In an unusual treat, ironically made possible by the coronavirus, Waterstones bookstores offered book lovers an opportunity to hear from two of the 21st century’s most successful authors: Michael Connelly and John Grisham.
In a wide-reaching conversation, moderator Phil Williams did a fine job of navigating the authors body of work, current works, hobbies, writing habits, and influences, with a little discussion of movies, too.
Connolly, who has written more than 30 novels, is most associated with the Harry Bosch novels, which are currently being filmed on Amazon’s “Bosch.” But he is also well known for his “Lincoln Lawyer” novels, which also spawned a hit film starring Matthew McConaughey. Williams asked Connelly if, when he was writing his novels, he ever “heard” the voice of Titus Welliver (who plays Bosch in the Amazon series) or McConaughey. Connelly noted that he had written Bosch for 25 years before the books were filmed, and his pre-existing image of Harry Bosch is “impenetrable.” But he did not that when writing his Lincoln Lawyer novels (the last of which will come out in November), he does see or hear McConaughey.
Interestingly, McConaughey also started in the film version of a Grisham Novel: A Time to Kill. It is just one of many Grisham novels made into a film, including: The Firm, Runaway Jury, The Pelican Brief, The Chamber, The Gingerbread Man, A Painted House, Christmas with the Kranks, The Rainmaker, and The Client. Grisham did note that, despite having numerous successful films with the biggest of movie stars, no film has been made from his novels in more than 15 years.
Williams asked the authors what they are currently reading. Connelly begged off a little, noting that he spends most of his time writing, but that he does listen to audio books while exercising. He listed Thomas Harris’s “Red Dragon” as an influential book that helped prompt him to begin writing.
Grisham was more voluble on the subject, citing Ian Rankin, Harlan Coben, Scott Turow, and Erik Larson. He also noted that his COVID project was reading all the novels of Walker Percy. Grisham cited Scott Turow’s “Presumed Innocent” as highly influential and the book that prompted him to get to writing.
Both are book collectors. When asked to identify their most prized possession, Connelly cited a first edition of a Ross McDonald novel–along with the signed contract for the book. Grisham cited owning all of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel in first edition.
In terms of approaches to writing, Connelly doesn’t outline, but he also doesn’t begin writing until he “knows the beginning and end of the novel.” Grisham does outline–fairly extensively–and writes summaries or key moments in each chapter.
For those of you may have never read a Grisham or Connelly, Williams asked each author where they would advise a reader to start. Connelly suggested 2016’s “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” which features both Bosch and Mickey Haller (the “Lincoln Lawyer”). I wasn’t asked, but I would recommend “The Poet,” which involves a serial killer and Edgar Allan Poe.
John Grisham, surprisingly, suggested that readers should begin with “The Innocent Man,” his only non-fiction book. I would suggest “The Firm.”
The authors are not only entertaining, but they have a special place for LEAP Ambassadors. Michael Connelly was a journalist, writing for the LA Times and covering crime. While not many LEAP Ambassadors go into journalism, many LEAP Ambassadors major in English and Criminal Justice. And the LEAP Ambassadors have actually met Connelly, and our advisor, Mike Yawn, interviewed him for an article.
And John Grisham, of course, is an attorney, and he also served three terms in the Mississippi House of Representatives, mixing law, politics, and civic duty. In short, these author reflect a lot of the interests pursued by the LEAP Center, and we were grateful to have the opportunity to hear from them.