Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Time to Shove 2013 Out the Door

I've heard very few comments from people about their desires to keep 2013 going forever. They seem to be more likely to say it would be wise to move forward.

After looking at a review of huge news stories I can certainly see why. It probably doesn't help that the news media business realizes that strife and conflict sell advertising. We witnessed bombings, floods, fires, typhoons, property and life destruction, continued strife in the Middle East, chemical weapons, and a Congress at home with the lowest ratings in history and no statesmen in sight. Those are only the top seven on my list. Of course, we also saw miracles too: children pulled from the rubble alive, acts of kindness, a royal baby, and a new Pope who seems to resemble the humility of his faith.

And, let me repeat, very few people have told me they
enjoyed this past year and they are ready for 2014.

If I could put in my own two cents' worth, at the risk of sounding like a grumpy senior citizen, I would add that I hope the world becomes a little warmer in 2014. No, I'm not talking about the weather or global warming. When I think about the past year, I remember so many situations where it became obvious to me that both technology and huge corporations are contributing to our lack of humanity and our increase in coldness. Trying to find anyone who will help you with a problem has become almost impossible. No one really seems to care.

Corporations are reaping tremendous profits at human costs. People are laid off because a streamlined company means lots more profit for those at the top. Downsizing leaves remaining employees to pick up the slack in the familiar 24-hour window with no pay increase and a lot less sleep. And if you have a problem with the phone company or the power company or your internet provider or your insurance company, good luck. You are simply one of millions and your problem is not their concern. This is especially true if they have no competition where you live.

Despite the new laws that govern cell phone use while driving, drivers continue to text and have accidents. Restaurants and homes are filled with families sitting around tables using their cell phones rather than having conversations. Go to any public park or
children's play area--like Discovery Depot back home in Illinois--and you will see parents sitting with their cell phones while their children play alone. An opportunity to learn together is once again thwarted. Please, don't get me started on video games and college students.

Oh, yes. Grumpy senior citizen emerges in this post. Time to tuck her away.

Instead, at the end of 2013, I will be grateful for the things over which I have some control that soften the whole first half of this post: children and grandchildren who continue to amaze me in so many ways; friends I have had for over thirty years who have given me gifts beyond imagining; the supportive colleagues with whom I have worked; a small town I love and enjoy returning to after the deep freeze of winter; the warm weather in Arizona that keeps my vitamin D level up;
my last aunt who died recently, joining a whole generation who raised me and is now gone but fondly remembered;
the people who have helped me along the way on this new writing career; the publishing company that said "yes"; and the authors who have inspired and taught me throughout my life.

There. I feel better.

Yes, perspective helps.

Bring on 2014 and may we all help make it a little warmer.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Seeking Mr. Connelly

It's been four years since I set out to see crime writer Michael Connelly at the Poisoned Pen Bookstore in Scottsdale. The creator of Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller, Connelly has generally launched his new books from here. Since he's written twenty-six novels, you'd
think I would have caught him sometime. But no. He's always here when I'm not. This year I laid my plans to be here ahead of him, and I succeeded.

Connelly has a new book called The Gods of Guilt. It's a Lincoln Lawyer (Mickey Haller) book and he's just
starting a tour to discuss it and sign copies. He spoke to an audience of several hundred people at the Arizona Biltmore last night (12/2) and was interviewed by Robert Anglen of the Arizona Republic. If you'd like to read an extension of that interview, check out this site: Anglen Interview.

The first Connelly book I read, years ago, was The Poet. I loved it. The story of a serial killer using clues from Edgar Allan Poe's writing, The Poet was a product of Connelly's crime reporting days working for newspapers. After that job in the early 90's, he became a writer full time and has written books primarily about two men: homicide detective Harry Bosch and defense lawyer Mickey Haller.

His new book, The Gods of Guilt, is the fifth Lincoln Lawyer book and it could be described as a character study. Mickey Haller is usually able to bend the law and use it to his advantage, but now, through a set of circumstances, he's dealing with an unhappy look back at his often shady legal career and what it has cost him. An attorney friend of Connelly's referred to a jury on a case he was discussing as "the gods of guilt" and it stuck with the author. But it refers to more than the jury in his new book. According to Connelly, lawyers leave law school with lots of noble ideals about the law, but Haller's stories show how lawyers handle cases and what really happens when they go to court. Not always a pretty picture.

An earlier Haller book, The Lincoln Lawyer, was made into a film starring Matthew McConaughey. Connelly was very complimentary about the job McConaughey did, but said the actor did not really resemble Heller physically, nor did Heller have a soft Southern accent.

Connelly's more heroic character is Harry Bosch who is easy to like because he is a good guy--a light going after and into darkness. I've always loved this character because he isn't perfect; he has his flaws and his darkness, much of it beginning as a tunnel rat in Viet Nam. Bosch is due to retire in 2015, but Connelly says that will not be the end of his stories. Yay!

The author is working on an exciting project with the Bosch series. Like Netflix with its new original programming, Amazon Prime is going to start creating its own original programming that you will be able to
Titus Welliver
see streamed on your computer. The new film, just shot, is being edited and stars Titus Welliver as Bosch. CBS This Morning did a story on this project and you can see it here. The new film is based on City of Bones and is being shot exclusively in Los Angeles. Connelly has total control over the project and he promises that Bosch fans will love this pilot.  He enthusiastically described a scene where the camera pans across the hills of LA and focuses on Boschs' house while the jazz piece, "Lullaby," plays in the background. The film is currently being edited.

One of the more unique stories of the night concerned how Connelly's interest in cops, police stations, and crime began. When he was 16 years old, he was working as a dishwasher in a restaurant. Driving home one night, he stopped at a red light and watched a teenager on the sidewalk take off his shirt and fold an object in it. He placed it in some bushes. Then, wearing his tee shirt, he left, and an intrigued Connelly followed him by car to a biker bar. Once the boy went inside, Connelly doubled back and checked the bushes: the object was a gun. He called his dad from a pay phone and asked him what he should do. His father advised him to call the police and then he met Michael at the location. Connelly spent the night at the police station looking at mug shots and listening and watching.

He was hooked from that night on.

The audience asked several questions about Connelly's writing process. The author said that usually he wrote three or four early books about each man, concentrating on plot, before he was able to delve more deeply into their psyches. It generally
takes him ten months to write a book and it is a long process and a solitary one. He can't write books about LA in Florida, where he lives much of the time. So he has to return to LA when it's time to write.

Connelly had already signed hundreds of copies of his new book before the night began, but he was willing to personalize signatures and so I stood in line for quite some time with lots of others who are Connelly fans. He was very gracious, allowing anyone to take photos while he signed books.

It was a wonderful night, definitely worth the trip to AZ a little early so I could finally meet this author I've so admired. It's good to know he doesn't see me as a stalker.