Smokey the Cat
Ken Bruen

Sixty seconds with Ken Bruen...

Ken Bruen, born in Galway in 1951, is one of the most prominent Irish crime writers of the last two decades. Born in Galway, he spent twenty-five years traveling the world before he began writing in the mid 1990s. As an English teacher, Bruen worked in South Africa, Japan, and South America, where he once spent a short time in a Brazilian jail. He has two long-running series: one starring a disgraced former policeman named Jack Taylor, the other a London police detective named Inspector Brant.

RTE: Describe yourself in a sentence?

Bruen: a rumour disguised as a fact.

RTE: What's the one record you'd take to a desert island?

Bruen: The Cowboy Junkies

RTE: What did you want to be when you were growing up?

Bruen: A cowboy.

Adrian McKIntry

Sixty seconds with Adrian McKIntry...

Michael Sears

Sixty seconds with Michael Sears...

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November 15, 2014

From the amount of space it's occupying in the media lately, the return of winter has apparently come as a shock to North America. I myself have been expecting it, so I remain sorry but unsurprised. Look on the bright side - it's time to pull up a duvet or a cat, huddle close to a reliable source of heat, and read. Here are some suggestions.

Ruth Rendell has written some 65 novels over the years and yet she, unlike the seasons, never fails to surprise. A case in point is THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, a standalone about a group of seventy-somethings who continue to experience passion despite their age. Like every other Rendell, not to be missed.

Remembrance Day has just passed (Veterans' Day in the US) so it's appropriate to mention Maureen Jennings' NO KNOWN GRAVE, set in a British convalescent hospital in 1942. Jim Napier calls it "fitting remembrance for those who gave so much." But, sadly, wars continue to be waged and men and women killed and injured. Dan Fesperman writes about a very new sort of war in UNMANNED, about a pilot who, from his chair in Nevada. directs drones that are dropping bombs in Afghanistan. Barbara Fister says it is "beautifully written, fast-paced, and very timely." And then of course, there are the wars that are over but that cannot be forgotten. Stuart Neville continues his examination of the new Belfast with its memories of the old Troubles in THE FINAL SILENCE. There is nothing sentimental about this hard-boiled account and that, I thought, was a very good thing.

Meredith Frazier was impressed with both the style and the content of Urban Waite's SOMETIMES THE WOLF, which she says is a page-turning thriller that invites the reader to consider the deeper implications of the plot. Though Sophie Littlefield's THE MISSING PLACE is not altogether realized, Sharon Mensing says it is still a strong book with strong female characters and a lot to say about the presence of the oil industry in small western towns.

From the western United States we're off to the Far East with books set in a variety of places and written in a variety of styles. Barbara Fister reports that the latest in Timothy Hallinan's Poke Rafferty series, FOR THE DEAD, set in Bangkok, is able to combine thriller elements with an "unusual tenderness that...avoids toppling into mere sentimentality." Unusually, we are able to offer reviews of the first two books in a series, these set in Singapore, and starring the amateur detective and restauranteur Aunty Lee. Chris Roberts (whose reviews used to grace these pages) reports that AUNTY LEE'S DELIGHTS, by Ovidia Lee, a native of Singapore, is rich in details of life in that locale. Cathy Downs found the second in the series, AUNTY LEE'S DEADLY SPECIALS a charming read for those unfamiliar with the place. Very different in tone is MALICE, by Keigo Higashino, the third of the Japanese author's crime novels to be translated into English. Karla Jay reviews the audio release, which she thought clever and subtle as well as expertly performed by the reader, Jeff Woodman. Back in the United States, Christine Zibas was somewhat disappointed with the second in the White Ginger series by Thatcher Robinson, BLACK KARMA, set in San Francisco and featuring "people finder" Bai Jiang.

Peter Flom makes his debut as an RTE reviewer with an account of cyberpunk THE PERIPHERAL by William Gibson which he found frequently dazzling though not always illuminating.

Anne Corey enjoyed the strong sense of place (Pittsburgh) and the multi-layered, enigmatic protagonist of Dennis Palumbo's PHANTOM LIMB, the fourth in that series.

Ben Neal hopes that, although the cycle of seasons reflected in the titles of GM Malliet's Max Tudor series is now complete, there will be more to follow A DEMON SUMMER, a series that he says continues to develop beyond simple Golden Age homage. And speaking of Golden Age, this time the silent films of the 1920s, Christine Zibas thought Mary Miley's SILENT MURDERS was filled with enjoyable detail.

Our interviewee this week is Irish noir novelist Ken Bruen, whose answers to our questions appears over to your left. Don't miss them.

We were sorry to learn of the death of Warren Clarke, the actor who seemed born to play Dalziel in the British TV series based on the novels of Reginald Hill.

To find out what's been going on in British crime fiction, do drop in to CRIMEREVIEW, where our former colleagues will tell you all about it.

So there we have it. Do try to stay warm.



P.S. If you wish to submit a book for review, please check here before contacting us. Please note that we do not review self-published books.

Our mascot and masthead is Smokey the Cat. Smokey the cat went to the great playground in the sky on April 29, 2008, at 3:30 p.m. He was about 13 years old, had diabetes and only 11 teeth left. He is much happier now. He will remain as our masthead and mascot.

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Since RTE first appeared, some twelve years ago, the business of books has changed out of all recognition. Then, books were reviewed in the print media for the most part, though Amazon was encouraging readers to post their reviews of the books they read. Now, newspapers across North America have reduced or eliminated the space they allot to books and, with certain notable exceptions, only best-selling authors are likely to get noticed. As a result, electronic reviewing has become increasingly important and, due to the somewhat slippery question of online authorship, occasionally problematic.

For this reason and in view of a recent article in the NY Times detailing a reviews-for-hire enterprise, it's probably wise for RTE to reiterate its position on reviewing. While our reviewers receive galleys, ARCs, or finished copies of books for review, they are otherwise unpaid. Furthermore, they are asked to disclose any special interest they might have in a book or an author they are reviewing. No one, including the editors, receives any compensation for the work they do. All our reviewers are encouraged to express their honest opinions, whether positive or negative, about the books they are reviewing. None of our reviewers uses a pseudonym and all are who they say they are. Nor do we employ rating systems (stars, grades, "highly recommended," or the like) in the belief that our reviews deserve to be read in their entirety. Since RTE does not review self-published or digital-only releases, we are perhaps less vulnerable to offers to pay for reviews, but it seems a good idea to make our policy clear. Finally, in the years that I've been editing RTE, I have never once been approached by a press or a publicist to violate this principle in any way.

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