Michael Connelly praised Sebastian Rotella’s debut novel, Triple Crossing, as “full of dangers, deep characters, and a story writ on a grand scale.” Download the eBook for just $3.99 from now through March 30th: Google | iBooks | Kindle | Kobo | Nook
(Editor’s note: Below, The Rap Sheet’s chief British correspondent, Ali Karim, welcomes the brand-new streaming-TV series Bosch, and recalls his experiences with that program’s creator, author Michael Connelly, in Los Angeles during last year’s Bouchercon.)
Michael Connelly and Ali Karim at Red Studios
The first time I interviewed American journalist-turned-crime novelist Michael Connelly was back in 2002, shortly after I’d joined Mike Stotter as his assistant editor at Shots. I had by then discovered Connelly’s work, thanks to his 1996 novel, The Poet. But I was still getting to know his troubled Los Angeles police detective, Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch. That’s an apt moniker for a fictional protagonist who surveys the world with a cynical and cautious eye, always aware of the downside and dangers of the human condition–not unlike the surreal, 15th-century Dutch painter who shares his name.
In any case, I recall fondly my initial grilling of Connelly. He was in the company of Gaby Young, from Orion Publishing, and had traveled to the (now long-gone) Borders in Oxford, England, to launch City of Bones, his eighth Bosch novel. We sat in an office there and taped our exchange. I was very nervous about the encounter, fumbling with my tape machine, but Connelly put me at ease.
Looking back after all these years, with the knowledge that Bosch–the new 10-episode Amazon Prime series based on Connelly’s books–is set to be released today, Friday, February 13, I must smile at my introduction to that feature. It reads, in part:
He informed us that he has now decided to return back to writing books exclusively, after a brief dabbling in U.S. television, which he found filled him with frustration. In the acknowledgements of A Darkness More Than Night  he even thanks writers Gerald Petievich (To Live & Die in L.A.) and Robert Crais for their excellent career advice (which he ignored) on avoiding working for U.S. TV.
(Enjoy that entire Shots interview with Connelly by clicking here.)
Since 2002, I’ve bumped into Michael Connelly several times and had the chance to interview him again more than once. We talked together in 2004, for instance, when his newest book was The Narrows, and then in 2007, when he was promoting his serialized novel, The Overlook (which you can read here, courtesy of The New York Times). And he met up with the whole Shots team at CrimeFest in 2009, while he was flogging a non-Bosch novel, The Scarecrow.
Prior to my departing London for Los Angeles last November, my old friend Larry Gandle, a Florida radiation oncologist and assistant editor of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine, e-mailed me to suggest that he and I–along with my trusty traveling companions, Roger “R.J.” Ellory and Mike Stotter–spend some “real time” together while we were all in Southern California. (Bouchercon is always such an intense event, there’s never free time enough to spend with the people you know and like.) I agreed, and let him know that Roger, Mike, and I would reach Long Beach a day ahead of most convention-goers. We had planned to hire a car and visit Los Angeles, maybe have a few laughs along the way, but Larry told me he’d already scheduled a car rental; why not head off into the neon-painted wilds of L.A. together?
So the morning after we reached Long Beach, the four of us squeezed into Larry’s little red vehicle and headed north toward the City of Angels. Naturally, we traversed Hollywood Boulevard, and got out to walk past Grauman’s Chinese Theatre and glance down at the sidewalk stars making up the historic Hollywood Walk of Fame. I am rarely surprised by the surreal coincidences life offers, but during our stroll I noticed a bloke working on the pavement, installing a new star. As I approached, I had to grab my camera and take a photo, because I’d seen the name “Matthew McConaughey” staring back at me from the pavement. The bloke making the star smiled at me. I just muttered “True Detective” as I snapped my shot. The bloke looked up from his work and said, “Yes, loved True Detective, but he was great in that other film, The Lincoln Lawyer.” I agreed, smiling as I added, “written by Michael Connelly.” The workman looked puzzled. “It was a book?” he said, and I nodded my head. He went on to grumble, “I don’t read books,” after which I moved quickly onward.
We enjoyed a leisurely lunch (with martinis) down the street at Musso & Frank Grill, a famous old L.A. restaurant once frequented by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, and also featured in the Harry Bosch novels. Then it was off for a spin along Mulholland Drive, from there onto Woodrow Wilson Drive, where Larry pointed out the house that serves as Bosch’s fictional home. And as we snaked through the area we spotted a residence with a Union Jack flag flapping in the wind. Thanks to Google, we soon discovered it was the L.A. abode of British soccer player, and now film actor, Vinnie Jones–who, incidentally, lives right next door to director Quentin Tarantino. “Bloody tourists,” Larry groused, smiling at his car’s British passengers.
As we headed back down the Hollywood Hills, Larry’s cell phone rang. Michael Connelly was on the other end, asking whether he’d arrived in Long Beach yet. Larry said he had, and that he was currently sightseeing with the three of us. Connelly, in his typical deadpan manner, remarked, “Why don’t you guys drop by Red Studios?” Seems he wanted to show us around the Bosch film set. Excitedly, we scribbled down the Hollywood address, checked that we were all carrying proper identification to get us through the studio security gate, and then Larry hit the accelerator.
