Sunday, August 27, 2006

Connolly Has It His Way

I couldn’t help but chuckle at the headline over today’s profile of novelist John Connolly in Britain’s Independent newspaper--“John Connolly: ‘Never Listen to Readers’”--because it so directly contradicts the opinion expressed by Jeffery Deaver on the cover of this summer’s edition of Mystery Scene: “Readers Are Gods.”

The piece itself talks about Connolly’s latest standalone, The Book of Lost Things, which comes out in the UK this week (but isn’t due for U.S. publication till November). Independent writer Tim Martin describes that novel as a “wartime fairytale fantasy” about “a troubled, bookish 12-year-old ... [who] finds himself entering a shadow-world of allusion and illusion, built from stories and staffed by the characters from his bookshelves. This is a place in which the Seven Dwarfs are a gang of fretful Marxists downtrodden by a slatternly Snow White, in which a gay knight rides to save his lover from the clutches of Sleeping Beauty, in which the Loathly Lady tears apart her hapless courtier after he turns her down.” While such a shift of gears from Connolly’s series about police detective-turned-private eye Charlie “Bird” Parker (The Black Angel) will likely cause some consternation among booksellers, who prefer to see a successful author maintain his stride, Connolly contends that his fans won’t be overly disturbed. As he says:
“Mystery readers are very loyal, and they’ll look forward to their book every year, even if it’s a bad book. They’ll go out next year and buy another one in the hope that it’ll be a bit better.”

A glint of mischief enters his eyes. “And there are certain writers who have made a whole career out of the eternal optimism of the mystery reader. I can think of a couple. I got an e-mail from a woman who works in this bookstore in New York saying, ‘Well, we’ve ordered x number of copies but there was this collective groan from our readers when we heard it wasn’t going to be a Charlie Parker novel!’ Now that’s not really what you want to hear.” His eyes start out a bit. “Actually it makes you want to beat your head against the table, you know?

“Anyway,” he goes on merrily, “the last thing you want to do is to listen to readers. The nice lady who runs
my website started a poll so people could nominate their favourite book. And my career looks like a downward ski slope, you know? It’s profoundly depressing!” He is laughing hard. “It picks up again last year for The Black Angel, so it looks a bit like a heart patient who’s going to expire and then just took a little nudge at the end. You can’t listen to your readers, you really can’t.”
Parker enthusiasts, however, can rest assured that Connolly hasn’t abandoned his brooding New York protagonist. He tells The Independent that he’s currently finishing the next Parker outing, called The Unquiet.

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