Michael Connelly can’t stop chasing the tracks
Ideas come to me in dreams and wake me up, ”says detective writer Michael Connelly. “Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and write them down. I always have a laptop next to my bed. It’s the day before his 65th birthday, and Connelly, who has a naturally gritty voice reminiscent of a black detective, is at his home in Los Angeles, reflecting on Zoom in on the work that has produced 37 books in 30 years. “It helps that you don’t need a lot of sleep,” he says.
Connelly is best known for his Harry Bosch series, which stars a relentless LAPD detective – now retired but still looking for leads – whom Connelly calls his alter ego, and the Mickey Haller series, about a lawyer from criminal defense (aka Lincoln’s attorney) who uses their car as an office.
Connelly’s books have sold over 80 million copies and have been translated into 43 languages, according to her publisher, Little, Brown. They have been adapted in many movies and TV series. Connelly was the executive producer and screenwriter of the Amazon series Bosch, which recently completed its seventh and final season, and is executive producer and screenwriter on a yet-untitled Bosch spin off. He is also executive producer of a Lincoln Lawyer series, created by David E. Kelley, which is in production at Netflix. And he narrates and writes scripts for two real criminal podcasts.
Connelly’s new novel, The dark hours, released in November from Little, Brown, is the fourth installment in the Renée Ballard series, which stars an LAPD detective working the night shift. The series started in 2017 with The late show, and, since 2018 Dark Sacred Night, introduced both Ballard and Bosch. In The dark hours, the couple are trying to link a New Years Eve murder to an older case.
Ballard, the first of Connelly’s female characters to lead his own series, is based on real detective Mitzi Roberts, whom Connelly has known for 15 years and who helps him understand what it’s like to be a female detective. “She gave me gold,” says Connelly. “Women in his situation have to constantly prove themselves while men don’t, and I want that to be right in my books. “
Connelly is friends with many law enforcement personnel and relies on their expertise to fuel his fiction. The dark hours feels urgent, as it addresses everything from how officers interact with homeless people during the pandemic, to conversations they have about police funding. The author employs cops as consultants – they read his manuscripts and are advisers on his shows – and he uses a retired private investigator as a researcher. “We golf together and eat together,” he says of these friends. “We sit down and talk about things from baseball to how to solve a murder.”
“Michael does a lot of research to make sure he’s doing it right,” says Little, Brown editor Asya Muchnick. “He stands at a high standard. As a reader, you feel you can trust him.
His manager, Heather Rizzo, adds: “He is tireless. He makes a point of having lots of breakfasts with cops and detectives, and he listens to everyone at the table, and it shows in his handwriting.
Born in Philadelphia, Connelly grew up there and in Florida, where, at age 16, he witnessed a man trying to hide a gun in bushes. It was an experience that sparked interest in crime and Raymond Chandler’s novels.
In 1984, he married his wife, Linda, then, in 1987, he accepted a post as a crime journalist in the Los Angeles Times, where he worked for years while writing fiction at night, sometimes in a dressing room in the couple’s apartment. “When you don’t have a lot of money and you live in LA, there’s a good chance you live near a freeway,” says Connelly. “I played jazz to cut out the noise, then I moved into the closet because there was no window in there.”
In 1992, Connelly published his debut, The black echo, which featured Bosch. “He’s the guy who brought me into this world of storytelling,” recalls Connelly. “He’s been there from the start.
Connelly calls Bosch, who turns 71 this year, an elderly statesman who is “aging out of the reality of investigative work.” By associating him with Ballard, Connelly continues to tell his story. “I’m not nearly 71 yet, but I want to write about this guy at 71,” he says.
This rare breed of writer who can write intelligent books quickly, Connelly will no doubt deliver them for years to come. “In the critical community there’s this idea that for something to be great it has to take a long time, and that’s bullshit,” he says. “The books I wrote the fastest might be my best effort. If it comes quickly, that’s a good thing for me.
“With all of Michael’s success, you’d think he couldn’t put his hat on his head, but he’s the same wonderful human being,” said Connelly’s longtime Hollywood agent Joel Gotler. .
His lawyer specializing in the field of entertainment, Diane Golden, adds: “He is the hardest working of a kilometer, and the most humble and the most faithful. Joël and I love him personally and professionally. It sounds blatant, but it’s true.
One of Connelly’s first showbiz deals was in the 1990s when Paramount bought the rights to Harry Bosch, but plans stalled, and in 2011 Connelly paid $ 3 million to reclaim the rights. “I can’t tell you how unusual this is,” Gotler said. “In Hollywood, everyone is looking for someone else to write a check. Michael bet on himself and it paid off.
These days, Connelly feels like the ‘deputy mayor of a small town’ who is at the center of a community of individuals working on shows based on his characters – including his daughter, who works on the. Bosch spin off. “In a season we probably employ 250 people who live off an idea I had,” he says. “It’s incredible.”
Swedish producer Henrik Bastin of Fabel Entertainment, the force behind the Amazon Bosch series and its spinoff, has such a deep connection to Connelly’s fiction that he named his eldest son Harry, years before he met Connelly in 2012. “I discovered LA thanks to Michael’s books”, Bastin said. “I have infinite respect for him. Everyone should have a Michael Connelly in their life.
While Hollywood has been good for Connelly, publishing remains the priority. “I don’t know who said it, either Mark Twain or Michael Jordan, but they’re both credited with saying, ‘the harder I work the luckier I get,’ and I believe it. work hard and breaks happen. This has happened to me more than once. “
Elaine Szewczyk’s writings appeared in McSweeney’s and other publications. She is the author of the novel I’m with an idiot.
A version of this article appeared in the 6/9/2021 issue of Editors Weekly under the title: Chasing Leads