(Left) Entrance to Red Studios
After clearing security at Red Studios, we were greeted by Terrill Lee Lankford–“Lee,” as he prefers to be addressed–a filmmaker and one of the writers on Bosch, as well as a tremendous author in his own right (Earthquake Weather, Blonde Lightning). Mike Connelly joined us presently, and we headed off to their writing studio, which resembled my image of a proper L.A. private eye’s office, complete with heavy Venetian blinds, spot lamps, and coat rack. We chatted for a while about how the Bosch TV series came to be, Connelly explaining that he’d long ago thought about producing a 90-minute Bosch film, but concluded that such a format makes it difficult for a writer or filmmaker to retain anything but the essence of whatever the source material is. The debut of such TV dramas as True Detective, The Killing, American Horror Story, and Breaking Bad convinced him that the small-screen, episodic format would better accommodate his style of storytelling. Connelly says he’s been quite pleased with Amazon Studios backing Bosch, allowing him to maintain a strong link between the Harry Bosch you know from his novels and the detective Bosch actor Titus Welliver (Big Apple, Deadwood, Lost, etc.) brings to life in the new streaming series.
As we strolled around the Bosch set, we were staggered by the level of detail and authenticity given to the “LAPD Hollywood Station” in which the actors perform. We met an ex-LAPD officer who acted as technical consultant, and he indicated that at times he felt as if he were right back at work. It was easy to understand why producing a TV series such as Bosch is so costly and time-consuming, with many skilled technicians involved in bringing Connelly’s work to the screen.
Here are a couple of exclusive clips to illustrate the filming process:
Stopping to have coffee with actor Jamie Hector, who worked on The Wire and now plays Jerry Edgar, Harry Bosch’s partner, I found myself tongue-tied and overwhelmed by the whole Hollywood experience. At that moment, from the corner of my eye, I saw Titus Welliver appear on the set. He seemed preoccupied, in a trance-like state, walking and mumbling, and I whispered to Larry Gandle, “He’s getting into character.” In response, Larry said, “No shit, Sherlock!” As Titus went through his moves, I spotted what looked like a child’s skeleton resting on a gurney, and drew Connelly’s attention to it. “That’s not real, Ali,” he assured me. I must have looked a little worried.
Connelly explained that the new Bosch series combines elements from his 1994 novel, The Concrete Blonde, but the spine of those 10 episodes (please pardon the pun) is based on City of Bones. Then he smiled and said to me, “If you remember, it was on the launch of City of Bones that we first met.” I have to admit that finding myself on a film set in L.A., watching an adaptation of City of Bones, the first book I interviewed Connelly about, was more than a tad weird.
But my daydreaming was suddenly upset by the approach of Titus Welliver, who’d wandered over to our little group. Connelly introduced us all: “Titus, these guys are very old friends of mine.” As we shook hands, Welliver noticed our English accents and said, “Hands across the ocean.” I laughed and replied, doing my best Bob Hoskins impersonation, “The Long Good Friday,” to which he responded with a laugh, “You know your movies, man.”
Later, I shared a smoke with Titus outside the studio, the two of us (despite my own best efforts) being inveterate tobacco users. We talked some more about films, and he was very amused by my anecdote concerning the use of a Hoskins impersonation to escape personal injury, which comes from an encounter Roger Ellory and I had during Bouchercon in Baltimore back in 2008.
As this surreally enjoyable day was finally winding to a close, Mike Connelly took Roger, Mike Stotter, Larry, and I out for dinner at an eatery not from Red Studios. Over wine and desert I quizzed the author about the task he faced in casting Harry Bosch for the small screen. Connelly explained that finding the right actor to portray Bosch had been difficult, as they needed someone who could command the stage in minimalist fashion (i.e., have an expressive persona). Welliver was ultimately deemed the perfect fit, though I’d always imagined Bosch as being chunkier or bulkier, not so svelte as Welliver. When I told Connelly that, he smiled and said, “Funny you mention that. Just after we cast Titus as Bosch, I did get a call from James Gandolfini [of The Sopranos fame], who said he was a huge fan of the Harry Bosch novels.” He told Connelly, “Yes, I know I’m a little heavy, but believe me, I could be a great Harry Bosch.” Connelly looked at me with a bit of sadness as he said, “Though we cast Titus, I was flattered by the call from Tony Soprano. But either way, I very was saddened to hear of his passing [in 2013].” It’s fitting at least that crime-fiction enthusiast Gandolfini’s last, posthumous role was in The Drop, a movie based on Dennis Lehane’s short story “Animal Rescue.”
Titus Welliver and Jamie Hector star in Bosch.
