Friday, January 20, 2017

Rain Dogs Up For The Edgar

My novel Rain Dogs is up for the 2017 Edgar Award and I'm thrilled to bits. I'm up for the best paperback original Edgar for the 2nd year in a row. Wow. Rain Dogs really seems to have made an impression on people. I believe it's the only novel out there to have been shortlisted for The Ned Kelly Award, The Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, The Dagger Award and now the Edgar which are four of the most prestigious awards in my genre. 
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This book is truly the little engine that could. It's been a long hard road for me to get this series noticed especially in America. Unless you're a reader of that fabulous newspaper The Boston Globe you won't have read a single review of Rain Dogs anywhere in the US and unless you came to see me at the Kinokuniya bookstore you wont have heard me read. (A very famous American mystery bookstore refused me a reading point blank because they said I wouldn't get the punters in. Yah boo sucks to them.) Anyway this isn't the time for my habitual glass half empty bullshit. I'm up for the bloody Edgar and that's a sweet thing. 
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Thanks to all my loyal blog readers, book readers and audiobook listeners! Nil carborundum illegitimis 

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Q&A For Mystery Tribune Magazine




Your new story is indeed an intriguing legal thriller.


Is it? Well, I guess if you’re saying it is then it must be. Thank you.

What inspired you to write this book?

I wanted to write a legal thriller that was nothing to do with law, lawyers, courts or jurisprudence of any kind. I’m not sure that’s been done before in the legal thriller genre and I think you’ll agree I pulled it off intriguingly.


What was the most challenging part of writing the story? How long did it take?

Intriguingly I have a fig tree in my back yard and the top of tree is where I keep my manual typewriter. It’s was very challenging to climb the tree every morning with my dodgy left knee, climb down again with the typewriter and then return it to the top of the tree every night. That was definitely the most challenging part. How long did it take? Well actually it took most of the day just to get down from the tree again because the view was so nice from up there and I was afraid of falling.


Do you usually conduct field research or receive council from legal experts to get the details right?

I studied with the intriguing legal scholar Ronald Dworkin at Oxford, however he has since passed away so now I usually convene a council of legal experts in The Hague and we pour over the manuscript together. I also have a working relationship with all 8 United States Supreme Court judges and their clerks. Ruth Bader Ginsberg can be a bit of pest with all her texts, Instagram pics and instant messages but I guess that goes with the territory.

 How would you go about doing that?

I would go about it in an intriguing way.

 What writers have been your inspiration in your writing career?

Only the most intriguing  ones.

Do you have another book in the works?

No but I have a pamphlet in the plumbing.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Review This Book....

Do me a favour mate and leave me a review on Amazon, Audible your blog or Good Reads. I'm not like PBS or NPR, I only ever ask this of you blog readers once a year. And it really helps. Amazon.co.uk and Good Reads are open for review now and Audible will be open for review in March when that version is released. Some sneaky characters have been able to leave reviews on Amazon.com as well. Dont know how they did that, but they did.
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If everyone who reads this blog left me a review I'd have more reviews on Amazon than Lee or Denny Lehane so go on knock yourself out. Amazon.co.uk is here. Join the fight.
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Thank you very much.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

My Sixth Starred Booklist Review In A Row

No, this is not a reblog. Last month I had a post with the headline: my sixth starred Kirkus Review in a row. Starred reviews in Booklist are also rare. This is my sixth in a row:

Issue: February 1, 2017 Police at the Station and They Don't Look Friendly. McKinty, Adrian (Author) Mar 2017. 320 p. Prometheus/Seventh Street, paperback, $15.95. (9781633882591). e-book, $11.99. (9781633882607).

*starred*

The chronicles of Sean Duffy could not be contained in Adrian McKinty’s Troubles trilogy, and this is the sixth novel in this excellent series (after Rain Dogs, 2016). For readers who have not shared in the rapture, there is no time like the present to join. In Royal Ulster Constabulary Detective Duffy, McKinty has created a Chandleresque character who goes down the mean streets of Belfast, “a man of honor—by instinct, by inevitability.” He is a conflicted man in a very conflicted 1980s Belfast, where warring factions both demand protection money from drug dealers and execute them under the auspices of DAADD (Direct Action against Drug Dealers).

