London Calling: Signing at Piccadilly Waterstone's

Friday, July 24, 2009, 8:39 PM

I'm off to London this week. Among my activities will be an interview for the BBC World Service's Strand programme, which I believe will air on Wednesday (a link to the iPlayer version will be provided as and when).

I will also be doing some drop-in signings at various bookshops around the Big Smoke, and the plan is to be at the Piccadilly branch of Waterstone's between 12:00 and 12:30 on Tuesday 28th of July, so do come and say hello if you're in the area. As an incentive, the fist person to find me there (if any) will win a free copy of The Twelve!

In other news...

I'm led to believe that BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme will be "discussing" The Twelve this weekend. Again, a link to the iPlayer version will be provided when it's available.

Competition Results

The winners of the competition to win signed copies of The Twelve plus limited edition copies of The Six by answering two questions are Floriana of Ancona, Italy, and friend of the blog Mary from Cumbria - well done to you two, your books are in the post!

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I'm Back

Wednesday, July 15, 2009, 10:09 PM

I'm back in the world of blogging after a short break. This has been a hectic period, and after my thirty day blog marathon, I needed a bit of a rest. So, here's a round up:

New Reviews of THE TWELVE

A review appeared in today's Metro newspaper, which is one of the most widely read dailies in the UK. They said: "Stuart Neville's blistering debut thriller is a walk on the wild side of post-conflict Northern Ireland that brilliantly exposes the suffering still lurking beneath the surface of reconciliation and the hypocrisies that sustain the peace. Neville ceaselessly cranks up the tension ... but it's his caustic assessments of present-day Northern Ireland, penetrating its sad, confused predicaments, that really hit home."

A review also appeared in the Leinster Leader, courtesy of Laura Cassidy, which said: "[Neville's] perfect construction will have the reader flicking ferociously from one page to the next ... a real page-turner. Suspense continues to build throughout the book, culminating in an ending that will both satisfy and surprise. Not since Alex Barclay's Darkhouse has there been such a polished debut thriller from an Irish author."

One thing I've learned in recent days: nothing gives your sales a kick like a good review in a prominent publication. They're golden.


Last week I attended two book launches in one evening, both within a few hundred yards of each other.

The first was for AFTERMATH by Ruth Dudley Edwards at the Queen's Universty Bookshop. Aftermath is a factual account of the fight for justice by the families of the twenty-nine people killed in the Omagh bombing of 1998. It's an extraordinary story of courage in the face of evil as ordinary people, denied justice in the criminal courts, make world legal history by bringing the terrorists to account in the civil courts.

The other launch was for Adrian McKinty's FIFTY GRAND at No Alibis, which has been receiving praise from all over the world. Adrian travelled all the way from Australia to be in his (almost) home town, and I didn't want to miss it, so I ducked out of Ruth's event early so I could catch it. Beer followed, and I regret to say I wound up a little worse for wear, which was all Gerard Brennan's fault. He forced - forced, I say - me to have that last pint that tipped the balance.

Work in Progress

Finally, at long last, the sequel to THE TWELVE is nearing completion. I'm just at the final showdown. This is always a difficult stage for a novel; the end is in sight, but there's that slight sadness of having to let it go. But I will be very, very happy to see this book finished. More than one author has told me the second novel is the toughest, and my experience bears that out. Hopefully, with a bit of luck, the next time I blog it will be to announce that it's done.

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Daily Mail Review

Monday, July 06, 2009, 10:39 PM

I didn't get hold of it until today, but a very nice review of THE TWELVE appeared in the Daily Mail on Friday as part of their 50 summer reads feature. THE TWELVE was their #1 thriller of the season, and they had this to say:

"If you read only one thriller on your summer holiday, then make sure it is Neville's stunning debut. It's an astonishing first novel, set in today's Northern Ireland, and the subject matter could not be more controversial: it features a former paramilitary contract killer who is haunted by his victims. Twelve ghosts shadow his every waking hour and scream through every single one of his drunken nights. Written with a wonderful touch for the politics of the post-Good Friday agreement, it is as fresh and subtle as you could wish for. Awesomely powerful, fabulously written, and with a hero who is also a villain that you cannot help sympathising with, this novel is simply unmissable."

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A Great Review, and Assorted Links

Sunday, July 05, 2009, 10:40 PM

A fantastic review appeared today in The Observer newspaper, written by Nicola Barr. She said: "THE TWELVE is a brilliant thriller: unbearably tense, stomach-churningly frightening. This is the best fictional representation of the Troubles I have come across, a future classic of its time. Stuart Neville has finally given Northern Ireland the novel its singular history deserves." Read the full review here.

This review seems to have led to a boost in sales at, pushing THE TWELVE into the top 100 fiction books, peaking at #65, and #10 in the Mystery category, sitting alongside the likes of CJ Sansom, Kathy Reichs, John Connolly, James Patterson, Patricia Cornwell, Stieg Larsson and others. Even now, at around 10:30pm, I'm hanging on at #67 in fiction, and #135 in books in general, and in Amazon's top 20 crime books - which I think is pretty good for my first weekend of publication.

I discovered today that Matt Beynon Rees, author of the Omar Yussef mystery novels set in Gaza, is not only a Soho Press stable mate, but he's also represented by my UK co-agent, Caspian Dennis of the Abner Stein agency. Matt kindly got in touch to tell me he'd reviewed THE TWELVE, and a very nice job he did too, saying: "As thought-provoking a book on the aftermath of conflict as you'll ever read. Neville's book is a thrilling record of the traces of crime and blood left behind when the politicians command us to move on." Read the full review here.

