asked our longstanding writer / reviewer John Parker (not related
to Charlie) to speak with John Connolly, as we had some questions related to this
John Parker: Congratulations on the publication of A GAME OF GHOSTS, the 15th Charlie Parker novel.
John Connolly: Thank you John, very much 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
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
JC: Ha! I like researching allkinds 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
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
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