Duffy’s investigation into the death of a pusher takes him down some dangerous roads, always checking under his Beemer for a mercury tilt switch bomb before he careens off in it. Like his literary hero, Jules Maigret, Duffy considers himself “thoroughly existentially jaded.” But he is also very much like his TV idol, Sonny Crockett, from Miami Vice. [Brenda: How do you go from this tranquility to that violence? Crockett: I usually take the Ferrari.] They each operate effectively in their own demimonde and are supported by high-caliber bromance. Driving it all is McKinty’s compelling literary style: Duffy’s first-person narrative and internalized musing are lyrical and lengthy at first, then reduced intermittently to terse one sentence statements that move the story along at an astonishing pace. A must read for fans of Stuart Neville and Celtic noir.

— Jane Murphy

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

The Sunday Times reviews Sean Duffy #6: Police At The Station

Duffy 6 was reviewed last weekend by the Sunday Times. This is the very first newspaper review and it isn't too spoilerific so go ahead feel free to read.


Saturday, January 7, 2017

Big Thrill Q&A

Dear authors,
Congratulations again on your upcoming release. Although you were not one of the 10 authors selected for an interview through the (new) and random lottery, we're pleased to tell you that your book will still be featured in the March issue of The Big Thrill. If you haven't already, please send your responses to the questions on the submission form so that we can build your "landing page." In addition to your responses, the page will include a picture of your new release, along with the jacket copy blurb provided.

Bellow (sic) you will find the questions for your reference. 
1) What do you hope readers will take away from this book?
2) How does this book make a contribution to the genre?
3) Was there anything new you discovered as you wrote this book?
4) No spoilers, but what can you tell us about your book that we won’t find in the jacket copy or the PR material?
5) What authors or books have influenced your career as a writer, and why?

1) I believe readers will take away a deep seated feeling of anger that will turn into full blown rage at the waste of their time and money in reading my new novel. I hope their growing fury motivates them to demand their money back from the publisher or possibly ignites a Michael Kohlhaas style over reaction that leads to the fall of the imprint, the publishing house, the Republic and capitalism itself. 

2) I trust that this book will kill the genre stone dead and discourage future efforts along this road. 

3) Yes, I discovered a new continent south west of Tasmania but that's all I'm saying about it here because I want to keep its riches (largely edible kelp) to myself.

4) One PR man wrote the following (but they wouldn't let his copy go on the jacket): "It's clearly the unedited ravings of a lunatic - Do Not Publish."

5) Philip K Dick's period when he wrote 12 novels in six months under the influence of acid, horse tranquilisers and meth amphetamines. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Police At The Station And They Don't Look Friendly

Sean Duffy #6, Police At The Station, is released in the UK and Ireland today. If it's your sort of thing you can get it at all the usual places. American, Australian and Audio editions will be forthcoming in the coming months...5000 experience points and my eternal gratitude if you leave me a review s'where. 
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Coimhead fearg fhear na foighde.


Saturday, December 24, 2016

Why Carrickfergus Is The Happiest Place On Earth


Far and away my most popular post of the year for some reason...
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According to the British National Statistics Bureau the happiest place in the United Kingdom is Northern Ireland. Even more surprisingly the happiest place in Northern Ireland is the borough of East Antrim. In other words Carrickfergus is the place in the entire United Kingdom where residents are most content and happiest. If you're a math geek like me you can explore these stats even further. The happiest country in the world with a happiness rating of 7.7 is, famously, Denmark. But East Antrim's happiness rating is 8.3 according to the most recent stats. The methodology of the surveys is slightly different but the results are pretty clear: Carrickfergus is actually the place on planet Earth where residents are the most contented. Not Hawaii, not the Rive Gauche, not the vineyards of Northern California, not Disneyland. No, Carrickfergus. According to the Guardian newspaper even the civil servants reporting on this survey found this all very hard to believe. But I believe it and I have some theories as to why this is so: 

