Best-selling author Michael Connelly’s books have sold more than 80 million copies worldwide and have been adapted into movies and TV series, including Bosch: Legacy, currently on Amazon’s Freevee and Prime platforms, and The Lincoln Lawyer, on Netflix. In the 66-year-old Connelly’s new novel, Desert Star, available Nov. 8, fan-favorite Los Angeles police detectives Renée Ballard and Harry Bosch team up to hunt a brutal killer.
Do you remember the first book you fell in love with?
Two books that had a really big impact on me were [Harper Lee’s] To Kill a Mockingbird, which I read during a summer in a library. ... I was living in Florida and we didn't have air-conditioning, so I went to the library a lot. It was the summer I went from [age] 12 to 13. I just went to cool off, and the librarians were pretty smart and said, “You have to be reading a book to stay here.” It was a librarian who gave me that book. In many ways, the stuff I do with The Lincoln Lawyer is a nod to that book. … The other one is Raymond Chandler’s Little Sister. I was a witness to a crime when I was in high school, and I spent time with detectives, and that just made me become a reader of detective novels. I had no thought of wanting to write them. It was almost four years later that I came across The Little Sister, and I thought it was elevated above most of what I’d been reading. There was a cultural reflection in that book, and that’s when I started to think about wanting to be a writer.
You were a police reporter before becoming a crime novelist. Did you ever think about becoming a cop or a detective?
Yeah, I thought about it but not too long, because when I was a kid in the ’70s and ’80s — it’s a little bit different now — you couldn’t just sign up to be a detective. You had to put in your years in uniform, out on the streets, and that really did not appeal to me. I spent some time with a detective, as I said, and that really impacted me, but I don't think I have the personality to be in a patrol car, to get into the middle of fights. It was a quick thought, like, Do I want to do this? Or, instead, do I want to read about it, then write about it?
Is there any part of you in Harry Bosch?
I was writing about Harry in ’88, so that’s a 30-plus-year relationship. Starting out as a writing exercise, I made him different from me on every level I could, but the book got published and I got lucky, and there was a call for more books with Harry Bosch. So over time that separation disappears and I end up sharing a lot. I think the most obvious thing is we both have daughters that are the same age, giving my feelings and my relationship with my daughter to Harry and his daughter.
You received a good deal of publicity in 1994, when then-President Bill Clinton came out of a bookstore carrying a copy of The Concrete Blonde in front of the waiting cameras. A meeting was later set up between you two at Los Angeles International Airport. Did he tell you anything meaningful or memorable?
They called me up and said, “Are you willing to meet him at the bottom of the plane and say, ‘Welcome to L.A., Mr. President?’ The catch is he’s probably not going to land until 3 or 4 in the morning.” I’m meeting the president. I don't care what time it is. … What was interesting is he drew parallels between Harry Bosch and himself. They were basically along the lines of Harry never knowing his father and Harry loving the saxophone. And the parting words were, “I hope you keep writing about this guy.” So I have been doing that.
Have you seen him since?
I was invited to a campaign dinner for his reelection, [a] high-end kind of Hollywood thing. Someone had bought a table so I saw him then, and I have had communications with him. He ended up writing a crime novel with [author] James Patterson, and he sent it to me and we talked through emails. At least I hope it was him.
Have any other famous fans reached out?
I’ve had a few. It's interesting how many ’70s [and] ’80s generation rock stars read mysteries. I guess they get tired of the wild life on the road and they just sit quietly and read books. I’ve met Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger. Mick Jagger is in a bookstore here in L.A. — it's this pretty iconic bookstore called Book Soup — and I had a relationship with the manager, and I didn’t live too far away. One day [the manager] calls me and he says, “Are you at home? Are you in L.A.?” And I said, “Yeah.” He goes, “Well, Mick Jagger's in the store and he’s got a stack of your books.” Then the guy probably says, “Hello? Hello?” because I had already left. I got there as [Jagger] was checking out, and I signed a book for him and talked to him for a few minutes. He really enjoys just reading when he’s on the road. Clapton more or less said the same things.
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