Saturday, April 5, 2014

The Sydney Morning Herald Reviews Duffy #3

at least the French love me
I was thinking today how strange it is that my books seem to get reviewed in every country in the world except America. Apart from the review from the great Daneet Steffens in The Boston Globe it doesn't look like I'll get any other US papers to review my new Sean Duffy novel. I wonder why that is. The Sean Duffy books have been reviewed in all the major (and minor) British, Irish, French, German, Spanish and Australian newspapers out there but from the entire series in only 2 American ones: Duffy #1 was reviewed in the Arizona Republic and Duffy #3 was reviewed in the Globe. It's a little odd, no? I have several working hypotheses as to why this is: 

1. Blame the publisher. While its true that my small independent American publisher (7th Street Books) doesn't have much money for PR purposes they have done their job well. They've sent out review copies to all the appropriate media and as far as I can see it's not their fault that no one has bitten the hook. 
2. Blame me. I'm not young or hip and I don't live in Brooklyn which is what you have to be to get editors excited these days. However I do have a bloody interesting story to tell and no one who's ever interviewed me has complained that I was boring. Did you know that I got my face smashed open in a fight in school and had to get 17 stitches across my eye? Or that I got knocked down by an RUC Land Rover in a hit and run? Or that I used to get a lift to school every morning by an army major who had to check and see if there was a bomb under his car? Or that last January when I was visiting my mum I ran into a full blown riot down the road from her house? Yeah, well, there's plenty more where that came from...
3. Blame The New York Times. Despite starred reviews in the trades, stellar reviews in the British media, multiple award nominations and award wins my Duffy books have never been reviewed by Marilyn Stasio - the crime reviewer of the NYT. Why? You'll have to ask her that one. But the NYT is important because its a kind of gate keeper. Once the Times reviews you, other papers follow suit and if the Times never reviews you, you're more or less dead in the water. 
4. Blame Irish America. You buy too many dead Irish writers and not enough living Irish ones. Oh, and you also buy Benjamin Black....hmmmm. 
5. Blame Nordic Noir. Nordic Noir peaked three years ago. Its the dregs of the barrel now but many reviewers and readers aren't nimble enough to see that. And the avalanche of Nordic Noir sucks all the oxygen out of the room...
6. Blame nobody. The blame game is for whingers. It's just what it is, mate.  
and the Germans
Anyway not sure how I got sidetracked onto this...I got another great review for Sean Duffy #3 (I haven't had a bad one yet) in last weekend's Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne Age, below:  

Sue Turnbull

In the Morning I'll Be Gone

I love a good opening - one that establishes character, situation and style in a few swift moves. In the Morning I'll be Gone, Adrian McKinty's third police procedural to feature Detective Sean Duffy of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, has these down pat. It's September 1983 and Duffy's insistent beeper is advising him of a Class I Emergency (previous incidents of similar magnitude include a Soviet invasion and an ''extra-terrestial trespass''). Duffy couldn't care less, given that it's his day off and he is way too busy on his Atari 5200 games console dealing with a Galaxian space invasion of his own. He's also as ''high as Skylab'' on some home-baked Turkish black cannabis resin. McKinty is good with the period details that permeate even his metaphors. Skylab, NASA's manned space station, was launched in 1973, eventually falling to Earth some six years later out west on the Nullarbor Plain. The Atari 5200 was released in 1982, and Galaxian, produced by the Japanese company Namco in 1979, apparently belongs to the ''golden age of arcade video games''.

Born in Belfast in 1968, McKinty would have been in his mid-teens at the moment of Galaxian supremacy and probably much happier defending Earth from alien invaders than living in Northern Ireland while The Troubles raged around him. We're still only on the second page when we learn that the current Class 1 incident involves a mass breakout of IRA prisoners from the Maze prison (previously known as Long Kesh), and that Duffy expects double time if required to report for duty, which he dutifully does. Duffy is a good detective, however reluctant he might appear. Things get personal when Duffy discovers that the criminal mastermind behind the breakout is his old school chum, Dermot McCann.

This is how a civil war works, Duffy wryly observes, senselessly dividing friends, families and communities while inadvertently slaughtering the innocent. In the village of Bellaughray, the absurd border dividing north and south runs down the middle of the main street. When the army opens up on the Maze escapees hiding in the reeds, they massacre only an exhausted flock of Greenland geese ''who had foolishly touched down on their journey to the south of France''. McKinty does funny and sad, often in the same sentence.

even the Spanish are on board, so what gives America?
Sidelined for a manufactured misdemeanour, Duffy is seconded to MI5 to track down his former school pal, McCann. Frustratingly, the one person who knows where to locate McCann will only divulge the intel if Duffy solves the enigma of her daughter's death. Four years earlier, Lizzie was found with a broken neck after ''apparently'' falling from the bar of the family pub after lock-up while trying to change a light bulb. Her mother does not believe it was an accident. Nor does the doctor who first examined the body.