After dinner, we thanked Michael Connelly for a most excellent afternoon, and drove back to our Bouchercon hotel in Long Beach. The bar there was packed, and many of its inhabitants clapped as we took our seats–it seems they’d been following our adventures in Hollywood via my obsessive Facebook postings. Even my wife, who is rarely excited by my adventures in crime and thriller fiction, was checking Facebook to see what I was up to in California. When I called home the next morning, she exclaimed, “How the hell did you end up in Hollywood with the actor from The Good Wife?”
Mimicking Michael Connnelly’s self-deprecating manner, I replied, “It’s a long story, but basically, I’m a lucky bloke.” And as we talked, I heard this song in my head.
* * *
Now accelerate forward three months. I’m back in England again, when Connelly calls me up out of the blue. He has arranged for Mike Stotter and me to preview the opening four episodes of Bosch. This is prior to the author’s arrival in London last week, accompanied by Titus Welliver, for a press screening of that series’ first episode and a question-and-answer session.
By the time Connelly and Welliver reach the British capital, they’re keen to hear our thoughts on the new show, and they delight in our excitement at what we have seen. It’s my humble opinion that Bosch is the cure for the anxiety True Detective fans have experienced since the end of that program’s initial season. Bosch offers polished production values and a main title sequence that beautifully combines jazz with stunning visuals of Los Angeles. The writing is fast-paced, but scenes still rely on Welliver’s expressive visage and thoughtful interpretation of Harry Bosch. The series’ story arc starts with elements of The Concrete Blonde, as our hero finds himself under the scrutiny of LAPD Internal Affairs detectives, following the shooting of a sexual predator. The supporting cast members are quite remarkable, with the young Jamie Hector being a perfect foil for the world-weary Bosch. Mimi Rogers, with her wholly disingenuous smile, is outstanding as a nasty lawyer who’s gunning for Bosch. As for the cinematography … well, let me say that the crystal-clear HD digital filming is slicker than one of Bosch’s bullets.
As the episodes progress, their story weaves into the plot we know from City of Bones. As Connelly told us over dinner in L.A., he needed a narrative thread that would allow the series to introduce Bosch’s background, both his military history (which for the TV show is updated to the Iraq/Afghanistan conflicts, and the tunnels of Southeast Asia in the novels are updated to the desert caves in Tora Bora) and his fractured and abusive childhood. City of Bones’ plot places Bosch’s life into perspective, as he hunts the murderer of a child, one who was badly abused–just as Bosch had been, following his mother’s murder when Harry was 12 years old. Thus, our eponymous sleuth finds the case particularly personal, which allows Connelly, Lankford and Co. to slowly “show,” rather than “tell” Bosch’s back story. What I find especially stimulating about Bosch are the little gems that pepper its narrative–references to other books, for instance, such as the 2003 Bosch novel Lost Light. I noticed that novelist George Pelecanos (who worked previously on The Wire) is among the writers on Episode 4 (“Fugazi”), and there is an amusing reference to “shoedog,” as well as an in-joke inserted by Connelly himself.
I actually watched the pilot/first episode of Bosch last year, when it premiered on Amazon Prime and viewers were asked to determine the show’s future. But I’d heard it had been re-edited, and so I watched all of the first four episodes back to back. My conclusion? Bosch is exceptional and deep, like True Detective, and utterly compelling, with Welliver doing a splendid job of filling Harry Bosch’s shoes. To say much more would only spoil the many surprises coming this weekend as Bosch’s inaugural season rolls out.
After the recent press screening in London, Amazon hosted a Q&A session with Connelly and Welliver, which I recorded for Rap Sheet readers in four sections:
Amazon’s plan is to release all 10 episodes of Bosch, beginning today, the day before Valentine’s Day–a perfect gift for crime-fiction fans. They’ll be available through Amazon Prime Instant Video in the USA, the UK, and Germany. Learn more about the Instant Video service here. And you can sign up for an Amazon Prime free 30-day trial period here. In Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Norway, you can watch via HBO Nordic; weekly episodes will begin on February 14. In Canada, stream via CraveTV; all 10 episodes will be available on February 14. In New Zealand, watch via Sky Television–the debut date not yet determined. In Italy, watch via Eagle Pictures; again, the start date is still to be determined. In Germany, you will be able to also stream a dubbed version of the show via Amazon Prime Instant Video, beginning in June. More updates for other countries are yet to come. More information is available here.
(Editor’s note: The piece below comes from Nancie Clare, who co-created, along with Leslie S. Klinger, the podcast series Speaking of Mysteries. She was also a co-founder of the single-issue iPad publicationNoir Magazine, and is the former editor in chief of LA, The Los Angeles Times Magazine. Clare last wrote for The Rap Sheet about the 2013 Bloody Scotland crime-writing festival.)
The invitation came through on January 22 to the debut screening of Bosch, a live-action Amazon Prime series based on Michael Connelly’s novels about Los Angeles police detective Harry Bosch. If you’re as wild about Harry as I have been–and as just about every reader of procedurals is–then seeing the character come to the screen after such a “tortuous journey” (Connelly’s own words in an interview I did with him in 2012) was a watershed event.
