Wednesday, 17 September 2014

What he said...Did I Really Say That?

Crime and the City...Solution
A friend brought this to my attention.  It is the transcript of a reading and Q&A I gave for the Dublin City Libraries Crime and the City series of lunchtime talks last year.  It's very wierd, reading a transcription of what you've said.  There is something of the deposition about it.  Something of the courtroom and something of that feeling you get when you hear yourself speaking on tape...  Listen to me.  On tape...  On video or iphone or ice-bucket challenge or whatever.

Despite how strange it is to read my own rather rambling verbiage word for word, I actually managed to say a lot that I really stand by, especially in the Q&A part where I talk about writing and editing and researching historical fiction.  It's here if you're interested.

Here's me on researching historical fiction.  Apparently I have a 'fraudulent gadfly's knowledge' of the Irish revolutionary period.  Hmmm...someone shut that guy up!:  

One of the pleasures of being a historical novelist, one of the pleasures and the banes, I suppose because a lot of the research is really fun to do and it’s really interesting and you wouldn’t write about if you weren’t interested in it in the first place. I’m doing a new novel which is not in this series, although I am going back to this series, I’ve found myself reading the diaries of this Pioneer woman – I’m literally falling asleep reading it and I was thinking why do I have to read this? But you do because the great thing about research is it takes the story in a different direction and quite often you think you have a story set and then you come across like the fact that there were female agents and the story goes in a completely different direction. I love that about research. I tend to research widely first and then go and research for things I need in the story specifically. It’s kind of daunting sometimes. I was on the radio with an historian recently and he had a vast, comprehensive knowledge of the subject and I have kind of a fraudulent gadfly’s, you know a magpie’s knowledge of it because fiction writers research to suit the story as much as anything. I could never write a scholarly treatise on the period. But the research suddenly it will throw something up from the dullest, most banal text and you suddenly think, I have to use that. That’s fascinating. Or what often happens too is your story will be going one direction and something you read will confirm it, you know, I wonder if they would have done that? and then suddenly you’ll just fortuitously stumble upon something – they did do that. Thank God!

http://dublincitypubliclibraries.com/story/kevin-mccarthy-transcript

Monday, 5 May 2014

Irregulars: A Virtual Bestseller?

Again, long time, no write...must try harder!

Some nice news a friend brought to my attention: Irregulars is #24 in Bestsellers in Irish Crime in the Kindle Store at the moment.  Very cool.  And I notice it's available for the low, low price of £4.62...

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Irregulars-Sean-OKeefe-Novel-Novels-ebook/dp/B00D7G93ZM/ref=tmm_kin_title_0

The novel is dead. Long live the novel...


At Fingal County Archives in March 14


I thought this piece by Will Self on the imminent demise of the novel in Saturday's Guardian Review section was interesting.  I haven't read a Will Self novel in many years--I see Cock and Bull and Great Apes on my shelf and remember liking them enough at the time; faint praise, I know...-- but his journalism is always insightful and witty when it doesn't try too hard. I particularly liked his essay for Esquire--someone linked it to me; I do not, as a rule, read Esquire--on taking his son to the Download metal festival last year.  (In it, he claimed to have 'liked' System of a Down's performance. If you're forced to 'like' one metal band in a hundred, they are certainly one of the ones to 'like'.)  Like the best columnists, he'll have you nodding your head in agreement in one paragraph and laughing derisively in the next.  Anyway, he says the novel's dead and it's for real this time.  Which begs the question: what in God's name have I been doing for the last year and a half? Answer: researching and writing about a third of a novel which, by Self's reckoning, will be DOA some time next year when it's finished...  Pssst, don't give up the day job, Kev!


The novel's dead?  Not this one...