Structurally, In the Morning I'll be Gone is gemlike, embedding a clever locked-room murder mystery within a terrorist thriller. The essence of the former, the affable but well-read Chief Inspector Beggs tells Duffy over a pint, ''is to assure the reader that the room is hermetically sealed when in fact there may be another way in''.

Edgar Allen Poe's archetypal story, The Murders in the Rue Morgue, is invoked, although Beggs is of the opinion, based on his French mother-in-law's sleeping patterns, that the story hinges on an unlikely premise. So what about the body in the pub? Duffy must solve this puzzle before he can proceed to the more pressing problem, tracking down Dermot McCann and his next IRA target. Expect a big finish. McKinty does those with a flourish, too.
Other newspaper reviews of Sean Duffy #3, here.


Alan said...

Adrian,It is curious that one reviewer i.e. Marilyn Stasio has so much influence.Even more odd is that she reviewed Denise Mina "Red Road" which takes pace in Glasgow. Their might be a clue to the Times aloofness in the German Title which clearly is only a small part of Duffy but steps on many Irish American sensitivities.One can only hope that with more and more coverage of the current state of Ulster a larger reader interest will be stimulated.Best Alan

Brendan O'Leary said...

Adrian, a C&P below of Graham Blundell's review from The Australian, I'll remove it if you didn't want it here:

"Melbourne-based Adrian McKinty’s Irish Detective Sergeant Sean Duffy returns too, a Catholic in a predominantly Protestant constabulary, in the final novel of what’s certain to become a classic crime trilogy. The first in the series, The Cold Cold Ground, introduced Duffy, newly promoted and posted to Carrickfergus CID, “that stinky Proddy hell hole” in Northern Ireland in 1981 at the height of the Troubles, investigating possibly Northern Ireland’s first serial killer, someone preying on homosexuals. Then in I Hear the Sirens in the Street he had a man’s headless naked torso in a suitcase dumped in an abandoned factory, another dangerous investigation taking place in County Down against the thump-thump of military helicopters and the sound of mortars or explosions.

Duffy’s still up against it in In the Morning I’ll Be Gone (Serpent’s Tail, 326pp, $29.29), thrown out of CID and reduced from detective inspector to the rank of sergeant, having offended some high-ranking FBI agents. His file has red flags all over it and he’s soon railroaded out of the force, waiting for his dismissal papers, watching late night TV, all public information films about the dangers of lifting up strange packages which were really trip-wired explosives. He’s unwanted, until a mass breakout occurs from the notorious Maze Prison in September, 1983. And with one of the IRA’s most dangerous men, Dermot McCann, an old schoolmate of Duffy, on the loose and planning a campaign of terror against Britain. MI5 is prepared to do anything to bring him in, including giving Duffy his old job back.

Already claimed as the finest of the new wave of Irish crime writers, McKinty is as good as any novelist around. His lovely flair for language is matched by his feel for place, his appetite for redemptive violence leavened by some seriously mordant wit and his seriously cool appreciation of characters who reject conformity. His Duffy novels echo, among many, Dennis Lehane and Robert Crais."

Alan, I suspect the problem some USA reviewers have with Adrian is that he is bipartisan. The problem the rest have is that they haven't read him yet.

Alan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Steve said...

I read (or listened to actually)"In the morning...." while on holidays (5 star review left on Audible). I think it's your best work - I really enjoyed it!
I know that I've gone on before about building a community but my experience is that if you keep plugging away, the breaks will come if the work is good. And your stuff is really good. Your community is growing to the point where they won't be able to ignore you much longer. You'll have a back catalogue ready.

Alan said...

Brendan,I think you hit the nail on the head.Best Alan

Cary Watson said...

Man, I love that German cover. FYI the Toronto Public Library has 16 copies on order, and I ordered mine from Amazon today.

John Halbrook said...

To paraphrase the great one, you can never lose money underestimating the taste of the American people.

Anne said...

I think Alan has got it right about the Irish American sensitivity problem - perhaps various bombing atrocities on their own soil has awakened a sense of guilt over supporting terrorism abroad.
Another possibility is the gender fashionability factor: the current trend, particularly noticeable in American film and t.v. series, is for a strong female lead character, whatever the genre....just a thought for your next novel ?

Anne said...