1. The strong sense of community. Go shopping with my sisters or my mum and you'll be there all day. They know everybody and everybody knows them. When I lived on Coronation Road I knew every single person on the street and could have dinner at anybody's house and any of those kids could have dinner at my house. You want to know why the Troubles were so terrible for so long? Because it was a family dispute and those things are the worst. 
2. We know our history. Every kid in Northern Ireland knows where he came from and his context in the history of Ireland and the world. How can you not when there's graffiti everywhere telling us to "Remember 1690" or "Remember 1916" etc. Knowing that you are part of a narrative that stretches all the way back to the Great Rift Valley gives one a tremendous feeling of comfort and well being. There's a pub in Carrick that is 500 years old. The castle has been standing there for 800 years. We also remember our recent history. A lot of people walking the streets feel like Private Joker at the end of Full Metal Jacket. Everybody that lived through the Troubles is just relieved and grateful that those desperate days are behind us. 
3. Everyone plays an instrument. They just do. Its part of the culture. And when you've got the blues you can play the blues and that helps. 
4. Kids in school are forced to memorise poetry. That helps too when you're feeling depressed. Trust me. 
5. Sense of humour. The worst thing you can say of someone from Norn Irn is that "they have no sense of humour". That I'm afraid is a deal breaker for potential boyfriends, girlfriends or spouses. Pretty much everything else can be tolerated but if you're humourless you are toast. Trust someone who has lived in 14 different cities in 4 continents - Belfast people have the driest, dourest, blackest sense of humour on Earth. Thats what EVERY single Troubles movie has gotten wrong. The shocking sentimental bullshit music and the lack of jokes. 
6. The sense of humour again. This cannot be overemphasised. You know why my Duffy novels are funny? Because they are mimetic. 
7. Sang froid. We don't take ourselves or life too seriously. We like to think we keep a cool head in a crisis. cf Thomas Andrews, Lord Alanbrooke, Blair Mayne etc. etc.
8. The food and drink. Much maligned but maligned without reason. An Ulster fry is by far the greatest breakfast on Earth. A pint of Guinness or porter in my sister's pub, Ownies, is surely the greatest drink on the planet. Irish stew? The trout, the salmon? One of the best chippies in the world (The Victoria HotSpot in Victoria). And you should try my mum's baked goods...
9. The scenery. Up there on the high bog behind the Glens is God's Own Country and there's a reason why all the most spectacular shots in Game of Thrones were filmed on the Antrim Coast.  
10. Mustn't grumble. Over the water people whinge about bloody everything. In Ulster people are made of sterner stuff. Visit someone in Belfast on their death bed and this is the sort of thing you'll hear. "Ach, Archie, they say you have a week to live? How are you doing, mate?" "I can't complain."  

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Books of the Year

My favourite 12 books that I read and/or listened to in 2016. Not all of these obviously were published in 2016 but they were new books to me: 


1. The North Water - Ian McGuire 
2. Ready Player One - Ernest Cline 
3. Black Lamb and Gray Falcon - Rebecca West
4. Country Road, A Tree - Jo Baker
5. War Music (complete ed.) - Christopher Logue
6. Symphony for the City of the Dead - MT Anderson
7. An Encyclopedia of Myself - Jonathan Meades
8. Days Without End - Sebastian Barry
9. Rogue Heroes - Ben MacIntyre
10. Chanson douce - Leïla Slimani  
11. Dreamland - Sam Quinones
12. Hillbilly Elegy - JD Vance

Two of my favourite novels of the year have an interesting Queens University Belfast connection: The North Water's hero attends medical school at QUB and we get the occasional Belfast flashback; Jo Baker studied English at QUB where she encountered the works of Samuel Beckett, hearing from her tutor there that Beckett's experiences in WW2 were an influence on his plays and fiction.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

