John Connolly

LifeWorksCriticismCommentaryQuotationsReferencesNotes

Life
?1968 -; b. Rialto, Dublin; read Stephen King’s novels in primary school; ed. Synge St. CBS; suffered obsessive compulsive disorder in childhood (a trait later bestowed on the 12-year old boy in The Book of Lost Things); employed by Dublin Corporation in rents account dept. for three years; went to New York to work; also worked as a barman, waiter in Maine, and Harrods employee i[‘dogsbody’] in London; ed. TCD (English), and DCU (journalism); summoned home by news of his father’s terminal cancer; worked for The Irish Times as a freelance reporter on student news; created Charlie Parker, an ex-NYPD detective turned private investigator;
 
issued Every Dead Thing (1999), a Charlie Parker novel for which an advance of £350,000 was purportedly paid by Hodder & Stoughton, billed as successor to The Slaughter of the Lambs; winner of the US Shamaus Award, 2000; sold American rights for $1 million; Connolly followed this with Dark Hollow (2000) and The Killing Kind (2001) and The White Road (2002), a Charlie Parker novel concerning the case of a young black man accused of killing the local white big wig’s daughter in South Carolina; Bad Men (2003), set in Maine, with a villain called Moloch; issued Nocturnes (2004), a collection of supernatural short stories and two novellas, based on stories for BBC (NI);
 

issued The Black Angel (2005), mixing fallen angels and fallen women; issued The Book of Lost Things (2006), a supernatural story of motherless boy set in wartime London - pyschological fantasy and not detection; issued The Unquiet (2007), a Charlie Parker story involving a stalker, a pychiatrist and an abuse scandal; read at “Many Voices Festival of Literature” with Colin Bateman, in Ballymoney Town Hall, Co. Antrim, 23 Feb. 2007; issued John Connolly, The Reapers (2008), a thriller about terrifying killers; first non-American to win Shamus Award; in The Lovers (2009), Parker is stripped of his licence and in search of his real paternity and the reasons for his father’s death by suicide; Connolly is based in Dublin; issued The Gates (2009); his partner is S. African Jennifer Ridyard, mother of two son, whom he met when she interviewed him in 2002; issued The Whisperers (2010), a Charlie Parker book dealing with looted Iraqi antiques.

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Works
  • Every Dead Thing (London: Hodder & Stoughton 1999), 485pp.;
  • Dark Hollow (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2000), 425pp.;
  • The Killing Kind (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2001), 388pp.;
  • The White Road (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2002), 440pp.;
  • Bad Men (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2003), 407pp.;
  • Nocturnes (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2004), 404pp.;
  • The Black Angel (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2005), 416pp.;
  • The Book of Lost Things (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2006), 310pp.;
  • The Unquiet (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2007), 570pp.;
  • The Reapers (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2008), 544pp.
  • The Lovers (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2009), 396pp.
  • The Whisperers (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2010), 415pp.
For young people
  • The Gates (2009) [a tale of Satanism ]
  • Hell’s Bells:Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil Round II (London: Hodder & Stoughton 2011), q.pp.
Miscellaneous
  • ‘So why did they go for Bush?’, in The Irish Times (30 Nov. 2004) [‘offered the choice between a liberal who favoured gay marital rights, abortion, and increased stem-cell research, and a conservative who was diametrically opposed to such measures, they went for the family-values guy.’]
  • ‘Still shining after all these years’ [on Stephen King], in The Irish Times (21 Sept. 2013), Weekend Review, p.10. [‘...I've been reading Stephen King since primary school ... I had a slight parting of the ways in 1986 ... my relationship with horror was changing ... [but], at 45, I have new terrors to confront .. I was immortal when first I read King .... I feel absurdly vulnerable now ... I find myself affected anew by King’s later works.’].

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Criticism
Rosita Boland, interview with John Connolly, in The Irish Times (3 Oct. 2009), Weekend, p.7; also interview on Bibliocentric website (Dec. 2004) - see extract.

See also Declan Burke, Down These Green Streets: Irish Crime Writing in the 21st Century (Dublin: Liberties Press 2011), 368pp. [interviews.]

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Commentary
Jocelyn Clarke, review of John Connolly, The White Road, in The Irish Times [Weekend] (9 March 2002): ‘[…] While in his previous novels there wasw a razor-thin line between good and evil, friend and enemy, Connolly has deliberately blurred it in The White Road, locating Parker’s friends and enemies on opposite sides of it - Parker’s partners kill three men to revenge a brutal racist murder while his enemies seek retribution for the detective’s own past deeds. Connolly fuses his signature writing style - a deft blurirng of narration and characterisation, self-conscious literary language and street vernacular - with a driving narrative that accommodates very different elemeents - historical research, religious allegory, clinical psychology - with extraordary confidence and ease […] by far his best novel yet. (p.8.)

