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Posts tagged ‘contemporary fiction’

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

Is your home robot cute?

May 17, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Another short excerpt from Colin O’Sullivan’s new novel, THE DARK MANUAL, for your enjoyment:

“Where’s your ‘bot?”

“It’s shut down for the evening. I’m sick to death of listening to the fucking thing.”

“Oh, bring him in. I want to see him.”

Susie hates the personal pronoun. Calling it a him. Zen was a he. Masa was a he. Her father and grandfather, now they were hes and hims. Cars were forever referred to as she by men, and ships and boats too. Maybe the he could actually be refreshing, and feminists the world over could rejoice together in the knowledge that not all machines in servitude would be referred to as female. There’s a thought. There’s probably even an article in that.

“Command system on!”

There is silence for a moment; Mixxy in particular is holding her breath in anticipation. They don’t have to wait long.

“Coming, Miss Susie!”

Sonny glides into the living room.

“He does call you Miss Susie! That’s so fucking cute.”

Looking down upon its silver frame and stiff comportment, Mixxy gasps with delight. Susie frowns in habitual scorn.

“Hi, I’m Mixxy. Nice to meet you.”

Sonny extends its hand like a well-mannered child; Susie wouldn’t be surprised if it suddenly sprouted impeccably combed hair with a cow’s lick to boot.

“Nice to meet you, Miss Mixxy.”

It is able to differentiate between male and female voices, so Mixxy gets her accordant Miss. Susie hopes that it will get overused to the point where Mixxy will look for the nearest available hatchet.

“Wow, you are so handsome, little guy. Much more handsome than mine.”

“Don’t they all look exactly the same?” asks Susie.

Susie had seen the factory, and the scores of them lined up there. She’d seen the catalogues. Her husband had designed the bloody things, for God’s sake, so she should know a wee bit about them. They were all identical. There was nothing handsome about hers.

“When you get to know them they start to show their own personality. Even their faces start to change. Don’t you think? Can you not see it?”

“No. I can’t.”

“This one…already. He seems so full of life. And joy. And a right little charmer too.”

Susie is still thinking about hatchets, pickaxes, or what was that weapon the young boys used to talk about when they were young and playing at war games? What was it called? A bazooka! That was it. Bazooka! Susie wants a bloody bazooka! It may be not the greatest thing ever invented, but surely, it is the greatest-sounding word.

The homebot’s face looks up to directly engage with the house guest.

“Would you like anything to drink, Miss Mixxy.”

“And so well-programmed! Or does he just see into my soul? Your husband did such a good job with this one. Yes, Mr. Sonny. I will have something to drink.”

“Make two cups of coffee, Sonny. We’ve got work to do.”

The Dark Manual is available for readers in the UK and Ireland, as well as on all Amazon sites except USA and Canada
viewbook.at/TheDarkManual

 

 

Interview with Colin O’Sullivan in Your Secret Library

Project

A few days before the release of Colin’s third novel, THE DARK MANUAL, a Trinity College Dublin graduate Polly Young interviews her fellow Trinity College alumnus for Your Secret Library Magazine:

Colin O’Sullivan is a poet and a novelist, author of Killarney Blues (2013), The Starved Lover Sings (2017), and The Dark Manual (May 2018), published by Betimes Books. His first novel, Killarney Blues, has won the prestigious “Prix Mystère de la critique” in France.

Excerpt from “The Dark Manual” by Colin O’Sullivan

May 2, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

From Chapter 3:

Susie suddenly lashes out, sending the cereal bowl flying from the counter out into kitchen space. It smashes to pieces against a side cupboard and lays silent on the floor in thick white shards.

“Turn it off,” she shouts.

“Yes, Miss Susie.”

The grey woman on the grey beach vanishes and there is nothing but the silence of a woman and her mechanical charge in a lonely kitchen, once more.

The homebot moves tentatively towards the broken bowl. It looks up at Susie and waits a second before softly inquiring:

“Shall I clean the floor, Miss Susie?”

Susie stares at him. Even if she wanted to hide her disgust she’s not sure she could manage it.

“You don’t even know, do you?”

“Know what, madam?”

Susie laughs. Madam! That’s a good one – Masa programmed that word in too, no doubt. Was that meant to impress? Who was it meant to impress? It all seemed like such a sick prank now.

