Sunday 4 December 2016

Bish, bash, Bosch: it's the return of hardboiled Harry

Published 06/11/2011 | 06:00

Crime writer Michael Connelly's Hieronymous 'Harry' Bosch thrillers have sold 42 million copies, but Connelly looks nothing like his ageing detective. Serious in manner, with cropped white hair and a neat beard, you get the impression he is politely submitting to questioning as an unavoidable part of his job.

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Connelly (55) has just published his latest Bosch novel, The Drop, a whole year earlier than scheduled.

He's a lean talker, answering questions directly, speaking in short, measured sentences, his voice gruff and deep. When his long-sleeved T-shirt slips up it reveals an incongruous bracelet of tattoos -- his wife and daughter's names, a star, a dragonfly, Harry Bosch's motto 'Hold Fast'.

Connelly was born in Philadelphia but moved to Florida when he was 11 years old. He was set to go into the family construction business but wanted to write.

To his surprise, when he told his father he was dropping out of his engineering degree, his father encouraged him to follow his dream.

"I didn't know this, but I learned it later, my dad had aspirations to be a painter and got into the prestigious Art Institute of Philadelphia. He got married and had a kid and couldn't afford to keep doing it so he stopped and went to work for his dad, who built houses."

His father suggested Connelly should study journalism as he could learn to write while gaining access to the world of crime he wanted to write about.

Connelly had a brush with that world at 16 when he witnessed a man running away from a shooting, throwing a gun in a hedge and disappearing into a bar. Connelly was called in to ID the culprit from a line-up.

"The cops were very disappointed with me because I wouldn't identify the guy. They thought they had him and that I was afraid to identify him, but they didn't have him."

This experience acted as a tinder stick for Connelly's interest in crime.

"Because of my family moving, because of poor grades and because the Catholic schools gave discounts for mobile students, I ended up changing schools four years in a row and that made me kind of an outsider in the schools, so that made me turn towards reading and being off by myself.

"When this happened, it made me start reading the newspaper because I wanted to know what happened in that case but I was so intimidated by what happened in the police station that I wasn't going to ring the detectives. So I started reading true crime and the newspapers pretty religiously."

Did knowing his father had sacrificed his own dreams of becoming an artist motivate Connelly to be even more ambitious about writing?

'II think my real motivation to buckle down and write a book came out of other things. A lot of it was negative motivation, politics of jobs, being passed over for jobs and that kind of thing, so that came from job dissatisfaction rather than wanting to make good on what happened with my parents when I was 19."

Connelly's father died from cancer before his first book was published. "The one good thing was that my father knew I was going to get published before he died.''

Two decades later, Connelly is still writing about Harry Bosch and his world.

"It seems kind of weird for a guy to say 'I absolutely adore him' but I do. There's a lot of stuff about him that I wish I was like, that keeps it going."

Like all crime writers, I wonder how much of Harry is Michael Connelly? "He has some characteristics that I hope I have. If I could only describe him in one word it would be 'relentless' and I think we all want to be relentless in some aspect of our lives. Harry has it in very high-stakes things, he's relentless in chasing evil; there's something real noble about that but I hope in a way that inspires relentlessness in me in other ways, maybe in being prolific.

"I don't look at it in terms of being prolific, I look at it in terms of being relentless."

The Drop is published by Orion, £13.99

See Thrillers, page 22

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