Best known for his dark police procedurals featuring the tough, complex and emotionally scarred LAPD detective, Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, Michael Connelly has been called "infernally ingenious" (The New York Times), "one of those masters...who can keep driving the story forward in runaway locomotive style" (USA Today) and "the top rank of a new generation of crime writers" (The Los Angeles Times).
Consistently exquisite prose and engrossing storylines play an integral role in his swelling success. However, Connelly believes that solid character development is the most important key. As he explained to MagnaCumMurder.com, "I think books with weak or translucent plots can survive if the character being drawn along the path is rich, interesting and multi-faceted. The opposite is not true."
A native of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Connelly attended the University of Florida; there he discovered the works of Raymond Chandler -- author of many classic Los Angeles-based noir dramas such as The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye, and Farewell, My Lovely. The cases of Philip Marlowe inspired Connelly to be a crime novelist -- and by studying journalism, he put himself in the perfect position. "I went into journalism to learn the craft of writing and to get close to the world I wanted to write about -- police and criminals, the criminal justice system," he told MagnaCumMurder.com.
After graduation, Connelly worked the crime beat for two Florida newspapers. When a story he and a colleague wrote about the disastrous 1985 crash of Delta Flight 191 was short-listed for the Pulitzer, Connelly landed a gig in Marlowe's backyard, covering crime for one of the nation's largest newspapers -- The Los Angeles Times. Three years later, Harry Bosch was introduced in The Black Echo, which earned Connelly the Edgar Award for Best First Novel. Connelly has since won every major mystery honor, including the Anthony (The Poet, Blood Work) and the Macavity Award (Blood Work).
While Connelly has written stand-alone novels that don't feature his tragic protagonist Harry Bosch, he is best identified by his rigid, contentious and fiery -- but also immensely skilled and compassionate -- detective. According to The Boston Globe, the Bosch series "raises the hard-boiled detective novel to a new level...adding substance and depth to modern crime fiction."
Called "one of the most compelling, complex protagonists in recent crime fiction" (Newsweek) and "a terrific...wonderful, old-fashioned hero who isn't afraid to walk through the flames -- and suffer the pain for the rest of us" (The New York Times Book Review), Bosch faces unforgettable horrors every day -- either on the street or in his own mind. "Bosch is making up for wrongs done to him when he rights wrongs as a homicide detective," Connelly explained in an interview with his publisher. "In a way, he is an avenging angel."
Bosch is clearly a product of his deadly, unforgiving environment. "The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche once wrote that when you look into the darkness of the abyss the abyss looks into you. Probably no other line or thought more inspires or informs my work," said Connelly in the same interview. With each passing novel, Bosch looks deeper and deeper into the abyss; and readers continue to return to see just how far he will gaze.
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Michael Connelly received a huge career boost in 1994 when then President Bill Clinton was photographed walking out of a Washington bookstore with a copy of The Concrete Blonde under his arm. Connelly remarked to USA Today, "In the six years I've been writing books, that is the biggest thrill I've had."
Real events have always inspired Connelly's plots. His novel Blood Work was inspired by a friend who underwent transplant surgery and was coping with survivor's guilt, knowing someone had died in order for him to live. The book was later developed into a feature film starring Clint Eastwood, Angelica Huston, and Jeff Daniels.
One of Connelly's writing professors at the University of Florida was cult novelist Harry Crews.
Connelly named his most famous character after the 15th Century Dutch painter, Hieronymous Bosch. As he told Bookends UK in an interview, Bosch "created richly detailed landscapes of debauchery and violence and human defilement. There is a ‘world gone mad' feel to many of his works, including one called ‘Hell' -- of which a print hangs on the wall over the computer where I write."
Some interesting outtakes from our interview with Connelly:
"I wrote a mystery story as a class paper in high school. It was called The Perfect Murder. The protagonist's named was McEvoy, a name I later used for the protagonist in The Poet. Being a witness to a crime when I was 16 was what made me interested in crime novels and mystery stories."
"I wrote my first real murder story as a journalist for the Daytona Beach News Journal in 1980. It was about a body found in the woods. Later, the murder was linked to a serial killer who was later caught and executed for his crimes."
"Everything I want people to know about me is in my books."
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In the spring of 2005, Michael Connelly took some time out to answer some of our questions about his favorite books, authors, and interests.
What was the book that most influenced your life or your career as a writer -- and why?
The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler. I read it in college and immediately subscribed to the idea of the crime novel as art. The book's evocation of Los Angeles and the social commentary on the city inspired me to become a writer.
What are your favorite books, and what makes them special to you?
I don't like listing or ranking favorites. I would say The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, The Black Marble by Joseph Wambaugh and The Underground Man by Ross MacDonald are very important to me because they inspired me as a writer.
I also have loved The Little Sister by Chandler, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, Ask the Dust by John Fante, Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald.
What are some of your favorite films, and what makes them unforgettable to you?
Chinatown, Bullitt, The Long Goodbye (with Elliot Gould), The Conversation, The Godfather, The Godfather Part II, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. I like movies where characters are put into extreme situations and we get to watch how they react.
What types of music do you like? Is there any particular kind you like to listen to when you're writing?
I like blues, rock and roll and jazz. I listen exclusively to jazz when writing, because it is not as intrusive as music with lyrics and its improvisational nature is inspiring to me while I do my own kind of improvisation.
If you had a book club, what would it be reading?
The books of George P. Pelecanos because they would be entertained at the same time they would learn the social history of a place and time.
What are your favorite kinds of books to give -- and get -- as gifts?
I like to give something that I have read and can absolutely vouch for. Lately, in nonfiction I have given Flyboys by James Bradley and in fiction, Night Fall by Nelson DeMille.
Do you have any special writing rituals? For example, what do you have on your desk when you're writing?
I like to control my environment and make it feel the same no matter what time of day I am writing. So I have blackout shades and write by a single lamp that is on my desk.
What are you working on now?
I am in the editing phase on a book called The Lincoln Lawyer, which will be out in October.
Many writers are hardly "overnight success" stories. How long did it take for you to get where you are today? Any rejection-slip horror stories or inspirational anecdotes?
I wrote two books as learning experiences before I wrote the book that was the first published. From the time I decided to try to write a novel until the day I held a published novel in my hands was about six years. But I don't think it was a frustrating or arduous time. I had fun writing. If you are not enjoying it, you shouldn't be doing it.
If you could choose one new writer to be "discovered," who would it be?
I just finished a legal thriller called The Lincoln Lawyer. I am now reading a legal thriller called Final Verdict by Joel Goldman. It will be out in January as a paperback original. As I am reading it -- I am almost finished -- I am really enjoying it but at the same time it makes me wonder at the vagaries of the publishing business. I know Lincoln Lawyer will get a lot of attention and a good ride. I think Final Verdict is in the same league, and I hope that it gets some of the same attention.
What tips or advice do you have for writers still looking to be discovered?
Put your efforts into the writing. Its either on the page or not and it has to be there before you can even hope to be discovered.
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