Hello. Since you’ve come to the website, and are reading this, my guess is that you have some interest in finding out a little more about me – although if you also plan to go through my bins to discover more, like A.J. Weberman did with Bob Dylan’s garbage, I wish you luck, and ask only that you be sure to clean up after yourself. I was born in Dublin in 1968, and have been writing fiction for money ever since my elementary school teacher, Mrs. Foley, paid me to produce “Tarzan” stories at five pence a time. This, though, wasn’t likely to be a sustainable model long-term, five pence only getting a person so far, even in 1974. (It was sufficient to buy two bags of popcorn and two Chew Man Chew chewing gums, back when slightly racist comestibles were still okay.) Thus it was that I largely shelved the idea of writing as a profession, aided by the fact that I didn’t know anyone who did it. Rialto, the area in which I grew up, was pretty much devoid of professional writers and artists, although for a time we did a good line in drug dealers.
Torn from the indulgent and, indeed, profitable bosom of Mrs. Foley, I attended Synge Street CBS from the ages of seven to seventeen. I can’t claim it was an entirely happy experience, but I suspect that was rather the lot of most schoolchildren in Ireland in the seventies and eighties. I was sent to Synge Street because a) my father had gone there, and b) it was free. The Christian Brothers and their associated teachers generally did their best, but it was a secondary school in which art was not taught, music education was unavailable to senior students, physical exercise ceased after first year, and biology was not a subject option, in part because it was expensive to teach properly, but also because the bits about reproduction might have proved awkward for all concerned in a boys’ school: awkward, but undeniably informative, and even potentially useful. Still, never mind. I think I’ve caught up now.
After school I worked in local government, as a barman, a shop assistant ,and a dogsbody (go-fer) at Harrods department store in London before studying English at Trinity College, Dublin, and journalism at Dublin City University. After graduation, I began working at the Irish Times newspaper as a freelance journalist, and continued to do so while writing what became my first novel, Every Dead Thing. It was the first piece of fiction I had written since school, one dreadful short story at university excepted. I had always believed that journalism would be the way I’d make a living through writing, but the Irish Times had many far better journalists, and it had quickly become clear to me that my preference lay with colour and feature writing, which are perhaps the closest journalistic forms to fiction.
While I was at Trinity College, a summer work visa brought me to the Black Point Inn in Scarborough, Maine, and that state would eventually become the base of my fictional series detective, Charlie Parker. Parker made his first appearance in Every Dead Thing in 1999, as a former policeman hunting the murderer of his wife and daughter. Parker has since appeared in 21 further books in the series as well as a novella, The Reflecting Eye, and the standalone novel Bad Men – although the latter has since been absorbed into the larger series.
My other novels for adults include the aforementioned Bad Men (2003); the internationally bestselling The Book of Lost Things (2006) and its sequel, The Land of Lost Things (2023); and he (2017), a novel based on the life of Stan Laurel.
In 2009, I published my first novel for younger readers, The Gates, which developed into a trilogy featuring young Samuel Johnson, his faithful dog Boswell, and a variety of demons, friendly and otherwise. The Samuel Johnson vs. the Devil series continued with Hell’s Bells (published in the US as The Infernals) in 2011 and The Creeps in 2013. A short story about Samuel and his friends, “The Monks of Appalling Dreadfulness,” was included in an omnibus edition of the Samuel Johnson books published in 2020. Actually, while I say they’re written for younger readers, I’ve never really made much distinction between writing for the young or the old. Apart from avoiding sex and swearing, the Samuel Johnson books simply assume that younger readers are at least as smart as older ones, and probably even smarter. I’m very fond of those novels, as I think the narrative voice is probably the closest to my own, and when I was young I loved books that made me laugh and think – oh, and maybe scared me a bit, too. I still do.
With my wife, Jennifer Ridyard, I wrote The Chronicles of the Invaders, a science-fiction trilogy for young adults, comprising the novels Conquest (2013), Empire (2014), and Dominion (2015). I’ve always loved science-fiction, but it has always suffered from being somewhat male-dominated. (If it’s female, it’s fantasy; if it’s male, it’s science-fiction.) The Chronicles were an attempt to address that issue, and also gave me the opportunity to discuss the genre in schools through books and film. Showing teenagers extracts from Planet of the Apes, Silent Running, and Alien was always likely to prove more popular than double math. My short stories have been collected in two books, Nocturnes (2004) and Night Music: Nocturnes, Vol. 2 (2015), although many of the tales were written specially for those volumes, and a third is in the works. “The Caxton Private Lending Library and Book Depository,” included in Night Music, won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award for Best Short Story, while “On The Anatomization of an Unknown Man (1637) by Frans Mier”, also from Night Music, won the CWA Dagger for Best Short Story.
