John Connolly is an experimental crime writer, preferring to call his books mystery novels. He decided to join together the two genres of crime fiction and supernatural fiction, saying it’s the focus on the ‘grey area’ that makes it so controversial. “If you’re writing crime fiction about good and evil, most of us have a rationalist viewpoint and an anti-rationalist viewpoint. You know, ‘What is it to be evil?’ ‘What is it to do an evil act?’ Most of us are not evil. Most of us don’t do evil things. We do selfish things. But, we’re not actually evil.
“So, immediately we have a kind of contrast between what is standard bad doing, if you want to use that phrase, which usually is derived from human selfishness, and something that’s larger and more complex, which is, you know, the wellspring from which evil draws. Some of us will take it as subjective, some of us will take as objective. Some of us will think that there is something beyond the human, which is a source for this evil. And some of us will think we’re all evil – human – that somewhere inside of us we have the capacity to do these things.”
EXPLORING THE SHADES OF GREY
John says that crime fiction allows people to explore that grey area. “The kind of crime mystery that I like is very interested in that grey area. For me then, the supernatural allows me to explore those things, because another thing that mystery fiction is interested in is the distinction between law and justice. It recognises that they are not the same thing.
Anyone who’s ever been involved with the law will recognise that law and justice are not the same things. And the writer William Gaddis once said that in the next world we get justice, in this world we have the law. “So, all of these kinds of issues, for me, lend themselves to a particular interpretation of “ mystery fiction with which some of my peers don’t necessarily agree.”
JOHN'S TIP: GET PAID FOR YOUR HOBBY
“Someone once said that the secret of happiness is to find something that you would do as a hobby and then convince somebody to pay you to do it. And, I’ve done that. So, I don’t really begrudge the time that I spend writing and touring. It’s a lovely way to earn a living.”
Listen to the Australian Writers’ Centre’s spine-tingling Murder and Mayhem podcast here.