Interview with Michael Connelly about City of Bones

Michael Connelly became a novelist after several years of covering the crime beat at newspapers in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida and as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. After three years at the Times, Connelly began writing his first novel, The Black Echo, featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch. The Black Echo was published in 1992, and won the Edgar Award for best first novel by the Mystery Writers of America. Since The Blach Echo, Connelly has written several more thrillers featuring Bosch that became bestsellers including The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, Trunk Music, Angels Flight, A Darkness More Than Night and his latest, City of Bones.

Cover of Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
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City of Bones features everyone's favorite detective, Harry Bosch. George P. Pelecanos once said in a discussion of recurring characters, "Knowing what I know now, I would not give too much away about a leading character's past early in the series." Is there any fact about Harry Bosch that you wish you had not revealed? Do you keep a chart or a list of all the things that you have revealed about Harry? Do fans ever point something out to you that you've missed or mistaken?

I keep no character charts or anything like that. I wish I had thought about that at the beginning but at the beginning it would have been presumptuous to assume that Harry Bosch would be around for seven or eight more books. So now I have to rely on my memory and good editing. I will from time to time reread one of the old books to refresh my memory about something in particular. I recently reread Trunk Music because part of it deals with something I am writing about Harry Bosch now. The one regret I have is that in the second book, The Black Ice, I revealed who Harry's long lost father was. I covered it in a matter of two pages. I look back at that now and think it was a big mistake because I could have waited and turned those two pages into a whole and interesting book.

You often discuss the issue of foster care in your books, Harry Bosch was a foster child and it is an interesting part of the plot of City of Bones as well. Why are you interested in the foster system?

I am not really sure why I am interested. I have no personal connection to it. But I guess like most people I believe that how children are treated and raised implicitly impacts how they will behave as adults. So I first of all appreciate how lucky I was to grow up in a full family atmosphere. I also feel some sort of empathy for the people who didn't have that but survived and perservered and made lives for themselves. Harry Bosch is a good man trying to do a good job. But he has problems and quirks and I think a lot of them could be traced back to his upbringing.

You also often mention Raymond Chandler as one of your influences. If one of your fans wanted to start reading Chandler, which book should they start with and why? And, which of his books is your favorite?

I guess I would recommend my favorite which is The Little Sister. It wasn't his most popular book or the one he is best remembered for but having lived in Los Angeles I found it to be the one that most captured the place. Chandler was known for his descriptions of L.A. and some of the best ones are in The Little Sister. There is a whole chapter that has the protagonist, Marlow, on a drive around the city. It has nothing to do with plot. In fact, you could skip the whole chapter and miss nothing. But it is full of wonderful description and mood. It has nothing to do with the plot but is probably the best part of the book for me.

Are you inspired by events in the news for your stories? The story in City of Bones is particularly chilling. Where did the story for City of Bones come from?

For the most part I am. The death that is investigated in the book was circumstancially inspired by a real case. But it was a case I read about in academic literature on anthropology and child abuse. The article I read did not give the circumstances of where and when the case occurred. It was only about the bones and what they told investigators. But that was enough to get me started.

Julia Brasher is such a compelling and three-dimensional character in City of Bones, as a reader, you feel like you know her almost immediately. Was she inspired by someone you know? You're so good at writing dynamic female characters, have you considered writing another book from a female perspective like Void Moon?

In general she was inspired by an amalgam of police officers I have known, male and female. No matter the gender, cops share a lot of traits. I just tried to put them into her and add some other things I know and mix it up and hopefully she came out as a real person. I think I will definitely write a female protagonist book again. I just don't know when.

In an essay on mystery writing on your website, you write that the mystery is all about "Not the solution to the puzzle but the act of putting the pieces together." When you sit down to write a mystery, do you know what the outcome will be and set up the plot to get to that ending? Or do you discover the clues along with your investigator?

I usually know the beginning and ending and a few of the key things that will put the investigator on the right path. But the rest sort of developes as I go along. I think what I was trying to say in that essay was that it not as much about the destination as the ride. You want the ride to be exciting and fulfilling so your passengers are happy when they reach the final destination.

What's next for Harry Bosch? Do you have any plans to bring back Terry McCaleb or Cassie Black?

I never say never about any character but for the moment McCaleb and Black are on a back burner, hopefully keeping warm. I am just starting a Harry Bosch novel in which I take him in a new direction, one I hope will keep him interesting.

Production has begun in Southern California for the movie based on your novel Blood Work. Clint Eastwood is starring, directing, and producing this adaptation. What has your participation been in this movie? Have you worked on the screenplay? Have you been to the set yet? How do you feel about the casting of the film?

Cover of Last Man Standing by David Baldacci
Click here
for ordering information.
My participation before filming was limited to reading the script and offering comments to Eastwood. My comments were few because I thought it was a really good script. I've been to the set to watch them film scenes twice. It was interesting to see this whole community of creative people working with an idea that came from me. The script was geared toward Eastwood, so although he is much older than the McCaleb in the book, I think it works.

You've recently moved from Los Angeles to Florida; up to now, Los Angeles has been almost like another recurring character in so many of your books. Do you plan to keep writing about LA? Do you think that physically moving will change the way that you write or the subjects that you write about?

My plan is to keep writing about L.A. for as long as the place fascinates me. I may have moved but I have made several trips back and continue to do so to stay familiar. The move has changed how I write and the change has been stimulating and fun. I used spend a lot of time in the places I would write about and close to the time I would write. Now I am 3,000 miles away when I am doing the writing so I now write from memory and I think this has forced me to be more creative or imaginative. I have enjoyed it. I still swing in to LA to check my work against the real stuff but when I am in the process of writing it has been different.

This fall, you'll be publishing a book called Chasing the Dime, which is based somewhat on an experience that you had when moving to a new house. What can you tell us about this book?

It is remotely based or I guess I should say sparked by my move. I got a new telephone number when I moved here and almost immediately I started getting calls for the woman who formerly had the number. Many were from her friends and relatives who did not know where she had gone and were very worried. I never found out what happened and after a few months the calls stopped. But it sparked this idea for a story about a man who has something similar happen to him and he acts on it, attempting to find out what happened to the woman whose number he had inherited. This leads him down a path into the dark side of the internet as well as his own dark side.

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