Meet TV’s newest detective: Harry Bosch

Michael Connelly's books have sold millions worldwide - Huw Fullerton talks to the author about bringing his most famous character to the screen, and takes a look at the Amazon Prime series

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Harry Bosch is a cop on the edge.

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You can tell, because in the first episode the gravel-voiced lawman flouts LAPD protocol, yells at his superior, gets into slanging matches with Internal Affairs and – worst of all – smokes right next to a non-smoking sign. 

Bosch is Amazon Prime’s first shot at cracking the lucrative crime serial market, but there’s more to him than that. For starters, if his “maverick cop on the loose” schtick sounds a bit old-fashioned, it’s because he’s been around for a while.

Detective Hieronymous “Harry” Bosch first appeared in Michael Connelly’s debut 1992 novel The Black Echo. The then-42-year-old cop took hold of reader’s imaginations, selling about 58 million copies worldwide in 39 languages and winning Connelly bucketloads of awards along the way. 

Now Bosch is partners in crime with an on-demand service that is starting to collect awards of its own – Amazon Prime won two Golden Globes for its original content earlier this year. What’s more, the series is spearheaded by writer/producer Eric Overmeyer – whose crime drama rap sheet includes Homicide: Life on the Street, Law & Order and The Wire – as well as Connelly (above), who was keen to protect his legacy.

“A lot of entities and studios in Hollywood like to separate the book writer from the project to turn it into a film or TV show,” he says, “but I’ve been writing about Harry Bosch in books my whole career. It was not a character I was just gonna say ‘hey, take him and good luck!’”

It’s an approach that’s largely paid off; while the series takes a little while to warm up and can come across slightly clichéd, it’s actually pretty gripping and has a nice grungy feel that’s a tonic to the endless hours of Scandi-noir which form the bulk of high-class crime drama these days.

Overmeyer and Connelly have cleverly weaved together three of the writer’s books (The Concrete Blonde, City of Bones and Echo Park) to create a well-balanced narrative unfolding over ten episodes, which is less inspired by shows like The Killing and more “like a book” itself, Connelly explains.

A large chunk of the series is taken from one book in particular – 1994’s The Concrete Blonde, in which Bosch is put on trial for killing a suspect. Here it’s neatly used as a subplot to force the usually taciturn Bosch into revealing chunks of his torrid backstory for newcomers, who Connelly says they are keen to welcome alongside the diehards who’ve been reading since the 90s.

But they’re confident that longtime fans won’t be disappointed either. Titus Welliver, who carries the weight of playing the much-imagined lead in the series, says: “You can’t please everybody, so there’ll be people who say: Titus Welliver is not the Harry Bosch I had in my head – and that’s OK. The important thing is we maintain the integrity of this character that Michael created, and that we have done.”

Considering the books’ success, it’s almost surprising that Bosch has never been played on screen before – one of Connelly’s other books, The Lincoln Lawyer, was adapted for film recently with Matthew McConaughey – but apparently an earlier film deal fell through and languished on the shelf for years.

Now Connelly’s teamed up with Amazon because “they’re the first ones who wanted it,” and he’s happy to finally bring the character to the screen – but surely things have changed since the idea was first mooted? Is he worried that in a world of Sherlock, Sarah Lund, or any of the dozens of cop shows in America, Harry Bosch might not stand out?

“I think the selling point on most cop shows now is how detectives have a certain skillset which makes them supercops, things like that – and we never have talked in terms of Harry Bosch being a supercop at all,” Connelly suggests.

Welliver agrees. “Harry is not the standard fare of being the hard-as-nails, heroic character. He’s really a quintessential antihero. But he’s not Mackey from the Shield, and he’s not Sipowicz from NYPD blue. He’s very much an individual, and he makes mistakes – so it’s not just this one-note macho character.”

Connelly concludes: “It’s really about him, and his relationship to the victims he’s never met, his relationship to LA – and hopefully on those dimensions this will stand out as being something different.”

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You can watch all ten episodes of Bosch on Amazon Prime now