Wednesday, May 27, 2009

OF MAINE, AND MOVIES, AND 'THE NEW DAUGHTER'

Greetings from Maine, where I am currently sequestered in an effort to get some writing done. The word‘sequestered’ is carefully chosen, as I’ve largely cut myself off from human contact: I don’t have an answering machine switched on, and I’m generally ignoring e-mails that don’t come from my editors or my agent with exclamation marks appended to them, and warnings that my contract/home/ life may be in danger if I don’t answer.

I’m working on THE WHISPERERS, the next Parker novel, and trying to make up for the time that I spent writing THE GATES. In a sense, THE GATES was an indulgence: it wasn’t part of a contract, and there was no guarantee that my editors would like it, but it was a book that I desperately wanted to write. Now I’m paying for the time I spent writing it, to some degree. I’ve holed myself up in Maine, and set a target of 10,000 words over the next ten days to add to what is already done, even allowing for the fact that THE LOVERS is due to be published on day seven, with the three days after that devoted to signings.

The curious thing is that, less than three days into my stay here, I have 7000 words written, mainly because I have no routine beyond that which I set myself, and no immediate obligations to other people. It’s selfishness, admittedly, bordering on rudeness, but necessary selfishness, and it brings with it a certain amount of annoyance to other people, particularly friends who might have anticipated some degree of contact. On the other hand, it does mean that when the mood strikes me to write beyond the day’s immediate target, I can do so without a trace of guilt. Ultimately, I need to get some writing done.

Take today, for example. Up in Brunswick, which is about a 30 mile drive from Portland, the Frontier Movie Theater was showing, for one day only, Alfred Hitchcock’s TORN CURTAIN. Now, TORN CURTAIN isn’t a great Hitchcock movie. To be absolutely fair, it’s a bit of a misfire, although it does have one brilliant, excruciating murder scene. No Hitchcock movie is entirely bad and, anyway, how often does one get the chance to see one of his films on the big screen? I was sitting in the parking lot out at the mall, having stocked up on supplies, when I began to think about THE WHISPERERS. I’d written about 1500 words that morning, but I knew where I was going with the plot, and there was a coffee shop across the street that offered bottomless cups of coffee. So, instead of heading out to Brunswick, I sat down in the coffee shop, took out my laptop, and began writing. Admittedly, the coffee shop didn’t make much money from my presence there, but 1500 words eventually became just over 3000, and I didn’t feel guilty as I ate a quiet dinner over a book in a restaurant that night.

A digression: I seem to be having a vintage movie week. In New York last weekend, Robert Vaughn, the last surviving member of THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN, was introducing a screening at Lincoln Center as part of a festival of Steve McQueen movies, and I went along. I sat two rows behind Vaughn, who was gracious and funny in his introduction, and found myself watching his responses to a movie that he claimed not to have seen in many decades. As I did so, I wondered at how it must feel to be watching the ghosts of these men that he had known flicker upon the screen. There was McQueen, stealing the movie by constantly performing bits of business whenever the camera was on him, even at the risk of upstaging and antagonizing its nominal star, Yul Brynner. Rarely can a movie have provided so many stars of the future–McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Vaughn–with such iconic roles. Even Brad Dexter, the forgotten member (ask any pub quiz team to name the original Seven, and Dexter is the one with whom its members will generally struggle), shines, and I felt a particular pang at the sight of Horst Buchholz, brimful of energy and bravado. I thought, too, that I saw Vaughn respond to the sight of the young actor, now, like all the others, gone from this life, yet still with this enduring memorial to him in his prime. The audience applauded when Vaughn’s character, a gunman tormented by the fear of death, eventually overcomes his dread and kicks in the doorway of a makeshift prison cell, gun blazing, to rescue the farmers imprisoned within. There is a unique joy to be gained from the communal experience of watching a classic movie in a theater, surrounded by people who feel nothing but love for the movie and its stars. I imagine that the experience was very moving for Vaughn; he was there not only in his own capacity, but as a representative of those who had gone before him.

Afterwards, I stayed on to watch another McQueen western, NEVADA SMITH, which I had never seen before. While by no means a bad movie, it seemed relatively minor after THE MAGINFICENT SEVEN, grim, and overlong, and one-paced. THE MAGINFICENT SEVEN is brilliant, NEVADA SMITH merely competent.

Such matters have been on my mind recently, for THE NEW DAUGHTER, the first movies to be made from my work, is nearing completion. Last week, John Travis, the movie’s very talented screenwriter, saw it for the first time in a small screening room, or at least saw 98 per cent of it, as the last fine-tuning is still being done.

John, who is a harsh judge of his own work, emerged hugely enthused. I’m sure that he won’t mind some of his comments being reproduced here:

It's an adult, very well acted and directed, beautifully shot movie with a real sense of dread the whole way through ...smart, well. In fact, it's almost a little Spanish.

Or

maybe it’s like David Cronenberg directed it. It's kind of like A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, but with monsters instead mobsters...

I’m relieved, to be honest. I wanted it to be good, not only for my sake but for the sake of the people I met on the set of the film, all of whom were kind and talented and deeply committed to the work in hand. Furthermore, the film seems to be a throwback to an earlier era of movie-making, as it has been made without recourse to CGI. Instead it relies on make-up, and actors, and the use of light and shade. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

In the meantime, there’s THE WHISPERERS. Next Tuesday, June 2nd, THE LOVERS is published in the US. I have one TV interview to record this week, and then I leave Portland on a research trip. With luck, I will have the bones of THE WHISPERERS in place when I get back to the city.

Mind you, it still would have been nice to have seen TORN CURTAIN on a big screen...

