What I Did On My Summer Vacation

What I Did On My Summer Vacation by Michael Connelly (2012)

I seem to be on a cycle in which I finish books in early summer for a late fall release. It happened again this year – much, I’m sure, to my editor’s frustration. I’ve just finished up my next novel The Black Box, blowing all kinds of deadlines in the process. The frustrating part for my editor and copyeditor is that the longer I take, the less time they have to work their magic and make the book better.

But I have no worry this year or any year. The team that works on these books is the best and the book is in very good hands.

What’s been nice for me is that it turns summer into a real vacation for me. I don’t want to start my next book, even though I am thinking about it all the time, until all the editing and polishing of The Black Box is finished. That gives me time to catch up on books and movies and other projects. So then, here is an update on how I spent my summer vacation.

First, reading list. Most people think that because I write books that I must be reading books all the time. Not true. On one hand, you have to always be reading. It refills the tank, stimulates ideas and inspires. It’s important. The only problem is it can be intrusive to your own work. So when I am writing I am usually reading sparingly. I am lucky in that I get sent a lot of books to read. I look them over and put the one I want to read to the side for later. That is, if I can wait. Sometimes I can’t wait to jump on a book as soon as I pick it up at the store or it comes in the mail.

This has been a good summer for me. Reading both old and new books and even new old books (I’ll explain later), I have not been disappointed.

One book that really popped for me was Michael Koryta’s new novel The Prophet. Koryta seems to be one of the young writers everybody’s watching. He wrote some early private eye stuff that I really liked. He then flexed his muscles and took a few swings at some horror-tinged stuff. I liked his ghost stories but between you and me I was waiting for him to come back to crime. He has done that with The Prophet but in a big way with a big story about brothers that sprawls across a couple decades. This is a pitch over the plate to me. I call them time travel stories. Not because there is any sci-fi here, but because they are stories about how the past informs the present, how it reaches right across time and grabs someone by the collar. Koryta has done it here and I count this as his best book yet.

I also had a good time reading Alafair Burke’s latest, Never Tell, toting it with me across Italy on a half work/half vacation trip. Burke also returns to roots with one of her series characters, Ellie Hatcher. You can’t go wrong there.

One of the highlights of the summer was returning to The Catcher in the Rye through the eyes of my daughter who was assigned the J.D. Salinger novel on her school’s summer read list. Also on there was John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, which was fun because about six years ago John signed a copy of his book An Abundance of Katherines to my daughter and gave it to me, saying she should wait a few years before reading it. She’s doing that now.

The new old book I just finished reading was the latest from James M. Cain. That’s right, James M. Cain.  The Cocktail Waitress was the last novel he wrote but it was never published and parts sat hidden in an agent’s file and the Library of Congress. The lost novel was tracked down by Publisher/Editor Charles Ardai of Hard Case Crime and will be published later this summer. I wrote a review of the book for the New York Times.

There’s a couple other books out there on the horizon and will be published fairly soon. I am reading ahead of the curve because I get galleys of soon to be published novels sent to me. One of the perks of the job. Dick Wolf, the creator of all those Law and Order shows and spinoffs, has finally written a novel and its pretty damn good. The Intercept is a cool introduction to Jeremy Fisk, a detective with NYPD’s Intelligence Division.

And a perennial favorite of mine, Stephen Hunter, has a book coming soon that is sure to make a splash. The Third Bullet is a contemporary story that draws us back to the Kennedy assassination fifty years ago. The book is imaginative and riveting. I loved what Stephen King did with the Kennedy assassination in 11/23/63 and Hunter’s book is equally up to the task of telling a dramatic fictional story from such a monumental moment in history.

Next up for me will be Megan Abbott’s new one, Dare Me. I can’t wait to get into that.

This summer has seen some pretty good progress on a pair of non-book projects that are near and dear to me. First up, the documentary I am helping to produce, Sound of Redemption; the Frank Morgan Story, is coming along nicely. Director NC Heiken began filming interviews of those who knew the gifted but troubled jazzman and gathering archival material. There is already enough there to make me very excited about this film that will examine and honor Frank’s life. We are now gearing up for the second half of filming this fall and the film should be finished in early 2013. This started out as a labor of love. I liked Frank a lot and loved his music. He was very giving to me as he was to many others. I felt his story should be told and now it is. But it is being told at a level I think is much better and beyond what I could have imagined. NC and her crew have really taken the project close to heart and I think something special will come of it.

Talk about things close to the heart, I am very excited these days about the prospects of seeing Harry Bosch realized as a character on television. It’s been a long journey but finally this year I wrested control of the rights to the character back. After much due diligence and cautious effort, the basis of a very credible production of the Bosch stories is taking form. I’ve partnered up with Eric Overmyer, a wonderful writer, and a production company called Fuse. Our group goal is to keep the integrity of Bosch and the stories as they go from the written page to the small screen. I think it can be done and I think this is the team to do it.

Henrik Bastin, the producer at Fuse, impressed me as the man to trust Harry Bosch with from the day I met him. We had breakfast in a Hollywood coffee shop. Henrik came in and put the cartridge of a rifle bullet down on the table. He said, “This is the kind of detail we must put into any Harry Bosch show.” Of course, I knew he was referencing the jar of bullet casings Harry collects at the funerals of officers killed in the line of duty. It told me a lot about what drew Henrik to the books and it made me excited. Now that Eric has joined the project I guess I am off the page with hope for something special. Stay tuned here for ongoing developments.

Oh, and did I mention how I started the summer off?