“Don’t madam me. Your Miss Susies are annoying enough. If Masa thought that was some kind of joke…to have you all polite and…you don’t even know what happened, do you? Last night, again you said: Mr. Masa recommends you take some herbal tea. Remember that? In your shitty, horrible voice. The present tense. You haven’t figured it out, have you? That the present tense is no longer viable. What you should have said was: Mr. Masa used to recommend you take herbal tea. Used to. When he was alive. When he breathed and laughed and sang bad karaoke in bad bars. Before he was blown to smithereens. But how could you know that? How could you know?”

Susie’s eyes are malevolent now and she feels them flaming red in her sockets. They sting and burn: late nights, scalding tears, the sourness of spirit and no clear target of recrimination.

“You haven’t a clue. Or, if you do…no, you can’t process it at all, can you? I mean, a mere mortal such as I, a stinking bloody human can hardly process it, so how could a thing, without blood…a thing…even…”

The words are choking her and she can no longer spew them out. She has exhausted herself. The confusion of her thoughts. Could it know? But how could it know if Masa was not there to program…or, has it been programmed in such a way that all news feeds become part of its knowing? When a dog’s master doesn’t come home from the hospital, does it know that it is dead? Does a dog know about death? Or simply that its master is absent? Does a homebot know that its master is no more? And if it does, does it care? The breakfast milk feels like it is curdling inside her, her guts clenching, her blood pressure is high and rising.

Sonny bends to the mess on the floor. With an outstretched hand and with dexterous digits it goes to pick up a shard of ceramic but is halted by Susie’s command.

“Leave it. What difference does it make?”

The homebot freezes in its half-bent position. How fast it is to respond to her every utterance. How quick its every perception. She flings her spoon, hitting it on the head and making a pinging sound, but the homebot shows no reaction, not an ounce of emotion.

“Doesn’t even hurt, does it? How the fuck could it?” Susie says, breathlessly.

Sonny rises to its full height.

“Miss Susie, I…”

“I’m going to be late. Bring the car round.”

coming out on May 15

e-book available for pre-order

“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/

Colin O’Sullivan wins the “Prix Mystère de la critique” in France for “Killarney Blues”

March 26, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Congratulations to Colin O’Sullivan, Winner of a prestigious crime fiction award in France: the Prix Mystère de la critique!

Previous winners include:

Don Winslow, Daniel Woodrell, Dennis Lehane, Boris Akunin, Donald E. Westlake, Henning Mankell, James Ellroy, Michael Connelly, Thomas Harris, and many other fabulous writers from around the world.

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/

“A gem for real noir fans” – a new review of BORDERLAND NOIR

February 26, 2018

BetimesBooksNow

Original review published on February 25, 2018 here: http://nudge-book.com/blog/2018/02/borderland-noir-edited-by-craig-mcdonald/

I came across this anthology when I was looking into a feature on Mexican crime fiction, also published this month on BookNoir. I’m glad I did because there is some fine writing here; there is a genuine connection between the stories based at La Frontera, the border. Equally there is a decent variety of interests, style and purpose in these tales. Naturally I have some favourites but I found each piece engaging and thought-provoking, for the main part the fiction is edgy, exciting and original. I think this is a gem for real noir fans.

McDonald has collated eleven short stories, a couple of excerpts from longer works and two short essays. Borderland Noir has contributions from Ken Bruen, James Sallis, Sam Hawken, Martín Solares and several other respected crime writers.

“All roads lead to borderlands of one sort or another”, says Craig McDonald in his introduction. La Frontera has a mystical hold on the imagination of the crime reader, it’s not so much the reality as the myth. “That delicious, dark-eyed myth of the border”, Tom Russell (song writer). The border conjures images of The Day of the Dead, Narcotraficantes, refugees, mariachi and the north/south divide (the rich and the poor). McDonald is keen to point out that borders are a state of mind, it’s not just the physical border, it’s not just about a place or a geographical location. You can imagine it even if you’ve never been to the borderlands.

These pieces reflect on people’s experience as refugees, economic migrants, victims and perpetrators as well as on their desire and desperation. Wider themes are memory, history, corruption and crime – the value of life, and it’s infinite variety along the border. What the frontier does to people and the light we see them in. Villains include a rapist, people slavers, right-wing border guards and vigilantes. These stories are influenced by the best noir traditions, by writers like James M. Cain, novels like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre and literary writers like Graham Greene.

