Q&A with Michael Connelly

The Burning RoomIn THE BURNING ROOM, Harry is partnered with twenty-eight year old Mexican-American Lucia Soto. Harry becomes Lucy’s mentor, sharing his wide-ranging knowledge of procedure. Two cold case investigations assigned to them involve political corruption, greed, lust, and vengeance. The first case has someone whose recent cause of death is associated with a bullet lodged in his spine from a ten year old shooting. The second case is personal to Lucy as she tries to find the person who set fire to an apartment complex where she was living as a child and that killed many of her friends.

Elise Cooper: Why did you decide in this book to include multiple cases?

Michael Connelly: In the real detective world many cases happen at once. I wanted to make sure I did it in a non-confusing way. I hope I succeeded.

EC: You have Harry working on cold cases, why?

MC: The Los Angeles murder rate is way down. Their detective bureaus and staffing was built on the larger number of killings. They shifted to working on unsolved murders that are benefited by all this new technology. When I started writing about Harry and the Cold Case squad I think there were six or eight detectives which was very realistic because I had access to it. Now its way bigger, like 24 to 28. I understood that in solving cold cases sometimes it could be very unsatisfying since both the victim and the perpetrator are already dead. Murders are cleared but tons of people do not necessarily go to jail. What is important is that family members get closure. This pretty much motivates Harry and the real homicide detectives.

EC: Is Harry’s LAPD career coming to an end?

MC: It is very clear from the last few books his time is up with the badge, but not as a literary character. I planted a number of seeds in the last three or four books that can show his continuation in some way. It does not necessarily have to be Harry Bosch up front. I have not decided yet what to do and have it as open ended in this book so I have time to think about it. There are a number of possibilities including bringing him back as a cop in one more book, although I am leaning towards not doing it. It appears that his life is not dictated by any dates, but the needs of the series. In every four or five books something happens. It is time for a new direction for Harry.

EC: Harry’s new partner seems like a female Harry Bosch. Do you agree?

MC: Yes. What I liked about this book is how Harry picks up that Lucy, his new partner, has a sense of michael-connellymission like he has. It has been rare that he has come across anybody, any partner, that has the same sense and has been formed by a past drama that can rival Harrys. When he picks up on that he wants to pass his mission on and to share his knowledge with her. People do that with those who are like minds. Lucy can continue on as a cop and Harry can be in the background as a mentor.

EC: Both Harry and Lucy bend the rules. Why?

MC: There is a level of fearlessness and relentless in people who do that. They are putting fairness and the morally right over the procedural rules. Of course there are consequences for people who do that. Harry is someone who does it and so does Lucy. That is the intersection of when he realizes she might be on the same track as himself.

EC: Why do you write that a lot of police investigative work is instinctive?

MC: It comes out of experience. Harry has been solving murders for thirty years. If he has a hunch or a feeling it should have credibility. It is not the belief, ‘I have this skill,’ but rather the ability for homicide detectives to get to know human nature. It is rare that there is something they have not seen before.

EC: Rachel Walling has appeared in recent books but only in a cameo appearance. Any chance she will be a main character?

MC: I think Rachel is more interesting than Jack McEvoy. When I say I want to bring him back it means that I want to bring her back. I like her a lot. She is a good character and one I am not finished with yet. This means all kinds of stuff including what happened to her. I drop her into books like The Burning Room to let the readers know she is still out there and alive. Some day we will get a bigger picture of what is going on with her.

EC: Any idea when you will have them as main characters?

MC: I set up stuff with this latest book. Rachel’s husband, Jack, is now working for Fair Warning, a real media website. I know people who run that are all ex LA Times. I want to write a story about this new form of journalism. It might not be the next book, but might be the one after that. The lesson I learned with Jack is that he doesn’t solve murders, but he gets into harms way. Journalists rarely push the action. They write about the action. The point is you are watching the detectives, but as a journalist you are not the detective. This idea of a shadow world is very intriguing for both a reader and a writer.

EC: Do you think you a movie or TV show can best exemplify your characters and story line?

MC: I have nineteen books about Harry Bosch so how could a two-hour movie do him justice. My hope is the TV show that will air this coming February will have a decent run. We got ten hours in the first season and hopefully we get a lot more next season. If there are say fifty hours presenting this character it will allow people to really get to know who he is. From the books, we know Harry has internal demons, and know what he is thinking and feeling. In a television depiction, you can’t go inside his head as you can with a novel. Everything on TV is about what he says and does, which is how a viewer determines whether or not he’s likable. I think Harry has a kind of “Everyman’s” sensibility with which people connect. In the books, it comes out in his thinking process, but with television, it’s really all about what he says and does. That’s a big transition for me.

EC: Will other of your characters be presented in the TV show?

MC: I would love to have a show just like my books, where all the characters crisscross, but there is the rights issue. For example, the people who made the movie own the rights on the Lincoln Lawyer character. I could not bring in that character without their input and approval. However, I have the rights to all the Jack McEvoy and Rachel Walling characters so I could bring them in if I want. We will see how Amazon promotes it and how the first season goes. This will help me to decide how much of my literary world will be brought in.

EC: Why did you insist on filming in Los Angeles?

MC: The books are as much about LA as they are about Harry. It will be attractive to write about the evolution of Harry and the city of LA. The tendency in Hollywood is to save money and go to Canada. I was actually involved in a show that was set in LA and they shot a lot of it in Canada, because shooting in LA is so very expensive. I could personally tell that it was shot elsewhere and that is bad. By filming in LA I could bring real aspects of the city to the story. Luckily, I found a company that would do it and I am hoping it will pay off in how it looks. But currently we are concentrating on making the first season so good that there will be no choice, but to have a second one.

EC: What do you want people to get out of the TV show besides good entertainment?

MC: Another dimension in how Harry’s story is told. The books are from Harry’s point of view, but we can’t do it with the TV show. Harry can’t be in every scene so we invented stuff that is not in the book. For example, Echo Park has a part in the first season where the bad guy escapes and is loose in the city. In the TV show we were able to show what he is up to. What I like about it is that it is the same story, but people can visualize it. They can see a lot of new things with a lot of new dimensions for readers. I think people will be entertained and find it cool on how we present it.