Sunday, January 22, 2017

The Case of the Auspicious Allegory


One can always count on three things in a Michael Connelly mystery novel: Realism, idiotic cliff hangers, and dramatic tension created by putting his victims in jeopardy.

But the most fun of a Connelly novel is picking up the literary allusions to famous detective fiction. In at least two of the Harry Bosch novels, the detective dined at the Red Harvest diner, the title of a pre-Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett novella.

This time, in The Wrong Side of Goodbye, Connelly brings out the big guns, by paraphrasing the opening line of Raymond Chandler’s The Big Sleep.

Chandler, 1939: “I was neat, clean, shaved and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. I was everything the well-dressed private detective ought to be. I was calling on four million dollars.”

Connelly, 2016: “According to Wikipedia he (Bosch) was calling on
six billion dollars.”

In Florida where Connelly is from, allegory is what happens when you are eaten by alligators at a Disney resort.
In California, Chandler wrote a thinly disguised narrative of the Doheny oil murders, while Connelly apparently has picked the late Henry J. Kaiser, as a model for Vance, the billionaire employer for whom Bosch works as a private eye.

There is no point in discussing the plot, because Connelly (and all serial novelists) basically have only the one plot.

But he’s still a fun read, and it’s good to see him exploring ethnic diversity of the city. He implied, in the end notes to the novel, that Bosch might return to the little city of San Fernando.

Or maybe a gig with the L.A, County Sheriff will open up, being a lot of the personnel of that agency seem to be in prison at the moment.

The enduring mystery of the Wrong Side of Goodbye is how Connelly picked the Hispanic surname Sahagun for one of his characters.

My instincts tell me this is lifted from Louis Sahagun, the legendary L.A. Times reporter, a native La La Lander, who began his career covering organized crime for the Arizona Republic, and became the Times’ Wild West reporter for more than 30 years.

I’ll never be able to prove it in literary court, but if I use Connelly logic, I’ll get a slam-dunk conviction.

Bosch must pine for the days when Wyatt Earp worked for the L.A.P.D. in an off-the-books arrangement with Chief Two-gun Davis. Things went swimmingly until federal marshals arrested the lawman for claim-jumping a borax deposit in the Mojave Desert.

The first season of the Bosch television series continued the allegorical trend by adapting the character, Lou Escobar from the movie Chinatown. We'll probably see more of this in the two other seasons.

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