Monday, 26 January 2009

When the going gets weird.....

I had the weirdist experience the other night.

A had this dream/nightmare about being attacked by a giant bee. I was just in the act of punching out at it when I woke up suddenly - just in time to stop myself punching my wife in the head.

I pretty quickly went back to sleep and then forgot about it until the following evening when I jokingly apologised to my wife for almost hitting her. She asked why and I explained about being attacked by a giant bee. And her mouth just dropped open. Because the novel she had been reading in bed beside me that night featured a man who could control bees with his mind and make them attack people.

This was a book I had never read and knew absolutely nothing about.

Just a coincidence?

Or evidence of the untapped powers of the mind?

Forty years ago I might have reported it to the Bee Specials, but too late for that now.

(Only a few of you will get this. Apologies. But the bee story is true. And scary.)

Told you....

Last week I mentioned that I was flying to Manchester for the Salford Children's Book Award, and how my previous experience of attending such events was quite embarrassing - authors who do attend sit on a stage before a large audience awaiting the announcement of the winner, who, invariably, is unable to be there. That happened twice last year - at one the winner couldn't make it because he was busy, and at the other the author couldn't make it because she was dead. Well, you could probably detect from what I wrote that I wasn't hugely unthusiastic about making the trip to Salford, but as it turned out I had to cancel at the last moment as an important business meeting came up. A good thing, as it turns out, as I lost to that very same recently departed author. To lose once to a recently deceased author is unfortunate, to lose twice is.....

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Mystery Man.....the countdown....

.....still three months until the launch of the next novel, Mystery Man, but it's nice to report some very positive early reaction. For those of you who like to keep up to date with what's happening locally as far as crime fiction is concerned, there's no better place for you to go than to Gerard Brennan's Crime Scene Northern Ireland website, and it's this very location which has run the very first review of the new book, having somehow gotten hold of a proof copy (!).

To wit:

A Wee Review - Mystery Man by Colin Bateman

There’s a new PI in Belfast. His qualifications? He owns No Alibis, a bookshop specialising in crime fiction. Is he a fast-talking, hard-drinking, skirt-chasing tough guy? Um, no. Not at all, really. He’s a bit... well, he’s cut from a different cloth. Oh, and he most definitely is not David Torrans.

Mystery Man is a Belfast crime fiction comedy in which our protagonist (a man with no name) tackles the cases he’s inherited from one of the few ‘real’ PIs in town. Malcolm Carlyle, the proprietor of Private Eye, a private investigation firm situated next to No Alibis bookshop, has apparently skipped town; leaving many a loose end untied. In desperation, his abandoned clients have started trickling into No Alibis for help. Handpicking a few cases, to pass the time more than anything else, the narrator makes a bit of a hobby out of tracking down scorned girlfriends or elusive items of clothing. It’s a nice distraction. Well, it’s nice up until he gets involved in The Case of the Dancing Jew.

This is probably Bateman’s most comedic novel to date, with practically a laugh a paragraph guaranteed. Some of the humour can make you feel a little guilty for laughing. To Bateman, political correctness is something that happens to other people, it would seem. It’s actually quite refreshing. The rest of the humour is of the semi-self-aware, self-deprecating variety that comes from the small revelations of the narrator’s personality. Each little nugget of information gradually builds to form one of the finest protagonists I’ve ever read. Yes, he even gives Dan Starkey a run for his money.

In the early chapters, you could well believe that Bateman has chosen to have a go at writing a modern-day cosy; a slightly bumbling detective logically solves a few minor mysteries. Then the dead bodies start to show up. In abundance. And as Dan Starkey has said more than once, “The jigsaw thickens!” Bateman looks beyond the Troubles (well, apart from a few political wisecracks – it’s set in Belfast, after all) and brings a different evil into the Northern Irish mix. Even at his most light-hearted and funniest, Bateman can’t resist dragging the reader over to his dark side. And, you know, it wouldn’t be half the experience it is if he didn’t.

So, accompanied by a dreadful shop assistant, a beautiful and quirky sidekick and a personality defect or three, Bateman’s latest protagonist really spins a terrific yarn. And it’s possible that he’s taking on Starkey’s torch as the new Bateman series character. In fact, Bateman has announced on his blog that he’s already halfway through the follow up, Day of the Jack Russell. If anybody is going to replace Belfast’s most infamous reporter and anti-hero, let it be the Mystery Man.

You should look forward to April 2009, when you can get your hands on a copy. Mystery Man will give you more laughs than a room full of rabbis and priests. This being the follow up to the more serious Orpheus Rising, you just never know where Bateman is going to take the loyal reader next. You do know that it’s a place worth visiting, though.

So ta very much to Gerard, and do check out the site at :

A few dates starting to filter in now for the launch of the book: there will be two launches really in Northern Ireland: the first on April 30th at Bangor Library, which is in my hometown, and then the following night in, of course, No Alibis.

Prior to that there I'll be appearing at the Cuirt Literary Festival in Galway - the last time I was there was at least ten years ago. I understand I'll be sharing the stage with another Irish writer, Gene Kerrigan.

Then on to Paris in May, with one reading at the Irish Cultural Centre and another for the French library service two days later. Which means, unfortunately, that I'm going to miss out on crime writer Michael Connolly's visit to No Alibis, which falls between my two French dates. One idea No Alibis had was for me to interview him on stage, but sadly that's not now going to happen.

Friday, 16 January 2009

In the shadow of Old Trafford

I'm off to Manchester next Friday (23rd) for the Salford Children's Book Award. Titanic 2020 has been shortlisted, along with : Tom Becker: Darkside; Siobhan Dowd: The London Eye Mystery; Julia Golding: Ringmaster; Matt Haig: Shadow Forest; F. E. Higgins: The Black Book of Secrets ;Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell: Barnaby Grimes: Curse of the Night Wolf. Should be fun, and it's great to meet fans of the book, but it's always a bit of a strange experience. Last year Titanic was up for three awards - at the first there were five short listed authors on the stage, anxiously waiting the announcement, and when it came the winner turned out to be the only author who wasn't there. Which was mildly embarrassing. Then the next one I lost out to an author who definitely couldn't have attended, having recently departed this mortal coil. The third time I was short listed, and having suffered the outrageous slings and arrows of being defeated, I decided not to attend....and won. So who knows. I haven't read the other books on the short list, although one of them is by that recently departed author, which is a bad omen. Keep you posted!
Interestingly, when my brother heard I was going to Salford, which is the home of Old Trafford, he offered me a ticket to go and see the FA Cup game between Manchester United and Spurs. I turned him down, once I'd finished laughing.