DECLAN BURKE INTERVIEW: CRIME ALWAYS PAYS

Author of Slaughter's Hound, Absolute Zero Cool, Eightball Boogie, & The Big O...

Those of you who know me well would be aware that I have a brother called Declan. Extremely creative, a devoted dad of three pixie girls and someone who never minded a good time, he was named by my mum because of her love of all things Irish. 

Declan Burke, on the other hand, is an awarded Irish crime writer is a devoted storyteller, as well as an equally devoted dad. Described by Lee Childs as "A fine writer at the top of his game", I discovered Declan while rambling through Twitter one day. I pronounced him an interesting find and got in touch. 

We decided to do a double blog interview - so here is the fellow, on why, for him, crime always pays.

1.     Why does crime always pay?

If crime didn’t pay, the prisons would be empty and criminal-types would be otherwise engaged – in politics, maybe. As WR Burnett once wrote, crime is but a left-handed form of human endeavour.  

2.     You’ve written four crime novels and edited/co-edited two thus far. How has your research / writing process changed?

I’m afraid I do very little research, and only when I absolutely have to. I’m not convinced that most readers are especially concerned that every detail must be 100% perfect, although some are. It’s more important that the story is plausible than technically correct, I think, and nothing slows a story down more than too much unnecessary detail. And there’s always the worry that any research you do will simply confound what it is you’re trying to say. A nightmare, that.

3.     Tell me about your technique for the marketing / writing juggle. What works?

Very little works, I have to say. I’m useless at ‘marketing’, in part because I don’t really care about it in the same way I care about the writing. It’s also very difficult to persuade someone to read a book against their will – everyone had way too much of that at school. Mainly I’m interested in writing the best book(s) I can, and hopefully over the years the ripple effect will come into play.

4.     What’s the first crime novel you ever read and how did it make you feel?

I read loads of Enid Blyton mysteries as a kid, and quite a lot of Agatha Christie novels as a teenager, but when I was 16 or thereabouts, I picked up William Goldman’s Marathon Man without realising what I was letting myself in for. It blew me away. I honestly couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve borrowed / stolen from that book for my own stuff. Nowadays I appreciate Goldman for his ability to tell brilliant stories in any number of genres. Marathon Man, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Princess Bride, All the President’s Men – each one is a stone cold classic.

5.     Which author or book set you on your own writing journey?

That would have to be Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep. I read it after watching the movie as part of a film studies course I did in college, and the very first paragraph felt like coming home. I hadn’t known you were allowed to write like that. My first book, Eightball Boogie, was a homage to (aka rip-off of) Chandler’s style, as so many first novels are. It’s hard to look at Eightball now without wincing, but it’s the book that got me started.

6.     Who’s your favourite Aussie crime writer?

Apologies if this sounds too obvious, but I’ll have to say Peter Temple. The Broken Shore is a wonderful novel.

7.     What are you working on now?

I’ve just sent off my latest book to the publisher, so I’m (koff) ‘between books’ at the moment. I’m working in fits and starts on plotting the new book, which is set on Crete, and trying to rediscover the bloody-mindedness it takes to start into a new book. It’s a struggle. This one is buried a long way down.

8.     You write crime, but what do you watch or listen to in your downtime?

I’m a freelance journalist, and one of my gigs is as a movie reviewer, so I get to watch quite a lot of films. When it comes to TV, I’m happy to switch off my brain and watch sit-coms, football, documentaries about a whole range of stuff. In terms of music, I spend a lot of time at the desk, and find it hard to focus if the music I’m listening to has lyrics. So I listen to a lot of classical / instrumental music, although for the most part it’s little more than background sound.

9.     Which fictional character most resembles you?

I’d like it to be Philip Marlowe. If I’m entirely honest, Winnie the Pooh.

10.  What inspires your stories?

Other books, really. If I come across a way of storytelling that really strikes a chord, I’ll try to adapt that to my own notion of how I’d like the world to be. My own stories are generally variations on the ordinary guy who finds himself in an extraordinary situation, and makes the best of his limited abilities. The Odyssey is probably the basic template.

10. Use three words to describe your writing space.

Big brown desk.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Declan Burke has published four novels: Eightball Boogie (2003), The Big O (2007), Absolute Zero Cool (2011) and Slaughter’s Hound (2012). Absolute Zero Cool was shortlisted in the crime fiction section for the Irish Book Awards, and received the Goldsboro / Crimefest ‘Last Laugh’ Award for Best Humorous Crime Novel in 2012. Slaughter’s Hound was shortlisted in the Crime Fiction category for the 2012 Irish Book Awards. Declan is also the editor of Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (2011), and the co-editor, with John Connolly, of Books to Die For (2012), which won this year’s Agatha Award for Best Non-Fiction. He hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays.

And you can read my interview on the Crime Always Pays blog here. 

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