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Absolute Zero Cool [Kindle Edition]

Declan Burke
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $17.00
Kindle Price: $4.99
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Book Description

Winner of the Crimefest 2012 Goldsboro Last Laugh Award Billy Karlsson needs to get real. Literally. A hospital porter with a sideline in euthanasia, Billy is a character trapped in the purgatory of an abandoned novel. Deranged by logic, driven beyond sanity, Billy makes his final stand: if killing old people won’t cut the mustard, the whole hospital will have to go up in flames. Only his creator can stop him now, the author who abandoned Billy to his half-life limbo, in which Billy schemes to do whatever it takes to get himself published, or be damned . . .

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

A fictional version of writer Burke is confronted by a character from an unfinished novel. Karlsson, the now-corporeal character, is irked at the limbo he has been left in. Burke is under pressure from his publisher to submit his next manuscript, but Karlsson is alternately charming and cheeky, and Burke agrees to let him write his own story, the tale of a poorly paid Irish hospital orderly who euthanizes terminal patients and is planning to blow up the sprawling hospital. Ultimately, Burke is forced to thwart Billy’s (Karlsson renames himself) plan to destroy the hospital. Metafiction? Postmodern noir? These and other labels will be applied to Burke’s newest; any might be apt, but none is sufficient. Absolute Zero Cool is largely a literary novel that draws on history, mythology, and literature to insightfully discuss writing, books, parenting, relationships, health care, and dying with dignity. Bits of Burke’s comic noir (The Big O, 2008) appear, but they serve to subvert the form. Noir fans may not care for this one, but lovers of literary fiction will find much to savor. --Thomas Gaughan


Metafiction? Post Modern noir? These and other labels will be applied to Burke's newest; and might be apt, but none is sufficient. . . . Lovers of literary fiction will find much to savor. --Booklist

[An] ambitious meta-thriller from Irish author Burke. . . Explores the nature of writing and the descent of personal darkness. . . Those looking for a highly intellectual version of Stephen King's The Dark Half will be most satisfied. --Publishers Weekly

Product Details

  • File Size: 531 KB
  • Print Length: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Liberties Press (August 30, 2011)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0098P9T6Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #601,569 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stunningly beautiful and achingly funny August 14, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is not a "crime" book in the normal sense of having a detective, a killer and an an easy to follow plot. It is a stunningly beautiful and achingly funny work which probes the type of existential questions raised by works like "Notes from Underground" and "Crime and Punishment" by Dostoyevsky, and works by Sartre, Camus ("The Plague"), Kafka, and Ireland's Beckett and Flann O'Brien.
It is an anti-novel, in that the connecting thread is the author's tone and voice, which produces such gems as "His face is deelpy lined, but softly, so he resembles a post-coital Beckett." and a remark that could have been made of any of Beckett's characters: "If there's one thing women love more than talking, it's talking about talking." (Think "Happy Days." - "Debs adds a few more strokes of blusher to the masterpiece-in-progress that is her perception of herself")
The basic storyline centres around Billy Karlsson and his plan to blow up a hospital. He provides the same type of justifications as Raskolnikov provides for killing the old woman in "Crime and Punishment" - the type of justifications used by the Nazis and a certain Norwegian currently in the news. The author dialogues with Karlsson, probing his rationale, and in so doing probes the rationale of all of society's outcasts and "rebels."
This is classic and will be read in a hundred years' time, when many contemporary bestsellers are long forgotten. Read it!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely A Great Read! September 19, 2011
Format:Kindle Edition
If you took Palahniuk's "Fight Club", Ellis' "American Psycho", and King's "Secret Garden, Secret Window", and combined them with Burke's mastery of dialogue, character, satire, and the human condition, the end result would be Burke's latest and most impressive novel to date, "Absolute Zero Cool". An excellent read that continually ratchets up the intrigue and suspense factors as it builds toward the tremendous finale, while at the same time providing an intense, no holds barred, behind the scenes introspection into the psyche of the writer and his process. A true page turner that will stick with you long after you finish.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars When hell freezes over February 14, 2012
Having read two of his other books, I can attest that Mr. Burke is quite capable of writing a really good book in the more conventional forms, but that is not what he is setting out to do here. The conceit is that the character "Declan Burke" is visited, while on a writer's retreat, by a character who was thought up for a book that never made it to a final draft. Karlsson--or Billy, as he now apparently wants to be called-- asks to be let out of the limbo that is the fate of an unfinished character. He turns out to be a hard guy to say no to.