My Sixth Starred Review In A Row

POLICE AT THE STATION AND THEY DON'T LOOK FRIENDLY *[STARRED REVIEW]*

starred reviews are rare. this is my sixth in a row. Kirkus Jan1 2017

Author: Adrian McKinty
Review Issue Date: January 1, 2017
Online Publish Date: December 17, 2016
Publisher:Seventh Street/Prometheus
Pages: 340
Publication Date: March 7, 2017
ISBN ( Paperback ): 978-1-63388-259-1
ISBN ( e-book ): 978-1-63388-260-7
Category: Fiction
Classification: Mystery

Detective Inspector Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Rain Dogs, 2016, etc.) tries to cut back on the smoking and do decent police work despite bombs, riots, and bureaucracy.By 1988, the Troubles have turned any high-minded nationalism, loyalist or republican, into little more than a front for drug runners and sociopaths. Still, no one trusts the likes of Duffy, a Catholic taking the king's shilling. When a penny-ante heroin dealer is found dead, the only surprise is that he was shot with a crossbow. For once, the paramilitaries aren't claiming credit for wiping out the scourge of drug dealers (read: their competition), and the silent, untraceable, and perfectly legal crossbow is a devilishly clever murder weapon. The victim's widow, Elena Deauville, has clearly been smuggling their stock in from Bulgaria, and though she's not talking, Duffy knows she knows something. Meanwhile, Duffy's posh, Protestant girlfriend, Beth, wants to move to a posh, Protestant house. When Duffy hesitates, Beth packs herself and their baby off to her parents'. The brass are pushing Duffy to write off the case—no one cares about a dead drug dealer—when suddenly Elena disappears. While Belfast riots, Duffy then uncovers a part of Ulster's bloody history casting its long shadows over his case, as over everything else in this world. McKinty's hero is irreverent, charming, and mordantly, laugh-out-loud funny, and his eclectic personal soundtrack and bitter, pragmatic politics make for vivid period detail.

Kirkus *starred*

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Rain Dogs is The Boston Globe's #1 Mystery of 2016

It's the little engine that could isn't it? Sean Duffy#5, Rain Dogs, has been picked as The Boston Globe's #1 Mystery of 2016. I'm so pleased. With no advertising and no book tour it's a real struggle to get noticed so this kind of thing completely helps. May I also add that in the last 12 months I've been shortlisted for the Edgar Award, Dagger Award, Anthony Award, Theakston Award and the Ned Kelly Award. And, ahem, a couple of weeks ago the great Ian Rankin was on the BBC's Desert Island Books. He picked 6 books to be stranded on a desert island with forever and he chose only 1 mystery: The Cold Cold Ground - the first novel in the Sean Duffy series.  My amazon ranking climbed 35,000 places after that. 
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I am so grateful that so many of you out there appreciate this plucky little series (see below) and the good news is that there will be a new one out in just a few weeks. Ciao. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

20 Funniest Novels Of All Time

Most of the funniest novel ever lists on the internet are completely useless because the list compiler is not well read. For example this list in The Daily Telegraph contains almost no American novels and this one for GQ contains very few British novels. Neither has Michel Houellebecq on there. I am well read however. Too bloody well read. I really need to get out of the house and go for a walk or something. Ok, my list. Some rules I've made for myself: These have to be novels which is why one of the funniest books ever The Innocents Abroad by Mark Twain isn't on the list. I'm pretty loose with my definitions though which is why I allow Hunter Thompson and Jerome K Jerome on there (they claim to be memoirs but are mostly made up). Another rule I have is only 1 book per author otherwise we'd have 15 Waugh and Wodehouse on there, wouldn't we? It's got be funny throughout too. One really funny scene as in Kingsley Amis's Lucky Jim for example just doesn't cut it. I'm also not allowing anything that people say is funny but which actually isn't or perhaps used to be funny but isn't anymore. I've read Gargantua and Pantagruel and they are not funny. Shakespeare's comedies are not funny. Dickens is not funny. Despite what English Lit professors claim Tristram Shandy is wryly amusing but not fucking funny. Maybe they all used to be but humour dates faster than literature which is why they are still great pieces of literature but just not very funny anymore. Don Quixote is another one - terrific novel (esp the self referential post modern 2nd part) but not so hilarious. Some authors who just avoided my top 20 were Don DeLillo, Zadie Smith, Colin Bateman, Christopher Moore, Clive James, Nora Ephron, Jonathan Coe. A final word about my number #1 pick. This is the blackest of black comedies. So funny its actually not funny. Or perhaps so not funny its actually funny. One of those. Most of you will hate it.


