Monday, April 18, 2011

What I Am Reading Now-"The Lincoln Lawyer" By Michael Connelly

"The Lincoln Lawyer" was a book club pick timed to coincide with an appearance of the author at the local Jewish Community Center.  I generally partake of romance and literary fiction. I can't remember the last crime mystery I read, so this was a bit of an adventure for me.  I have to add that it is impossible for me to write about this book without including my impressions of hearing Michael Connelly speak because his interview so strongly influenced how I felt about the book after reading it.

So I read the book and I thought it was pretty good, not "Oh My God I have to read everything ever written by this man," but pretty good.  I thought the main character Mickey Haller was interesting, not an archetype, but a realistic and flawed character with doubts.  But even though he was a little slimy, he was likable and you routed for him.  One of the really interesting things is that although this novel is written in the first person and narrated by Mickey Haller, he still withholds information from the reader.  For instance he doesn't reveal that it was he who arranged for a certain witness to possess information that incriminated his client until the wrap up at the end.  When Mickey tells you how he did it, you see when he did it, you just don't realize that was what he was up to at the time.  It was also ironic that the guy who totally worked the system to get a specific end result got worked by detectives on their end of the system to wrap the whole thing up.

What really affected me was hearing Michael Connelly speak about the book and his writing process in general.  What hit me most profoundly as a reader and a writer was that he creates strife for his main characters on every level.  "There has to be conflict on every page," I think the quote went.  The different levels of external and internal friction is what makes the characters realistic and interesting.  And I could see it in this book.  Mickey Haller had conflict every where you looked.  There was the over arching external "who dun it" questions that had to be resolved, but also a myriad of other internal pressures that Mickey dealt with in his everyday life: Guilt over the type of father he was, still loving his ex-wife, not really being able to afford his house, knowing that his clients were guilty and defending them anyway, and one of the main ones, fear of not recognizing innocence.  All of these things played out on every page making Mickey Haller a realistic and sympathetic character.  After all, who has not agonized over whether we were making the right financial or parenting decisions?

As a writer I was so inspired by this interview.  Once again it comes back to just sitting down and writing.  Mr. Connelly publishes three books every two years, a phenomenal rate of work.  He said, "I know the beginning and the end and I make up everything else in between."  That is the way I feel about my novel.  I know how it starts and how it ends but I have to connect those two dots.  That, frankly, is what I have been struggling with.  I found his simplicity refreshing.  He doesn't wait for his characters to speak to him he completely controls the process from beginning to end.  Once again, for the millionth time, I was reminded to be Nike and just do it.  Just sit down and write.

I bought the first Harry Bosch novel "The Black Echo," and had it signed.  That was another thing that totally impressed me.  After a full day of two or three appearances, Mr. Connelly stayed and spoke to everyone in line and signed every book.  It was well after ten o'clock at night when he was finally finished.  While he was signing my book I asked him about a flub regarding the number of books he had written.  He emphasized in the interview that he had published twenty-three books.  So I asked him, "You published twenty-three books, how many have you written?"  The answer was twenty-five.  The first two were just not up to snuff in his opinion. Then I mentioned I was starting with the first Harry Bosch book because I like to read a series in order to better understand the character's history.  Mr. Connelly said, "I understand why you want to do that, but I like to think the writing gets better with the later books."  It was reminiscent of what he said on "Castle":  "I wrote a best seller then I wrote twenty-two more."  It is heartening to know even a New York Times best selling author still looks to improve, still wants an honest editor, still is on that journey.

So I may not have started out to be a huge Michael Connelly fan, and I may not have been one after reading "The Lincoln Lawyer."  But after seeing him in person, I am thinking, "Oh My God! I have to read everything this man has ever written." I want to see the journey he is taking.  Maybe it will be a reflection of my own.

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