Thursday, September 18, 2008

What are you reading? Week 2: Continuing Connelly

Last week, I touched upon how Michael Connelly's standalone (non-Harry Bosch) novel Chasing the Dime was a helpful guide in the writing of SILENT CITY. Mainly because the protagonist, like my own, starts off not as a detective, but a regular member of society who becomes embroiled in some criminal craziness.

Since then, I've finished Dime and another Connelly book, Lost Light, and am halfway through the next one, The Narrows. Light, like most of the Connelly stuff I've read, stars Harry Bosch, a grizzled (now former) LAPD detective who will do anything in his power to solve his cases and speak for the victims, or, as he says many times, "speaks for the unspoken."

Lost Light is interesting for a number of reasons. Unlike the previous eight Bosch novels, Light is told from Bosch's perspective, as opposed to third person narration. The storytelling reason for this is simple -- Bosch has retired from the LAPD and is now a private investigator. Connelly, an unabashed fan of the work of Raymond Chandler, really infuses the book with the same energy of the Marlowe books while still retaining Bosch's clear and recognizable voice and characteristics. Unlike some other crime writers, most notably George Pelecanos, Connelly isn't really prone to switching around his viewpoints characters, instead choosing to stick with Bosch for the most part. So, the switch to first-person narration isn't really all that jarring to a long-time reader of his books. Still, the switch provides some interesting insight into the character and also echoes Chandler's work.

Lost Light follows Bosch as he investigates one of his old, unsolved or "cold" cases -- the murder of a woman about four years earlier. As the story progresses, the original crime is linked up to Hollywood mayhem, a bank heist and Homeland Security. Sounds implausible, but Connelly makes it work, and the author also manages to bring back a number of supporting characters from past novels without making the introductions or background bumpy. The big reveal at the end also comes out of left field, as any good reveal should.

The Narrows picks up a few months after Lost Light but is interesting because it brings together Bosch and a few other characters from Connelly's earlier, standalone books like The Poet and Blood Work. (The latter was adapted into a mediocre Clint Eastwood film.)

Bosch's story is again told in first person, but Connelly switches back to third-person narration whenever Bosch is off-camera, which seems to work fairly well, but would probably be more jarring in the hands of a less experienced novelist. The Narrows serves as a direct sequel to The Poet, with the killer from that book returning to plague both Bosch (who is not in the first book) and FBI Agent Rachel Walling, who was the viewpoint character in The Poet. The book, as a standalone read is interesting and moves at a brisk pace -- I have to admit, though, that it helps to have read the previous Bosch novels. I'm at a slight disadvantage having not read The Poet, but Connelly is good (so far) at filling in any relevant backstory without slowing the overall plot.

Of most interest to me, since I'd ideally like to see SILENT CITY's Pete continue on in other novels, is seeing how Connelly slightly tweaks Bosch from book to book. The changes, of course, seem natural and organic, which is the goal, and a helpful guide when I reach the point where I'm mapping out a second or third novel. Fingers crossed.

Enough about me, though. What are you reading?


Cake Man said...

I'm currently reading Larry McMurtry's 'Lonesome Dove' western epic. At over 900 pages, it's one of the longest books I've read in quite a while, and since I mostly just read on the train going to and from work, it's slow going.

But I really, REALLY like the Lonesome Dove mini-series starring Tommy Lee Jones and Robert Duvall. So, I decided to read the book, which has an interesting history to it. McMurtry first wrote Lonesome Dove as a screenplay, but no one wanted to pick it up. So, he wrote the book that I'm now reading. Film execs. scooped up the rights to the book, and McMurtry wound up with the screen version he's hoped for from the get-go. (Actually, my guess is he didn't envision nearly as long a film; the series, which I believe aired on NBC though I could be wrong, clocks in at just over 6 and a half hours. I'm not a Western fan, but every minute of Lonesome Dove is worth it to me.)

It's interesting reading, in that the text really matches up exactly with the series so far. I'm only about a third of the way in, so it could change directions. At the moment, though, I can tell that good ol' jeans with a tux jacket Larry really knew exactly what he wanted when he wrote this and wasn't going to let "no" stop him.

A lesson, perhaps?

king suckerman said...

That's pretty interesting -- I've had Lonesome Dove in my hand a few times, but never got around to buying or reading it. I think I'll check it out once I'm done with my Connelly binge.

Did McMurtry also write the screenplay for the LD mini-series? I may be wrong, but weren't there a ton of spinoffs from the original TV mini-series, too? I think they just aired a new one fairly recently. Or I might be confusing Lonesome Dove with something else. To Wikipedia I go!