The Shots team of Mike Stotter,
Ali Karim and Ayo
Onatade met up with one of today’s greatest writers of crime
fiction at the Crimefest
conference in Bristol – Mike Connelly.
We’d all been energised by the
return of journalist Jack McEvoy in Connelly’s terrifying The Scarecrow and wanted to ask him a few
Connelly is no stranger to Shots Ezine having talked to us in the past
Bones in 2002, The
in 2004 and The
Overlook in 2007. Apart from his ongoing Harry Bosch series,
tremendous standalones, and this year’s The
Scarecrow, though a standalone, features Jack McEvoy who last
showed up in Connelly’s
breakthrough novel The Poet,
the serial killer who gave the novel its name. This time McEvoy has to
a very sick adversary named the Scarecrow, and like the Poet, this
using new technology, specifically crawling along the damp dark floor
of the internet
to extract mayhem and terror.
Connelly mines the economic damage occurring in print media today at the opening
of The Scarecrow, which is of
considering he was a former high profile journalist covering the LA
just like his protagonist Jack McEvoy. Following the hunt for the Poet,
Connelly’s alter-ego McEvoy got fame with a book deal and a
plum job at the LA Times, but life
has not been easy on
him. Following a divorce and the recent downsizing at his newspaper, he
himself training a young reporter and in the process stumbles upon a
will lead him to battle a serial killer called the Scarecrow. In The Poet, the internet was in its
infancy but now it is well advanced and the Scarecrow is using its dark
terrible effect. With bodies turning up wrapped in plastic sheets in
of cars, Jack has his work cut out, especially as the Scarecrow knows a
about Jack. The interesting analogy is that the internet is key to the
plot as not only is it being used by a serial killer, but it is also
responsible for the death of news-print media. Though at the climax
balance, as the internet is also portrayed as a force for good in this
world as Jack embraces the technology. I was comforted seeing FBI agent
Walling appear, making the dark world Connelly portrays a tad lighter.
disturbing addition to the Connelly cannon, I just can’t
believe The Scarecrow is
novel. Considering Connelly varies his writing between police
non-fiction, short stories and courtroom thrillers, it is little
he has entered the techno-thriller territory with The
Connelly generously ordered us some sandwiches and beers, I switched on
tape machine as the Shots team got ready to grill him about
what’s new in his
world and that of The Scarecrow.
You’ve been rather busy of
late – apart from Crimefest Bristol, I heard you’re
coming to Bouchercon
Indianapolis, so after so many years in the genre how do you feel about
non-writing activity such as conventions and book promotion work?
I enjoy them when I get to them, but I have to keep in mind that my
to write the books, so I would say in the last four to five years I
have become more
choosy with which events I go to.
In fact, I went through a period when I wouldn’t go to any
events, but now I’m
coming out of that and I’m attending quite a few conventions.
I missed the
camaraderie of meeting journalists like you guys who cover the genre,
writers and fans of the genre. There is also the issue with spending
my family as it’s been six or seven years since I moved away
from Los Angeles
to Florida where I’m from as is my wife; but as my books are
set in LA, I have
to go back and forth to California to research the books. This adds
time to my
work, so before I’d go practically to any convention now I
have to be far more
selective. A lot has to do with matching schedules. This tour
I’m hitting Belfast, Bristol, Norwich and then Bouchercon in Indianapolis. I’ve had to give up
choice parties. I really wish I could have gone to Bouchercon
in Baltimore last year. I can’t remember what came
up as I couldn’t just
swing going up for a day, which a lot of people did to see Laura
[Lippman] in her
hometown. I wish I could have swung it.
I heard you were sold out at
No Alibis in Belfast,
how’d that go?
was depressingly bad…[laughing]…..it was in fact
probably the greatest event I’ve
had in my career. There were more people there than I have ever seen in
bookstore. It was lucky that they had the lights down so I
couldn’t see them
all. When the lights came on, I was stunned at how many people turned
was my first time in Belfast, and I really enjoyed meeting
everyone, and Dave Torrans runs a great bookstore.