From my interviews with Mike Connelly, I already knew some of the genesis of the series. When I spoke with him in September 2012, just before The Black Box was published, he and executive producer Henrik Bastin and screenwriter Eric Overmyer had already met and were getting started on the project. They hadn’t yet cast Titus Welliver in the title role, but the rights to the Harry Bosch character had already been secured. For those of you who don’t know the story, Connelly sold the rights to Bosch to Paramount Pictures, a decision he doesn’t regret as it gave him the means to quit his day-job as an L.A. Times reporter and become a full-time fiction writer. But in spite of numerous scripts, a Bosch film never came to pass. When the 15-year term of his contract was over, Connelly sued Paramount to get the rights back. The price to reclaim his own character? Three million dollars. He had three years to pay up.
Maybe it was for the best. In the interim, basic cable outlets such as AMC, TNT, and USA, as well as premium outlets such as HBO and Showtime, and streaming newcomers Netflix and Amazon, had all changed the game by creating quality series in the mystery and thriller genre, shows on the order of Breaking Bad, The Killing, The Wire, Justified, The Bridge, House of Cards, and The Americans. Movies weren’t the only way to bring a character to life and, in many ways, the story of cop Harry Bosch lent itself to a multi-episodic arc instead of a movie.
(Left) Author Michael Connelly
But back to Bosch.
Michael Connelly is a best-selling author everywhere, but he has a special place in the hearts of those of us who live in L.A. Yeah, I know, Connelly now lives in Tampa, Florida, but Harry Bosch is a creature born and bred in my hometown. Bosch is L.A.
So, what better place to premiere Bosch last week than at the ArcLight Cinerama Dome on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood? It was a fitting as it could get.
Things got off to a good start. In every cup holder at every seat in the place was a pair of commemorative Bosch mirrored aviator sunglasses. How cool was that?
I had already watched the Bosch pilot episode, released on Amazon last year, and for those of you who also saw it, I would highly recommend seeing it again. It has been recut and makes much more sense as the launch of a 10-episode story arc.
I knew as soon as I saw the opening credits that this TV production team got it. With a jazz soundtrack (which was to be expected, considering Harry Bosch’s legendary taste in music), the opening takes us through the city of L.A. in a through-the-looking glass, up-is-down/down-is-up mirror-image montage that I think does a great job of setting the tone that in this city, things are rarely what they seem.
The plot line–at least in the first two episodes, shown during the premiere–weaves together elements of at least three Harry Bosch novels: Echo Park, The Concrete Blonde, and what may be one of my favorites of all time, 2002’s City of Bones. It’s a good mix. There’s the internecine battle going on within a police department that thinks nothing of throwing someone who hasn’t played ball under the bus, the conflicted relationship the police have with Hollywood (there’s a snarky little aside about Harry having sold a story that was made into a film; the movie was terrible, but the fee enabled Harry to buy his house with the view), and an examination of the challenges L.A. police face in regard to their city’s geography, both physical and philosophical.
Going into the experience, I have to admit I wasn’t sure about Titus Welliver as Harry. I’m happy to report, I was wrong. Every single Connelly fan has a picture in his or her mind of Harry Bosch, and when a face is put to that character, it can be jarring. (Personally, I envisioned Harry as more of a Vincent D’Onofrio type, circa Law & Order: Criminal Intent.) Even Connelly admitted during a short introduction, which he presented in company with Henrik Baston and Eric Overmyer before the screening, that Harry had been his–but now he would be Titus Welliver’s. Thankfully, Titus captures Bosch’s stubbornness, commitment, sense of justice and, at least after an exchange with Alan Rosenberg (who plays the medical examiner in this series), his secular humanism. Titus is believable in a way that makes him own Harry’s personality.
The rest of the cast is built with solid character actors, including such veterans of The Wire as Jamie Hector, playing Bosch’s partner, and Lance Reddick as Deputy Chief Irvin Irving. Amy Aquino is especially good as Bosch’s lieutenant, who appreciates him for the good police that he is, at the same time as she bemoans what a pain in the ass he can be. Even characters who could easily slip into “dumb cop” caricatures, Detectives “Crate and Barrel” (Troy Evans as Detective Johnson and Gregory Scott Cummins as Detective Moore), are more than meet the eye. Their handling of possible serial killer Raynard Waits, played by an excellently creepy Jason Gedrick, is subtle but very slick. And, although the romance between Harry and ambitious rookie cop Julie Basher, played by Annie Wersching, is only in its nascent stages by the end of the second episode, I have a feeling that story arc is going to evolve nicely.
An official trailer for Amazon’s Bosch
After the screening, everyone who attended was invited to a party across the street at a restaurant/club called Lune. And, it being a Tuesday night, dress code-wise it was a pretty casual affair. But fun. Most of the cast along with Connelly, Henrik Bastin, and Eric Overmyer showed up to nosh on sliders and mac-and-cheese, and partake of the open bar. No VIP corners for this crowd; everyone was out and about and chatting with guests and graciously receiving their props. I cut out early, though, since I’m a party lightweight and it was a school night.
