Inside Media: Ripped From the Headlines

September 27, 2009

Guest: Michael Connelly

By Lesette R. Heath, special programs coordinator

Best-selling author Michael Connelly has something in common with Ernest Hemingway, Carl Sandburg and Tom Wolfe.

Before creating characters like police detective Harry Bosch and crime reporter Jack McEvoy, Connelly worked as a journalist. He covered the crime beat at the Los Angeles Times.

In Connelly's latest thriller "The Scarecrow," McEvoy is pink-slipped, but spends his last weeks at the Times on the trail of a serial killer. Connelly got the idea to lay off McEvoy after reading about the challenges affecting the newspaper industry. The book also mirrors real events, including the closing of the Rocky Mountain News and the Tribune Co.'s bankruptcy. Connelly said he'd like to be less pessimistic, but he questions the future of newspapers.

"With the current cost structure and newspaper content being distributed for free over the Internet, I'm not so sure how they can survive, and it's sad," he said.

Connelly's writing style (clear and pithy sentences), and the speed at which he churns out novels (about one a year) were honed during his newspaper days.

"As a reporter, you have to write everyday. There's no such thing as writer's block in a newsroom," he said. "You learn how to make a story concise. You learn how to use quotes to carry a story forward. These are basic tenets of newspaper writing that I carried over into my fiction writing."

Of all his characters, Connelly acknowledged that McEvoy is the "most biographical."

Real-life events forced him to make a last-minute rewrite. Originally, McEvoy received a job offer from the Rocky Mountain News. But when the paper closed in February 2009, Connelly replaced the passage with McEvoy lamenting the turn of events.

"With one paper closing and the other laying people off, Jack sees it as the kiss of death," Connelly said. He signed copies of his book following the program.

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