As a former journalist, what
are your thoughts about the current state of newspapers and print media
what’s really depressing, I have been nostalgically connected
though not been actively involved for the last fifteen years. In fact
issue is really the backdrop to The
Scarecrow as I wanted to write about it. You called it an
downturn, I hate to say it but it might actually be a death spiral.
are dropping like flies all across the US. I used to believe that it was
that would plateau, but now I’m not so sure.
And is that why you brought
back your journalist alter-ego Jack McEvoy in The Scarecrow?
I thought that when I was done with The
Poet, I was done with Jack, as I was no longer a journalist.
I had quit a
year before I wrote The Poet, but I
didn’t consider what would eventually happen to the business.
I read an article recently by
David Simon which said that the fall of the print media may cause huge
to our society as it is the journalists that police the
politicians and people in power. Do you agree with his concerns?
‘Corruption is a character’ says McEvoy in The
Scarecrow, and it’s going to be the growth market
as the journalist
watchdogs die out. You just have to look at the expenses scandal in the
UK to see that it was the
that exposed that scandal. It’s the journalists that generate
needed to stop corruption. Okay, bloggers and news websites may be
some of the jobs that the journalists do, but when it’s a
screaming headline on
a newsstand, everyone can read it, whereas if it’s a blogpost
or a website
feature, will it get the public’s attention as well as a
newspaper story? I
don’t know the future of the media as a watchdog;
it’s a worry indeed, as David
I found The Scarecrow one of
the most creepy of your books. As a family man, how do you manage
travelling into the dark places that your work takes you? Are you easy
although I work from home, I work at one side of the house by the
when I’m done I pretty much leave that stuff behind, close
the door, so hopefully
all the creepiness stays there. Writing about bad guys is always very
there’s no limits, no rules on them. In fact it’s
much harder to write about
the good guys.
I heard that you were
approached by Pelecanos and Simon to write for The Wire
– can you tell us what happened and your thoughts on The
Wire as a TV series?
that was true – unfortunately I had a contractual obligation
for another TV
network that I owe a pilot to, and so I can’t write for
television until I
fulfil that obligation. The Scarecrow
was largely inspired by the last season of The
Wire. It got me off the couch. I was a police reporter just
How do you find alternating
with Bosch, McEvoy, Walling, Terry McCaleb, the legal thrillers with
Mickey Haller, and your non-fiction / journalism and how do
you manage such a prolific output?
the non-fiction does make me appear more prolific than I am as I wrote
stuff years ago and they are basically republished collections of
– so those are easy books to
Then there’s the
short story collections that I
write introductions for and those are pretty easy also to slip into
always say, I write at the pace I’m comfortable with;
remember I come from a
newspaper background where I’d be writing, re-writing,
editing and working all
day for different editions so I’m used to writing hard. In
fact I’d often have
to update, re-write the same story for new editions, even when there
new information. That discipline instilled a good work ethic in me. No
publishers ever pressure me like that, so they don’t tie me
down with wanting
two books a year, or another one immediately after I deliver one, the
comes from me. I told my publishers last year that I would probably
books this year and I’m pleased that The
Scarecrow has done so well.
The Scarecrow is a very fast
read, so was it as fast to write?
there was a lot of momentum in the writing and that I guess gives it a
momentum in the reading. Also as the main character is a journalist,
and I’m a
journalist so there was no step-back for me like ‘I wonder
what Harry Bosch
would do here’ kind of thing. I wrote what I would do in Jack
Ten years ago I would never admit that I wrote a book quickly because
would equate fast writing with a lack of quality, but now with over
novels under my belt, I reckon a fast book to write is a good book, due
momentum. Early on my career I would have been worried about writing so
but now I don’t.
