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Michael Connelly on McConaughey, L.A., and what he learns at bars

We spoke with the author of the Mickey Haller series about his new book and ‘The Lincoln Lawyer,’ a new film adapted from his novel

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When you first came up with the idea for The Lincoln Lawyer, had you known for a while that you wanted to do a legal thriller?
I’d known ever since I’d been a writer, since I’m a fan of the genre. But it’s intimidating because the titans of the legal-thriller industry are people who actually were lawyers: John Grisham, Scott Turow, John Lescroart.

Did you undergo your own mini version of law school to prepare?
The key research for this book took place in bars after work, a couple bars where the legal community congregates after courts close each night. A one-martini stop-off. That’s where I picked up my anecdotal stories.

So you got your ideas from the bar as opposed to ”the Bar”?
[Laughs] Yeah, with a capital B.

What was your first reaction when producers told you they were thinking about Matthew McConaughey for the role?
Let me clarify. I’m the writer of the book. I took their money, and they got the rights. So they just came to me and said, ”It’s McConaughey.” But my reaction was very favorable. Back when I was watching Tropic Thunder, where McConaughey plays an underhanded Hollywood agent, I said to my wife, ”He could play Mickey Haller.”

Have you ever had any similar moments where you thought, ”Oh, that guy could play Harry Bosch”?
I have. I build a character in my head, and I see a midlist actor named Billy Burke. He plays the sheriff in the Twilight movies. Something about him…he’s got the mustache. Whenever I see him in movies, he’s very close to how I picture Harry Bosch.

Los Angeles has a certain literary tradition, from Raymond Chandler to Bret Easton Ellis. How do you use the city in your books?
I go back to my journalism days. You weren’t sent to places that were recognizable or that the entertainment industry had found yet. Take courtroom dramas — the courtrooms that they use tend to be these big places with colonnades out front, and they don’t have those in L.A. I write what I’d see.

You write about a book a year. Do you find that pace works for you?
I don’t think anyone will believe me, but I’ve never been pressured by a publisher to churn out a book. I think there’s a general misconception that anything written quickly lacks quality, and I don’t believe that. I know for a fact that the two quickest books I’ve written have been my most successful, and that’s The Lincoln Lawyer and The Poet. And it wasn’t because I wanted to get them over with and on to the next thing, it’s just that the momentum kept moving and I wanted to go along for the ride.