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  • Clair Lamb

June 2020 newsletter

Dear Folks, As most of us begin to emerge from what has certainly been one of the strangest periods of our lives — and I speak as someone who was once an altar boy — I can only hope that you and yours are happy and unscathed. We’ve had our ups and downs here, but we persevere, helped in no small part by the kindness and good wishes of many of you. 

There are a great many questions to be answered regarding publication dates and signed copies. In the absence of anyone better qualified, it falls to me to deal with them. I’ll do my best in this newsletter, but a lot remains up in the air for now. Still, onwards we go . . . Bidding farewell to THE SISTERS STRANGE

Tomorrow “The Sisters Strange” will reach its conclusion. As most of you will be aware, I decided to post a novella to the website in (mostly) daily extracts, in part to provide a diversion during troubled times, but also as a way of making up, in some small way, for the postponement of publication of a number of my books in various countries, including that of THE DIRTY SOUTH worldwide.

Some readers have wondered if the novella was something I had in a bottom drawer, and was pulled out for the occasion, but it really wasn’t. The decision to attempt to write it was made just after lockdown was announced here in Ireland, and all I had to start with was a title. It was written day by day, working about five days ahead in order to facilitate the translators, and revisions were limited to the most basic of corrections. It was an interesting experiment in writing, and I hope you’ll forgive any occasional rough edges.  I am deeply grateful to everyone who has helped make this story available to readers in English, Bulgarian, French, Greek, Italian, and Spanish, and especially to my son Cameron Ridyard, who has posted these translated chapters every weekday for more than two months now. I must also thank David O’Brien, in his musical incarnation as Envoy, for providing the original soundtrack, which you can listen to here. The final installment of that music will be available on Wednesday June 10th, along with the last extract of the novella. It’s been a great adventure, but having done it, I now need to take a long lie down. I have also been asked 1) whether the entire novella will be available for download once the story is finished, and 2) whether the story will remain on the website indefinitely. The answers to those questions are 1) No, and 2) No. I wanted this to be a communal reading experience during a global emergency, and with every hope that most of the world is returning to whatever the new normal will be, I plan to leave the whole story up for only a few days after it ends. We’ll give you all notice via Facebook and Twitter, but it’s likely that the story will disappear from the website on June 30th. It will reappear in print and e-book as part of a collection of Parker novellas, although it will, I think, be heavily revised — because I never can leave anything alone, especially an unrevised first draft, and some detail and texture had to be sacrificed for speed during the online publication process. Thank you all for participating in this experiment with me. The feedback on Twitter and Facebook has been a daily boost to my spirits, and it’s meant a great deal to see how many people have been reading the new chapters every day. I hope Charlie’s been good company during this time, and that his world has been a welcome escape. To pass the time until publication of THE DIRTY SOUTH in August, I’ll be publishing weekly blogs that I hope you might find interesting, including a playlist featuring the intended tracks for Parker compilations that somehow got away, and rejected cover designs for the books over the years. Schedules for THE DIRTY SOUTH

The next full-length Parker novel is still THE DIRTY SOUTH, a story from earlier in Parker’s career, set before the events of EVERY DEAD THING — in other words, shortly after the death of Parker’s wife and first child. You’ve been tremendously patient with the publication delays, and I hope you’ll find it worth the wait. THE DIRTY SOUTH will be available from Hodder & Stoughton/Hachette in Ireland, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand on August 20. The American edition, published by Emily Bestler Books, will be available in the US and Canada on October 20. Important information if you’re looking for signed copies…

The issue of events, touring, and signings is obviously one that is being looked at, but right now we don’t really know what’s going to happen on that front. It’s hard to see people crowding into bookstores for author talks for the time being, but informal signings of some kind may well be possible, combined with online interviews and discussions. That, I think, is the route down which we’re most likely to go, all things being well. It will, of course, depend on how the bookshops choose to handle such matters as the year goes on, as well as such actual or potential obstacles as quarantine restrictions and second waves.  For now, though, I know some of you very much like to be sure of picking up a signed book or dedicated book, and perhaps one of the rather splendid totes we had intended to give away at events and with orders from stores.  So this is the latest situation:

