Evidence of the Uncanny: MysteryPeople Q&A with John Connolly

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

John Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, Game Of Ghosts, has the detective searching for another detective gone missing while investigating a case involving hauntings. Parker’s search takes him to a centuries-old crime organization run by a creepy matriarch and her son. It is another one of Connolly’s masterpieces of gothic hard-boiled. We were lucky to track down the master himself for this Q&A.

MysteryPeople Scott: Did having Charlie track down another detective allow you to examine Parker in a different way?

John Connolly: I suppose it’s a variation on the classic “missing person” case, with the idea of one investigator following the path of another. I suppose what’s interesting about Eklund is that, on some levels, he’s not entirely unlike Parker: he is alone, he has perceived what he believes to be evidence of the uncanny in the world, and he is being paid off the books by the same government agency that keeps Parker on retainer. But Eklund is a much more ambiguous character than Parker, and it becomes clear that he’s been hiding secrets.

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Hard-Boiled Horror for Halloween

Horror and mystery – they’re just two sides of the same tarnished, dented coin. Ever since Edgar Allen Poe first brought together Gothic horror and tales of criminality, thus creating the modern detective story, horror and crime fiction have gone together like low-grade peanut butter with seedy jelly sold by a grinning vendor with far too many teeth. To celebrate the complimentary nature of these two genres, here are a few spooky suggestions to help us survive the long Halloween night. Stay inside reading these, and you just might make it till morning…

Scott’s Top Supernatural Thrillers

Falling Angel
by William Hjortsberg

Harry Angel, a postwar New York private eye, works the case of a missing crooner Johnny Favorite. The trail leads to voodoo, devil worship, and Satan himself. Told in a hard-boiled style, this is one of the first examples of blending both genres, with one of the best reveals in either.

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A Hard Word Halloween

The Hard Word Book Club takes on John Connolly’s Supernatural Thriller Every Dead Thing


  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

For the month of October, the Hard Word Book Club has chosen a book with a touch of the supernatural, Every Dead Thing. It is the first in John Connolly’s Charlie Parker series. Here you get to see our hero take his first steps toward the abyss.

Parker, a former New York cop, found his wife and daughter murdered in a horrifying fashion. A colleague from New Orleans, tells Charlie about a voodoo woman who helps him on cases. She dreamt of a future victim with similar wounds to Charlie’s family. This puts Parker and his lethal friends, Louis and Angel, on the trail of a a killer referred to as The Travelling Man, leading them through the deep South, putting them up against the mob and more dangerous things.

If you don’t mind going to some dark places, join our discussion. We will be meeting Wednesday, October 26th, at 7PM on BookPeople’s third floor. The books are 10% off in store to those who attend.

You can find copies of Every Dead Thing on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. The Hard Word Book Club meets the last Wednesday of each month, and will meet next to discuss Every Dead Thing on Wednesday, October 26th, at 7 PM

If you can’t get enough supernatural thrillers, another of our mystery book clubs, the 7% Solution Book Club, will be discussing Mr. Mercedes, by Stephen King, on Monday, November 7th. 

MysteryPeople Review: A SONG OF SHADOWS by John Connolly

song of shadows

Reviewed by MysteryPeople Scott

T here is a saying that goes “There are victims of the Holocaust who are yet to be born.” A social sin that large creates an evil that doesn’t go away with a simple surrender. John Connolly explores this idea with his latest Charlie Parker thriller, A Song Of Shadows.

Charlie is staying in the small Maine town of Boreas, healing his body from wounds sustained in the previous Wolf In Winter. A body of a Florida man washes up on the beach and the murder appears to threaten his neighbor Ruth Winter and her young daughter, even though Ruth at first denies any connection. Charlie knows malevolent intent when he feels it, so he steps in with allies Angel and Louis and even his nemesis, The Collector. It is all connected to Nazi war criminals, their sympathizers and hunters, and a special concentration camp.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with John Connolly

John Connolly comes to BookPeople Tuesday, November 18, at 7 pm, and we’re looking forward to having him back at the store. His latest Charlie Parker novel, The Wolf in Winter, has the Maine PI tracing a missing woman to a town with a dark secret. We talked to John about the book, myth, history, and some of his favorite writers.

MP: A town with secrets seemed perfect for you, since it is an archetype for both detective fiction and horror. What did you want to do with the idea?

JC: I’m not sure I think of ideas in those terms.  It suggests that I’m much more organized than I actually am!  I suppose the starting point was really the Green Man mythos, which is very European in origin, and has ties to folk and pagan beliefs.  (For those not familiar with the Green Man, it’s the name given in Britain to a face formed of leaves and branches that adorns some very old churches, a link between the new Christian religion and a much older mythology.)   Then a lot of stuff encroaches in quite random ways: the proliferation of gated communities, which keep the wealthy separated from the poor, both in the US and, for example, South Africa, where my other half is from, and the mindset that goes with that kind of separation or exclusion. And you’re right: there is a point at which that notion of an enclosed community lashing out against its enemies, perceived or otherwise, offers a point of crossover between the mystery novel and supernatural fiction, and that blurring of the lines has always interested me, especially because the two genres have much more in common than conservative commentators on both sides – but the mystery side in particular – might care to admit.

