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Author Talk: October 8, 2010

October 8, 2010

America’s favorite inspector and its most brilliant legal mind are back in award-winning author Michael Connelly’s THE REVERSAL, which follows LAPD Detective Harry Bosch and defense attorney Mickey Haller as they reunite to stop a sadistic child killer in his tracks. In this interview, Connelly gives readers the scoop on his latest novel, explaining why Haller switches to the other side of the aisle and how his two protagonists are able to share the same stage. He speculates on whether Bosch and Haller will ever make it to the big screen, reveals the amount of research it takes to write a convincing legal thriller, and reflects on Bosch’s transformation since the series first began in 1992 --- and how many years his hero has left in him.

Question: THE REVERSAL seems to feature Mickey Haller and Harry Bosch pretty equally. So is this a legal thriller or a detective story?

Michael Connelly: I would like to think it's both, but it is about a trial --- actually a retrial --- so I guess that probably tips it toward being a legal thriller. My goal was to show what goes on both inside and outside of a trial. So, inside the courtroom you have Mickey Haller primarily carrying the narrative and then Harry Bosch carries it forward outside. Mr. Inside and Mr. Outside.

Q: Just curious, is it more fun or more difficult to balance two of your signature characters in a single book?

MC: It's a fun challenge. This book alternates chapters, so the big challenge was evenly distributing the plot so that they could alternately carry it forward without having any chapters that were static. I think each chapter advances the story significantly.

Q: Can you explain the title without giving away too much about the novel?

MC: The title is pretty straightforward but at the same time it has a few different meanings. The main plot surrounds the reversal of a murder conviction that puts a man named Jason Jessup back on trial in a 24-year-old murder. But Mickey Haller is called in as an independent prosecutor. So for Mickey, that is a big reversal as well. He has always been the defender of the accused.

Q: Why have him cross the aisle and suddenly become a prosecutor? In previous books he really reveled in being a defender and standing for the underdog, as he often put it. Is this permanent?

MC: Well, you will have to read the book to see if it is permanent. I did it for three reasons. The first is that it's always good to see a character out of his element. So I thought this would be interesting for both me, the writer, and of course the reader. The other thing is that I try to keep my fiction as close to reality as I can. The fact is, it is rare that a criminal defense attorney represents a completely innocent client. Sure, defendants are often charged with greater offenses than they committed and there are always extenuating circumstances, but it is not a realm where you find many innocents. So to write a series of books where the client is always innocent is unrealistic. This raises a dilemma. My goal is to keep Mickey Haller going in a series and to keep the series as "real" as possible. So if I keep him defending clients who are guilty of committing horrible crimes, will I be able to keep readers coming back again and again? I am not sure, but with THE REVERSAL I had a story where that was not an issue because he is standing for the people, for the side of right and might. The last reason is that I simply wanted to write a story where Mickey and Harry were on the same side.

Q: How much, and what sort of research goes into your legal thrillers?

MC: A lot. THE LINCOLN LAWYER and THE BRASS VERDICT were the most heavily researched books I have written, and I think THE REVERSAL is right there among them, too. This is because of the legal aspects of the book. I am not a lawyer, and so I need to consult many lawyers to get these details right. I also use a lot of "war stories" in the books. Little anecdotes that I hope add up to a larger mosaic. In order to get these anecdotes I need to go out there and spend time with people who really do this work for a living. I have to say, though, these books are fun to research. I love hearing stories that come from these lawyers' own experiences. It gets me inspired.

Q: Stepping outside the courtroom for a moment, there is a whole ancillary story line in this one that has nothing to do with the law, per se, but is about the relationship between Harry Bosch and his daughter, Maddie. This is new territory, granted, those who read NINE DRAGONS were ready for it to take off. Did you enjoy going there?

MC: Absolutely. I think it's the heart of the book. I always hope Harry has evolved since day one on the page, but in this book we find him getting used to caring for his fourteen year-old daughter and all that comes with that. It's all new to him, and he stumbles along, but he has only good intentions. I think their moments together in the book are some of the ones I am most proud of writing. I guess it helps that I happen to have a teenage daughter, as well, and can use some of my own feelings and experiences.

Q: What are the chances that we will ever see one of these guys --- Mickey or Harry --- in a movie some day?

MC: I think THE LINCOLN LAWYER with Matthew McConaughey as Mickey Haller should be in your neighborhood theater next spring if all goes according to plan.

Q: Did you take part in the film project?

MC: I was no more than a minor consultant. I gave some advice on the script, but not a lot, because I thought it was very well done.

Q: What about your appearances on the hit television show “Castle”? You seem to be a regular. How did that come about and is it enjoyable?

MC: It came about because the producers asked me. The show is about a crime novelist (Richard Castle) and he has a standing poker game with other writers. I am lucky that they asked me. Because it's fun and certainly feeds the ego. The show's creator writes clever lines for us, and we seem so smart!

Q: Will we be seeing Mickey and Harry together again?

MC: I hope so. I like the dynamics. But I also plan to explore them apart as well. It's looking like my next book will be a Mickey Haller book. Harry will get his turn after that.

Q: You published the first Bosch book eighteen years ago. He seems like such a different character now. How much of this was planned and how much just happened?

MC: None of it was planned. There was no way that I could have envisioned in 1992 that I would still be writing about Harry Bosch in 2010. What a gift! So there was no long-range plan other than the fervent belief that the character could never be static from book to book. He had to always keep changing, evolving. He has aged in real time. That's an eighteen-year slice of a character's life. There is a lot that can be done with that. Hopefully I have.

Q: How much longer can Harry go?

MC: I hope for a few more years at least. And that's just the forward progression of the story of Harry as a man with a badge. I could always cut back and explore Harry's earlier days. There is a lot that I can do. It could be fun. As long as he remains interesting to me as a character, there are no limits to his story.