Author One on One with John Connolly and Karin Slaughter
Karin: The Wolf in Winter is the twelfth Parker novel (and the thirteenth story, if you could "The Reflecting Eye" novella). How difficult is it to keep a series like this fresh, both for readers and for yourself?
John: Well, I still enjoy writing the Parker books, which helps a lot! I suppose that I made a few decisions early on which have stood me in good stead. One of those was to let Parker age gradually, so that the nature of the books would change as he changed. I always think of Robert B. Parker's Spenser series: I liked those books a lot, and they were always entertaining at the very least, but Spenser is vaguely ageless, and so the books remain kind of static. By contrast, James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux is now a man in his sixties, and his capacities—and his fears—are not the same as they were in his youth, which gives both a potency and a sadness to the books.
A second decision I made was to have a larger narrative slowly being constructed over the course of the novels. While a reader can start anywhere in the series, by reading in sequence it becomes clear that there is a connecting thread running through them. I suppose it's a little like the difference between the TV crime series of the seventies—Columbo, The Rockford Files and their ilk—where each episode was entirely self-contained, and modern series like The Wire or The Sopranos, where part of the pleasure lies in watching the story unfold piece by piece.
And finally, I take detours to do other books, like The Book of Lost Things, or the Chronicles of the Invaders, or the Samuel Johnson novels, which allows me to exercise some different muscles, and come back to Parker refreshed and maybe with one or two new skills under my belt.
Karin: Like most of the other novels in the series, The Wolf in Winter touches upon the supernatural. There is more of this blurring of the distinctions between genres now than in the past, but is there still an element of resistance to it among more traditional readers and critics?
John: I think a generation of mystery writers has emerged that is perhaps a little more experimental, and more willing to explore the areas of crossover between genres. I love the traditional mystery novel, whether hard-boiled or less explicit, but this doesn't mean that I consider the traditional form as the only way to write mysteries. I've always been curious to explore ideas of justice, compassion and redemption in my books. Because I was raised a Catholic, that word "redemption" comes freighted with a certain amount of spiritual baggage for me. I think it's interesting that the writers I admire a lot—James Lee Burke, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane—are also exploring that notion of redemption through their central characters, and all come from an Irish Catholic background.
In the end, though, there remains a pretty conservative rump in mystery fiction which doesn't care much for the mixing of genres, and has a particular loathing for any hint of the supernatural. That harks back to the rationalist roots of the mystery novel, but I've always believed that life, and people, are much odder than an entirely rationalist viewpoint can encompass.
Karin: The novel seems fascinated by the Green Man mythos, which might not be familiar to readers from outside Europe. Where did that come from?
John: A lot of older churches throughout Europe often feature pagan symbolism, particularly faces that appear to be constructed from wood and ivy, and the name given to such depictions in England is "Green Man." I think it was a way for the early Christian Church to acknowledge certain beliefs that were, if not quite pagan, then very much manifestations of the people's connection to the land. Some of them are benevolent, but some of them are quite horrifying. So at the heart of The Wolf in Winter is one of these old churches, transported stone by stone from Northumberland to the United States. And if you bring the church, then you also bring the beliefs...
Karin: What next?
John: I've finished Empire, the second book in the Chronicles of the Invaders, which I'm writing with my better half, Jennie Ridyard. It was easier to write than the first one, I think. Collaboration is difficult for many writers, mainly because writing is, by its nature, quite a solitary profession. I struggled a bit with it for the first novel in the series, Conquest, because I'd become so used to working alone over the course of twenty books. But Jennie's input has made those books better.
I'm also pretty close to finishing another Nocturnes collection of short stories and novellas and, as I write this, I'm working on the draft of the next Parker book. I'm going through a phase of being pretty prolific, and I'm making the most of it while I can. After all, who knows how long it will last?
“A great read.” (Booklist)
“Memorable . . . it takes readers on a path they truly won’t believe, offering diehard evil from the first to the last page . . . Connolly has once again delivered an all out thrill ride!” (Suspense Magazine)
“Connolly leaves us wanting more.” (Florida Times Union)
“I believe that I have already read what is sure to be one of the best books to be published this year: THE WRATH OF ANGELS . . . Read this with the lights on and the doors locked.” (Bookreporter.com)
“A great, epic time spent with friends and enemies.” (Mystery People)
“Connolly’s superb fusion of noir and the supernatural is to be savored, and not to be missed.” (My Bookish Ways)
“It kept me captivated throughout and wowed me with all its revelations . . . The Wrath of Angels marks itself as a high point of the Charlie Parker series.” (Fantasy Book Critic)
"The Wolf in Winter is Connolly at his Gothic best." (Sharon Wheeler Crime Review)
"Connolly’s writing is gripping, as always—the man is a real stylist—and fans of the Charlie Parker series are sure to give this one an enthusiastic response." (Booklist)
“Superb writing... Witty and imaginative journey into the darker natures of men and things that go bump in the night.” (Kirkus)
“A compelling flawed hero and a detail rich plot make for another satisfying read.” (Publishers Weekly)
"Charlie Parker is a hardboiled a character as ever rolled off the platen of Dashiell Hammett or Raymond Chandler...Trust me: it's worth the wait." (Gwinnett Magazine)
“While the novel does read as an erudite version of Scott Smith’s The Ruins, it’s really so much deeper than that.” (Bolo Books)
"The Wolf in Winter is thoroughly spooky, engrossing, and even introspective." (My Bookish Ways)
"Malevolent, mysterious and seductive...The Wolf in Winter shouldn't be missed." (Journal Sentinel)
"The Wolf in Winter is the author at his best." (Florida Times Union)
“The Wolf In Winter is ripe with Connolly’s customary humor, wry observations, and witty repartee…This is a perfect fall release, one to curl up with beside the fireplace to rightly savor, and is highly recommended for Parker devotees.” (Michael Patrick Hicks)
“Spooky...mysterious...dark andmoody.” (That's What She Read)
"Brilliant." (Random Book Muses)
"I cannot remember the last time I was so affected by a work of fiction.” (BookReporter)
“John Connolly is a true master of combining suspense and mystery with a dash of supernatural hinted at and thriller instinct that make this a perfect read. Good luck not reading it all in one sitting.” (Crimespree Magazine)
“Connolly’s thoughtful prose is extraordinary, insightful, and deeply contemplative of the nature of man and accepting of human flaws, if weary beyond imagination. This is more than a mystery: a journey, an exploration of men and their gods, a contemplation of the human condition.” (Curled Up with a Good Book)
"As usual, sparks and bullets fly....This is gripping, stylish reading for fans of the supernatural." (Waterloo Region Record)
“The ability to mix fact with fiction has always been one of the great strengths of Connolly’s writing…The Wolf in Winter is a terrific story, but a word to the wise: Don’t read it on a dark and stormy night.” (Mystery Scene Magazine)