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Why it took Michael Connelly 20 years to bring Harry Bosch to TV

Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
Aaron Epstein
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
(L to R): Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch, Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar.
Aaron Epstein
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
Aaron Epstein
Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch.
(L to R): Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch, Jamie Hector as Jerry Edgar.
Aaron Epstein

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Best-selling crime novelist and former L.A. Times reporter Michael Connelly has spent 20 years crafting the life story of veteran LAPD detective Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch.

Beginning with the 1992 novel, "The Black Echo," Connelly has written 19 books about Detective Bosch with a 20th to be released November 2015. But he was never able to adapt his series for film or TV due to a studio deal he made early in his writing career. Until now, that is.

With the rights to his Harry Bosch novels now back in his hands, Connelly has chosen Amazon as the home of "Bosch," the first on-screen adaptation of his best-selling book series. 

The series stars Titus Welliver in the titular role, and takes characters, plots and scenes from three of his books: "Echo Park," "City of Bones" and "The Concrete Blond."
Connelly recently stopped by The Frame to talk about why it took so long to get the rights back to the series, his role in its adaptation for TV and what it was like to finally see Harry Bosch on screen. 

Interview Highlights:

I've been covering Hollywood for a long time, and I think I remember back in the Truman presidency, you sold the rights to at least the character or some of the books to Paramount. What happened?

To me it feels like the first Roosevelt era. Early on I sold the first three books to Paramount and their plan was to make a movie or possibly a series of movies, and they certainly tried. Several scripts were commissioned and written, but ultimately the project got shelved. I kept writing about the character, so the good thing was when I got the books back I had, I think at that time, 15 books about this one character. It ended up being that they had control of these properties for about 16 years. 

But you were determined to get them back, because you knew in that intervening period that the character had become much more popular and that you could do something with it. You weren't going to abandon it. 

Part of it is creative as well, I am a child of great movies and television. They easily have influenced me as much as great literature. I would like to see my stories told a different way, told in this dimension of visual. What you're saying is correct. When I sold these books back in the early '90s, no one knew who I was. Or no one knew who Harry Bosch was is a better way of saying it. Then when I got him back, a lot of people around the world knew who Harry Bosch was and I thought there'd be an audience out there that could support this. 

Los Angeles itself factors prominently in the series. It feels as if in creating the show with your collaborators, you decided very specifically to include certain neighborhoods, certain landmarks. What were the conversations you had about how Los Angeles would be represented in the series?

There were two simple goals, or primary goals when I went to Hollywood with this for the second time. That was that we are loyal to the character of Harry Bosch, and we depict a realistic Los Angeles ... My heart can swell, actually, in the first minute of the show because on black screen before we open up picture we hear the voice of Vin Scully, and what is more Los Angeles than that? Then we open up on this guy that at least I've been waiting 20 years to see on screen, Titus Welliver playing Harry Bosch. And we see, I think, a very iconic view of Los Angeles and that is they're watching a guy in a semi-marginal neighborhood he comes out of a house with bars on the windows and he gets in a car and as he pulls out into the street you see this marvelous, fantastic view of the city. That is just one of the little contradictions about this city that I love and that we want to try to communicate in this type of storytelling.

We should talk a little bit about casting Titus Welliver. How involved were you in his casting?

As far as Titus goes, I'm very proud that I'm the one who threw his name out. The very first day of casting we had a couple pages of actors names and his name wasn't on the list. I'm not a TV guy, I kind of very timidly say, what do we think about Titus Welliver? They immediately said we love Titus Welliver, but he's in Hong Kong making a movie. We had a small 3-month window to find Harry Bosch. But they said we'll see if he's going to come home for a weekend or something and maybe we can get him to come in and talk to you. It was almost two months later that we were able to talk to him and he talked to us about the character Harry Bosch and he nailed it, so he got the job right there. 

Your books have been adapted into two feature films, "Blood Work" and "The Lincoln Lawyer." How did those experiences change the way you wanted to approach or have creative control over this series?

I had very little to do with both of those films, and that's fine. That's a long running way of Hollywood doing business. It is a different form of storytelling. It's not like just because you write a good book means you can write a good screenplay, or know anything about how to make a film ... When it came to Harry Bosch, I was so invested in him, my entire adult life as a fiction writer is wrapped around him. I started with him, and I hope the last book I write is about him. So I just had a different approach. I wasn't going to do it that way, it was like you want Harry Bosch, I'm coming with him. I want to have a say. I don't know whether it was luck or tenaciousness or whatever, but I ended up with people that agreed with that idea. It does sound like common sense, but it's not often employed in these kinds of situations. 

Your Harry Bosch books have been best sellers. If people have read your books, they know Harry Bosch, who he is, they know about all of his cases. What could they learn about him or about some of his investigations by watching the show that they don't already know?

I know we're risking something here, or I'm playing with something. The act of reading a story is sacred and people build images and all that stuff. Now we're going to take that creative impulse away and say this is actually what he looks like. This is that location. This what the bar at Musso & Franks is like. Some people are not going to be into that, but I think some, if they just risk it, and take a look at this, they'll realize this is fully realized as a television show, but you can always go back to a Harry Bosch book.   

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