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runbei

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Reply with quote  #1 

By a special alignment of the stars, I was first on my library's waiting list for Late Show. I finished it last week. 

I first admired Michael for his impeccable craftsmanship as a writer, how he does so much with short sentences and simple words, and how beautifully his books are copyedited and proofread. I've read all of the fiction very enjoyably. However, I felt that Lincoln Lawyer was a breakout book, in the sense that the protagonist, Mickey Haller, is a character who learns life lessons and changes - his understanding expands (an element of many, many highly successful books and films). ("I can't do this anymore.")

I treasured Lincoln Lawyer and was a little disappointed that the movie was entirely plot-driven by comparison - we didn't really get to look inside Mickey's soul, as we did in the book.

I loved Blood Work for the same reason - Terry McCaleb is a character who has changed in the wake of very difficult life events. The series had heart - we could empathize and identify.

The Bosch series are a different kettle of fish, and it's a great tribute to Michael as a writer that he does so many things, so well. The series is just about ideal for those who love the mystery that is L.A., and who enjoy being offered an insider's look at the LAPD and the working life of a very believable detective. But Bosch doesn't really change, and that's okay, because we can identify with him regardless - his courage, his relentless drive, and his nobility. (The TV series really amplified the identification factor - all of the characters are breathtakingly well cast - thank heaven for the wonderful Jerry Edgar and Chief Irving.)

With The Late Show, I had more difficulty identifying with Renee Ballard. The book is very, very plot-driven, perhaps a bit too much so for my taste, as I feel there isn't time to get inside Renee's life and feelings. The plot feels a bit crammed. In mentally searching for examples of female detectives who seem more well-rounded, I think of the ball-busting (really - disturbingly flawed) female sharks in the Robert Crais books, but I also visualize a younger Lieutenant Billets, derived from Amy Aquino's wonderful portrayal in the TV series.

Writing a female character, if you're male, seems to be fraught with peril. I think Robert B. Parker's Sunny Randall series fall flat for this reason. Sunny may be accurately drawn, but she's just not really exciting. I'm much more engaged by various female detectives I've watched on TV: Person of Interest, Southland, The Wire, Blue Bloods. 

This is off-topic, but female writers tend to do an even worse job when writing male police officers. They tend to write the male characters of their dreams: e.g., Hercule Poirot and the ridiculous female wish-fulfilling Lord Peter Wimsey, Hamish Macbeth, etc. I remember a female writer, whose name I've forgotten, who had a fire chief talking like a Harvard professor - she simply couldn't bear to give him realistic dialogue. All of her books had an agenda of wanting to show how civilized people should behave.

I wish Michael all the best with the new series. I'm hoping that Renee will grow, perhaps by acquiring some of characteristics of Michael's other admirable and very enjoyable, three-dimensional female characters: Maggie McFierce, Grace Billets, Eleanor Wish, Kiz Rider, Rachel Walling.





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runbei
garymax814

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Reply with quote  #2 
As alwasys, Michael's plots are incredibly taut and breathtaking.  But I have a strong 'love' for Harry and Renee just didn't come alive for me.  She felt flat and either un-or under-developed.  I couldn't get a strong sense of who she was, where she came from (not the place, the life).  I didn't even really know what she looked like.  Dark skin, yes, but thin? tall?  short?  hair is long or short?  I needed a sense of her body so I could understand how she felt in it.  with harry, it's always clear where he is and what he means to do and what he feels about it.  maybe there will be some more fleshing out in future books.  still, a book by Michael Connelly is better than any books by other mystery/detetective books.  I adore Michael's books and as soon as they arrive (I order them in advance to arrive day of release), the rest of my life goes on hold so that I can give myself the gift of reading his newest book.  often I finish it the same day.  so thank you Michael.  I really do have a lot of nerve criticizing anything you write!
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Jan Richman Schulman
Caro

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Reply with quote  #3 
Jan,
There was information about her looks in the book. I think he said she was 5'7" and 125 pounds with a slender frame. She is half Hawaiian with tan skin and she is described with chin length sun streaked hair. 