MP: Several homeless characters play an important part in the book and you depict their lives in an honest way. What did you want to get across to the reader about people who live on the street?

JC: I had no interest in preaching.  No reader wants to hear the sound of the apple crate being drawn up, and the author clearing his throat. But mystery fiction does have an engagement with the real world, and I was conscious that in Portland, Maine – which provides a focal point for many of the books – there was a debate going on about the city’s obligations to its homeless people and whether, by providing them with shelter during winter, the city was in some way encouraging homelessness, which is a very odd way to look at the situation.  The reality in Maine is that if you don’t give the more vulnerable people a place to sleep during winter – even if it’s just a chair in a lobby, as is sometimes the case in Portland – you’ll find them dead on the streets the next morning.  Now there are those who seem relatively content to let that happen – to discourage the others – but I certainly don’t want to live in that kind of society, and nobody I respect wants to either.

MP: This book has some of the best Louis and Angel dialogue in the series. What has made you keep them as supporting characters?

I think they’ve become more important to Parker as the books have proceeded, and therefore their presence is more obvious.  At about the time of The Black Angel Parker was presented with a kind of choice between domesticity and a new family, represented by his girlfriend Rachel and their daughter Sam, and being able to confront wrongs and evils – and to release some of his rage, all of which was represented by Angel and Louis.  The two urges are incompatible, and so he chose the latter, and they came more to the fore as a consequence.

MP: One of the things I admire about Charlie is he seems to have carved out a life with all of the tragedy and darkness around him. What allows him to cope and live?

JC: Ultimately these are novels about hope, particularly the belief that by acting in the service of good, the world can be improved slightly, even if it is at some personal cost.  The Irish writer Edmund Burke once said that “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”  The kind of mystery fiction that I read, and write, examines the implications of that statement.

MP: Like with a lot of your books, The Wolf In Winter, the story is connected to an involved history. Are most of these histories based on something factual?

JC: Well, the Green Man mythos is real and, of course, the idea of people of a particular religious persuasion fleeing to the New World to escape persecution.  But, as with the line between mystery and the supernatural, I find it interesting to blur the distinctions at the edges, so people aren’t entirely sure what is real and what is invented, which I hope adds an additional element of unease to the books.

MP: In Books To Die For you wrote an essay on both Ross MacDonald and Michael Connelly. Is there any traits from those authors’ works you’d like to have in your own?

JC: Well, Macdonald is the great poet of empathy in the genre, and he was also a gothic writer at heart in the sense of his novels being examinations of family histories, so I see his influence in my own novels.  Michael does something very different from me, and I wrote that essay primarily as a fan, although we have a point of connection in that we are both outsiders writing about an adopted place – his is Los Angeles, mine is Maine.  I just think The Black Echo may be one of the finest first novels in the genre. He was brilliant from the start.

John Connolly will speak and sign his new book Tuesday, November 18th, at 7 pm, on BookPeople’s second floor. You can find copies of The Wolf in Winter on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Can’t make it to the event? Pre-order a copy to be signed and we’ll get it signed for you!


The Lookout: THE WOLF IN WINTER by John Connolly

The Wolf in Winter by John Connolly

John Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, due to release at the end of this month, has the author working in top form. This time the Maine detective (and possibly fallen angel) finds himself in a town of dark secrets. It is a story that lends itself perfectly to Connolly’s talents.

Charlie gets word that a homeless man he knows wants to hire him to find his missing daughter, a junkie who also finds herself on the street at times. By the time he is able to contact his client, he learns the man has been hung, with the death ruled a suicide. To fulfill the man’s last request, Charlie takes the case.

The trail leads to the town of Prosperous. The place seems to reflect it’s name, thriving in economic conditions that have ruined other towns, with citizens who have suffered little. The good fortune may be linked to some bad secrets, connected to a church brought stone by stone from Europe centuries ago. That secret is also tied to Parker’s nemesis, The Collector.

Connolly is at his best here. He’s created an involving mystery which the supernatural elements and social themes subtly settle into. The writing is so good, it will have you yearning for Parkers’ next next as soon as you are finished.

The Wolf in Winter will be released on October 28th and John Connolly comes to BookPeople  November 18th at 7PM to sign and discuss the novel. Pre-order your signed copy today in-store or via bookpeople.com

Five Great Irish Crime Fiction Authors

For St. Patrick’s Day we thought we’d spotlight some authors who have done their country and their genre proud. Here’s some great reading to go along with your green beer, corned beef and cabbage.


