Sunday, March 09, 2008

My Name Is John Connolly, and I Didn't Come Here to Kill

I've just finished the last of the Charlie Parker novels in my possession -- The Black Angel. While I enjoy a good thrilling movie as much as the next guy, I've never been much for reading thrillers. But I've enjoyed reading John Connolly -- though my favorite of his works is The Book of Lost Things, which is decidedly not a crime thriller. (TBOLT is a very clever twist on fairy tales and growing out of childhood.)

Connolly has definite talent for description, and the frequent themes of redemption and salvation are ones that I enjoy reading about, especially when done well. He's a writer I'd love to interview, which he might appreciate as an Irish journalist who interviews other authors. Check out his interview with Stephen King, who seems more candid or "willing" to speak about personal subjects than I think I've ever found in the oft-interviewed author.

One thing I'd love to talk to Connolly about is his intense depictions of brutality. I'm both appalled and intrigued by his willingness to express such vivid scenes of dismemberment and evisceration, for example. These are things that most mainstream writers -- and I consider Connolly in that category -- would not deign to show. Even in his later work, the scenes of murder and the details of fingers ripping through skin and organs continue and are not for the weak of heart. But if you can stomach scenes of sometimes cringingly disgusting murder, Connolly's Charlie Parker books are fast reads and cleverly crafted works.

I recommend one starts with Every Dead Thing, which feels like two books in one. It sets the background for why Parker is the way he is, and the horrifying death of his wife and daughter aptly prepare you for the steady stream of bloody murders that continue throughout the Parker books. While Charlie Parker makes a cameo appearance in Bad Men, it's not in the same family of works. Call it a neighbor, as it takes place in Maine -- as do most of the Parker books, at least in part. But Bad Men lumbers without quite the payoff. I'd have edited it differently.

Though I have The Nocturnes collection waiting atop one of my bedside stacks, I'm taking a break from Connolly for now. I recently bought The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, Michael Chabon's first novel, and began reading it last night (in the midst of a blackout). Chabon may be my favorite writer currently working. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay and Summerland were wonderful, and friends have told me that The Yiddish Policeman's Union is excellent too. And when I arrived on squad duty this morning, I found Rules for Old Men Waiting waiting for me. I read the first two paragraphs and discovered that Peter Pouncey is a wonderful novelist. It's nice when discovery happens like that, and I love when friends recommend good writers.

My mailbox remains open wide (as do my comment areas) for people who would like to recommend any fine work -- even your own -- and I'd be happy to share my thoughts on them.

[BTW, for those who don't catch the reference in my headline, it's a (somewhat hackneyed) reference to a Black 47 song, James Connolly. I didn't mean to imply that John Connolly has posted anything to my blog, though he would be most welcome.]

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