commuterchroniclesdbh

Driving and Biking in the Big City

Posts Tagged ‘Michael Connelly

On the cop beat for life

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Recently, I’ve been listening to Harry Bausch’s adventures as written by Michael Connelly in “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” and I can’t get past the feelings it evokes. “They” say your sense of smell is the strongest sense to activate your memories. For me, hearing can be equally haunting. Or is it sight and reading? A good book, read again, listened to again. A favorite author can feel like home and long ago at the same time. Or, in this case, a same character – Harry Bausch, the hard-nosed anti-hero and Los Angeles cop as written by another former reporter on the cop beat.

This book has me transported to the past. It has me reminded me of quick trips to the grocery store when I could rent a book on cassette tape, mostly abridged and somewhat unacceptable. But I’d take anything on tape to get me through a day of housekeeping or cleaning out when my kids were young and chores were routine.

Or it’s Sunday and the only library that was open was 10 miles away so I’d bike there and bike back – for 20 miles and two hours roundtrip at the minimum. I’d have to plan my clothes – light as possible but with a cover-up t-shirt, two waters and a light weight bag that would be book-laden for the trip back.

Or it’s a road trip to Austin where I would meet my friend from Michigan at her mom’s house so that we could keep up an important relationship for me where she was my rock while my son went through and out the other end of a heart condition.

Or to Lubbock for my westward bound road trip to visit my daughter at Texas Tech. That eight-to-10-hour trip meant a couple of really good books by favorite authors who would keep me occupied but focused.

concrete-blondeI’m transported by Connelly’s new book not because the book is about yesterday because it’s not. But because I’m reminded of some of the first books I ever listened to as an audio book addict. “The Poet,” “Concrete Blonde,” “Trunk Music.”  Ahhhhhh. I may need to listen again.

Listening to audio books is as common in my daily rituals as is my commute to work. Actually, I’ve been listening to read-aloud books far longer. I was first attracted to Connelly, now world famous, of course, long before the charismatic Texan Matthew McConaughey played the role of his “Lincoln Lawyer,” Mickey Haller, an attorney who works from the back of his car, so another commuter. Or before Clint Eastwood played a side character from the Harry Bausch books in “Blood Work.”

I may have listened to “The Poet” as one of my first audio books, if you don’t count the classics or old radio broadcasts that I could find on the car radio or at truck stops. Remember, this is long before the days of the internet or downloads and when libraries seldom carried anything but the written word.

the-poet“Death is my beat. I make my living from it.  I forge my professional relationship on it.  I treat it with the passion and precision of an undertaker — somber and sympathetic about it when I’m with the bereaved, a skilled craftsman with it when I’m alone.  I’ve always thought the secret to dealing with death was to keep it at arm’s length.  That’s the rule.  Don’t let it breathe in your face,” Connelly says in “The Poet,” back in 1996.

Connelly is back to his police procedural hard core in the “Wrong Side of Goodbye,” and I love it. It’s the routine of day-to-day police work. Keeping your notes in order. Working your sources. Doing favors. You scratch my back and I scratch yours. So I’m transported not only to my listening past but also to the heyday of my career as a cop reporter. Back in the day, I rode the beat with cops, went door-to-door with detectives and sat on stakeouts. I’ve discovered bodies, been shot at and, actually, solved a couple of murders myself. We were a team, on the same side mostly.

That’s the police beat as I worked it, back in the day of the press as Fourth Estate. My cop shops were on a rotation – whether it was Port Arthur, Beaumont, Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston or a bit of Detroit. The bigger the city, the more often I visited the police station. But even the one-cop towns showed up on my calendar once a month. I called or dropped by. That way, when a body got dumped at Kennedale, a small town outside of Fort Worth, the dispatcher knew my name and would give me the story.

cub-reporter

Working traps on my first daily, the Beaumont Enterprise, two years after I’d started my journalism career at a bi-weekly. 

“Running my traps,” my first city editor called it. Joe Broughton was a feisty hellcat of a newsman with a kind heart but a trashy mouth. I learned a lot from him and from running my traps, a work ethic that has served me well in a writing career that soon will have paid my bills for half a century.

