Old Peculier Adrian McKinty

The Oz-based crime writer on award nominations and why Liam Neeson would make the perfect gangster

Adrian McKinty is an Old Peculier. That’s not a slur, or a misspelling. The crime author’s 2010 novel Fifty Grand has been nominated for the prestigious Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year. (So has Stuart Neville for The Twelve, so Northern Irish crime fans will have to fight it out amongst themselves whom to vote for.) ‘I hear it is a cool thing,’ McKinty notes gravely.

McKinty - who grew up in Carrickfergus, studied at Oxford, lived in Harlem and is currently based in Australia - has some tough competition, but Fifty Grand has form. It already scooped the 2010 Spinetingler Award. Not that McKinty is resting on his laurels while the voting goes on. A new novel, Falling Glass, has just been published by Serpent’s Tail.

The general irreverence with which McKinty approaches life is familiar to any readers of his blog, The Psychopathology of Everyday Life. His books don’t always share this breezy attitude, however. In Falling Glass, McKinty takes a serious look at some very interesting social issues around the place of the Irish Traveller community in modern life.

McKinty explains where his interest came from. ‘I knew a lot of Travellers when I was a kid. Travellers were always coming around the estate and, of course, I attended the Ballycastle Horse Fair many times.

'In London I got to know a Traveller kid named Jamie, and we became very good friends. I hate to give credence to a stereotype, but Jamie showed me how to pick locks and how to escape from handcuffs with a paper clip. Surprisingly easy, that one.’

The series of books that kicked off McKinty’s crime writing career – Dead I Well May Be, The Dead Yard and The Bloomsday Dead, AKA The Dead Trilogy – feature the brutal hitman with a heart of gold, Michael Forsythe, as the protagonist.

McKinty dislikes the idea of a protagonist who somehow magically survives a baker’s dozen of death-defying adventures, so he retired Forsythe at the end of the trilogy. Fans were disappointed, but it turned out that they hadn’t seen the last of him. Falling Glass features a Michael Forsythe cameo. Could this be a new trend? The literary equivalent of a bit-part on Corrie?

‘No, I don’t think so,' McKinty laughs. 'It just gets silly after a while, doesn’t it? The same character cheating death again and again. Publishers love series, but ultimately they’re not good for authors or readers. Both get lazy and complacent. I suspect and I hope that this will be the last time we see the male lead (Killian) or Michael Forsythe.’

So, if there is going to be no more Forsythe, what can McKinty’s readers look forward to next? ‘I’ve got an idea for an atmospheric novel set in 1981 about a serial killer who uses the chaos surrounding the Maze Prison Hunger Strikes to carry out his dirty deeds,' McKinty reveals. He doesn’t want this to be the usual sentimental Hunger Strike narrative, but more of a look at the social landscape around them.

It was a time when Belfast seemed on the verge of anarchy; nuclear war lurked in the background because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and all the English newspapers wanted to talk about was the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Di. McKinty chuckles, ‘Plus ça change, eh?’

Before we leave McKinty to his plotting - and with so much news and so many reviews currently surrounding the Cannes Film Festival - does he think that Falling Glass might one day join Water for Elephants and We Need to Talk About Kevin as a big-screen adaptation? ‘I’d love it,' he admits.

'The pitch for Falling Glass would be: Liam Neeson is a semi-retired gangster who has made a series of disastrous financial investments in the Irish housing market. Reluctantly, he meets with a somewhat notorious airline millionaire (Stephen Rea) who begs him to find his drug addicted ex-wife who has broken their custody agreement and disappeared into the Irish countryside with their two daughters.'

Sounds unmissable, but then McKinty so often is. Vote for the Theakston Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year.