Tag Archives: Michael Connelly

Bye bye Bosch

Michael Connelly, author of the Bosch and Lincoln Lawyer book series, tells DQ about how the dramas based on both have affected by the coronavirus outbreak and his hopes for the final season of Bosch.

As one of Amazon Prime Video’s first original series, detective drama Bosch laid the foundations for the retail giant’s streaming service when it first launched in 2014. Now, six years later, work is underway to bring the show to an end after it was renewed for a seventh and final season.

For Michael Connelly, the author of the book series on which the series is based, it’s a bittersweet moment. Because just as Bosch comes to an end, he is also collaborating on a new series based on another of his book series, The Lincoln Lawyer.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic that has swept across the world, however, both shows are now on hold.

“On Bosch, we had been meeting daily [to discuss season seven]. Just a couple of weeks ago, we reached this point where everyone had to start writing the first set of episodes,” Connelly tells DQ from his home in LA. “Meetings together in the writing room had just started to taper off and we were having one meeting a week when all this came down. Writers were already writing their episodes and separating themselves, so it was quite easy to say, ‘Let’s work from home and communicate electronically,’ mostly by emails.

“So it hasn’t been a huge disruption on Bosch, yet. Our goal was to get the episodes written by the end of May, and that could still happen. Then we’ll have these scripts and not know when we can shoot them. The production wasn’t scheduled until the end of July, so hopefully things work out. But as with anyone in any job anywhere, it’s a waiting game to see what happens.”

Michael Connelly (right) with Bosch exec producer Henrik Bastin

Season seven will continue the story of LA detective Harry Bosch, played by Titus Welliver and drawing on novels The Concrete Blonde and The Burning Room, as Bosch and Jerry Edgar (The Wire’s Jamie Hector) pursue two separate perilous investigations that take them to the highest echelons of white-collar crime and the deadly depths of the street-level drug trade. Season six, once again produced by Fabrik Entertainment and distributed by Red Arrow Studios International, launches on April 17.

Meanwhile, the pilot for legal thriller The Lincoln Lawyer had been due to begin shooting on March 16, but was pulled due to safety concerns. Coming nine years after a film adaptation of Connelly’s book of the same name fronted by Matthew McConaughey, the series is about Mickey Haller, an iconoclastic idealist who runs his law practice from the back of his Lincoln Town Car as he takes on cases big and small across LA.

“I’ve been spending most of the start of this year in two writing rooms, going to Bosch in the morning and Lincoln Lawyer in the afternoon, and both are now shut down,” Connelly says. “Hopefully, when the world gets well and we get past this, we’ll start again. Right now, nothing’s happening there. Probably in two or three weeks, we’ll reconstitute that writing room unless things go wrong in the world. But still, it’s a TV show. There are levels of seriousness you have to think about. I’m not sure what will happen, but that’s where it was left.”

Connelly describes LA as a microcosm of the world, with all variety of viewpoints about the pandemic. “Some people think it’s not as bad as it seems to be in the media. Others think we should be doing more and sheltering at home. It’s all over the place and it just adds up to a lot of apprehension about what our world’s going to be like in a week, a month, a year,” he says.

“That makes it tough to even concentrate. We’re writing entertainment. How serious should we be about it? That affects me as a writer. Should we be incorporating what’s going on into the show or into my books? I’m constantly thinking about that. There’s a lot of intrusion of seriousness into this life of fiction.”

Bosch centres on detective Harry Bosch, played by Titus Welliver

Regardless, work is still progressing on the final season of Bosch, with Connelly exchanging scripts and notes with the other writers over email, which means it can be hard to replicate the openness of a writers room where they will be spitballing ideas. “You get excited about some stuff, less so about other things. It’s very hard to boil that down to an email,” he says. “Something is lost, so hopefully it won’t be too long before we’re back working together in person.”

But with the end of Bosch on the horizon, Connelly is relaxed about the show concluding. “Obviously it would be wonderful for it to go on for 25 years, both for creative and financial reasons. At the same time, I’m still writing about Bosch in the books, so I have not brought his story to a conclusion on the page. But I’m excited about the idea of writing a season that has a clear ending to the series,” he says.

