Michael Connelly has given us 30 novels in 25 years, and he’s best known for two larger-than-life characters: Harry Bosch, the Los Angeles Police Department detective who inspired the Amazon Prime series “Bosch,” and Mickey Haller, the defense attorney in “The Lincoln Lawyer.”
With these men, Connelly has built two best-selling franchises; they even cross paths occasionally, appearing in the same book.
But Connelly’s latest novel, “The Late Show,” introduces a new protagonist. It’s another Los Angeles detective – and this time it’s a woman. Det. Renée Ballard proves herself a worthy heir to the mantle of Bosch and Haller as a lead character in crime fiction.
It’s a development worth talking about, and Connelly may do just that when the celebrated author visits Houston Thursday to discuss and sign “The Late Show” at Murder By the Book.
Connelly talked to Mike Yawn about some things that might answer a few of your questions about his new book, his new character and his thoughts on the “Bosch” TV series. The interview was published in the Houston Chronicle on July 20, 2017.
Q: What does the title, “The Late Show,” mean?
A: It’s the midnight shift in the Hollywood Division. It gets its nickname from the fact that the crazies come out at night in Hollywood. For my lead character, Renee Ballard, it’s a bit of a come down. She was a detective on the robbery/homicide division, but as a result of conflict with the wrong people in the department, she has been relegated to the late show. It’s a shift that throws everything at detectives, from simple burglary to murder, and in this novel, she is focused on an assault and a night-club shooting. She has the qualities to be a great detective, and through her work on these cases, she proves it.
Q: Tell us more about Renee Ballard.
A: My plan is to write about her a lot over the course of the next several years, so I didn’t fill in all the blanks in this novel. I like to leave more questions than answers about where they come from, what makes them tick, their history, and that’s the case with Renee. She has her fair share of history, with an unusual family background, and this background is what makes her adult life somewhat solitary, which is perfect for the late show, because you largely work alone.
Q: She seems to have similarities to Harry Bosch. Can you compare the two?
A: I wouldn’t call her the female Harry Bosch. I think there are more differences, but there are similarities. As a journalist, I spent a lot of time with detectives, and the ones I gravitated to were the ones who didn’t really view the job as a job—but rather as a calling. Bosch is more concerned with the mission, and I think Renee is cut along those same lines. Bosch is relentless. Renee is fierce.
Q: What’s the difference between fierce and relentless?
A: Well, I’m not sure there is a big difference, maybe it’s a way of saying they are very similar. I have always loved writing about the LAPD. It’s a bureaucracy, a troubled police department with a big mandate, and I loved Harry Bosch in that setting. But he’s aged out now. I wanted to get back in that world, and that’s why I created Renee.
Q: In the acknowledgements, you note that Ballard is based on Mitzi Roberts. Tell us about her.
A: Mitzi Roberts has helped me on my books for about 10 years. She began on the late show and moved to robbery/homicide, so her career track is the reverse of Renee’s. But I mined her experiences and knowledge to create Renee.
Q: Was there a particular motivation for creating a female lead?
A: As I said, Mitzi has been helping me for a decade, so why not make the character the same gender as the person the character is based on? Also, last year, I turned 60, and this is my 30th book, so why not do something different?
Q: Was it a challenge to write extensively from a female point of view?
A: I don’t think so. There have been strong women in my books. Yes, it’s only my second female lead, but all I’m doing is writing about someone who is good at her job. It’s just a matter of concentrating on her field, what makes her good, and to go from there.
Q: Will we see Bosch and Ballard in a future book?
A: I create characters, and I gradually infiltrate them into the larger mosaic of what I do. I am writing a Bosch book now in which I have planted a seed that could lead to them working together.
Q: What is Mickey Haller doing these days?
A: He plays a significant role in “Two Kinds of Truth,” which will be out later this year. He’s primarily assisting Bosch on a legal issue, so this will be marketed as a Bosch book, but he plays a role, and he’s definitely a character who has already infiltrated Bosch’s world.
Q: Speaking of Bosch, can you update us on the Amazon series, “Bosch”?
A: The third season is out, and next week we begin filming the fourth. I’m very much involved and very happy with the what we’ve accomplished. Titus Welliver, who plays Bosch, is excellent, and I think the series is a good representation of the books. It’s a different type of story-telling, but I get creative fulfillment from working on both.
Q: Janet Maslin, the book reviewer for the “New York Times,” says that Ballard makes Bosh look like a slouch. How do you react to that?
A: (chuckles) I see it as an endorsement of Renee, because Bosch isn’t a slouch! But whatever he is, if she is saying that Renee can take things a step further, I’ll take that as a compliment to the new character.
Mike Yawn is the Director of the Center for Law, Engagement, And Politics at Sam Houston State University.