Many have tried to capture this man’s machine-gun style prose, yet few get the master’s magic. His ex-cop-turned-finder, Jack Taylor, is an addict who hates his mother, pisses off tourists, and is one of the most engaging characters to come down the road in the past couple of decades.

Stand Out Titles – The Guards, The Magdalen Martyrs



Kerrigan has drawn comparisons to Elmore Leonard with his sharp characterizations, naturalistic dialogue, and his loose Rube-Goldberg style plotting. He also gives you the social map of his country, particularly in it’s post-recession years, and explores their institutions. Completely human yet hard-boiled to the core.

Stand Out Titles – The Midnight Choir, The Rage



While one can see the influence of one his favorites, James Ellroy, this author has a voice all his own that he uses to tackle the shadowy parts of Irish history. Many of his books deal with Fagin, former IRA, and Lennon, a copper, who both love the same woman. His flawed heroes often find themselves up against corrupt politics in stories that are good, hard, and dark.

Stand Out Titles – Ghosts Of Belfast, Ratlines



McKinty’s Troubles trilogy follows DI Sean Duffy, a Catholic copper in Thatcher-era Belfast. Needless to say, he has few allies. However we love him for his sense of humor and justice that combats the weariness of violence in that era.

Stand Out Titles – The Cold, Cold Ground, In the Morning I’ll Be Gone



Even though most of his books are set in the States, Connolly’s tales of Maine private detective (and possible fallen angel) Charlie Parker have the melancholy and supernatural flavor to rival any of his countrymen. With meditations on loss, redemption, good & evil, and tragic love, can you get more Irish?

Stand Out Titles – The Black Angel, The Burning Soul

New Charlie Parker Novel Out Today!


John Connolly’s latest Charlie Parker novel, The Wrath of Angels, hits shelves today, and we have a great give-away to go along with it. The first 20 people to purchase a copy of the new book from us will receive a set of limited edition postcards featuring fan art inspired by the series.

An added bonus when we opened the boxes this morning: ten of our copies are signed! They’re out on our shelves now, get ’em while they last. (We’ll have an in-depth review of the book for you soon, but for now I’ll just tell you: It’s good.)

wrath of angels

MysteryPeople Q&A with Declan Burke

declan burke

One of my favorite books this year, and our pick of the month, isn’t a work of crime fiction, but about Crime Fiction. Edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, Books to Die For contains essays by over a hundred of the best crime writers around the world about the book they would most passionately advocate for. Any crime fiction fan should have a copy of this. We caught up with Declan Burke to ask him a few questions about this achievement.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: How did the idea for this book come about?

DECLAN BURKE: The idea was one of those off-the-cuff ‘What if …?’ moments. I’d just interviewed John for one of the Irish papers, I think it was the Irish Times, and we were chatting about books and writers, and the conversation wandered into the realms of, ‘I wonder what such-a-person’s favourite book is?’ That was the interesting thing for us, I think – that the book wouldn’t be a list or a Top 100 or a Best Of kind of compilation. All writers are first and foremost readers, and it was reading particular books that inspired them to become writers. Who wouldn’t be curious as to what book turned Michael Connelly into the writer he is today? Or Sara Paretsky, or Laura Lippman, or George Pelecanos … And so forth. We knew from the beginning that the book wouldn’t be comprehensive or definitive in terms of the great canon of crime / mystery literature, but we never intended it to be that kind of book. It was always meant to be a book for people who love books, by people who love books.

MP: Is there an author you would have loved to have gotten but didn’t?

DB: I guess there’s a couple, actually. Again, we knew setting out that we wouldn’t get everyone we’d like to have contributed, but that’s par for the course with books like this. I’d have loved to see James Lee Burke make a contribution, for sure. And James Ellroy is a particular favourite of mine. I’d also liked to have had Maj Sjöwall write a piece. Having said that, I’d be far more inclined to celebrate the authors who did make a contribution – what was truly wonderful about the project was the way virtually every writer we contacted got what we were trying to do straight away, and pretty much volunteered to take part. They all seemed to appreciate that it was a labour of love, and they all bought into it on that level. It was more than a bit humbling, to be honest.

MP: I’ve already picked up two books due to the author recommendations. Was there any essays that made you want to pick up and read a book or author you hadn’t before?

DB: Absolutely. I got involved in the book more from curiosity than anything else, because even though I read quite a bit of crime and mystery fiction, I’m always aware of the gaps in my knowledge – John is far more of a student and scholar of the genre. But even allowing for the fact that I wasn’t fully up to speed on the genre, I was very pleasantly surprised at the number of books and writers I’d never heard of, and the passion their advocates brought to writing about them. I was totally ignorant of Kem Nunn, for example, and I’ve since picked up two of his books. I was amazed by the support for Josephine Tey, particularly among female writers – she’s an author who would have been on my radar as one of the lesser known writers of the British ‘Golden Age’ of mystery fiction, but Books to Die For showed me that she’s very relevant indeed to a host of contemporary writers. So definitely – it was tough going, putting the book together, but very educational, and hugely enjoyable.