“It’s going to be eight episodes that will sit on a streaming platform, hopefully forever, and I like the idea it’s not abruptly cut off. We will have written an ending, shot an ending and it will feel complete. There’s something good about that.”

Despite his recent moves into television, Connelly still considers himself a novelist first, with more than 20 Bosch books and five Haller novels published since 1992, as well as many others featuring different main characters. A new Haller novel is also in the works to coincide with the launch of The Lincoln Lawyer on TV.

His day job – and his prolific output – means he has been able to come and go from Bosch as he pleases, but says he has been involved as much as he can be. “I really enjoy it on all levels, particularly the creative camaraderie in the writers room,” he says. “We don’t lose many of our writers; most people have been there the whole time, so it’s a family situation and that expands to the crew and the actors. This will make it bittersweet when it’s all over, but it’s also made it a great ride for seven years. I have only good feelings about it and it resulted in some good TV being made.

The Bosch cast also includes The Wire actor Jamie Hector (second from right)

“It’s a really good show; it’s a very good account of that kind of work, what it does to you and what you get out of it. These goals, I had for my books all along. And when I went into TV, I didn’t want to sacrifice those – and I don’t think we have at all. From my point of view, we’ve accomplished exactly what I hope would happen, so it’s a rare experience and I’m very thankful for it.”

The plan to adapt The Lincoln Lawyer came after Connelly heard of acclaimed showrunner David E Kelley (Ally McBeal, Big Little Eyes)’s interest in bringing the character to television, with 2008 novel The Brass Verdict set to form the basis for season one. Ted Humphrey (Wisdom of the Crowd) will showrun the series.

Haller is based on several lawyers Connelly has known since his days as a crime reporter, first in Florida and then for the LA Times. But the fact The Lincoln Lawyer will air on CBS, a broadcast network, rather than a streaming service such as Amazon won’t make any difference to the storytelling, he adds, pointing to CBS’s ambition to create a serialised story as opposed to having Haller solve a new case each week.

“We’re taking the book and doing very much what we do with Bosch – expanding the world over multiple episodes. In that regard, it’s very similar,” he explains. “We were just gearing up in the last month to start shooting, but the studio postponed everything. It’s very nascent in the arc compared to Bosch, so it’s hard to compare, but if you want to compare writing rooms, it’s very similar, with a goal of the accuracy that’s in the books and bringing that to the TV show. That’s a priority in the writing room and the scripts and outlines that have been produced so far.

Matthew McConaughey in the movie version of Connelly book The Lincoln Lawyer

“The books are entertainment but they also tell it like it is – the wobbly justice system they have here that has a lot of cracks. The stories get to those. It’s a very important series to me. On an authorial level, it’s amazing to me that the books have been successful, a successful movie and now, hopefully, we’ll get a successful TV series out of it. I constantly shake my head and think how lucky I am that I sat in a room for a year and wrote this book and all this has come from it.”

With the pilot now on hold amid the global shutdown over the coronavirus pandemic, the start of production on the full series in July also seems likely to be delayed. But with many people now on lockdown in their own homes, the need for new content has never been greater.

“What’s weird is right now, people need content as they’re in self-isolation,” Connelly concludes. “I have friends say all the time, ‘What is there to watch?’ Bosch is about to drop, it’s a great season. It will entertain people and keep their minds off what is going on in the world a little.

“After this is over, there might be the opposite effect because, when we get the all-clear, people will go outside and won’t be watching their TVs. There are a lot of questions, the main one is when we will be able to proceed with normal life again, and there’s no answer to that right now.”

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Bringing Bosch to life

As Amazon’s original crime drama Bosch heads into its third season, award-winning author Michael Connnelly tells DQ how his literary creation has been brought to life on the small screen – and why he thinks the series can run and run.

Since his first appearance some 25 years ago, LA homicide detective Harry Bosch has featured in more than 20 novels written by Michael Connelly.

But for the third season of Bosch, Amazon Prime Video’s flagship crime drama, which launches on April 21, the character is going back to the beginning.

Bosch’s literary debut came in 1992 thriller The Black Echo, and that book forms part of the main narrative of the forthcoming third instalment of the TV series, alongside Darkness More than Night and some remaining strands of The Last Coyote, which also featured in season two.