All 10 episodes of Bosch will be available for streaming through the Amazon Prime service, beginning this coming Friday, February 13. The show is definitely worth the price of admission if you’ve been on the fence about joining Amazon’s delivery-and-streaming mash-up. And, hey, nothing says “Happy St. Valentine’s Day” better than a binge watching of Bosch.
You knew it was only a matter of time before something like this happened, right? As Omnimystery News explains:
Amazon Studios has ordered a pilot based on a character created by crime novelist Michael Connelly. Titled Bosch, it will be centered on LAPD homicide detective Harry Bosch, first introduced in the 1992 novel The Black Echo, which won the Edgar Award for Best First Novel the following year.
Deadline reports that Connelly co-wrote the pilot screenplay, though it isn’t clear if it is an original story or based on one of the novels in the series.
A hearty congratulations is due Michael Connelly. I’m only surprised it has taken this long to fashion a TV series from his very popular Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch books.
* * *
Speaking of small-screen endeavors, the British TV series DCI Banks, starring
Stephen Tompkinson as author Peter Robinson’s longtime Yorkshire cop, Alan Banks, has been renewed for a third series (aka season). Production on a trio of two-part episodes is scheduled, beginning in August of this year. Those episodes will be based on the novels Wednesday’s Child, Piece of My Heart, and Bad Boy.
In the UK, DCI Banks started showing in 2010, but here in the States, series I and II didn’t debut until this last January, running back to back. Series III is being prepared for broadcast in the UK next year, but there’s no news yet on when it might reach these shores.
He was known by many of us in the writing biz—and cherished. You arrived in his store and felt like royalty. He not only actually read your books, he generously and knowledgeably expressed his enjoyment of them. He knew what you were up to and respected it. His encouragement crackled in his voice and in his eyes.
Ed Kaufman spoiled me. After my first acquaintance with him, I suspected—or more appropriately, I suppose, hoped—that his level of intelligence, energy, and personal fondness might propel me along like the current of a river throughout my career. If only. Men like Ed are rare. Which is why his passing hits so hard.
More than once he came at me like a buzzsaw: “Where’s the next book?!” For a slowboat writer like me, it was half pat on the back, half kick in the pants. But I knew he was saying it because he genuinely believed my books were worth reading, not just putting on the shelf.
He also offered me the chance to introduce and interview writers like Michael Connelly and Richard Price, two men I very much admire.
He was the quirky uncle with a steel-trap mind and the metabolism of a dervish. His smile engulfed you, and his handshake was always warm and strong. I’m sure he could be prickly and impossible and self-absorbed at times—like I’m one to talk—and his employees were no doubt more long-suffering than we might imagine. His manager, Pam Stirling, remains one of the people in the book business whose warmth and appreciation remain among my fondest memories as a writer, and the other members of his staff, Jen and Ann and Warn and Charlotte, were always so welcoming and kind.
He closed the bookstore in December, 2011, and it felt like someone had dropped a nuclear bomb in the business. You can imagine what his death feels like.
There were two lovely obits online, one in the San Francisco Chronicle, the other in the The Daily Journal, and they flesh out his prior years—his growing up in Ohio, his service in the military as a plainclothes Counter Intelligence Corps officer, the chance to serve as clerk to US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart that Ed turned down because he needed to make more money for his family, his longtime work as a lawyer in Los Angeles, his passion for art and opera—and his marriage to Jeannie, whom most of us got to know as well: She was the lovely, witty, wise-cracking counterpoint to Ed’s almost boyish enthusiasms.
