Mike Connelly Speaks to Ali Karim for Shots eZine
Ali Karim with Michael Connelly The Overlook




One writer I have followed with an almost religious fervour because of his sheer talent in telling a story – be it one of his Harry Bosch police procedurals or one of his standalones – is of course Michael Connelly.


I first met Mike Connelly back in 2002 when I interviewed him for Shots Ezine. The burning question for me was what was the genesis of Harry Bosch to which he answered:

To come up with Harry Bosch I drew from everything. At the time I was a police reporter. I had contact with real LAPD detectives and a lot came from that, but I also drew from the movies, books, TV detectives that I loved over my lifetime. So there's things that stretch back to Joseph Wambaugh, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald and people like that, TV shows like Harry 'O' and Kojak, and then there’s movies. I've always loved movies; for example the 1971 The Long Goodbye directed by Robert Altman, which most fans of Chandler think of as an abomination, but I enjoyed it as a movie. I have a real easy way of definitely separating movies and books.

At the time I was doing this, James Ellroy was just getting to be well known, and there are stories about him and his mother and how the obvious (I think) psychology of him working out whatever happened to his mother (the damage) by writing murder stories. So I jumped to the idea of a guy with a similar background who works it out by solving murders. So there's this aspect.

The one thing you haven't heard me say here is that there's me in Bosch. At the very beginning there was none of me in him, other than we're both left handed – that was the little secret connection that we had. I consciously tried to create someone that was completely different from me, because I thought it would be more interesting to write about. And over the course of eight books, you can't but help but have a little bit of me go into him, and to and fro.


Read full exchange here


However it was not a Harry Bosch novel that first brought Connelly’s work to my table. Back in 1996, I was in a WH Smiths Bookstore (when that chain was a real bookseller) in Southend-on-Sea, where I spotted an interesting looking volume. It was a novel written by an American called Michael Connelly and entitled The Poet. I checked that it was not book 37 in a long series, and was relieved to find that it was a standalone. At the time Orion had published the first four Harry Bosch novels, The Last Coyote (1995), The Concrete Blonde (1994), The Black Ice (1993) and The Black Echo (1992), but the books had made no impact in terms of sales. They all featured noir-ish and somewhat surreal covers. The Poet was different. This time, a white snowy road framed the blackness of the cover. It was icy-white. It looked chilling. And as it turned out, The Poet was Michael Connelly’s breakthrough book in the UK.


I still recall returning from the bookstore, grabbing a seat in my kitchen and starting The Poet. Before I knew it, the door opened and my wife entered. I glanced at my watch and two hours had elapsed. Such was the intensity of Connelly’s writing. I finished the book later that night.


I met up again with Michael in 2003 at Bouchercon in Las Vegas, where he told me he was working on a novel that was partly set in Las Vegas and would set a trajectory with Harry Bosch that would bisect the loose ends from The Poet. Sure enough, the following year Mike Connelly delivered The Narrows and was gracious enough to sit down for another interview. During Boucheron 34, one of my highlights was standing at the back of a packed auditorium with David Morrell, listening to Connelly interview James Lee Burke. I asked Mike about that that event:


Well, I guess our favourite moments at that event were the same. I came to do one thing and that was interview James Lee Burke. We have talked on the phone on occasion over the years but it is hard to knock down the wall of feeling intimidated when you are in your hero’s presence. That is how I feel with Jim. So I was quite nervous but it turned out well and that made it a highlight. The highlight within the highlight came when a member of the audience, a woman of Cajun descent, stood up and said some really wonderful things about his work. It was obviously a great moment for Jim Burke but it was really a wonderful moment for those of us who write in this genre because it underlined how powerful a book can be and how meaningful.


Click here to read more


I was excited last year to hear that Connelly was going to write a serial novel for the New York TimesThe Overlook. I devoured this serial novel [weekly via the internet] which I felt to be one of the strongest in the Bosch series, even if it is very different to what preceded it.


I then devoured The Overlook as a novel and noticed that he had reworked some of the text; and one of the funniest aspects is that Harry Bosch’s boss is Larry Gandle, who shares the name with my dear friend, reviewer, literary judge and the assistant editor at Deadly Pleasures Larry Gandle.


In the UK Connelly always hits the top of the lists on release of his work, which poses issues for publisher Orion.  They also have Harlan Coben and Ian Rankin to make up a trio of No. 1 selling authors for which other publishers watch for release dates to steer clear of.