My friend read the book and said the same thing to me. Maybe the issue is that the description is spread throughout the book and not given in one paragraph. 
runbei

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Reply with quote  #4 
It's more than looks. We know little about her personality, her likes and dislikes, her weaknesses, the past events that have formed her qualities. An expanded view of her, not just in one place, would help - if we could see her more clearly. Watching Joss Carter in Person of Interest, or Kima Greggs, Sonja Sohn's character in The Wire, or Jacky Curatola in Blue Bloods we know a lot about them within minutes. Same when we read about Carol Starkey, the tough, self-destructive detective in the Demolition Angel book by Robert Crais. It gives us the color we need to visualize the officer. I don't pretend to know how to do it. But, like Lieutenant Pounds, I know what I like. (Funnnny line from Bosch 2.)
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runbei
garymax814

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Reply with quote  #5 
Thanks Jane, or Caro, or whoever.  I guess I missed those points of information.  but yes, I also felt a need to know more about who the person is who lives in Renee's skin.  I am thinking more of that will come out in future books about her.
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Jan Richman Schulman
SamG

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Reply with quote  #6 
Blake Lively from The Shallows could play Renee. Similar character.
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Samuel W. Gioia
Jeannie

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Reply with quote  #7 
Just finished reading The Late Show.  I am open to MC's new character Renee Ballard, and do not see similarities to Bosch character as a negative.  (Outsider, at odds with other department members, willingness to take risks and work outside the lines.) It was necessary for him to make a new character because Bosch has gotten so established within the department due to his veteran status and years of astoundingly successful police work, that story lines of him having to prove himself and of having everyone doubt and underestimate him are no longer feasible. 

But I did have to struggle a bit to relate to Renee.  Maybe it is the challenge inherent in writing for the other gender, but Renee did not quite become real.  It is true that Michael writes well for certain support female characters in his other series, ie, Eleanor, Maddie, Rachel, etc. But these characters also have parallels in Michael's real life: wive and lover, teenage daughter, etc.  (Note:  I am not suggesting MC has a lover in addition to his wife).  I appreciate MC's effort with Renee, but maybe it will take a couple more books to give her the resonance she needs.  I will read them.

PS:  I do have one question:  Why is Renee homeless?  Sure, I know she likes to surf, but she does not seem to have credit problems that make it impossible for her to rent or buy an abode.  And it would be better for her doggie to have a yard to chew in, even if he needs the occasional sitter.
Janed

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Reply with quote  #8 
Jeannie, this is from a Q&A I did with Michael on his web site:

Question: Without giving too much away, it appears that since Ballard works through the nights she doesn’t have a strong need for a traditional home life. She is rolling out of work when most people are starting their day. I don’t want to say she is homeless but it doesn’t seem like she makes it to the home she has very often. Why is that?

MC: I really like playing around with how as adults we subconsciously seek the comforts we found in childhood. Ballard grew up in Hawaii, mostly on beaches and in a bohemian, surfing caravan lifestyle. After a tragedy I won’t reveal here, she spent a year as a teenager living alone on a beach because she was subconsciously longing and looking for something. Now as an adult she is doing something similar and she is repeating a behavior because there is comfort and home in it, even though to the outside world it might seem plain weird. It’s one of the things I love about Ballard and want to explore further in future books. What is she longing for? Will she ever find it? Couple that with the importance and danger of her job and I think it raises a lot questions. When writing fiction, questions are good to have. It keeps the words coming.


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Jane Davis
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http://www.MichaelConnelly.com
Jeannie

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Reply with quote  #9 
Interesting musings by runbei.

I agree that writing for the other gender is difficult.  One of the things I have always loved about MC' s writing is his respect for the female characters in his books, even though the male characters are usually the main protagonists. 

The most successful female character drawn by a male author in my opinion is Mma Precious Ramotswe of  The Number One Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  He has mastered the portrayal of intuition and sensitivity as powerful sleuthing tools, without dumbing down or weakening the character. 

I enjoy reading J.A. Jance's books, with many strong female characters, but her J.P. Beaumont series, though apparently popular, does not really succeed as a male lead drafted by a female author, in my opinion.

Jo Nesbo writes great characters for women in his Harry Hole series, including Rakel and Katrina.  But they are not the leads. 

Denise Mina is a Scottish writer who writes well for her own gender of female protagonists.



k23man

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Reply with quote  #10 
I thought The Late Show was ok, but like many others here have suggested, it wasn't as engaging as Michael's books usually are. I did think the idea of Renee being homeless was a kinda cool concept, but at the same time it detracted from the realism of the story a bit. Would a detective really have no home and try to sleep all day in a hot tent on the beach? The other thing I really didn't like was the politically correct overtones - the Bosch books never tried to preach concepts such as gender "identity", which is lacking any scientific evidence. I did warm to the story gradually but I don't know if Renee Ballard has the same potential as other Connelly characters.

One female character I really loved was Cassie Black. It'd be great to see her again in a future book!

