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JOHN CONNOLLY interview with John Parker - Instruments of Darkness

Written by John Parker

With the publication of a new Charlie Parker detective thriller, Shots Magazine’s Spanish editor and English language academic John Parker got an early preview of THE INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS.

“……The novel is structured as a standalone not requiring any understanding [or memory] of backstory, despite the subtle links to previous novels such as The Wolf in Winter, A Book of Bones and The Woman in the Woods. Coupled with judicious editing, it propels the narrative with significant velocity.

The author’s interest in folk horror and the theme of psychogeography is vividly realized, where the ‘past’ striates the landscapes of the ‘present. The Instruments of Darkness is an adroitly plotted mystery-thriller novel full of intrigue, anguish-inducing horror and explosive action. Connolly [as ever] sprinkles gallows humour throughout - leading up to a killer dénouement, making this latest entry in the Charlie Parker series extraordinary…..”

We have featured John Connolly’s literary work in all its myriad facets over the years, though we have a special interest in his Charlie Parker series, with previous interviews and features and reviews.

As ever, John Parker had some questions for the author, which we present for Shots Readers.

John Parker: Hi John. Good to speak to you again. 

On reading THE INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, it made me think of cases such as the disappearance of Madeleine McCann or the numerous true crime documentaries that have sprung up on streaming platforms and podcasts in recent years. Was there any inspiration in that sort of thing? 

John Connolly: No, none at all. I read almost no true-crime material, don’t watch those documentaries, and the only podcasts I listen to are Kermode & Mayo and Word In Your Ear. I really do prefer fiction.

JP: The reappearance of Bobby Ocean, the introduction of the extremely smart and dangerous Antoine Pinette and the militia-like camp that he organizes  suggests a darker America. Were you thinking in that way?

JC: I don’t think anyone can look at the United States now and not feel that it’s taken a darker turn. Whatever happens in the November elections, the consequences are likely to be unpleasant.

JP: Sabine Drew, the psychic is quite a character. Did you speak to any psychics or were you inspired by any research you may have done?

JC: Lord, no. I think I’ve only ever spoken to one person who claimed to be a psychic, and she provided something of the structure for “I Live Here”, a non-fiction piece that appeared in Night Music. I try to keep an open mind, but I veer towards healthy scepticism.

JP: While not wanting to give anything away, the “conversation” between Jennifer Parker and Sabine seems to suggest that something is brewing and is going to happen in a later book. Am I warm or simply reading too much into it?

JC: The series is moving towards a conclusion, though I’ve tried to slow it down a little, so all these elements have some relevance. I’m actually working on next year’s book at the moment – you’re distracting me! – and I’ve excised a subplot that would have moved things on considerably, but only because it was complicating the novel unnecessarily. It’ll keep until the book after.

JP: Again, without giving too much away, Kit 174 seems to tie in with your interest in psychogeography and also the honeycomb world that you have introduced as part of the mythology of the series. Is this all planned out or is it something that just comes about subconsciously?  

JC: Psychogeography and hauntology – that idea of the past never really being past, of time out of joint – fascinate me, so they tend to recur in the books. They’re also explored in some of the stories in Night & Day, which comes out in the autumn. Also, I just like haunted houses.


JP: In a recent email, when I asked you about the Gothic influence in the Parker books, you said that “Gothic is a mood and, in the manner of a Venn diagram, occasionally crosses over into horror, although one can have the former without the latter and vice-versa”. Do you mind people putting labels on your books? Could this book not be folk horror as well as gothic horror in part? Could not this book be part gothic western (there is a family feud and what could be described as a range war)?  Was The Dirty South not a gothic western (a man with no name rides into town, a gunfight at the end, Parker reading Louis L’Amour)? The gothic trappings are there after all (Lake Karagol, for example).  I see so many influences in your books that I was just curious to know how you see yourself in the literary world.

JC: I don’t really tend to think in those terms much anymore. It’s one of the benefits of getting older. It’s not that one doesn’t care what people think, but just that the days on which one does care become fewer. For me, the only interesting areas to explore are the liminal ones, in this case where genres blend into one another, or the connections between them become apparent. I’m just finishing my PhD thesis, and much of it is about that shaded area of the Venn diagram, which seems to be where I’ve spent much of my career – and happily, I might add, or increasingly so. The only downside is that readers and critics can sometimes be a bit suspicious of writers who inhabit those spaces, as though they’re cheating by not committing to the white areas.

JP: In the acknowledgments, you speak out against those who think you “knock out” your books, despite all the hard graft that goes into the production of a novel.  Is this just typical human envy on their part, do you think?  One thing you have in common with Stephen King for me is that every book that either of you write is different from the others. There are some highly considered, prolific authors that I have given up on because, although I love their books, they seem to blend into each other and I can’t separate one from the other and I have to check whether I have read them or not.   

JC: That’s kind of you to say. I think I was probably just having a bad-tempered day when I wrote the acknowledgements. That tendency to judge the quality of something by how long it took to do is an odd one, because it often doesn’t hold up for creative endeavours. Some music, fiction, or art is produced quickly and doesn’t suffer because of it, while others take more time. I’ve written some books fast but, as I grow older, my work takes longer to complete. I’ve learned, though, to have a number of projects at different stages at any one time, so I move between them and progress them at different speeds. I’m also very fortunate that I don’t have to take on other work to support my writing – teaching, workshops, even attending festivals to pick up a fee, all of which consume time and creative energy. That means I have more time to write, which means I’m in a position to publish more. Ultimately, though, it comes down to the quality of the work. There’s no point in being prolific for its own sake. 

JP: So, what’s on the horizon for John Connolly? Can we expect a new Parker novel next year?  Do you have a title for it yet? 


JC: It is a Parker book, and I do have a title for it. It’s on its fifth or sixth draft, so another polish or two and it will be ready for submission. Meanwhile, Night & Day comes out in October, and then I think there may be one or two non-series books after the Parker novel for 2025. One of those will be a mystery novel, the other probably not.

JP: I know you have said in a previous interview that you know how the Parker saga will end. Is that ending close? 

JC: It is, I think – certainly, we’re not talking about double figures for what’s left. I think I’ve found a way to stay in the universe of the books, should I choose, which is hinted at in next year’s novel. Then again, I may head off in another direction and leave mysteries behind for a while.

JP: And finally - what are you reading at the moment? 

JC: I’m just finishing Charity, the last book in Len Deighton’s Bernard Samson series of espionage novels, and next up is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Language of the Night, a collection of her essays on writing, science fiction, and fantasy.

JP: Thanks for your time, John. An honour and a pleasure for me as always. 

JC: The pleasure was mine, and I’m grateful for the kind words and the interest.

Shots Magazine would like to thank Laura Sherlock and Rebecca Mundy of Hodder and Stoughton for helping organise this interview.

THE INTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS is released on 7th May 2024 by Hodder Stoughton in the UK and Ireland and by the Atria Books imprint of Simon and Schuster North America and Canada.

John Connolly will be appearing at Capital Crime in London on June 1st 2024 where he will be in conversation with Mark Billingham, and will be also signing books during the event.

For more information  CLICK HERE

More information available: https://www.johnconnollybooks.com


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