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How do you find the time to do your day job AND write…


What are you up to?

At the moment I’m trying to figure out the answer to the question I’m most often asked: how do you find the time to do your day job AND write!

Usually I take time out of Court when I need to finish a book, but this week – when I’m supposed to be knee deep in Book 3 – I’ve been in Court four times and am there again tomorrow.

It’s almost like Crown Court judges don’t care about writing deadlines….

Which piece of music always sends a shiver down your spine?

Hard question. I am a huge Bruce Springsteen fan so if the question was a favourite song, it would be one of his. But shivers down my spine? That’s a whole different thing, and I think the answer is O Sole Mio as sung by Mario Lanza. When he hits the big notes I literally have to stop whatever it is I am doing. Unless I’m driving, obviously; he’s not THAT good!!

On a livelier note, ‘I’m Shipping Up To Boston’ by The Dropkick Murphy’s get my heart pumping. I boxed for a very long time but never with the entry music you see nowadays. If I had, that’s the song I would have chosen to get me ‘in the zone’!!

What’s your favourite film?

Depends who you ask. If you ask the film buff ‘me’ then it’s the Godfather. Ask the writer ‘me’ and it’s Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid. Ask the lawyer ‘me’ and it’s My Cousin Vinnie. And ask the ex-boxer and it’s Rocky (although specifically Rocky IV, which definitely loses me whatever ‘street cred’ I might be trying to build up…)

But ask the 10-year old ‘me’ – which is probably the closest one to the actual ‘me’ – and the answer is Superman I and II, watched back to back. One of the few film/s I can’t switch off no matter when I stumble upon it.

And of course, my writing surname had to come from somewhere…

What are you reading at the moment?

At the moment I’m reading the 2nd draft of the pilot script for the TV adaption of my first book, Killer Intent. It’s being fast-tracked into production by director Duncan Jones and producer Stuart Fenegan, both of Liberty Films, And I’ve managed to stay on board to produce the whole show with them. It’s a very different kind of writing and they’ve put some serious talent on the job, so it’s a really exciting moment for everyone involved.

What is your favourite place in Ireland?

The Bleeding Horse Pub in Dublin. My family originally comes from Charlemont Street in St Kevin’s and The Bleeding Horse was the local of my grandfather, Patrick Cunningham, before he and my grandmother Kathleen moved to England. The older members of the family always told a lot of incredible stories about my grandad, who was a wrestler and fighter in his youth, but he died before I was born, and so a trip to The Bleeding Horse is as close as my brothers or I will ever come to having a beer with the infamous Paddy Cunningham.

What book has most influenced you?

This is an easy one!! It’s The Winner by David Baldacci. Anyone who hasn’t read it should do so. Not now, obviously. Read Killer Intent and Marked For Death first. But THEN read The Winner!! It was the first thriller I ever read and from just the first few pages in I knew I wanted to be a thriller writer.

Which living person do you most admire?

If you’d asked me a couple of years ago I would have said Muhammad Ali. I can’t say that now, and because of an earlier answer I also can’t say Bruce Springsteen without sounding like a stalker (although I DO know where he lives, obviously….).

So it’s a difficult one. If we keep it to the writing world then the person I most admire would be Ian Rankin, for being so utterly unaffected despite enjoying success the rest of us would kill for. But on a grander scale? Well, as a Catholic who left the church due to all the scandal, I have been very impressed by how this has been handled by the (not so new anymore) new Pope. Or perhaps the philanthropist John Caudwell, who 100% funds every expense of the amazing children’s charity Caudwell Kids, which means that all money donated to them goes directly and entirely to a sick child. That’s something to admire, too.

To be honest, there are so many people to admire for so many reasons. Nobody’s perfect but anyone who does their best at the good they choose to do – provided they are not boastful ***** about it – deserves our recognition.

Sorry for the long answer!!

Which person from the past do you most admire? 

I don’t know if being impressed by someone is the same as admiring them, but whenever historical figures come up my mind always goes to Isaac Newton. The word genius is bandied around pretty loosely these days, but if we use it properly – as in, for someone who does amazing things so easily that you  can’t help but think ‘this guy MUST be an alien or something’ – there have been very few. Maybe Mozart. Certainly Nicola Tesla. And even more certainly Isaac Newton. That guy MUST have been an alien or something.

What makes you angry?

I cannot abide anything that involves any kind of cruelty to children or to animals. In my day job I have had to represent exactly one defendant on a charge involving kids, and one defendant on a charge involving animals. They were by far the most depressing cases of a career that has involved murders and everything nasty you can imagine. And yet THEY are the ones that got to me.

After both I swore ‘never again’, and so far – despite the cab rank principle that forces barristers to take whatever case comes their way first – I have managed to live up to that promise.

Which trait in others do you most admire?

I hate bullies; my brothers and I were raised to never suffer anyone to bully us, and nor were we to ever knowingly stand by while others were bullied. Now certain of my brothers may not have lived the most lawful of lives, but even the bad ones obeyed these rules and it remains a trait I most admire: the willingness to step up and stop a thing happening when that thing is wrong.

It is a trait I have instilled in both of my recurring heroes, Joe Dempsey AND Michael Devlin. And I hope to be as successful in instilling it in my son, Joseph.

What would be your motto?

Go on, buy my book!!

Have you a favourite quote from the movies?

My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius

Commander of the Army of the North

General of the Felix Legions

Loyal subject of the true Emperor, Marcus Aurelius

Father to a murdered son

Husband to a murdered wife

And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next.

It’s a long one, I know, but it is also the absolute bedrock of my character, Joe Dempsey. When I write Dempsey I do so with one constant question in mind: what would Maximus do?

What’s your favourite quote from a book?

‘It was love at first sight. The first time Yossarian saw the chaplain he feel madly in love with him.’

The opening line of Catch 22, my all-time favourite book. It throws you completely and in the absolute madness that follows you never really find your feet again. What a book. Read it. You know, in three books time…

In terms of inanimate objects, what is your most precious possession?

My wedding ring. My wife and I were married in Rome by Monsignor John Kennedy from The Vatican (and before that, from Dublin!) and our rings were especially made, engraved and blessed for us, only arriving on our wedding day. We then honeymooned in Japan and then Hawaii, and on our first day in Hawaii I discovered that sea water, sun tan lotion and wedding rings are not a match made in heaven, when my ring came off in the Pacific Ocean. I was instantly depressed and obsessed by this worst of omens. My wife, however – and as ever – was more practical. Fed up with my moping around, she went online, found a scuba-diving ‘ring finding specialist’ (they exist) and arranged for him to fly in from a neighbouring island. Within 30 mins – and after 24 hours sitting in the Pacific Ocean!! – he had found my ring!!!

I will never lose it again; in future I’ll just get sunburn!!

What do you believe in?

I still kind of think a man can fly….

What do you consider the greatest work of art?

The greatest work of art is St Peter’s Basilica in The Vatican. Hands down. How do I know? Because I made the mistake of visiting it BEFORE a tour of The Sistine Chapel. And as a result, my reaction to the world’s most famous ceiling was pretty much….‘meh?’. It takes some kind of art to make THAT happen, and that’s why I’m sure.

Of artists working today, my favourite art all comes from Lorenzo Quinn. His stuff is just jaw-dropping. If anyone hasn’t seen it, just google and take a look.

(I’ve just realised that I’ve basically been setting everyone homework throughout this interview…)

Who (or what) is the greatest love of your life?

My wife, my son and my family. No question. I am a very, very lucky man.