You can order signed books – or dedicated copies, if you prefer – from The Gutter Bookshop in Dublin (where we may yet manage to have some form of launch event or signing), No Alibis in Belfast (likewise), Alan Hanna’s Bookshop in Dublin (my local store, so it’s easy for me to get to them), or from Goldsboro Books in London. If I can’t sign at Goldsboro in person, their copies will be shipped to me in advance, but for the present Goldsboro will be the only guaranteed source for signed and dedicated books outside the island of Ireland.  All those stores will also have the Parker Investigations tote bags, free with purchases of the book while supplies last. They won’t be the only options available — in Ireland, I hope to be able to sign bookstore stock as widely as possible — but they’re the ones we can be sure of for now. All these stores ship internationally, and you’ll also be doing a good deed by helping independent stores at a time when they badly need your support.

Copies for other UK booksellers, including Waterstones, will most likely be signed using a specially designed bookplate, unless warehouses accommodate themselves to the new order more rapidly than currently anticipated. We are, though, looking at the possibility of getting tote bags to as many of the other stores as we can. Once we have some idea of how, or if, that’s possible, we’ll let you know.

I had intended to tour in North America this year. We’re keeping our fin

gers crossed, but we’ll also be supplying a list of stores with tote bags and a signed reproduction vintage Arkansas postcard to go with the Atria edition of the book, just in case. Look for details about that later in the summer.


As I may have mentioned in a previous newsletter, the three Samuel Johnson novels will be published by Hodder & Stoughton as a single volume edition in October, with this gorgeous new cover by Rob Ryan, who was responsible for the rather iconic cover illustration for THE BOOK OF LOST THINGS. The book will also include a new story from the SJ universe entitled “The Monks of Appalling Dreadfulness.” The Samuel Johnson novels are very close to my heart, in part because the voice of those books is probably closest to my own, but also because they had a somewhat fraught time on publication.  I set out to write books that were funny, scary, and filled with odd bits of scientific and historical knowledge, novels that would appeal to both adults and younger readers, with jokes that were easily accessible to both without winking at the older constituency or talking down to the younger one. I was also very conscious that it’s sometimes hard to get younger male readers to pick up fiction, and I tried to write with them in mind, too. In the end, I suppose, I was writing the kind of books that I had loved as a boy, and still rather like now. Now, as then, I think they’re good-natured novels, ones that assume readers, whatever their age, are smart and curious. Perhaps it was the period during which they were published, but the reaction from some quarters of the trade was incredibly hostile. The buyer from one chain loathed these little books, for reasons that were never made clear, but which I think may have been related to a perception that adult writers were trying to “muscle in” on young adult literature because they thought there was easy money in it. As anyone who has ever tried to write for children or young adults will tell you, a) it’s very difficult to do well; and b) there really isn’t very much money in it at all.  But there is also occasionally a hint of worthiness that comes with certain forms of literature, and a suspicion that a book which is funny cannot be serious, particularly when it’s aimed at children. The Samuel Johnson books were meant to make the reader smile, if not laugh aloud, and if you didn’t like one joke, there would be another along soon enough. Yet underpinning it all was a belief not just in the value of scientific knowledge, but also in friendship, loyalty, and sacrifice. As much as any books I’ve written, the Samuel Johnson novels were complete labours of love, and that kind of response was hugely painful and depressing. Thankfully, many independent booksellers grasped what I was trying to do, and were hugely supportive. Critically, too, the reviews were very kind, and Kirkus Reviews in the US even nominated THE INFERNALS, the second novel in the trilogy, as one of their books of the year, making no distinction between adult and young adult reader constituencies. Anyway, it’s lovely to see these books being given a second life. If you didn’t get a chance to try them when they were first published, this is an inexpensive way to dip a toe in their waters. A New Caxton Short Story Goldsboro Books of London, who have been longtime supporters of my work, are celebrating 21 years in business this year. In lieu of an event, given the likelihood of ongoing restrictions, they will publish a collection of short stories from writers who have enjoyed a close relationship with the store. My contribution will be a tale from the universe of the Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository, the title of which will be revealed closer to publication. For the collectors among you, the store is publishing a very reasonably priced signed and numbered edition of the anthology, which you can pre-order here. An Introduction to Stuart Neville’s THE TRAVELLER AND OTHER STORIES In October, Soho Press will publish THE TRAVELLER AND OTHER STORIES, a collection of short fiction from Stuart Neville, one of the brightest writing talents to have emerged from Ireland this century. Divided into two sections, it includes both supernatural stories and pieces of crime fiction, among them the title novella, which picks up the story of Jack Lennon after the events of THE GHOSTS OF BELFAST and COLLUSION. I was delighted to be asked to write the introduction for the collection. Further details can be found here, and No Alibis is probably your best first stop for a signed edition. Elsewhere: new and forthcoming titles in France, Spain and Italy LE PACTE DE L’ESTRANGE, the French translation of A GAME OF GHOSTS, went on sale in electronic format last month, and is available in paperback on June 4. LA MUJER DEL BOSQUE, the Spanish edition of THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS, will be available in print and electronic format sometime within the next two weeks. And LA DONNA NEL BOSCO, the Italian edition of THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS, is available for preorder and should be available in the next month or so.

