When Connolly left Dublin Corporation to study English at Trinity College, he had money in the bank, and a renewed vigour for education. On a summer student job in the US soon after, he called home one evening from New York and discovered his father had been diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. He flew home the next day, and his father died soon afterwards. The cancer he died from has since become a recurrent symbolic motif in Connolly’s work: people’s bodies being horribly consumed by something they cannot control. “I think because of what happened to my father and the way he died, I have an absolute loathing and fear of that disease. I just think it’s so insidious and so appalling. It occurs in the books again and again. ‘The Cancer Cowboy Rides’ [a story in NOCTURNES] is the most explicit version of it, but again and again, with people in my books, there is this image of cancer or of being eaten from the inside.”For the rest, clickety-click here …
Recurrent also in the books is the theme of fathers – fatherhood, absent fathers, dead fathers, men who don’t know whether they want to be fathers. “I think all young men are trying to prove something to their dads,” he says carefully. “I think his whole idea was he worked so that at some point, he didn’t have to work any more, and that work was a kind of chore he got through as a prelude to retirement, when he could do all the things that he planned on doing. And then you know, work kind of had the last laugh, because he died while he was still working.
“He was not impressed by me wanting to be a writer, or to be a journalist. And I suppose part of me becoming a journalist and part of me going to college and doing something like English was a kind of way of saying to him, well actually, what you want is not what I want. The awful thing is, having done all that, had he seen what I do now, he would have been immensely proud.” Earlier, he said his father had a distrust of the “kind of freelance existence” that journalism and a career as a writer offered. It’s not hard to see where the roots of Connolly’s drive and work ethic came from.
“Burke shows again that he’s not just a comic genius, but also a fine dramatic writer and storyteller.” – Booklist. “Prose both scabrous and poetic.” – Publishers Weekly. “Proust meets Chandler over a pint of Guinness.” – Spectator. “Among the most memorable books of the year, of any genre.” – Sunday Times. “A hardboiled delight.” – Guardian. “Imagine Donald Westlake and Richard Stark collaborating on a screwball noir.” – Kirkus Reviews. “A cross between Raymond Chandler and Flann O’Brien.” – John Banville.
Sunday, October 4, 2009
In The Name Of The Father
Rosita Boland had a rather poignant interview with John Connolly (right) in yesterday’s Irish Times to mark the publication of THE GATES, in which Connolly touched on the death of his father, and how the loss has impacted on his writing. To wit: