INTERVIEW: Ken Bruen

The internationally renowned crime writer shoots the breeze with Gerard Brennan

The godfather of Irish crime fiction, Ken Bruen, was born in Galway in 1951, and is the author of The Guards, the first of the Jack Taylor novels which have, to date, won ten literary awards.

Those working in cinema also see the value of Bruen's work. His novel Her Last Call to Louis MacNeice is in production for Pilgrim Pictures. Blitz, London Boulevard and The Guards have been filmed and will premiere in 2010, whilst The Killing of the Tinkers began shooting in April 2010 and the new Taylor book, The Devil, came out in June 2010.

With such an impressive track record, one can only ask the dapper gentleman, can it get any better than this?

‘I'm more stunned than anyone else,’ admits Bruen, with

characteristic modesty. ‘Then this week came the news of Anthony and Macavity nominations for Tower (co-written with Reed Farrel Coleman) and the Barry Award nomination for best novel of the decade with the The Guards.'

This award pits Bruen against heavy-hitters such as Dennis Lehane, Steig Larson, and Michael Connelly. ‘Phew,’ as Bruen puts it.

And it seems the Galway scribe is branching out. This year, in a small cameo, Bruen got to act alongside Jason Statham, Paddy Considine and Aidan Gillen in the film adaptation of Blitz. Though he gets a little coy when asked about his acting future. ‘I've just done two (more cameos), but more on that when I'm allowed to mention it. It was a blast though.’

Bruen’s cameo in Blitz was as a priest. Considering the protagonist’s thoughts on the Catholic faith in the Jack Taylor series, this must bring a mischievous smile to the author’s lips every time he thinks about it.

The latest Jack Taylor novel, Devil, brings Taylor, the long-suffering Galway PI, to new terrain: the supernatural. Was this shift in subject matter an easy transition for Bruen as a writer, and what made him decide to take poor Jack there in the first place?

‘Nearly killed me, honest to God. It seemed a natural progression from Priest, Cross and Sanctuary (the most recent books in the series) that the ultimate evil might appear. Never again though, too spooky. But it yielded a children's book which I wrote to rid meself of the demons of the Devil.’

When you get the chance to chat with a writer as prolific as Bruen, you have to ask: how do you do it? It’s some strain of writerly steroid, right? ‘I keep it real simple and just write every day, same time, same amount.’

But even the mighty Ken Bruen must take a break from the computer once in a while to recharge the batteries. How does he spend his down time? ‘Thanks to Spinetingler, I discovered the stunning series Breaking Bad. Love it. I walk miles a day, feed the swans and watch the World Cup with my daughter on the days she is with me. Holland’s looking good so far.’

Bruen has enjoyed an increasingly strong following in Ireland and the rest of the UK for many years now, but in America he is a literary god. A regular visitor to conventions such as Noir Con in Philadelphia and the touring Boucher Con (most recently held in Anchorage, Baltimore and Indianapolis) he is also a noted associate of the New York writing clique that counts Jason Starr and Reed Farrel Coleman among their number. He’s definitely got something that appeals to US readers.

But what?

‘As I'm watching the USA get a hiding from Slovenia, I think it's that the US loves an outsider,' Bruen says. 'And, it has to be said, the sheer insanity of the books makes them smile. God bless ‘em.’

Ken Bruen's novels can be purchased in CultureNorthernIreland's Amazon Store. More of Gerard Brennan's interviews can be found on Crime Scene NI.