The Books Podcast with Martin Doyle. Sponsored by Green & Blacks.
The Books Podcast with Martin Doyle. Sponsored by Green & Blacks.
The best crime fiction of 2019
Welcome to The Irish Times Books Podcast. In this latest episode, Martin Doyle talk to The Irish Times’s two regular crime fiction reviewers, Declan Burke and Declan Hughes, both acclaimed crime writers themselves, about their favourite crime fiction of 2019.
So get your pen and paper ready to take note of some excellent suggestions for your crime reading pleasure.
Remembering Maeve Binchy - with Henrietta McKervey and Gordon Snell
On the eve of this weekend’s Echoes festival in Dalkey, celebrating Maeve Binchy and Irish writing, its programmer, author Henrietta McKervey, and Maeve’s widower, Gordon Snell, join me to talk about the thinking behind the festival and the many ways in which Maeve’s memory is being kept alive.
The festival always has Maeve at its heart but each year it has a different theme. This year’s theme is Celebrating Community in Contemporary Writing in Ireland. Last year’s theme was “Maeve the quiet feminist”, a description she loved, says Gordon, as it was the first time anyone ever called her quiet.
McKervey discusses the highlights of this weekend’s festival as well as her experience of being the first winner of the Maeve Binchy UCD travel scholarship, including a hair-raising vist to Fastnet lighthouse.
Snell reveals how he loves to re-read his late wife’s work, which only confirms his admiration for her briliance as a storyteller: “her dialogue is so good it could be put straight on the stage”.
He reminisces about their cameo roles in film adaptations of Maeve’s work, usually in a restaurant or at a bar drinking cocktails served by Stephen Rea, but also in an episode of Fair City.
He also discusses how he manages to write without his former partner – Maeve once described them working together in their upstairs studio at their typewriters as like two pianists performing a duet.
As our interview takes place inThe Irish Times office, talk inevitably turns to Maeve’s distinguished career as a journalist here. Snell reveals that his favourite article by her is I Was A Winter Sport, about a calamitous ski trip, while McKervey expresses admiration for Bincy’s versatility as a writer, shifting in shade from reporting sensitively on the Zeebrugge ferry disaster to writing wittily about the British royal family.
Echoes runs from October 4th till 6th in Dalkey. For ddetails, visit the website
Danielle McLaughlin - A Partial List of the Saved
It has been some year for Danielle McLaughlin. On Thursday, she won the 2019 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award, whose £30,000 (€33,500) prize money makes it the world’s richest for a short story. Last March, she was awarded the $165,000 (€150,000) Windham-Campbell Prize for fiction.
The former solicitor from Co Cork, who only took up writing seriously 10 years ago at the age of 40 when illness forced her to stop practicing law, spoke to me for The Irish Times Books podcast from London the morning after her latest success.
We talked about her winning story, A Partial List of the Saved, her debut collection, Dinosaurs on Other Planets, and the remarkable strength of the Irish short story tradition. Two of the other five writers on the shortlist were also Irish – Kevin Barry, a previous winner and like her a protégé of Declan Meade, publisher of the Stinging Fly, and Louise Kennedy – while Caoilinn Hughes, Wendy Erskine and Gerard McKeague made it six out of 18 on the longlist.
She also discusses her forthcoming debut novel, Retrospective, which will be published by John Murray in 2021. “It began back in 2012 in a writing workshop given by Nuala O’Connor at Waterford Writers Weekend. I can still remember the chalky feel of the prompt – a piece of broken crockery – in my hand. It’s set between Cork city and west Cork and the main character is a fortysomething woman whose past intrudes on her personal and professional life at the worst possible time in the guise of her dead friend’s son and his father.”
Anthony Farrell, founder of The Lilliput Press
Antony Farrell, of Lilliput Press, which this year celebrates its 35th anniversary, discusses his career in publishing, the history of the press and the “genius” authors with whom he has worked over the years, including Hubert Butler – “he was a secular saint to me” – Tim Robinson, John Moriarty and Desmond Hogan.
He talks about his background – his father was “a Castle Catholic”, his mother an Ulster Protestant and he was educated at Harrow public school, where he boxed (“I was more athlete than aesthete”) and was called “a bog rat”, inspiring him to embrace his roots, studying Irish history at Trinity College Dublin.
We also touch on Brexit and Boris Johnson, including James Shapiro’s witty advice to the British prime minister on how to approach his book on Shakespeare.
Farrell also discusses the pros and cons of being published by an Irish publisher rather than a British one, the importance of alliances and building long-term relationships with authors, the different challenges of publishing fiction and nonfiction, and the people he has worked with over the years, many of whom have gone on to establish high-profile careers in publishing, the arts and as authors.
Describing it as “a kind of finishing school”, he speaks of the 300 or so interns he has employed over the years, including Aideen Howard, Brendan Barrington, Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, Tom Morris, Elske Rahill and Nicole Flattery.
He offers a sneak preview of major titles coming up: including – a podcast exclusive! – Stephen Rea’s memoir, A Life in Parts; A Letter marked Personal, a posthumous novel by JP Donleavy; and The Last Footman by Gillies Macbain, an Anglo-Irish memoir for which he has high hopes.
Mick Herron, author of the Slough House series
Welcome to the latest Irish Times Books Podcast, an interview with Mick Herron, the author of the Slough House series of spy novels.
Herron is originally from a working-class background in Newcastle but went on to study English at Oxford, where he still lives.
Described as the John le Carré of his generation, he has created the bestselling Slough House series which features a rogue’s gallery of spies who have screwed up or been stitched up and are as a consequence desk-bound – “less MI5, more 9 to 5”.
Presiding over them is the magnificently monstrous Jackson Lamb, a brutally insensitive, belching, boozing, Falstaffian figure who makes their lives a misery but ultimately has their backs.
The latest book in the series, Slow Country, is one of the best so far, tightly plotted, wittily written and as a bonus a pitiless portrait of Brexit Britain. Herron shares his views on the current political drama gripping the UK as well as his influences and writing methods.
Joseph O'Connor - Shadowplay
Author Joseph O'Connor talks to Martin Doyle about his new novel Shadowplay, a complicated love affair featuring Dracula creator Bram Stoker, the first Irish writer he fell for.
They also talk about his career from Cowboys & Indians to Star of the Sea, and his next project - a novel based on Hugh O’Flaherty, the Kerry priest who saved more than 6,000 lives from the Nazis in Rome.