Alexander O’Hara is the pen-name of Darragh McManus, a published author and journalist with the Guardian and Sunday Times among other papers. His first book, the satirical non-fiction GAA Confidential, was published by Hodder. He is also a novelist and playwright.
Can you sum up your book in no more than 25 words?
Funny, funny, funny. Spoofing crappy cop 1980s movies, it’s got gratuitous sex and violence, racial stereotypes, horrible bandanas and an Oedipal druglord, among other delights.
What was your motivation for writing it?
I wanted to have fun, first and foremost, and hopefully the reader will too. I’ve always loved action/cop movies, and ironically enjoy bad action/cop movies, such as Tough Killin’ Bastard and Stiletto Bloodbath III. So I wrote Cold! Steel! Justice!!! initially as a spoof film script. Hey, I was bored at the time. Nobody wanted to produce the bloody thing – not even the makers of Tough Killin’ Bastard and Stiletto Bloodbath III – so I retooled it as a book. It’s the comic crime novel all other comic crime novels call Supreme Master. They also leave it the last chocolate in the box, out of paralysing dread. This book is that tough.
Who designed your cover?
Me! Because I’m too cheap to pay someone, and I have a good bit of layout experience and basic Photoshop skillz. Such as changing an ‘s’ to a ‘z’ at the end of the word ‘skills’. I wanted something that would look good as a thumbnail, catch the casual browsing eye and capture the vibe of Cold! Steel! Justice!!!: silly, ironic, playful, trashy, with lots of gunplay and blood and whatnot. Et voila: big fist holding a gun, against Warholian yellow, with a fun comic-style typeface.
What are you reading now?
A very charming memoir called Ireland Unhinged, for a newspaper review; Albert Camus’ The Plague (yep, the translated version); rereading Chad Taylor’s Shirker, a brilliantly creepy and hugely under-regarded Kiwi crime novel; a few different baby books.
Ever tried your hand at screenwriting?
Yes indeed, as mentioned above. I’ve also written a few ‘proper’ scripts, so to speak, one of which did quite well in the Nicholl Fellowship competition, organised by the Oscars people every year. Currently have a few scripts with a frighteningly clever and very talented young Dublin filmmaker; he, amazingly, contacted me about working together. What he makes of them, only Jeebus knows at this point.
Ever tried your hand at poetry?
Believe it or not, yes. During my headstrong and melodramatic twenties, mostly. The majority of them were either on a theme of: I am unhappy, or: life sucks and people are shitheads. But I did write a poem in a pastiche of the hardboiled noir style! Sample lines: “Walking up a dirt-cracked hill, the heat is lifting the skin off the streets and everybody’s jumped-up… Drums are thumping, an uneven skiffle that skittles around my head, it feels like a movie, where’s the guy with the gun?, want to smoke a cigarette but it’s just too hot… I ease my eyes from left to right, Clint Eastwood never looked this bad, everything’s clear, just a couple of kids, the heat’s coming down and it’s time to get home.” Don’t know whether to feel ashamed or proud.
Do you enjoy writing?
I do, actually, yeah. It’s very satisfying, especially if you’ve written something quite literary and dense and poetic, and all the words have come together just so, and you feel like you’ve sort of reached a higher pitch within yourself – “a more exquisite realm of the self”. You know, like you’ve transcended your own limitations, even just for that one sentence or par or whatever. And obviously writing something like Cold! Steel! Justice!!! was great fun, and easy.
How do you feel about awards?
Ugh. Fast becoming the bane of publishing. Art is not the same as sport; not everything should be pitted against others in competition. And winning the Booker would turn me off a novel, to be honest. Stylised ‘literature’ for people who don’t really want to read literature: mechanised, inert, inauthentic, unpalatable.
Cold! Steel! Justice!!! By Alexander O’Hara