SPRING 2015 / THE CITY, THE DETECTIVE, AND THE CRIME LAB
Making L.A. come alive—with a little help
from Cal State L.A.
BY MICHAEL CONNELLY
As a novelist I have always followed a simple rule: If I am going to “sell” a reader on a character who is purely a work of fiction, then I need to anchor that character in as real a world as is possible. People enter a story—whether it’s a novel, a television show or a movie—looking for somebody to ride with. That person has to seem real and believable. In many ways their world has to seem more real than the one we are in.
I make that connection by surrounding Detective Harry Bosch and my other characters with the real world. I write about Los Angeles. I use real roads, real restaurants, sometimes even real people in the landscapes of my stories. What I am trying to do is make the line between fact and fiction invisible. To do that I spend time in the places where my characters spend time. This includes Cal State L.A., where I have researched my books at the Hertzberg-Davis Forensic Science Center. The center contains state-of-the-art crime and forensic labs for both the Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver), right, and his partner Jerry Edgar (Jamie Hector), left, confer with an analyst on the television series “Bosch,” which was filmed in a crime lab at Cal State L.A.
I remember the first time I visited the center and was shown around by Doreen Hudson, director of the LAPD’s side of the lab; I was hit with enough ideas for ten books. And I also came to realize how important this place sitting at the edge of the Cal State L.A. campus certainly is. This is the place where cases are truly made, truly solved. A walk down the hallway on any floor reveals cutting-edge technologies being used in the many labs to quantify and analyze evidence and to solve real life mysteries. Detectives, like the characters I write about, might get the headlines but the cases all come together right here. It was natural for Bosch’s daughter, a kid who wants to become a cop, to have her eye on Cal State L.A.
This past fall some of my stories were filmed for the Amazon series “Bosch.” The same rules applied. I felt if we were going to be convincing about Detective Harry Bosch and how he worked his cases, then we had to anchor him in the real places of the stories, including the crime lab. Thankfully, the doors of the lab at Cal State L.A. were opened to us and we filmed several scenes in and outside the lab. I believe they helped make the show as realistic as possible. They helped us keep the line between what is real and what is not invisible.
Michael Connelly, a former Los Angeles Times reporter, is the author of 28 books and the recipient of numerous literary prizes, including the Edgar Award. His books have sold more than 58 million copies worldwide. The Lincoln Lawyer, the 2011 film starring Matthew McConaughey, is an adaptation of Connelly’s book of the same name. The Crossing, Connelly’s 28th book, is scheduled to be released in November.
Excerpt from The Burning Room:
Bosch’s daughter had a rare night at home. With Explorer meetings and activities and even a part-time volunteer job delivering dinners to shut-ins, she seemed to use the house only for sleeping these days. This bothered Bosch because he knew his time with her was short, but he also knew she was pursuing things she wanted. And all the activities counted as public service at her school and would help round out her application package for college. She had her eye on Cal State, Los Angeles, where there were top criminal justice and forensics programs. Bosch was pleased with her choice because it was still in the city. Besides that, the school was located on the same site as the lab, which would afford him the opportunity to see her at school on occasion during his last few months on the job.