Five Minutes With… Michael Connelly

Five Minutes With… Michael Connelly

December 5, 2023

Five Minutes with

The author and screenwriter looks back on bringing the world of his fictional LA homicide detective-turned-private investigator Harry Bosch to television and explains why AI presents an existential threat to writers.

Michael Connelly

With seven seasons of Bosch on Prime Video and now two seasons of sequel Bosch: Legacy on Amazon Freevee, did you ever imagine the show would have the life it has now?
I didn’t imagine it back then, and it’s hard to imagine now. It’s had a tremendous run, and you have to have an amazing amount of good luck, but also an amazing number of good people and supporters to have something like a TV show run that long.

I’ve always been amazed there was a desire for Harry Bosch books, but I write those books by myself, essentially. Of course, I have publishers and everything, but for a TV show to go this kind of distance, you are talking about dozens and dozens of people doing their best work and it all coming together like a symphony. That’s what has happened with Bosch and it’s pretty rare.

There have been 24 Bosch novels. How many have been drawn upon for the show so far and how do you divide your time between writing those and adapting them for scripts?
I don’t know how many we’ve used. It was an unusual deal with Amazon at the beginning. It wasn’t like they optioned one book. They wanted all of Harry Bosch so that allowed me to say, ‘Hey, take what you need. I’m going to keep writing about Harry Bosch, and I don’t think you’ll ever catch up to me.’ So we have taken very liberally from the books – sometimes the entire plot, sometimes a moment or sometimes a relationship.

We sit in a writing room and there are six or seven writers if you include me, and that’s where I’m most involved, before we really start writing episodes. We’re working on S3 [of Bosch: Legacy] now. The writers are very much steeped in my work; they’re reading the books as they come and if there’s something that hits them in the right way then it’s like, ‘Have at it.’ But we’re now at this point where we often scratch our heads and say, ‘Didn’t we already use that?’

Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch in Bosch: Legacy

What was the impact of the strike on the writers, and do you have thoughts on whether AI is positive or negative?
The impact of the strike was very difficult. I know lots of writers beyond my show. We have writing rooms going for possible other shows and I know everybody, so it’s very difficult. But it was a righteous thing because streaming, especially in my country, has really taken over the entertainment industry. The shows are shorter, so it’s much harder for writers to make a good living. I really felt that the key things they were looking for in a strike were needed to keep this industry going.

AI is an existential threat to writers of books as well as TV, so I was also behind the goals of the Writers Guild of America to get some controls on that. I was a member of a group of writers who sued the makers of ChatGPT because, in my own example, they took my books, fed them into the AI model and you could go there and say, ‘Write me a new story about Harry Bosch’ – and that to me is a crime. It’s always about the three Cs: consent, control and compensation. I got none of that, and that to me is not fair. I’m OK because I’ve been very fortunate in my career, so it’s not like I need the money. But there are many writers who would like to have that opportunity. It’s a threat to writers, so I was definitely down with what the guild were attempting to get in their strikes, and they did get some controls on it.

Prime Video has ordered a second Bosch spin-off. What does the Harry Bosch Universe say about the direction of travel for television?
As long as it’s the Harry Bosch Universe and not something else, I’m pretty happy with it. It’s one of those things where I have to shake my head because that’s what I’ve been doing in my books all along. I’ve always had cross-currents of books, characters cross paths and so on. I write like I like to read, and when I come across other writers who do that, I love that as a reader, and that’s what I practice as an author. When that is moving into streaming and to the evolution of these stories on screen, it’s pretty fantastic. Hopefully we’ll see other aspects of my work start being made and linked to the centre of the wheel, which I guess is always going to be Harry Bosch.

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