Connelly found a huge slew of new readers when he released a standalone The Lincoln Lawyer which went into several printings thanks to a Richard and Judy Nomination


Gaby Young of Orion called me knowing of my passion for all things Bosch and arranged for me to meet Mike Connelly in Milton Keynes, while he was over on a brief visit, to talk about the release of The Overlook for his British fans – but before you settle down to read about Bosch and his battle with homeland security and international terrorism, click here for an excerpt.


Ali       Good to see you in the UK again! And congratulations with The Lincoln Lawyer making the Richard and Judy shortlist!  What have you been up to while visiting us?


Mike   Thanks Ali, It’s kind of a quick trip this time; got a few events here and in London as well as a visit to Dublin.  I haven’t a lot of time compared to my usual visits. I come as often as I can, it averages every other book but because of The Lincoln Lawyer, I’ve been over in the UK more often recently.


Ali       The Overlook was first serialised in the New York Times; did you write the 3,000 word sections as you went along [on a high-wire act] or did you have the book completed and then split it into sections?


Mike   A little of both; the New York Times people insisted that they get the whole manuscript before they would publish anything as they wanted to know where it was going to go, and what it was going to say, but I did write it with the clause that each chapter had to be as close to 3,000 words as possible.


Ali        I’ve read it in both forms, as a serial and as a finished book, and noticed it has subtle changes in print form – did it require much rework for the book edition?


Mike   I really welcomed the reworking because writing to fill the 3,000 words per chapter is not the normal way I would write my books; that constriction was very difficult for me. When I write a chapter of a book, I don’t really care how many words there are per se, or how many pages, I just want a chapter that propels the story forward, to continue the momentum. So when I wrote the serial for the Times, it sort of hampered the way I write, and the flow of the book, if you will. So I knew pretty early on when I was writing it as a serial that I would rework it later for publication as a book.


Ali        Can you tell us where the idea of a serial novel for the New York Times came from?


Mike   The New York Times started doing this a couple of years ago, as a sort of nod to Dickens [who serialised his novels in the newspapers of his era], and to be fair that’s how some books were published in the past. They wanted to try to see if it would draw more people to read their Sunday magazine, so they approached me to do this a while back, but the timing was not right then. A year later they asked again and I agreed. They think that crime thriller fiction lends itself to this serial-type of format, as in genre work there is often a hook in each chapter. That’s what they were looking for – stories that would bring people back each week.


Ali        Most importantly did you enjoy writing it as much as I did reading it?


Mike   <laughing>  I can’t say I enjoyed writing it as much as my other books, but I am flattered that you enjoyed it; but writing this way is rather like having a boss watching over your shoulder yelling, 3,000 words, 3,000 words, 3,000 words <laughing> that I didn’t enjoy.  But I really enjoyed rewriting it for novel publication, as I get to look at it again with a totally fresh mind and take it apart and rebuild it and write it the way I prefer, with the pacing that I wanted and also throw in some more current events to make it topical.


Ali        Like the Russian polonium poisoning in London?


Mike   Exactly.  In fact the time frame was shifted by a year for the novel compared to the serial. Actually within the middle section of the book, I made some quite large changes, even introducing a whole new character that wasn’t in the serialisation; that was something I wanted to do then, but just didn’t have the space or words to do. They wanted fourteen to sixteen chapters so I added significant additional material, and that was what I enjoyed most.


Ali        I know that you relocated to Florida when we last talked so did you return to LA during writing the book?


Harry  Yes, I return quite a bit. Until recently I kept an apartment there, but I don’t miss LA as I am back there so often.


Ali        I was amused to see that Harry’s old friend Rachel Walling – who last appeared in Echo Park – returns, so what made you made bring her back?


Mike    <Laughing>  It usually comes from my decision as to who do I want to spend a year with? And it always comes down to characters who I will spend time with, like, do I want to spend a year building a new character or revisiting an old one? Basically I am looking for what will keep me interested and excited, to motivate me to get up early, to write. Of course Bosch is a main character, but the supporting characters are critical in making the book work also, and I really like to explore secondary characters. There was a lot of unfinished business between Harry and Rachel in Echo Park so I thought I’d explore these issues, but the reality was that as The Overlook takes place within twelve hours, with the 3,000-word chapters there’s still a lot of unexplored territory left <laughing>


Ali       Bosch must be coming to his late fifties now, and you may laugh at this but there are rumours circulating that he, like Rankin’s Rebus, may be coming to the end of the road and that Walling will be taking over?