I believe I would have been a bit bewildered by this book, which I might have expected to be a caper, though of the darkly comic kind, if I had not been clued in by an early blurb of Adrian McKinty's, mentioning another Irishman who wrote sui generis fiction, Flann O'Brien. Having read O'Brien's The Third Policeman not that long ago myself, I was more prepared for the 'outside the crime fiction box' story than I might have been.

Although much of the book is about the hammering out of a novel between the fictional Karlsson and the, well, equally fictional Declan Burke, the book's dark energy is really Karlsson's, I think. He has a Mephistophelian charisma, if not what you could really call charm. When Karlsson, as Billy, meets Declan Burke at the writer's retreat, he is missing an eye, and sports an eyepatch. I was curious about that throughout the book, and may have missed a beat when it was explained, but an Irishman with an eyepatch always has some relation to Joyce, I suppose. For me, though, and this is just my own take on the thing, the one-eyed nature of Billy has everything to do with his monomania and, forgive the pun, lack of perspective.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Challenging, Pleasing, Provocative! December 2, 2011
In his first novel, Eightball Boogie, Burke demonstrated his mastery of the hard-bitten, wise-cracking noir novel. His latest work shows the same mastery of the genre, but, this time, he challenges new frontiers while staying faithful to the side-splitting one-liners. Instead of featuring a conventional criminal, whom the author would show being tracked down and confronted with evidence of his or her crime, this novel is about a writer becoming the unwitting target of his own criminal creation. Buy it!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Cool December 1, 2011
Billy Karlsson is a disgruntled hospital porter; an urban Raskolinikov; an existentialist powder keg waiting to explode. An angry young man who has hatched a plan to blow up a hospital in order to vent his revenge on the world. But there are one or two obsticles in his way, the biggest being that he isn't real. Karlsson is, in fact, a charcter in a long-shelved, unfinished, black novel by writer Declan Burke.

And Burke really has no plans to resurrect that novel or the character of Billy Karlsson. He's a father now. A successful writer of comic crime novels. He's happy. The bile and the bitterness that caused him to create Karlsson have melted away in the warmth of fatherhood.

Which does not make Billy very happy at all. And so he tracks down Burke and persuades -cajoles- him to bring him back to life. And he does. And this is Absolute Zero Cool.

Absolute Zero Cool is probably an example of meta-fiction or post modernism or something or other. I really wouldn't know about that.

What I do know is that is a very clever novel that could be annoying and smart arse in the wrong hands.

However, AZC is in the right hands. The same capable hands that created the classic comic crime double header of The Big O and Crime Always Pays. The hands of a master storyteller. And with those hands, Declan Burke has crafted an exciting, hilarious, thoughtful and moving story that will surely stand up to- and deserve-a lot of re-reading. I've read a lot of cracking novels this year but Absolute Zero Cool is my favorite.And it could well be yours, too.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Zero Cool
Mr. Burke is a most extraordinary writer.He has composed a dialogue with a Pirandello like character from a draft of a book he has authored. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Alan Klaw
1.0 out of 5 stars Absolute Zero Interest
I could neither follow the first few chapters of this novel nor care enough about the characters to bother trying to figure it out.
Published 21 months ago by Denman
5.0 out of 5 stars A new clan of writers
Now we are definitely moving into Gonzo-lit, where fictional characters threaten to blow up real hospitals, authors happily bemoan their own publishing calamities and arm-wrestle... Read more
Published on August 5, 2012 by Malcolm Berry
5.0 out of 5 stars All things possible
I have read it twice and had different, but very positive, responses each time.
The first time, I admired the intricacy and genre bending ambition of the writing technique. Read more
Published on August 1, 2012 by tram22
5.0 out of 5 stars And now for something a little different ...
I'm not going to write too much about the plot except to say that it's satisfyingly complex and plays with the conventions of the crime genre in ways that it would be worth buying... Read more
Published on February 2, 2012 by William Ryan
5.0 out of 5 stars Intellectual noir
Declan Burke's new novel is structured on the continuing dialogue between a novelist and his muse, the conscious with the sub-conscious. Read more
Published on September 13, 2011 by Richard L. Pangburn
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More About the Author