MP: Your essay is on Liam O’Flaherty’s The Assassin. Is there anything about that book that influences your own writing?

DB: I’d love to say yes, but I’m afraid not! I picked The Assassin because I love its style and the story it tells – O’Flaherty wrote The Assassin and The Informer in a very clipped, staccato-like proto-noir style that we recognise in the works of Dashiell Hammett and James Cain, and even Paul Cain, although O’Flaherty published both of those novels in the mid-1920s, some years before Hammett published his first novel. O’Flaherty was a bit of a wanderer, and a sailor, and as far as I know he spent some time in San Francisco in the early 1920s. I do wonder if he stumbled across the early writing of Dashiell Hammett, and if it influenced him; or if Hammett was influenced by O’Flaherty; or if it’s all a complete coincidence.

MP: Was it easy to pick The Assassin or were there some close runner-ups?

DB: I could have picked maybe another 20 titles, easily. Probably the hardest thing to do, if you’re a reader, is to narrow your favourite books down to just one – and as any reader will tell you, that choice will change from one day to the next. Probably my favourite crime novel of all time is Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep, not because it’s his best book, but because it was the first crime title I read that opened my eyes to what could be achieved in the genre – really, when I read the first paragraph of The Big Sleep, it felt like I’d come home. That’s a feeling I’d never had before, and have rarely had since. So I’d probably have picked The Big Sleep – except when Michael Connelly agreed to get involved, and very humbly (typically for him) asked if we’d mind if he wrote about Chandler, there was no way I was going to get to write about Chandler!

MP: John Connolly said at Bouchercon that this book was the hardest thing to do and that he would never do this again. Would you be willing to do it for the next generation?

DB: I suppose there’s a couple of answers to that. Yes, it was a pretty tough thing to do, given the concept, and the fact that you’re trying to co-ordinate so many writers across four or five continents, all of whom have their own deadlines to manage. Having said that, I can see how an updated or expanded version might work in, say, 10 years time, or 20 years time. But – and it’s a pretty big but – I honestly don’t think it’d work if John wasn’t on board, and for a number of reasons. One is that he’s universally respected in the business, and especially by his peers, and another is that he has a fantastic knowledge of the genre. What people may not know, though, is that John has the work ethic of a small army. I have no doubt that Books to Die For wouldn’t have been anything like the book it is if John hadn’t committed to it so wholeheartedly, and he really poured himself into it. So I can understand why he might shy away from getting involved in reworking it again at some point in the future – and to be honest, if John wasn’t on board, I’d be reluctant to get involved again myself. It was a tough book to do, like I say, but there was a bit of magic involved too, and I think we (and I include Clair Lamb in this) came up with something unique. I don’t know if I’d want to mess with that again.

December Pick of the Month: BOOKS TO DIE FOR

MysteryPeople Pick of December: Books to Die For: The World’s Greatest Mystery Writers on the World’s Greatest Mystery Novels
edited by John Connolly & Declan Burke

I’ve been raving about Books To Die For since it first came out. John Connolly and Declan Burke contacted over one hundred of the world’s top crime fiction writers and had them write an essay about the book they would most passionately advocate for. The result is a book that can be enjoyed on many levels.

It can be read as a critical history of the genre. The first essay is on Poe’s The Dupin Tales and ends in Mark Gimenez writing about The Perk, which Anne Perry published in 2008. You see the mystery genre grow and branch off into sub genres and where it meshes with literary fiction, such as Smilla’s Sense Of Snow and Clockers. Megan Abbott’s piece on In A Lonely Place speaks volumes about the post World War Two era.

I’ve used Books to Die For as a source for discovering new books. Lee Child’s exhilarating take on the action thriller The Damned And The Destroyed has me hunting that title down. I’ve become a fan of ghetto noir master Doanld Goines after reading Daddy Cool on Ken Bruen’s recommendation. I was happy to see George Pelecanos give Newton Thornburg’s Cutter & Bone it’s due.

The book gives as much insight into the authors writing the essays as it does their subjects. Elmore Leonard discusses the debt he owes to George V. Higgins and The Friends Of Eddie Coyle in helping him find his crime fiction voice. When William Kent Kruger talks about Tony Hillerman’s approach to writing, it mirrors how I feel about Kruger’s own approach.

This is a great gift for any mystery fan. No matter any way it’s read, on what level it’s read, it’s a must read. In itself, it’s become a  book worth advocating for.