A CBS series based on Michael Connelly’s Lincoln Lawyer novels and helmed by David E. Kelley, of The Practice and Ally McBeal fame, was to begin production – as in, fully-invested cast and crew ready to proceed – on Monday, March 16 of this year.
On March 13, the network told everyone to stay home until further notice.
And they’re still at home. And two weeks ago, The Lincoln Lawyer was officially pronounced DOA.
“CBS decided not to go forward with the show, because they’re streamlining things,” Connelly reports. “They don’t know the future, with this virus.
“So we’re trying to take this whole package that is ready to go and find another buyer for it. And I think we will. I’m confident we will.”
Connelly, the 63-year-old journalist-turned-bestselling novelist, has lots to be confident about these days. The University of Florida graduate and part-time Tampa resident is riding high with Amazon Prime’s Bosch, a series based on his books about hard-nosed Los Angeles detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. The tense and riveting drama is currently in its sixth season.
Next week, Connelly will publish his 34th novel. Fair Warning is the latest thriller with journalist Jack McEvoy as its protagonist.
Connelly admits that McEvoy, whose latest adventure takes him tracking a serial killer who’s somehow involved in the shadowy trafficking of anonymous DNA, is closer to the novelist himself than Harry Bosch, or Mickey Haller of the Lincoln Lawyer books.
“I write the McEvoy books very quickly because a key component of my writing process is not involved when I write about Jack,” he says. “When I’m writing about Harry Bosch or Mickey Haller, and I’m setting out the moves, or what those characters would say, I have to research that. I have to talk to detectives and lawyers and say ‘What would you do? What would you say? What’s the next step?’
“With Jack McEvoy, I don’t have to do that. He says what I would say, he does what I would do. Granted, there’s a fantastical part of this – this is fiction. I spent 14 years covering crime, but I never solved a crime! I didn’t push the action, I wrote about it. I observed it. I analyzed it. And in these books, Jack is doing more than that.
“It’s a mix of reality and accuracy, and then it crosses a line into fantasy. My fantasy. I wish I had done this kind of stuff.”
He began his journalism career as a crime reporter for the Daytona Beach News-Journal, followed by a similar beat at the much larger Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale. In 1987, Connelly and his wife moved to California, where he’d spend several years covering crime and cops for the Los Angeles Times.
Connelly’s first published novel, The Black Echo, appeared in 1992. This was the world’s introduction to Harry Bosch. The Black Echo won the Mystery Writers of America’s Edgar Award, and sold well, and after three more Bosch books Connelly left journalism to write fulltime.
To date, he has sold something like 60 million books.
Hollywood beckoned in 2002. Clint Eastwood directed and starred in a film based on the Connelly novel Blood Work, featuring investigator Terry McCabe.
The book’s ending was changed for Eastwood’s adaptation. This did not sit well with Connelly. “It was a Hollywood education,” he says curtly.
A decade later, with millions of book sales under his belt, Connelly was in a position of power when developer Eric Overmeyer broached the idea of the Bosch TV series.
Connelly: “When Amazon came and said ‘Let’s do this,’ I was ready to get all tough and say ‘I’m doing it unless I can say this, and I control this,’ and I didn’t even have to say that. They said ‘We want you involved, we want your input. Please write scripts for us.’ It was just a completely different animal.
“And it had to be that way. Because by the time that rolled around, I didn’t need Hollywood for anything. You know, I was doing fine with my books. And especially with Bosch, who I’d been writing about for 20 years at that point, why risk something going sideways? So if I was going to make any sort of deal with Hollywood for Bosch, I was going along with the project.”
Crucial to the series’ success was casting the lead character. Amazon gave Overmyer and Connelly two months.
“The books are very internal,” Connelly recalls Overmyer telling him. “It’s interior narration of Bosch. You’re writing in Bosch’s thoughts in the books, and you can’t get that into a script of a TV show.”
According to Connelly, “He said ‘We’ve got to find something who can project a lot without saying a lot. Because Harry doesn’t say a lot.’”
Top of mind, from the start, was actor Titus Welliver, who had been in Deadwood, Lost and Sons of Anarchy. “I had seen Titus as a guest on a show,” Connelly recalls, “where he was a vet who had PTSD. And I saw the projection of what’s going on inside, without him having to say what’s going on inside.”
But Welliver was unavailable during the two-month casting period because he was shooting a film on the other side of the planet. So the creative team read dozens of other actors.
Welliver arrived on the last possible weekend. “He came in all jet lagged, and knowing we were on a deadline … he auditioned and basically got the job in the room.”
Bosch is one of the best-reviewed dramas on streaming TV. “I look back, after six years, and I now know how good Titus is,” says Connelly. “And I couldn’t be happier than with his portrayal of Harry Bosch.”
Still, Amazon has announced that Season Seven, which begins shooting this year, will be the last for Bosch. “It’s not our decision,” Connelly explains. “I don’t object to it too much, because there is something to be said about writing to an ending. Finishing before things start to deteriorate. Because if you graph it, I think the show’s gotten better every season. And that is hard to sustain. But we’ve been able to do it.
“But it’s going to be there on that streaming platform forever. And it’s always gonna draw new people and have fans that go back and re-watch it. And it lasted longer than I thought it would.
“So I’m OK with all that. But it is bittersweet, because it’s not just the actors. We have a crew with very little turnover, so it’s kind of a family. So as we go into filming the seventh season, it’s gonna be tough. But we all know we did something good.”
Next out of the chute, of course, is Fair Warning, which Connelly says is his reaction to the current climate of media-bashing in America; the cries of “fake news” and “enemy of the people,” he explains, irritated him enough to revive crusading investigative journalist Jack McEvoy, the hero of two earlier novels.
“I’m an old journalist. I haven’t done it in 20-plus years, but I did it for 14 years and it was a great time in my life,” the novelist says. “And part of what made it great was that it was important. To have a free media is really important to our society.
“I’m not one who makes political statements in my books; instead I just wrote a story about an unbiased and undaunted journalist doing his job.”
Connelly spends six or seven months in Los Angeles – he’s still there, sheltering at home and waiting out the pandemic – and the rest in Tampa.
All things considered, life is pretty good.
“When you start writing a book, it’s such a longshot thing about even getting it published, let alone being able to make a living,” he reflects. “And I’m just to lucky to have gone way beyond that. What’s going on in my life, and the projects I’m involved with, no way I could have seen all that happening.”