Like his hard-working, jazz-loving L.A. homicide detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch, mystery writer Michael Connelly knows well the value of a buck.
Before his coronation by GQ and others as “the best mystery writer in the world,” Connelly put in years as a crime beat reporter, quietly acquiring the insider’s view of police procedures for which his novels are rightfully hailed.
In fact, had he not been swept away by the L.A.-based crime noir mysteries of Raymond Chandler early on in his college years at the University of Florida, this Fort Lauderdale son-of-a-son-of-a-builder would likely have followed this father into the lucrative, if decidedly nonliterary, family construction business.
An adventurous writer who challenges himself with every book, Connelly reaches a new literary milestone with “The Narrows,” his 10th Bosch book and sequel to his critically acclaimed 1996 bestseller, “The Poet.” In it, he not only enlists Bosch, who wasn’t in the original, to battle the FBI-turned-serial-killer of the title, but manages to find work for both protagonists of his non-Bosch novels — Terry McCaleb from “Blood Work” and “A Darkness More Than Night,” and Las Vegas thief Cassie Black from “Void Moon.”
Like Bosch, Connelly is now the doting father of a young daughter. Although he and his wife have moved from the City of Angels to raise their daughter in Tampa, Connelly remains very much of the city; “The Narrows” even comes with a DVD, “Blue Neon Night: Michael Connelly’s Los Angeles” that explores some of the author’s favorite haunts.
Bankrate tracked Michael Connelly down at his Tampa office.
Bankrate: What was your financial life like growing up?
Michael Connelly: My dad was a developer and a bit of an entrepreneur. It was an up and down life; my parents had a house repossessed once and they also sent six kids to college. Luckily, most of the time it was up time, but there were some difficult times that actually helped me to be cognizant of money and the business aspects of things. As a result, I have a big say in terms of negotiating my contracts and formulating marketing programs for my books.
Bankrate: You worked as a teen, including one job at Fort Lauderdale’s Bahia Mar Marina, made famous as the moorage spot for the Busted Flush houseboat, home to John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee character.
Michael Connelly: Yes, I worked on and off at Bahia Mar and another hotel on the beach. All through high school I worked at Publix, bagging groceries and stocking shelves. I don’t think I was ever without a job.
Bankrate: How did you spend the money you made?
Michael Connelly: In high school, I used to buy Volkswagens and fix them up and sell them for a profit. Through high school, I must have done that eight or 10 times. I was no Donald Trump, but I saved my money and did some pretty good stuff with it.
Bankrate: Did you put some away for college?
Michael Connelly: Yes, some of it. I was the second of six kids so the second one going through did not empty the coffer. My fifth and sixth siblings I feel bad for because they worked all through college. I was actually a waiter for a couple years while going through college.
Bankrate: You switched majors to creative writing after discovering Chandler, but you also earned a journalism degree, right?
Michael Connelly: I had gotten far enough with the tutelage of my parents to know that with a degree in creative writing, I was going to end up teaching school or something. That’s why I went into journalism, for the desire to have a steady paycheck. It was a way to learn the craft of writing as well as get into the world I wanted to write about.
Bankrate: You won the Edgar Award in 1992 for your first novel, “The Black Echo.” Did the advance put you in a different tax bracket?
Michael Connelly: It was more than I ever thought I would get. I got $50,000 initially, but in the long run I got more than that with foreign sales and royalties. My agent was trying to prepare me for something less than that. But it wasn’t enough money to convince me to quit my job. It took me two more books to do that.