Short Sharp Interview: Declan Burke

PDB) Your novel EIGHTBALL BOOGIE has been re-released as an ebook. Don’t you think it would make a great title for a porno film?

“Yes, but only if it’s four-way gay porn. And only if the soundtrack is a retro-funk boogie original composed by Sun Ra.”

PDB) Your next novel is called ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL It sounds nothing like a porno film. Why is that?

“Well, I deliberately called my first novel EIGHTBALL BOOGIE in the hope of it catching on with the porno movie crowd, but that was a bust. So I went after the porno movie crowd full-on with the title of my next novel, THE BIG O. When they still didn’t bite, I decided that maybe I should go after the next biggest market segment, the meteorologists, with a title containing the words ‘Absolute Zero’. And everyone knows meteorologists are total dweebs, so I thought I’d add the ‘Cool’ bit to make them feel better about themselves while reading the novel during their commute.”

PDB) Is it true that Val McDermid once confused you with Dec from PJ & Duncan?

“If only. Val McDermid once confused me with Declan Hughes. When my lawyers sued for defamation, she tried to smooth it all out by deliberately confusing me with John Hughes. So that was okay, but then she made some sarky comment about how I was more ‘Sixteen Candles’ John Hughes than ‘Some Kind of Wonderful’ John Hughes. I said, “Break my heart and I break your face.” So she picked me up, turned me around and used my head to plunge her blocked toilet. That was when I got the first idea for the book that became ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL, actually. I owe Val a great debt of gratitude I may never be able to repay.”   

PDB) You’re editor of a forthcoming book called DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS. Is it about Green Street in London where the West Ham football  ground is?

“Funny story. I was watching that movie, ‘Green Street’, in which Elijah Wood stars as the world’s first dwarf football hooligan, and I fell asleep. John Connolly came to me in a dream and said, “If you build it, they will come.” So I woke up and went to Iowa, because John Connolly tours a lot, and it was only a matter of time before he swung by Iowa. I was there a whole twenty minutes before he turned up. I said, “Hey, John, you know the way there’s a whole wave of brilliant Irish crime writers coming through? Wouldn’t it be terrific if someone was to put together a book celebrating the fact?” And he said, “Barring orders are international, so you’re now in breach.” 

So just to piss him off, I went home from Iowa and put together a book celebrating the fact that there’s a whole wave of brilliant Irish crime writers coming down the pike right now. I thought it’d be a nice touch to say thanks to Elijah for kick-starting the whole idea by giving him a little homage in the title. Sadly, the publisher drew the line at calling it HOBBITS ON GREEN STREET, so we’re stuck with DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS.

PDB) You have  a brilliant story in this year’s Mammoth Book Of  Best British Crime . Were you, like Jay Stringer, disappointed by the lack of stories about mammoths in the book?

“See, I thought it was some kind of metaphor. Like, they were supposed to be shaggy dog stories, but really really shaggy dog stories – as in, woolly mammoth stories. It only occurred to me afterwards that if that was what they were getting at, they’d have called it the ST. BERNARD BOOK OF BRITISH CRIME. But by then it was too late. Still, I blame Maxim Jakubowski – you think he’d have realised I was on the wrong track when he saw the title of my story, ‘The Sabre-Toothed Tiger of the Baskervilles’, wouldn’t you?”

PDB) The Polish title of ‘Some Like It Hot’ translates as ‘Half funny, half serious.’ It that a fair summing up of your classic novels THE BIG O and CRIME ALWAYS PAYS?
“They’re classic novels? Crikey. You’ll be done by the Trades Description Act, squire. No, it’s not for me to say if they’re half-funny and half-serious, or not funny at all and too serious by half. I guess it’s like the man says, anything can be funny so long as it’s not happening to you. 

All I can say is that those books are me having fun with the conventions of the comedy caper novel, and especially the extent to which coincidence plays its part in such stories. 

If there’s a serious element, it’s the way that the best laid plans of mice and men tend to get screwed up, and that that’s a metaphor for how even our best intentions in life aren’t worth much more than a hollow laugh when placed against the cosmic farce, whether that’s the meaningless chaos that exists at the quantum level or the almost incomprehensible forces that shape the universe at the macro level. 

Plus, I wanted the narcoleptic fat guy to be the hero, for once.

PDB) Are you Benjamin Black, Barry White or Dorian Gray?

“Dorian Gray, I think. The temptation of being John Banville’s alter-ego and to go wandering through his brain while he sleeps at night would be too hard to resist, and no one’s coming back from that trip in one piece. It’d be like ’Nam all over again, with bogies coming through the wire every night, lobbing the complete works of Wittgenstein at your head. And Barry White is dead. So Dorian it is, although I’d be inclined to keep my picture in a Swiss bank vault rather than the attic, so that the cops don’t find it when they bust me for having a grow house up there. It’d be a schoolboy error, that.”

DECLAN BURKEs splendid blog, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS, is here.

Published by PaulDBrazill

A writer and teacher, from England and living in Poland. 'The Poundland Poe.' Books include The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, and Gumshoe Blues. This/ That/ & The Other.

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