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Crime Beat: A Decade of Covering Cops and Killersby Michael Connelly
Synopses & Reviews
From #1 bestseller Michael Connelly's first career as a prize-winning crime reporter — the gripping, true stories that inspired and informed his novels.
Before he became a novelist, Michael Connelly was a crime reporter, covering the detectives who worked the homicide beat in Florida and Los Angeles.
In vivid, hard-hitting articles, Connelly leads the reader past the yellow police tape as he follows the investigators, the victims, their families and friends — and, of course, the killers — to tell the real stories of murder and its aftermath.
Connelly's firsthand observations would lend inspiration to his novels, from The Black Echo, which was drawn from a real-life bank heist, to Trunk Music, based on an unsolved case of a man found in the trunk of his Rolls Royce. And the vital details of his best-known characters, both heroes and villains, would be drawn from the cops and killers he reported on: from loner detective Harry Bosch to the manipulative serial killer the Poet.
Stranger than fiction and every bit as gripping, these pieces show once again that Michael Connelly is not only a master of his craft, but also one of the great American writers in any form.
"The many fans of perennially bestselling mystery author Connelly will certainly lap up this collection of his articles written during his former life as a crime journalist in Florida and California. In three sections, 'The Cops,' 'The Killers' and 'The Cases,' Connelly presents a wide variety of stories from the 1980s and early '90s, ranging from local crimes to national sensations such as the serial killer Christopher Wilder, one of the FBI's Most Wanted. With Wilder, for instance, readers watch Connelly build a portrait of a man who gained access to women in the Florida modeling and fashion scene by posing as a professional photographer with 'cunning charm, smooth talk and money.' Connelly tells tales of double lives, failures of the criminal justice system and the shooting death of a 245-pound L.A. prostitute. The format of the book may disappoint some, as the inclusion of multiple reports about the same crimes often contain repetitive language. The author is strongest bringing quiet moments to life, such as the despair of parents hoping that a missing child will still turn up, or the patient, resigned professionalism of weary detectives. Devotees of Connelly's fiction will enjoy tracing the real-life roots of some of his plots." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"To read fiction, it is said, we must suspend disbelief. But how much? There are limits to what we will swallow, and a lot depends on the writing. 'Heart of the World,' Linda Barnes' 11th novel about the Boston private eye Carlotta Carlyle, is an example of how we must sometimes weigh the quality of the prose against the strain on credulity. Carlyle is a feisty, sexy, red-haired, hot-tempered... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) ex-cop who calls to mind Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone. Where men are concerned, she's living proof that ladies love outlaws: She's having an affair with a good-looking Mafia prince named Sam Gianelli. She is also deeply attached to Paolina, a 15-year-old girl whom she met in a Big Sister/Little Sister program. Paolina has a mother who doesn't love her and a father she's never met because he is (or was) a Colombian drug lord and revolutionary. As the novel begins, the girl is missing. Carlyle's feverish search takes her from frozen Boston to sweltering Colombia, where she confronts dangerous characters until she is pumped full of drugs and carried to the jungle hideaway of the drug lord, Roldan. Except he's not a drug lord anymore. He's had a spiritual conversion, and he's now the protector of an Indian tribe, the Kogi, who chew coca, practice ancient forms of magic and have a large supply of gold. It does not escape the attention of the outlaw-prone Carlyle that the charismatic Roldan is a hunk ('A woman could get lost in those eyes'), but mostly she focuses on finding her beloved Paolina, whose plight is part of a plot to separate the Kogi from their treasure. At one point, the ex-drug lord is leading the Boston PI up a Colombian mountainside, and she reflects, 'Who would dream I was here, climbing the highest coastal range on earth in flimsy sandals?' Who indeed? And yet Barnes, whose previous books have won or been nominated for numerous mystery awards, tells her often-far-fetched story gracefully, even persuasively. If you are willing to accept a certain fairy-tale aura — at one point in the mountains, Carlyle chews coca leaves, and her 'feet felt like they were floating inches off the path' — and embrace Carlyle as a fearless woman who would charge the gates of hell for the love of a child, 'Heart of the World' is an entertaining read. Michael Connelly, whose early crime reporting is collected in 'Crime Beat,' didn't start out to be either a reporter or a novelist. His father and grandfather built houses, and when Connelly entered college in Florida, his major was building construction sciences. He hated it. One night, he happened upon a showing of Robert Altman's quirky 1973 film version of Raymond Chandler's 'The Long Goodbye.' He loved it, and he proceeded to read all of Chandler's novels and to change his major to journalism. From then on, he intended to use crime reporting to prepare himself to write novels in the Chandler mode, and he followed his plan brilliantly. After starting out with newspapers in Florida, he wound up as a police reporter for the Los Angeles Times, where he began writing his great Harry Bosch series. Every generation produces reporters whose talent is essentially novelistic and for whom journalism is a way station on the road to fiction. Hemingway was the classic example of the 20th century, but there are many others — Tom Wolfe was one, and so is Connelly. For instance, here's the lead of the first crime story reprinted in the book, from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 1987: 'It has been four days since anybody has heard from or seen Walter Moody, and people are thinking that something is wrong.' It's not the typical who-what-when-where-why-and- how formula of police reporting. Connelly was always looking for mood, drama, eccentricity, the telling detail. One of the fascinations of this collection is spotting the police-beat details — the fellow with teardrops tattooed below his eyes, the detective who chewed the earpiece of his glasses — that later punctuate the Bosch novels. This is not a book for everyone. It's probably best seen as a courtesy paid to Connelly by his publisher after the huge success of last year's 'The Lincoln Lawyer.' But it will be of interest to close students of his fiction, to some journalists and to anyone interested in how the sow's ear of fact becomes the silk purse of fiction. 'Nothing was lost,' Connelly says in his introduction. 'All experiences went into the creative blender and were eventually poured out as something new in my fiction.' Connelly shows us the before-and-after. What he can't do is explain the magic that underlies the process. That's the mystery, the quicksilver called talent, the sorcery that makes readers suspend disbelief." Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"This volume works on several levels: as a source of insight into Connelly's craft; as a collection of compelling true-crime stories; and as a great primer for journalists." Booklist
"[T]hese collected articles show that the truth can be as strange — and even stranger than — fiction and every bit as compelling. Through it all, Connelly displays the discerning eye and compassion that characterize his best work." Library Journal
"This is not a book for everyone....But it will be of interest to close students of his fiction, to some journalists and to anyone interested in how the sow's ear of fact becomes the silk purse of fiction." Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post Book World
"Connelly's writing nearly two decades ago was as vivid, enthralling and detailed as any of his novels....One thing Crime Beat makes clear: Connelly both past and present has always delivered a great read." Orlando Sentinel
"Crime Beat is an uneasy hybrid. The writing is both expansive and constricted. When Connelly attempts to move beyond meat and potatoes reporting, you get the impression of a reporter trying to squeeze reality into the confines of hard-boiled fiction." Charles Taylor, The New York Times Book Review
"The stories show a wonderful writer learning his craft, conducting reconnaissance missions into territory that he would later conquer....Crime Beat is a decent read but a great preview of coming attractions." San Diego Union-Tribune
"Newspaper junkies and journalism students will find something to like in Crime Beat. For just about everybody else, though, Connelly's collection is not worth the price." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
About the Author
Michael Connelly is a former journalist and has won every major prize for crime fiction. He lives in Florida.
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