It’s been a busy
time of late, so on Thursday 3rd May, I took some time away from work
and agreed to meet Mike early for a few beers and a chat as we were guests of
Hodder and Stoughton, in a celebration of John Connolly’s latest release ‘The
Mike and I have followed
John Connolly’s work for many years now and are very
fond of the last Charlie Parker adventure
‘The Black Angel’ so was looking forward to meeting up
with Connolly and telling him my thoughts about his latest.
You can read about the Black Angel launch in 2005 –
It’s been a few years since we last saw John Connolly’s
tortured PI Charlie Parker. The last time he appeared was in ‘The Black Angel’
back in 2005 [as last year Connolly published a non-series work
‘The Book of Lost Things’], so it was with great
anticipation that I cracked the spine of ‘The Unquiet’ – and to say that I was
not disappointed would be a gross understatement. ‘The Unquiet’ is a deeply
unsettling work, a dark and dangerous journey which starts with a feeling of
dread, and just builds and builds, until the tension becomes unbearable. If
you’ve not been introduced to Connolly’s Maine-based private eye, then this
novel is a great place to start. ‘The Unquiet’ involves Parker looking back into
his past and that of others, to find the redemption and atonement of past sins,
of which some may never be forgiven.
Charlie Parker is as melancholic
as ever, hearing the voices of his dead first wife and daughter [who were
brutally murdered in the debut work ‘Every Dead Thing’], and trying to find
peace with Rachael [his estranged wife] and daughter. To break the melancholic
mood he takes on a simple job to protect Rebecca Clay and her daughter from a
mysterious stalker. In the world of Parker, nothing is simple, especially the
people that populate his world, because the Parker books have a supernatural
aspect. For Charlie Parker - the world of the living intersects with the world
of the dead and past sins are propelled into the future. It seems that the
stalker harassing Rebecca Clay and her daughter is an underworld hit-man called
Frank Merrick. It appears that Merrick is working for a lawyer called Eldritch
[a homage to H P Lovecraft], and together they are attempting to trace Rebecca’s
father, the child psychologist Dr Daniel Clay, a man who’s career was ruined by
the whispers of paedophilia [and who subsequently vanished in disgrace]. This
assignment proves troublesome so Parker calls upon Louis and Angel, his rough
and tough sidekicks as well as Jackie Garner and his bodyguards – Tony and
Paulie Fulci to protect Rebecca Clay from Merrick, while Parker investigates
Merrick’s motives. He soon discovers that things are far from straight, as it
appears Merrick’s young daughter went missing at the same time that Dr Clay
vanished [while Merrick was in prison]. Then there is evidence that the children
that Dr Clay was involved with, drew pictures of their abusers wearing sinister
bird-masks. We learn also that at the Canadian border rests an abandoned
community called Gilead, a community that Dr Clay visited, and one that became
abandoned after it was discovered that ritual child abuse occurred.
Parker soon discovers links to
Boston’s Russian Mafia who traffic in children, internet child abuse and murder.
All the while Parker and Merrick hear voices from the dead, voices who are
hollow, voices that no longer walk the earth, and into this potent and chilly
mix comes the cigarette smoking and chilling avenger - ‘The Collector’, who asks
Parker ‘You think you are a good man?” and continues “How can one tell the good
from the bad when their methods are just the same?”
‘The Unquiet’ is one of the finest
reads of this or any year, from the man with the darkest imagination. I was
enthralled and terrified at the same time, but it’s the wit Connolly employs
that prevents this dark tale from becoming too malevolent.
Mike arrived after 5pm and I got a
coffee and beers and we sat and talked away from the hustle and bustle of our
professional lives. We’ve known each other for a number of years now so it was
nice to just sit back in the early London evening and talk about life. Mike and
I were getting excited for our trip to Thrillerfest New York this summer.
The Bleeding Heart Restaurant was an excellent choice to
celebrate the launch of The Unquiet. Well known to Charles Dickens and
used in ‘Little Dorritt’ saying, The more practical of the yard’s inmates
abided by the tradition of the murder. So the location was right on the
button. With chilled champagne in hand we met up with Daniel and David of
Goldsboro books, Maxim Jakubowski, Barry Forshaw, Mark [Tom Thorne] Billingham
and his wonderfully witty wife, Clare. I then chatted to Sue Fletcher, John’s
editor as we both agreed that ‘The Unquiet’ to be his most disturbing work, due
not only to its subject matter, but also his unnerving writing style, which
gives the reader a feeling of dread and doom from the onset, and then
intensifies to its dark conclusion. We had a quick chat with John’s agent, the
legendary Darley Anderson – who we seem to be bumping into quite a bit recently.
I then spotted the hard working Kerry Hood – head of Publicity for Hodder and
Stoughton. I thanked her for the invite and also how much I appreciated her
introducing me to
Stephen King last year. I told her that I ‘met’
Dean Koontz last month at the LBF, and she laughed
when I told her how much of a fan-boy I am, but she said that it was my
enthusiasm she enjoyed!
Then we were asked to take our
seats by the Managing Director of Hodder and Stoughton. He told everyone how
much Hodder and Stoughton loved John Connolly, not just because of his work and
talent, but also because how hard he works with the publisher in promoting his
work. With a chorus of ‘Speech!’, John got to his feet but it was apparent that
John was not expecting this (well, before dinner anyway) But as John is an
excellent raconteur he gave a brief response. It comprised on trying to find a
town full of evil on the Canadian border, but the only murder had taken place in
the 1920’s so he had to use his imagination. He also thanked all of us for
joining him and he hoped we all enjoyed the book and this evening.
Dinner was fabulous, with a
terrine starter followed by the most delicious rosemary lamb, and vegetables.
Desert was a wicked chocolate pudding and all washed down with a plenitude of
wine. Of course Mike enjoyed the red wine and was a happy man when he discovered
that the restaurant bottled their own and you can buy it online!
John moved table to table talking
to all of us between courses. Mike found himself in deep conversation with the
film maker involved with the short film on John’s website. Mike’s son suffers
from a condition called dyspraxia, which makes it difficult for him to read,
much like dyslexia. So when he told John that Kieran had actually finished The
Book of Lost Things, he was delighted, saying that it meant a lot to him.
I told John how much I enjoyed ‘The Unquiet’ and explained
why [ see review above ]. He also asked me to let my editor at Rap Sheet, Jeff
Kingston Peirce know that he was planning to come to Seattle, and looked forward
to seeing Jeff again, as last year Jeff and his wife Jodie were in London to
celebrate the launch of ‘The Book of Lost Things’. I also told John how much I
enjoyed his interview with
Stephen King and he laughed when I told him I
chatted to the King a month prior, and also about
Dean Koontz who by a
surreal twist of fate I met at the London Book Fair.
Mike and I
extend our thanks to the Hodder & Stoughton team for their hospitality,
especially to Kerry Hood (told you I would keep my promise about the photos –
Mike). And, of course, to John Connolly.