PW: The Narrows is a sequel to your 1996 novel The Poet. Why a sequel?
Michael Connelly: The real question is, "Why did I write a sequel to The Poet when for years I was saying I will not write one?" I think it had something to do with me coming to the world of fiction from journalism. One of my guidelines in fiction is to make it as close to reality as possible. So there's that contradiction: bookshelves are full of mystery novels where the bad guy is caught. And the reality I came from in the newspaper business is that 70% of the time the bad guy is caught, but a lot of bad guys get away. I wrote The Poet right after I quit being a journalist, and it was kind of a personal statement that I was going to keep my stories real. So I had the bad guy get away. As years went by, it started to bother me that in this fictional world I had let somebody loose to do what he wanted to do, which was not good stuff. I guess that was also a reflection for me of the times starting to be more uncertain, and I felt that I should set a little bit of my fictional world right. So I started thinking about going after the guy that I'd let go free.
PW: On your Web site, there's offered for sale a special edition of The Poet for which Stephen King wrote an introduction. We just got in the sixth book in his Dark Tower series, and King has made himself a character in the book. Do you have any plans along those lines, for Michael Connelly to interact with Harry Bosch [the detective hero of most Connelly novels]?
MC: I don't have a plan, but I'm curious about the line between fiction and nonfiction. And I cross it in ways in The Narrows. Some of the people there are real people. There's a detective who calls Harry [who's a retired cop] and plants the seed of him coming back to the department—he's a real guy. And then there's the banter about the movie Blood Work [based on a Connelly novel]. And one time I wrote, for my Web site, an interview between me and Harry Bosch. That was a lot of fun to do. That exercise alone makes me think that some day the character Michael Connelly could intrude into fiction.
PW: Along with the blurring of lines between reality and fiction, there's been a blurring within your novels of story lines, with characters from one series moving to another series—and that's especially true of The Narrows. Why are you going in that direction?
MC: It's fun to do. Another reason is that I try to be loyal to people who have been riding with me. And in some ways loyalty means giving stuff back. If you've read 13 Michael Connelly books and there's some vague reference to a character who's in book number four or something, I think it's fun. And then there's a correlation between writing and painting. I look at my work as one big canvas, almost like a Hieronymus Bosch painting. All these stories are moving on the same canvas, so you're bound to have cross currents.
PW: You've spent a lot of time as a journalist working the cop beat, and you've spent a lot of time writing about serial killers. Do you believe in evil? And if so, where does it come from?
MC: Yes, I do believe in evil. My sense is that it's nurtured, and it's nurtured quite early. Some of the reading I've done is in regard to how behavioral patterns are set by the time you're five years old, and if you're messed with in some way by parents or neglected in some way, that's like the pebble going into water and the ripples go through your life. What's interesting, in writing about cops, is that for the most part they have a mentality of, "We'll leave it to the shrinks to figure out where evil comes from. All I know is that I'm taking evil out of this world." And that is more interesting to me as a writer, because it's very hard to do that, and it's very hard to do that without costing yourself something.
PW: When you kill someone, as cops occasionally have to do, nothing puts your own humanity at more risk. It needs to be done, but you're making a choice, aren't you? A life for a life.
MC: That's exactly right. And when I write about this guy [Bosch] and in every story he goes into the abyss, at some point you ask, "What damage have I done to this character?" and "What damage has the character done to himself by doing this?" And that to me is a more fascinating question than where evil comes from.