Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch series
Years ago -- at least eight -- I tried reading Connelly's police procedurals featuring a main character named Hieronymus Bosch. (Rhymes with anonymous.) Named after the Dutch painter who depicted earth and hell as equally dark and dreadful, Connelly's Hieronymus Bosch pretty much sees Los Angeles like that, a fantastical nightmare.
At that time, I was enthralled with the TV series Castle. Maybe you watched it, too. Rick Castle was a crime novelist who, along with an attractive, New York City police detective solved crimes. Actually, it was probably the very attractive (and funny) actor Nathan Fillion who kept me watching each week. I liked his uncensored mother and independent daughter, too.
Anyway Rick Castle occasionally played poker with real life crime novelists -- James Patterson, Michael Connelly, Stephen J. Cannell and others. I decided to check out those real life writers. James Patterson first. He seemed to be the most popular at my local library. His books went out like hot cakes. I didn't like his books. I read two to be sure. Then Michael Connelly. I read two of his too. Didn't like them either. I never got to Cannell.
I could just never connect with Harry Bosch.
And then. And then. More like now. I've connected with the Harry Bosch character by way of Amazon's series Bosch. Somehow Titus Welliver, the actor who plays Bosch, makes him more likable, more sympathetic. And the series is well enough written that I don't find myself editing the teleplays.
Connelly's books I edit, sans red pen.
This passage is from Connelly's The Overlook. Our little-bit-unlikable hero and his bloodied former lover who happens to be an FBI agent are chasing a bad guy who in the past few minutes has killed two people, tried to kill Bosch, and engaged in a gun battle with Bosch's partner leaving him wounded.
Bosch turned and saw Rachel come through the door, a smear of blood on her face.
"This way," he said. "He's been hit."
They started down Third in a spread formation. After a few steps Bosch picked up
the trail. Maxwell was obviously hurt badly and was losing a lot of blood. It would
make him easy to track.
But when they got to the corner of Third and Hill they lost the trail. There was no
blood on the pavement. Bosch looked into the long Third Street tunnel and saw no one
moving in the traffic on foot. He looked up and down Hill street and saw nothing until
his attention was drawn to a commotion of people running out of the Grand Central
"This way," he said.
They moved quickly toward the huge market. Bosch picked up the blood trail again
just outside and started in. The market was a two-story-high conglomeration of food
booths and retail and produce concessions. There was a strong smell of grease and coffee
in the air that had to infect every floor of the building above the market. The place was
crowded and noisy and that made it difficult for Bosch to follow the blood and track
Then suddenly there were shouts from directly ahead and two quick shots were fired
into the air. It caused an immediate human stampede. Dozens of screaming shoppers and
workers flooded into the aisle where Bosch and Walling stood and started running toward
them. Bosch realized they were going to be run over and trampled. In one motion he
moved to his right, grabbed Walling around the waist and pulled her behind one of the
wide concrete support pillars.
Just copying this from the book makes me want to tear my hair out. All these words! But they don't give the reader the feeling of an adrenaline charged, life and death race. William Bernhardt, the best writing teacher I ever had, said, "Show, don't tell." And Hemingway touted the mot juste which means the exact, appropriate word. These rules keep the story so close to the reader, that the reader sees it. Hears it. Feels it.
This passage should be built on short, sharp sentences. And don't insult the reader. "Maxwell was obviously hurt badly and was losing a lot of blood. It would make him easy to track." Really? No shit, Sherlock.
At least Connelly uses adverbs properly. Unnecessarily, but properly. How would I write it?
"He's been hit," he said.
Bosch picked up the blood trail on Third Street. They lost it at Third and Hill.
No one moved on foot through the traffic in the Third Street tunnel. Or on Hill
Street. Maxwell was gone. They'd lost him.
Then to the left, a knot of people ran out of the Grand Central Market.
Bosch and Walling ran toward the hulking two-story building. They picked
up the blood trail again. They followed the wet, red stains inside. The stench
of old grease and strong coffee hit them like a wall. Noise filled the cavernous
hall. Guns held at their sides, they followed the blood. Through the maze of food
booths and produce stands and retail stalls, the trail flickered in and out. It
threatened to disappear beneath the crowd's milling feet.
Ahead, shouts and two shots stopped time. Then shoppers and workers
stampeded, screaming, toward Harry and Rachel. He grabbed her and pulled her
to safety behind a concrete pillar.
And you can probably figure out an even better way to write it. It needs to read fast, raise the reader's heart rate, leave them breathless.
After finishing the 13th Harry Bosch novel -- four of them in the past two weeks -- I'm taking a break. Patricia Cornwell's The Last Precinct, also a crime novel, but it's safe to say, I'll be checking more Connelly/Bosch books out of the library soon. And I'm looking forward to the 5th season of Bosch.