Like with Cold Earth in the previous post, my appreciation of the Bosch character (and his colleagues and family) is rounded and expanded by Amazon Prime’s production of Bosch. Because Connelly is one of the producers, I think the title character, played by Titus Welliver, is true to the books. When I read Two Kinds of Truth, I could ‘see’ Bosch, his house in the Hollywood Hills, his former partner Jerry Edgar and his daughter Maddie. I recommend the video series if you have Prime.
For more introduction to this series:
You can read a sample of Two Kinds of Truth right here by clicking the ‘preview’ button below the cover.
I want to look at the four perspectives on writing that I’ve covered in the past: characters, setting, plot and emotional center.
Characters: Connelly’s protagonist Hieronymus (“Harry”) Bosch is a modern, more interior version of the classic L.A. hard-boiled detective. While the settings and crimes are like the old-school detective novels, Connelly gives us a personality and life circumstances for Bosch in a way that make him likeable and sympathetic. We know more about his motivations and triggers than the usual hard-boiled hero, and we recognize his humanity in how he deals with his daughter and others who elicit his commitment and concern.
As with Cleeves’ Jimmy Perez, the series is usefully viewed as a quarter-century exploration of Bosch’s life and psyche. As many reviewers have noted, Two Kinds of Truth is about an older, semi-retired cop – a fact that distresses some (how dare Harry get old and tired!). On the contrary, I find his ageing and the changes it’s brought about to be fundamentally real and believable. Tracing a character arc over an entire series and making it grounded are the hallmarks of a master series storyteller. For me, the idea of doing the same with Father Ambrose is nothing short of inspiring.
Setting: Los Angeles is the primary setting. With the extensive canon of Harry Bosch novels as well as all LA-based hard-boiled detective novels in general, there’s very little new that can be said about LA. Connelly, fortunately, doesn’t feel the need to drill deeper into the larger setting. He reserves his setting narrative for places like the commandeered jail cell where Harry reviews cold case files. The only time we’re outside LA is when Harry goes undercover in one of the two plotlines, where he ends up at a remote Southwest opioid pill operation. Some of the most nail-biting scenes are Harry’s trip back.
For my writing, I’m early enough in my series that I can’t take setting knowledge for granted. But I can take Connelly’s ability to convey place in a succinct way as a model to emulate.
Plot: Connelly weaves two distinct plotlines around each other in a way that doesn’t detract from either. In some senses, both are a walk through Harry’s mid-sixties life choices, both of them rotating around his essential character – moral integrity and courage at the top of the list. As he ages over the series, we see these qualities honed and expressed ever more succinctly. Although each plotline could stand alone, they reinforce each other as windows onto the state of his soul right now.
For myself, I haven’t yet considered this vehicle, although the one I’m working on right now has a main plot and a significant sub-plot that isn’t quite an ‘equal.’ I like very much what Connelly demonstrates about this plot structure.
Connelly doesn’t go inside Bosch’s head to show us his feelings. Rather, he allows us to develop an understanding of his protagonist’s emotional state through his speech and actions.
Bosch is at his most tender and compassionate when he deals with his daughter and, in this book, with an opioid-addicted woman he meets while undercover. When he’s angry, we see him express it clearly in words or in physical action.
Over the course of the series, Bosch becomes increasingly rounded and wiser. He never becomes anyone other than himself, but, as a series, Connelly’s choices flesh him out and give us glimpses into Bosch’s core values and ways of dealing with strong emotions. An ageing Harry is the same and different from earlier versions of himself. The tensions arising from his diminishing physical prowess are set against a broader matrix of greater courage and sophistication of policing skill.
For my series writing, I can see how to use Connelly’s approach especially well with my portrayal of Sheriff Charlie Cormley, who is more like Bosch and Craig Johnson’s Walt Longmire. He’s not likely to speak about his feelings, except perhaps to his wife Ruth. But he can reveal his emotional state through how he speaks and behaves. I’m learning how difficult it is to do this in a way that seems natural and not forced with a ‘tough-guy’ character.
Next month, I’ll be looking at Laurie R. King’s recent Mary Russell/Sherlock Holmes novel, Island of the Mad.
Leave me your comments below or write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
See you then!