years ago, a Los Angeles Times crime reporter published
his first novel, a gritty police procedural called
"The Black Echo" and featuring a jazz-loving
LAPD homicide detective named Hieronymus — Harry —
Bosch. For its author Michael Connelly, it was the start
of an astonishingly successful new career in crime
fiction. This month brings a remarkable milestone: his
30th book, "The Late Show" (Little, Brown;
have a hard time believing it myself," said
Connelly, on the phone from his New York book tour.
"I wasn’t even contemplating (writing 30 books)
when I started out on this path, so it’s pretty
Harry Bosch has featured in most of Connelly’s books,
he’s introduced other lead characters as well:
attorney Mickey Haller (who debuted in "The Lincoln
Lawyer"), journalist Jack McEvoy ("The
Poet"), retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb
("Blood Work"), professional thief Cassie
Black ("Void Moon"). "The Late Show"
brings the debut of a new one: LAPD Detective Renee
Ballard, who works the night shift at Hollywood Station
— called "the late show" by those who work
inspiration for Ballard, said Connelly, "just sort
of fell into my lap." For his 30th book, written
just after he turned 60, he wanted to do "something
a little different, maybe challenge myself in some
way." As part of his Amazon series
"Bosch," he came to meet several LAPD
detectives as consultants. One of them, Mitzi Roberts,
was a veteran of "the late show" and had
plenty of stories to tell.
knew I wanted to write about somebody on the late show
because it’s so entertaining," Connelly said.
"When you’re a detective on the midnight shift,
you don’t have a specialty, you roll on any time they
need a detective, whether it’s big or small. That
variety really appealed to me.
more I talked to (Detective Roberts), got to know her,
saw her in court a couple of times, in crime scenes, I
was inspired by her personally, because she’s a very
determined and fierce detective. Those are the words I
was hoping to get into the character of Renee
shares many of Roberts’ qualities — including, said
Connelly, the real-life detective’s habit of going
paddleboarding at dawn after finishing her shift, with
her dog watching over her belongings on the beach. But
the character has her own backstory, one that Connelly
says he’s still developing.
been kind of gathering string, casting a net with her
for a few years," he said, noting that he doesn’t
formally outline or write a character biography.
"If you read the book, the biography’s really
incomplete. I like to seed the first story of a
character with what a reader would need, but I want to
leave stuff to explore in the future."
"The Late Show" we learn just enough to
tantalize us about the cool, tough Ballard. She’s in
her mid-30s, single, and briefly worked as a crime
journalist (shades of Connelly) before entering the LAPD
training academy. She’s the daughter of a California
surfer father and a Hawaiian mother, but she doesn’t
talk much about them. And, though presumably well-paid,
she’s essentially homeless, sleeping, by choice, in a
tent on the beach, only occasionally visiting her
grandmother (whose home is Ballard’s official
address). Her closest personal relationship seems to be
with her beloved dog, Lola.
job really puts her in the front line of human
depravity, the downside of humankind, something you’re
exposed to all the time," Connelly said. "You’re
on the midnight shift in Hollywood, you see more than
most cops. I think that all plays into this desire to
find home, find comfort, when she goes off duty. It
leads to the question of, what is home? Does it have to
be a brick-and-mortar structure?"
is his habit for an introductory novel, Connelly focuses
"The Late Show" solely on Ballard. "My
history is that I will create a character and they will
have a book to themselves, and then I’ll integrate the
character into the larger world of all my books,"
he said. (Look closely, though, and you’ll find a sly
peek of Bosch — or, rather, of the TV show named for
thinking, though, that Ballard’s path might soon cross
with his other characters. A new Bosch book, "Two
Kinds of Truth," will be out in November, and
"I’ve planted a seed in it for a Ballard book to
come afterwards," he said. "If I choose to go
in that direction, it would definitely connect the
people in the Bosch universe with the Ballard universe.
That might bring Haller into it as well."
days, Connelly’s doing double duty: writing books, and
working on the Amazon "Bosch" series. An
executive producer, he spends much time in the writers’
room. "I’m the guy who wrote the book, so I can
really decide on my own what my level of involvement
will be," he said. "I’ve chosen to be very
much involved." Season 4 began filming this month,
and Connelly hopes to go to "at least five."
He’s also at work on a proposed television series of
"The Lincoln Lawyer," which was made into a
theatrical film in 2011. "Things have changed since
six years ago," he said. "TV — that’s
where you go now, if you want to tell character
he’s looking forward to returning to Ballard’s
world, with the blessing of her real-life inspiration,
Roberts. "She’s been with me every step of the
way, kind of an angel on my shoulder," he said of
the detective. "I think she’s happy with the
final version." Though he’s not certain what his
next book project might be, he’s "leaning toward
that seed I planted. (Ballard’s) new and fresh in my
mind. I’d like to continue that story, filling in some
of the blanks."