Spoiler Warning: The Overlook
When I grow up, I want to do something like what Michael Connelly did. So what if I’m a few years older than Connelly.
Connelly determined as a young man that he would be a mystery writer. He must have known then -- in his soul -- of the art he might create to validate integrity and expose corruption while telling great stories. Connelly had no experience, but he liked what Raymond Chandler had to say. He was intrigued by the way director Robert Altman played with Chandler’s The Long Goodbye. This led Connelly to play well enough to create his own universe, a universe so endearing that others would support it.
The road to best-selling mystery author included extended stops as a cop reporter in Florida and Los Angeles. I sense many of the friends he made in those years are his friends today.
More than anything, I admire the integrity of Connelly’s writing. Connelly’s hero, detective Harry Bosch, pays a huge price for doing his job. Everyone counts or no one counts is Bosch’s motto. Living that life in any endeavor is an enormous burden. It is the essence of a democratic republic.
To the extent that good cops like Bosch do their jobs, we have some hope of living in an actual democracy. For Bosch will not back down against anyone, regardless of power or position. I have not read of anyone calling Bosch graceful, but I see him carrying the mantle gracefully and courageously.
Bosch has some good and capable colleagues. But they are often sidetracked by the inept, the apathetic, the clock-punchers and the corrupt.
Here lies Connelly’s great accomplishment: As an artist he exposes the corrupt and the oppressors in a way far more powerful that he might have as a journalist. Connelly does this with the pacing and depth of character as well as any novelist. Certainly there will be a ripple effect, in the arts and possibly elsewhere.
As readers we see what we want to see. While I explore this dynamic with Connelly, I am compelled to go back for a second round.
Foremost, with Connelly, we get classic great tales with hidden friends and foes jumping out of the bushes right down to the wire. How will Harry or other protagonists smote the enemy, or, first, identify the correct enemy?
I began last fall with The Lincoln Lawyer. Several of my friends in the criminal defense business live elements of protagonist Mickey Haller’s tortured and occasionally rewarding life. Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer allowed me the pure and guiltless pleasure of following Haller’s peril in a way I might not follow others in real life. The distance and the journey are simultaneously relaxing and invigorating – while safe.
Following The Lincoln Lawyer I read all the Harry Bosch novels, as well as Blood Work and The Poet. Math isn’t my best subject, but I think there are 17 Connelly novels and various short stories. Yesterday, I capped this reading extravaganza and shook up my printer with 16 installments of The Overlook, serialized in The New York Times.
The Overlook, due out as an expanded hardcover in May, gave me the best buzz of all.
Bosch catches a murder. The Feds move in, try to push aside Bosch and the murder, and erroneously make it a weapons of mass destruction case with all the bells and whistles and abuse of power. Thankfully, in Bosch, we have the persona of someone who pushes back – effectively and relentlessly. The Feds get what they deserve, and justice is done.
It is easy to recognize some of the Feds as the bad guys – the arrogant and incompetent losers – as they are in real life. The only thing this coterie of klutzes have going for them is unchecked power in a brotherhood that allows access and action far beyond retirement.
As George Jackson so aptly put it, “Anyone who can pass the civil service test today can kill tomorrow.”
From the political harassment of waves of immigrants going back at least to the 1920’s and the infiltration of the civil rights and anti-war movements -- to their own unclean hands in the operations of organized crime in New England in recent years and spying on citizens today – few if any entities pose a greater threat to the American people than our own government and agents who would happily work for any gang in power. The Constitution and the Bill of Rights be damned.
No one writing mystery stories today tells certain parts of this story better than Connelly.
The story of The Overlook will resonate with good cops throughout the nation. We need more good cops out there like Harry Bosch and more good lawyers like Mickey Haller to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic. We might need more help on the domestic side before it’s too late.