20 Puckoon - Spike Milligan
19 The Mezzanine - Nicholson Baker
18 Then We Come To The End - Joshua Ferris
17 Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
16 Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - Hunter S Thompson
15 Portnoys Complaint - Philip Roth
14 Vineland - Thomas Pynchon
13 Guards, Guards - Terry Pratchett
12 The Third Policeman - Flann O'Brien
11 Lanzarote - Michel Houellebecq
10 This Charming Man - Marian Keyes
9 A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
8 The Hitch-hiker's Guide To The Galaxy - Douglas Adams
7 The Code of the Woosters - PG Wodehouse
6 Decline And Fall - Evelyn Waugh
5 Catch 22 - Joseph Heller
4 Three Men In A Boat - Jerome K Jerome
3 Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2 The Dog of the South - Charles Portis
1 The Restraint of Beasts - Magnus Mills

Friday, December 2, 2016

Love, Nina

We're all aware of the TV and film trope of the "magical Negro" a mysterious older black man or woman who dispenses wisdom to square or sometimes racist white folks. Morgan Freeman played a lot of these parts. In Britain they have a similar concept and it's basically the magic working class person. When a member of the upper classes encounters a working class person it can be a field ripe for the magic Negro treatment or, worse, condescending mockery. I despair of these programmes and there are a lot of them because almost all of the UK's cultural product is produced by a super posh privileged minority (which is why they are generally very bad). Previews of the new BBC show Love, Nina seem to suggest that it's about a working class nanny helping super posh people in North London learn about life and love. This is the kind of show I would have run a country mile from especially since Helena Bonham Carter plays one of the posh people. Fortunately for me I didn't see any of the previews. I chanced upon the show changing channels and was immediately captivated by the writing. The writing is fucking brilliant. When you're surfing through the channels you notice how bad the writing is on everything so when you come across good writing by random it really makes an impression. And after 60 seconds of really good dialogue of Love, Nina episode 1 I was bloody hooked. The writing, I learned from the credits, was by Nick Hornby. So that explained that. The acting is also good. No, great, the acting is also great. And the story inverts the magic Negro idea by having Nina learn from the posh people just as they learn from her. It's a two way street. It's a meeting of equal cultures not colonialism. 
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It's also very sweet. The sweetest, gentlest show I've seen since The Detectorists Season 1. It's as British as a decent cup of tea and a plain digestive. And funny, humane, well observed and, um, well, nice. I liked it very much. Look for Love, Nina when you're out channel surfing next time and I think you'll like it too. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