So, on this rainy day when I can’t be running the roads, I think I’ll finish “The Wrong Side of Goodbye” while I do my house chores and then run through some repeats including “The Poet.” I think I may even have that one in hard copy.

Wrong side of the conversation in my head

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Today, I’m listening to Harry Bosch’s adventures as written by Michael Connelly in “The Wrong Side of Goodbye,” and it’s transported me fully into the story. I’m getting in a few steps to shake off the holiday fatigue and the quiet of being one of a very small skeleton crew at work.

So, I’m walking the halls and crosswalks of the Texas Medical Center fully engaged in a bit of a Connelly throwback to his police procedurals of the past.  I’m really liking it because it reminds me of my old police reporter days. The crimes were just as horrific but we seemed to solve them with more concrete and less cosmic methods. Also, we took crime more seriously – perhaps not anesthetized so much as yet. But, I digress from what happened that was not at all serious.

I come to the part in the book about the weapon that was used to commit these atrocious series of crimes. It’s a knife of the killing people kind and used in war kind. So here’s what I’m hearing:

“Definitely for use on a silent kill squad,” he (Bosch) said.

“He drew the knife back horizontally with the edge of the blade out. He pantomimed attacking someone from behind, covering their mouth with his right hand and then sticking the point of the blade into a target’s neck with his left. He then sliced outward with the knife.

“You go in the side and slice out through all the bleeders in the throat. No sound. Target bleeds out in under 20 seconds. Done.”

Your gentle reader (in this case listener) is so engrossed that I don’t even realize that I’m following the narrative with my own pantomime. It so happens that both of my hands are empty because I have a dangly small bag hanging from my shoulder and my MP3 player pinned to my sweater.

throat-slitI reach up with my right hand and cover my own mouth. Then, I draw up my left hand with an invisible knife and look up just about ready to go for my own jugular.  I’ve just crossed over a walkway and have entered the section of restaurants, shops and even a hotel of mostly normal or sick people. There are now a ton of people in my vicinity and about three of them are watching me carefully. They all have looks of concern, horror and maybe even panic.

We make eye contact. I re-enter my own world. Oops. Not normal, I think.

I casually drop my invisible weapon, smile innocently and proceed to the sandwich shop for a turkey reuben.

Written by commuterchroniclesdbh

December 28, 2016 at 11:57 am

Keeping road rage on down low with downloads

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I am perhaps the longest and most voracious audible book listener. This is what makes my commute enjoyable and keeps  my road rage under control. Whenever I start to tire of the commute, I think of it like this. How many hours did I spend reading on a daily basis? It was at least the two hours I typically spend in the car. Thus, my commuting time equals my reading time.

Today, I traveled down the roads of Norway with Jo Nesbo’s detective-hero Harry Hole (pronounced “hula” by my audible reader Thor Knai) in my latest favorite Scandinavia-noire. With my schedule, I seldom read but always listen. I’m also a fan of the Harris County Public Library and prefer to get my audible downloads free after first spending a fortune on cassettes and then another fortune on CDs.

I always was a reader, one time reading all the family World Books during a long boring summer. In elementary school, I always read every book in my classroom library. It was only in junior high when we had a separate library did I realize there were more books than I could ever possibly read. It was a rude awakening.

With my audible listening and my long commute, I’m back on track. I have a book club of friends who keep me current. Otherwise, I choose murder and mayhem. Some of my favorites are

  • Denise Mina
  • Val McDermid
  • P.D. James
  • Elizabeth George
  • Ken Follett
  • Louise Penny
  • Jacqueline Winspear
  • Robert Crais
  • James Lee Burke
  • Laura Lippman
  • Michael Connelly
  • John Grisham
  • Walter Mosley
  • James Patterson
  • All of the Kellermans including son Jesse

And that’s just who is in my current library from Harry, the Harris County system. Now, when someone asks if I’ve read something, typically, the answer is “yes.” Only in my case, I’ve listened to something.