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Thursday, June 16, 2005

I'm reading the new Harry Bosch novel by Michael Connelly, The Closers. In it, Bosch returns to the LAPD after a three year hiatus or "retirement" and gets assigned to the Open-Unsolved unit, where they work "cold cases," his first almost twenty years old. I was looking forward to this book so much that I went out and bought the hardcover, breaking an unwritten rule I have for myself. No new hardcovers! I'd rather read a paperback anyway, a trade edition preferably. Hardcovers are unwieldy and not so portable, plus they are expensive, four times the price of your average paperback.

But Michael Connelly is one of those guys where it's worth it. Or should be. I have to be honest. I'm about two hundred pages in, and so far I'm not impressed. Connelly is always precise, almost clinical in his description. His characters can be over the top, but Bosch is soft-spoken, concilliatory even. And yet, there's something lacking in this one. Bosch, the character, is a servant to the plot, which moves briskly in an interesting police procedural manner, but what makes the whole Harry Bosch series work isn't the crimes or the investigation methods. It's Harry Bosch, his thoughts, what he's going through in his life, what he needs and how he fulfills those needs.

The son of a murdered prostitute, Harry Bosch was raised in an orphanage and grew up fast. He spent several years in Vietnam as a tunnel rat, perhaps not his formative years (those were with his mother, and after her death) but years that remain with him. For most of his professional life, he's been a Los Angeles detective, sometimes working Robbery-Homicide, sometimes North Hollywood. He's closed more than a few high-profile cases, and bought a nice house up in the Hollywood Hills with the proceeds of movie rights to the Dollmaker case (brilliantly portrayed in The Concrete Blonde). One of his ex-wives used to be an FBI agent turned bank robber, who also happens to be the mother of his daughter, a daughter he didn't know about until after she was born.

He's a damn interesting character...and I have to ask, where is he?? There's a passing mention of his daughter here and there, but so far no "on-screen" appearances. His love life? What love life. His personal life is hardly discussed. It's all about the case, the case, the case, which is okay, because the case is fairly interesting, but I miss Harry.

Hopefully, the real Harry Bosch will stand up soon and I won't feel like I wasted my dough on a damn hardcover.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

So I'm going to be lazy today and post something from the garage, a little excerpt from my tinkering on Chapter One. It's still in rough form and needs some tightening and polishing, but you can kick the tires and at least you can imagine the potential.

    It was a wet morning, gray skies, barely cold enough for ice to form. I stood under the awning so water wouldn’t drip on my head and leaned into the buzzer outside Abby’s building. A few seconds later there was a crackle and Abby’s tinny voice came through the intercom speaker. “Yeah?”
    “Abby, it’s me. Let me up.”
    The door buzzed as the lock clicked free and I pushed it open. A creaky stairway led me to the second floor, where Abby lived, third door on the left. The sizzle of someone cooking in one of the studio apartments was accompanied by the smell of hot grease and some kind of seafood.
    Abby had left the door ajar for me and I let myself in. The smell was stronger in the small contained space of her apartment, the sizzle coming from the kitchen.
    “Jesus Christ,” I swore, covering my nose. “What the hell is that?”
    “Calimari,” Abby said from the kitchen. “Want some?”
    “God no,” I said, moving to crack a window.
    Abby used some tongs and plucked the rings of calamari from the frying pan and set them on a paper plate covered with a paper towel. A drop of oil leapt out of the pan and landed on her hand. She winced, licked her fingers and shook them.
    She wasn’t looking like herself today. The girl standing in front of me wore no make-up and her hair was pulled back in a tie of unruly curls. She wore a pair of tight-fitting shorts and a tank top, both white, both molded to her figure like a second skin. This must have been what she looked like before she got into her rock star costume. The flashy clothes and wild hairstyles were gone, but she was just as beautiful as ever.
    “Sure you don’t want some? It’s good,” she said, holding a piece of calamari between two fingers. She blew on it before popping it into her mouth.
    “No thanks. Not into seafood.”
    “Suit yourself. Want some wine?”
    I thought about it for a moment. I’m not much into wine either, but I answered with a “Sure.” It was still early afternoon, so I intended to have only one glass.
    She retrieved a bottle of an unfamiliar merlot from the cupboard and poured two glasses, giving the bottle a little twist at the end of each pour, a habit from her bartender days I imagined. We clinked glasses and I took a sip as Abby gave it a shake and a sniff. The girl was serious about her wine.
    “Thanks for coming, Max,” she said tentatively, as if she needed that first drop of wine to gather the courage to say it. “I’m freaking out, I know, and I probably shouldn’t have called you, but I just feel safer with someone else here.” She paused, took another quick sip of her wine. “With you here.”
    “Twenty four seven,” I said. “That’s the language in the contract. So don’t worry about it. I’m here. You’re perfectly safe. Why don’t you sit down and tell me what got you so scared?”
    She grabbed her plate of calamari and her glass and went to the futon, which was the only place to sit besides the floor. She sat down, looked up at me. “Have a seat,” she said, patting the seat next to her. She must have seen something in my eyes because she said, “I won’t bite.”
    I sat next to her, setting my wine glass on the foot locker that served as the coffee table. I crossed my legs, throwing an arm over the back of the futon at first but I found that uncomfortable, so I changed positions.
    “Did you see him again?” I asked.
    “Yesterday.” Abby ate another piece of calamari, chewing on her words as much as the squid. “I was walking home from the bus stop, and I saw him as I rounded the corner to my building. He was sitting on the front stairs, smoking a cigarette.”
    “The stairs of your building?”
    “Yeah.”
    “Just sitting there.”
    “Yeah, I don’t know. Sitting there, smoking. When he saw me, he got up and walked away.”
    “He say anything to you?”
    “Nothing. He saw me and took off. I think I surprised him.”
    “Surprised him how?”
    “Like he was waiting for me and he didn’t expect me to just come walking up. He didn’t see me coming since I came around the back, so he was surprised when I came walking around that corner. There I was and he didn’t know what to do. So he split. I think he knows where I live now. Maybe not my apartment number, but at least the building.”
    “Shit,” I said. I could understand why she was scared. For the last few weeks, Abby’s comfortable Capitol Hill life had been disturbed by frequent sightings of a man living in her neighborhood that had begun to noticeably follow her. He never approached her or talked to her, just followed her from a half block away and turned up at odd times when she was least expecting him, like at the supermarket or on the same bus. He made attempts to conceal himself, but he had become too ardent in his stalking so they were not entirely successful. She called him the Creep, and now he was getting closer, even creepier.
    I pulled out the leatherbound notebook I kept in my pocket and clicked my pen. “Tell me what he looks like again.”
    “Five ninish, maybe. About my height. Thick, strong, but not ripped. Bulky. Short brown hair, brown eyes, white. He’s got a mustache and goatee, trimmed real close. Glasses, gold frames. Wears combat boots and jeans. T-shirts or sweat shirts, never anything with a collar.”
    “You know what he drives?”
    “I don’t think he does. I just see him walking.”
    “I’m going to have to do something about this, you know,” I said. Up till now, the job for Abby had consisted of accompanying her to bars, driving her around as she did her errands, and coming out on nightcalls when she was feeling particularly vulnerable. I had never seen the Creep, and had no reason to fear that he intended Abby harm. I figured he was just one of those dorky guys who fall in love with a woman they don’t know and gawk every time they see her. Creepy but harmless. But I didn’t consider the Creep harmless anymore, not if he’s waiting for her on her front steps.