Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch has put away a cavalcade of criminals and ne'er-do-wells during his 20-plus years as an LAPD homicide detective, all the time sticking to his strict code of ethics and sense of justice.
But while Bosch — the creation of acclaimed novelist Michael Connelly — has thrived on the page, he has largely been on creative lockdown in other mediums. After selling rights to the Bosch character to Paramount Pictures in the mid-1990s, Connelly, a former Los Angeles Times police reporter whose works have propelled him into the top ranks of contemporary fiction writers, held out hope that his popular literary franchise would eventually spark a cinematic series.
"Many efforts were made, and many screenplays were written, some by Oscar-winning writers," said Connelly. "But they ultimately never came to fruition. And Harry stayed on the shelf for two decades."
Connelly finally got the rights to his character back in 2012, and he's using them as the key to finally bust Bosch out. The relentless detective, who suffers no fools and loves to listen to melancholy jazz in his isolated hillside home above the frantic chaos of Los Angeles, is coming to life in "Bosch," a new drama pilot for Amazon Prime that will start streaming Thursday.
Starring Titus Welliver ("Lost," "The Good Wife") in the title role, "Bosch" is one of a new batch of 10 original "pilots" being produced by the online retailer, which along with digital on-demand video services like Hulu Plus and Netflix is generating original programming.
Like Amazon's first series of pilots that premiered last year and included "Alpha House" with John Goodman, viewers will be able to rate and comment. If a pilot generates enough positive response, it would probably lead to more installments.
Roy Price, director of Amazon Studios, said the Bosch character and Connelly's novels are perfect for the kind of series his company wants to produce: "There are engaging stories with a very textured portrayal of Los Angeles."
The pilot has the gritty, slick look and feel of an edgy series that would be right at home on cable venues such as AMC and FX, or premium networks such as HBO or Showtime. Connelly teamed up with Henrik Bastin, chief executive of Fabrik Entertainment, which produced such dramas as "The Killing" and "Burn Notice," to produce the pilot.
The show's pedigree is impressive, especially for an online series, and owes something to HBO's venerated crime series "The Wire." "Bosch's" show runner is Eric Overmyer, an executive producer of HBO's "Treme" and a consulting producer on "The Wire." Meanwhile, also from "The Wire" are Jamie Hector, who plays Bosch's partner Jerry Edgar, and Lance Reddick, who plays Deputy Chief Irvin Irving.
Of course, Connelly is a key creative force behind the pilot — he co-wrote the script, signed off on the producers, the cast and all other major aspects of the production, including his insistence that every scene be shot in Los Angeles.
"This is a unique thing for a writer," said Connelly last week during a quiet breakfast at Du-par's at the Farmers Market, one of his favorite local haunts. He displayed much of the low-key demeanor that defined his approach to crime reporting as a journalist.
"Usually you give your work to a Hollywood entity, and you hope for the best," said Connelly. "You have zero involvement, or some small level of involvement such as consulting or advising. You can make excuses if it doesn't work. I can't really do that with this project because I've been fully immersed from Day 1."
Bosch will be the third character from the Connelly brain trust to be adapted for the screen. Retired FBI profiler Terry McCaleb was played by director Clint Eastwood in his 2002 adaptation of "Blood Work," and slick attorney Mickey Haller was realized by Matthew McConaughey in the 2011 hit film "The Lincoln Lawyer."
Although the "Lincoln Lawyer" movie was a highlight for Connelly, "Bosch" represents a particularly fulfilling milestone. The character was introduced in 1992's "The Black Echo," and the continuing series reflects the author's endless fascination with police work, complicated characters and his affection for the diverse neighborhoods that make up the jagged puzzle of Los Angeles.
Connelly is particularly happy about the casting of Welliver, saying the actor has perfectly captured the sad-eyed, lonely demeanor of Bosch: "There's an intensity in Titus' eyes that show an inner hurt."
Welliver, a well-known character actor who has appeared in a host of TV series including "Deadwood," "White Collar" and "CSI," said painful personal moments make him feel connected to the character.
"With all due respect to Michael, I feel a special ownership of this character," Welliver said.
Stepping out of his comfort zone doesn't appear to have shaken Connelly.
"I'm really not that nervous," he said. "The pilot is a very, very good representation of Harry Bosch and his world. There's a lot more to come, but it's like dipping a toe in the water at this point."
Where: Amazon Instant Video
Rating: Not RatedCopyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times