John Connolly has published over 30 books, including the successful Charlie Parker series, The Book of Lost Things and his latest novel, The Nameless Ones. The Dublin-born author’s anthology, Shadow Voices: 300 Years of Irish Genre Fiction: A History in Stories, has just been published by Hodder & Stoughton.
The books at your bedside?
We have a very large library in the bedroom, which always seems to have a surplus of unread books. The most recent additions include The twelve lives of Alfred Hitchcock by Edward White, Prey of the ocean by John Sandford, Day of the Assassins: A History of Political Murder by Michael Burleigh, and Women against Hollywood: the rise and fall of women in cinema by Helen O’Hara. I tend to alternate between non-fiction and fiction although I try to fill in the gaps in my reading skills, so most of the fiction is not new at all.
The first book you remember?
The first book I read on my own was a Seven secrets novel by Enid Blyton. I remember sitting at a table by the window at home, painstakingly breaking down the longest words syllable by syllable. A few years ago at an event for young readers, a child pointed out to me that the first book I had read on my own was a detective story, which had never struck me before.
Your book of the year?
It’s still early, but I thought Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell was wonderful. I also enjoyed Tracey Thorn My rock’n’roll friend, her memoir about her friendship with Lindy Morrison, who is the drummer for The Go-Betweens.
The book that changed your life?
I’m not sure there is one, but finding out about Canadian-American novelist Ross Macdonald’s work in college probably set me on the path to becoming a mystery writer myself. His novel Cold is one of my favorite mysteries, with a killer ending.
Your favorite literary character?
I’m going to have to pick two, because they tend to come in pairs: Jeeves and Wooster from PG Wodehouse, who never fail to bring me joy and pleasure. Wodehouse also wrote one of my favorite lines in literature: “Shakespeare’s stuff is different from mine, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s inferior.
The book you couldn’t finish?
Quite often with books that beat a reader, it’s just a matter of timing: the right book at the wrong time. I just never managed to find the right time to Middlemarch. I’m starting to think there may not be.
Your Covid comfort reading?
I don’t tend to reread the books, or not very often, but I did return to PG Wodehouse. Oddly enough, I don’t like Blandings novels, which leave me with a bitter aftertaste. It’s Jeeves and Wooster all the way.
The book you are giving away?
It varies. Lately I gave Child of all nations by Irmgard Keun, written in 1938. It’s a sadly funny book about a child and her parents who find themselves without a passport on the eve of World War II.
The writer who shaped you?
I learned how to be a writer by watching James Lee Burke. He’s always polite, always introduces himself by name to readers who come in for a book to sign, and always gets up and shakes hands – or did, before the current inconvenience.
The book you would most like to be remembered?
I don’t really think of it that way. Most writers are meant to be forgotten as soon as they die, if not long before, and at this point I will likely have more pressing concerns in the world to come. It will be enough if my family and friends do not breathe a sigh of relief after I leave.
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