Atlanta author of Parisian trilogy on terror attacks: "We’re going to see more of this coming"

Award-winning Atlanta author and poet Collin Kelley has been researching and writing about Paris for 20 years, ever since an unexploded bomb was found on tracks over which the train he happened to be riding on had passed. That was the year that attacks coordinated by the Armed Islamic Group left eight people dead and more than 100 wounded.

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

The experience informed his first novel, "Conquering Venus." The second title in what he calls the "Venus Trilogy" is "Remain In Light," which concerns the student and worker riots of 1968. His upcoming work "Leaving Paris," due out in the spring, takes place amid the 2005 riots in the Paris suburbs. One of the novel's character predicts more violence in the future, a fictitious prescience that has left Kelley rattled amid reports of Friday's attacks by Islamic State terrorists.

"It’s been life imitating art in the most horrific way," said Kelley, a 2012 Townsend Prize for Fiction finalist and 2013 Georgia Author of the Year Award finalist. "It’s been chilling."

He's traveled to Paris numerous times over the years and has spent a great deal of time in the neighborhoods affected by Friday's massacre.

"I've walked past that theater I don't know how many times," he said of the Bataclan concert hall, where at least 80 people were killed. "Personally I have this connection to that neighborhood. When I was watching the coverage on CNN I was thinking I know that place, I know that place."

During his decades of getting to know the city where his books are set, Kelley has become aware of long-simmering issues in refugee communities and said disaffected youths who live in housing developments "marooned" with little access to public transportation and few job opportunities can become swayed by radicals.

Credit: Jennifer Brett

Credit: Jennifer Brett

"In the 20 years I’ve been going to Paris the city has changed so much, the political climate has changed so much," he said. "Most tourists never see anything beyond the Louvre, Notre Dame. When you start looking outside the heart of Paris you start seeing something far more grim and desperate, and something waiting to ignite. This has been going on for decades. It’s just another little piece of a much bigger picture that’s coming together."

President Francois Hollande vowed that France would wage "merciless" war on Islamic State after the terrorist group claimed responsibility for the attacks.

"It was surprising to hear Francois Hollande saying France is going to war, the response is going to be ruthless. It’s kind of shocking to hear that from France," Kelley said. "There’s just so much anger and so much grief. Two terror attacks in less than a year in Paris is pretty incredible."

In January, Islamic extremists attacked the offices of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and a kosher grocery; 20 people including the three attackers died.

Kelley does not have answers for quelling the violence, only a grim prediction that mirrors his character: "Sadly, I think we’re going to see more of this coming. No matter how much data is collected, no matter how much surveillance is done you’re not going to be able to see and hear everything."