And if Self is right, then I must be something of a necrophiliac because I'm really enjoying Ronan Bennett's Zugzwang at the moment.  Set in 1914 St Petersberg, it is a literary thriller, an historical crime novel of sorts, involving chess, bolshi radicals, psychoanalysis and anti-semitism.  It is similar, in some ways, perhaps, to the Harris novel, A Gentleman and a Spy, which I wrote about a couple of months ago and has a touch of the Alan Fursts about it as well, which is about the highest praise I can give an historical novel.  Not finished with it yet, but it's a powerful read.  I can't believe I haven't read Bennett before, an Irish writer who writes seriously, about serious things without ever losing sight of his plot or characters. He writes the kind of novels I try to write--with varying degrees of success on my part--and the kind which Will Self has a go at in his article linked above.  Highly recommended.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Researching and Writing Historical Fiction

Hello, folks, long time no write.  Actually, I've been writing a good deal, which is why I've been absent from this blog for the past two months but that's the way it should be, I suppose.  I sometimes wonder where other writers get the time to write any fiction at all what with their voluminous web output on FB, Twitter and the rest, but hey, to each his own.  My time is taken up with the day job, family, sports (my own and the kids'), reading and the writing.
Writing...more important to me than table tennis...but only just

So, mea culpa mucho.  (See, I knew you were angry!)
Beautiful Fingal--The Irish Sea coast at Donabate. It's always sunny
like that, honest!

Anyway, just to let folks know, I've been asked to give a talk for the Fingal County Archives on 'Researching and Writing Historical Fiction.'  It's on Tuesday in Swords and I'm delighted to be doing it as it is for the local county council who, much maligned though county councils are in Ireland these days, are (county council, plural or singular?  hmmm...) really great at maintaining this wonderful part of the world that is County Fingal/North County Dublin.  I'm honoured they asked me.  Come along if you're around.  Details are here!


http://www.independent.ie/regionals/fingalindependent/localnotes/historical-fiction-talk-30018950.html


Monday, 6 January 2014

Irregulars Hits a Best of 2013 List in the USA...Where It Still Ain't Published! (J'accuse!)

Been a long time folks.  Out with the old and in with the new and all that.  Just a quick post here with a link to the Kirkus Reviews site where Irregulars has been chosen as one of J. Kingston Pierce's Top Ten Crime Fiction Reads of 2013.  It's a serious honour as Mr Pierce knows his stuff, being the curator of the seminal Rap Sheet blog.  He's one of the best in the business, is Mr Pierce.  Gracias, sir!


Here's the link:  https://www.kirkusreviews.com/features/postmortem-tagging-my-10-favorite-crime-novels-201/

Zola's Courageous Attack on the Army
for Wrongly Convicting Dreyfuss of Treason
Historical Fiction at its Finest
Also got a chance over the holidays to catch up on some novels I've been wanting to read for a while but wanted to savour.  Any fan of historical fiction could do far worse than Robert Harris's new tome on the Dreyfuss Affair, An Officer and a Spy.
 Much like the story of the assassination of Heydrich in HHhH that I wrote about in a previous post, I knew the bare bones of the Dreyfuss affair--Zola's involvement, the antisemitism rife in the French Army and right wing press at the end of the 19th Century etc.--but I didn't know the details and ultimately, the outcome.  Harris does not invent characters or events in the book--dialogue and some incident, I imagine, but according to his afterward, he sticks as close to the published record as he can to explore the case.  The result is a novel, an historical thriller, that is gripping to the end and at times, very well written.  A totally different approach to historical fiction than that taken by Binet in his HHhH and equally fine in my opinion.  More than one way to skin a novel!


Friday, 29 November 2013

Gigs and Gowns Galore!

