Ken Bruen


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Please welcome Ken Bruen, author of the wildly intoxicating Jack Taylor series and many other outstanding works of fiction!



Ken and daughter Grace


Irish crime fiction has assumed an importance out of all proportion to the size of the island in recent years. No one has been more responsible for this than Ken Bruen. Heís written series (Jack Taylor, Inspector Brant, Fisher and Petrakos), standalone novels (including the newly re-released London Boulevard), and has collaborated with other well-known writers (Reed Farrel Coleman, Jason Starr), as well as contributing to more than a few anthologies, and editing one (Dublin Noir). Television and movies are lining up to bring his work to screens of various sizes.

Heís won two Shamus awards (for The Guards and The Dramatist), a Macavity (The Killing of the Tinkers), and a Barry (Priest); heís been a finalist for two Edgars, two Anthonys, a Macavity, and a Barry. He still took time for questions from New Mystery Readerís Dana King.


Dana King's interview with Ken Bruen:

NMR: Ken, thanks for taking the time to answer some questions. London Boulevard has been re-issued to coincide with the release of the movie, starring Colin Farrell and Keira Knightley. The story itself is a twist on the classic film, Sunset Boulevard, with the Joe Gillis character re-worked into someone more likely to be found in a Richard Stark novel. What gave you the idea of adapting it as you did?

KB: I love the movie and I wondered if it would be possible to update it and when I was told it was a crazy idea, then I knew I had to do it and it was a challenge to move it to London and set in modern was one of the books that was a joy to write.


NMR: In Sunset Boulevard, Norma Desmond is a hag, but London Boulevardís Lillian Palmer arouses Mitchell when he first meets her. Is this a reflection of changing attitudes toward older woman, your personal attitudes toward older women, or was it just to make the plot more credible?

KB: Purely a plot device but that is not to say that older women arenít amazing, though I think the term Cougar is pretty demeaning.


NMR: Is there anything you can tell us about the movie? IMDB cast information implies at least one pretty major change, which I wonít go into, lest I create a spoiler.

KB: It looks absolutely stunning and yes, there are 2 major plot changes but it would be indeed a spoiler to say.............the London locations are amazing and I think itís going to do terrific...............I sure as hell hope so.


NMR: In addition to London Boulevard, you currently have several books under consideration for movies or TV shows. How involved are you in the productions? Would you like to be involved more? Less? Overall, is it an enjoyable experience?

KB: Blitz and The Guards are both finished and I was in both.........played a priest in Blitz!!!!! Loved it and they did ask me about various script points and it was fun to be so involved in both productions.


NMR: Youíve written several series, as well as standalones. Do you have a preference? Do you write a book knowing in advance whether it will be a standalone, or the first in a series, from the time you start? 

KB: Jack Taylor and Brant were always meant to be series..............American Skin and Once Were Cops are still unclear in my head as to whether they are better left as standalones. I like the series as itís like re-visiting family, though highly screwed families.


NMR: Are there topics or types of plots you prefer to do as part of a series rather than standalones, or vice versa?

KB: Itís interchangeable but in standalones, you can go for broke, kill everybody and not have to worry about the next book, no boundaries and I love that.


NMR: Youíve written several collaborations with two different authors and have gone on record as enjoying the experience. What drew you to work with someone else? What was it about Jason Starr and Reed Farrel Coleman that attracted you?

KB: Very simple, they are me best mates and what could be better than working with your buddies.............would you believe Dana, never one fight or argument on any of the projects, I always wanted to do collaborations as the general feeling is they donít work and I found the opposite to be true, if writers have huge egos?............then they sure werenít in evidence on any of the books, it was just a blast, and I relish the challenge of finding a new voice.


NMR: Few writers have a more easily recognizable style; your pages even look different from most. The net effect is to keep the readerís eye moving down the page, and, as a result, your books read like water over a dam. How much of this comes from conscious decisions youíve made, and how much is just how things come out naturally when you write?

KB: I used to write a lot of poetry, most of it crap but it taught me brevity and outline, I see a page in my mind and I write it exactly as I see it, it has caused murder with editors alas but when I see the books, and the pages as they are in my mind, it was worth the struggle.


NMR: Youíre an admirer of the late Ed McBain, who seems relatively forgotten since his death. When discussing the greats, Chandler, Hammett, the two Macdonalds, Elmore Leonard, and James Lee Burke always come up; when someone asks, ďWhat about McBain?Ē the answer is, ďOh, of course, McBain,Ē but heís no longer among the first listed. Why do you think that is, and do you think the pendulum will swing back for him?

KB: I was blessed to know him and even do a reading with him. He will always be mega and every few years there will be a huge upsurge of interest in him, Iím always amazed that so little is made of his wondrous humour, Fat Ollie Weeks is one of the great comic creations in mystery.


NMR: Who are your major influences as a writer?

KB: James M. Cain, Harold Mc Coy, Beckett


NMR: I understand you try to read a book a day. Who and what do you like to read?

KB: Jason Starr, Daniel Woodrell, James Sallis, RJ. Ellory, Craig McDonald, Donna Moore, Reed Coleman and I do a lot of reading on Philosophy as my Doctorate is in Metaphysics.


NMR: Some of our readers may be unfamiliar with your work. Which of your books do you think gives the best flavor of your writing while being most accessible to those who may not know what to expect?

KB: The Guards.............I think itís the best intro to the whole way I write.


NMR: Many thanks to Ken Bruen for his generosity of time and spirit; this interview has truly been a pleasure. So we canít be accused as teases about the movies, London Boulevard is scheduled for UK release in April of 2010; Blitz for a less definite 2010 date. The Guards is too recently completed to have a release date, and Once Were Cops  is currently in development.



KB is the author of 28 published books The Jack Taylor series has won ten awards He has a Ph D in metaphysics he can pass for normal on some occasions.