As for non-fiction, with my co-editor, Declan Burke, and assistant editor, Ellen Clair Lamb, I won the Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity Awards for Books to Die For (2012), a collection of essays by mystery writers about the piece of crime fiction they would recommend above any other to a reader. Alone, I’ve published, Horror Express (2018), a Midnight Movie Monograph that used the titular 1972 film, and the making of it, to discuss nostalgia, childhood, the romance of trains, the history of the Hollywood blacklist, and the dietary, creative, and even sexual peculiarities of various actors, among other subjects. Horror Express was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award. More recently, I’ve compiled Shadow Voices: 300 Years of Irish Genre Fiction: A History in Stories (2021), a history-cum-anthology that uses Irish genre writing to discuss the development of genre fiction in general, and to address some of the misconceptions we continue to have about genre writing, particularly here in Ireland. Seriously, don’t get me started on that. There’s a reason Shadow Voices is more than a thousand pages long…
Finally, I host ABC to XTC, a weekly radio show on the internet station RTÉ Gold, that celebrates the punk, post-punk, electronic, and New Wave music of the late 1970s and 1980s – in other words, the music of my late childhood and adolescence. Look, 1978-85 was as good, and certainly as varied, as music got. Other opinions are available, but they’re wrong.
Jennie and I continue to live in Dublin, where we walk our dogs, support various wine industries, and enjoy company of our grown-up sons and their significant others, as long as they don’t eat too much."
The charlie Parker Series
John's first novel, Every Dead Thing, was published in 1999, and introduced the character of Charlie Parker, a former policeman hunting the killer of his wife and daughter. Dark Hollow followed in 2000. The third Parker novel, The Killing Kind, was published in 2001, with The White Road following in 2002. In 2003, John published his fifth novel—and first stand-alone book—Bad Men. In 2004, Nocturnes, a collection of novellas and short stories, was added to the list, and 2005 marked the publication of the fifth Charlie Parker novel, The Black Angel. John's seventh novel, The Book of Lost Things, a story about fairy stories and the power that books have to shape our world and our imaginations, was published in September 2006, followed by the next Parker novel, The Unquiet, in 2007; The Reapers, in 2008; The Lovers, in 2009; and The Whisperers, the ninth Charlie Parker novel, in 2010.
The tenth Charlie Parker novel, The Burning Soul, was published in 2011, to be followed in 2012 by The Wrath of Angels. The Wolf in Winter, the twelfth Parker novel, was published in April 2014 in the UK and in October 2014 in the US. 2015 saw the publication of A Song of Shadows, the 13th Parker novel, and Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2, the second collection of short stories. Charlie Parker returned in 2016's A Time of Torment, and made his 15th appearance in 2017 with A Game of Ghosts. The Woman in the Woods was published in 2018; A Book of Bones, published in 2019, completes the cycle that began with The Wolf in Winter; and 2020’s The Dirty South returns to a younger Parker, filled with rage and grief, as he begins the hunt that will culminate in the events of Every Dead Thing.
In 2021, Angel and Louis received another outing of their own – with a cameo appearance from Parker – in The Nameless Ones, and a pair of Parker novellas made up 2022’s The Furies. The next instalment in the Parker series will be published in 2024.
The Lost Things Series
The Book of Lost Things (2006) and The Land of Lost Things (2023) form a pair of linked novels that are very personal to John. The first deals with the childhood pain of a young boy named David, who loses his mother to illness at the beginning of the Second World War, and finds himself drawn into a world of folk and fairy tales in an effort to come to terms with his loss. The Land of Lost Things concerns Ceres, a single mother trying to cope with the trauma of a daughter left unresponsive following a car accident, who enters a version of the world once visited by David, but transformed by Ceres’s experiences and her own childhood reading.
Samuel Johnson Series
John Connolly's Samuel Johnson series is a darkly humorous and imaginative trilogy of books that follows a young boy and his friends as they try to save the world from the forces of Hell and the devil himself.
Helping to keep your bookshelves overstocked since 1999...
When is the next book coming out in my country?
The next Charlie Parker novel, THE INSTRUMENTS OF DARKNESS, will be on sale in Ireland, the UK, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand in May 2024. Look for more information about preorders and tour dates soon.
THE LAND OF LOST THINGS, a second book set in the world of THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS, went on sale worldwide in Autumn 2023.
