literature/

Colin O’Sullivan’s “KILLARNEY BLUES” is on RTL!

January 22, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Colin O’Sullivan‘s novel KILLARNEY BLUES (French translation, Éditions Rivages, Sept. 2017) is on the RTL radio (C’est à lire – To be read)!

“This first Noir novel from Colin O’Sullivan is magnificent, very finely written, and profoundly sad. To be savoured while drinking a Guinness and listening to some old blues, by Muddy Waters or Bessie Smith. And if rain knocks on the window glass, like in Killarney, it’s even better.”

C’est à lire : “Killarney Blues” de Colin O’Sullivan

Bernard Poirette, Journaliste RTL

À Killarney, charmante bourgade irlandaise, Bernard Dunphy passe pour l’idiot du village. Il n’a pas trente ans, s’habille hiver comme été d’un lourd manteau de laine et conduit d’une main sûre sa calèche à touristes tirée par sa vieille jument Ninny.

Bernard a toujours le sourire. Il est légèrement autiste. Ça ne l’empêche pas d’avoir deux passions dans la vie : le blues et… Marian, la sublime Marian, qu’il courtise à sa façon, en lui envoyant des cassettes de ses chanteurs préférés. Bernard, c’est en quelque sorte la face lumineuse de Killarney.

Pour le reste, la petite ville a essentiellement du sombre à offrir. La violence perverse de Jack Moriarty, une brute épaisse, sur les terrains de sport comme dans le lit des filles. Parlons des filles, justement : Mags et Cathy, l’officielle et la maitresse de Jack, qui noient leur temps libre dans des pintes de Guinness en attendant le prince charmant. Qui bien sûr ne viendra pas ; rebuté peut-être par les 250 jours de pluie annuels sur Killarney. Rebuté sans doute aussi par les fantômes qui hantent la petite ville… à commencer par celui de John, volontairement noyé dans le lac et dont les lourds et terribles secrets remontent à la surface, comme des cadavres gonflés. C’est tout cela, l’innocence de Bernard et la laideur du monde alentour qui vont se percuter, l’espace de quelques jours, à Killarney, comté de Kerry.

Ce premier roman noir de Colin O’Sullivan est magnifique, très finement écrit et infiniment triste. A déguster en buvant une Guinness et en écoutant un vieux blues de Muddy Waters ou Bessie Smith. Et si, comme à Killarney, la pluie frappe les vitres au dehors, c’est encore mieux.

A review of REACH THE SHINING RIVER by the winner of our Christmas Prize Draw

January 16, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

‘It was Wardell found the body.’

Kansas City, 1935. Emmett Watson, a county prosecutor of Irish decent, is married to Fay, a high society woman, who is the daughter of one of the movers and shakers in the city, and unhappy in her marriage. At a closed-door meeting with his father-in-law, and other high rollers, Emmett is asked to investigate the brutal murder of a local black, jazz piano player, and he soon finds himself taking on a corrupt political machine, mobsters and cops on the pad.

All around Emmett, is fear and silence surrounding the murder, and blatant racial hatred, that puts his life and career at risk.

One of the most engaging characters in the novel is Arlene Gray, the jazz
singer whose voice can still the room in a smoky Kansas City nightclub.
Arlene, a woman of tremendous grace, and vulnerability, is the mother of Wardell, the young boy who found the bullet-ridden body on a bank by the river. She also was the murdered Eddie Sloan’s lover. She is determined to
protect he son at all cost, and her anguish at losing Eddie, is a deeply moving part of the novel.

There is a bluesy, jazzy ebb and flow throughout the novel. Swirling and dipping in language and imagery. While reading it I often had music by Billie Holiday, Bud Powell, Lester Young, and Bill “Count” Basie playing
across the room. The music supplementing the rhythm and phrasing of the writer’s words. The richness of the many characters, and the honest writing that cut right to the quick.

It is always a pleasure to discover a novel and a writer whose vibrant prose, and dialogue, make me reluctant to turn the final page. Reach the Shining River is such a novel.”

–Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions

Link to the original review on Facebook: here.

