Table of Contents

Spring 2009

From The Editor

Letter from Jack Getze

Short Stories

Patrick Whittaker


Anthony Rainone

Fall to Pieces

Phil Beloin

Late, After Dinner

Jake Nantz

Midnight on the Links

Stephen D. Rogers

Queen Anne's Lace

Mike Sheeter

Blue Fugazzi

David Moss

The Sleepy Pines Nursing Home

Fiona Kay Crawford

Successful Surgeon

Graham Powell

The Ins and Outs

John Towler

The Fall

Damien Seaman

Thursday Night Blowout

Matthew Acheson

Writing on the Wall


Sandra Ruttan with Russel D. McLean

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Jim Napier with Phyllis Smallman

Brian Lindenmuth with Craig McDonald

Reviews by:

P.A. Brown

Mexican Heat

Gloria Feit

Friend of the Devil

Theodore Feit

Death Was in the Picture

A Beautiful Place to Die

Night and Day

Claire McManus

The Hanged Man

The Poisoner of Ptah

My Sister, My Love

The Cruelest Month

Jim Winter

Trigger City

The Fourth Victim


Bookspot Review Roundup

Book Excerpt

The Big O
by Declan Burke

Featured Article

Passing of the Torch - Celebrated crime novelist dies
by Jim Napier

Declan Burke with Brian McGilloway

Lauded by John Connolly, among many others, Brian McGilloway’s is a voice unique amidst the current explosion of Irish crime and mystery writing. His novels straddle the border between Northern and Southern Ireland, and his protagonist, Detective Inspector Devlin, is a decent, hardworking family man exploring an Ireland still coming to terms with its post-‘Troubles’, post-Celtic Tiger boom identity. “Exceptionally mature prose and a hero as charismatically volcanic in his own way as Louisiana’s Dave Robicheaux,” announced Kirkus Reviews of his new North American release, BORDERLANDS.

Declan Burke sat down with Brian McGilloway for Spinetingler to discuss BORDERLANDS and the business of writing crime fiction.

Declan Burke: What is it about crime fiction that has drawn you to it so compellingly that you feel you need to write it yourself?

Brian McGilloway: “I’ve always loved writing and that in itself has been a compulsion for some time. I feel uneasy if I’m not writing or thinking about writing. My passion for crime fiction came first as a reader. I initially came to crime following my English degree, mistakenly thinking that crime fiction would be light in comparison with the literary texts I’d been studying. Then, as I read more and more crime fiction, I realised how wrong I had been.

“The novels which appealed to me most strongly – by writers like James Lee Burke, Ian Rankin, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, John Connolly – were those which contained not only compelling plots and strong central characters, but also a strong sense of place and, I suspect most importantly, a strong sense of humanity. As I wrote myself, I realised that the genre was one in which I could explore my own concerns and develop my own style.”
DB: Tell us about the background to BORDERLANDS, how it initially suggested itself to you.

BMcG: “I wrote BORDERLANDS around the time my wife was pregnant with our first child. I guess part of it was a way of preparing the world for my son, in a strange way. I couldn’t make the real world safe and right for him, but I could control the imaginary world in which I placed my detective and make sure that there were people there fighting for the right things.

“The actual story developed from an initial thought while I was walking the dog one evening along a stretch of roadway with an embankment running down from the road towards the river. I imagined finding a dead body there, then worked backwards and tried to figure out how it got there and why. Then I took it a step further and wondered what would happen had the body been found on the border.”

DB: Your protagonist, Inspector Devlin, is an unusually placid and well-balanced man for a crime fiction lead. Is this because Brian McGilloway is an unusually placid and well-balanced man? Or is he your alter-ego?

BMcG: “When I created Devlin, I made him to reflect my concerns. I was a father for the first time, so Devlin was a father. He’s fairly happily married (though I am ecstatically so, obviously) who doesn’t drink because of his family. He smokes like a train because when my son was born I gave up smoking. It was important for me to avoid some of the clichés of the detective – crime fiction has enough divorced, hard drinking mavericks sticking two fingers up at authority. I wanted Devlin to be human and to bring that humanity to bear on all the cases he investigates.”

DB: BORDERLANDS has received tremendous reviews. Did you feel any great pressure to deliver when writing its sequel, GALLOWS LANE?

BMcG: “I’ve been very lucky with the reaction to BORDERLANDS and have learned very quickly how supportive other crime writers are of newbies. In terms of GALLOWS LANE, I wrote it while I was trying to get BORDERLANDS published, so it wasn’t affected that much by BORDERLANDS. I wrote BORDERLANDS as the type of book I would like to read and applied that same criteria to GALLOWS LANE.

“For me the key thing was developing my writing style and challenging myself to produce the best book I could. If anything, the reaction to BORDERLANDS put more pressure on the writing of the next book, BLEED A RIVER DEEP [due in March 2009], though I hope that pressure has helped me to develop further and produce a better book.”

DB: You’re a family man, with two young children and a third on the way, and you also work full-time as a teacher. How difficult do you find it to juggle your personal life and your – presumably – intensely private writing life?

BMcG: “It’s getting harder every day! I tend to write the books about eighteen months in advance in order to take off some of the pressure. I don’t write until the kids are in bed and I’ve all my other stuff done. I love writing and love the personal space it creates, by necessity. Teaching and dealing with children all day, the best thing to do at night is something that requires little conversation and gives you a chance to find some time to yourself, so writing is perfect. And, of course, I tend to write most during the school holidays.”

DB: Tell us about your influences, and how they have impacted on your own writing. How far can homage go before it becomes pastiche?

BMcG: “I love books where character and place are linked in some way; Rebus and Edinburgh, Robicheaux and New Iberia, Bosch and LA, Morse and Oxford, Parker and Maine. I certainly believe that that is a trait which has influenced my own writing. I hope though that, rather than simply rewriting one of these characters in Donegal, I’ve made Devlin sufficiently real and different that he stands on his own merits.”

DB: Can you put a finger on why Donegal is such a compelling setting for crime fiction for you?

BMcG: “I really like the idea of the border area. It’s totally arbitrary in the manner in which it was drawn in places and yet impacted in the lives of so many people for decades. The border was a tangible presence when I was a child, yet it exists more in terms of people mental attitudes than police stations or army posts. I like the fact that, for a crime writer, you have two police forces in close proximity with a history of antagonism which is changing. Of course the border is perfect for getaways, smuggling, etc. Donegal itself is beautiful and barren in equal measure and I liked that duality which reflects itself in many of the characters that people the area in the books.”

DB: Inspector Devlin is a policeman in the Republic of Ireland, and the Guards – An Garda – have been making headlines for all the wrong reasons lately. Do you feel you need to reflect the allegations of corruption and mismanagement that have dogged the Guards in recent years in your own fiction? Or should crime fiction be implicitly political, rather than explicitly?  

BMcG: “Crime fiction, more than any other form, is well placed to deal with serious issues and raise key concerns to a wide reading public. Our fictional detectives try to do what is right and know the difference between right and wrong. We need to believe that our real detectives are the same. While the Devlin books are not based on any individual case or allegation, I suspect that they reflect a current general mistrust of authority and the political and judicial systems. I don’t think there’s any topic crime fiction can’t explore and highlight.”

Brian McGilloway’s BORDERLANDS is published in hardback by St Martin’s Minotaur. Declan Burke’s THE BIG O is published in hardback by Harcourt.

Declan Burke is the author of Eight Ball Boogie, The Big O and offers reviews, interviews and commentaries on his site, CRIME ALWAYS PAYS

The Forever Girl is available now at Amazon and Barnes and Noble