Shots has once again been given an opportunity to ask John Connolly some questions coinciding with the publication of his latest novel, A Game of Ghosts, the 15th Charlie Parker novel. It seems as if Connolly has been gathering momentum since the start of the story arc which began in The Wrath of Angels with the discovery of the list of names of those “who have struck a deal with the devil”.
Shots Magazine asked our longstanding writer / reviewer John Parker [not related to Charlie] to speak with John Connolly, as we had some questions related to this latest episode.
John Parker : Congratulations on the publication of A GAME OF GHOSTS, the 15th Charlie Parker novel.
John Connolly : Thank you John, very appreciated.
JP : What can you tell the readers about this “odd” book as you call it?
JC : I’ve often said that the nature of each book is affected by the one that precedes it. When I was thinking about A Game of Ghosts, I was working on Night Music, the collection of supernatural stories, so I suppose I was thinking in terms of ghost stories for quite a long time. It was probably inevitable that something of that would bleed into A Game of Ghosts. Also, A Time of Torment – the previous Parker book – was a very violent, action-driven novel. This one is more insidious. It’s a book of snow and winter and darkness, which is ghost story weather. And I probably prefer the winter books. That’s a reflection of me. I’m not a summer person. Late autumn and winter are my seasons.
JP : You have mentioned once or twice that writers are like magpies picking up things they are attracted to. Was there any inspiration for The Brethren or did that just come out of your fertile imagination? They are quite different from The Cut in the previous novel.
JC : I try not to think too hard about where some of the characters in the books might come from, especially the worst of them. They seem to come to me more easily and naturally than the better souls in the books, but then virtue is harder to write than vice. The challenge is to find something in even the worst characters that make the reader, if not root for them, then at least empathize with their situation to some degree.
JP: You have also said that there is a lot of Parker in you, and a lot of you in Parker. Charlie’s musings on John Le Carré and the” Lennon or McCartney?” debate in this book are more you or more Charlie?
JC : Oh, a little of both. I’m a huge admirer of Le Carré, and I kind of figure Parker would be, too. When Declan Burke and I were putting together Books to Die For, Joseph Wambaugh had initially considered writing about The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Unfortunately, that title had already been taken by someone else, but I remember Wambaugh writing to say that The Spy… could be read as one of the great novels about undercover police work.
JP : You don’t use the nickname “Bird” for Charlie very much now but there is more than one reference to the peregrine falcon as a bird of prey and as a wanderer in this novel. Can you comment on this?
JC : I thought the relationship between the bird and the falconer was an interesting metaphor for the relationship between the Hollow Men and the Collector. I’ve gone falconeering a couple of times, and I’ve always been fascinated by how the falcon regards its handler. There really isn’t any affection on the part of the bird. It’s bound only by the promise of reward.
JP : You have your own music show on the radio. Do you listen to any music while you write?
JC : No, not at all. I never have. Oddly, though, if I’m working in a coffee shop I’m quite capable of tuning out the background music. I suspect I’m only affected by music that I’ve actually chosen. On the other hand, a mobile phone conversation will be hugely distracting, while a regular conversation won’t be. I think it’s because we’re still attuned to two sides of a conversation, and when we only hear one it’s disconcerting.
JP : You quote Maxin Gorky at one point which is taken from his essay on his first trip to the cinema. The quote fits in beautifully within the context of the book. How would you feel about a film version of the Parker novels by HBO or similar?
JC : I’ve actually signed an option agreement for Parker, after all these years. It’s an interesting company, and I wish them luck with it. In the end, I write novels, and TV (as this would be) is a hugely different medium, with all sorts of changes and compromises required to make the source material work. For that reason, I think it’s generally better if the novelist keeps his distance from it all.
JP : Ross meets Parker in Crooners and Cocktails in Portland, a restaurant that actually exists. Did you enjoy researching there? Any recommendations from the menu or the wine list for your fans?
JC : Ha! I like researching all kinds of bars and restaurants in Maine. I enjoy making reference to them because I like to think that it might bring people to their doors. It’s certainly been the case with the Great Lost Bear, which has become a little pilgrimage stop, I think. I’ve suggested to Dave Evans that maybe he could put up some kind of statue to me, but I think he regards that as a step too far.
JP : Did you take a trip between Portland, Providence and Lake Champlain to research for this book? I know you like driving. Did you make a road trip out of it? That must be around 500 miles.
JC : I tend to take the time to research the locations personally. It’s no great chore, and by being physically present I often spot things that I might otherwise have missed: the birds of prey circling in Providence, for example, which found a resonance with the Collector and the theme of prey that we were discussing earlier. It’s always worth making the trip. I’ve learned this over the years.
JP : A lot of people have asked about a standalone novel for Angel and Louis. You said once that you did not think that would be likely but could change your mind. Would you consider it?
JC : I did it once with The Reapers, which does have Parker in it but really puts Angel and Louis front and centre. I’m not sure that I’ll do another book like that, but you never know. I think they work better as part of a triangle with Parker. Each brings out something different in the others.
JP : I live in Asturias, Spain on the north coast. Hopefully, one day they will invite you to the Semana Negra in Gijón or Celsius 232 here in Aviles. We already know you are fond of Barcelona but you were also in Zaragoza for the Festival Aragon Negro where you received an award. What can you tell us about your trip? The Goya museum there must have been a well of inspiration!
JC : The Goya Museum was fascinating, particularly the prints, which I hadn’t seen before. They were nightmarish, and did spark a train of thought. I love Spain, which is a country that has embraced the Parker books in a way that still amazes me. The Spaniards just seem to understand what I’m trying to do in the books, and they have no difficulty with the metaphysical or supernatural aspects. Every visit there is a pleasure – helped also by Tusquets, my Spanish publishers, who have put a lot of thought into how the books are presented.
JP : Many readers (including me) want to know what is coming up next for Charlie Parker. You very kindly revealed the name of the present novel for us when we conversed last year. Can you do the same this year? Can we expect book 16 this time next year?
JC : I’m working on Book 16 at the moment, although there will be another book in the interim, entitled he, which is very different from anything that’s gone before it. As for the title of the next Parker, I still have a working title, so I’m not prepared to commit quite yet.
JP: Lastly, a question I have to ask. Do you believe in ghosts?
JC : I’ve never seen one, but the universe never ceases to surprise us with its strangeness. I’m a sceptic, but not a cynic.
JP : Thank you very much for your time once again, John.
JC : Thank you John. Your kindness is very much appreciated.
Read John Parker’s review of A Game Of Ghosts Here as well as his review of a Time of Torment [out in PB] Here and Shots Magazine have copies of his latest work with a generous discount from our bookstore Here
Shots Magazine would like to thank Kerry Hood of Hodder and Stoughton and John Connolly for their help in organising this interview feature and of course our Man in Spain, John Parker.