Saturday 10 May 2008

Connolly and Hughes

Last night me and the missus attended John Connolly and Declan Hughes's reading and book signing at No Alibis Bookshop on Botanic Avenue, Belfast. Easily one of the most entertaining writers' event I've been to this year. Decade, even.

They arrived fashionably late, naturally, and addressed a packed audience. About seventy people in all, one of them Mister (Colin) Bateman himself! As usual, Dave Torrans made every effort to make everybody feel comfortable, topping up free drinks and generally being a friendly and warm host. and then the double act started.

Declan Hughes was the first up, reading from The Dying Breed and then The Wrong Kind of Blood. The latter was for the benefit of Dave Torrans who wanted to hear a scene with uber-badguy Podge Halligan up to no good. Mister Hughes's in-depth experience in theatre really shone through here. He didn't read. He performed. Each character had a distinct voice and cadence. Michelle, my wife, came with me to keep me company and snag a free glass of wine. She left a Huges fan.
(Photo from previous No Alibis event Connolly left, Hughes right)

Next up, Mister Connolly. He basically did a fifteen minute stand-up routine. Seriously. No, I'm being serious. He was dead funny. Huge belly laughs from the audience as his crime-based spiel filled the room with spades of energy and charm. Then he read from his current manuscript. A piece from the as yet unfinished Charlie Parker novel, The Lovers. Again, my wife was converted to the crime side. We'll be fighting over who gets to read the next releases first, I'd say.

Then came the Q&A. Most signings I've been to stop here. People in the audience clam up, and ask their questions individually during the signing. But Connolly and Hughes warmed the audience up by grilling each other before inviting questions from the audience. And so, they spent another hour answering to excited fans. Very interesting stuff, too. Gleaned more than a nugget or two on writing that will give me plenty of food for thought.

The usual melee ensued as the signing began. Luckily, me and Michelle were sitting close to the front. We managed to get to Declan Hughes first, then do the old sidestep into the Connolly queue. Both writers were absolute gents, dedicating the books to me and Michelle (yes she's now a convert, but a book each would have been downright extravagant) and Mister Hughes thanked me for my review of The Wrong Kind of Blood. That just made my night! He blooming well knew who I was. You see, a true gentleman.

I was too stunned by this to attempt a real good chat with Mister Connolly, but he charmed us easily without much prompting while signing a lovely hardback edition of The Reapers. In fact, every single fan got a good few minutes of quality time with both writers as far as I could see, and I'm sure each one of them left with a smile on their face. Mine was biggest, though.

Then me and Michelle skedaddled back to Dundrum, stopping at a Chinese restaurant to chat about the night and finish it off on a super-high note.

Brilliant! Hope they do it again next year.


Michael Stone said...

Sounds like you and the missus had a great time, and what's with all these top men recognising you!

My brother-in-law is a huge Connolly fan. I'll have to send him a link to this post.

Gerard Brennan said...

Brilliant time! Made me feel a bit like a celeb... kind of. Like round one of X Factor level of celebrity.

Tell your brother-in-law that he's visiting a few shops in England too. Here's his tour schedule.