I will keep short, this time, my praise of Michael Connelly. Since my last two interviews with him, one for his non-fiction bookCrime Beat, and one for The Overlook,he has become even more popular and unlike many on the best-seller list (I'm looking at you, Dan Brown and , David Baldacci and
others of Brown's ilk) Connelly is deservedly famous.
As I explain in the interview he first entered my radar screen in a big way at a journalism convention and I have been praising him and giving him good word of mouth (not nearly as unhygienic as that sounds) ever since.
His newest book, 9 Dragons, comes out today. That is his latest starrring Harry Bosch and it takes the readers on quite an emotional rollercoaster as Bosch's daughter is kidnapped in Hong Kong, where his wife lives, and he travels there to try to save her.
He had a summer bestseller with The Scarecrow, the latest featuring newspaper reporter Jack McEvoy, so I felt compelled to -despite my usual goal of avoiding easy predictable questions - asking how he and Jack are similar and different.
I will add below links to reviews of 9 Dragons as they come in. Meanwhile, enjoy the interview. Oh and if you are new to Connelly I would start with The Poet, his best book in my opinion.
In Nine Dragons, you do something I don't recall you doing in prior books namely deal, albeit indirectly, with prejudice. Is Bosch prejudiced against Chu, his fellow detective, and is it, as Chu suggests, because of Bosch's fighting in Vietnam? If so, why did you decide to do that?
I just sort of thought I would introduce the possibility of it. While I was starting to write the book I read a biography of the film director John Ford called Print the Legend by Scott Eyman. This led me to watching The Searchers a couple times, and I became fascinated with the character played by John Wayne, whose own prejudice against Indians alienates him from the world. I thought it might be interesting to drop a hint of that into Harry and his relationship with Chu.
This is all done as a sort of planting of seeds. Chu will return, and I plan to use him eventually as Harry's partner, and so I like the idea of this possibly being something that is stuck between them that could put sand into the partnership's gas tank. So it's sort of a to-be-continued answer at the moment.
I think this is your first book where a large chunk of it is based outside of L.A. (in Hong Kong) as opposed to short trips outside of L.A. (such as to Vegas) in prior books. Was that partially a way to see how your characters would adjust being on different terrain? Is something you see yourself doing again for future books? Maybe Jack can work for a Hong Kong bureau?:)
When you get lucky and can write a series over a significant length of time, the fish-out-of-water story is attractive because it shakes things up. It takes you, your character, and your readers out of their usual comfort zones, the places we expect things to be. Sort of like if you come home, the lights are off and somebody's moved the furniture around. I think its a good way to invigorate the author, series and readership. I hope it works here.
The Wikipedia profile of you says that your mom got you into crime fiction and now she reads each of your books at an early stage. Can you tell me more about that?
That needs to be updated since my mother passed away about six years ago. But it is essentially true. She loved to read and loved to read mysteries. I read some of her books early on and then found my own books to read. I like 'em a little more hardboiled than my mother did. But she was a great first-reader. She would take a look at my stuff long before I sent it in to the publisher.
How much are you like Jack, the journalist aspiring to be a crime novelist, in the Scarecrow?
I'm more like the Jack that was in The Poet. The book was very autobiographical in terms of his views of the world and his job. In The Scarecrow we are 12 years down the line and Jack is still doing the same thing. This doesn't really apply to me so I had to make Jack be his own man, so to speak. Not nearly as autobiographical.
Do you agree with what Jack writes about the L.A. Times and newspaper journalism in general on page 12-13 of the book (i.e. The L.A. Times should be called the Daily Afterthought)?
Jack is cynical and he just got laid off. He narrates the book so he is very harsh at that point which I think is understandable. I think the sentiments might be a bit over-the-top, but they come from reality. Newspapers unfortunately are on the decline. Someday they most likely will be an afterthought.
You mention that every reporter wants to be a novelist which reminded me of an incident which you may or may not remember depending on how many journalism conferences you spoke at after the publication of your first book or two. I was at a journalism conference in Southern California and the most popular workshop was led by you and it was after you were starting to get buzz and had left the Times and I think it sort of proved your theory that you scratch a reporter and you find a novelist wannabe. Do you remember that and do you think that is truly often the case? Why do you think that is?
I think it is prevalent because the novel would be the natural extension of the job. Novels carry a lot of reporting and truth. So I think it's a natural inclination to take things to that step.