Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Everybody counts...

Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch; for me, one of the greatest crime protagonists of modern era, on page and screen. The 7th and final season was released on 25 June

Craig every second Tuesday.

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

All good things must come to an end, as they say, and that was the case over the weekend as one of my favourite crime dramas, ever, released its final episodes. 

Bosch is not just a superb show - great writing, acting, cinematography, tone - that brought an outstanding crime fiction character and book series to millions of viewers around the world. It's a show that's been kinda weirdly entwined with my own life over the years. Moreso than usual. 

For a whole lot of reasons it was a bit of a reflective time for me when I sat down to binge all eight episodes of the seventh and final season on Saturday (after meeting some work and other deadlines).

So I thought I'd spend today's post looking back over Bosch, not only because "all good things must come to an end", but because, as my mother used to say, "good things come to those who wait". 

In Season 7 Harry Bosch (Titus Welliver) investigates a fatal fire that may be entwined with local drug dealers as well as murders related to a financial scam.

It's easy to forget, after seven great seasons, that crime fiction fans had to wait a long time for the character of Hieronymus "Harry" Bosch to be brought to screen. When season 1 of Bosch launched in early 2015 - with no one knowing how Amazon's first venture into TV drama was going to go - it'd been 23 years since the character debuted in Michael Connelly's first novel THE BLACK ECHO.

The dogged detective's road from page to screen was anything but smooth. Yet it was that very passing of time that helped Bosch be so much more than what it could ever have been as a Hollywood film. 

Hopeful, but who knows? Ali Karim, Michael Connelly, Ayo Onatade, Mike Stotter, and Craig Sisterson at the London premiere of Season 1 of Bosch in early 2015. 

A little over six years ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the London premiere of the nascent Amazon Prime drama based on Michael Connelly's seriously good books. I was stoked to attend (and not just because it was my first public outing a few weeks after becoming a stay-at-home Dad to a new baby - so apologies for the slightly dishevelled and sleep-deprived look). Having interviewed Connelly a few times when I was living in New Zealand for newspaper and magazine articles, and on stage, I knew this was a milestone in a rollercoaster journey for Connelly and his iconic character. 

Back in early 2011, Connelly and I were sat onstage before a sold-out audience in the largest cinema of a big multiplex in downtown Auckland, talking about his storytelling, his books, and The Lincoln Lawyer film - which was set to make its New Zealand premiere at the conclusion of our chat. 

Based on a cracking novel, The Lincoln Lawyer was a significantly better adaptation than the first Connelly book turned into a film (Blood Work, helmed by Clint Eastwood). A great legal drama that was also a key step in Matthew McConaughey's return to dramatic roles (aka the 'McConaissance'), and the Texan actor's road to an eventual Academy Award for Dallas Buyers Club

Star and author on the Lincoln Lawyer set; McConaughey reminded people of his dramatic chops with his superb turn as slick defense lawyer Mickey Haller

During that conversation, where I asked questions like what Connelly had seen in McConaughey (at the time known more for shirtless rom-com roles) to believe he'd make a great Mickey Haller - I'd expected it might have been the actor's earlier fine performances in the likes of A Time To Kill or the excellent Frailty, but in fact Connelly revealed it was McConaughey's slick and slightly smarmy turn in Tropic Thunder - we also chatted about Harry Bosch. Would he ever come to screen? 

The news wasn't what our audience wanted to hear - the rights to the Harry Bosch books had been optioned by a Hollywood studio in the mid 1990s. Scripts were written, nothing eventuated. For fifteen years, as the book series and readership grew, Harry Bosch was stuck in ‘development hell’.

Sitting beside him, I could sense Connelly was frustrated. While still hopeful. As great as the Mickey Haller books are - and the film was terrific too - Harry Bosch is Connelly's masterpiece creation. 

You can't write the annals of contemporary crime fiction without discussing the relentless Los Angeles investigator. But back then, we didn't know all those years of Hollywood stalling and misfires would end up being a blessing in disguise. 

Craig Sisterson, then-debut Kiwi crime writer Ben Sanders, and Michael Connelly in Auckland in 2011; a lot's changed for all of us over the past ten years

“They never could really capture the character in 110 pages of script, and so they were actually smart in not making a film because it would have just been a by-the-numbers detective story and that’s not what the books are,” said Connelly a few years ago.

One trait of Harry Bosch, however, is that he keeps going to get to the truth, no matter the obstacles. In a funny way, that’s what happened with his move from page to screen. A couple of years after that Auckland Q&A, Connelly had won a court fight to get his rights back, and a Bosch pilot was filmed.