In 2012 the Mystery Writers of America bestowed on Ed the Raven Award for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing. But awards only say so much. Here are some words from other writers to give you an idea of what he meant to us all:
I am so very sad. I loved Ed, loved his drive, his manners, his charm and energy. He built a great business and you could see he just loved it when an author grew almost right in front of him. I was so nervous on my first visit there, with my first book, that I almost passed out. And a few years later, after a packed event during which I signed about 85 books, he put a few hundred more books in front of me to sign and date — and I almost passed out again, this time with shock! But it was always nothing but a pleasure to do anything for him, because he was a wonderful supporter of authors and of the mystery. That sparkle of passion was always there, even if he seemed weary the last time I saw him.—Jacqueline Winspear
Here’s my favorite Ed story: I was once in M is for Mystery talking to Ed and I saw a copy of The Kite Runner on the front table. I looked at him and said, “Really Ed? The Kite Runner in a mystery store?” And he kind of grumbled and said, “There’s a kidnapping in it. Besides, as far as I’m concerned, if someone in the story gets a parking ticket, it’s a crime novel.” —Mark Haskell Smith
What a champion he was of first-time authors, and how loyal. I remember how supportive he was so early on and how it never wavered. Then, as recently as August, he called me at home out of the blue to congratulate me on a review. Whenever I saw him we talked about his love of opera. When he spoke of it, his face just lit up from within.—Megan Abbott
I always looked forward to visiting Ed Kaufman. He was a kind, enthusiastic, cultured man, with a love not only for the contents of books but for the artifact of the book itself. A generation of great booksellers is passing, and we will not see their likes again. —John Connolly
Ed Kaufman was a gentleman of the old school, unfailing in his support of authors at all stages of their careers. I treasure the memories of events I was honoured to participate in at M is For Mystery. He made me feel so welcome, and did so much to help bring my work to American readers. I shall always remember him with gratitude and great joy. —Zoë Sharp
I met Ed when I was in law school in the bay area, well before I ever realized my books would be among those in his store. He was my friend, and I will miss his big hugs and sweet laughs.—Alafair Burke
I had the tremendous honor of presenting a Raven Award to Ed in 2012. I have always thought of him as “The Mensch of Mystery,” and it was awfully nice to be able to honor him in return for his having hosted my very first signing at M is for Mystery. What a lovely, lovely man.—Cornelia Read
Ed was my hometown bookseller and a broke-the-mold guy. One of my highlights every year on tour was seeing him at the store. Because I’m from the Bay Area, he got to know my family and friends over the years and always remembered them and had a good word — and a book recommendation or two — for them. I miss him. —Gregg Hurwitz
Ed was such a gentleman, but always with that little twinkle in his eyes. He made me feel welcome, and special, and I’m sure he did the same for readers as well as authors. Most of all, you could feel his passion for books.—Deborah Crombie
I thought Ed treated me as a friend because he was an ex-New Yorker and a reader of The Wall Street Journal. Then I learned he treated everyone with warmth and friendship. He was a sweet man who was a joy to visit and a tireless advocate for authors whose work he admired. I miss him and am so glad we met.—Jim Fusilli
Ed was a leprechaun of a bookseller; kind and mischievous, delighted by literary finds both bound and unbound (in the form of the visiting authors), he regarded books and writers as gold to be treasured, promoted and championed. Ed and the staff at M is for Mystery—Pam Stirling, the manager, Ann, Charlotte, Jen—were like a family to me. I’ll miss him—and the wonderful Xanadu they built together–forever. —Kelli Stanley
Ed was a superb lawyer, an extraordinary bookseller, a wise counselor and a supportive friend. He will be greatly missed.—Sheldon Siegel
When I interviewed Ed K last year to write something up for the Edgar Awards program – he was awarded the prestigious and well-deserved Raven – I met him for coffee which turned into Ed taking me to lunch, yes that was Ed, but in all the years I knew him I realized I didn’t know where his love of books came from. So I asked him. ‘Years ago when I was a young lawyer I travelled all the time. Always on the road, my family at home. But I discovered bookstores. From then on I was never without a book under my arm – airports, waiting rooms, hotels, conference breaks in law offices. A book was always my companion. Then as now you won’t find me without a book under my arm.’ That’s how I always remember Ed, holding a book. —Cara Black
When my first book came out I got a phone call from Ed, inviting me to sign at his store. I was new and completely unknown and felt so honored that he’d asked me. Never mind that only a couple of people showed up. Ed has been a dear friend ever since and even ordered me to bring my Celtic harp to play once. If you know how shy I am about playing instruments in public you’ll know in what high regard I held him. His passing has left a hole in my heart.—Rhys Bowen
Ed made new writers feel incredibly valued, cherished. I’ll always cherish him for that!—Pari Noskin Taichert
When my first book came out, Ed read my industry reviews and then took the initiative to contact my publisher and request to host my book launch (shown here).
I remember how he toured me, my husband, and our pug around his shop. My stage fright soon melted away in the warmth of Ed’s welcome. He made this first book event so special for me. He even taught me how to sign my books. Such a mensch! Ed loved literature and was a true champion of authors. He had a keen intellect and a big heart. I’m sure that everyone who knew Ed was all the better for it — and Ed knew a lot of people! —Cynthia Robinson
What I remember most is Ed’s infectious passion for mystery writers and anyone who shared his passion. Ed made me feel like I’d finally found my clan. I think that’s why the local chapter of MWA always held their Christmas party there. Being in that store and standing among those bookshelves, seeing your name on the spines of some of the books and listening to Ed’s stories, that was as big a thrill as getting published for the first time. He made a small bookstore in a small town a destination, because Ed was the destination.
Ed was also a great connector. He called me several times, sometimes at the last minute, to guest-host a number of author events, either at the store or occasionally at the local library. Usually they were authors I knew, but sometimes he just had an instinct an event would work if he threw certain authors together, and he was always right. I made some great friends at those events because Ed had a matchmaker’s eye for people with shared passions. He was a great soul, and whatever bookshelf he gets in heaven, I hope it stretches as far as his reach did on Earth. He’s the kind of guy we should all write stories about. —Tim Maleeny
As a final note: I posted the following on my website in 2007 when the publication of my third novel coincided with Ed’s birthday:
I and a number of other northern California mystery writers—including Rhys Bowen, Ann Parker, Camille Minichino, Nadia Gordon, Tony Broadbent, Tim Maleeny, Kirk Russell, and Dylan Schaffer—threw a surprise birthday party on Friday evening, March 23rd, for Ed Kaufman, the owner of M is for Mystery in San Mateo, one of the premier crime and mystery bookstores in the country.