Adapting his stories for the screen with Amazon has been a fulfilling journey for Connelly, who splits his time between his home in Florida and Bosch’s LA set, where he admits he spends most of his time during production.

“You can’t ever imagine an adaptation happening, you just have to keep your head down and write the best book you can and hope for these kind of things,” he tells DQ during a break in production for the season three finale in November 2016. “It’s not like I never thought about it! In January it was 25 years since the first book came out about Harry Bosch, and that book is the subject of this season – so to have this happen all these years later, it’s really fulfilling beyond words.

“It’s hard to explain how cool that is. And I’m involved in the show – I’m on the set almost every day. It really is amazing. It’s a big city of people, almost 150 people all working on the show and they’re all there because 25 years ago I was in a room by myself and wrote about this guy named Harry Bosch. That kind of journey is amazing and very fulfilling.”

Developed by former showrunner Eric Overmyer (who stepped down in January to run Amazon stablemate The Man in the High Castle) and Fabrik Entertainment for Amazon Studios, Bosch was among the drama pilots launched in early 2014 by the then-nascent streamer, which allowed viewers to leave feedback that would be used to determine whether a full season would be ordered.

The show, distributed internationally by Red Arrow International, was an instant hit and season one – based on Connelly’s novels City of Bones, Echo Park and The Concrete Blonde – launched in February 2015. Season two, which drew storylines from Trunk Music, The Drop and The Last Coyote, launched in March 2016.

Season three was ordered shortly afterwards, in April 2016, before Amazon took the unusual step of picking up a fourth season in October that same year – before season three had aired.

It’s a rare but treasured position to be in for Bosch’s cast and crew, who can now plan to take the series towards its 40th episode.

Michael Connelly alongside actor Amy Aquino during filming

“The main thing [about having season four] is all the writers on the show know that at the end of the third season, they don’t have to worry about where they’ll work next!” Connelly jokes. “That also entered into our discussions about what we tie up, don’t tie up or set up for season four. It’s been extremely helpful. Here we are wrapping up episode 10 and last year we didn’t know if we had any future, even though we left some things open. This year we know there’s a future so we’re planting bigger seeds, bigger stuff to carry forward. There is much more of an open-ended feeling to the finale this season.”

Which books will form the basis of season four, which is likely to air in spring 2018, comes down to Connelly and new showrunner Daniel Pyne, who will meet early in the pre-production phase of the new season to discuss the best way to develop Bosch’s character on screen.

“That’s why we didn’t start at the beginning [of the books], we started with City of Bones where it was a case we thought would provide an emotional connection for Bosch and things would come out of that,” the author explains, adding that, after two seasons, the creative duo are now preparing to take the detective into murky moral conundrums.

“Darkness More than Night has always been one of my favourite books and really examines ideas about justice, vengeance and the differences between them,” Connelly continues. “It’s not the greatest portrait of Harry as a hero, but we felt in the third season we could explore that. And now that we have a fourth season, we’re even happier about that because, no matter how low you go, if you know there’s another story, there is always redemption in the next season.

“That’s how I approached it in the books. Harry reaches a personal low point in Darkness More than Night but when I was writing that I knew there would be a book afterwards so that I could bring him out of the abyss. That’s what has happened now with the TV show – we know there’s a fourth season and it’s like a light at the end of the tunnel that’s going to draw Harry out.”

Titus Welliver gets ready to shoot a scene Harry Bosch

Connelly has written five episodes of the TV series so far, including the third season finale, and it’s clear he is relishing seeing the character he created being brought to life on television. Admitting he’s “very much involved” in the writing process, the author reveals that he works alongside Bosch’s six writers to produce scripts, sometimes rewriting episodes or individual scenes.

“That’s where I’m most involved and can give the most,” he continues. “Then eventually you get into production and I love that because all these people are endeavouring to make a show about a character I created a long time ago. It’s very cool. But I have to say, that’s where my skill set drops off tremendously! I don’t know much about camera angles and production co-ordination, so I’m really there almost as a cheerleader to encourage people, especially the actors and the director, and give the thumbs up when needed.”