And in other news . . . Rewrites are almost finished on the next Parker novel, which is actually a Louis-and-Angel novel, and will be published in Ireland and the UK in April 2021. Hodder decided they didn’t want to change the original spring publishing date despite the later date for THE DIRTY SOUTH, and I told them I didn’t think readers would mind. I’m hoping my US editor and publisher will make the same decision, so that edition would be out in June 2021. And because I wouldn’t want anyone to think me a slacker during the lockdown, I’ve turned in revisions on a screenplay for THE BOOK OF LOST THINGSOne step closer to a film adaptation . . . As for the proposed Parker TV series, the lockdown put progress on hold. For now, all I can tell you is that there is a committed production company and we have a script. It’s in the hands of the TV gods, though, and we can but hope, but if you’re concerned that this may delay the purchase of my yacht, feel free to send a donation. During the lockdown I’ve been recording ABC to XTC, my weekly radio show on RTÉ 2XM, from my home office. It’s given me new appreciation for the wonders of modern sound technology, but the music still sounds good, and you can listen along if you’re so inclined on Sundays at 1:00 p.m. Dublin time or in playback on the RTÉ mobile app or website. Apologies for the terrible sound on my birthday episode, though: I inadvertently left the microphone on my computer open, hence the echo.  The idiot bus always has a seat free, it seems. Thank you all, as always, for your interest and support. It’s been a difficult spring — or autumn, for those in the southern hemisphere — but I hope the season ahead is easier for all of us. Stay well, and keep reading. Best wishes, John

Queridos lectores: La mayoría de nosotros estamos saliendo ahora de uno de los períodos más extraños de nuestras vidas –y habla uno que fue monaguillo. Espero que ustedes y sus familias sigan felices y sanos. Mi familia ha tenido algunos altibajos, pero perseveramos, ayudados en gran parte por la amabilidad y los mejores deseos de muchos de ustedes. Tenemos noticias para ustedes sobre la publicación de la nueva novela en español, La mujer del bosque, y algunas otras cosas más. ¡Allá vamos!


El 16 de junio, Tusquets, mis adorables editores españoles, publicarán en español La mujer del bosque, la nueva novela de la serie Parker. Aquí está el resumen:

Es primavera y, en los bosques de Maine, las tormentas aceleran el deshielo. Hasta que, de pronto, cuando un árbol cae, junto a las raíces queda al descubierto el cadáver de una joven. Los policías y forenses que investigan lo que pudo ocurrir no tardan en averiguar que la mujer dio a luz poco antes de morir. Sin embargo, en los alrededores no hay ni rastro del recién nacido, que quizá ahora cuente unos tres o cuatro años. Para encontrarlo, el abogado Moxie Castin pide ayuda al detective Charlie Parker. Pero Parker no es el único que ha emprendido esa búsqueda. Tiempo atrás, alguien siguió los pasos de esa joven, alguien que deja cadáveres tras de sí. Y en una casa cercana a los bosques, un teléfono de juguete empieza a sonar. Suena para un niño que está a punto de recibir una llamada de una mujer muerta. Pero, cuando los muertos llaman, sólo Charlie Parker se atreve a contestar.

