Bestselling crime fiction author Michael Connelly, currently based in LA, shares insights on his latest book, The Dark Hours, the latest in the Renee Ballard series.
Greater LA is a constant location for Michael Connelly novels – why does it give so much to you?
It’s a fast moving, evolving place. That gives you a lot to choose from, good and bad, when you are trying to wrap a plot around a character and a city. Because most people here come from somewhere else, there is a transient nature to the place. People looking for something they couldn’t find back home. That’s good stuff for writing fiction.
The Dark Hours is set earlier this year in the pandemic. What notable changes did you see?
Los Angeles, just like most of the world, has been drastically changed in the last year. You mention the pandemic, but there was also the George Floyd case, which resulted in many days of protest and some violence here. The message of those protests, and the scourge of the pandemic, has changed a lot of how we view law enforcement from both inside and outside the department. I tried to get that into the book.
The Dark Hours is a good entry point to start reading the Renee Ballard series – and in this book we really see Renee Ballard come into her own – she’s one kick-ass detective. How has Harry Bosch influenced her?
The quick answer is to say Harry is a kick-ass detective and she has learned from him. But the reality is that Ballard already has a certain fierceness in her DNA and Bosch is merely a mentor. He sees a lot of himself in her and he hopes to help her put it to its best use. And maybe he can help her avoid the troubles he got himself into.
What comes first – the crimes or the characters?
The characters come first. But sometimes you come up with a crime or a plot and you then have to decide which character it belongs to.
How do you know so much about the LAPD?
I was a reporter covering the LAPD earlier in my life and I think that gave me a basic knowledge of the culture but that was long ago and in the last 20 years I have gained the trust of a small group of detectives who help me try to get it right.
There are two crimes intertwined in this novel – where do you get your ideas from?
They come from all over the place. The murder case was somewhat inspired by a real murder investigation I was told about. The sexual assault investigation involving two perpetrators came from a report I read that analysed the rarity of cases involving two like-minded predators.
Does the Dark Web fascinate you?
Yes. I have come back to it repeatedly. I think this is because it’s a place where anything can happen.
You’ve written over 30 novels, and The Dark Hours is the fourth that features Renee Ballard. Is this series going to continue? We hope so! What is coming next?
It will continue. The Dark Hours ends with a big decision for Ballard. In the next book we’ll see what she has decided.
The Dark Hours by Michael Connelly was published November 2021 by Allen & Unwin. Find a copy in store at Roaring Stories Bookshop Balmain.