It’s a big contrast to the solitary life of a novelist, but Connelly says being in a writers room reminds him of his early career as a crime journalist, first in Florida and then at the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s quite different writing,” he adds. “When I’m writing books, I’m constantly inside Harry Bosch’s head and I know what he’s thinking. You never have any of that in the scripts, so it’s a good challenge for me at this point in my life to think in terms of delineating Harry’s character by what he says and what he does and not on the much easier component of interior thought.

“He’s very much the same character [on TV as in the books], he’s just on a different timeline. The guy in the books, I’ve aged him in real time so he’s mid-60s. Titus [Welliver, who plays Bosch on screen] is 55 and that’s a big difference. I’m 60 years old and I feel quite old compared to the Harry Bosch in the TV show. So in a way, they’re different animals – Titus is fantastic as Harry Bosch, he’s perfect, but he’s not the same guy I’m writing about these days when I sit down to write books.”

Alongside Bosch, the other central character in the Amazon drama is LA itself, echoing the presence of the city in the works of Connelly’s literary hero, Raymond Chandler. It was his job at the LA Times that first brought the writer to the City of Angels, which he argues is as complex as the detective at the centre of his novels.

“It’s just a very difficult place to get your arms around, to understand, so it’s like an ongoing, ever-revolving mystery – the kind of place where you feel compelled to look over your shoulder – and that makes it a great place to build fiction around,” he explains. “We carry that over into the show. We have a certain realism and gritty tone to what we’re filming and it’s an attractive way to portray the city. We want to have a lot of scenes that show the vastness of it. There are millions and millions of dreams here and, somewhere, something really bad has happened.

“For whatever reason, LA has a fascination for people around the world. I know I’ve benefited from that as a book writer, and it’s the same when it comes to television. It always comes down to LA as a mystery. It’s a real hard place to understand. I first visited in 1987 and would be the first to say I don’t really know this place as well as I know the town I grew up in.”

As an early adopter of SVoD platforms, watching television on his laptop, Connelly says Amazon was a natural home for a show based on his books, which have a pace to them that also benefits from the opportunity to binge entire seasons in a short space of time.

And when the show first went into development, the author had ambitions to reach 60 episodes. With 40 now guaranteed with Bosch’s fourth season commission, Connelly now sees no reason why it should stop after season six.

“It would be fantastic if it ran and ran, but we’ll see,” he says, adding a note of caution. “There are plenty more plots, it’s just more about whether we have said all we need to say about Harry Bosch. That goes for the books as well, where there’s more of a finite constriction because he ages in real time – he’s a private eye in the latest book and that can last at least a few more years.

“If I do ever reach a ceiling of forward progression with him, I can always go back and write about him in the 80s, 70s or even the 60s, so it’s really about what inspires me,” Connelly adds. “But I don’t think there’s any limit on Bosch as a literary figure or a television figure.”

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Novelists take to TV

Game of Thrones is based on George RR Martin's books
Game of Thrones is based on George RR Martin’s series of fantasy books

There is a long history of novelists writing movie screenplays, stretching all the way to Raymond Chandler, William Faulkner and Scott Fitzgerald. But recently we’ve seen a similar trend in television. Go back a few years and most novelists wouldn’t have been tempted to try their hand at TV, but in this golden age of high-end miniseries and limited series, attitudes have changed.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, the TV industry is taking more risks and showing more ambition in its choice of material. So books that wouldn’t have been picked up for development in the old days are now being transformed into TV. The job of adapting them doesn’t always fall to the author – but sometimes it does.

Second, authors are getting more interested in writing for TV. A few years ago, most authors would have regarded TV as too formulaic or procedural to be of any interest. But like movie talent, many now see TV as a compelling creative challenge.

There are upsides and downsides to author involvement. An obvious advantage, in the case of novel adaptation, is that they know their characters and world better than anyone. Also important is the fact they can bring the book’s fanbase with them, effectively legitimising the process by their involvement.

