Ghosts of Belfast TwitFic Contest: Scare me in 124 characters or less for prizes!

Monday, September 28, 2009, 9:10 PM

As you may be aware, THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST will be published in the USA by Soho Press this Thursday, the 1st of October. I'll be embarking on a US tour (details here) to celebrate the launch, so please come and say hello if you're near any of the venues.

The other thing that happens in October is, of course, Halloween, when our thoughts turn to the ghostly and ghoulish. We all have our own personal ghost stories, so how about you share yours as part of a special Twitter contest? Here's how it'll work:

Go to your Twitter account (you do have one, don't you?) and tweet your own experience of a ghost, along with the hash tag #GhostsOfBelfast so I can find it. That leaves you 124 characters to tell your story. The shorter the better, the scarier the better, the funnier the better.

The contest will close at midnight on 31st of October 2009, and I will choose ten finalists. Each of those tweets will be re-tweeted by me and the good folks at Soho Press (or linked to a special page on my website if they're too long). The finalists will then be put to the vote on via Twitter, and the top five will each win a signed copy of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST, as well as be featured on the home pages of and What's more, whoever gets the most votes of all wins one of the last remaining copies of THE SIX, my limited edition signed and numbered short story collection - only fifty of these will ever be printed!

So, here are the three simple rules:

1) Tweet your scariest, funniest ghost story in 124 CHARACTERS OR LESS.

2) It's VITAL that you remember to include the hash tag #GhostsOfBelfast or your entry won't be seen.

3) Tweet it before MIDNIGHT 31st OCTOBER.

You can enter as many times as you like, but each tweet must be a different story. So, get tweeting, and good luck!

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Hungry Like the Wolf (for reviews)

Thursday, September 10, 2009, 11:26 AM

There have been a brace of reviews in the build up to the US publication of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. Publishers Weekly, Kirkus and Booklist have all put a good word in for me, as follows:

"[A] stunning debut ... This is not only an action-packed, visceral thriller but also an insightful insider’s glimpse into the complex political machinations and networks that maintain the uneasy truce in Northern Ireland." - Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Sharp prose places readers in this pitiless place and holds them there. Harsh and unrelenting crime fiction, masterfully done." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Neville's debut novel is tragic, violent, exciting, plausible, and compelling. The Ghosts of Belfast is dark, powerful, insightful, and hard to put down." - Booklist

Another review came from a rather unexpected source. I chanced upon a post by Simon Le Bon on the Duran Duran website, listing some books that he'd read recently. Among them was THE TWELVE, the UK edition of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST. Curiosity piqued, I sent an email off to the contact address, inquiring as to whether Mr. Le Bon enjoyed my humble effort. To my great surprise, Simon himself replied, along with a review that was subsequently posted to the Duran Duran website! Mr. Le Bon said: "I had to keep the book in my hands, even when I was quite busy doing something necessary, which wasn't reading, on the off chance that I might be able to grab the 20 seconds or so that it took to get to the end of the next paragraph ... I highly recommend this book; its right up there with the best of the year for me."

And finally, I'll be in Dublin this weekend for the Books 2009 festival. The crime strand is coordinated by Declan Burke, fine author and blogger, and boasts a most impressive lineup, including John Connolly, Colin Bateman, Brian McGilloway, Arlene Hunt, and many more. I'll be on the flatteringly titled Bright Young Things panel along with Ava McCarthy, Alan Glynn and John McFetridge, moderated by Cormac Millar, at 2:30pm on Saturday 12th of September, at Independent Colleges on Dawson Street.

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Genre Vs Literary Fiction, Again

Tuesday, September 01, 2009, 11:59 PM

A couple of interesting articles were brought to my attention today, both concerning the ongoing genre fiction vs literary fiction debate. The first was sent to me by the very nice lady who gave me a most kind review for The Twelve in The Observer back at the star of July, literary agent and critic Nicola Barr (who is actively seeking Northern Irish writers, let it be known). It was an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal that asserted the importance of contemporary plot-driven fiction, describing how the character-based fiction of modernists of the twentieth century, and its tendency to focus on internal (i.e. character) rather than external (i.e. plot) conflict, had its place in the 19-whatevers, but that in the twenty-first century, so-called genre fiction is better placed to reflect our society.

I'll admit my bias on this point. I've made my case on this before, stating my belief that "genre" story-telling can address big issues in a way that other forms of fiction can't, particularly when those issues are so big and so raw that tackling them in a more literal way is impossible. My hat's off to Lev Grossman for taking this stance.

I saw the converse of this point of view when I posted a link to my Facebook page. Gavin Carville responded with a link to a Guardian article about comments made by Booker-winning Scottish author James Kelman during the recent Edinburgh Festival. I hesitate to quote a newspaper, knowing first-hand how slippery and tricksy a newspaper quote can be, but his words are reported thusly:

"If the Nobel Prize came from Scotland they would give it to a writer of fucking detective fiction or else some kind of child writer or something that was not even news when Enid Blyton was writing the Faraway Tree because she was writing about some upper middle class young magician or some fucking crap."

No prizes for guessing that Mr Kelman was referring to Ian Rankin and JK Rowling in that quote. I was tempted to call the latter part of his spiel simple class bigotry, but I remembered that I myself have used the term "middle class navel gazing" to describe much of today's literary fiction, so I will point out my own hypocricy rather than someone else's. I confess I have not read any of Mr Kelman's work, so may not be fully qualified to comment, but I can't hold back on my contempt for this statement, if it is indeed accurately represented. It is the worst kind of snobbery (not even inverted) and literary bigotry, and utterly pompous. For an author who sells himself from a working class soap box, it displays a shocking arrogance regarding the reading habits of the proletariat he claims to embody on the written page. Worst of all, it is precisely this kind of supercilious intellectual vanity that has most people watching X Factor on a Saturday evening instead of reading a book.

There's an interesting debate here about the rights and wrongs of the statement. The fundamental point that most of them miss, however, is that the distinction between literary and genre fiction is purely a matter of commercial expediency. A means of categorisation that publishers and retailers use to arrange books on shelves, and target their respective audiences, is being used by so many as a measure of quality when it has no bearing whatsoever on the intellectual or emotional weight of the material being sold. So-called genre fiction is equally capable of revealing the truth about ourselves that is for some reason seen as the preserve of "literary" work. So-called literary fiction is equally capable of being the vacuous eye candy time-and-shelf filler that so many dismiss "genre" books as.

Here's a point of view from someone who came from a working class housing estate, and still lives on one: Class is not only a matter of money and social borders. There is also a self-sustaining intellectual class system that is based not on actual intelligence or the value of ideas, but on the pomposity of individuals who regard their own expressions of self as being superior to those of others based purely on an aesthetic laid down by the artistic establishment.

Thank God no one really listens to them.

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