The Success of the French Edition of “Killarney Blues”

November 2, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.”  —Le Soir

“A cathartic novel that ultimately creates positive emotions, like the blues can do. Poignant.” —booknode.com ­­

“A luminous novel that chases away the darkness… All its characters are at a crossroads and they will either meet the Devil himself or find a way towards a new life.” —Appuyez sur la touche lecture

“Moving, tragic, masterly crafted.” —Lea Touch

“In a style that is sometimes luminous, sometimes direct, sometimes poetic, Colin O’Sullivan traces his narrative path, creates incredibly vivid and appealing characters and brings the reader, to the 12-bar beat of the blues, towards a heart-breaking denouement.” —Le blog du Polar de Velda

“O’Sullivan’s beautiful writing transcends a rather banal story and gives it tragic depth.”  —Encore du Noir

“Colin O’Sullivan’s Killarney Blues brings us to a paradoxical Ireland, half-way between mythological timelessness and modernity. …A novel full of deep melancholy and beautiful blues.”   —actualitte.com

“A great, great book.” —unwalkers.com

“A hard, poignant novel of great humanity… remarkably well written…” —Rolling Stone

 

 

 

Review of “Killarney Blues” in Le Soir

October 2, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Voilà à quoi ressemble Killarney à l’aube de ce siècle nouveau. Il y a des bagels. Et c’est le genre d’endroit dans lequel elles viennent prendre un café : un bistrot élégant, bien éclairé, minimaliste, avec des tableaux de bon goût sur les murs, des décorations végétales spectrales en forme de bâtons sur les tables et des fauteuils qui vous aspirent, des fauteuils qui vous vaudront des problèmes de vertèbres à terme mais qui sont paradisiaques le temps de ce bref répit, alors que les sacs de shopping lacèrent atrocement les bras fins. »

Colin O’ Sullivan, inconnu au bataillon avant ce premier roman (on lui doit paraît-il de nombreuses nouvelles et des recueils de poésie), a un ton, un style et un univers. Il n’a par contre pas grand-chose en commun avec les innombrables auteurs de polar et de thriller actuels.

Situé à Killarney, ville irlandaise touristique, son Killarney Blues ne compte que deux flics (en uniforme) venus arrêter un type dans un bar. La scène se passe à la page 231 d’un ouvrage qui en compte 270. Elle se termine à la page 234. C’est dire que l’intrigue policière n’est pas au centre de cet ouvrage qui vous happe pourtant dès les premières pages pour ne plus vous lâcher.

[“This book grabs you at the first page and won’t let you put it down.”]

Car Colin O’ Sullivan fait naître une galerie de personnages d’une formidable justesse auxquels on s’attache instantanément.

[“Colin O’Sullivan creates a gallery of characters so true and real that you get attached to them immediately.”]

Au centre de ce petit monde, on trouve Bernard Dunphy, grand amateur de blues et jarvey de profession. En clair, Bernard promène des touristes dans la ville à bord de sa calèche tirée par la jument Ninny. Bernard est un drôle de type, solitaire, un peu inadapté au monde, puant la sueur et portant toujours un gros manteau noir.

Autour de Bernard, il y a sa mère, dure et forte, qui s’occupe de tout pour son grand fils un peu décalé. Et qui porte en elle le souvenir de son mari, noyé dans le lac tout proche. Il y a aussi la belle Marian, dont Bernard est amoureux depuis toujours et qui semble l’ignorer. Elle passe son temps avec ses deux copines, Mags et Cathy, à faire du shopping, à s’envoyer des vannes et à se murger tous les week-ends dans leurs bars préférés tout en s’inquiétant de n’avoir pas encore trouvé l’homme de leur vie à près de 30 ans.

Un récit choral

Il y a encore Jack Moriarty, que Bernard considère comme son seul pote mais qui ne voit pas tout à fait les choses de cette façon. Jack le séducteur, Jack le joueur de foot gaélique incapable de canaliser sa fureur, Jack qui traîne aussi ses fantômes du passé. Et puis il y a Linda la serveuse qui se mue en chanteuse à la nuit tombée, Laura la touriste américaine et son frère, amateur de blues lui aussi…

Tout un petit monde que l’auteur met en scène et suit entre passé et présent, bondissant de l’un à l’autre, tissant un récit choral où les dialogues se réduisent à la portion congrue au profit d’une écriture qui embrasse tous les aspects de l’intrigue, emporte tout sur son passage, tend la main au lecteur pour l’emporter au cœur de ces vies banales et pourtant porteuses d’une multitude de petits et de grands drames.

