The legendary Irish thriller writer John Connolly visited Christchurch on Sunday (the 8th), giving a talk at Tūranga. I was one of the lucky ones to attend and to hear about his two newest releases; A Book of Bones and He - one that sees the extension of a large fictional oeuvre, the other a fictional exploration of male friendships and the life and work of Stan Laurel.
I'd last read one of Connolly's books some 15 years ago and it left me with a certain satisfaction and a desire to one day revisit his 'Charlie Parker' series, a world of dark criminality, vigilante justice, and supernatural horror - not a blend you come across every day!
Working in libraries, however, soon got the better of my "to-read" list and I've not yet made it back, but hearing the author speak may be enough of a reminder about how enjoyable his books are, particularly the aforementioned Charlier Parker outings which are a surprising blend of Lee Child-meets-Thomas Harris; there's mystery and a puzzle to be solved, while at the same time a sinister undercurrent of ancient evil maybe lurking beneath the surface, and this makes for curious and compelling reading.
So what did I come away with after hearing his talk?
- He is very clearly a gifted storyteller - complete with the obligatory Van Morrison tale of the Irish raconteur
- He's a lover of music and creates playlists and compilation albums to accompany and elevate the experience of reading his books
- He sees genre fiction readers as incredibly loyal and takes great pleasure from continuing to surprise them - making no promises about the health prospects of his characters but respecting his readers' strongly held feelings regarding their longevity!
- The ability to create a much larger story arc over the course of a large series, such as his 'Charlie Parker' books (this will be the seventeenth instalment!), is a great opportunity and one into which he has put great thought - stay tuned!
- His passion for early comedy led him to start writing about the relationship between the great early performers Laurel & Hardy - I got the distinct sense that writing He was a way to process and write his way out of a creative block, and achieved over the course of some years
- As well as being a great storyteller he's also gifted at interviewing and has been in conversation with many famous crime writers of our time - these can be found on Connolly's website
While I may need to do some catch-up on his thriller series, I can definitely say after hearing the man himself speak about the creative process; how to overcome writer's block (you've got to write your way out!), his experiences exploring ancient folklores of the world (especially the evil ones), and his views on reader loyalty, it all moves me to reconnect with his work and his identifiable rhythm of language - one that really sets him apart from American writers of a similar ilk.