Coyote’s Ballad by Mike MacLean deals with two mules (people smugglers), Cruz and Miguel, transporting ten pollos (chickens/people), across the border to sell. Humans as commodities. A young girl is raped and murdered. Rough justice is served but not for the sake of the girl, for greed and for expediency.

To Have To Hold by Ken Bruen (an Irish man surely knows about borders!). Charlene is a mad Johnny Cash fan and she is in a pickle for killing a man.

Trailer dear Fuego by Garnett Elliott. Tench beats a prisoner to make a point for the inmates and the other guards, to establish that ‘the jungle’ has enforcement if not law. Actions have unforeseen consequences in a case of poetic justice.

Reading the Footnotes by John Stickney deals with two men in a car, Federal Agents or killers or both. Postulating on Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and echoes of Breaking Bad.

The Work of Wolves by Bradley Mason Hamlin. Devin is pondering the nature of evil. Talking about getting away from his family, going to Universidad, all the while torturing and murdering a man who can’t escape and has to listen to his rambling monologue.

Traven by Martin Solares is an homage to Ben Traven, writer of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

Sam Hawken deals with a man murdered in his hotel room with a six-inch stiletto and Tom Russell muses on murder and recent history around Ciudad Juárez.

There are two brilliant essays. One on Touch of Evil, the Orson Welles movie, and the other on Pancho Villa, revolutionary and bandit. Zeltserman tells the story of one of the great noir movies, a tale that happens across the border. Vargas, Charlton Heston, a narcotics investigator in Mexico, witnesses a murder. A businessman and his stripper girlfriend are blown up in their car. As the explosion occurred on the American side of the border Hank Quinlan is called in to investigate, Orson Welles. Marlene Dietrich is brothel owner Tanya. Quinlan frames a boy but he turns out to be guilty, Vargas knows he is framed. A battle for the truth develops between the two men. Dietrich delivers the classic noir line at the end of the film:

“He was some kind of a man. What does it matter what you say about People?”

Pancho Villa is a potted history of the notorious bandit, raising his own army, his role in the revolution, decline into banditry, raids on the US, falling out with other leaders, tawdry death. Short but not lacking in insight.

Both are excellent encapsulations of important border stories.

The anthology is sectioned into North, South and on the Border. The tales are spare; noir prose, short meaningful stories, pithy dialogue and all direct to the point. This is the heart of noir. Darkly entertaining, a really interesting mix of stories and essays.

Paul Burke

 

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.

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 3)

December 14, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Hadley Colt, author of Permanent Fatal Error and The Red-Handed League

Forget Nancy Drew: Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise was my Christmas-gift light-bulb moment of finding a thriller series with a strong female lead, and inspiring my own heroine-driven novels for Betimes Books.

Colin O’Sullivan, author of Killarney Blues and The Starved Lover Sings

This is a big shout-out to my relatives back in Kerry who spoil me and my family in Japan at every Christmas and on birthdays. One of my favourites was a lovely edition of Possessed of a Past: A John Banville Reader, which my benevolent cousin, Martina, also got signed by the great writer. I’ve been a Banville admirer since first reading The Book of Evidence in 1989, and this anthology is a wonderful volume to occasionally dip into and savour the superb stylings of an Irish prose master.

Sam Hawken, author of La Frontera

Sam HawkenEasily the best book gift I ever received was for Christmas in the mid-‘90s, when my girlfriend at the time gave me a copy of a first edition Ace paperback (1970) of Swords and Deviltry, signed by the late Fritz Leiber himself. What a treasure!

Richard Kalich, author of Central Park West Trilogy

The first US edition of Albert Camus’ The Fall (published by Alfred A. Knopf in 1957) given to me on no particular occasion by my twin brother. He bought it with his gambling winnings…

 

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 2)

December 13, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Patricia Ketola, author of Dirty Pictures

One Christmas, when I was about ten years old, I received a copy of R. L. Stevenson’s Treasure Island. The book was an unusual choice for a little girl, but I was so thrilled by the marvellous tale of adventure that I could not put it down.  Jim Hawkins and Long John Silver captured my imagination and I wanted to join them on the high seas and participate in their quest for treasure. Treasure Island is such a vivid and stimulating work that it’s still with me after all these years.