As You Wish - Cary Elwes

I'm at the point in my life where I can read whatever I want without feeling guilty that I should be ploughing through the classics first. I've ploughed through the classics. La chair est triste et j'ai lu tous les livres - ok? So if I wanna read some corny book about the making of The Princess Bride I can, all right? Why do you have to keep bugging me about bloody Silas Marner? Life is too short for Silas bloody Marner! 
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Ahem, where was I. . .oh yes. As You Wish, the making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes. Elwes is a good writer. He cowrote the screenplay for last year's sleeper Elvis and Nixon and his prose is smooth and agreeable sort of like himself with his blue eyes and pretty pretty face. And this entire book is fairly pleasing if you have even a passing interest in how the movie came together. I listened to the audiobook and there were nice little additions from the cast and crew throughout. So it's all fine. 
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But here's the thing. Rob Reiner is an easy going director and everybody got on with everybody else and there were no major problems with the shoot and in the end they produced a pretty good movie. So where's the bloody drama? Much more entertaining are the books and films about the movie shoots that went horribly horribly wrong. Lost Soul, a documentary about the making of The Island of Dr Moreau is a classic. Now that was a movie that knew how to do drama around its production and the story of that movie could make 10 interesting books. Terry Gilliam's famously disastrous The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is another great movie about the making of a movie (that never actually got made). And Werner Herzog's diary about the making of Fitzcarraldo, Conquest of the Useless, might be among the best things he's ever done. 
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The worse it is for the cast and crew the more fun it is for us. So when everybody gets on and it all works out....that leads to, well, As You Wish, an amiable little book about an amiable film. Ok, now back to George bloody Eliot. 
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Thursday, November 24, 2016

Exit, Pursued By A Bear: The North Water by Ian McGuire

"Hull is other people" is a nice gag from a Christopher Hitchens review of Philip Larkin's letters that beautifully sums up The North Water. The book begins in a grim Hull dockyard sometime in the late 1850's with a rape and murder by one Henry Drax who is taking ship on a Hull whaler bound for Greenland. Drax is a harpooner by trade who boards the good ship Volunteer looking for opportunities of every kind. Also on the Volunteer is the Irish ship's surgeon Patrick Sumner who went to medical school in Belfast but who through unlucky circumstance has ended up in Hull. Hull and Belfast then (another echo of Philip Larkin). 
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The North Water is a great read by a new author (at least new to me) Ian McGuire. The characterisations are superb and the language is often very beautiful. The story moves quickly too. It is, as Jerry Lee Lewis liked to say: no filler, all killer. The reviews on the cover are from Martin Amis and Hilary Mantel and people like that and the novel was longlisted for the Booker Prize. I liked it very much too but, and here's the rub, in many ways its really just a Patrick O'Brian novel for people too snobby to read Patrick O'Brian. A philosophical Irish ship's surgeon who is addicted to opium? Check. Encounters with whales and whaling? Check. A shipwreck on an ice flow? Check. A crew divided against itself with a maniac onboard? Check. Climbing inside a bearskin to survive? Check. Return passage on a ship called the Truelove? Check. Now what Mr McGuire is doing here is called a homage and I admire that but for those of you (and you know who you are) who are too stuck up to read the source material I'll point you anyway to Desolation Island/Post Captain/The Far Side of the World/The Wine Dark Sea/The Truelove which are the Aubrey-Maturin novels that cover this material. 
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I'm not knocking The North Water. It's a great book. I am knocking those people who knock Patrick O'Brian as a mere romancier. He's as good a writer as McGuire and he got there first. 

Monday, November 21, 2016

Rogue Heroes

So this is my kind of book. I love Ben MacIntyre's stuff. He did that book Operation Mincemeat about the plan to fool the Nazis about the invasion of Sicily and he did a great documentary on the BBC about that traitorous scum Kim Philby. Before MacIntyre's documentary the BBC had done a couple of other documentaries about what a decent but conflicted chap Philby was, but MacIntyre makes clear that he was an awful person who worshipped Stalin. MacIntyre's war books are guilty pleasures. They're dad books. Sort of like watching Top Gear or The Grand Tour you can't really understand why you're doing it but you feel yourself sucked in. I wasn't going to mention Rogue Heroes here on the blog because I thought it was the sort of thing only I was interested in, but actually The Washington Post just picked this as one of its 10 best books of 2016 so I guess other people might get a kick out of it too. 
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I picked up Rogue Heroes because I wanted to read more about the mad Ulsterman at its heart: Blair (Paddy) Mayne. Blair Mayne was an Irish rugby international and lawyer who discovered in 1939 that he had an extraordinary genius and love for war. He joined the British Army, became a commando and first fought the Vichy French in Lebanon at the famous Battle of the Litani River. (A river I visited in very weird circumstances but that's a story for another time.) Thrown into a Cairo prison for striking a superior officer he was facing court martial and years in a military stockade when David Stirling got him out and asked if he wanted to help form a new organisation called the SAS who were going to strike Rommel's airfields and supply lines hundreds of miles behind the lines in the Sahara desert. Mayne said yes and the two men invented the Special Air Service. Mayne went onto blow up dozens, perhaps hundreds of Luftwaffe planes on a succession of crazy raids all over North Africa. 
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Stirling got captured on one of those raids and taken to Colditz Castle while Mayne's SAS moved to Italy and France blowing up trains, supply dumps and airfields for the rest of the war. Mayne seems to have had the time of his life, never feeling better when he was under fire or facing imminent death. He was a warrior poet like some dude out of the Iliad reading and writing verse while surrounded by enemies trying to kill him. It was peace-time Mayne couldn't handle and at home he went on drinking binges and got himself in fights with all and sundry. This book tells the story of Mayne, Stirling and the SAS from 1940 - 1945. A dad book, yes, but if its sounds like your cup of tea you, like me, will dig it. 

