INTERVIEW: Gerard Brennan

Does the webmaster of Crimescene NI have a dark side? Find out as he collaborates with some of Northern Ireland's biggest crime-writers in the anthology, Requiems for the Departed

There is at least one thing that writers and serial killers have in common. At some point in their career someone will look at their work, shake their head and say, ‘ … but they always seemed so nice’.

The phrase could have been coined for 30 year old Gerard Brennan. The webmaster of the popular blog Crimescene NI is a loving father, devoted husband and has the sort of chipmunk cheeks that people just want to pinch.

It is a worry. Luckily for Brennan’s neighbours' peace of mind and their property prices, the closest he gets to serial killing is writing people that cut him off in the road into whatever story he's working on. His agent is currently shopping The Wee Rockets, Brennan’s first novel, around publishers.

‘The first thing he said to me was that it might be difficult to sell a novel about granny-mugging,’ Brennan says cheerfully, stirring sugar into his coffee. ‘But he was willing to give it a go.’

Brennan’s only been seriously writing - what he calls ‘writing with ambition’ – for six years, ever since his daughter was born. In that time he’s finished The Wee Rockets, written two plays (one of which was co-written with his father about his grandfather’s shebeen on the Falls Road), had another baby, gotten a tattoo of a Laughing Buddha and edited an Ireland-centric short story anthology.

Requiems for the Departed takes some of Ireland’s best loved myths and legends – the selkies, the Children of Lir – and reimagines them as if they’d grown up in the bad part of literature, having to do unspeakable things to get by.

‘Mark Deniz from Morrigan Books had approached me about doing a crime anthology,’ Brennan explains. ‘But I knew that Ken Bruen had brought out Dublin Noir just a few years ago and there was a rumour that Colin Bateman was going to set one in Belfast. I really needed to do something to set Requiems for the Departed apart. So I got together with my co-editor Michael Stone (not that one, a different one) and then it hit us: Morrigan Books! It was a no-brainer.’

Tapping into his links with the literary crime world, Brennan put together an impressive hit-list of seventeen authors for the anthology.

It’s a mix of Old School crime author heavies like Sam Millar, Garbhan Downey and Ken Bruen and the next generation of crime authors such as Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty and a certain CultureNorthernIreland content manager T A Moore.

Although Brennan is delighted with the finished anthology he admits that it wasn’t always stress free working with so many well-established, well-known authors.

‘Sometimes I’d be about to ask them to make a change to their story and I’d stop and think, ‘Who do you think you are?’ But actually it was all a really, really good experience.’

So Stuart Neville never came around to give him a slap?

Brennan splutters a laugh, ‘No, thank god! He’s a big guy. Ken Bruen never sent the Galway Mafia after me either.’

He’s very proud of the finished anthology, saying that he can’t imagine how it could be any better, but is looking forward to getting back to his own writing now that it’s finished. He’s just started work on his current novel, about a kidnapping plot and the ‘next George Best’.

It is a crime novel, despite some horrific elements like the main character signing with Man City, but Brennan admits that if anything he’d always thought he’d be a horror writer.

‘The crime fiction sort of happened by accident,’ he explains. ‘I thought the idea of a bunch of 14 year old kids trying to mug and murder you was kind of horrific, but when anyone read it they said it was crime’.

He hasn’t abandoned the horror genre completely though, still entertaining notions of rewriting some of his earlier novels under a new name.

‘Brendan Garner is going to be my outlet for supernatural, horror type stories while I concentrate of crime fiction under the name Gerard Brennan,’ he explains. ‘[Garner] is the kind of guy I could have been if I hadn’t got married and had kids. You know, the wastrel that wasn’t cleaned up by a good Irish woman. I could imagine myself sitting up at night and drinking Jack Daniels.’

Requiems for the Departed is out on the 1st June 2010 from Morrigan Books.

Tammy Moore