The Lincoln Lawyer returns for another spin around the courtroom

Posted Sunday, Dec. 01, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The Gods of Guilt by Michael Connelly Little, Brown and Co., $28 Audiobook: Little, Brown and Co., $40; read by actor and audiobook veteran Peter Giles.

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It’s a case of art imitating life imitating art.

There’s a scene in The Gods of Guilt, Michael Connelly’s fifth “Lincoln Lawyer” novel, in which defense attorney Mickey Haller leaves the courthouse and climbs into the Town Car idling at the curb.

But once inside, Haller discovers he is in the wrong vehicle.

He makes the mistake because half a dozen or so of his colleagues, copying what they saw in the Lincoln Lawyer movie, are now conducting business from the back of luxury cars, just like Haller does.

“I was both proud and annoyed,” Haller says. “I heard more than a few times that there were other lawyers out there saying they were the inspiration for the film.”

Connelly put this in The Gods of Guilt (Little, Brown and Co., $28, on sale Monday) as an inside joke, in response to the trend of real-life lawyers tooling around Los Angeles in Lincolns.

“I’ve heard secondhand that there are a number of lawyers saying they were the inspiration for the movie,” Connelly says. “But they’re all people I’ve never met.”

Connelly met his Lincoln Lawyer at a baseball game years ago. The attorney explained that he worked out of his car not because he’s financially strapped but because there are more than 40 courthouses in L.A. County and it’s the best way to cover so much territory.

“I also met a guy who said he was a lawyer who came to a book signing,” Connelly says. “He had a copy of The Lincoln Lawyer and he wanted me to sign it to ‘The Learjet Lawyer,’ which is what he claimed to be. That’s taking it up another step.”

We chatted with Connelly about the new book, in which Haller defends a “digital pimp” charged with murdering a prostitute, a case that involves a colossal frame-up.

Where did the phrase “gods of guilt” come from? Did you hear a lawyer use that expression and immediately think, “Bless you, you’ve given me the title for my new book”?

My research is done by hanging around two lawyers. They’re criminal defense attorneys and they used to be partners. One of them used the phrase “gods of guilt,” almost in a sarcastic way, when he was talking about a jury. I didn’t go, “Hey, great, that’s the title,” but I did jump on it pretty quickly.

Any time you can use a turn of phrase that can get you a double meaning, not just in the title but anywhere in the book, I’m all for that.

Gods of Guilt was a good fit with this whole idea of exploring guilt, not only in the courtroom but also within yourself, because Mickey is having a crisis of conscience about what he does.

And he finds redemption and nobility while working on a scummy little murder trial.

Well, you can see a lot about the world through a small story. All you have to do is open up the aperture. And I’m drawn to accuracy and realism. I was a reporter who covered crime and trials and things like that. I’m still basically a reporter who’s masquerading as a novelist.

So I’m trying to find drama in a story that’s more rooted in what happens in the real world. Most criminals aren’t really evil geniuses. A character like Hannibal Lecter can be amazingly entertaining, but there aren’t many people like him out in the real world.

Is it possible that you’ve got a favorite series? Do you prefer writing about Mickey Haller or Harry Bosch, the relentless LAPD detective?

My sentimental favorite is Harry because I’ve been writing about him for so long [18 books, dating to 1992]. And I have to admit that writing a Harry Bosch novel is easier for me.

The “Lincoln Lawyer” books take a lot more research and correction. I write these stories, I give them to my lawyer consultants, and invariably I have stuff wrong and I end up having to rewrite. So there’s more involved in a Mickey Haller story. But I think the “Lincoln Lawyer” series works better in these times.

So when I’m writing a “Lincoln Lawyer” book, I feel that it’s my favorite series. But when I’m done, it required so much work that I’m eager to write a Harry Bosch book because I can slip into it more easily and have a more comfortable year of writing.

Is it true that Harry Bosch might get his own TV series soon?

We’re shooting a pilot for a Harry Bosch TV show and we’re basing it on City of Bones [a 2002 novel]. I’m an executive producer [and co-wrote the pilot script with showrunner Eric Overmyer]. It’s exciting after so many years and so many books to be realizing Harry on the screen.

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