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January 08, 2010


Chris Williams

what you need is come kind of bastard love-child of Colin Bateman and CS Lewis: the former is too lightweight to fill the role of Deep North Author, the latter too intellectual.


Actually, the man you want might have been Michael Dibdin, authentic Irish Prod and professional crime writer, with special emphasis on corruption and conspiracy in Italy. Unfortunately, he dead.


For some reason a friend chose to send me a copy of Bateman's "Mystery Man", thus obliging me to read it. Very lightweight. Gissajob lightweight.


Special detail: Peter Robinson served a jail sentence in the 80s for trying to achieve a united Ireland. Wot? He's a Paisleyite!

Yes - he did so from the top of the map down, leading a group of Loyalists who invaded a village in the Republic, and the jail sentence was served south of the border.

Richard J

And severely beat up a Gardai in doing so, I believe, to the extent that the poor sod had to retire shortly after.


You overlook Frank McGuinness (Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme) - and he's gay (I think), which might make him very suitable for such a story in the manner of Tennessee Williams.


"You overlook Frank McGuinness"

...remiss of me. But I can't think of anybody else. Christ, the only writer in the village. I mean, Dibdin went and hid out in Italy wirting books about someone called Aurelio Zen, which is about as deep cover you can get for an Ulster Prod (though if he was called Augustus it might have given us a clue).

Splintered Sunrise

I wish John Hewitt was still alive to write us some poems about it. Bateman is a bit flippant for this material (though his background on the Bangor Spectator might come in handy), but I'd quite fancy seeing Glenn Patterson take it on.

Our greatest ever writer from the north was of course Flann O'Brien. Albeit that he was Catholic and spent most of his life in Dublin, his dark surrealism would be a good fit. There's no question though, that there's a great novel to be written about Belfast politics - think Carl Hiaasen on Miami, only colder.


I'm trying and failing to imagine what Flann O'Brien would have said about an affair like this under 1950s levels of (self-)censorship. I think it'd be good, though.


OK, creative smear workshop around me please!

So she helped herself to five grand of the money, and tried to stiff another twenty, to "repay her debts". Another five is unaccounted for but presumably eaten, as they say in Kenya.

What on earth can those debts be? She's a premier league cumulard (not one, not two, but three slots on the public payroll); to say nothing of her husband (the two of them are sharing at least five public salaries), or whatever other graft there's been over the years. Five thousand? That's a credit-card bill's worth. Even 25k isn't *that* much in these terms.

I can see two possibilities: either there are no debts, and she simply stuck to the cash (which means there was never any question of it being a loan given as a favour - it must have been an outright bribe), or else there is indeed a debt, but not one you'd want to pay with money you have to tell the Revenue about.

Possibilities: sins of the flesh of various usual kinds, "work", some further twist on corruption...

Splintered Sunrise

The obvious thing to watch will be whether any council monies were disbursed. Nobody, but nobody at Castlereagh council would tell a member of the Robinson family "Sorry, but you can't do that." Hell, they named a leisure centre after Peter.


Bateman is indeed lightweight. He makes Sandy McCall Smith look like Cormac McCarthy.

Richard J

I liked him about a decade or so back - Divorcing Jack was quite good, and the film, for a low-budget British caper flick, was surprisingly not bad, but once he started churning 'em out.

Now, Christopher Brookmyre...


What about him? I actually find his more recent and cheerier stuff easier to read than the early ones where he was trying to be Irvine Welsh. "Be My Enemy" and "One Fine Day" were great.

Richard J

Just came to mind while we're talking about British authors trying to be the local Carl Hiassen.

I like him too, though his latest novel is a surprising shift in tone.


That's the "Doom III - This Time It's Scottish" one?

Richard J

That's the one.

True story: I lent it to my wife after finishing it. I knew when she'd got about 3/4 of the way through when she sent me a text saying 'this book's horrible'. Somehow, I don't think she'd expected the shift from 'teenage larks' into 'blood and guts'.


Haven't read it yet. That's not good if so. Ben Elton did the same thing - wrote a few novels that were OK if a bit preachy (Stark) then switched to writing stuff that was really disturbingly sadistic and unfunny (Past Mortem). Hope Brookmyre doesn't start writing ripoff musicals for has-been pop groups.

Richard J

Proposal: Let's Get Married

There's sunshine in Leith one fine day in summer. John sends a letter from America to his girlfriend saying 'let's get married' and they decide to make the best of it.

While John's on his way to marry his intended, his plane is diverted from Edinburgh to Gatwick, which is gonna leave him (500 miles away) from the service. Thankfully, a lorry driver, a king of the road... &c &c.

Richard J

Oh, dear God, there's one already.

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