Ferdia Mac Anna, ‘Black humour and white supremacists’, review of The White Road (2002), in Sunday Independent (7 April 2002), Living, p.20: A Charlie Parker novel, set in S. Caroline where a young black called Atys Jones has been condemned to death for the rape and murder of a wealthy socialite Marianne Larousse.

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Vincent Banville, review of Every Dead Thing (1999), billed as successor to The Slaughter of the Lambs in Irish Times (23 Jan. 1999; also 17 March 2000).

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Declan Burke, ‘Fairytales from the dark side’, review of Nocturnes, in The Irish Times (20 Nov. 2004), Weekend: cites stories “The Cancer Cowboy Rides”, “The Erlking”, “The New Daughter”, “Some Children Wander by Mistake”, “Miss Froom, Vampire”, and “The Ritual Bones”, with remarks: ‘The tone lies somewhere between Stephen King’s conversational style and Poe’s mor formal precision, but while there are crimes to be solved, and all the stories contain gothic tropes (daemons; witches; nature as an evil neutered by nurture), the title hints at a form older than the crime or gothic genres. / These are fairytales […] All in all, an inventive, intriguing collection.’

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Alan O’Riordan, review of The Book of Lost Things, in Books Ireland (Nov. 2006): ‘His talent for the grotesque and his almost Biblical sense of evil - no latter-day relativism for him - led him to introduce an element of the supernatural to his violent caper [i.e., Deep Hollow ]. […]. Though remaining in the style of naturalism, his last novel Black Angel involved baroque, Miltonic subject matter - fallen angels as well as fallen women. These twin strandes are the source of Connolly’s originality. They are also uncomfortable, unlikely, bedfellows. The tradition of crime fiction is agnostic and religiosity is bold and sometimes responsible for weak and unbelievable moments in Connolly’s writing. / Those misgivings are avoided in The Book of Lost Things. Here Connolly abandons the crime element to embrace whole-heartedly the mythical and supernatural aspect […] The scene is London during the Blitz. David, a young boy whose mother has recently died, moves with his father and step-mother to a house outside London [where] he immerses himself in books, as his dead mother taught him to do. But the books in this house have a habit of talking back […]. David is plunged into a word of anthropomorphic beasts and moving forests […] David the interloper is some kind of reluctant saviour and possibly the next kind […] compelled to seek out the existing king [in a] race against time across this fabulous landscape, pursued by an army of wolves and […] assisted by heroic menfolk […] David’s quest becomes a long Freudian dream’. Note: O’Riordan cites Deep Hollow recte Dark Hollow .

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Quotations
The trick is to hide the join between fact and fiction: John Connolly ‘explains how he researches his thrillers’ (The Irish Times, 3 March 2001): Connolly gives an account of forensics as relating to identification of the anonymous victim of murder and details the subject of his current novel, The Killing Kind, in which the people of Maine are persuaded by Rev. George Adams to establish a colony in Palestine during the 1860s and was eventually charged with manslaughter.

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Write what you (don’t) know: ‘[…] I really hate that maxim: “Write what you know”. Ultimately, it’s open to such misinterpretation, and it immediately places limitations on the writer’s imagination. I remember one critic remarked of me that I was “faking it” by writing in an American setting with an American voice, which is just such bad criticism that it deserves to be put in stocks and ridiculed by passing children. ALL writers fake it. It’s fiction. Colm Toibin was “faking it” by writing a novel that attempts to understand Henry James, just as James was “faking it” by writing Daisy Miller. I’m a writer. I come from Ireland, and inevitably I’m a product of my upbringing and a set of social and cultural influences that are generally Irish, but I’m not convinced that those influences should define everything that I do. The American crime novel, like the supernatural story, is a literary form. What matters is understanding that, and doing whatever research is necessary to provide the work with a realistic underpinning. (Sorry, but ‘write what you know’ and the whole American thing really are my twin bugbears!)’ (Interview with John Connolly, in Bibliocentric; accessed 15/12/2004 [link; now defunct].)

