To kick off the festival, so to speak, on Friday night (yesterday NZT), the winners of the Los Angeles Times Book Prizes were also annouced at a ceremony at the newspaper's building.
For the Mystery/Thriller prize, the five finalists for this year were:
- Megan Abbott, Bury Me Deep
- David Ellis, The Hidden Man
- Attica Locke, Black Water Rising
- Val McDermid, A Darker Domain
- Stuart Neville, The Ghosts of Belfast
I haven't yet read any of these five titles, although BLACK WATER RISING is in my TBR pile, and I have read some other McDermid titles. I have also been meaning to get my hands on Neville's debut, which was recommended to me by Liam McIlvanney late last year.
I was a little confused at first, because McIlvanney praised Neville's debut novel THE TWELVE as one of his favourite thrillers of the year - but then the Los Angeles Times Prize promoted THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST as Neville's debut work - then I discovered it was of course the same book, released under different titles in Europe and the USA.
In our interview for a Weekend Herald feature article late last year, McIlvanney said "I read an excellent thriller from a guy in Ireland, Stuart Neville, called The Twelve, which had a terrific premise; this former IRA hitman is haunted by the ghosts of his victims, who encourage him to take revenge, to seek revenge for them on the sort of paramilitary kingpins who directed his activities. It’s a terrific premise; done fantastically… it really is terrific."
The judges in the Mystery/Thriller category were Oline Cogdill, Dick Adler and Sarah Weinman. On her excellent blog, Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind, Weinman posted the judges' citation: "Stuart Neville's stunning debut novel delivers an inspired, gritty view of violence’s aftermath and the toll it takes on each person involved – especially on one haunted, redemption-seeking ex-IRA hitman. Along the way, Neville condenses the fear and hate that has troubled Northern Ireland, still under the thumb of decades of domestic terrorism, for decades."
It certainly sounds like a crime novel well worth reading, and I'm going to have to chase up getting a copy. Neville is also on a panel at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on Saturday afternoon (given our time difference, that's actually in about 1 hours time - although it's Sunday morning here in New Zealand), at the DODD147 location (hosted by the Mystery Writers of America), with fellow nominees Locke and Abbott.
The blurb for THE TWELVE/GHOSTS OF BELFAST reads:
Sooner or later, everybody pays - and the dead will set the price... Former paramilitary killer Gerry Fegan is haunted by his victims, twelve souls who shadow his every waking day and scream through every drunken night. Just as he reaches the edge of sanity they reveal their desire: vengeance on those who engineered their deaths. From the greedy politicians to the corrupt security forces, the street thugs to the complacent bystanders who let it happen, all must pay the price.
When Fegan's vendetta threatens to derail Northern Ireland's peace process and destabilise its fledgling government, old comrades and enemies alike want him gone. David Campbell, a double agent lost between the forces of law and terror, takes the job. But he has his own reasons for eliminating Fegan; the secrets of a dirty war should stay buried, even if its ghosts do not.
Set against the backdrop of a post-conflict Northern Ireland struggling with its past, THE TWELVE takes the reader from the back streets of Belfast, where violence and politics go hand-in-hand, to the country's darkest heart.
You can read the firsts two chapters here.
What do you think of Neville receiving the Book Prize? Have you read his, or any of the other nominated novel(s)? Does Irish-set thriller writing intrigue you? Do you like crime stories with politics entwined? Thoughts and comments welcome.