Author Michael Connelly Brings Together Trusty Characters In New Detective Thriller

Nov 2, 2018

Michael Connelly, author of "Dark Sacred Night"
Credit Beowulf Sheehan Photography

Author Michael Connelly introduced readers to Detective Harry Bosch in 1992 with the publication of The Black Echo. Twenty-six years and 30-plus books later, detectives from two of Connelly's series are working together for the first time in Dark Sacred Night, including the man who's been there from the beginning.

KMUW’s Beth Golay recently spoke with Connelly about a new book and trusty characters. He'll be in Wichita on Sunday, Nov. 4, for a 4:30 p.m. event at Abode Venue.  

Interview highlights

Beth Golay: For readers who have yet to discover your series I wonder if we should give them a quick introduction. Who is Hieronymus Bosch?

Michael Connelly: Well, Hieronymus — I call him "Harry" for short — Bosch is an LAPD detective who has been around since 1992, so he's been around a while. He ages in real time, so we've gone with him from age 40 to sometime this year he turned 68, and obviously he's a homicide detective so there's a lot of whodunits and things like that.

But it's also a study of a character over time against the city over time, the city being Los Angeles. And so the opportunity I've had that I've been so lucky to have is to do that. It's almost an anthropological study, if you ask me, to show how a place changes and how someone adapts to it and tries understand it.

And even though she's a relatively new creation, readers will soon discover that Renee Ballard is a force.

Well, it's interesting. Harry Bosch, who I've been living with for a long long time, kind of came from all over, all the inspirations that made me want to be a writer. I'm talking about fictional detectives in books, TV shows, movies, and then real detectives I met when I was a newspaper reporter for almost 14 years. So he comes from all over. Conversely, Renee Ballard comes from one person: a detective I've known for a while named Mitzi Roberts. And she's an LAPD detective who works on the homicide squad now, but earlier in her career spent time on the midnight shift nicknamed "The Late Show" in Hollywood. And her stories about that just intrigue me, just because it's a weird place after midnight and also how most of the time she worked alone. So this idea of a woman working in the dark but not afraid of the dark at all and being actually pretty fierce, that's what attracted me to Mitzi and that's what attracted me to this character of Renee.

Your fans are familiar with your characters from different series crossing paths. When did you decide that Harry Bosch and Renee Ballard should meet?

When I first started writing The Late Show, which was obviously the first Renee Ballard book, I thought it might be a one-time thing. But by the time I was finished writing The Late Show I just really loved the character and I knew there was a lot more to say about her. There are mysteries to solve about her and mysteries for her to solve. So I just knew she was coming back.

So then the next obvious thing is, do I just start only writing about her, or do I bring her into this universe [I] created that includes Harry Bosch, prevalently, and also Mickey Hallar and so forth? So it just kind of was a natural thing that happens whenever I create a character I want to come back to.

What can we tell fans about Dark Sacred Night without spoiling too much? I mean, it centers on a cold case, the murder of Daisy Clayton. Harry and Renee both have other cases but this one case is where their paths tend to cross. Bosch is on the case and Ballard comes in.

Yeah, I mean, one of the things I find interesting is that they have their jobs, they both have jobs and their work in those cases and we see them and follow them along on those cases. But Harry has this case that he won't let go of. So it's a case that stuck with him, it's got its hooks in him, and he works when he can. And [then] Renee finds him — he's no longer an LAPD detective but he kept his access to get into buildings that are LAPD stations and so forth — and she catches him in the middle of the night going through files and learns he's going through files because he's working on this murder case. And that's just right up her alley, so after she kind of kicks him out for trespassing she starts looking in those files and she gets hooked. And so that's how they kind of connect.

They both are hooked on the same case and decide, you know, two heads are better than one, especially when one is fierce — and that's Renee — and one is relentless — and that's Harry. So they end up making a good team going after this long, unsolved case.

You have written about Bosch and you've written about Ballard and they both have played the role of sole protagonist. In Dark Sacred Night the perspectives oscillate. How was that to write? I mean, you know how to write them as protagonists, but now you're seeing your main characters through another's eyes.

That's a lot of fun, especially when it comes to Harry Bosch because I've been writing about him for more than 25 years. And in most of those stories the narration is carried through his eyes. You see the world through his eyes, you know what he's thinking and it's his viewpoint, which is quite cynical at times. And so it's really refreshing to take a look at that character from another side. And that's what I was doing, actually in both directions, but I'd say it was more fun to write the parts where the narration is through Ballard and she's kind of assessing this guy, this old horse who's been around and knows a lot.

You know, it's a meeting of these two characters, one old and one new in terms of my work. To me it's about Harry Bosch finding the right person to pass on what he knows. As I said before, he ages in real time, he's going to age out soon, but I still plan to be writing for several years, and so at some point the baton has to be passed. And I think that's at the core of Dark Sacred Night. Harry has found the person he thinks can carry on the mission.

Dark Sacred Night by Michael Connelly was published by Little, Brown & Company.

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Engineers: Mark Statzer and Torin Andersen
Editors: Lu Anne Stephens and Haley Crowson
Producer: Beth Golay

Follow Beth Golay on Twitter @BethGolay.