Au fil des 270 pages, chacun se découvre petit à petit. Tout ce qui semblait évident dans les premiers chapitres prend de nouvelles couleurs, de nouvelles directions, de nouvelles raisons d’être. Le passé resurgit sans cesse et vient le plus souvent pourrir le présent. Heureusement pour Bernard, il y a le blues. Cette musique qui l’habite littéralement, sa passion pour Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, B.B. King et tant d’autres. Dans une Irlande où les clichés culturels croisent sans cesse un nouveau mode de vie mondialisé, Bernard va petit à petit se révéler, ainsi que tous ceux qui l’entourent. Pour le meilleur ou pour le pire.

Porté par un véritable souffle d’écrivain, Killarney Blues est un roman noir, plein de mélancolie et de rêves inaboutis où surgit malgré tout une étonnante lueur d’espoir. Sans la moindre naïveté. Une révélation.

[“Carried by a genuine writing talent, Killarney Blues is a Noir novel full of melancholy and unfulfilled dreams with a surprising glimmer of hope at the end. Without the slightest naivety. A revelation.”]

Roman noir. Killarney Blues, Colin 0’Sullivan ; Tr. de l’anglais par L. Bouton-Kelly, Rivages, 272 p., 21 €, e-book 14,99 €

http://plus.lesoir.be/116429/article/2017-09-29/killarney-blues-une-lueur-despoir-dans-un-ocean-de-blues

 

Killarney Blues – Colin O’Sullivan

September 20, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

A wonderful review of the French edition of Colin O’Sullivan’s KILLARNEY BLUES!

Mille (et une) lectures de Maeve

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Traduit par Ludivine Bouton-Kelly

Bernard est jarvey dans la petite ville de Killarney, en Irlande, dans le comté du Kerry. Si vous connaissez Killarney, vous avez sûrement rencontré ces conducteurs de calèche qui promènent toute la journée les nombreux touristes. Pourtant Bernard est mis au ban de la bourgade : il est considéré un peu comme l’idiot du village. On découvre qu’il aurait peut-être une forme d’autisme Asperger (mais cela reste une supposition). Cet homme a une passion : le blues. Dès qu’il peut, il gratte sa guitare et chante (mais chez lui). Il est incollable sur tous les bluesmen américains. Une passion que lui a transmise son père, décédé. Bernard est amoureux depuis son adolescence de Marian, à qui il envoie régulièrement des cassettes de ses enregistrements.

Quand s’ouvre le récit, Bernard se fait rosser par des hommes, à la sortie d’un pub. On ne sait pas pourquoi. Des…

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Craig McDonald’s THE RUNNING KIND is “a raucous ride”

June 8, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Temporary Knucksline

Book review: Craig McDonald’s The Running Kind

Amici:

The Running Kind by Craig McDonald … crime novelist Hector Lassiter is reunited with an old mate from prior adventures in the Lassiter series, Jimmy Hanrahan. It’s 1950 and too close to Christmas when Hector and Jimmy (a cop) are huddled indoors from an Ohio blizzard and a young girl approaches Hector with a plea for help. Her mom and aunt are in danger because one of them is a Cleveland mafia boss’s wife and the other his girlfriend (comare—pronouced Goomarr if you’re from the East Coast).

Hector’s been having a few with Jimmy, but there’s no way he’ll deny the young girl’s request for help. A battle quickly ensues, which is the start of a cross country adventure that involves several notables, to include Elliot Ness and J. Edgar Hoover (and his G-men), still ambivalent about this so-called mafia thing (which is about to hit the television airwaves). There’s also an appearance by a young Rod Serling, and by adventure’s end, old Blue eyes himself, accompanied by the woman he couldn’t wait to own (and never would), Ava Gardner. Frank is there with a message from Momo (Sam Giancana).

As it turns out, the mom and comare have something on the mob boss and are looking to turn witness, which is a tough sell when there are so many in law enforcement enthusiastically on the mob’s payroll. It’s one treachery after another, until it becomes the safer play to head out of town. It is in Missouri where Hector, who’s already had a little fling with one of the two women (the mother or the girlfriend?), and winds up falling for the mother of the mother, as did this reader, has to draw battle lines.

It’s a raucous ride wherein Hector is eventually matched up against a hitman with a scary nickname and mad tracking abilities. Seems everybody is running in this terrific read, and one can only hope Hector can make it back alive for the life he’s often dreamed of, and with a woman he’s always hoped he’d fine.