Declan Burke is the award-winning author of EIGHTBALL BOOGIE (2003), THE BIG O (2007), ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL (2011) and SLAUGHTER'S HOUND (2012). He is also the editor of DOWN THESE GREEN STREETS: IRISH CRIME WRITING IN THE 21st CENTURY, and is the co-editor, with John Connolly, of BOOKS TO DIE FOR (2012). ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL won the Goldsboro 'Last Laugh' Award at Crimefest. Declan hosts a website dedicated to Irish crime fiction called Crime Always Pays.

Praise for THE BIG O

"If Elmore Leonard met Jim Thompson down a dark alley at midnight they might emerge a week later with thick beards, bloodshot eyes and the manuscript for THE BIG O." - Eoin Colfer

"Imagine Donald Westlake and his alter ego Richard Stark moving to Ireland and collaborating on a screwball noir and you have some idea of Burke's accomplishment." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"Burke has married hard-boiled crime with noir sensibility and seasoned it with humour and crackling dialogue ... fans of comic noir will find plenty to enjoy here." - Booklist

"Carries on the tradition of Irish noir with its Elmore Leonard-like style ... the dialogue is as slick as an ice run, the plot is nicely intricate, and the character drawing is spot on ... a high-octane novel that fairly coruscates with tension." - Irish Times

"Burke has [George V.] Higgins' gift for dialogue, [Barry] Gifford's concision and the effortless cool of Elmore Leonard at his peak. In short, THE BIG O is an essential crime novel of 2007, and one of the best of any year." - Ray Banks

"THE BIG O is a big ol' success, a tale fuelled by the mischievous spirits of Donald E. Westlake, Elmore Leonard and even Carl Hiaasen ... THE BIG O kept me reading at speed - and laughing the whole damn time." - J. Kingston Pierce, January Magazine


"Everything you could want - action, suspense, character and setting, all floating on the easy lyricism of a fine writer at the top of his game." - Lee Child

"Declan Burke sets the scene for the most perfect noir novel ... The only way Harry Rigby could be more like Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe would be if he rode around in a 1930s Chrysler and called all the women 'dames' ... In the very American realm of hard-boiled crime fiction ... few of his peers over the Atlantic can hold a candle to him." - Sunday Times

"Many writers of crime fiction are drawn to the streetwise narrator with the wisecracking voice - Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett have a lot to answer for - but only a handful can make it credible and funny. Irish writer Burke is one who has succeeded spectacularly well ... From the arresting opening image to the unexpected twist at the end, this is a hardboiled delight." - The Guardian

"SLAUGHTER'S HOUND has everything you want from noir but what makes it special is the writing: taut, honed and vivid ... a sheer pleasure." - Tana French


"A genuinely original take on noir, inventive and funny ... Imagine, if you can, a cross between Flann O'Brien and Raymond Chandler." - John Banville

"Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre, was Declan Burke's ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL ... a fiendishly dark thriller that evokes the best of Flann O'Brien and Bret Easton Ellis." - Sunday Times

"Metafiction? Postmodern noir? These and other labels will be applied to Burke's newest; any might be apt, but none is sufficient. ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is largely a literary novel that draws on history, mythology, and literature ... Noir fans may not care for this one, but lovers of literary fiction will find much to savour." - Booklist

"Burke sprinkles his way-outside-the-box noir with quotes from Beckett, Bukowski, and other literary names as he explores the nature of writing and the descent of personal darkness. Those looking for a highly intellectual version of Stephen King's THE DARK HALF will be most satisfied." - Publishers Weekly

"Thus begins a fascinating hybrid of MISERY, AT SWIM-TWO-BIRDS, THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN, and who knows what else ... ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL isn't quite like anything else you've read, in any genre. It's clever, intimate, passionate, and funny: altogether a wonderful achievement." - Irish Times

"ABSOLUTE ZERO COOL is unlike anything else you'll read this year ... Laugh-out-loud funny ... This is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone ... A feat of extraordinary alchemy." - Ken Bruen

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