Tyrone author and journalist Anthony Quinn is keeping stellar literary company after being nominated for one of the most prestigious international crime fiction awards.
The nominations for the 2015 Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award, which were announced on Monday, sees giants of the genre such as Ian Rankin, Lee Child and John Harvey pitted against a clutch of new voices including Quinn, who has been picked for his debut Disappeared.
Comprising 18 titles, the list is selected by an academy of crime writing authors, agents, editors, reviewers, members of the Crime Writing Festival Programming Committee and representatives from T&R Theakston Ltd and WHSmith.
Quinn has already enjoyed critical success with his detective series, which is set along the loughshore of Tyrone and Armagh.
Disappeared was selected as one of the books of the year by two national newspapers, The Times and the Daily Mail. It was also shortlisted by the book critics of the Washington Post, the LA Times, the San Francisco Chronicle and other US newspapers for the Strand Literary Award in the US.
Quinn said he ‘was over the moon’ with the latest success.
“It feels a little unreal to see my book nominated alongside writers such Ian Rankin, Lee Child and Peter May, not to mention Sophie Hannah and Ray Celestin, the author of The Axeman’s Jazz , and I think that’s my saving grace,” he said. “I have such a busy home life, juggling looking after our children and working part-time as a reporter, and there’s not much room for a big-head about the place.
“I have a very tight schedule and I just keep to that. I rise at 6am and work for a few hours, and resume last thing at night for a couple more. Writer’s block is a luxury I can’t afford.”
On its UK publication, The Daily Mail proclaimed Disappeared as ‘unquestionably one of the crime novels of the year, set to make Quinn a star’, while The Times crime fiction critic Marcel Berlins said: “The Troubles of Northern Ireland are not over. This message is so disturbingly, convincingly and elegantly conveyed in Anthony Quinn’s first novel ... Beautifully haunting.”
Border Angels, the sequel published in January, has already hit number one in the Australian Kindle download charts, and has also garnered rave reviews in the press.
Why did Quinn choose Co Armagh for the Daly stories? “It’s Lough Neagh, really,” he says. “It’s a hidden part of Northern Ireland. It’s almost a hidden lake in itself. Because the waterline has descended over the years it can’t be seen from the roads, even. So you have this very large body of water that’s like a void in the middle of the country.
“There’s a mystical sense to it, but also a kind of darkness. The gruesomeness of the bogs and the blackthorn hedges – and the sense that in these little parishes where murder has happened, loose little bits of the past are still floating around in the darkness. There’s a haunted sense that I wanted to come through.”
Disappeared places an elderly British spy – who is suffering from Alzheimer’s – at the centre of a web of unresolved intrigue. Rejected by a raft of UK publishers as being “too immersed in the Troubles”, the book was first published in New York, where it attracted a raft of praise that eventually brought it back across the Atlantic and on to books-of-the-year lists at the Daily Mail and the Times in 2014.
The third in the series Silence, is due to published in November.
“It’s the darkest of the series so far”, said Anthony. “It was so dark that I wanted to run away from it many times, but I’m glad that I persevered.”
In Silence, Quinn’s middle-aged, semi depressive and insomniac detective, Celcius Daly, investigates unsolved murders that took place during the Troubles, and finds to his shock that his mother, who he believed had died as a result of an accident, is included on a map of murders charting a year-long killing spree.
As in the darker Nordic crime dramas, Daly is an outsider, a Catholic detective, who has to pit himself against criminals as well as the institutional bias of the police force.
Alongside his series of contemporary crime novels Anthony Quinn has embarked on a series of historical adventures featuring famous figures from Irish history. The first of these, ‘The Blood Dimmed Tide’, finds WB Yeats on the trail of a murderer.
“It was a wee bit of a holiday for me, from the darkness of the Celcius Daly books,” Quinn says. “Yeats is kind of like a Sherlock Holmes of the supernatural.
“It might seem bizarre material for a crime novel - the doomed search of a Nobel Laureate poet for evidence of the supernatural - but I’ve been a fan of WB Yeats and his poetry for years, so much so that I was able to recite several of his longer poems in order to woo my wife Clare on the evening we first met.
“The beaches where he composed some of his most famous works are places that I visit frequently. Over the years, I’ve often wondered what went through his mind as he trod the shoreline at Lissadell and Rosses Point. So I didn’t have to travel too far mentally to arrive at the idea of a supernatural mystery thriller with Yeats at its heart, and the silver strands of Sligo as its stage.
“Yeats was very good company in the 14 months it took to research and write The Blood Dimmed Tide. I hope that he will prove equally irresistible to readers!”
The second in his historical series, Blind Arrows, featuring Michael Collins is due to be published in September.
Now in its eleventh year, the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award was created to celebrate the very best in British and Irish crime writing and is open to crime authors whose novels were published in paperback from 1 May 2014 to 30 April 2015. The 2015 Award is run in partnership with T&R Theakston Ltd, WHSmith, and Radio Times.