A couple of days ago, Jann Glisson asked if I was watching the Amazon series, BOSCH – which I am, having almost binged all of S2 and am looking down the dark hole of depression seeing Ep10 looming tonight! Titus Williver IS Harry Bosch, if for no other reason than because Michael Connolly is an executive producer on the series and had a hand in the cast selection.
But as much as I like the Bosch series it reminded me there are a couple of other book series in this genre that are pretty good, too.
Stuart Woods writes the Stone Barrington series in which Stone is a former NYPD detective-turned-lawyer who is “of counsel” for a hot-shot law firm. “Of counsel” is lawyer talk for an affiliated attorney that provides services to clients that the firm doesn’t want to be associated with – so Stone does both private investigation work and represents clients in things too hot for the firm. Written in the third-person, it’s a clever premise and provides Woods with a double dip into the writer’s tool bag without sacrificing the suspension of disbelief.
Woods does a good job with cop jargon and legal terminology and there’s never a feeling he’s writing with a tech advisor looking over his shoulder. The plot and pacing are fine, though the series feels formulaic with classy, easy women and an ex-partner still on the NYPD who acts as the deus ex machina for unattainable information. Stone also has his own high performance airplane which DOES break the suspension of disbelief and in those sequences you can feel yourself sliding into the black abyss of a Clive Cussler adventure-fantasy. Woods’ signature opening was, “Elaine’s, late” (until the legendary NY restaurant closed) and I came to feel like I’d been to the restaurant myself and Elaine had a Knob Creek waiting for me at a table by the bar. Signature moves are great if a writer can make them work, and Elaine’s was gold for Woods.
Nelson de Mille writes the John Cory series in which Cory was an NYPD homicide detective and now is a contract agent for an anti-terrorism task force. He also has an ex-partner with access to information and people but unlike Stone Barrington, Cory doesn’t have the rich-boy toys and always works for the government chasing the most dangerous of the dangerous. Written in the first person, what sets the series apart isn’t plot or pacing or twists or Sherlock Holmes-like deduction.
What makes this a hit series is de Mille’s courage in creating John Cory’s character profile: intelligent, driven, honest, witty, street smart and highly experienced in the criminal mind – all of which offsets against his sarcastic, foul mouth, misogynist comments, arrogance, Alpha-male ego, and a willingness to push any envelope – including the law – in the pursuit of the truth. Cory talks like a real cop -- not a cleaned up version for the masses -- and thinks like a real cop, whether the reader wants to believe it or not. Those Sunday-go-to-church-play-by-the-rules cops you see on TV ain't the real deal... John Cory is. He's as close to a jaded, cynical, 24/7 cop as you're going to get without being one yourself.
I’m not sure which is more astounding: that an author would think he could write the most un-politically correct character in the genre and still get it published in the mass market OR that a publishing house would take a flyer on a character that would likely offend, piss off and otherwise alienate 75% of the book buying market. George Carlin couldn’t have written this character any more offensive and yet what transcends the narrative is the sub-text that this is a good guy that you want doing this job and that you trust his judgment over everyone else’s.
The most obvious answer to the success of the Cory series is the adage that good writing overcomes all obstacles. That idea, however, is not only trite and hoary, it’s also a bull-dozer load of crap. Good writing DOES sell books and TV series (like BOSCH). But what sells palate loads of books and renews television shows is an ideal… a belief system that is shared between the writer and the reader that is cemented by the hero’s actions and dialogue.
Of the three, only the Harry Bosch series has come to the small screen, specifically Amazon. These three series are entertaining, but deal with subject matter, language and sex and violence well beyond what is normal truck on broadcast TV or non-premium cable.
That is likely to change given ABC’s announcement on October 26, 2016 that they have greenlighted a John Cory series. Well… likely to sort of change. When people say “the book was great but the movie was crap with expensive popcorn” or “television is a wasteland for morons who think an iPad Mini is the same as a mini pad” – what they are talking about is a John Cory series on ABC. In order to pass ABC’s standards and practices – which govern what can be said and seen on television – John Cory will have to be homogenized beyond recognition… certainly beyond what made the series popular in the first place. What ABC will wind up with is another predictable, uninteresting cop procedural – just like all the rest – instead of what Amazon brought out with BOSCH: a defining series with believable storylines told in the vernacular and original voice of the author.
That’s just my opinion, however, I could be full of crap.
But I’m not.