#26 in the Show-Off and Tell feature is one that is a little bit different. It’s a couple of signed invites from John Connolly. There is a bit of a story behind this one.
It was April 2014 and the new John Connolly book was due out. He was doing a book signing, in my current home town of Newcastle. This would be the first opportunity I would have to meet the man himself, so decided to go along.
I decided to take along my then bolshie thirteen-year-old son, really just to give him something to do on a dreary Saturday afternoon.
When we got to Waterstones where the signing was taking place, I was a bundle of nerves. I was actually going to be in the same room as one of my absolute heroes, and I couldn’t cope. My son was very nonplussed at this and extremely embarrassed. The lady from Waterstones was getting everyone in the queue for the signing. She came to us and asked where my book was. I apologised and said I didn’t have one. She told me I would have to leave if I didn’t buy the book to get signed.
I had no money on me, and no bank cards or credit cards to pay for the book. I looked at my son and he was gutted, for me. He could see the tears welling in my eyes at the fact my chance of meeting my hero had gone.
We left Waterstones and went across the road for a coffee. I at least had some cash to treat him to a Starbucks, just not a book for my hero to sign for me.
I sent a text to my wife to tell her what had happened and her being her, got straight on to John’s publicist to see if they could sort something. She was in America and could do nothing but tell us to go back and try again. I didn’t have the heart. I was gutted and embarrassed and just wanted to go home and lie down in a darkened room.
As we left the Starbucks, my bolshie thirteen-year-old son veered off in the direction of Waterstones again. I was shouting over to him to come with me back to the car so we could just go home. He completely ignored me and kept walking to the shop. He disappeared inside the shop and then came out two minutes later waving at me to come forward.
When I walked over to the shop door, there was Mr Connolly, standing just inside, with the lady who had told me to leave. There was no one else there and it looked like he was getting ready to leave. My son gave me some weird hand signals that I couldn’t really understand and then I saw him make his way towards the nasty lady that threw us out. He was asking her if she could tell him if they had a book he wanted. It was something he had completely made up so she didn’t know and would have to go look it up on the computer. She excused herself from John, and my son turned and gave me a wink. He distracted her and I went in for the kill.
It turned out that Mr Connolly, or John as I like to call him, was an absolute gentleman. When I started to speak to him, my mouth went totally dry and the sweat was running down my back. I couldn’t string two words together. As there was no one else in the shop we started to chat. And we chatted. And we chatted some more. With us both being from Ireland, we got to talking about the old homeland and the differences between there and where we were. We spoke about books. I asked him what was going to happen with Charlie Parker and he told me feck off. No, seriously, he did. He wouldn’t give anything away at all.
We spoke for about twenty-five minutes about all sorts of rubbish before he politely told me he had to go to catch a train. Because I didn’t have the money to buy the book I asked him if he would sign something for me. He straight away grabbed a flyer.
This is it:
Shortly after that, my bolshie son and the exasperated lady that originally threw us out came along, and she finally twigged at what was going on. By this stage there was nothing she could do really so I just blew her a raspberry.
But John was not done. He started a conversation with my son Alex then, asking if he had read his books for kids about Samuel Johnson. Alex rather shyly told him no but he would certainly read them if I got them for him. John thought this was a great idea, went into his bag and pulled out a load of badges and gave them to Alex. He then told him the next time he met him, he would check if he had read the books and signed this for him. I think he meant it when he said he would check.
One more momentous thing happened that day. We got our picture taken with him. Can you guess who had to take the picture?
Yeah, the nasty bitch that threw us out!
John Connolly was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1968 and has, at various points in his life, worked as a journalist, a barman, a local government official, a waiter and a dogsbody at Harrods department store in London. He studied English in Trinity College, Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University, subsequently spending five years working as a freelance journalist for The Irish Times newspaper, to which he continues to contribute.
His 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. The 14th Parker novel, A Time of Torment, will be published in April 2016 in the UK and in July 2016 in the US.
In 2009, John published The Gates, his first novel for young adults. A sequel was published in 2011 as Hell's Bells in the UK and The Infernals in the United States; the third in the Samuel Johnson trilogy, The Creeps, was published in 2013 in the UK and in 2014 in the US. DreamWorks Studios acquired the Samuel Johnson trilogy in 2015 for development as a possible franchise.
Books to Die For, a nonfiction anthology co-edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke, won the 2013 Agatha, Anthony and Macavity Awards for Best Critical/Biographical Book of the year.
With his partner, Jennifer Ridyard, John published Conquest, the first book in the Chronicles of the Invaders series for teenaged readers, in 2013. The second book in that series, Empire, followed in 2015, and the third, Dominion, will be out in February 2016 in the UK and in May 2016 in the US.
John Connolly is based in Dublin but divides his time between his native city and the United States, where the Charlie Parker mysteries are set.
And for more about John, visit his site, or find him on social media: