VJ Books Blog

(Columbus Dispatch, Oct. 19, Nancy Gilson)

Life of Crime

Former journalist has no trouble finding work for detective, lawyer

Ask any enthusiast of American crime novels about favorite authors, and sooner or later the name Michael Connelly will pop up.

Connelly — whose 20th book, The Brass Verdict, was released this month — will make his first trip to Columbus on Monday to appear in the Thurber House “Evenings With Authors” series.

No doubt he’ll give fans insight into the book’s protagonists, half bothers Harry Bosch (the flawed detective who stars in most of Connelly’s novels) and Mickey Haller (the Los Angeles lawyer who does business from his Lincoln Town Car).

From his years as a journalist working the crime beat at newspapers in Florida and at the Los Angeles Times, Connelly had plenty of background and contacts to draw on for Bosch. Then, when it came time to research the life of a lawyer, a seat at Dodger Stadium proved fortuitous. Connelly found himself next to David Ogden, a Los Angeles County lawyer who practiced out of his car. The Lincoln Lawyer was born.

Connelly’s next books are In the Shadow of the Master (Dec. 23), an anthology of Edgar Allan Poe stories accompanied by essays by contemporary mystery writers, and the novel The Scarecrow (May 26), starring journalist Jack McEvoy.

The author, 52, recently spoke to The Dispatch by phone.

Q: Is The Brass Verdict the first of more novels that will feature both Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch?

A: Most likely. I don’t have anything planned, but obviously The Brass Verdict has set the stage for them to continue this awkward relationship. . . . On the pages where they’re together, those were the pages I liked to write the most.

Q: Both Harry and Mickey age in your novels. How’s that working out?

A: Maybe it was a foolish move, but at the time I didn’t know I’d be writing about . . . (Harry Bosch) for years.

All the books are set in the year when they’re published. . . . That’s one of the things I do, so I have to live with it. . . . There’s at least 15 years difference in their ages. Harry was born in 1950, . . . so he’s 58 now. In The Lincoln Lawyer, Mickey Haller was about 5 or 6 when his father died . . . about 1971-72.

Q: Will you ever kill off Harry?

A: I don’t think I’ll kill him off. I deal in metaphors as a writer, and I’ve given him a tortured past. I kind of feel he’s going for the light at the end of the tunnel. You might see him in a limited role, but I want something good to happen for him.

Q: Do you have plans to start another series, maybe with a new protagonist?

A: I have little seeds planted in a lot of books that would allow me to go to different areas: the new partner in the last Bosch book (The Overlook), and Harry has a daughter.

I’m going to write a book next year that focuses on his relationship with his daughter. She could take over.

Q: You’ve written about how you came to read To Kill a Mockingbird as a 12-year-old. Can you describe your enthusiasm for that book?

A: I know it’s considered the great American novel, as it rightly should be. But it also hits all the points that you should have in a great legal thriller: the protagonist-lawyer doing what he thinks is right, going upriver against what others think is the right thing. When a character is willing to risk all that for an ideal, that creates a certain momentum in a story that I think tips it into the area of a thriller.

We all think that thrillers are synonymous with fast-moving momentum, and there’s that sort of momentum in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Q: In the Shadow of the Master , which you compiled and edited, combines Edgar Allan Poe stories with essays by contemporary crime or mystery writers. Is Poe the great American crime writer, and why has he been such an inspiration to those who followed?

A: He’s credited as the father of the genre. Some people debate if he wrote the first mystery story, but he certainly put it on the map.

Q: Does the American literary community value the crime novel to the degree it should?

A: I don’t have a complaint about how the crime novel is viewed. It’s largely responsible for keeping book publishing in business. I think it garners professional respect from the business angle. I think more and more, . . . it’s harder and harder to write a story or a book about American society that doesn’t have crime in it.

In contemporary publishing, people are seeing that the crime novel does have the ability to reflect what’s happening in our society.

And it’s almost routine that if you’re writing crime novels, you’re writing faster. The crime novel is poised to make comments on what’s happening right now in society.