Photo: Wanted men....Kevin joins the usual suspects for yesterday's entertaining and thought provoking seminar on Irish Crime fiction at Trinity College.
Eoin McNamee, Conor Brady, Stewart Neville, myself and Michael Russell
on the Historical Crime Fiction Panel at Trinity College's Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival.
I'm the one with the beard...
Well it's been some kind of week for yours truly, I have to say. Saturday was Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival, hosted by Trinity College, where I was lucky enough to be invited to join a panel of writers to discuss Historical Crime Fiction.  It was an honour to be included among the likes of Stewart Neville, Conor Brady, Michael Russell and Eoin McNamee.  As I've written here before, Eoin is one of the best writers in Ireland--in any genre--and he did a great job moderating the panel.  The turnout, as well, was brilliant.  There's many a time I say, 'Oh, yeah, I'll definitely hit that gig/reading/match at 10 am on a Saturday morning and...well...don't.'  Fair play to the folks for turning out and I hope the early morning was worth it.  There were great panels throughout the day, as well as a surprise screening of the yet to be released...Homeland?  Something? I can't remember the name of it though I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Stallone on the pen and Stratham kicking serious amounts of unreconstructed ass...need I say more?  No doubt you'll find it on Netflix soon.

John and Michael Connolly, gentlemen both and a fantastic interview...
They should have used the thrones behind!
But the highlight of the day was John Connolly's interview with Michael Connolly.  Now, one might say that's far too many Connollys in one building (and you'd probably be right) but the interview was insightful, entertaining and warm.  Michael must do hundreds of them and yet John was able to get him to open up in a way--about Bosch, books and jazz, among other things--that felt like he was saying it to an audience for the first time.  It's said that it's a bad idea to meet your heroes.  At the post-gig drinks put on for participants/panelists, I got a chance to do just that and Michael was a gentleman.  People say some mad things, altogether.


Photo: Kevin McCarthy & his wife Regina

Picture copyright of Ger Holland Photography
Me and the Missus at The Bord Gais Energy Book Awards
And then Tuesday was the awards banquet for the Bord Gais Energy Irish Book Awards for which Irregulars was shortlisted in the Crime Fiction Book of the Year category.  Well, Irregulars didn't win--Louise Phillips won for her very fine novel, The Doll's House--but it was brilliant to be shortlisted in such august company.  The shortlisted authors, Jane Casey and William Ryan, both of whom have been nominated before, continued the tradition of the nominated crime writers meeting for a drink before the official drinks and hopefully this will carry on in the future.  The nicest part of the evening for myself and Regina by far, was meeting--some for the first time, others again--the other crime writers.  To my knowledge, none of the other categories does this.  (Can you imagine the celebrity chefs in the Best Cookbook category getting together for canapes?  'These canapes are shit...did you make them?' Meow!)
Some hours after the glitz and glamour and shortly before they shut the residents' bar...

Congrats to Billy Callaghan, a fellow New Island writer who won in the Single Short Story category for his story The Things We Lose, The Things We Leave Behind.  Click the link to read it.  Brilliant story, smashing guy.
Myself, eyes closed, Eoin Purcell, Commissioning Editor at New Island,
his partner Blanaid, Billy Callaghan and his father at the Irish Book Awards. Well done Billy!

Also, congrats to Niamh Boyce for winning best newcomer award for her historical novel--set in Irish midlands, 1930s and meant to be brilliant; it's on my Christmas list--The Herbalist.  Regina and I had a lovely drink or two with herself and her partner Paul and she is now up for overall Irish Book of the Year.  Vote here!

Anyway, a great night was had by me and my beloved.  Not a lot of writing got done the next day, it must be said...but Manchester United beat Bayern Leverkusen (sic) 5 nil. Two great days in a row...

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Lisa Reads Books and Interviews Yours Truly

Hi folks. An interview with yours truly over on Lisareadsbooks blog.  It was really fun to do, actually, forcing me to think back on my early reading habits, my working (or lack thereof) habits etc. It's a great blog. Check it out here:  http://lisareadsbooks.blogspot.ie/2013/11/kevin-mccarthy-interview.html

Also, I'll be among some real greats of Irish crime writing this Saturday at the Irish Crime Fiction: A Festival at Trinity College. Really looking forward to it.  Details here: http://irishcrimefiction.blogspot.ie/