Michael Connelly (AP photo)
Author Michael Connelly goes back to the news biz in his latest thriller, The Scarecrow (read Sun-Times review here), revisiting Los Angeles Times reporter Jack McEvoy, the hero of his 1996 novel The Poet.
Connelly, a former L.A. Timesman himself, did a little Q&A with the Associated Press, where he talked about the book and the current state of journalism.
Q: Did the idea for the new book just come to you or did you intentionally delve into it because of the state of journalism?
A: It was a little bit of both. I worked at three different papers in my career and I was hearing about cutbacks and buyouts and all that stuff at all the papers. Eventually word comes to your door. I heard from people who were pushed out or eventually took the buyouts, so on somewhat of a personal level it started to come close to me. And I'm also a big fan of the show "The Wire," and in their last season they had a B theme on the newspaper business. And watching that show I thought, well, I should check in on ... Jack McEvoy to see what he's been up to and kind of write a story about him that obviously would serve as a thriller first, then open up a window on what's happening in this business.
Q: Do you miss your days as a reporter?
A: I feel I'm functioning at some level as a journalist because even though I write fiction, I'm trying to get the world accurate. I act pretty much like a reporter. I'm trying to get the physical side of L.A., the places the story takes the reader, right. I go out there with my notebook and take pictures, take notes. So that function is still there. Deep in my heart it still feels like I'm a journalist even though I haven't worked for a paper and carried a press pass for 14 years.
Q: Does switching characters once in a while refresh things for you?
A: It does. I really think Harry Bosch is my main focus as a writer, but I can't write about him all the time. I think that's a quick way to end the series, to be 24-7 Harry Bosch. I need to take breaks, recharge the batteries on him. But I'm a writer. I don't like taking the year off from writing and recharging Harry. I'd rather just pursue something else, a different character. And there are things I want to write about that don't necessarily fit in the police detective type of story.
Q: Journalism is very different from when you were a reporter. What's your opinion on the state of the business?
A: When I wrote this book, my first draft was pretty much writing it from my experience, but I hadn't been a reporter for 14 years. So I ended up with this story and I showed it to some people who were in the business currently at the L.A. Times. They all said, 'You know, it's a good thriller but it's not like the business is now. It's changed since you've gone. You haven't even been in a newsroom in 10 years.' So I ended up being a reporter again. I interviewed them to find out how it's changed and tried to incorporate some of the new technology and all that into it. As far as my opinion goes, one of the reasons I wrote this story is it's a lament or a torch song for this shift in society where the newspapers are in this downward spiral. Hopefully it's not a death spiral. I don't know. I think there'd be huge losses if there weren't newspapers. I know everything's shifting to the Internet and some people would say, News is news, what you're talking about is a change of consumption, not the product that's out there.' But I think there is a change. A newspaper is the center of a community, it's one of the tent poles of the community, and that's not going to be replaced by Web sites and blogs.