Tuesday, 26 November 2013


It's always a pleasure to see Michael Connelly; Friday night I had a privilege to interview him in front of a sell-out crowd at Waterstone's Piccadilly. I had done something similar at the Prince Charles cinema a couple of years ago, but in this somewhat more intimate atmosphere, I felt a more relaxed approach worked even better, and with luck everyone (except those who didn't get to ask their question from the floor) left happy. I know I did.

The construction was simple: I asked questions primarily about two subjects: his latest book, The Gods Of Guilt, and the upcoming Bosch television series, the pilot of which just finished shooting and is being prepared for Amazon's direct broadcast service. I let those two topics take us wherever Michael wanted to go, and then opened the floor to many questions, very interesting and covering a broad range of Michael's career.

Introducing him, I reflected back on nearly twenty years of knowing Michael, since I wrote a review of Trunk Music for the Spectator (calling Bosch the strongest series being written) and then met him a few months later at a reading in Melbourne, Florida. I was lucky enough to write an afterword for Crime Beat, a collection of his journalism, and mentioned my perception of Michael having a journalist's eye for detail, and the meaning beneath, along with the rare ability to detach, and see things clearly, while still maintaining empathy and compassion. To me that's what marks his books, beneath their hard-boiled shell.

I also recounted how, when meeting Michael for lunch in Tampa the day before the Super Bowl I was there to broadcast for the BBC, I discovered he was already credentialed for the press center. When we were sitting there Dick Stockton, a well-known American announcer, yelled 'Hey Mike' and came running over, and just as I was impressed he remembered me so well, ran right past to embrace Connelly, who, I discovered, has a devoted following among NFL players and coaches. I also mentioned that he is the only person I know who has thrown out the first pitch in two different major league parks: the Rays, where he lives in Tampa, and, last summer, at Yankee Stadium. The sight of Michael in Yankee pinstripes was something I admired against my better instincts as a Boston Red Sox fan, but admire it I did nonetheless.

A couple of points stood out for me from the discussion. I started with the difference between Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, putting it to him that Bosch was driven by justice, and Haller was driven by a chauffeur. This may a quip that gets repeated (not least by me, as I've already done it once!).

I also asked about the way Gods Of Guilt turns Mickey Haller into more of a detective than a lawyer, and Michael explained how he wanted a story driven by Haller's need to find the truth because he feels guilty he may have let a former client down. He also mentioned how Haller's standing with his daughter is at an all-time low when the book begins, and he's driven to get one right, for her sake too. He explained nicely the parallels between Haller and Bosch and their daughters, reflecting back to his own daughter, and his empathy for the feelings being a part-time father might engender.

We then talked about Bosch, the series, and the relative amount of control he's had (working with co-producer and writer Eric Overmeyer, a veteran of Homicide, The Wire, and Treme). This was particularly crucial in the casting of Titus Welliver as Bosch. Welliver has had some excellent supporting roles, in Deadwood and The Good Wife on TV I've seen, as well as in Gone Baby Gone, The Town, and Argo in cinema. Michael talked about the casting process, and how they were lucky to get Welliver at the last minute. He also mentioned Welliver is a Connecticut boy; turns out we were both born in New Haven, exactly ten years apart, to the day. My feeling is that Welliver will be able to convey Bosch's obsessive drive, despite the fact that, as Michael pointed out, the hardest thing to transfer from writing to film is the internal conflict.

The casting also presented another dilemma. Bosch has aged in real time during the series (unlike, say, Spenser, who remained a Korean War veteran well into the new millennium) and with Welliver they would have to play him in his mid-40s. Financial constraints meant they would be setting the show in contemporary LA, which meant Harry needed a new back-story (gone would be the Vietnam war, for example). So choices were made: Jerry Edgar would be his partner, Harvey '98' Pounds would appear, but in a slightly different role, and the family issues, which are so important, would be lost.

Finally, Michael made an important point about his work habits. He defines himself as a writer: he may an element of creative control over the Bosch series, but that doesn't mean he is going to become a producer. Between the filming, and the tour for Gods Of Guilt , he confessed he hadn't written much, and it was making him nervous. Connelly defines himself, in part, by his work ethic. To be a writer, you have to write, he said, and that's what I am. That is what he does as well. And does it as well as anyone in the field. By the time you read this, Michael will likely be back to his trade. Until next spring, if and when the LA Dodgers offer him the chance to throw out the first pitch.

NOTE: Photo of Michael and me at the Waterstone's interview taken by and c. Ayo Onatade for Shotsmag Confidential.

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