Michael Connelly Photo: From Reader's Digest
‘I’m always looking at ways of shaking up the writing experience because I think it helps,’ says Michael Connelly. The Overlook is the thirteenth in his Harry Bosch series but, while the books have brought him many fans and much critical acclaim, the author is aware that his main character’s longevity presents its own challenges. ‘My duty is to keep Harry Bosch interesting to readers and to me. When I start a book, knowing it’s going to take me maybe ten or twelve months to write, then I have to take my time in the initial stages to make sure I have a story and a character that are going to keep me interested for that amount of time.’
When the editor of The New York Times Magazine recently asked Connelly if he would produce a serialised story specially for them, he knew it would be a great opportunity to try something new. He found the work more demanding than he’d expected. ‘I had to write each instalment to fit a three-thousand-word hole,’ he explains. ‘For fifteen-plus years I have been writing chapters of my books without giving word or page count any thought at all, so it was hard to make each step of the story fit that space.’ Once he realised the limitations on his style, he knew he’d eventually want to rework the story in order to publish it in book form. Surprisingly, perhaps, the chance to rewrite was a pleasure. ‘I got to look at the story again with a totally fresh mind and take it apart and rebuild it and write it the way I prefer, with the pacing I wanted—also to throw in some new current events to make it more topical.’
Connelly was first inspired to become a crime writer when he studied journalism at the University of Florida. It was there that he came across the work of Raymond Chandler, author of such classics as Farewell, My Lovely and The Big Sleep. ‘What was different about Chandler, and what really touched me, was that his writing is so evocative. Los Angeles is a character in its own right in his books. It turned my head.’
After completing the course, Connelly took jobs on the crime beat for two Florida newspapers and then on the Los Angeles Times. This enabled him to understand the world he wanted to write about, that of the police and criminals and the justice system. ‘I didn’t know anything about the world of cops other than what I’d seen in movies and read in novels. I wanted to get a realistic view of it.’
Connelly’s first-hand experience of their daily lives left him with a deep admiration for the work they do. ‘It has to be a tremendous
challenge to do that job and remain whole, not to let the darkness get into you. I mean, how do you come home after seeing all the darkness of humanity, open the door and say to your wife, “Honey, I’m home.”?’
The author has recently moved from Los Angeles to Florida, putting some distance between him and the city he has become so closely
identified with. ‘Now I’m writing about contemporary Los Angeles from memory,’ he says. ‘My process was to hang out, observe, research what I was writing about, and almost immediately go back to my office and write those sections. So it was a very close transfer between observation and writing.’
Michael Connelly is currently writing a new legal thriller featuring Mickey Haller, the defence lawyer he introduced in The Lincoln Lawyer (a former Select Editions choice). He is also writing a screenplay for a film version of a 1980s show called The Equalizer, about a shadowy former agent who helps others in order to make up for sins from his past. But loyal fans need not worry: plans are in the works for another Bosch mystery.
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