"Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog it's too dark to read." Groucho Marx

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Concrete Blonde by Michael Connelly

I thought of two things during this book:
1. Harry Bosch (the main character) is a self-important ass
2. I think Connelly has created a character 'template' for one of the supporting roles played in his novels. It's only a theory but I'll tell you why I think that, after I tell you why Harry Bosch is  self-centered, of course... :0)
Harry Bosch, the hard nosed long-time detective that stars the series is the kind of man that I would not be a fan of if he were in-the-flesh. He's always withholding information, he's forever going off on his own and landing himself in one kind of trouble or another, he never says thank you, he constantly calls people in the middle of the night making demands on their time and talents, and he smokes wherever he wants to- even when asked not to. All these annoying quirks and traits are what makes Harry a great character. You can love to hate him, and hate to love him. There was  a part in this installment where Harry lights up in his girlfriend's living room while he has the thought that she hates when he does that and has asked him not to. She calls him on it shortly thereafter and he says he's sorry. I shouted out, 'Oh, you are not sorry you liar! You knew when you did it that she hates that and you blew it off! That's just typical.' It took me a moment to remember that Harry Bosch does not (as far as I know) exist, nor does his girlfriend or her poorly treated living room. While my outburst at a fictional character calls to question my own mental fortitude it also points towards the talent Connelly brings to his books. He has so completely developed a fictional character his readers (me, in this case) can feel about them and all their habits as they would an actual person. I can see myself coming home after working with a real Harry Bosch and saying something like, 'Well, sure he's talented but for crying out loud he thinks he can just do whatever he wants to and we all owe him something. Plus, he's always smoking in my office!'

The second thing, the character template, threw me at first. Connelly wrote a another novel called The Scarecrow. The Scarecrow stars an investigative reporter who works for the Times. He resembles a lumberjack. He's a published author who drives a small, non-descript vehicle. He's single and lives alone in a small apartment. He spends his time with the LAPD covering crime stories. His name is Jack McEvoy.
In the Concrete Blonde there is a Times reporter with all of these same elements except that his name is Jack Bremmer. I went through most of the story marveling at how Connelly took the same character and portrayed him from two viewpoints. The Scarecrow's Jack is portrayed as a teddy-bear type, loved by women for this very trait. In Concrete Blonde the Jack in question is seen as soft, fat, balding. Not a ladies man for any reason. It was only when I finally realized the names were different that I let it go and faced the fact that I probably would not see this EXACT reporter again. But- if ever given the opportunity I would ask Mr. Connelly if he created a 'Jack the Times Reporter' to be used as his all purpose crime writer, ready to stand in at any time. To use him in the Scarecrow he just had to take Jack Bremmer and change the tone of his voice a little, tweak the hairline, and give him a new childhood story and TA DA! A Times reporter to suit the need. If that is how it worked out I would say that's a very clever way to invent the supporting characters because then they do not have to be re-invented every time, just slightly altered to suit the need. If it was just an accident, well, then Michael Connelly needs a new reporter named something other than Jack and wearing something other than flannel!

You will find an official plot line description at:

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