Novelist John Connolly, the Irish writer behind the Charlie Parker thriller series and several other books, is coming in for a signing session of his latest release, The Wolf in Winter. This won't be his first time in Houston; he's been here before and taken away, can we say, vivid memories of his visit.
"I remember spending some time in Cairo and thinking that the only people who drive worse that the people in Cairo are the people in Houston," he tells us, laughing.
In spite of his low opinion of Houston's drivers, Connolly seems like an awfully nice guy, much too nice to spend all his time writing about hit men, serial killers, perverts and deviants. But he does. With the release of Wolf, the 12th novel in his bestselling series, Connolly continues the story of the investigator and his friends (among them a pair of gay hit men and two serial killers) as they search for their own versions of justice. Each of the characters, from victims to heroes, major characters to minor ones, is a complicated mixture of good, bad and indifference.
Oh wait, Connolly doesn't believe in minor characters.
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"There are characters who might only be in one or two chapters or even one or two pages, but they aren't minor," he tells us. "Just because we don't see much of them, that doesn't mean they don't have a whole life. When they aren't in [a Charlie Parker] book, they're off starring in their own stories."
Having read The Wolf in Winter, we shudder to think what some of those other stories might be. In Wolf, Jude, a homeless man who sometimes feeds Parker information about people on the street, asks the investigator for help in finding his missing daughter. Soon after he makes the request, Jude is found dead in an apparent suicide. Parker's investigation leads him to a small town where residents have conspired for generations to keep their murderous secrets secret and will go to any length to continue to do so.
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Wolf includes a reappearance of a character called The Collector. He's one of the most despicable people in the book, but by the end of the story, we see another side to him -- one that isn't quite so despicable.
"People say that when you dream, you're every character in your dream, they they are each facets of you. I supposed it's the same in writing. Every character has a little bit of me in them.
"Everyone is a little bit bad and a little bit good," Connolly tells us. "Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking, 'I'm going to be bad today. Here I go off to work to be evil,' but people are selfish, they're interested in self-preservation. [The Collector is] one of the characters that I have the most feeling for. If the screw had been turned in a slightly different direction, he could have been a different man. The trouble is there are no small evils. If you allow a little piece in, everything else is polluted."
John Connolly discusses and signs The Wolf in Winter at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, November 20. Murder by the Book, 2342 Bissonnet. For information, call 713-524-8597 or visit murderbooks.com. Free.