Published on the 3rd of November 2014.
Publishing editors come and go. They move to different companies, they take over several different lines. Some who run SF and Crime Fiction lists know nothing about SF or Crime Fiction and care even less, but they usually move on editing other kinds of book.
The greatest obstacle to novels becoming identical is the fact that every author is different, every book he or she produces is different. Or they should be. This’s what the word “novel” means. Something which is new.
Unfortunately authors are discovering that the easiest way to book publication is to produce something which is exactly like another, either the kind of thing which they have done before or that another writer has done before. Publishers want books which are “in the tradition of this” or “will be adored by readers of that” or “are the latest in the bestselling series of…”
For a writer, novels are a great investment of both time and effort. They have to make a living, and they cannot afford to write books which will not be published. The result is evidenced by what can be found on bookshop shelves. More and more writers are producing books which are written without heart and without soul. Dull and uninspired, lifeless and identical. These are the bricks of the trade.
I’ve stopped reading most of SF and Crime Fiction because of this. I can’t stand the déjà vu feeling…for the publishing industry, everything would be far simpler if all novels were just identical.
I’m not sure whether this is what readers want (I sure don’t!). Do they buy “bestsellers” because that’s what they wish to read, or because advertising and promotion makes such books seem so attractive? Is the pressure for “more of the same” from publishers or the readers? Readers can’t buy what publishers don’t publish. On the other hand, publishers won’t produce what they believe readers don’t want to read.
This long preamble sets the scene to the Michael Connelly novels. Do the Connelly novels belong to the usual book fodder? Nope, nope, and nope. I was not surprised to see “The Burning Room” ranked 4th in the NY Times. Connelly is writing what he does best. Bosch is one of the icons of Crime Fiction, and rightly so.
Bosch has evolved. In the beginning he was a loner. The novels reflected that. Now, he’s no longer that. Connelly had also to evolve to make Bosch evolve. After the 19thBosch novel, we can see this evolution. The Bosch novels are not the same. They show us that, despite the fact the setting is essential the same (LA; Hong Kong doesn’t count…), what we get is always different. The kick I get each time the newConnelly, Sansom, P.D. James appears in the bookstands, is not equal, in terms of quality, to much of what’s being published nowadays (please another final Daglishafter “The Private Patient”, before the curtain closes. There’s a rumour The Baroness is working on another Daglish, but they’re just that. Rumours).
Connelly has spent so much time, so many years developing the Bosch character and he’s been able to get into his skin so thoroughly that the novels are utterly convincing and addictive.
What have we got in “The Burning Room”? A new sidekick (Soto) which reflects the way Bosch is getting older (The Old - Bosch vs The New - Soto), and two crime threads, and a Finale that will move Bosch to different territories.
Why is so difficult to translate Bosch onto the screen? That’s not surprising. I have serious doubts on how well the Bosch novels would translate onto the silver screen: Bosch is obsessive, his backstory is interesting, but his personal life is not that engaging (he’s a widower, raising up a daughter and his work precludes any lasting relationships, the crimes he gets into are sordid and horrifying and there are no car chases and very few shootouts). That’s why we so far haven’t seen any Bosch on the (big) screen, because this kind of Crime Fiction is not good at the box office (as soon as I finish writing this, I’ll watch the pilot of the TV Series “Bosch” starringTitus Welliver as Bosch. Is Welliver a credible Bosch…? That’s the crux of the matter).
For me Bosch has evolved into something more like a personal acquaintance than a fictitious character. After having read “The Burning Room” I just wanted to pick up the phone and have a conversation with him. That's what sets Connelly's writing above the norm for me.
SF = Speculative Fiction.