It’s a start to finish thriller featuring honorable men in a dishonorable world of corruption. Hardboiled and ready to burst, with a wonderful touch of Americana and celebrities. One more from a wonderful series—a hell of a read.

Charlie Stella, June 3, 2017

Happy 10th Anniversary, Hector!

June 1, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Ten years, ten novels… And a graphic novel coming out this Fall. Hector Lassiter  has been through good and bad times. But tough times don’t last. Tough men do!

Happy 10th anniversary to Hector Lassiter and his creator, Craig McDonald, and many happy returns!

Craig McDonald signing review copies of HEAD GAMES, the first Hector Lassiter novel to be published, at Book Expo America on the 1st of June 2007

Click here to view the Hector Lassiter Series

and HERE

TO WIN A SIGNED COPY OF A HECTOR LASSITER NOVEL

HECTOR LASSITER – Created by Craig McDonald

Pulp novelist and Black Mask contributor HECTOR LASSITER is more manly than you.

Or the United States Marine Corps, for that matter.

Head Games: The Graphic novel (coming out Oct. 2017 from First Second Books / Macmillan US)

In [these] romping, stomping, wickedly imaginative historical crime novels […] by Craig El Gavilan” McDonald, Lassiter, a combo of Ernest Hemingway and Rambo, manages to romp all over the twentieth century.

Along the way, he runs into – and generally kicks the ass of – serial killers, Mexican banditos, crooked cops, hurricanes, misguided revolutionaries, the CIA, assorted tyrants and thugs, and various participants in the Spanish Civil War. He also bumps into everyone from Orson Welles, Rita Hayworth, Salvador Dali, John Huston and John Dos Passos to Papa himself, and lives to tell the tales.

It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. And Hector is just that man, a hard-living, hard-loving, hard-drinking, hard-fighting and hard-writing son of a bitch who lives by the credo of writing what you know. And sticking his nose wherever the Hell he damn well wants. […] Trust me  the Hector books are a hoot.

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith

Click here to see the original article

 

Review of DEATH IN THE FACE: “The Last Man Standing”

May 18, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Review by Marvin Minkler: @MarvinMinklerModernFirstEditions

Death in the Face

“Quite alone, yet somehow quite happy, Hector drove on through the sweet-smelling autumn rain, back to his home and family.”

This one true sentence, from the ending of the newly finished novel, Death in the Face, by Craig McDonald, an Edgar and Anthony Awards Finalist, brought to a close my nine-novel journey through the mid-20th Century world, with Hector Lassiter, the man who “writes what he lives and lives what he writes.”

Death in the Face takes place in 1963 and finds Hector at 62 years of age. He is starting to feel that the modern world is passing him by and that he might be slowing down a step or two. He has lost some dear friends and lovers, and, at night, he is haunted by realistic dreams and visions of his life’s love, Brinke Devlin. Brinke’s tragic death still tears at him.

Hector is invited to come along with his old and slowly dying friend, British author, and former spy, Ian Fleming, to the land of the rising sun. Ian is finding late success with his bestselling James Bond series of novels, which have just begun to be made into movies, starring Sean Connery.

Long ago, just after World War II, Ian and Hector, who were intelligence agents at the time, had tried to get their hands on a deadly biological weapon, developed by the Japanese, that could spell doom for whatever country it was used on. While in Japan this time, Ian is determined to find it again, and Hector is along for the ride, with the hope of recovering some previously unknown writings by Brinke Devlin, which are also supposedly there.

As usual with a Hector Lassiter novel, there is plenty of action, deadly villains, a fetchingly beautiful spy, with her eye and gun on Hector, James Bond-type gadgets, intrigue, twists and turns, sexy romps, tragedy, loss, and many reflective moments where the sheer poetry of Craig McDonald’s writing stops the reader in their tracks. There are places where a passage is so moving that it must be read all over again.

I admit to feeling a bit sad about finishing my last Hector Lassiter novel. The books have taken me on a journey all the way from Paris in the 1920s, to Key West in the 30s, Germany and France during World War II, 1950s clashes with the Cleveland mob, assassins in the South-west, and Hollywood, Nashville, and finally Hawaii.

I have met historical characters that have come to life fully fleshed, due to the author’s genuine depiction and understanding of them. Ernest and Mary Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, Sylvia Beach, Orson Wells, Eliot Ness, Robert Shaw, Yukio Mishima, Mitsuharu Kaneko, Lester Dent, Rod Serling, and George W. and Prescott Bush, and many more.

