The last day of this run of Serial Heroes and I have been looking forward to sharing this with you.
When I ask someone if they would like to take part in this feature they generally agree first and only then do I ask which author or series they would like to discuss – I love that!
When I asked Mason Cross which author he would consider writing about for Serial Heroes he immediately asked about Michael Connolly…I have been looking forward to reading this post ever since.
Serial Heroes – Harry Bosch
”Everybody counts or nobody counts,” is a recurring theme in Michael Connelly’s long-running series starring Hieronymus Bosch (Harry for short). It sums up Harry’s philosophy – he’s an unfashionably moral cop in a literary LA crime scene often defined by bad men versus worse men, like James Ellroy’s protagonists.
Which is not to say he’s by-the-book, exactly. In fact it’s Bosch’s drive to never take the easy way out, to always get the job done right, that often puts him in conflict with his superiors, and sometimes even his partners. Maybe that’s the secret to his success as a series hero: he gives you all the rule breaking thrills of a standard-issue maverick cop, but underneath that he has a moral code as unshakeable as Atticus Finch’s.
The Bosch series started off in 1992 with The Black Echo, which introduced Harry and made use of his backstory as a Vietnam tunnel rat in a story that sees him on the trail of some of his fellow veterans, who are planning a bank vault heist using their tunneling expertise. Bosch has aged in real time, so by the most recent installment (The Wrong Side of Goodbye) he’s been retired a couple of times already and has still managed to find a way to unretire himself. Like other long-running characters such as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Lee Child’s Reacher, this longevity is a big part of the enjoyment for a reader. You get to see how the hero evolves (or doesn’t) as he ages and the world changes around him.
Just as Rebus’s Edinburgh has changed a lot over his tenure, so has Bosch’s Los Angeles. When The Black Echo was published, the LA riots were a few months away, and OJ Simpson was famous only as an ex-football player with a minor film career. Bosch has seen a lot of changes in his hometown since then.
As a reader, I’ve always loved LA crime, from Raymond Chandler’s classics through more recent masters like Walter Mosely, Robert Crais and James Ellroy. I even had a go at writing one of my own, in The Samaritan, which is the only one of my novels so far to be almost entirely set within one city. While you can make a good case for New York and San Francisco, LA is simply the classic noir city for me, exemplified in films like Chinatown, The Long Goodbye, LA Confidential, Collateral, and even Blade Runner. Connelly’s books are very much rooted in the modern world, but each one channels the history and atmosphere of noir in the City of Angels.
That’s a quality that the Bosch TV show has sensibly taken and run with. Although they’ve changed a few elements (Titus Welliver’s version of the character has been de-aged and made a Gulf War vet instead of Vietnam), they’ve kept the core of the character exactly intact, and made use of some underused but cinematic parts of LA. Like the books, it glories in the incidental details of LA: getting a burger at In-And-Out, or the numerous ways the darker side of Hollywood crosses into the underworld.
It’s no mean feat that I’ve never read a bad Connelly book, given he’s written more than thirty of them. Most of those star Bosch, but Connelly has created an interrelated universe of characters who drop in and out of the various books, and some who star in their own series, like Harry’s half-brother Mickey Haller, The Lincoln Lawyer. Haller is almost the opposite of Bosch: cynical, charming and driven by money and success, but he keeps a similar innate sense of justice carefully concealed beneath the flash exterior. Reading the pair’s meeting in the latest book, I couldn’t help but wonder if Connelly will be tempted to put Haller and Bosch on opposite sides of a murder trial one day.
It’s tough to pick a favourite in the series when the books are of such consistent high quality, but if you held a gun to my head I might plump for the first one I read: Lost Light. Or maybe The Drop. The Black Box was pretty great too. Damn it, you might as well pick all of them. They all count.
Mason Cross is the author of the hugely popular Carter Blake series. You can find all his books here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Mason-Cross/e/B00FWO52KC/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1507490732&sr=8-2-ent
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