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Michael Connelly talks about ‘The Night Fire,’ two new books and living with the same character for 27 years

Author Michael Connelly
Author Michael Connelly debuted “The Night Fire” with L.A. Times Book Club readers at the Montalbán Theater.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Michael Connelly said he plans to give detective Harry Bosch a break and will instead publish two new books next year that focus on a newspaper reporter and the defense lawyer at the heart of “The Lincoln Lawyer.”

Connelly told the Los Angeles Times Book Club Monday night that he will revive Jack McEvoy, a fictional reporter who has appeared in his previous novels “The Poet” (1996) and “The Scarecrow” (2009).

“As a former journalist it’s hard to watch what is going on with the world with the classification of state media and news,” Connelly said, drawing applause from the audience at the Montalbán Theatre. ”My little contribution is to write about journalism as doing a good job, as a tank that keeps rolling,”

His second novel to be published next year will feature Mickey Haller, the defense lawyer from “The Lincoln Lawyer” books. The series also is being developed as a series by CBS.

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Connelly, a former Times reporter, joined readers to debut “The Night Fire,” the latest installment of his bestselling crime series.

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(Little, Brown )

For the past 27 years, Connelly has come back to the same character — Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch — to meticulously capture Los Angeles and his character’s unrelenting dedication to a city that, more often than not, falls short of his expectations.

During their conversation Monday, Times reporter Jeffrey Fleishman asked Connelly what it’s like to live with a fictional character for so long.

“If I ever get tired of writing about Harry Bosch, I won’t write about him,” Connelly replied. “For some reason, [Bosch’s] DNA has always been interesting.”

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From his early days as a journalist, Connelly said, he was drawn to people who have a moral compass, a “sense of mission to [themselves], to the city, to society” while trying not to be “internally corrupted.”

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Writer Jeffrey Fleishman (from left), actor Titus Welliver and author Michael Connelly in conversation at an L.A. Times Book Club event at the Montalbán Theater.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

The author has aged Bosch in real time in the novels, making his days as an investigator limited. But Bosch might have another detective in mind to pass the torch to. In “The Night Fire,” Bosch, who is recovering from knee surgery, asks LAPD detective Renée Ballard to help him with the unsolved killing that obsessed his late mentor. They work on the mystery together while Ballard, who is based on real-life LAPD detective Mitzi Roberts, also takes a new case, in which a homeless man burned to death in his tent.

Connelly said the idea to write a crime novel started at age 19 when he devoured all of Raymond Chandler’s books and watched movies like “Chinatown” while studying at the University of Florida.

Connelly started his newspaper career in Florida and later took a job as a crime reporter at the Times. He got a firsthand look at the city and collected details he would later use to write his first Bosch novel,“ The Black Echo.”

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L.A. Times editor Steve Padilla talks about working the police beat with Michael Connelly.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Times editor Steve Padilla said he and Connelly were hired months apart and covered the police beat together — Connelly on the day shift and Padilla chasing crime stories at night.

Padilla described Connelly as a “writing machine,” noting that between the time Connelly started at the paper in 1987 and published his first book in 1992, he had 972 bylines.

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“I know for any Angeleno reading a Connelly book is a special experience because you know that location, you know that street, you know that object. But when you’ve covered cops with Mike Connelly and then read one of his books, it takes it to a whole different level,” Padilla told book club readers.

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L.A. Times Book Club editor Donna Wares gets a strong response when she asks audience members who have read all of Michael Connelly’s 30-plus novels to raise their hands.
(Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

Connelly also was joined onstage by actor Titus Welliver, who plays the title character in the Bosch TV series. Welliver offered a preview of the upcoming sixth season, saying L.A.’s homelessness crisis plays a role and that Bosch picks up a thread from last season to work a cold case, Daisy Clayton’s unsolved murder.

Welliver and actress Christine Lakin worked on the audiobook for “The Night Fire” and recorded scenes together. Welliver describes it as “almost like a radio-play quality.”

The next book event is Tuesday night, with journalist Ronan Farrow discussing “Catch and Kill.” On Nov. 18 Julie Andrews will discuss her memoir “Home Work” in an event cohosted by the book club and the Times Ideas Exchange. For updates, sign up at latimes.com/bookclub.


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