Friday, November 18, 2016

New Website

After 12 years I finally got my own personal website: OFFICIAL ADRIAN MCKINTY 

I think it looks rather nice.


Friday, November 11, 2016

Symphony For The City of the Dead - Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad

Symphony For The City of the Dead by MT Anderson is the kind of book I wish
I'd written. I know the city and I know the subject matter and I know the symphony and if I'd gotten off my arse and gone and done the research I probably could have produced a book about half as good as this one. It's the story of course of Shostakovich's Leningrad Symphony. This was Shostakovich's seventh symphony and his opus #60. It was begun before World War 2 but only finally completed during the extraordinary circumstances of the siege of Leningrad after the German invasion of the Soviet Union. The Wehrmacht's Army Group north pushed right to the edges of the Leningrad (known before and now as St Petersburg) and surrounded it to the south and east while the Nazis' Finnish allies surrounded it to the North. For 900 days the city was completely surrounded and attacked mercilessly. While the city was being bombarded by heavy artillery and bombed relentlessly by the Luftwaffe the greatest Russian composer of the twentieth century Dmitri Shostakovich was working on his masterpiece (one of his masterpieces anyway) in cellars and bomb shelters and occasionally in music rooms and rehearsal spaces. Eventually evacuated first to Moscow and then a safe-ish city on the Volga Shostakovich finished his symphony in early 1942 where it took on a new life as a propaganda piece that toured the world raising awareness of Russia's war effort. 
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MT Anderson unpacks all of this and provides the context for Shostakovich's life and career and explains how his music fitted in or rather didn't fit in to the expectations of the New Order established by the Soviet Union. I was particularly moved by the sections of the book dealing with Stalin's terror. So many of Shostakovich's friends, acquaintances, fellow artists and musicians were randomly dragged off the streets and murdered by Stalin that it's amazing he didn't go mad or kill himself. He almost did go mad when a review written by Stalin himself in Pravda accused him of bourgeois tendencies. Immediately he was made a persona non grata and all the professional music bodies in Russia denounced him. Perhaps he eventually would have been killed by Stalin's NKVD had not war intervened. 
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You can get Symphony For The City of the Dead at all good bookshops and you can listen to Shostakovich's 7th Symphony here

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Belfast Noir Boom

The BBC are really helping me out these days...Last Thursday BBC Radio Ulster had a documentary on what they are calling the "Belfast Noir" or "Nordy Noir" boom. This is what I've been saying for bloody years. The next big thing in crime fiction isn't coming out of Bergen or Bornholm its coming out of Belfast. Many of my old pals are on the doc: Stu Neville, Claire McGowan, Brian McGilloway, Steve Cavanagh etc. I'm on after Stu at the 10 minute mark. For some reason I get to talking about Jessica Fletcher and marzipan and Belfast crime fiction of course. 

You can listen to the whole show, here. It's very entertaining