American Gods was first published in 2001
Starz is developing an adaptation of American Gods, which was first published in 2001

But there are risks. One is that they aren’t properly able to let go of their baby – insisting on including elements that would be best jettisoned for the sake of the screen. Another is that the two forms are fundamentally different. While novels delve into the inner unseen worlds of characters, TV shows are all about action and dialogue. Character development must be seen on screen.

The US TV system is quite well set up to manage this conundrum, however, because of the way it is structured around executive producers and writing rooms. So if you look a show like MTV’s Shannara, author Terry Brooks is directly engaged with the project as an executive producer but is not required to write the show for screen. In other book-based shows like Game of Thrones (George RR Martin) and American Gods (Neil Gaiman), the authors are brought in to write some episodes but are not expected to carry the entire burden of adaptation. In other words, the expertise of the author is meshed with that of hardened screenwriting professionals.

An added bonus of this approach is that it doesn’t require the author to give up their day job. Screenwriting as part of team becomes a vacation, not a career change, allowing authors to take a break from the self-imposed isolation of novel writing.

Of course, one point worth making is that most authors under the age of 60 have grown up surrounding by TV influences. So there is a visual quality to their novels and a directness to their dialogue that makes the transition to TV easier. Classic examples of authors who took to TV like ducks to water are William Boyd, who adapted his own novel Restless for TV, and Anthony Horowitz, who has built a parallel career as a novelist and screenwriter. Not to be forgotten either is Michael Connelly, who is embroiled in a TV adaptation of his crime franchise Bosch for Amazon.

The Five writer Harlan Coben
The Five writer Harlan Coben

Horowitz is an interesting example, having been the forerunner of the current trend for authors to write original TV stories that are not adaptations of their novels. Others to have gone down this route include David Nicholls, whose TV career has involved both classic adaptations and original works like the 2014 miniseries The 7.39, and Jo Nesbo, the Norwegian thriller writer who recently created the Scandi political thriller Occupied.

Another interesting example that is sure to get a lot of attention at Mipcom next month is The Five, penned by US thriller writer Harlan Coben. Produced by StudioCanal-owned Red Production Company, The Five is a 10-part thriller that follows a group of friends united by the disappearance of another acquaintance years earlier. When the missing boy’s DNA unexpectedly turns up at the scene of a murder, the group is forced to revisit their past.

The relationship between book, film and TV isn’t completely consistent, however. It’s interesting to note, for example, that Nicholls is not writing the screen adaptation of his novel Us, despite clearly being comfortable with the TV form. And Nick Hornby’s first TV adaptation is not one of his own works but that of another author (Nina Stibbe’s book Love, Nina). Perhaps here we’re seeing a desire among authors to tread lightly in TV – not presuming that they have all the answers to adaptation.

There are also authors who have happily entered the film arena but have not yet crossed over to TV. The classic cases in point are Cormac McCarthy (No Country for Old Men, The Road) and Gillian Flynn, who adapted her Gone Girl novel for the movies. Flynn is now attached to a TV adaptation of another of her novels, Sharp Objects. But on this occasion she is positioned as an executive producer rather than a writer.

Occupied was created by thriller writer Jo Nesbo
Occupied was created by thriller writer Jo Nesbo

Perhaps this is an example of a gifted writer who doesn’t want to be committed to a TV project for too long. Or maybe it’s recognition that the adaptation’s showrunner/writer Marti Noxon is perfectly equipped to do the project properly. Any author interested in writing their own adaptation always has to be mindful of the long-term commercial implications of that decision. Do it badly or without full attention to detail and it may kill the TV franchise earlier – or even have a negative impact on book sales.

There is, it’s worth saying, another factor that is probably driving the current trend of author to screenwriter (either as a writer of adaptations or of original ideas). This is the perceived shortage of TV writing talent in the industry. While demand for scripted shows is at an all-time high, channels are nervous about committing to projects with unproven or rising writing talent. This has created a bottleneck, with numerous ideas stuck in development for years until a bankable TV writer is available. The injection of authorial blood could be helping to break this gridlock – with producers able to leverage the author’s credibility in another field to push projects over the line. For authors this is flattering, but it needs to be approached with caution in order to protect their reputation.

Note: Interesting reading on this subject includes this interview with Salman Rushdie and this look at Gillian Flynn’s adaptation of Gone Girl.

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