I’ve been watching the Amazon Original TV show Bosch, which is based on Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch book series. I will tack on some thoughts on the show at the end. But for now, I am reminded of something that Connelly did that sort of left me rolling my eyes. It’s something that multiple authors do. It is an understandable temptation for each book to have a sense of finality behind it. But if you’re writing a series of books with a single protagonist, it… doesn’t work so well, often as not.

At the end of one of the books, Harry Bosch leaves the LAPD. Done! Finished! Finito! Except… Connelly still has books to write. There’s only so much you can do with Bosch working freelance, or as a private investigator. Connelly actually said as much himself in and afterword on the later book when Bosch rejoined the force. Well, duh Connelly.

In another series (which I won’t name because it is spoilerish, but I will call S2), the sense of finality was the main character Finding Love at Last. The end result is that his wives kept having to die.

There is actually some crossing between the two of these. Bosch fell in love in one book and then out in the next a few times. And at the end of the first S2 book, the character Quit The Police Force to require peacefully at a shrimp hut. In the second book, he joined another force, which he quit by the end. Finality! He was back in the next book, and the author didn’t have him quit again after that.

There are actually more I can name, but you get the idea.

As far as I have read, Stephen Cannell has kept his Shane Scully character faithful to the Love Of This Life from the first book, and she hasn’t died yet. It can be done! It does require a fair amount of discipline, though.

Another series (S3) had the woman from the first book throughout until the second-to-last book, where she died, and her shadow hung over the last book. Very well done. Especially since it was sort of a Match Made In Hell. In the last book, when dealing with the rubble of the Love Of His Life that had been unfaithful to him twice in the last few books, literally said “{$%@ you, [wife]” at a point in which it was warranted. And he meant it.

The Jason Bourne series also did this right, at least when Robert Ludlum was writing it. That was only three books, though, but the Love Of His Life from the first book was there throughout, and they made it work. When Ludlum died, though, another writer took over. Killing her off was the first thing he did. He didn’t even bother killing her off. He just announced that she had died. (The same character died at the very beginning of the second movie.)

You can have characters quit, or fall in love. That’s no problem. But seriously, you have to have a plan for what to do next. There’s only so much dramatic finality you can have in a book that is part one of a series.


Some thoughts on the Bosch TV series:

The TV show is okay, intersecting a couple of plots from a couple of books. Which is a good move, because those of us who have read the books get both familiarity and the uncertainty of not knowing how they are going to intersect.

Titus Welliver is an awkward age for the role. Being a Vietnam vet is a significant part of the Bosch character, but he’s too young to have served in that war (and the budget doesn’t support fitting it 20 years back when the books were written). Rewriting it to Afghanistan, which they did, doesn’t particularly work… but there’s also the fact that he’s too old for Afghanistan.

Apart from that, my only real complaint is minor: too much exposition. It’s like the writers felt the need to try to tell us everything about the character as quick as possible. I don’t think we need to know everything about him right away.

But I like that it’s a mystery over a season. Which something like Amazon (or Netflix) is perfect for, since all of the episodes are released at once. It’s my dream that someday there will be a Kindle County TV series, wherein each season will have a different court case or investigation (and a largely different cast). I thought of that before Netflix and company started making TV shows, but it’s actually perfect for it.

Category: Theater

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7 Responses to Serial Authors Need To Think To The Next Book

  1. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    One of the reasons I LOVE the Harry Dresden books. Each book ends with the current crisis wrapped up, usually, but there are threads left hanging, some which intersect the big, over-arching storyline, some which don’t appear to do so. And you have no idea where & when those threads might re-appear later on.

  2. Mad Rocket Scientist says:

    With Dresden, the first 4 books are obviously the author finding his footing with regard to the big picture. Each stands alone well enough, but the big picture is very murky.

  3. aaron david says:

    I am going to disagree about the Vietnam/Afghanistan part. As long as they aren’t trying to do the Black Echo just the fact that he was in the wars works, especially as it is not really pertinent to the plot of the show. The actor is about 10 years older than me, and as I was 19 when we did Iraq 1, many older people in the military went overseas. It provides a nice bit of background that many officers have. And while setting the show in the ’80’s would be nice, outside of the hardcore fans no one will notice.

    As far has Connolly having Bosch come back after quitting, I don’t think he originally planned to do that, but was probably offered a ton of cash to do so, as the series was selling gangbusters at the time. None of the ones he wrote post that are very good, leading me to think that he hadn’t really planned on writing them, and was indeed done with the character.

    These are just speculations, and I wasn’t going to ask him when he signed my copy of The Closers.

    • trumwill says:

      Black Echo was the movie that they made in the TV show (based on the book, which is not at all confusing).

      You’re actually close to being right. Connelly actually said something to the effect of “Harry Bosch pays the bills.”

      With the success of Lincoln Lawyer, though, I’m not sure he needs Bosch as much as he did before, though. Anyway, he makes it sound like he was not anticipating how much more difficult it would be to write Bosch books without him on the force. I’m still scratching my head about that.

      You ever read Stephen Cannell? An awful lot of similarities. I tell anyone who likes one to try to the other (my wife likes Cannell, so I recommend Connelly).

  4. Abel Keogh says:

    I liked the Bosch show on Amazon. All things considered, they did a good job.

    However, I happened to watch the pilot episode 9 months ago (or whenever it first came out.) I wasn’t impressed with it then because I felt that you had to know the books in order to understand what was going on. Though I can’t prove it, I swear they updated/changed/deleted/added scenes because the first episode on Amazon was slightly different than the one I watched. If it was just me, I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. However, Marathon Girl noticed some changes too. Sadly, I can’t find anything via Google to prove my point.

    • trumwill says:

      You’re probably quite right. I’d imagine the gap in between the showing of the original episode and the release of the series provides much opportunity for tweaking.

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