Michael Connelly was a prize-winning police reporter — first in Miami, then for the Los Angeles Time – before becoming the best writer of police procedurals (and assorted other crime novels) of his generation. Like a war correspondent embedded with a combat unit, Connelly became immersed in the blue culture and writes with an authentic voice that comes up just short of the great Joseph Wambaugh.
Connelly is far more subtle than Hunter in refuting the dominant media narrative, but Angel’s Flight — Connelly’s post-Rodney King LAPD novel featuring his signature protagonist, Detective Harry Bosch — stood in stark contrast to the media and pop culture piling-on that followed the riot, while dealing honestly with issues of race and police work.
In his latest book, The Drop (Little, Brown, $27.99), Connelly has Bosch put the lie to the media myth that the choke hold was just Daryl Gates’ way to have white cops kill black people.
The statistics matched up across racial and geographic lines. Sure, there were more choke hold deaths in the south end. Far more African Americans died than other races. But the ratios were even. There were far more incidents involving use of force in the south end. The more confrontations, scuffles, fights, resisting arrests you get, the more uses of the choke hold. The more you use the choke hold, the more deaths you will have. It was simple math. But nothing is simple when racial politics are involved. …
The task force recommended that the bar hold be dropped from the use-of-force progression and it was. Funny thing is, the department then told officers to rely more on their batons—in fact, you could be disciplined if you got out of a patrol car without carrying your baton in your hand or on your belt. Added to that, Tasers were coming into use just as the choke hold went out. And what did we get? Rodney King. A video that changed the world. A video of a guy being Tased and whaled on with batons when a proper choke hold would’ve just put him to sleep.
The politics that play out in The Drop are more of the inside LAPD variety as Harry contemplates being forced into retirement while investigating the death of the son of his long-time nemesis, who is now a city councilman.
The Drop is exactly what we have come to expect from Connelly — excellence so consistent that it’s almost a matter of routine. Fifty years from now, readers will regard Michael Connelly the way we now view Raymond Chandler.