Craig McDonald, author of the Hector Lassiter series

Many years ago, at the height of my book collecting period, my wife handled contact with Scorpion Press in the UK when I was ordering a signed and numbered edition of James Ellroy’s memoir, My Dark Places. That same Christmas, she surprised me with the far rarer lettered edition, of which only 15 were produced.

Kevin Stevens, author of Reach the Shining River

When I was eleven years old, my father gave me a beautifully illustrated leather-bound edition of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, by Mark Twain. I read the novel then, have read it many times since, and it remains for me a touchstone of wisdom and great storytelling.

Les Edgerton, author of The Death of Tarpons

The best book gift I’ve ever received, I’ve received perhaps two dozen times. Same book. I have a pile of hardcover copies of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, my favorite book. Most of my friends know it’s my favorite book and so for years I keep receiving various copies of it. And, I love each and every one of them!

Fionnuala Brennan, author of The Painter’s Women

It is not easy to choose the best book present I ever received as what was best then I might not regard as the best now. However, I have chosen a book which I received many years ago because I remember it well and think many of its lessons are relevant today.  The book is Barbara Tuchman’s The March of Folly (Knopf, 1984).  She writes of what she terms ‘follies’, the paradoxes of history, from the Trojan War to Vietnam.  Tuchman (1917-1989) was not an academic historian and perhaps that is why her books, while they could be faulted for not being sufficiently rigorous, were widely read and won her two Pulitzer prizes.

To be continued…

Christmas nostalgia : Our authors about the best book gift they have ever received (Part 1)

December 12, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Jackie Mallon, author of Silk for the Feed Dogs

It was a copy of The Dud Avocado by Elaine Dundy. A certain someone knew I’d appreciate the paperback’s many idiosyncrasies: the title, so goofy and slapstick-sounding, in direct contrast to the elegant Hitchcockian blond stretched out nude on the cover in an image by Erwin Blumenfeld, a fashion photographer of the 40s and 50s. Published in 1958, in the tradition of the Henry James/Edith Wharton ‘American abroad’ stories, it describes the Parisian exploits of a 21-year-old Missouri native, unleashed with reckless abandon on the bistros and champagne bars off the Champs-Élysées. And he was right. What’s not to love?

     Sean Moncrieff, author of The Angel of the Streetlamps

I must have been thirteen or fourteen and I was given a copy of The Catcher in the Rye. I read it during the quiet days between Christmas and the New Year, and it was revelatory. There was no such thing as YA fiction back then, but here was a character not much older than me and who also seemed to feel that there was something ‘wrong’ with the world around them; or with themselves. Or both. I hadn’t known that fiction could do that: and I’ve been chasing that dragon ever since.

Donald Finnaeus Mayo, author of Francesca and The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal

I was given a copy of Bruce Carter’s B Flight as a boy and have since returned to it numerous times and read it to both of my sons. An astonishing story of love and war that resonates with a deceptive simplicity, and a final sentence any author would kill for. A real lost gem well overdue for rediscovery.

David Hogan, author of The Last Island

David HoganMaybe it was because the novels had to do with the decadent and entitled British upper class, which I generally have less interest in than a sloth’s synaptic processes.  Or perhaps it was the author’s name: Could the so-called Edward St. Aubyn be expected to write prose that was any less burdensome?  So I resisted, despite myself, and despite the reviews and awards and the fact that time after time the books were recommended and prominently displayed at my local bookstore.  I was strangely conflicted, however.  I wanted to read them, and talked about reading them, and once or twice perused a page or two, but dared no further until one fine day my wife slapped Never Mind on the kitchen table and said, “Maybe this will finally shut you up.”  It did.  I tore through the other four Patrick Melrose novels in quick succession and wondered what had caused my great resistance in the first place.  I now think it was the ‘St.’ in his name, which seems the height of pretension.

To be continued…

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

 

Union Club launch for The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal

June 7, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

Donald Finnaeus Mayo new novel is available HERE

Donald Finnaeus Mayo

Last night saw the official launch of The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal by Donald Finnaeus Mayo at the Union Club in London’s Greek Street. Family, friends, figures from the world of publishing as well as guests from many walks of life gathered at the event to chat with each other and receive signed copies from the author.

With the horrifying events of the past few weeks events on everyone’s minds, the issues raised in the novel have seldom been more pertinent. How do we effectively counter terrorist atrocities that threatens us all, and to what lengths is the state justified in going in order to protect its citizens?

