Video is available at youtube.
MICHAEL CONNELLY (voice-over): This is Michael Connelly, and you're looking at images from Hong Kong. I went there, uh, late last year to research my book 9 Dragons. The book's a Harry Bosch story, so most of it is set in Los Angeles, but at least a third of it takes place in Hong Kong. And I went there a couple of times, and, uh, this video is from the, uh, the second time. Um, I would call it a research trip, but I was also looking for inspiration. I had not yet written the story; hadn't written the book. I just knew I wanted to set a good part of it in Hong Kong.
If you're, uh, fortunate, as I have been, and you get the opportunity to write a series of novels that goes on and on – I've been writing about Harry Bosch now since 1992 – you come to realize that every now and then you can do a, uh, fish-out-of-water serie– uh, a fish-out-of-water story. You can take your detective – in my case, Harry Bosch – away from the comfort zone, the places that, um, he's operated in, where your readers are expecting him to be, and take him somewhere new.
And so for a while I knew I had this opportunity, and I had been doing a lot of thinking about, "where do I take Harry?" In fact, at one point, I started a book where he went to Paris, and, um– but I abandoned it. There was something about it that wasn't feeling right. And as I got a chance to travel to a lot of places in the world for my, uh, book business, for book tours and so forth, I was always kind of looking for the place that, um, I could take Harry that would, um, put him in this classic fish-out-of-water story.
And so eventually, about five, six years ago, I came through Hong Kong on a book tour. I'd been in Australia, and went up to Hong Kong to do a couple of media interviews, and spent, um, I think three or four days wandering around the city. It's what a call research by osmosis. And I decided Hong Kong would be the place, when I'm ready, that I would take Harry.
This, uh– where I started here is, uh, called Victoria Peak, or "the Peak" to most of the people who live in Hong Kong, and it's the highest point where you overlook the city. And, uh, what I decided to do on this trip was to kind of follow the path that I was thinking Harry would take through the city. I wanted to, uh, construct this story so that Harry, um, is in Hong Kong for a very limited, and is moving relentlessly during the story. Without giving too much away, he comes to Hong Kong to find his missing daughter, and I'll just leave it at that. And he has a certain set of clues, and he's going to follow them.
And in my mind, I kept using the word "trajectory." I wanted Harry to have a very swift, and, in some cases, brutal and violent, tradec– trajectory through the city, and I had mapped it out – you saw me there looking at a map with, uh, Steve Vascik, who lives in Hong Kong and was kind of my, uh, tour guide, if you will, through the city. And here we're taking the boat across from mainland Hong Kong to, uh, Kowloon, which is across the Harbour.
The translation of Kowloon is, uh, Nine Dragons, and a big part of the story takes place here in Kowloon– takes place in this building I'm about to get to. Uh, a place called Chungking Mansions, which is sort of like Hong Kong's, uh, Casablanca. It's, uh, a whole world in one building. Um, you go in on the bottom level, it's kind of a world bazaar with, uh, money-changers and phone salesmen and ethnic foods and– and it's kind of like a home away from home for every third- and fourth-world country in the world. And there's a very palpable sense of, um, intrigue and even, uh– not necessarily fear, but this idea: "Am I safe in here? Am I not?" And that's something I wanted to get into the book.
And, um, above this level– I should mention at this point the reason why we're looking at the ceiling is that they frown upon people filming in here. So this is kind of stolen video. Um, and in the multiple levels above this, uh, kind of world bazaar are several different hotels housed in one building, and speak all the different languages and– and the rooms are very inexpensive, and– and it's certainly a hodgepodge of people from around the world in here. And, uh, during all my trips to Hong Kong, I kept coming back to that place, and, uh, kind of– I would call it research by osmosis. It wasn't like I was asking a lot of questions. I didn't really want to ask any questions. I wanted to just kind of see and observe and get a feel for it so I could later put it in the book.
I think the two key elements to writing are, um, obviously inspiration and momentum, and so when I was on this trip, um, I was, um, always looking for places and, um, aspects of the city that I could kind of harness and– and– and have this, uh, almost relentless journey across the city. I was looking for momentum at all times. I kept coming back to Chungking Mansions. Um, I– I– just looking for that– that flavor, or that feel, um, that anything can happen. It's very similar to what I get from Los Angeles, and so that became the center of the story. Um, you find yourself, when you're doing a research mission like this, casting a wide net. You never know what you're going to use, so you throw it out there wide, gather a lot of stuff, go back and see what you have, see what you like, and see what will fit in.
CONNELLY (to Vascik): I want to have a confrontation with someone saying, like, "where are they?" And before the guy dies or passes out, Harry thinks he says "Tin Moon." And then– then he has to figure out what that means.
CONNELLY (voice-over): There I was talking about the final destination of the Hong Kong story, Tuen Mun, which is in the New Territories, and so the trajectory is from the south, from the Peak, north like a bullet into the New Territories. I think the biggest challenge to writing this story – the, uh, so-called fish-out-of-water story – is that, uh, Harry Bosch is really a character who's, um– uh, of Los Angeles. He's built to be, um, in and of Los Angeles, and he draws his view of the world through his experiences in Los Angeles. And I get my inspiration to write about him from Los Angeles, and so here, I was in a completely different place, trying to find the same vibe.
So in a way, my, uh, fish-out-of-water story for Harry Bosch was really, um, about me. I was the fish-out-of-water. I was looking for inspiration in places I don't normally find it. You know, for twenty years, um, the starting point has always been Los Angeles, and this time, it was going to go– be, uh, Hong Kong. And so, you know, I did a lot of this traveling around, absorbing, looking, and, um, eventually it came through. Uh, writing's all about instincts, and I reached this point when I was over there where, um, I guess you could say instinctively I knew it was time to start. Time to start writing. So I, uh, retreated from the city to my, uh, room at the hotel, which had a wonderful view of my subject, and, uh, I began to work.
[Connelly typing at laptop]