Saturday, July 16, 2011

Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke

I've mentioned how much I've enjoyed Declan Burkes books before, both Eightball Boogie and The Big O were very amusing and entertaining books reminiscent of Raymond Chandler and full of wry humor. Well, as luck would have it, I'm happy to announce the coming eagerly awaited release of Declan's latest offering, Absolute Zero Cool, which can be found here as of August 10th. Declan was nice enough to send me a summery and a few reviews so I could pass it on.
by Declan Burke

“A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny. Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O’Brien and Raymond Chandler.” – John Banville, author of THE SEA

Who in their right mind would want to blow up a hospital?

“Close it down, blow it up – what’s the difference?”

Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames.

Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you’ll read this year … Laugh-out-loud funny … This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone … a feat of extraordinary alchemy.” – Ken Bruen, author of AMERICAN SKIN

Advance Praise for ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL:

“Stop waiting for Godot – he’s here. Declan Burke takes the existential dilemma of characters writing themselves and turns it on its ear, and then some. He gives it body and soul … an Irish soul.” - Reed Farrel Coleman, author of EMPTY EVER AFTER

“Declan Burke has broken the mould with ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, which is actually very cool indeed. Funny, inventive and hugely entertaining crime fiction - I guarantee you’ll love it.” - Melissa Hill, author of SOMETHING FROM TIFFANY’S

“If you want to find something new and challenging, comic crime fiction is now the place to go … Declan Burke [is] at the vanguard of a new wave of young writers kicking against the clich├ęs and producing ambitious, challenging, genre-bending works.” - Colin Bateman, author of NINE INCHES

“ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is a surreal rollercoaster of a read, full of the blackest humour, and yet poignant. An outrageously funny novel ... The joy is in the writing itself, all sparky dialogue and wry observation, so smooth that when it cuts, it’s like finding razor blades in honey.” - Deborah Lawrenson, author of THE LANTERN

“Burke has written a deep, lyrical and moving crime novel … an intoxicating and exciting novel of which the master himself, Flann O’Brien, would be proud.” - Adrian McKinty, author of FIFTY GRAND
As you can see, it's gotten some great reviews already..John Banville, Ken Bruen, Adrian can't beat that really. Also, if you happen to be in Dublin on August 10th, and would like to meet the author himself, who not only writes wonderful books, but seems to be an all around nice guy, the kick off release party for Absolute Zero Cool will be at the Gutter Bookshop, Temple Bar, Dublin. And feel free to come back and post pictures/stories so I can live vicariously through them. Also, for more information about Mr. Declan Burke, you can visit his blog Crime Always Pays, he'd be glad to hear from you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Gentlemen and Players by Joanne Harris

I had never heard of Joanne Harris before picking up Gentlemen and Players, and I had no idea she had also written the ever popular Chocolat, so I didn't really know what to expect. I was simply browsing through a bookshop and the name caught my attention. I'm glad it did as I enjoyed the novel quite a bit. Gentlemen and Players is written in the first person alternating between the protagonist, an aging professor at an exclusive boys school, and antagonist, a 12 year old wanting to be a part of the school. You get both sides of the story, with the author throwing in quite a few twist that tend to make your jaw drop in either unbelieving or shock even though you might have slightly suspected it was coming.

As the inside flap says:
For generations, privileged young men have attended St. Oswald's Grammar School for Boys, groomed for success by the likes of Roy Straitley, the eccentric Classics teacher who has been a fixture there for more than thirty years. But this year the wind of unwelcome change is blowing. Suits, paperwork and information technology are beginning to overshadow St. Oswald's tradition, and Straitley is finally, and reluctantly, contemplating retirement. He is joined this term by five new faculty members, including one who-unbeknownst to Straitley and everyone else-holds intimate and dangerous knowledge of St. Oswald's ways and secrets. Harboring dark ties to the school's past, this young teacher has arrived with one terrible goal: to destroy St. Oswald's.
The alternating points of view give you a good picture of what both main players are thinking while still keeping many secrets from the reader. I found that I could relate to both in small ways and enjoyed getting to know them. One of the "principles" mentioned in the novel even came to my attention in the real world in dealing with my 12 year old son,(although with him, we weren't talking about murder or trespassing). The story begins:
If there's one thing I've learned in the past fifteen years, it's this: that murder is really no big deal. It's just a boundary, meaningless and arbitrary as all others--a line drawn in the dirt

Like the giant NO TRESPASSERS sign on the drive to St. Oswald's, straddling the air like a sentinel. I was nine years old at the time of our first encounter, and it loomed over me then with the growling menace of a school bully.


another child might have been daunted by the command. But in my case curiosity overrode the instinct. By whose order? Why this point and not another? and most importantly, what would happen if I crossed that line?
Joanne Harris does a nice job with the cat and mouse motif and if you haven't given her a try, I do recommend her and the appositely named novel.