Thanks, Craig McDonald, for these wonderfully entertaining and deeply felt novels. I feel Hector Lassiter is the best on-going character ever created in fiction. Truly the last man standing. There is not enough praise that I can give you for your mighty creation and your masterful writing.

Marvin Minkler, Modern First Editions, May 2017

The full Hector Lassiter Series is available to buy on Amazon here

Three Chords and the Truth – Review

March 26, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Venetian Vase

Hector Lassiter is one of the most compelling literary creations of recent years– a crime novelist who ‘writes what he lives and lives what he writes’. Lassiter was born January 1, 1900, and he witnesses some of the most tumultuous events of the twentieth century. Whether he finds himself at the heart of a murder mystery with the Lost Generation in 1920s Paris, or dodging the bombs and bullets with Ernest Hemingway during the Spanish Civil War, Lassiter is never far away from violence and intrigue. Three Chords and the Truth is the ninth and final novel in the Lassiter series, and, needless to say,  it was eagerly anticipated by the many fans of the series.

Craig McDonald is the author behind the author, the creator of Hector Lassiter and the writer of five more novels outside the Lassiter series. McDonald began his career as a journalist and still works in that…

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“Three Chords & The Truth Rings True Like a Finely Tuned Guitar”

December 19, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

A wonderful review by a true connaisseur:

5.0 out of 5 stars Three Chords & The Truth Rings True Like a Finely Tuned Guitar, December 18, 2016

This review is from: Three Chords & The Truth: A Hector Lassiter novel (Volume 10) (Paperback)

The first Hector Lassiter novel I read was the Edgar-nominated debut from Craig McDonald, Head Games. History is the author’s canvas and it is vast, colorful and detailed. From Paris in the 1920’s with Ernest Hemingway to Memphis in 1958, where this exciting and latest novel begins. Craig McDonald gives us a rich, authentic take on the country legends of our time who changed the way the music was then. Along with high tone babes, racial tensions, vengeful hooligans, and a chilling plan being hatched, Hector and his Chevy Bel Air could get blown off the road before it all is over.
Although I initially began this one to savor it some, after a few pages in, it was a flat-out race through the pages. Superb writing, swift plotting, and as usual, interesting real life figures from the country scene then, along with some of Hector’s old friends, and enemies.
I can’t recommend it enough. Three Chords & The Truth rings true like a finely tuned guitar.

An unmissable book at an unbeatable price

August 9, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

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Bring New York on holidays with you with this August promotion of Richard Kalich‘s Central Park West Trilogy : it’s only £0.99 on Amazon UK until the end of the month!

***

– So we are going to do this like a courtroom drama, or an interrogation?

– Yes. We are. We are indeed.

– Why?

– Because most of the book is done in that style.

–  I see. Was the book impressive?

– Yes, very impressive. Mr. Kalich is a great writer.

– And he appears in the book too?

– Yes, if it really is him, if you know what I mean…you can call the book postmodern, or that he uses meta-narratives or…RK on his terrace with view-page-001

– That all sounds a bit confusing.

– In theory yes, but it’s a very entertaining book. Says a lot about writing. And the creative process. It’s playful, but not flippant. We’re dealing with a serious artist here.

– Oh, really?

***

Read the full review of Penthouse F, one of the novels in Central Park West Trilogy, on Colin O’Sullivan’s blog.

***

Cover image and art © Bernard Piga

First endorsement for Patricia Ketola’s debut novel

June 10, 2016

BetimesBooksNow

DIRTYx2700“From Orson Welles’ F Is For Fake to Alan Rudolph’s The Moderns, I’ve always adored works of fiction centered on the concept of art forgery. I’m also a goner for strong narrative voice.

Patricia Ketola’s clever and sexy debut novel is an audacious genre mash-up, elevated and enlivened by the salty, up-from-the-heels voice of narrator Elizabeth Martel, a sort of lusty spin on Patricia Highsmith’s magnetic sociopath Tom Ripley. Dirty Pictures heralds the arrival of a clever, gutsy new voice that fearlessly swings for the fences.”  —Craig McDonald, Edgar & Anthony Awards Finalist

Publication date: August 16, 2016

Available for pre-order: viewBook.at/DirtyPictures