Crime in Florida has reached a 40-year low, but Michael Connelly doesn’t expect to run out of material any time soon.
Even back when he was standing next to a bloodied body as a young police-beat reporter at the Sun Sentinel in the mid 1980s, the story he was interested in was less about the murder than the investigator standing at the victim’s feet. The one who smoked a cigar “so the smell of tobacco will overcome the sickly smell of death.”
“The best stories are not about how the cop worked the case, but how the case worked the cop,” the best-selling crime writer says by phone from his home in Tampa.
Since leaving his hometown of Fort Lauderdale for a job as a reporter for the Los Angeles Times, Connelly has written more than two dozen crime novels, most starring pugnacious LAPD homicide detective Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch, introduced in the 1992 novel “The Black Echo.” The prolific author’s most-recent book is 2012’s “The Black Box,” and he has a May 28 deadline ticking on his next book, “The Gods of Guilt,” featuring L.A. attorney Mickey Haller, Bosch’s half-brother.
On Tuesday, Connelly will return to the scene of some memorable crimes when he discusses his work for a gathering in the auditorium of the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, a fundraiser for the nonprofit grassroots journalism site BrowardBulldog.org, presented by Nova Southeastern University and Boardroom Communications. The 6:30 p.m. event will include a Q&A, a book signing, an auction for a shot to name a character in “The Gods of Guilt” and a raffle of signed editions of “The Black Box” to benefit the Kathleen Pellegrino Scholarship Fund at the University of Florida
Connelly says he would not be the writer he is if not for a newspaper assignment to spend a week with Fort Lauderdale homicide investigators. The setting was particularly deadly, as Connelly observed then: “Fort Lauderdale will be the new murder capital of the South and the second deadliest city in the United States — behind Detroit — if the homicide rate for the rest of 1987 matches the pace set during the first six months.”
He can even trace his success back to one man, FLPD Sgt. George Hurt. Connelly was granted access to the homicide squad as it responded to three deaths, with the agreement that he would stay close to Hurt, “so I wouldn’t mess up a crime scene,” the author recalls. Connelly says each murder scene had something in common.
“I still remember this vividly … [Hurt] would take off his glasses and pause next to the body and have this moment of communion, a moment of silence,” Connelly recalls. “I was curious. Was he saying a prayer? Making a promise? He didn’t want to share with me. ...
“Later, I noticed his glasses, which he had been putting in his mouth, and the ends of the earpieces were all chewed out. He was biting down on them so tightly, they were destroyed. This is what his job did to him. That meant a lot to me,” Connelly says. “I had been fooling around with fiction at night, trying to write stories, but they were missing something. I found it with him.”
IF YOU GO
Michael Connelly will appear 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the Museum of Art Fort Lauderdale, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd. Tickets cost $30 in advance, $35 at the door; $20 for students. An $85 VIP ticket includes drinks and hors d’oeuvres with Connelly at a 5:30 p.m. reception, priority seating and priority access to the book signing. Go to BulldogEvent.EventBrite.com.
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