Connolly, John 1968-
CONNOLLY, John 1968-
PERSONAL: Born 1968, in Dublin, Ireland. Education: Trinity College, Dublin, B.A. (English); Dublin City University, M.A. (journalism), 1993.
ADDRESSES: Agent—c/o Author Mail, Hodder & Stoughton, 338 Euston Rd., London NW1 3BH, England.
CAREER: Author and journalist. Worked variously as a bartender, waiter, and government official.
AWARDS, HONORS: Shamus Award for best first PI novel, 2000, for Every Dead Thing.
Every Dead Thing ("Charlie Parker" series), Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1999.
Dark Hollow ("Charlie Parker" series), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2000, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.
The Killing Kind ("Charlie Parker" series), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2001.
The White Road ("Charlie Parker" series), Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2002.
Bad Men, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 2003.
Contributor to periodicals, including Irish Times.
SIDELIGHTS: Irish-born John Connolly's first books feature a man with the same name as American jazz saxophonist Charlie "Bird" Parker, but Connolly's Parker is a brooding, tormented, former New York homicide detective whose wife and child died while he was drinking in a bar. He first appears in Every Dead Thing, called "spellbinding" by Los Angeles Times Book Review critic Eugen Weber, who added that the story "holds the reader fast in a comfortless stranglehold."
On his home page, Connolly describes life growing up in the Rialto section of Dublin, a neighborhood deeply affected by the drug trade of the 1970s and 1980s. He noted that he had long been a fan of crime fiction, but that the genre is not common in Ireland. While studying English at Trinity College, Dublin, Connolly took a class devoted to American crime fiction, and the first genre novel he read was by Ed McBain. While still in school, he secured a student visa to work in Delaware, but he didn't like it there and took a bus that was leaving for Maine, traditionally fertile ground from which have sprung the dark tales of Stephen King and others. Upon graduation, Connolly worked as a freelance journalist for the Irish Times for several years, during which time he was writing his first novel. After dozens of rejections, Connolly decided in 1997 to return to Maine, and after a year of work, he sold Every Dead Thing.
"Crime fiction in particular has always been written from the perspective of the outsider," Connolly wrote on his Web site. "Look at the great Californian detective novelists. Chandler was born in Illinois and educated in Dulwich, England, Hammett and Cain came from Maryland, and Macdonald was Canadian. Yet each created a distinctive—and not accurate—vision of California in his novels. Being an outsider is not an obstacle; it just involves a change in perspective. I find America fascinating, but also a little frightening, maybe because I see things about it that, as an outsider, I find deeply strange."
In Every Dead Thing, Parker, now a private investigator, embarks on a search that takes him from New York to New Orleans, where he is aided by a Creole woman with psychic powers in tracking down the Travelling Man, who surgically dissects his victims while they are still alive. Along the way, Parker finds himself in a small Virginia town with a dark secret, thus providing the reader with two distinct plots. Library Journal's Lisa Bier felt that the blood and gore "are emotionally balanced by the book's dark humor and Bird's vulnerability."
Parker returns to his Maine hometown in Dark Hollow, where he agrees to collect child support from a man with a stack of money Parker suspects was stolen from the Boston mafia. The man disappears, and his wife and child are found murdered. There is a connection between him and the murder of five women whose bodies were discovered hanging from tree limbs in 1965 by Parker's father, also a policeman. The elder Parker felt that although a retarded man was convicted of the killings, the actual murderer was Caleb Kyle, who represents pure evil in the Maine woods. Parker and friends Luis and Angel are pitted against mobster Tony Celli, who is trying to recover the money, and the cast includes a large number of dead bodies.
A Publishers Weekly reviewer compared Dark Hollow to a King novel, "with a violent prologue, visions of nameless evil darkening the stars, and the dead past coming alive. … Luckily, this very violent hunt for a revived serial killer can survive comparison with the best."
Elias Pudd, the evil fiend in The Killing Kind "finds such grizzly uses for spiders of all, er, stripes that he makes that dastardly villain Hannibal Lecter seem like Little Lord Fauntleroy," said a Publishers Weekly contributor, who also felt that "becoming more apparent are the depths of this author's psychological acumen, literary skills and prodigious creativity."
In The Killing Kind the bodies of the Aroostook Baptists, who disappeared in the 1960s, are unearthed by a road crew in northern Maine, and at the same time, Parker is investigating the suspicious suicide of graduate student Grace Peltier, whose thesis was on the cult-like religious group. Pudd is part of a modern-day group of zealots called the Fellowship, a group Grace had been in touch with just before her death.
A Kirkus Reviews contributor wrote that "Connolly's reflections on evil, the past, and reparation are lyrical and affecting, and his grim fundamentalists send off frissons."
Parker is living with psychologist Rachel Wolfe, who is carrying their child, in The White Road. The various threads of the supernatural plot resurrect the Aristook Baptists and their leader, Aaron Faulkner, and find Parker heading south, at the request of a friend, to help Atys Jones, a black man accused of raping and killing a white girl in South Carolina, where a history of rapes, lynchings, and racist murders permeate the air. "Connolly skilfully weaves a story so chilling, vivid, and steeped in evil that when all the threads are finally intertwined, the reader is left breathless," wrote Diana Reed for Crime Factory online.
"The explosive plot, with no shortage of violence or death, takes a deeper cut than most thrillers and gathers moral weight as it moves at its own sweet pace," said a contributor to Kirkus Reviews. Michael Carlson reviewed The White Road for Crime Time online, saying that "Connolly has taken himself to a new level with this book, and that's high praise indeed."
In Bad Men, set on an island off the coast of Maine, Parker plays a cameo role, but the protagonist is Joe Dupree. As of its writing, Connolly was uncertain as to whether or not he would write another Parker novel.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, March 15, 1999, Jenny McLarin, review of Every Dead Thing, p. 1291; August, 2002, David Pitt, review of The Killing Kind, p. 1930.
BookPage, August, 2001, review of Dark Hollow, p. 2001.
Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2001, review of Dark Hollow, p. 605; June 15, 2002, review of The Killing Kind, p. 821; January 1, 2003, review of The White Road, p. 6.
Library Journal, May 1, 1999, Lisa Bier, review of Every Dead Thing, p. 108; August, 2002, Lisa Bier, review of The Killing Kind, p. 140.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, June 20, 1999, Eugen Weber, review of Every Dead Thing, p. 13.
Publishers Weekly, March 22, 1999, review of Every Dead Thing, p. 66; June 4, 2001, review of Dark Hollow, p. 54; September 9, 2002, review of The Killing Kind, p. 44; September 23, 2002, Yvonne Nolan, "An Irishman in Darkest Maine," p. 45.
Crime Factory,http://www.crimefactory.net/ (January 22, 2003), Diana Reed, review of The White Road.
Crime Time,http://www.crimetime.co.uk/ (January 22, 2003), Michael Carlson, review of The White Road.
John Connolly Home Page,http://www.johnconnolly.co.uk (January 23, 2003).*