Monday, August 24, 2009

Q & A with Sam Millar

Q: What makes Karl Kane different from other (unofficial) PIs?
The difference between Karl and other PIs, I believe, is his humanity towards those less fortunate in society, plus his dark sense of humour. Understanding the terrible events of his childhood, watching his mother being raped then murdered, before being brutalised himself and left for dead, could have seen Karl becoming a very bitter and angry person. Instead, he has used this childhood nightmare to fight evil – albeit on his own unorthodox and sometimes violent terms.

Q: What is it about Ireland that it's generating so many popular noir writers now?
My firm belief is that most writers were obsessed about the war in the North of Ireland, using the war as a continual background and canvas. The problem this caused was that their imagination became bleached of all creativity and had become almost as stereotypical as the mundane two-dimensional characters they had created. Now, things are very different. We can write about the present, the darkness and evil of our cities in modern-day terms, rather than falling back to the past for inspiration.

Q: Why did you decide to write about a PI?
I have always loved the old black and white crime movies and pulp/hardboiled fiction books of Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, or Dashiell Hammett’s Sam Spade. I had completed a few other crime books, but it was always on my mind to go back and do the ‘classic’ PI.

Q: What's next for you and Karl?
There will be a collection of short stories by Irish crime authors, out next year, and Karl Kane will be leading the pack. The third full-length Karl Kane will be out next year, also. In it, Karl will have to make a decision that will break him emotionally as a human being, as well as dealing with a killer who is leaving severed hands to taunt the police. He will find himself in deep and bloody trouble in an abattoir first written about in The Redemption Factory. There will be a shocking revelation concerning his ex brother-in-law and nemesis, Inspector Mark Wilson.

Q: How do you promote your books?
The usual suspects: newspapers, PR office, TV, radio and the all-important word-of-mouth. I am lucky having an excellent publisher in Brandon, with good international connections. It was funny your comparison of my writing and Ken’s (Ken Bruen) as we are from the same publishing house. To me, crime sites are also quickly becoming the way forward. Crime sites such as yours, are becoming more popular and extremely important for crime writers to get their work known to a wider audience, and I thank you for giving me the space on your excellent site.

Q: Do you have any favourite Sons of Spade yourself?
I have to confess Philip Marlowe is up there on my list of guys not to mess with.

Q: In the last century we've seen new waves of PI writers, first influenced by Hammett, then Chandler, MacDonald, Parker, later Lehane. Who do you think will influence the coming generation and in what way?
That’s a difficult question because crime writing is shifting so quickly to accommodate more astute readers. Each country has its favourite son or daughter, but I think American dominance in the genre is being challenged. Ken Bruin has the great story-telling ability to influence up-and-coming crime writers/readers. German crime writer, Horst Eckert, French female writer Fred Vargas, and Japanese female crime writer Natsuo Kirino (Mariko Hashioka) will be the names of the future to watch for, simply because they are willing to take chances with their writing and not fall into the trap of mediocre.

Q: Sybil Barasso came up with the following question: What was the inspiration for your latest novel?
Thanks for the question, Sybil. The inspiration for The Dark Place came from true events from my teen years. The Dark Place is semi-autobiographical. I suppose you would have to read my critically-acclaimed and award-winning memoir, On The Brinks to fully understand my background and why I write so darkly. Warner Brothers have acquired the rights to On The Brinks.

Q: What question should we ask every PI writer we interview and what is your answer?
Question: How do you sleep at night with all that blood on your hands? Answer: I wash it off before going to bed! Good night...

Friday, August 14, 2009

The Dark Place (Karl Kane) by Sam Millar

Belfast PI Karl Kane is drawn into the investigation of abducted teens and has to take on a violent, but powerful psychopath. When his own daughter gets abducted there's no stopping him.
Karl Kane is an interesting mix of a very believable anti-hero / everday kind of guy and the wisecracking Spenser-breed. In fact, some of the conversations with his girlfriend Naomi top the witty cuteness of the Spenser-Susan dialogues. Note that Karl is a bit more offending and crude in his choice of words. There is a strong sense of humour in this novel which works surprisingly well next to the very dark plot.
It's almost obvious that Millar will be compared to that other Irish crimewriter Ken Bruen but Millar gives us a more straightforward PI-tale that will probably be enjoyed by people who think Bruen has a tendency to take sidetours from the plot too much. There is some of the same literacy there, especially in the excellently chosen quotes that start off each chapter.

The Silent Hour (Lincoln Perry) by Michael Koryta

Ignoring Harrison Parker's letters for quite some time PI Lincoln Perry is visited by Parker in person. Parker is an ex-con, a killer who participated in a special program, meant to habilitate violene offenders like him. He wants to hire Perry to find out what happened to the missing founders of the program.
Finally Perry agrees to take the case, but has to work without his partner, Joe Pritchard who's snowbirding in Florida.
What starts out as a more or less regular investigation turns out into quite some soulsearching when Perry starts to question if he's in the right job. This elevates the novel above the standard, but enjoyable earlier Lincoln Perry outings.
It seems Koryta's standalone (Envy the Night) gave Perry just the amount of downtime needed to come back better then ever.