The lost years made a key difference. “It seemed like a bad story, stuck in development hell for over a decade,” Connelly told me in 2017 when we reminisced about that Auckland event. “But now here, it was almost meant to be. I needed all those extra books. I needed Harry to be older, so this show could be what it is. It’s a headscratcher, it’s so amazing.”

Who knows how this will go: Titus Welliver, Ayo Onatade, Michael Connelly, and Craig Sisterson at the London premiere of season 1 of Bosch in early 2015. 

Connelly teamed with experienced producers Henrik Bastin (American Odyssey) and Eric Overmeyer (The Wire). The trio shared a vision of a long-form character-centric modern noir deeply rooted in ‘real Los Angeles’, the city's gritty reality rather than the glitzy tourist fantasy. But who would play Harry?

“If you're not watching Bosch on Amazon, you better get started. Titus Welliver IS Harry Bosch,” declared Stephen King in a tweet ahead of Season 4 in early 2018. Few who’ve seen the series would argue. Booklovers have had many disappointments when it comes to book-to-screen adaptations over the decades, but Bosch epitomised ‘worth the wait’. And a good chunk of that has been down to the bravura, nuanced performance of Titus Welliver in the title role.

It was a tough role to fill. Bosch is a stoic and internalised character, relentless and driven while not demonstratively dramatic. Connelly was the one to suggest Welliver, a consummate character actor (with almost 100 different film, TV movie, series and guest roles) for the title role in Bosch.

He’d seen Welliver in films like Argo and The Town, and as Silas Adams in Deadwood, but it was a more obscure appearance that caught Connelly’s eye. Battling insomnia late one night, Connelly loaded up Kiefer Sutherland’s post-24 show Touch on his DVR. “Titus was a guest star playing a guy with post-traumatic stress disorder. He had this very subtle performance, behind the eyes. I thought he’s projecting the interior Bosch perfectly.”

Connelly saw something in Titus Welliver that made him ideal for the difficult-to-portray character of Harry Bosch. 

When I spoke to Connelly and Welliver at the London premiere of season one in 2015, Connelly shared how Welliver had immediately grasped the essence of Harry Bosch. He isn’t a supercop, he makes mistakes, but he’s dogged and driven, with an internal sense of justice. 

“Titus played a scene from the pilot and talked about the character,” recalls Connelly. “We waited for him to go out of the room, and we all just looked at each other and said ‘that’s Harry Bosch’.”

Welliver credited Connelly with creating a character with tremendous humanity. “So many police characters, they’re either completely heroic and slightly unrealistic, or they’re the darkest of the dark ... What appeals to me about Harry is that he’s an attainable character, a human character... For me as an actor, it’s the richest character I’ve ever been able to play in my career. He’s greatly nuanced.”

While Welliver has aced the titular role since episode 1, there’s a real sense of ensemble with Bosch. Each season has been packed with “real pros”, series regulars and guest stars. A gritty authenticity shines through. The acting across the board has been impeccable, like a symphony orchestra of hyper-talented musicians all working in concert. Lots of different characters have had time to shine in various episodes and seasons. 

Madison Lintz, Jamie Hector, Amy Aquino, Titus Welliver, and Lance Reddick are part of a remarkable cast that's taken viewers on a remarkable ride for seven great seasons

Interestingly, Bosch departs from the books in several ways (blending stories, shifting timeframes, elevating or replacing characters) while still striking a note-perfect tone in terms of the overall spirit of Connelly's work. Characters like Bosch's partner Jerry Edgar (played by Jamie Hector) and Chief Irvin Irving (Lance Reddick) are by Connelly's own admission much richer and more nuanced than their book counterparts. "In the books, Harry is there all the time," said Connelly. "On TV you don’t have Bosch in every scene, so you can develop those other characters into something more than clichés."

Over the course of seven seasons, Amy Aquino brings a real humanity to Bosch’s immediate superior Lieutenant Grace Billets, Madison Lintz delivers grew from an adolescent to a young woman and delivered some of the show's most harrowing moments as Bosch's daughter Maddie, and Troy Evans and Gregory Scott Cummins hit the mark with aplomb as comic-relief detective duo Crate and Barrel. Scott Klace does the same, with some great lines, as Sergeant Mankiewicz. 

Others like Mimi Rogers (attorney Honey "Money" Chandler), DaJuan Johnson (Detective Pierce), Paul Calderon (Detective Robertson), Jacqueline Obradors (Detective Vega) and Linda Park (Jun Park) have delivered many great stories and moments as they've become key figures over the seasons. 

One of the many things I've always loved about Bosch is the way the writers and crew give the actors space with sparse dialogue and long silences. The actors deliver, time and again. Drawing us in with lots of layers. The soundtrack is unusual for a crime drama - lots of ambient sounds and rare moments of music. Rather than ‘dramatic tones’ or soaring music to underline what’s going on, or to tell the audience what it should be feeling, in Bosch it’s left to the actors and locations to tell the story.

