Author John Connolly’s new novel, The Woman in the Woods, sees private detective Charlie Parker solving another mystery. He’s coming to Stratford to do a signing on Friday, 6th April from 12.30pm at WH Smith in Stratford — before that he took time to tell Herald arts about his work
This is your 16th Charlie Parker novel — are you surprised by that?
It’s the 16th, and the 17th story, as there was a novella, too. I was surprised when Every Dead Thing [2010’s book and the first in the series] was published, and that seems like a very long time ago. The surprise should have worn off by now, but it hasn’t entirely. In the end, it all comes down to character: if readers take characters to heart, and those characters continue to develop over the course of a series, then a writer will have a career. That seems to be the case with Parker, thankfully.
Do readers have to start from the beginning of the series?
I’ve always written the books so they can be picked up and enjoyed at any point in the series, but if they’re read in order it becomes clear that there’s a larger story taking place in the background. Some books are more interested in that larger plot that others, but it simmers away in the shadows.
Parker is a complicated man who seems a bit of a crusader — was this always the plan?
Initially the books were about a man overcoming grief and loss, and finding some solace and redemption by helping others. That’s never really gone away, although I think Parker’s own rage has eased as the series has gone on. But most writers don’t really start out with an overarching image for their characters for a series. The first book is published, and suddenly you have to write another. As time goes on, you become more familiar with the character, and so they grow. I learn a little more about Parker with each book.
You set your books in Maine, USA. What is it that attracts you to that location?
I worked there when I was younger, and grew very fond of it, so it seemed natural to give Parker a base in a location for which I also had an affection. It has an incredible cycle of the seasons, striking landscapes, and a history that’s odd, and sometimes bloody. Also, when I began writing it hadn’t been colonised by mystery writers! It was pretty much virgin territory.
You tour a lot for your books. Where do you enjoy going the most?
It’s always lovely to see somewhere new, and I have to confess an affection for Spain and Latin America, but I enjoy travelling through Britain as well. Much of the next Parker novel is set in the UK, as it happens. There: an exclusive for you!
Are you looking forward to visiting Stratford?
Very much so. I hosted a quiz in Stratford with Mark Billingham, last time I visited. You have some bright people in your neck of the woods!