November 24, 2012
Connelly was relaxing before a Thanksgiving gathering with family and resting from a weeklong trip to Turkey, Kuwait and other countries as part of a USO tour of military bases. The experience was inspiring and gave him fresh insight into character, a quality that's all-important in his books.
Harry Bosch, the persistent, brooding Los Angeles police detective, has been the main character in 18 of Connelly's novels since his debut in "The Black Echo" in 1992. Connelly's created other leads -- defense attorney Mickey Haller, reporter Jack McEvoy, FBI agent Rachel Walling, ex-con Cassie Black, serial killer hunter Terry McCaleb -- and moved them through Los Angeles over two decades of sustained creativity.
"The Black Box," a new novel featuring Bosch that flashes from a recent case to the riots of 1992, is the occasion for a tour that brings Connelly to Powell's in Beaverton on Friday. The author spoke from Sarasota, Fla. Questions and answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.
What's going on with the Harry Bosch TV series?
Things could happen within days. Over the summer I signed partnerships with a production company and a show runner, a writer, Eric Overmyer, who wrote the first episode of the Harry Bosch television show. We went through a couple drafts on it, it's in good shape, I really like it, and it went out to studios and networks on Friday ... I think certainly by next week we'll know what the town's interest is in turning Harry Bosch in a television show.
Are you thinking HBO or network or what?
We're definitely gearing this toward cable sensibilities. We're not even sending it to networks. We're talking about a 10 to 12 episode season that tracks one or two books. Our idea for the first season is to track "City of Bones" and part of "Concrete Blonde." "Concrete Blonde" has a courtroom drama playing out as a B track in it, and we're taking that B track and adding it to "City of Bones." Definitely something like HBO, AMC, something like that.
I'm personally very intrigued by what Netflix is doing, so they'll get it as well. I think, and other people think, it's possibly the way television is going. They have a show coming out in February called "House of Cards" and rather than put it out episodically they're going to put all 12 episodes on Netflix so you can watch it whenever you want. You can watch in a binge, all in one day, or whenever you want. To me, that's interesting because it matches my own taste in television.
You've been very protective of the Bosch character.
At the same time I've been very protective I've learned as I go along, and in these initial stages it's about trusting who you give the stuff to. It's what happened on "The Lincoln Lawyer" (movie) and that worked out pretty well. I think I'm moving cautiously but I think I'm moving in the right direction. I was also in a good position where I don't have to make any deals. There were times in my life I took Hollywood deals to finance my writing. I'm not in that situation any more so I had some approvals.
I wouldn't make a deal without certain approvals. People in Hollywood would say there's no way you can get those approvals and I'd say fine, then there's no way you can have Harry Bosch ... Harry Bosch, he is L.A. So you cannot shoot it in Vancouver. I would not make a deal unless it was contractually agreed-to that every shot would be filmed in Los Angeles. That was a no-brainer from the aspect of these stories and this character but in Hollywood that was not a no-brainer. It was a hard-fought battle but I got it. I have script approval and so forth.
When you started out you surely weren't thinking about TV deals and script approvals.
It's been a whole 20-year process. My first book came out 20 years ago and I often use this description: getting into publishing when I was living in Los Angeles and I knew nothing about this world which is 80 percent set in New York, it felt like I was in a dark room with a flashlight that the batteries were dying. You could barely see a small part of the picture. You learn as you go. The main thing is I always should be able to keep my head down and write and all these business aspects and Hollywood can certainly be a distraction but they can be controlled and should not affect the writing process. That's the biggest challenge I face: to find the time to focus on the books and make sure they are not going down in quality or anything like that. If I'm assured of that I can stick my head up and have a Hollywood meeting or something like that.
Do you think you've improved as a writer even as you've gotten more and more successful?
I hope so and I think so. I made some changes in my life over the 20 years that have helped to ensure that. Moving from Los Angeles I think helped make me more creative in writing about Los Angeles because I'm writing about it from afar. I think it re-upped my dedication to being accurate about that place. I think those things came together and I think I've also shifted over the 20 years to what's important, and that's these books and the character, exploring character rather than starting out with a plot as an initiation point ... I think that's just a good way to be.
What about stylistically? Do you feel like you're stripping down, or do you just know what you're doing better than you did?
I think, and this borders on the edge of egomania, but I think I know what I'm doing better with each book. You used that phrase stripping down which is a phrase that's in my mind a lot when I write. This long 20-year journey has led me to a point where the Keep It Simple, Stupid idea of writing is the best way to keep momentum going in a way, and that goes whether you're writing it or reading it.
This book kind of spans a 20-year story and I had to go back and look at some of the earlier books and what I'd written and reference the riots and so forth and I just found there were too many words in those books. I'm using less words now, I guess.
Do you do a blueprint for the series looking ahead or do you write one book and then another?
You can't help but think about where the story is going in general terms, especially with a character like Harry Bosch, who ages in real time. I'm doing one book at a time but I'm also aware that this life he has with a badge and a gun is coming to an end pretty soon. That infiltrates the book I'm writing but I'm always just writing one book at a time. I'm writing a book right now for next year and after that I have no idea what I'm writing.
I'm really concentrating on writing a lot about Harry Bosch the last few years because I know the time for him as a cop is limited and I wanted to make the best use of it ... Very soon I'm going to have to come out, or I'm going to want to come out with a new character. What that character is, whether it's a cop or a lawyer or a jazz man or a fisherman, I have no idea.
If you thought it was time, would you kill Bosch and not look back?
I could do it and not look back. I don't think I will. This is the one place where reader response does intrude a little bit in my thinking. I try very hard not to have that happen, to just kind of write for myself, but with social media and the ways to receive feedback on what you're doing, there's a lot of people who have a connection to Harry Bosch because of his dogged desire to keep moving forward despite all the obstacles in his life. I'm the one who's throwing those obstacles and I do feel that Harry's heading toward something and it would be pretty awful of me to rob him of that with a bullet. It would have a great deal of shock value, obviously, but sitting back and thinking about it after the shock would lead to upset. This guy's been on a tough journey and you hope it pays off for him.
The whole series is like a tunnel. There's a lot of metaphoric references to darkness and light and lost lights etc., etc. I'm hoping that at the end of the tunnel there's light and that he finds some kind of ultimate understanding and fulfillment. I think that would be a better way to end the journey that with a sudden death or even with his own hands.