Michael Connelly on rescuing Maddie Bosch, fighting book bans and more

The creator of 38 bestselling crime novels and three streaming TV series will headline the Times Festival of Reading.
Michael Connelly is one of the headliners for the 2023 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading.
Michael Connelly is one of the headliners for the 2023 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading. [ Kat Westerman ]
Published Nov. 2

With a newly published book, “Resurrection Walk,” and a return to the writing rooms for two streaming series, “Bosch: Legacy” and “The Lincoln Lawyer,” on his plate, Michael Connelly is a busy man.

But he’ll be headlining the 2023 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Nov. 11. Connelly, who lives part of the time in Tampa, is the creator of one of the most iconic characters in crime fiction, Los Angeles detective Harry Bosch. He’s the author of 38 novels and one book of nonfiction that have sold more than 85 millions copies worldwide and inspired three TV series and several movies.

Connelly recently talked to the Tampa Bay Times via Zoom from his home in California. This interview has been edited for length.

Recently, PEN America, an organization dedicated to defending free expression, announced that it would open a center in Florida to fight the efforts here to suppress books. It also announced that you and your wife had pledged to donate $1 million. What moved you to do that?

I just think it’s important. I grew up in Florida, and my wife is a native Floridian. I think that what’s happening there with preventing mostly young people from getting significant books that can help teach them about heroism, how to deal with growing up, all kinds of things that are out of reach for some people and increasingly in Florida, is a problem.

So when PEN America came to me and said they want to put boots on the ground there, and can you help, I said yes right away. I consulted with my wife and we decided to do it.

A significant story in the path I’ve taken in life is about a book that’s been banned in some places. I moved to Florida when I was 12, in the summer of ‘68, and that summer I spent a lot of time in the Fort Lauderdale Public Library because it was air-conditioned.

Over the course of that summer I read “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In many ways you can boil that down to what I think is the definition of a hero, of being able to sacrifice everything close to you in order to do the right thing.

I think in one way or another I’ve been writing books like that, so I had to have read that book. Last year in Palm Beach County there was an attempt to ban that book, and I just thought, that’s crazy.

“The Perks of Being a Wallflower” was very much important to my daughter in high school, and that’s banned all over the place. My daughter’s now in her 20s and she’s a well-rounded and wonderful kid, and I think one part for her of getting over the angst of being a teen came from that book and the messages in that book.

I don’t write books that are probably ever going to get banned, but where do you draw the line? Do you do it when it comes to your door, or when you see something going wrong in our culture, in our society?

You’re one of the marquee names in the Authors Guild’s lawsuit over the nonconsensual use of copyrighted material to develop artificial intelligence like ChatGPT. Why did you get involved with that?

Planning your weekend?

Planning your weekend?

Subscribe to our free Top 5 things to do newsletter

We’ll deliver ideas every Thursday for going out, staying home or spending time outdoors.

You’re all signed up!

Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.

Explore all your options

I was going along merrily merrily, being naive about that, and the attorney for the Authors Guild contacted me and asked if I knew ChatGPT had basically digested all my books and could write a Harry Bosch story. I became alarmed.

We talk about the three Cs in this thing: control, compensation and consent. The control and consent is the big part for me. Harry Bosch — I’ve been writing that character for 30 years and I don’t want anyone else to write him. I even have a codicil in my will that no one else writes Harry Bosch if I happen to pass before he does.

I’m pretty confident that an AI-written story about Harry Bosch would be Harry Bosch lite. It wouldn’t be a very good story. So I jumped on board when they told me that.

It’s not ChatGPT, but artificial intelligence plays a role in your new book, “Resurrection Walk.” Was it related to that experience?

It’s not a theme, but it’s an issue Mickey Haller has to deal with. That book was written before all this happened, before I found out about it.

Oddly, in this situation Mickey Haller is defending it, the use of AI in crime scene re-creation. It’s kind of an unhappy coincidence that a few months after I wrote that, I’m suing AI.

When I really want to tackle some level of new technology, I use Jack McEvoy. I’ve only written three books about him, but one was about this new thing called the internet. That’s how old I am and how long I’ve been writing. One was about data storage, and this last one (”Fair Warning,” 2020) was about DNA security. And what happens this year? 23andMe gets hacked.

“Resurrection Walk” is a Mickey Haller book, but it seemed to me that it came closer than any of your other books to being equally about him and Harry, and about them forming a deeper relationship. Was that your plan?

I was struck by the idea of Mickey and Harry in the car together, driving around Southern California, working on a case but also working on their relationship, each one being a different side of the same coin.

I just knew that would be a fun thing to write. I love writing dialogue, and just having those two guys together in a car, in dispute but sometimes on the same level of a growing belief that they had an innocent client, would be cool.

Why did you choose to lean into not only Harry’s aging but his struggle with cancer?

I don’t plan a lot of stuff out. But a while back I wrote a book called “The Overlook” (2007) where Bosch gets dosed with radioactive material in the course of doing his job.

I realized that it was something I could use down the road. One of my goals in writing these books is showing the cost of what this kind of work does to someone, on all different levels.

If you go into darkness, darkness goes into you. There’s the threat of violence from people you’re pursuing. This is another thing he was exposed to because of his job.

Also, if I’m given the opportunity to write about this character over 30 or 40 years, I should be realistic about it. Nobody gets out alive.

Jaime Hector, left, appears as Jerry Edgar with Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch in Season 2 of "Bosch: Legacy."
Jaime Hector, left, appears as Jerry Edgar with Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch in Season 2 of "Bosch: Legacy." [ GREG GAYNE | Greg Gayne/Amazon Freevee ]

Now that the writers strike has ended and you can talk about your streaming series, “Bosch: Legacy” on Freevee/ Amazon and “The Lincoln Lawyer” on Netflix, can you bring us up to date on them? The first season of “Bosch: Legacy” ended on a real cliffhanger that viewers had to wait more than a year to see resolved; how did you decide to focus on that in the first two episodes of Season 2?

It didn’t have to do with the strike; it was preordained we were going to shift to release in the fall. That gap made the cliffhanger even more excruciating, we thought. In some ways I felt kind of bad because a lot of people, myself included, love Maddie (Harry Bosch’s daughter).

So Tom Bernardo, one of the producers, who used to live in St. Petersburg, said, let’s wrap what we’re going to do quickly. So we got the same director for both episodes. We’re pretty proud of it. It plays almost like a stand-alone movie.

Were those scorpions real?

Yes. They actually have someone whose job is called scorpion wrangler. They create a situation where the venom is exhausted. I can say that no scorpions were hurt in the making of this show.

What’s the timeline for Season 3, and what book will furnish the main story?

Season 3 is already being written. We’d gotten eight weeks in the writers room and then the strike happened. Same thing happened with “Lincoln Lawyer” after episode 3.

The book is “Desert Star” (2022).

Does that mean that Renee Ballard might show up in “Bosch: Legacy”?

It’s a possibility. Amazon is developing a show based on Ballard. That’s another writing room! It had only been going two weeks before the strike.

If the Ballard thing goes forward, our idea is she might appear in “Bosch: Legacy.” We don’t know for sure yet.

Now that the writers are back, we could go into production after the first of the year. But we have to cast the villains and all that, and we can’t do that while the actors strike is going on.

Can you tell us anything about your next book?

It’s Ballard. I don’t know if Harry will make an appearance or not.

I don’t have a title, but I have a sense of what the story’s about. Don’t hold me to this, but I feel like Maddie Bosch is going to have a big part in it.