Have you any plans to
collect your own short stories into a collected volume?
think you’re overstating my skills as a short story writer
– I haven’t won any
Sorry to correct you but one
of your short stories was nominated for a CWA Dagger last
no one told me…[laughing]….Seriously I do have
some short stories so perhaps if
I have to take a year out, or whatever, at least I could release a
of my short stories. Only about half of my short stories are Harry
and I would like to publish a collection of Harry Bosch stories, so I
I’ll have to write a few more to make a decent sized
collection – I don’t have
Bob Crais told me that you
both have two unpublished novels in a drawer, and he joked that he
ponders if they are exactly the same two novels, in a Twilight Zone
funny…[laughing]…but despite Bob’s
thoughts, I’m pretty sure they’re different
Your website www.michaelconnelly.com
special features with additional and bonus material for your work. How
important is your web presence?
it’s Jane Davis that I need to thank as she lets me do what I
do which is
write. She does the creative stuff on the website and she’s
good at that. She
does suggest things that I write specifically for the website; recently
I did a
three part movie and I had to write the script for the movie which I
Jane and the film makers who then took over, so it was not too
intrusive on my
what additional material from The Scarecrow have you
always looking for something new; we’ve done extra chapters,
we done ‘cut’ chapters,
I’ve done short stories. This time we decided to do something
visual. In The Scarecrow we have
returning but she doesn’t appear till much later on in the
book, which is
unusual for a main character. When I was writing it, I just
couldn’t think of a
way of bringing her in any earlier. Jane asked me, what has Rachel been
prior to arriving after 140 or so pages? So I wrote a short story,
turned into a script and that’s the three part movie
– it has nothing to do
with The Scarecrow, but deals with
what she was doing before Jack called her for help. It sort of cuts
narrative, though there are no spoilers to the book, in fact the film
her getting Jack’s call for help.
Bosch has to be getting on a
bit, so are we going to get any prequels when he was much younger or
his war time tunnel rat adventures?
back with the short story collection, but I’m actually
working on a new Harry
Bosch novel now, which should be out in October and has a big seed
about Bosch’s younger days. I guess a young Harry Bosch tale
will be about four
years or so away, when he’s too old to carry a badge.
Has Jane Davis asked you to
go on Twitter yet?
doesn’t like Twitter, but my US publisher Shannon Byrne
twitters on several
accounts. I’ve been watching the Harlan
Coben Twitter thing and I’m not sure it’s
Harlan (like us all) has a
love / hate relationship with Twitter – but it does seem to
be very popular and
a good way of getting information out fast.
does seem to like to tell people he’s going to the
Rangers’ game. I’m not sure
I need to know that. No one needs to know that about me either, and
killed the newspapers so I’m not for it.
There was an April Fools gag
recently that the Guardian newspaper,
due to the economic crisis, was
going to cease its print publication and just have a Twitter edition
I fell for it….
Any news on the rumoured
film projects of Lincoln
Lawyer, and other film news?
never believe anything until I see it on the screen, but recently it
reported that Mathew
McConahey signed to be Mickey Haller. But there were rumours
that Al Pacino
was going to star in Void Moon, so
always take these rumours with a grain of salt until I see it on the
You came up with a term ‘a velvet
coffin’ – can you tell us where that came from?
know I’m a creative guy but I didn’t come up with
that phrase – it refers to
what people said working for the LA Times
is like, ie a swell place to work until you die. In fact in 1987 when I
regional newspaper to move to the LA
Times, they told me ‘great, you’re moving
to the Velvet Coffin’ – that was
the first time I heard it, and when I worked there it was the nickname
working there, but it’s not like that any more.
That reminds me – you
mentioned earlier about
the extra material – well, throughout the novel are twelve
like Iron Maiden, Velvet Coffin etc and these are real and you can go
and inside each is extra material – one shows all the covers
for The Scarecrow that were
is a summary and information on the next book. All Jane
Any more Jack McEvoy books?
as he gets killed on page
150….[laughing]……As I mentioned
earlier I thought I
was finished with Jack when The Poet
was done, but he gets linked up with Rachel Walling, so perhaps he will
back like Rachel did, and perhaps they might come back
Thank you for your time,
for yours and your support over the years at Shots.
material relating to The Scarecrow is available
like to thank Gaby Young of Orion Publishing for organising this
well as the special Shots Competition which offers three lucky Shots
one of three signed copies of The Scarecrow. Click here to enter the competition.