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
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 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.
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 ThePoet.
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 BlackIce (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.
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:
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.
I was excited last year to hear
that Connelly was going to write a serial novel for the
New York Times – The 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
Deadly Pleasures –
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
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 LincolnLawyer 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
If you want to read the bonus
chapter  of The Overlook
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
firstname.lastname@example.org answering this question.
What is Harry’s Bosch’s full first
Competition closes September 25th
We have also provided some audio
visual links recorded at Waterstones Milton Keynes:
Mike Connelly Talks about The
Mike Connelly talks about writing
a serial novel –
Mike Connelly talks about naming
If you’ve not heard of Mike
Connelly, it might be worth cleaning out your cave