The evening was billed as a reading for my new novel, Blood of Paradise, but when Ed and I booked the date, he let it slip that it was his birthday, and the scheming began.
Ed’s wife Jeannie, store manager Pam Stirling, and the rest of the M is for Mystery staff were in on the caper, and even though Ann and Camille, with all the best intentions in the world, almost blew the surprise by walking in a bit early with balloons, Ed didn’t catch on until the cake appeared. (Though he did, in introducing me, express a little surprise that so many folks had turned out for my event—hmm.) Cara Black and Steve Hockensmith, unable to attend because of other obligations, nonetheless sent congratulations from afar, and a grand time was had by all (even Tilly and Morgan, the canine celebrants). The inscription on the cake read, “M is for Mensch,” and truer words were never written—certainly not with icing. Many happy returns, Ed!
As it turned out, there were only five more happy returns. Far too few.
You’re missed, Mr. K. More than even a bunch of writers can say.
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If you have any words or a recollection of Ed you’d like to share, please feel free.
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Jukebox Hero of the Week: In honor of Ed’s abiding love of opera, here’s Angela Gheorghiu in a live performance of Puccini’s “Vissi d’arte,” from Tosca. (Yes, it’s a crime story—she sings this aria right before murdering the villain, Scarpia):
Bonus Track: Ed’s wife, Jeannie, when we emailed back and forth about possible arias, said, “just about any aria from Puccini’s ‘La Boheme’ — such as ‘Che gelida la manina’ (“…how cold is your little hand…” he flirts) and Pavarotti never disappoints. And neither does Puccini.”
When I told her I was thinking of Puccini’s “Vissi d’arte,” she responded, “Oh, Vissi d’arte even better! Of course — I lived for art, etc. etc. How silly of me not to think of that! (though Ed loved the schmaltz of the Boheme youthful flirtation).”
So, in honor of Ed’s love of schmaltzy youthful flirtation — as well as crime:
I’ve been having a vacation and reading all sorts of books and graphic novels (I really liked Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, which I’d never read), but it seems I’m running out of time to read all the books I meant to. I’m blaming Dean Koontz, whose Watchers I’ve been reading. It’s a pretty good horror thriller, but it’s too long! (I’ll get back to the book shortly, once I’ve finished it.)
But Michael Connelly’s Echo Park (2006; Sokkelokuja in Finnish) I finished with ease. Connelly is real comfort reading to me, and I don’t mind saying that, since he’s also always got some edge in his books. Connelly handles his dark materials (sic) easily but with verve, and his writing is smooth and simple without being simplistic. He’s not a great stylist like Chandler or a great innovator like Ellroy, but he does very well what he does. His plots are also intricate and they involve some deep stuff without being heavy-handed or didactic.
Echo Park isn’t one of the best Connellys (the plot is a bit too straightforward), but I still liked the heck out of it. I’m not so fond of Connelly’s Terry McCaleb or Mickey Haller books, but Harry Bosch is a favourite. I remember when I interviewed Connelly and he said he’s always imagined Donald Sutherland as the film version of Bosch. This may seem weird, but not long ago I watched Claude Chabrol’s rarely-seen Ed McBain film Blood Relatives with Donald Sutherland. He’s very good and convincing as McBain’s Steve Carella, who’s a blueprint for all the film cops. I can see him as Bosch, no problem.
Michael Connelly’s 17th Harry Bosch novel, The Black Box, won’t even be released in the States until November. However, it has already won Spanish publishing company RBA’s 2012 Novela Negra Prize.
As British blogger Rhian Davies explains, “The prize money of €125,000 is for the best unpublished work in the genre, recognizing the confidence RBA has in its authors–both well-known and those waiting to be discovered. The competition is open to works written in any language with a translation into Spanish or English.” Previous recipients of this commendation are: Patricia Cornwell (2011), Harlan Coben (2010), Philip Kerr (2009), Andrea Camilleri (2008), and Francisco González Ledesma (2007).
“Most people think that because I write books that I must be reading books all the time. Not true. On one hand, you have to always be reading. It refills the tank, stimulates ideas and inspires. It’s important. The only problem is it can be intrusive to your own work. So when I am writing I am usually reading sparingly. I am lucky in that I get sent a lot of books to read. I look them over and put the one I want to read to the side for later. That is, if I can wait. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump on a book as soon as I pick it up at the store or it comes in the mail.”
I seem to be on a cycle in which I finish books in early summer for a late fall release. It happened again this year – much, I’m sure, to my editor’s frustration. I’ve just finished up my next novel The Black Box, blowing all kinds of deadlines in the process. The frustrating part for my editor and copyeditor is that the longer I take, the less time they have to work their magic and make the book better.