Finally, you may remember I mentioned an interview I did with journalist and broadcaster Malachi O'Doherty for BBC Radio Ulster's Sunday Sequence programme. It was for a feature on ghosts in contemporary fiction, and it's an interesting piece. You can listen to it online care of the BBC's iPlayer service. It starts at around sixteen minutes in.

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My Blog Marathon is Over

Friday, July 03, 2009, 10:05 PM

I have now fulfilled my commitment to blogging every day up to publication. I think I did pretty well, all things considered. I only missed one day, and that was because I just plain forgot. And this post compensates for that one, seeing as I'm not really obliged to blog today. And I don't think the content of my posts was too bad. Sure, there were some fillers, but there were also some more substantial efforts.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is just to share a couple more photos. The first is from my joint launch with John Connolly at No Alibis last week. Can you tell it was a rather warm evening? Can you tell I was on my third beer?

And the next is to illustrate what being Waterstone's Irish book of the month looks like (courtesy of Keith at the Lisburn branch):

Incidentally, at the time of writing, THE TWELVE is at #265 in's sales rank, #34 in Crime/Thrillers/Mystery, and #21 in the Mystery subcategory. Which is nice (waves at Aerin). :)

Update: Make that #237, #31 and #18. Which is even nicer.

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Publication Day (and a little clarification)

Thursday, July 02, 2009, 10:57 PM

So I got published today. Which is nice.

To be honest, today was a little bit like birthdays are when you get past thirty. It's a day much like any other, but you know there's a milestone at the back of your mind, that today isn't really like other days. But you still have cornflakes for breakfast, and you still get annoyed cos your internet isn't fast enough, and so on. My epiphany moment was last Friday when I first saw the books on the shelf at my local Eason's, so in my mind, publication day was really last week.

Anyway, on to a small bit of housekeeping...

During yesterday evening's interview on Radio Ulster, and at my reading at Lisburn Library (which was fun, by the way), I was questioned about who the characters in THE TWELVE were based on.

The truthful answer is this: NOBODY.

THE TWELVE is a work of fiction, and no major characters are based on anyone real (see caveat below). When I said as much yesterday and today, the questioners scoffed somewhat, said that obviously, this character was based on (insert name of prominent public figure here).

No they weren't.

I did base some of the characters on archetypes. There are certain kinds of people that exist in Northern Ireland, and I did use those broad groups as the basis for some characters.

For instance, there's a lawyer who makes his money defending people he knows to be guilty, but publicly describes himself as a "human rights lawyer". There are many lawyers here who do just that. The character is based on them collectively, and not any one individual. Just because a reader makes a comparison between the portrayed archetype and someone they know who fits that archetype, doesn't mean the character is based on them.

Another example is a British politician. On the page, he performs two roles: one, to frame the events of the book in a wider political context, and two, to provide some comic relief from the relentless darkness throughout the rest of the book. He regards his administrative role in Northern Ireland as a poison chalice, the job that no one else wants. He is an archetype, and one every citizen of Northern Ireland will recognise in every Secretary of State we've ever had. But he is not based on any of them (he's not even the Secretary, but rather his assistant), even though people are jumping to conclusions.

Likewise, there's a character who is based on the archetypal rural gangster. There are many such people who make their money in similar ways and live in similar places. The character portrayed is an archetype. Again, just because there's someone you're aware of that fits that mould, it doesn't mean the character is based on them. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of people who could match that archetype. The character in the book is not based on a single one of them.

So there.

I guess the lesson in all this is that readers will bring their own preconceptions to a piece of fiction; they'll see the things that they want to see in it. For instance, I am constantly surprised that some readers are quite adamant that Gerry Fegan's spectres are merely psychological manifestations of his own guilt, while others are positive they are supernatural. Even when the book shows their true nature in the closing pages, some readers will stick to their orginal assumption - in other words, they find what they want to see reflected in this mirror, regardless of what's really there.

About that caveat...

I did base a couple of minor characters on real people. They are blink-and-you'll-miss-them roles modelled on people I actually know, but as it turned out, the people in question didn't think it was the jolly jape I thought it was. In fact, they were pretty offended. There's a lesson there too, kids...

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Twas the Night Before Publication...

Wednesday, July 01, 2009, 11:17 PM

Tomorrow, I will be officially published. I'm pretty sure I won't feel much different tomorrow than I do today; I've kind of had my epiphany moment when I first saw my book on the shelves of my local Eason's. I have no real observatiions to make, I'm afraid. Instead, here is an interview that was broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster earlier this evening:

Interview with Marie-Louise Muir on Arts Extra.

On an entirely unrelated note, I went to see Jeff Beck play at the Ulster Hall last night. It was one of the greatest concerts I have ever been to, despite the best efforts of a bouncer who interrupted Jeff's performance of, and the audience's pin-drop-silent attention to, Where Were You (an extremely difficult piece that I imagine requires Mr. Becks absolute concentration) by shouting at the audience members not to take photos. An arsehole, who deserves to be fired by the Ulster Hall's management.

Anyway, not only is Jeff Beck one of the greatest living electric guitarists, if not the best, he also has one the most extraordinary jazz-fusion bands behind him. Note the extraordinary Tal Wilkenfeld, who despite appearances is a little older than fifteen, and an incredible bassist:

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