The Wheeler Centre
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In the pantheon of contemporary crime writers, the name Michael Connelly is a perennial favourite. A former police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Connelly has been thrilling readers since 1992 with his 17 acclaimed Harry Bosch thrillers, including his most recent, The Drop, and several stand-alone bestsellers including The Poet. On a recent visit to Melbourne he joined the Wheeler Centre’s Michael Williams in conversation.
In this video of the event, Williams begins by asking Connelly of his entry into crime writing which, as it happens, came about through witnessing a crime as a teen. With his family’s support, he moved to Los Angeles - the city which would become his muse for a decade and a half - starting out as a crime beat reporter on the advice of his father. From there, he began writing fiction alongside his journalistic work until the former finally took over.
Connelly talks about the LA writers (such as Raymond Chandler) whose influence loomed large over his imagination as a teen. He details how Harry Bosch formed as a character, and later an audience member asks him to what extent Bosch and Connelly are the same man.
On the process of writing, and in particular research, Connelly’s advice is similar to that offered by British writer and fellow Wheeler Centre guest David Mitchell - use only what’s necessary for the story, and avoid showing off the excess information. He explains the important editorial input of his mother, a fan of crime fiction who first introduced her son to the genre, and how she felt about his modern style of mystery writing which allows for more unanswered questions.
Sustaining a character over 17 editions is not without its difficulties. Connelly addresses these through a combination of different storytelling strategies — Bosch ages in real time, for example, and is now almost 60 years old — as well as by exploring other books and characters.
One of these characters, defense lawyer Mickey Halle,r is perhaps his best- known creation following the recent release of the movie version of The Lincoln Lawyer. Connelly details his shift from police beat to courtroom as well as his thoughts on Haller’s cinematic incarnation (played by Matthew McConaughey) with his shirt off, playing bongo drums. And he shares his reasons for writing about mortgage foreclosures in Haller’s fourth and most recent appearance, The Fifth Witness.
Michael Connelly was in Australia as a guest of the Wheeler Centre and the Sydney Writers' Festival.