Mike   I don’t know about taking over; I hope that the trajectory of the series is as close to reality as possible. I’ve tried to treat Harry and the department as real as possible. I live by that principle and so Harry won’t be able to do the job longer than a few more years due to his age in the LAPD. So I am facing that prospect which may mean that it may not be the end of the series, but could be the end of him very soon, as he will have to hand back his badge, and perhaps it will be the end of the series, who knows? As far as anyone taking over? Not sure about Walling taking over, perhaps it could even be his new partner? Harry is mentoring him...


Ali        Yes Iggy is an interesting partner, but without spoiling things, you really reckon he’s going to survive Bosch? Bosch’s partners have a tough time…


Mike   <laughing> You’re right, some of Harry’s partners don’t do well, but I like that character, and I am exploring him currently and I reckon he’ll be around a little while at least. But then again I don’t look too much further into the future.


Ali        OK, a tough question but one that I have to ask, as Harry’s Creator, what do you put down to the popularity of Harry Bosch?


Mike   I think it is the thing about him being the outsider looking in. He’s an outsider in an insider’s job, which in many ways connects us all, as we all wonder what’s going wrong on the inside, and on some level we all feel like outsiders. I think there is an empathic connection between Harry Bosch and the reader which I consider is his appeal.


Ali        I really enjoyed your journalistic essays in Crime Beat, can you tell us a little about how this book came about?


Mike    It wasn’t my decision to release Crime Beat. It came via a small publisher in Los Angeles who asked me if I wanted to get involved in a book of journalistic essays of mine. So to get any control I had to join him as the newspapers have the rights to them and I didn’t have any control of the material. The publisher had collected the pieces and got the rights to publish them, and so I got involved to help him pick the best stories and therefore we chose stories that had a subtle echo to the fiction I would eventually write.


Ali        I loved Mickey Haller and The Lincoln Lawyer and it made the Richard and Judy listing in the UK and was received with great acclaim. Where did this legal thriller come from?


Mike   It was a long time coming. First of all I love the legal thriller as a sub-genre and had been looking for years for something that could become a story that could get me into that field. There are some great big titans of publishing involved in legal thrillers so I wanted something that would be unique and be mine. It sort of fell into my lap, when I met a real ‘Lincoln Lawyer’ at a baseball game in Los Angeles. He told me how he operates as an attorney and before the conversation was over I knew that this was my way in. However it took me a few years before I had the confidence to give it a go, as I was not confident in that world as I am, say, with that of the LAPD and Harry Bosch.


I needed to do a huge amount of research spending time with lawyers, sitting in courtrooms and so forth; many years in fact. When it finally came time to write the book it came very quickly, as [a] I had been researching it for so long and [b] I was excited by this new character, a clean slate. Whereas with Harry Bosch I’m dragging around twelve books of backstory, Mickey Haller was brand new with no baggage. When I go with a new character, I can usually write much faster so in that particular year I squeezed out two books – the Haller book, as well as a Bosch novel.


Ali        I heard you’re doing a follow up?


Mike   Yes but it’s not really a follow up, it’s a Haller book, and even Bosch makes a small appearance, but at this stage I haven’t a title.


Ali        Finally – I thought you’d given up on screenwriting after we last talked, but is it true that you’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay for a film version of the Edward Woodward TV vehicle The Equalizer?


Mike   Yes, I told you that I gave up because of the difficulty in that world called Hollywood <laughing> and at times I feel like telling you that I’m ready to give up again… Seriously, the screenplay is nearly done, about a couple of weeks to go to deadline, and hopefully it might get made; then again, someone else might do a rewrite.  It’s been an interesting experience – these things help me focus or refocus on what I enjoy the most which is writing the books, so hopefully I’ll finish this thing next week and get back to the Haller book which I had to stop to fit in the screenplay. I’m raring to get back to it.


Ali        Thank you for your time.


If you want to read the bonus chapter [24] of The Overlook click here


Shots, in conjunction with www.michaelconnelly.com have three signed copies of Chapter 24 of The Overlook in a special Shots competition. All you have to do is send an email with your name and address to shotseditor@yahoo.co.uk answering this question.


What is Harry’s Bosch’s full first name?


Competition closes September 25th 2007.


We have also provided some audio visual links recorded at Waterstones Milton Keynes:


Mike Connelly Talks about The Overlook -


Mike Connelly talks about writing a serial novel –


Mike Connelly talks about naming characters –


If you’ve not heard of Mike Connelly, it might be worth cleaning out your cave

The Overlook by Michael Connelly




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