This week John read

The Secret Speech by Tom Robb Smith
Men of Men by Wilbur Smith
Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker

and listened to

Vecatimest by Grizzly Bear
Manners by Passion Pit
Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix by Phoenix

PS
Just a reminder that I'll be signing copies of THE LOVERS at The Great Lost Bear, Forest Avenue, Portland, Maine, from 7pm on Tuesday, June 2nd, the day of publication. Every book bought on the night will receive a special limited edition t-shirt, and will be specially stamped. Advance orders will also receive a t-shirt, as long as stocks last, and a stamp on the book. Further details are available from Books Etc at bookhappenings@gmail.com, or 1-207-781-3784. And check out more tour dates here.

32 comments:

The Reader said...

Good Evening Mr. Connolly

I have been a long time follower of your books and recently your blog as well. I was wondering if it were possible that I could get to do an email interview with you for www.Fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com

I tried to register on your forum but my request hasn't been accepted as of yet. I hope you do consider my request Sir, looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Mihir

PS: sorry for the double post, but I'm really desperate to get in touch with you sir & after reading this blog post of yours, I'm kinda worried.

Dana King said...

A lovely paragraph on Vaughn and The Magnificent Seven. That's long been a favorite of mine, pretty much the perfect classic Western. When watching an old movie, I'm sometimes struck by the thought "all these people are dead." It never occurred to me how someone in Vaughn's position would view it. Thank you for that.

Not with a whimper said...

I've recently discovered your work---or oeuvre, as "lit" folks would say, if we allowed them to talk (which we won't)--and I haven't gotten much work done since.

Your stories are haunting, compassionate, and philosophical. [Tepid commentary, I know. But I don't have words to describe the honey-comb quality of your work.]

Not many writers have gotten me to read Origen.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/chr/ecf/004/0040044.htm

I hope you'll let Charlie find peace one day.

Thanks.

normski-beat said...

Just saw notice in Borders Glasgow today advertising your signing session for The Lovers. Dawned on me that it must have been about 2 years ago I heard you in same store speaking about and signing The Unquiet.

I was thinking that in those inbetween 2 years, I have read some good books (and a few terrible ones), but haven't read many that come close to giving me the sense of 'otherness' and 'satisfaction' I get from reading yours.

No 'mere' book can match the bible, but some have their own form of inspiration. Thankyou for that John, its a hugely elusive quality.

TomH said...

The 'sequestering' is what has to be done. Else all else will fail. Continuing lapses in concentration causes a breaking of rhythm and leads to wandering from within.

Brandilyn said...

Hello Mr. Connolly,

Recently I discovered your work by reading Dark Hollow. I haven't caught up to you yet, but I'm thoroughly enjoying reading the rest of the Parker series. It is a welcome relief, or distraction, from writing my dissertation. Now that I've found the blog, I have another great distraction.

It's a silly thing, but I'm in the middle of The White Road and I loved the reference to the Jayhawks. They are one of my favorite bands, but I don't often see them referenced other places.

Anyway, thanks for sharing your stories.

Brandilyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Storm214 said...

Hi John

Just got The Lovers in my hands, can't wait to start.

Read the posted section of The Gates also, interesting to say the least. One question though, without being cheeky, is the cover picture the final choice? Sadly I am one of those annoying people for whom the cover does matter, though I know its what's inside that matters. Won't stop me buying the book, already have it pre-ordered, just wondered :)

Storm...

Francesca19 said...

Good luck with your writing John. I read The Book of Lost Things over Christmas. I was very touched by it. I empathized with the main character since I lost my father, my stepfather and fiance to various fatal events. I love your writing style. I like fantasy novels. I'm not really into crime fiction. Take care. ~ Francesca

Utopia said...

Hi Mr. Connolly,

I love your style of writing. I couldn't stop reading "The Unquiet" the first time I picked it up and I remember the chills down my spine vividly. :-) Keep writing cos we so look forward to reading them.

luna said...

Dear John,
I am working on a philosophy book about the evolution of the persona. I lack the skills for writing thrillers tho this is my loved genre. I have been reading a lot of thrillers but now i found you.. at last. I am halfway through every dead thing, and this book is so dark and full of emotions it moves me a lot, exactly what i want from reading a thriller. I have finally found the writer i like! Your writing skills are amazing for me personally and i get lost in your books. I have ordered all your books, in due time i will read them all! You really "thrill" my world. Thank you so much for being a writer and sharing your talent with us. Peter, Belgium

jpaige said...

I grew up in a small southeastern Ohio town. Tomboys,pigtails and horses were my world in the early 70's. As freinds, we would entertain ourselves nightly by trying to scare the wits out of each other.I would always outlast everyone because I didn't believe in bog monsters or vampires or even zombies.That is until I saw The Exorcist. There are fates worse than death!! Now I live by myself in the woods,secluded. Mr Connolly, you have the ability to scare me where few can. Sure, I'm as scared of crime as the next person but demons are another story. Where can I find freinds such as Angel and Louis? (may they always be together) jpaige

Pat and Pam said...

Dear Mr.Connolly. It was both an honour and a pleasure to meet you today at the Border's store in Leeds. Thank you for signing our book with Louis' BEST phrase...Bet you don't get asked for that again!!! Thank you for the wonderful stories. Long may your talent and success last,and may you NEVER have to make the ending a big spider!!!! You are indeed the finest wordsmith and storyteller of our time.
With love,
Pat and Pam.(The Fulci Sisters!!)
xxx

Jeronimo said...

Hi mr connolly
greatings from Argentina
I read all of your books and loved them all. I just finished readig The Gates and i am allready waiting for the sequel I heard you were thinking to write. Hope THE WHISPERERS comes out soon too. I am really waiting for it.

thanks again

Ps: sorry for my english writting, long time has passed since the last time i wrote in english.

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