Pueden leer un fragmento, y comprar el libro, aquí: También hay una banda sonora para acompañar el libro, y el universo más amplio de la serie Parker, cortesía de Envoy (alias del compositor irlandés David O’Brien) titulado The Honeycomb World (El mundo del panal). Pueden escucharlo aquí. Además, la novela anterior en la serie, El frío de la muerte, está disponible ahora en formato de bolsillo, en una edición más barata. Pueden comprarla aquí. Lo siento, pero como consecuencia de la COVID-19, no me será posible visitar España ni Latinoamérica para promocionar la novela y encontrarme con mis lectores en español. Espero poder volver el año que viene . . .


El miércoles llegará a su conclusión Las extrañas hermanas Strange. Como muchos de ustedes sabrán, decidí publicar una novela corta en mi sitio web durante el confinamiento para prestar una pequeña diversión. Algunos lectores se preguntaban si la novela corta era algo que ya había escrito, pero no es así. Antes de comenzar, solo tenía el título, Las extrañas hermanas Strange, y escribí la novela corta día a día, pero trabajando con una semana de antelación para facilitar el trabajo a los traductores a cinco idiomas. No fue posible reescribir y las revisiones se limitaron a las correcciones más básicas. Fue un experimento muy interesante por escrito, aunque a veces resultó frustrante, y espero que perdonarán los ocasionales puntos que puedan quedan por limar.

Estoy muy agradecido a la traductora española, Mar Rodríguez, y a mi editora española, Ana Estevan Hériz, por todo su apoyo y su trabajo duro. También quiero agradecer a Envoy el nuevo acompañamiento musical para la novela corta, que pueden escuchar aquí. Las extrañas hermanas Strange desaparecerá de mi sitio web el 30 de junio, pero aparecerá de nuevo (en una forma revisada y ampliada, creo) como parte de una colección de novelas cortas sobre Charlie Parker.

OTRAS NOTICIAS La próxima novela en inglés, El sur sucio (The Dirty South) se publicará en agosto en Irlanda e Inglaterra, y en octubre en Norteamérica. La próxima novela de Parker en español será Un libro de huesos, el libro más largo que he escrito (más de 800 páginas en español). Se publicará en 2021.

Durante el confinamiento terminé el guion para El libro de las cosas perdidas. Aún estamos empezando, pero estamos un paso más cerca de una película. Si le gustan los libros firmados, he escrito una nueva historia corta sobre la Biblioteca Privada y Depósito de Libros Caxton, que se presentó en dos novelas cortas incluidas en el libro Música nocturna, para una colección para celebrar los 21 años de Goldsboro Books en Londres. La colección se publicará (en inglés) solo en una edición limitada firmada por muchos de los colaboradores. La edición limitada no es muy cara (20 libras esterlinas) y pueden pedirla aquí. Sobre la serie de televisión propuesta de Charlie Parker, el confinamiento pausó muchas discusiones, incluyendo las relacionadas con Parker, pero puedo decir que tenemos un guion y una empresa de producción entusiasta. ¡Hay esperanza! Ahora estoy grabando mi programa de radio, ABC to XTC, en casa. Pueden escucharlo cada domingo a la una de la tarde (a las dos, hora española), o en la repetición con la app de RTE o en el sitio web. Por ahora, eso es todo. Gracias, como siempre, por su interés y apoyo. Ha sido un año difícil hasta ahora, pero espero que los próximos meses sean mejores para todos. Un abrazo,


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