When are you coming to visit/why won’t you ever visit my local bookstore, festival, dungeon?
First, check the home page for the latest schedule; every upcoming public appearance should be on that calendar.
It’s always flattering that people want me to visit. Obviously touring stopped altogether during the pandemic but, even before that, I’d begun to curtail my public appearances, especially outside Ireland and the UK. As much as I enjoy meeting readers in person, touring takes a great deal of time and energy that feel more and more scarce, the older I get. Be honest: wouldn’t you rather have an extra book than a selfie? I’m trying to balance things as best I can, though, and I do try to visit a few countries each year.
Why does it take so long for other countries to get the books?
I’ve had separate publishers (Hodder & Stoughton and Simon & Schuster/Atria) in the United Kingdom and the United States since the very beginning of my career, and have been lucky enough to keep my editors in those publishing houses for almost as long. They make independent decisions about when to release the books, and my influence on those decisions is limited. I understand the frustration, though, and have been pushing for a while to get the UK and US publication dates a little closer together. The gap between British and North American publication is currently just over a month, which isn’t too bad.
Foreign editions need to be translated, and that takes time. My foreign language publishers generally publish one book a year from me, and I’ve been writing a bit faster than that, so they’ve fallen further behind. If it’s any consolation, it means that should a piano land on my head, or I become marooned on a desert island, my foreign editors will have two or three years of books in reserve before anyone even notices that I’m missing in action.
The Charlie Parker novels have been published in translation in Bulgaria, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Indonesia, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Spain, Taiwan, and Thailand. The most recent translations available are in Bulgarian, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish.
THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS has been translated into 47 languages.
We don’t always know publication dates and schedules ahead of time, but you can check them yourself at the publishers’ websites:
Bulgaria — Prozoretz
France — Presses de la Cité
Greece — Harlenic Bell
Italy — Fanucci TimeCrime
Spanish — Tusquets Editores
Why aren’t the Charlie Parker novels available in German?
Ullstein published the first five Charlie Parker novels, but they didn’t sell as well as hoped/expected, and Charlie has not had a German publisher since. My foreign rights agents continue to look for a new German home for us. Rowohlt did publish he in translation, retitled STAN.
When will Charlie Parker and his world be adapted to the screen?
We’ve recently signed a development deal for a Parker TV series, with a really fine actor attached. (Actually, it was he who expressed an interest in playing Parker, and his production company helped to drive the deal forward.) We’ll share more details as and when we can.
Who do you think should play Charlie Parker/Louis/Angel/the Fulci Brothers?
I never answer this question, because I think readers have their own conception of how the characters might look, and I really don’t want to impose some alternative vision of my own. See, I care…
Why did you choose Maine as a setting for the books?
I first visited Maine in the 1990s, as a summer worker at the Black Point Inn in Scarborough, and fell in love with it. I knew that I did not want to set my books in Ireland, or write books that had anything to do with “the nature of Irishness,” as the literary fashion of the time seemed to demand. Maine felt both mysterious and familiar, and my affection for it has only deepened over the years. I keep a home in Portland, because I think it’s important to have a base in the place about which I write. Also, it’s a lovely city. You should visit. Tell the nice folk at the Great Lost Bear that I sent you, and in return you’ll receive one drink for the price of a drink.
Do you have advice for aspiring writers?
Write regularly, and finish what you start. Writing anything book-length is hard. It’s hard every time, and it never gets much easier. I have never written a book that I didn’t want to abandon around the 30,000-word mark, usually in favor of another idea that felt more interesting at the time. But authors who go chasing the next great idea don’t finish anything, and finishing a book is what makes you an author. Also, of course, read as much as you can. Read everything, the good and the bad, so that you see what works and what doesn’t, what you want to emulate and what you want to avoid. Mostly, though, just read for the joy of it. Writers should always read more than they’ll ever write.
Where can I buy a signed/dedicated book?
The stores on my tour schedule generally have signed copies of the latest book, but you can also request signed/dedicated copies of earlier titles from my “home stores” in Dublin, The Gutter Bookshop and Alan Hanna’s Bookshop. They are usually (though not always!) able to source earlier books, and I drop in once a month or so to sign whatever’s waiting for me. Both stores ship worldwide.
More Information to come
Meet John In Person
John does his best to focus on the important bits such as writing. But he does tour regularly. See below for the upcoming dates and locations where you can get a book signed and enjoy – if that’s the right word – a meet and greet.
Got another Question For JOHN?
Still have a burning question for John? Pop him an email and he will get back to you. Please note that writing comes first, so the response may not be instant.