John Connolly finds when meeting fans at events, there are some he likes a lot. On Monday night in Preston he looked around the room at County Hall and came to the conclusion that that wasn’t going to happen with us. Yes, we loved you too, John. (That’s enough of the insults. Can we please get on with all the love?)
Spending a beautiful May evening in the dark, but impressive, rooms at County Hall may seem a bit daft, but I really did want to meet the man who wrote The Gates, one of the best children’s books last year. (Yes, I know all the other fans were there for the regular crime novels, but I don’t mind being odd.) SilverDell Books of Kirkham organised this event, and I have to admit to having begged for a free ticket, which these amazing ladies who sell ice cream and books were happy to offer a complete stranger. Nice running into Super-Librarian Jake, as well, and Phil of Jodi Picoult jellybabies fame. And then there was a roomful of fans, who egged John on to give in to his urge to bang the chairman’s club really hard. It was loud.
He reckoned we looked quite nice (so did John in a purpley sort of maroon jacket affair and artfully arranged grey scarf), but couldn’t be sure we’re not the sort of fans who prefer the new book to be just the same as the last one, only different. I suspect we were, John. It seems that’s what authors who own yachts (or lose their Ferraris) give in to, but obviously John is above that sort of thing. His characters are all him, more or less, and Charlie Parker is John, except handsomer. (Now how is that possible?)
This ‘wet liberal, mediocre Catholic who still believes in hell’ talked a lot about soldiers returning home, and how very hard it is for them to settle to normal life again. Like most authors he goes round looking for things in life that he can steal and put in books, and I believe the homecoming soldier problem (in the new book The Whisperers) is one of those. John listed a lot of facts on the suicide rate of soldiers and the subsequent cost to society, and said he hoped we can support soldiers to make life better for all of us.
He read us a short piece from his latest book, about a ghost encounter in the woods. That’s another thing John does. You’re not meant to put the supernatural into a crime novel, but he likes doing it. To keep the fans happy, while not acquiescing to writing the same book over and over, John writes a ‘different’ book every other time, and he reckons it shows in sales.
Speaking of yachts, we somehow got onto the subject of Dan Brown. (Hang on, didn’t I say I was never going to mention him on here, ever again?) We had to do a hands up on whether we had read ‘that’ book, which of course I haven’t. John had, but the experience he takes from it is that he will never ‘waste time reading crap again.’ He had some opinions about authors not realising that many readers already know certain facts, mentioning mirror writing as an example. He had also once had an unfortunate trip to the cinema in connection with Angels & Demons.
Thanks to the woman in his life John has also escaped becoming a freemason, which can be hard to do if you live somewhere that boasts five masonic lodges. He has only ever met Stephen King once, but at least he managed to have all his Stephen King first editions topple over the master of horror, and I think the occasion wasn’t as good as he’d wanted it to be. Other than that, and the unfortunate geographical proximity to Dan Brown, John finds that living in Maine has freed him from having to write Irish novels. And he firmly believes that an average crime novel is better than an average literary novel. So true.
But – it has to be said – John is as funny and entertaining as most other Irish writers I’ve come across. One fan laughed so much she was barely able to walk.
And he’s polite. His mother clearly brought him up properly. He shakes my hand and pretends he’s really pleased to meet me at last. At last… Hah. And he promised me there are only two more chapters of the next children’s book left to write.
John likes events. Even when it’s an ice cream free event, a fact he returns to so many times that Sue and Elaine of SilverDell look ready to drive back and get him some. And he tells of the customer at crime bookshop No Alibis in Belfast who asked what happens at an author event, as she’d not been to one before, and was told that the author reads a bit and talks about his/her books. And then there would generally be questions. She shrank from this, saying she didn’t think she’d be up to answering any questions.