20170605_191636_1496740879073_resized Donald Finnaeus Mayo signing copies of his latest novel “The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal” at the Union Club in London’s Soho

We’d like to thank everyone who came to the event, and to the Union Club for hosting such a fabulous evening.

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Video extract from “The Starved Lover Sings”

May 25, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

This novel is O’Sullivan’s second, after Killarney Blues, published by Betimes Books in 2013. It takes place in a world transformed by disaster: earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, nationalist and corporate mergers, roaming wolves. The Starved Lover Sings is a fever dream of a world at the end of its rope.

Our protagonist, and in many chapters our narrator, is Tombo, a PE teacher and soccer referee.

In this excerpt, our antagonist is one of the two teenage girls, called Ferocity and Velocity, or Tink and Tank, or Weal and Woe, or Tooth and Nail, or Bado and Sado — whatever suits them at the moment — who develop an obsession with Tombo and decide he’s “the one”…

 

New release: “The Insider’s Guide to Betrayal”

May 15, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The second novel from Donald Finnaeus Mayo, author of Francesca, is an unlikely love story between an undercover intelligence officer and an IRA activist. While the novel is set in the 1980s, its theme has been placed into sharp focus by recent investigations and court cases concerning the controversial practice of  undercover policing.

 

 

 

New release: A wildly original cautionary tale from Colin O’Sullivan

April 18, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

The Starved Lover Sings

Fall under the spell of Colin O’Sullivan’s distinctive narrative voice.

O’Sullivan’s writing is striking.

Admire the at once precise and experimental nature of his prose, its energy and daring.

Enjoy it despite its darkness – and be impressed with it.

 

For bloggers and reviewers: please contact us to receive a free review copy.

“Silk for the Feed Dogs” at the Franco-Irish Literary Festival

March 30, 2017

BetimesBooksNow

This Friday, March 31st, the 2017 Franco-Irish Literary Festival begins and will continue right through the weekend. Organised by Alliance Française and the Cultural Service of the French Embassy in Ireland, this annual festival celebrates the unique relationship between Ireland, France and other francophone nations through highlighting the work of their writers.

With fashion as the theme of this year’s festival, Betimes Books’ own Jackie Mallon had her first novel, Silk for the Feed Dogs, selected to be included.

The novel and one of Jackie Mallon’s illustrations in the window of International Books, a book shop in Dublin

Silk for the Feed Dogs follows Kat Connolly’s first steps as a fashion designer after she leaves Central St Martin’s School in London. Kat’s career brings her from one major fashion capital to another and, as an Irish girl trying to make her way in the international fashion industry, Kat not only encounters plenty of culture shock, but also finds herself having to compete for a spot with people who aren’t afraid to cut down those in their path. Based on her own experiences as a globetrotting fashion designer, Mallon humorously shares with us what it was like to work in this industry as an Irishwoman from Co. Tyrone.

As part of the Franco-Irish Literary Festival, Mallon will be speaking at a panel discussion on Saturday, April 1st at 12.15pm in Dublin Castle. We would love to see you there on Saturday to hear Mallon discuss fashion and writing with French writer, critic and film director Frédéric Beigbeder and Irish journalist Deirdre McQuillan, as well as her experience writing Silk for the Feed Dogs.

But for now, to celebrate this wonderful achievement, we would like to (re-)introduce you, to some of the colourful characters from Mallon’s debut novel.

Kat

Ever since she was a little girl, Kat has never followed the rest of the crowd. As a child growing up on a farm in rural Ireland, Kat was just as content feeding cows as crafting tiaras out of sweets and colouring pencils.

Kat and Jean. © Jackie Mallon

 “…my ‘rainbow tiara’, constructed of three tiers of Caran d’Ache pencils adorned with clusters of M&Ms and trailing ribbons. Da laughed as the calf lapped contentedly at the candy, the ribbons tickling his nose, making him snort.”

The same individualistic spirit follows her to London and Milan when she begins her career as a fashion designer. Tired of copying other people’s designs in her first job in London, Kat makes a sudden decision to follow her friend, Edward, to Milan. Kat finds Italy’s fashion capital to be teeming with artists and fashionistas – but which are friend and which are foe? In the highly competitive fashion world, will Kat be able to distinguish between who she can and cannot trust?

