Interview with Michael Connelly about Chasing the Dime

Michael Connelly became a novelist after several years of covering the crime beat at newspapers in Daytona Beach and Fort Lauderdale, Florida and as a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times. After three years at the Times, Connelly began writing his first novel, The Black Echo, featuring LAPD Detective Hieronymus Bosch. The Black Echo was published in 1992, and won the Edgar Award for best first novel by the Mystery Writers of America. Since The Blach Echo, Connelly has written several more thrillers featuring Bosch that became bestsellers including The Black Ice, The Concrete Blonde, Trunk Music, Angels Flight, A Darkness More Than Night and City of Bones. In Connelly's latest novel, Chasing the Dime, a computer entrepreneur is led into a nighttime world of escort services, websites, sex, and secret identities, when he pursues messages left on his phone line for a woman named Lilly -- who seems to be in some very serious trouble.

Cover of Chasing the Dime by Michael Connelly
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Chasing the Dime is a unique book for you because the idea for it stems from an experience you had with a new telephone number. What can you tell us about this? What parts of Henry Pierce are Michael Connelly?

Henry and I don't really share a lot in common. We look at the world differently. But we do share this same telephone experience. Sort of. I moved last year and when I put in a new phone in my office I started getting calls and messages for the woman who formerly had the phone number. The calls were from her mother, friends and other family members. They were trying to locate her and were very worried. It was a sad situation but I couldn't do anything but tell them that I had the number now and I didn't know anything about the woman who had it before me. This sparked the story that became Chasing the Dime. In it Henry has the same sort of experience with a new phone number. But unlike me, he becomes obsessed with the missing woman and tries to find out what happened.

In addition to investigating a strange crime, Henry Pierce also runs a successful technology company and is "chasing the dime," seeking to make a supercomputer smaller than a dime. What can you tell us about the research that went into writing this book for both the technology aspect and the world of escort services?

I have been fascinated with this technology for a long time and gathering reports on it for years. When it came time to actually write a book in which it plays a significant part I took the easy way out. I hired a researcher and she was able to pull together much more information on this fascinating research and get me a visit with one of the leaders in the field in his lap at UCLA. It was wonderful. As for the internet sex aspect, it is again something that i have been fascinated with because I believe there is always going to be a dark or underground side to the great advances of our time. The internet is an example of this. Getting to know something about this world was pretty easy. You let your fingers do the work. I went online and started surfing. This stuff is not that hard to find. The people behind it are not that hard to find.

Henry Pierce has good intentions for the technology that he seeks, but there are obviously ways to use this kind of technology for sinister purposes. Have you thought about this at all? What are the real-life ramifications for this technology?

Sure, that's what makes it fascinating and what makes it share a kinship with the underground internet. Technological advances are as good as the people who make them and handle them. For every good use there can also be a bad use. The technology in the book is real and it is coming. It will change the world for good and probably for bad in some ways. But I think the good things will outweigh the bad. Just the medical applications--in which diseases can possibly be attacked and cured from within--seem to make it worth it, let alone all the applications it will have to computing and electronics.

I hear that the film rights to this extremely cinematic book have been snapped up by MGM. What can you tell us about the film? Does it have a director or writer attached to it? How do you envision the film? How do you feel about having your books turned into movies having gone through the process with Blood Work?

Cover of Blood Work by Michael Connelly
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I am not very involved in the film aspects of this book. The deal was just made recently and so the project is in its infancy. There is a screenwriter attached to it and once the producers have a script they will try to attract directors and actors. I think it is a cinematic story. The science aspect and the lab and so forth could be very interesting and then of course there is an erotic element to it that would probably be better served in a movie than in a book.

My experience with Blood Work was all good. The movie is different from the book but I am accepting of that and knew that would be the way it would be when I made the deal five years ago. What was important to me was that the character of Terry McCaleb remain intact in the transfer from page to screen. I think that happened and so I am happy.

Two characters in Chasing the Dime are reading, one is reading Hell to Pay by George Pelecanos and Henry's ex-girlfriend, Nicole, is reading Iguana Love by Vicki Hendricks. Why did you mention these specific books and authors?

It's been a long practice of mine to mention books I have read and enjoyed, or that might have a significance to my story. I don't like answering questions about who my favorite authors are because there are too many and I would leave people I might know and respect out. So I don't usually answer that question. I just put my recommendations into my own books.

There's also a Hieronymous Bosch poster in the Amedeo Technologies office. What can we infer from that?

All of my books are moving on the same canvas. So I look for little ways of tying them together hear and there. I think the coolest tie-in in this book is that Henry Pierce is the brother of a woman who was the victim of a killer called The Dollmaker. That killer is referenced in my first book. Harry Bosch killed the Dollmaker, so there is a link there between Henry and Harry. But you'd have to be reading along all these years to know that.

What's next for Michael Connelly? And will Henry Pierce ever meet Harry Bosch or Terry McCaleb?

I'm finishing a Harry Bosch book now for next year. It's written in the first person, which is new for Harry. And because, as I said before, these stories are all part of the same big canvas, it is entirely possible they could all meet someday. In fact, Harry and Henry already met once, about 12 years ago when Harry was on the Dollmaker case and he had to deliver bad news to Henry's family.

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