Tuesday, March 24, 2015

By the Books

So... if you like detective novels, but supernatural stuff and games a la Wolf Among Us ain't your bag, I have another humble (but emphatic!) suggestion: Bosch. Amazon's first original series that really demands some attention. Check out this sweet intro song:

Right? Tell me that wasn't written for a crime show set in Los Angeles.

 If you enjoy modern crime fiction, you are almost certainly familiar with Michael Connelly's haggard, irascible hero, Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch. He's the finest fictional detective fictional Los Angeles has seen since Ed Exley et al from Elroy. Like all lovable cop leads has an explosive temper and a habit for pissing off his superiors, but he also does things by the book.

The books he stars in feel tremendously grounded, but they borrow a few devices from mainstream detective novels to keep things moving. Those devices, like serial killers who 'fixate' on specific cops, do not derail the natural way cases progress. Instead of happenstance, or magical lab work, Bosch solves things with good police work; forensic tests, digging through files, consulting pathologists.

 In addition to clever plots, Connelly is known for his dialog. Everybody on the force speaks with the language you would expect from an LA cop. Full disclosure: I don't know any cops. But the diction, and the interplay between characters makes you believe this is what cops sound like, and that's the hallmark of compelling writing.

 All these elements translate to the screen handsomely, and the cool thing about Connelly is that he sees the adaptation process as an opportunity to tell a new story. I think I heard he was unhappy with Clint Eastwood's movie adaption of Blood Work, but I enjoyed the fact that the film told a slightly skewed version of the novel. Not a "nix Tom Bombadil so the movies aren't five goddamn hours long" cut, but a "let's do something different here" cut. Cheekily enough, a character in one of the later books refers to a movie adaptation of the detective's life (situating the film in-universe) and decries it for slander.

The show steps things up a notch, merging plot elements from three different novels. This gives writers enough material to carry a ten episode season, and creates this meta-fictional, reverse jiggsaw for readers to deconstruct. Yeah, it can be conventional. Tropey, even, at times. But it never felt formulaic to me.

If you like crime stories, but you've burnt out on CSI, Law & Order, NCIS, Criminal Minds, etc., this is a good change of pace. Something strong to tide you over until season 2 of True Detective.

If you have Amazon Prime, you can already watch the show. And if you are wary of another subscription, the individual episodes are also available for purchase.

No comments: