Feature: Author is making crime pay

The Wrong Side of Goodbye
The Wrong Side of Goodbye

Crime writer Michael Connelly joins the greats of the genre. Reporter Charlie Bullough speaks to the American author about his big award win, his new book and the future.

A diamond dagger seems a fitting honour for a crime writer who has iced a slew of bad guys in his hard-boiled fiction.

PROMO SHOT: US author Michael Connelly.'Picture: Beowulf Sheehan

PROMO SHOT: US author Michael Connelly.'Picture: Beowulf Sheehan

Michael Connelly has just received the highest honour in British crime writing for his sustained excellence and significant contribution to the genre over the last 25 years.

The creator of crusading detective Harry Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer Mickey Haller is now the proud owner of the Crime Writers’ Association’s Diamond Dagger Award 2018.

Connelly takes his place alongside crime fiction luminaries like PD James, John Le Carré and Inspector Morse creator Colin Dexter.

In an interview during his latest UK book tour, the American crime-reporter-turned-author told us: “It was hard to believe they would put my name on that list. Some of the people on it I know or have known.

It’s just amazing.

“You try and keep your head down and write the stories you can write and they put you on a list like that - that’s really humbling.”

But the veteran writer of 32 books, who has sold more than 74 million copies worldwide, is not resting on his laurels.

His latest book, Dark Sacred Night, has just been released and he is already writing his next one. He is also a watchful “guardian” over the Bosch TV series on Amazon Prime Video, and is about to launch a true crime podcast.

His new book brings together his oldest series character Bosch, 68, with his newest LA detective creation, Renée Ballard, who works the late shift (or the “late show” in LAPD lingo).

Bosch teams up with Ballard in Dark Sacred Night to probe the brutal murder of a 15-year-old runaway, a cold case which has gotten under the veteran detective’s skin.

Connelly revealed at the recent Off the Shelf literary festival in Sheffield that Bosch, who ages in real time, will become Ballard’s mentor as she takes centre stage as his new lead character.

But Bosch’s legion of fans should not be worrying about an imminent demise.

The 62-year-old author said: “I’m not trying to wean everyone else off Bosch - I’m trying to wean myself off. He is a character who is really beloved to me and he still has stuff to say and do. But there is an ageing reality in his situation.

“So if he can be the guy behind Ballard to help her when she needs his kind of help, that will keep him for ever in my creative imagination. And we will see him from time to time in hope fully great ways.”

That should be good news for former USA President Bill Clinton who is a longtime fan of Bosch. Connelly met Clinton in the early 1990s and gave him a copy of his second book. Then while still in office, Clinton was seen coming out of a bookstore carrying the third Bosch book, The Concrete Blonde.

Connelly said: “It was the dawn of the internet and still mainly print media at the time. It was also the dawn of his Clinton’s scandals involving women and so forth. So I was the benefactor of lots of headlines about Clinton being with a blonde, a different woman from Hilary.”

The “Blonde under his arm” puns in more than 180 newspapers helped boost the writer’s profile. He added: “It always bothered me a little that people started hearing about my books and my name at the president’s expense.”

But Connelly isn’t worried about history repeating itself with an endorsement from the current US President, Donald Trump. He said: “It won’t happen because he never reads books, so I think I am safe. But it would probably be tragic if it happened.”

The writer seems in no hurry to slow down. He has been heavily involved in four seasons of the Bosch Amazon series and has a watchdog role on the fifth series.

His next project is the launch of the Murder Book podcast on January 14 where he will return to his former calling as a journalist. The podcast, which Connelly views as a “new arena of journalism”, tells the story of a 30-year-old Hollywood

killing that slipped off the media’s radar.

He said: “It happened in 1987 when LA was engulfed in gang violence. From 1987 to 1994 the murder rate was off the charts. I was a reporter then, and there were so many gang murders we just couldn’t write about them all.”

The main suspect was a gang member but there wasn’t enough evidence to charge him. Years later a DNA match was made, but the science isn’t the story.

Connelly added: “When they finally get a DNA hit, it’s this guy they’ve suspected all along. And when they look to find him, lo and behold he is a police officer. He went from gang member to police officer somehow, with his background slipping through the cracks. That made him a pretty formidable opponent.

It took another 13 years to bring him to trial because of his skills, and his knowledge and manipulation of the justice system. It’s that manipulation that I found very interesting and we go through that in the podcast.”

And Connelly is also working on a new book, The Night Fire, which should land next autumn. He also wants to add to the Lincoln Lawyer series after that.

So how does he manage to juggle all his writing, audio and TV commitments? Connelly says that his newspaper training makes him good with deadlines. He also says he surrounds himself with good production people who help set things up.

He added: “This is all pointing towards what is important to me and what my purpose is, and that is to write books. So I’m actually getting more time to do that now.”

It seems Connelly will venture down Raymond Chandler’s “mean streets” of Los Angeles for many years to come and continue to look at the darker side of life.

Dark Sacred Night, is published by Orion and is out in hardback now.

Michael Connelly factfile

His debut book, The Black Echo, won an Edgar award for Best First Novel in 1992.

Clint Eastwood directed and starred in the movie adaptation of Connelly’s 1998 novel, Blood Work in 2002.

The Lincoln Lawyer was also made into a film in 2011 with Matthew McConaughey in the Mickey Haller role.

Connelly is the bestselling author of 32 novels and one work of nonfiction.

More than 74m copies of his books have been sold worldwide and translated into 40 foreign languages SOURCE: Michael Connelly