Edward

Edward. © Jackie Mallon

Edward and Kat did not get off to the best start. When they first met at Central St Martin’s School, Edward made sure to demarcate a boundary line on their shared desk, with none of Kat’s fly-away sketches or rolling pencils permitted to trespass.

Despite the chilliness of this first encounter, the pair strike up an enduring friendship, built on their dry sense of humour, taste for the eclectic, and determination to succeed in spite of the naysayers.

“He sparkled from wherever he was in the room. The sequined head of Debbie Harry — actual size — emblazoned the left boob and shoulder of his t-shirt, silver discs flashing like a smashed heart of glass.”

As their careers progress in Europe’s fashion capitals and they grapple with shrewd landlords, exploitative bosses, and the might of the continental male, their friendship means they always have each other to fall back on.

Ginevra

Lionesses. © Jackie Mallon

“She was one of those women: the ones that intimidated me just passing them in the street, a lioness.”

Lioness – this is Kat’s word for the beautiful, confident women she sees every day in Milan. Ginevra, her Italian roommate, is just such a creature; her dainty frame may lead you to believe she’s a delicate flower, but in fact she’s a no-nonsense woman with her eye on the prize. Her prize? A strong Italian husband.

“With her tumbling tresses and prominently displayed bosom, she called to mind a saloon madam stepping between two cowboys who were brawling over one of her ‘girls’.”

With experience searching high and low for the ideal man, and having met one too many bambinos and Lotharios, Ginevra is well-trained to be Kat’s cultural advisor on the Italian male.  Cocky or passionate? Or both? Kat’s at a loss. But Ginevra can help with that.

Massimiliano

Massimiliano. © Jackie Mallon

“They seemed to dance with a fire just behind the pupil. His black hair spiked every which way and his wide smile looked almost sinister outlined by a thick goatee like the ones people draw on posters at bus stops.”

The barman from Atomic who stares at Kat every time she’s there. Massimiliano looks like a cross between a wild pirate and a mysterious rock star, and it doesn’t take him long to grab Kat’s attention. But how will this Irish girl deal with his advances? With Ginevra’s vast wisdom at the back of her mind, can Kat work out whether Massimiliano is someone she can trust, or whether he is just another Lothario in it for the thrill?

Lynda

“She was addressing a blond, middle-aged woman in a long coat and green gloves. It was an expensive coat that had led the life of an inexpensive one.”

Having missed out on featuring her designs in the graduate fashion show, Kat doesn’t feel very confident about her job prospects after college. While roaming through a clothes market in London, Kat comes across Lynda, her first boss. At first, Lynda and her design business look like the image of success, but not long into her job at Lynda Winter Designs, Kat begins to wonder what exactly she has gotten herself into. How long can she put up with Lynda’s ever-changing mood and love of pitting employees against each other?

Adriani

Adriani, Eva and Kat. © Jackie Mallon

A visionary. A shining beacon of fashion. One of the most renowned designers in the world – and Kat managed to get a job with him.

No one, including Kat, can understand how she stumbled across a position at the illustrious House of Adriani. Rude and unreasonable, Adriani does not warm to Kat at first; in actual fact, he treats her exactly the way he treats the rest of his employees.

“He’s like a child responding to a tone of voice but paying no attention to the words. You see, he’s so removed from the real world, he has no idea what’s going on.”

The difference though is that Kat has never been one to fall at the feet of another. Stubbornly refusing to become another one of his submissive “Adroids”, Kat has to find a way of keeping true to herself while keeping her job at the same time.

“The Adroids clucked approval at Signor Adriani’s every decision: if he said ‘white’, it was met with enthusiastic nods; if he abruptly changed to ‘black’, they chorused anew in the affirmative. When he talked down to them, they agreed wholeheartedly”.

Arturo and Paola

In Kat’s eyes, Arturo, the Creative Director of the House of Adriani, and Paola, his co-conspirator, closely resemble phantoms.

“Arturo and Paola floated silently by like two characters from a Japanese horror movie, pale faces gazing alertly through the glass. Both wore black, their bottom halves billowing.”

It seems to her that they lurk ominously around every corner, intent on proving to Adriani that she is an imposter undeserving of sharing their workplace. Arturo and Paola are Adroids through and through; they shower Adriani with praise and are hostile to anyone else’s ideas. But a fresh insight was exactly why Kat was hired. How is she going to be effective at her job while fending off Arturo’s and Paola’s repeated attacks?