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Summer Books” [annual column], in The Irish Times (24 June 2000), compiled by Rosita Sweetman: John Connolly is reading Dave Robicheaux, Purple Cane Road; Robert Crais, LA Requiem and Demolition; Harlan Coben, The Darkest Hour; Thomas Lynch, Bodies in Perpetual Motion and at Rest; Alain de Botton, The Consolations of Philosophy; Gregory Maguire, The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

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The King of Pulp Fiction’, review of Stephen King, Under the Dome, in The Irish Times (31 Oct. 2009), Weekend: ‘The point about The Unexplained  [a journal that Connolly read in childhood] was that, as its title indicated, it wasn’t in the business of providing answers to such questions; otherwise, it would have been entitled The Explained , which doesn’t have the same ring at all. [...] Something of the same dilemma bedevils supernatural fiction or, more particularly, supernatural fiction in its longer form. The eventual explanation for what occurs, if provided, is usually far less unsettling than the events that came before it, with the result that horror novels have a tendency to be anticlimactic. In part this is because the length of a novel compels the author to offer an explanation of some kind, a conclusion that justifies the reader’s investment of time, energy and attention, thereby undoing much of the power that derives from the initial intrusion of the uncanny. / It may even be that the short story is better suited to explorations of the supernatural, for the short story is not so dependent upon an ending or, indeed, an explanation. It is enough that it provides us with a glimpse of the “other”, a brief revelation of what lies beyond, leaving that moment to seed itself in the reader’s subconscious and there finds fertile soil in deep, primitive fears. / Much as I love the genre, I can think of no 20th-century novel of the supernatural that has impacted upon me in the same way as, say, the best of M. R. James’s short stories or any of a dozen other beloved pieces of short supernatural fiction, Mrs Amworth, The Monkey’s Paw  and The Upper Berth  among them. In fact, while I can recall particular moments from my favourite modern horror novels – and many of them have been written by Stephen King – I often struggle to remember their endings, and those that I can recall are often tinged with a faint sense of disappointment.’

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References
There is a John Connolly website [online].

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Notes
Every Dead Thing (1999), concerns NY detective Charlie “Bird” Parker whose wife and baby daughter have been murdered by a serial killer and who sets out to find the killer; uncovers paedophile ring; transfers to New Orleans, where the malefactor - known as “The Travelling Man” is finally confronted.

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The Killing Kind (2000) concerns Charlie “Bird” Parker, private detective in Maine; has suffered loss of wife and dg.; investigates death of apparent suicide, Grace, found with black widow spiders inside her taped mouth and who has just completed a thesis on 1960s religious cults; Mr. Pudd, the chief antagonist; reviewer finds the narrative genuinely chilling; ‘brilliant, terrifying world’.

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The White Road (2002), a Charlie Parker story, set in S. Carolina, and dealing with a black man who faces the death for the rape and murder of Marianne Larousse by Cyril Nairn, dg. of one of the richest men in the state; involves a hooded woman, a black car waiting for a passenger that never comes, and complicity of friends and enemies; Parker’s life is threatened by a fanatical preacher, Faulkner, in his Maine prison cell; culminates on the White Road between swamps and forests, where paths made by the living and the dead converge. [See Read Ireland Reviews].

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Dark Hollow (2000): Haunted by the murder of his wife and daughter, former New York police detective Charlie Parker retreats home to Scarborough, Maine, to rebuild his shattered life. But his return reawakens old ghosts, drawing him into the manhunt for the killer of yet another mother and child. The obvious suspect is Bill Purdue, the young woman’s violent ex-husband. But there is another possibility — a mythical killer who lurks deep in the dark hollow of Parker’s own past of thirty years previously, involving in a tree with strange fruit, the troubled history of Parker’s own grandfather, and the violent origins of a mythical killer known only as Caleb Kyle. (Account cerived from Powell Books [online], & John Connolly Website [online] accessed on 7 March 2007.)

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The Unquiet (2007): Daniel Clay, a once-respected psychiatrist is missing following revelations about harm done to the children in his care. His daughter Rebecca’s fragile peace is shattered when the revenger Merrick - a father and a killer obsessed his own daughter’s disappearance - comes asking questions. Parker is hired to make Merrick go away and soon finds himself trapped between those who want to know the truth about Clay and those who want it to keep it hidden. Meanwhile, Parker’s hunt is being fjunded And Merrick’s actions have drawn others from the shadows, half-glimpsed figures intent upon their own form of revenge, pale wraiths drifting through the ranks of the unquiet dead. (See John Connolly Website [online] accessed on 7 March 2007.)

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The Lovers (2009): Charlie Parker, Connolly’s detective protagonist, is working in a bar in Portland having been stripped of his private investigator’s licence and is on the trail of own father’s past - a father who killed two unarmed teenagers about Charlie’s own age when the latter was a boy and committed suicide soon after. Doubts about circumstances of his father’s death bring Charlie back to the city of his childhood where he uncovers evidence of a betrayal leading to revelations about his own parentage, and finds himself face to face with lethal and mysterious couple who have long haunted him, and who want to get rid of him. Meanwhile, a troubled young woman is running away from some unseen threat which has takenthe life of her boyfriend and a journalist called Mickey Wallace is conducting an investigation into Charlie Parker with a view to basing a book on his exploits.(See Books Ireland, Sept. 2009, p.197 [“First Flush”] and the John Connolly website [online].)

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