Tampa novelist Michael Connelly is raising his show business profile.
He has been writing bestselling crime fiction set in Los Angeles for more than 20 years and this week launches his best-known character onto television.
Bosch, an original TV series for Amazon Prime based on Connelly's 19 books about Los Angeles Police Department Detective Harry Bosch, premieres Friday. As executive producer and writer, he has had plenty of hands-on involvement in the series.
That doesn't mean he's planning to leave Tampa, his home since 2001, and head to Hollywood full time. "This process has kind of rejuvenated my love for Tampa," Connelly said. "I found the back and forth is really productive for me."
He has had plenty of back and forth promoting the series at recent movie-style premieres. "I flew from Tampa to L.A. to London and back to Tampa in four days," he said. Speaking by phone during a brief pause in Tampa before more publicity appearances, Connelly, 58, said he is "very happy" with the series.
"I think it's very loyal to the character," who is played by veteran actor Titus Welliver (Deadwood, Sons of Anarchy, The Good Wife). Bosch boasts a uniformly solid cast, including Jamie Hector and Lance Reddick, both familiar to fans of The Wire.
It's also notable for its strikingly authentic Los Angeles settings. "If you know the books, you know that L.A. is a character," Connelly said. "The tendency is, even if a show is set in L.A., to shoot it somewhere else because it's cheaper. I would only make a deal with the production company if they would contractually agree that all interiors and exteriors would be shot in Los Angeles."
Connelly was determined to have that level of involvement in Bosch, and he had the juice to do it as an author whose books have sold more than 58 million copies worldwide. His experience as a police reporter for the Los Angeles Times and other newspapers lends his books an authenticity fans admire, and Bosch has, over the years, become a complex and intriguing character.
Bosch is Amazon Prime's first one-hour drama series, and like all Amazon series it took a somewhat unusual route to the screen. Every year, Amazon Prime releases pilot episodes of several proposed series for free viewing. People who watch them can vote on whether they would like to see a series produced; Bosch was in the last round of winners. Its full first season of 10 episodes will be available for streaming for Amazon Prime subscribers starting Friday.
The first episode of the series is a substantially retooled version of the pilot. It's common for pilots to be reworked, Connelly says. "What's not common is to do it publicly." Most pilots are never seen by anyone outside the television industry, but "Amazon puts the pilot out there for everybody to see."
Connelly has had show business experience before, notably with the movie version of The Lincoln Lawyer, based on one of his novels about Bosch's half-brother, attorney Mickey Haller. But this time he was part of almost every aspect of producing the first season, including being one of eight people in the writers' room. The experience was "very interesting, very different from writing a book, very collaborative.
"Maybe it's the right time in my life for this, after spending 25 years in a room by myself writing books."
Instead of basing the season's story arc on a single novel, Connelly and the writing team drew from three. "City of Bones is what I call the backbone," he said, but the series contains elements from The Concrete Blonde and Echo Park as well. Taking apart and reconstructing his own intricate plots was "kind of difficult," he said. "These are three books written over about 13 years." Characters and plot twists have been tweaked. Even Bosch's age has been adjusted — in the books, he's a Vietnam vet, but on TV he served in the Persian Gulf War.
Now Connelly is heading back to that room by himself. "My next book is about two months behind," he said — another Bosch novel, The Crossing, which will be published in November.
He's hopeful there will be more seasons of Bosch and plans to be involved. But, Connelly says, he needs to find a balance. "I'm a book writer first. I want that to be a priority."
As for the series, "I need to be hands-on in the writing process, so it's front-loaded. This time I was there a lot for production, just because I was so gleeful that it was happening.
"But what do I know about camera angles?"
Contact Colette Bancroft at [email protected] or (727) 893-8435. Follow @colettemb.