Jeannie

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Reply with quote  #11 
Maybe we can get a crossover novel with Renee and Mickey Haller.  There could be an off-centered romance cooking between a lawyer who uses a car for an office, and a detective who uses van and tent for a home.  Gives new meaning to the expression, your place or mine?
SamG

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Reply with quote  #12 
LoL!  Too much of an age difference.  Besides, she's already fighting of another creepy lawyer!
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Samuel W. Gioia
jbenham

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Reply with quote  #13 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeannie


But I did have to struggle a bit to relate to Renee. 


Therein lies the rub. I am not quite 1/2 finished with the book yet, but this is what I am struggling with too. She is obviously a very good cop. Very intuitive. But so far, there is nothing to make her likable as a person.
Diana

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Reply with quote  #14 
I've been addicted to Michael Connelly's books since I started reading them and loved Mickey Haller, Roy Lindell, and many of his other characters (50/50 on Bosch), but don't particularly care for Renee Ballard. For some reason, she comes across as somewhat obnoxious, unnecessarily abrasive, and always trying to prove her manhood by refusing to follow policies and comply with orders, and she doesn't seem overly competent.  Along with that, she seems to expect everyone to make up for having lost her beef with her former lieutenant. The Late Show was good because Connelly writes well, but the main character here really didn't resonate with me, and for some reason, the overall plot seemed as transient as this obsessive detective. Frankly, I'd much rather see a book on Roy Lindell!
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Diana Nelson
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Reply with quote  #15 
Diana, Agree

I don’t think that Connelly is able to really write about how women behave and think.

I am a kama’aina (from "the aina--the land), a resident, a wahine (woman) who has lived in the Hawai’ian Islands most of my life except for undergrad and med school. Then I returned to my home in the Islands in Honolulu.

Connelly got most EVERYTHING wrong about the Islands.  You have to LIVE here not just read a Wikipedia page.  When Rene’s dad doesn’t come back--where was he?  We surf close to the shore as the land drops off quickly to deep ocean. She never called the Coast Guard?  Where were the lifeguards who are present on every beach?

We are the most laid back folks in the world.  We’re also pretty akamai (smart.)  There is NO WAY that I or any other wahine would sleep on a beach in a small tent!  Not smart.  You’d get killed for your board or van.  

Also if you live to surf, you LIVE where the surf is da best!  And that’s in the islands. We just had 60’ waves here.  All Rene can do is paddle board.  Tourists and celebrities who live here paddle board.  Nah the real sport is surfing the big waves.

And FRANKLY I am sick of the women that Connelly writes about are always caught by sexual predators...and NO we cannot take out a man much bigger than us!  So we don’t go in by ourselves; we call backup.

Connelly just doesn’t write women well. Keeping from getting pregnant is a daily conundrum.  When women write they are constantly aware that casual sex can ONLY occur if the guy wears a condom.  No mention of getting an IUD, taking BC pills at the same time every day. Sleeping on a beach one NEVER gets sand off!

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Helena Okekai
better_angels

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Reply with quote  #16 
This was my first MC book.  I listen to suspense novels in the car which makes commuting enjoyable.  Heretofore my favorites were Grafton, Baldacci and Deaver.  No offense to those pros but MC is better.  So polished.  He never speaks down to the reader.  A most articulate, informed writer.  I like Renee Ballard a lot and look forward to the next installment.  Kathleen Moennig's reading was very fine, too.  Hope she reads all future books.

I have just two problems with the book. 

The first is that I never learned the motive for the dirty cop's actions.  Maybe I missed it.  I was driving, afterall, in Socal traffic.  

Also, I was so jarred by the sudden ending I almost pulled off the road to cope with my shock.  I felt she had more to do to wrap up the story.  Was she considering suicide by paddling out blindly into the gray, only to be rescued/redeemed by her dog Lola's barking?  Was it a nod to her father's drowning?  Lola was doing what Renee did when her father disappeared.

She certainly has demons to reconcile.  But what a fine young detective.  
Jeannie

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Reply with quote  #17 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jeannie
One of the things I liked about Late Show was the homage paid to the real life Stephanie Lazarus case, involving LAPD investigating and corralling one of its own.  The similar setup of interview of dirty cop was great!

Read this article for context:
https://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/07/lapd-lazurus-murder-mystery-killer


Here is actual interview


As others have expressed, I did not immediately resonate with Ballard based on Late Show, but it only took MC one more book, Dark Sacred Night, to work her into a great character who is very interesting and relatable.  I encourage everyone to read it.  Also, I am hoping it will be folded into season 6!
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