But I have no worry this year or any year. The team that works on these books is the best and the book is in very good hands.
What’s been nice for me is that it turns summer into a real vacation for me. I don’t want to start my next book, even though I am thinking about it all the time, until all the editing and polishing of The Black Box is finished. That gives me time to catch up on books and movies and other projects. So then, here is an update on how I spent my summer vacation.
First, reading list. Most people think that because I write books that I must be reading books all the time. Not true. On one hand, you have to always be reading. It refills the tank, stimulates ideas and inspires. It’s important. The only problem is it can be intrusive to your own work. So when I am writing I am usually reading sparingly. I am lucky in that I get sent a lot of books to read. I look them over and put the one I want to read to the side for later. That is, if I can wait. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump on a book as soon as I pick it up at the store or it comes in the mail.
This has been a good summer for me. Reading both old and new books and even new old books (I’ll explain later), I have not been disappointed.
One book that really popped for me was Michael Koryta’s new novel The Prophet. Koryta seems to be one of the young writers everybody’s watching. He wrote some early private eye stuff that I really liked. He then flexed his muscles and took a few swings at some horror-tinged stuff. I liked his ghost stories but between you and me I was waiting for him to come back to crime. He has done that with The Prophet but in a big way with a big story about brothers that sprawls across a couple decades. This is a pitch over the plate to me. I call them time travel stories. Not because there is any sci-fi here, but because they are stories about how the past informs the present, how it reaches right across time and grabs someone by the collar. Koryta has done it here and I count this as his best book yet.
I also had a good time reading Alafair Burke’s latest, Never Tell, toting it with me across Italy on a half work/half vacation trip. Burke also returns to roots with one of her series characters, Ellie Hatcher. You can’t go wrong there.
One of the highlights of the summer was returning to Catcher in the Rye through the eyes of my daughter who was assigned the J.D. Salinger novel on her school’s summer read list. Also on there was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which was fun because about six years ago John signed a copy of his book An Abundance of Katherines to my daughter and gave it to me, saying she should wait a few years before reading it. She’s doing that now.
The new old book I just finished reading was the latest from James M. Cain. That’s right, James M. Cain. The Cocktail Waitress was the last novel he wrote but it was never published and parts sat hidden in an agent’s file and the Library of Congress. The lost novel was tracked down by Publisher/Editor Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime and will be published later this summer. I wrote a review of the book for the New York Times.
There’s a couple other books out there on the horizon and will be published fairly soon. I am reading ahead of the curve because I get galleys of soon to be published novels sent to me. One of the perks of the job. Dick Wolf, the creator of all those Law and Order shows and spinoffs, has finally written a novel and its pretty damn good. The Intercept is a cool introduction to Jeremy Fisk, a detective with NYPD’s Intelligence Division.
And a perennial favorite of mine, Stephen Hunter, has a book coming soon that is sure to make a splash. The Third Bullet is a contemporary story that draws us back to the Kennedy assassination fifty years ago. The book is imaginative and riveting. I loved what Stephen King did with the Kennedy Assassination in 11/23/63 and Hunter’s book is equally up to the task of telling a dramatic fictional story from such a monumental moment in history.
Next up for me will be Megan Abbott’s new one, Dare Me. I can’t wait to get into that.
This summer has scene some pretty good progress on a pair of non-book projects that are near and dear to me. First up, the documentary I am helping to produce – Sound of Redemption; the Frank Morgan Project – is coming along nicely. Director NC Heiken began filming interviews of those who knew the gifted but troubled jazzman and gathering archival material. There is already enough there to make me very excited about this film that will examine and honor Frank’s life. We are now gearing up for the second half of filming this fall and the film should be finished in early 2013. This started out as a labor of love. I liked Frank a lot and loved his music. He was very giving to me as he was to many others. I felt his story should be told and now it is. But it is being told at a level I think is much better and beyond what I could have imagined. NC and her crew have really taken the project close to heart and I think something special will come of it.
Talk about things close to the heart, I am very excited these days about the prospects of seeing Harry Bosch realized as a character on television. It’s been a long journey but finally this year I wrested control of the rights to the character back. After much due diligence and cautious effort, the basis of a very credible production of the Bosch stories is taking form. I’ve partnered up with Eric Overmyer, a wonderful writer, and a production company called Fuse. Our group goal is to keep the integrity of Bosch and the stories as they go from the written page to the small screen. I think it can be done and I think this is the team to do it.
Henrik Bastin, the producer at Fuse, impressed me as the man to trust Harry Bosch with from the day I met him. We had breakfast in a Hollywood coffee shop. Henrik came in and put the cartridge of a rifle bullet down on the table. He said, “This is the kind of detail we must put into any Harry Bosch show.” Of course, I knew he was referencing the jar of bullet casings Harry collects at the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty. It told me a lot about what drew Henrik to the books and it made me excited. Now that Eric has joined the project I guess I am off the page with hope for something special. Stay tuned for ongoing developments.