My Guilty Pleasure: Michael Connelly's Harry Bosch by Guest Blogger Tony Forder,author of the DI Bliss series

In Mickey Haller, Jack McEvoy, Terry McCaleb, Rachel Walling, and more recently Renee Ballard, author Michael Connelly has delivered a fine cast of main characters during his 27 year career, but none as compelling or as enduring as Harry Bosch.

Quite what it is about Bosch that we readers in our millions like is not as clear cut as Connelly’s mastery of the crime fiction genre (in my view he is the best in the business). Sure, Bosch is obdurate, honourable, has a work ethic beyond reproach, and sees himself as LA’s guardian of justice, going up against the establishment almost as much as he does the criminals. But on the other hand, he’s often not approachable, nor even particularly likeable. He’s dismissive, sometimes contemptuous, occasionally a little cruel, and quick to anger.

Titus Welliver as Bosch

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He’s an enigma you can’t help but root for because at his core he is a decent man. Harry is not overly complicated, either. He has his standards, his own set of rules to live and work by, and refuses to allow anybody to compromise those beliefs. Yet the vulnerability we see in him is that his life is also chaotic and unsettled, and generally there is not a lot going on in Harry’s world that makes him happy for too long – not even his daughter Maddie. Yes, that he loves her and would do absolutely anything for her is demonstrable, yet I see his relationship with happiness as a tenuous one simply because he spends his life worrying about his daughter. As we fathers so often do.

I consider Bosch to be a lonely man, yet comfortable wearing that skin. His relationship with the various work-placed partners he’s had have been fraught with tension, because they seldom live up to his exacting standards, and rarely commit to a case in the same way he does. He has no real friends, and his relationships with women are mostly fleeting. He has no close family, though he and lawyer Mickey Haller share a father. Maddie is now his whole world, yet she is so much like him that they flit in and out of each other’s lives. It’s hard to imagine Bosch without his work, though, because it’s the one thing he has been devoted to for more than forty years. The one constant, and he craves it.

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I came to Bosch in 1992 with the release of Connelly’s first novel, The Black Echo. I was immediately drawn to the writing, the character, and the location. I sensed I was in expert hands right from the beginning, and although I enjoyed the second book less, the third, The Concrete Blonde absolutely blew me away. That was me reeled in, and I have been a firm fan ever since. I’ve enjoyed most of his non-Bosch books, too, and The Poet from 1996 remains one of the finest serial-killer thrillers out there. But I always come back to Harry, keen for more LA insight and Connelly’s sprinkling of magic.

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We’ve seen various forms of Bosch along the way. As a homicide detective, a closer of cold cases, a private investigator – intriguingly written in first person POV – and latterly as a volunteer for the San Fernando police. The author came to this aspect of Bosch’s later years whilst he had Harry working a private case. He realised the story would run short, and a chance discussion led him to the possibility of Bosch being a volunteer with the Valley unit. Now, his career pretty much done, we have Bosch trading scenes with LA cop Renee Ballard in Dark Sacred Night. It’s an interesting idea, and certainly a deft way of running down the clock on Bosch whilst also introducing us to the character destined to replace him as the main Connelly lead, but for me it’s something that has yet to catch fire. Perhaps 2019s The Night Fire will ignite that spark inside me.

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As the author of a crime series character myself, I can understand why a writer might be reluctant to see the back of someone they have grown to like unwrapping for yet another outing, but due to the age Bosch was at the outset, and Connelly’s desire to be as current as possible, dear old Harry is simply running out of years. Not to mention a bit of puff, though he takes good care of himself.

The TV show, now into its fifth series with one more to come, is a revelation and has surely led even more readers to Connelly’s work. I really enjoy the incorporation of plotlines from several books that form the cornerstones of each ten episode series, and Titus Welliver does a great job in the lead role. Connelly has a lot of daily input into the show, and it’s become one of the finest cop thrillers ever to have featured on the small screen, mainly because of the authenticity he brings to the table. Much of that stems from his time as a reporter for the LA Times, working the crime desk and getting to know crime and criminals, cops and detectives and lawyers inside out. You don’t need to have read a Bosch novel to enjoy the show, but if you have you’ll certainly notice the many differences. But you also get to spend time in some of those famous LA locations Connelly features, and see many of the novels and their characters brought to life.

It’s hard to imagine a Boschless future, but by next year the TV series will be done, and I can’t foresee Harry continuing in his current role in the books for much longer, either. Bosch the man may be a seriously flawed person, but Bosch the cop is one of the very best fiction has ever offered us. You’d certainly want this dogged and relentless detective working on your behalf. It’ll be devastating to lose him, but I would rather focus on the many, many hours of joy he has brought into my life. A bit of a misanthrope, a lot worn down by life and the job, curmudgeonly, sarcastic, likes a drink and loves his music. But enough about me...

Bosch is all of that and more, but his fellow cops knew they could count on him, just as we rely on Michael Connelly making sure that when his time comes, Harry Bosch goes out not with a whimper, but maybe the biggest fictional bang LA has seen since the street riots that took place in the same year as this literary master first delivered the great man to us.