Sunday 15 May 2011

Michael Connelly

Michael Connelly review
Michael Connelly
Michael Connelly could almost count as one of the grand old men of American crime fiction, until you realise he's only been writing novels since 1992. Over the intervening years Connelly has amassed an impressive collection of novels, gathering awards and praise along the way.

Connelly started his working life as a journalist in Florida, becoming a crime beat writer at the Daytona Beach News Journal after he graduated from University. He'd switched majors from building-trade to journalism, reputedly after seeing The Long Goodbye, based on the Philip Marlowe book of the same name. It was a wise move as poor grades improved and his interest in fiction writing began.

In his time as a journalist he covered much of Florida's multifarious crime, especially the South Florida cocaine wars - one facet of the War On Drugs at its bloodiest. With Colombian drug lords putting a bounty of $300,000 on the heads of narcotic agents and shipments of coke worth up to $600 million being seized there were rich pickings for an ambitious crime reporter. So it proved for Michael Connelly with a job offer from the Los Angeles Times. He swapped the Floridan heat for the grime and commotion of a major crime city - less flamboyant perhaps but offering so much wider a range of man's depravities and follies.

It was to be Los Angeles that would shape Connelly's style: rather than the glitz and hype of Florida he went for the procedure and pressure of a city bombarded by crime. His main set of novels are those featuring Detective Harry Bosch: oftentimes a dour character wading through a world he doesn't like, a world of criminals and bureaucrats in high positions. That probably sounds a little offputting - don't worry, these are fine police procedurals and as the novels progress the character of Bosch is ably developed, and in surprising directions.

Through the books Bosch starts with one partner, loses him and gets a few more - Connelly does swap characters between books - and there are some surprises in the course of Bosch's private life, Indeed, given that Michael Connelly apparently writes without any great plan, these developments work extremely well and provide their creator with new avenues to explore.

So, how would I summarise this set: good but not great would be the conclusion, with the rider that they're all at least good, some very good. Connelly knows how to pace a novel, he understands red herrings and he obviously knows his police departments. Not a rave review - the clue is in the word "dour" used earlier - a hero with the weight of the world on his shoulders has to be extremely well depicted to stop some of that weight affecting the reader and Connelly doesn't always pull that off. However, if you're a fan of the genre you will enjoy these and you're safe buying any of them - there aren't any bad novels here.

Buy Harry Bosch Compendiums From Amazon

Where there are crooks there are lawyers: indeed some would say there isn't that much difference, and Michael Connelly has written four novels about one such lawyer, Mickey Haller. These include some very good courtroom scenes but go well beyond Grisham territory - Haller is out and about in a grubby world and the books are all the better for it. This set is sharp and lighter in tone than Bosch's world - if you're not sure about Harry Bosch then Micky Haller will talk you into it.

Why haven't you seen Harry Bosch in the movies? A good question: IMDB refers to Connelly's "twenty years of Paramount hell". There's many a good film in these books - I'd love to hear a true account of why we haven't yet seen any of them. Closest we've come is with Clint Eastwood with another of Connelly's characters in Blood Work - a better book than film.

Auhtor's own site: Michael Connelly


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