P.S. I think the trend for female leads was also partly responsible for the success of Nordic crime and political series such as The Bridge and Borgen.

Brendan O'Leary said...

Anne - probably true. The Falls,current BBC detective series set in Belfast, has a strong female lead. Not only that, she is from London, so dragging in a demographic that might shy away from an all Irish show. Not only that, she is played by Gillian Anderson, internationally famous among over-40s.

However, that is the TV audience. I'd assume Adrian would be happy enough to make a living a la Rankin or Child who manage on paper with male characters and no significant TV tie-in.

Although I did see in an interview that Child did calculate that the French market could be lucrative so gave his Jack Reacher a French mother.

Lester Carthan said...

Based on the list Adrian made a small but critical cameo in the third Duffy novel.

As for Adrian being off the radar in the states I think it's an out of sight out of mind thing. In my area you can hear Adrian's body of work easy enough with audio CDS but you can't hold him in your hand as the physical novels are surprisingly hard to come by. Of course judging the entire country's reading habits based on my local library and book stores isn't a what you call a random sample but it's all I got.


Cary Watson said...

As far as the lack of American reviews goes, I think US readers have moved more towards crime thrillers rather than mysteries or police procedurals. Authors such as Lee Child, Andrew Gross, Harlen Coben et al., are the ones who are defining what's popular in US crime fiction, and those are the kinds of writers reviewers feel obliged to review. UK readers still seem to be happy with mysteries and procedurals.

adrian mckinty said...


I have to say that even a bad review wd be better than no review at this atage from the NYT but it looks like that aint going to happen.

adrian mckinty said...


I dont know how I missed that one!

Thank you so much for posting it.

Yup its a lovely review in the Aussie.

adrian mckinty said...


I know its a long haul but it just feels so difficult sometimes. You write the books, you personally send out review copies from Australia just in case the publishers dont, and then...nothing. Its a little frustrating.

adrian mckinty said...


I love that German cover to. The book itself as an object is really quite beautiful. Its the only hardback available so I particularly like it for that too.

adrian mckinty said...


Thats what many editors have told me over the years too. I still dont want to believe it.

adrian mckinty said...


You may be onto something about gender.

I did try once to have a female protagonist in one of my crime novels. I thought the book was pretty good but commercially it was an utter disaster. Alas.

adrian mckinty said...


Yeah distribution has been an issue. The 7th Street books are being distributed now by Random House now so I hope the big publisher supports the line. I do get still emails and letters from people talking about how they cant see the books anywhere in the US which depresses me.

Recently I asked the publishers if they wd pay HALF the price of a ticket to come to Bouchercon this year and they politely told me that they didnt think they had the resources to do that. I didnt throw a hissy fit because I completely understand where they are coming from. Publishing is a VERY precarious business at the moment and overheads are RAZOR thin, but I still think that you have to put out money to make money and even a small book tour or even 1 reading, especially at Bouchercon, might have been profitable in the long run...Oh well...

PenskeFile said...

Hi Adrian. I was turned on to your work by a review in the Wall Street Journal. I bought the first one on Amazon, loved it then the second and pre-ordered the third, which I read within a week of it's release.

You wrote in this post: "The Sean Duffy books have been reviewed in all the major (and minor) British, Irish, French, German, Spanish and Australian newspapers out there but from the entire series in only 2 American ones: Duffy #1 was reviewed in the Arizona Republic and Duffy #3 was reviewed in the Globe. It's a little odd, no? " Did you forget about this one (perhaps it was online only and not in the print version?)

adrian mckinty said...


That was a great one, but not technically a review, more a feature article. But wonderful all the same.

I did think that after the WSJ piece I'd have gotten a bit more momentum than I have though.

Its all very well being a cult novelist but you still have to pay the bills!

Brendan O'Leary said...

What happens at these shows like Bouchercon? I'm aware of how it works at technical engineering shows that I go to (several a year) but there you have a specialist market of people who probably know something about what you do anyway - you know, build a better mousetrap ...

I mean, if you had raised finance and went independently, would your publisher have a stand there that you could go on, or what?

As an aside, I was interviewing someone for an office admin position a few years back. She had just moved to Aberdeen after working in publishing in London and Edinburgh.
I was explaining that some of our field technicians could be bits of prima donnas , difficult to deal with at times, and she said, "No problem for me - I had authors "

karina said...

As a lover of Tana French, I actually was looking for a replacement and came across a glorious review of your work through my local NPR radio station. You can see it here. And enjoy.
I've only read 2 books so far (it's only been a few weeks since I heard of you) but I think they are beautifully written and I have no doubt will catch on here in the states.