Michael Connelly’s latest thriller, Fair Warning, releases on May 26, and we editors are excited it will be out in the world soon, because we love this book. Journalist Jack McEvoy gets a visit from the LAPD one day, the kind of visit you don’t want to get. They tell him a woman with whom he had a one night stand months back has been murdered, and it’s clear that Jack is a person of interest. But you don’t tell a former Los Angeles Times journalist to sit back and look at the wallpaper while law enforcement gets to the truth of the matter. Getting to the truth is how Jack makes his living, too. How he does that supplies both white-knuckle suspense and a healthy dose of action in this gripping thriller.
But the fascinating look inside the job of a reporter may be what we enjoyed most about Fair Warning. And we’re not alone: The Seattle Review of Books wrote in a review: "Rich in its exploration of the newspaper-editor-publisher roles—Jack’s conversations with his editor, Myron, are pure newsroom gold—Fair Warning is an engaging and terrific reminder of the critical importance of a free press, showcasing the resilience, integrity, and transparency that proper journalism contributes to a functioning community.” So of course, we had to ask the author, famously a former reporter himself, what he thought about the importance of a free press.
Michael Connelly: The other day I saw a photo online that showed a woman on a beach somewhere, apparently in defiance of a lockdown order. She wore a bathing suit, stood at the water’s edge, and was holding up a sign that said, “The Media is the Virus.” As I looked at the photo I realized, this is the reason I wrote Fair Warning. The book is a journalist’s story. It’s not political at all. It is about journalist Jack McEvoy chasing down a story on a serial killer case. Basic, high velocity journalism. Many years back when I was a newspaper reporter I was on a similar story, tracking a killer as he moved across the country, leaving many victims in his path. It was the most interesting and heartbreaking case of my career. Every day there was a new sighting of the killer or a new victim. The adrenaline never ebbed. The tears from victims’ families never stopped.
But that’s not the reason I wrote Fair Warning. I wrote the book because, as a now former journalist, I am heartbroken by the precipitous drop in trust of the media that has occurred in the last few years. Growing numbers of people simply do not believe or trust the media. They are suspicious of motives, of bad news. They are choosing where they get their news through political filters. This has been a long time coming. As the newspaper business destabilized and many papers folded and many more cut back on coverage of their communities, we lost many of our watchdogs. Some of the void was then filled by so-called news entities and outlets that were just fronts for political viewpoints and philosophies. Instead of delivering the unbiased news of the day they were delivering propaganda, they were telling people what to think, what they wanted to think.
What this amounts to is a form of killing the messenger. It has given rise to phrases like “fake news” and media branded as enemy of the people. Don’t like the news? Say it’s fake. Question the motives of the reporter who wrote it or asked the uncomfortable question. It’s a perilous road we are on.
I decided that as a writer of novels the one thing I could do is write a story about a journalist that was unbiased and undaunted. Who is fierce in pursuing that which is wrong. Who is a truth seeker relentless in reporting the truth, no matter where the chips may fall. Fair Warning is not a political novel but perhaps its message is as political as it is simple: we need a fierce and unbiased media that we can trust no matter what the message is.
Michael Connelly talks about his new novel, "Fair Warning," and the importance of an unbiased media.