Titus Welliver as Harry Bosch, investigating a murder at the iconic Angel's Flight in Season 4

The locations are oh-so-important in Bosch, enriching the crime stories and bringing Connelly's fictional world to vivid life. For me, Connelly is the modern chronicler of Los Angeles, taking readers deep into the grittier and more complex realities of a city world-renowned for its glamorous facade.

While some of the timeframes and character relationships from the book series have been shuffled in Bosch, one thing that hasn’t is the way the stories bleed a gritty, realistic view of Los Angeles. This isn’t the glossy fantasyland envisaged by overseas tourist hordes or portrayed in other hit television shows like Entourage (a show I thoroughly enjoyed, don't get me wrong) or the later seasons of Nip/Tuck.

That sense of authenticity has always been vital for Connelly. 

"I’m writing about a guy who doesn’t exist," he told me in one interview during the early seasons of the show. "Harry Bosch is imagined. If I’m going to sell him as a realistic character, whether it’s in a book or a TV show, I’ve got to anchor him in something that is real, solid, and accurate."

Los Angeles has been Connelly’s muse for almost thirty years, and when the chance came to finally bring Bosch to screen, he was adamant that it would be shot in the city itself, using as many real locations as possible. Like the telling details in his books, that commitment shines through in the screen adaptation, bringing an incredibly strong sense of place to all seven seasons.

Bosch filming inside the iconic, century-old Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, one of many longstanding real-life restaurants and bars the show and its characters frequent

You won’t see lingering shots of the stars on Hollywood Boulevard or the Chinese Theatre, but over the course of seven seasons we're taken to the historic Biltmore Hotel, through abandoned tunnels under downtown streets, and Angel’s Flight. Characters breakfast at Dupars at Farmers Market or the Nickel Diner, drink at dive bar The Smog Cutter or Musso & Frank Grill, or contemplate their dwindling options by the concrete banks of the LA River.

Due to the high regard in which Connelly and his tales are held by many in the real-life LAPD, parts of the first season of Bosch were even shot in the LAPD’s real headquarters. 

It's a further layer of authenticity to a show that bleeds it, and helps (I think) to also give Bosch a timeless quality, as it connects to longstanding establishments and buildings in the city, rather than focusing on the glitzy ephemera in a place that reinvents and changes regularly. 


I should probably finish up with a conversation I had with Michael Connelly a few years ago, about a particularly special scene. This one wasn't in an iconic location, but one of those gritty oh-so-real ones where the show so often dwells. It was around the time of Connelly's 60th birthday, and he was on set. 

A highway underpass littered with urban detritus, a parked motorhome in desperate need of a scrapyard. A hooded youngster with a hissing spray can, a stylised shark coming to life on a concrete sea. 

The Bosch team were shooting the opening moments of season three, which were also the opening pages of Connelly’s first-ever Harry Bosch novel THE BLACK ECHO. 

“I was walking around in a daze, thinking about the amazing path I’ve been on,” Connelly told me. “It’s probably about 28 years after I first wrote the opening of THE BLACK ECHO, having no idea back then if my book would ever be published, and here we are filming a version of it.”

As I think back to that stage in Auckland a decade ago, where Connelly and I chatted and he had seemed hopeful yet frustrated that his Hollywood detective was stuck in Hollywood development hell, it makes me smile to reflect on all that's happened since. Not just good things to those who wait. 

Great things. 

Congratulations to Michael Connelly, Titus Welliver, and all the cast and crew of Bosch. You've given us all a wonderful ride for seven seasons (and no doubt will keep doing so as more and more viewers enjoy the series in perpetuity). Kia ora rawa atu as we say back home; thanks heaps! 

What are some of your favourite book-to-screen adaptations? Favourite crime dramas? Are you a fan of Bosch and if so what are some of your favourite moments or seasons? Please share in the comments. 

Thanks for reading. Until next time. Ka kite anō.

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 
Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I'll be ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

E noho e, kia raungāwari

(Wait and be flexible, or Sit down and bide your time)


  1. Spot on. I hold my breath that the magic will continue with the "continuation/transformation" series on IMDb TV.

    1. Indeed Everett. I think with the people involved with the spin-off, it's bound to be very, very good. Though of course there'll be some characters we miss.

  2. I've read Bosch, but never watched Bosch. You've changed my mind. Thank you.

  3. Craig, I've never read a better description of the trials, perseverance, and dedication it takes for even a master of the craft to successfully see his work make it to the screen. Simply brilliant!

  4. Alan doesn't read anything fiction but he loves Bosch on the Tv! It's the only thing he binge watches.