What happens when a defence lawyer has that rarest and most unsettling of all things: an innocent client?
Michael Connelly's Lincoln Lawyer, defence attorney Mickey Haller, is back in Resurrection Walk. He's been the main character in seven novels (so far), a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, and a Netflix series that's going into its third season.
Mickey, a keen self-promoter, is known for operating his Los Angeles practice out of a Lincoln and for his sharp advocacy that occasionally lands him in trouble but has made him notorious and wealthy - albeit left him slightly unfulfilled.
His latest case has him representing Lucinda Sanz, who's four years into a prison sentence for the killing of her ex-husband, a sheriff's deputy. On the advice of her previous attorney, she pleaded guilty to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence but maintains she didn't do it. That's something Mickey's heard many times before. But with his half-brother, the now retired Los Angeles Police Department detective Harry Bosch, working as his investigator, Mickey discovers Lucinda might be telling the truth. With an innocent client the stakes are much higher than usual: losing a case means an injustice has been done.
Connelly has written dozens of books since his literary debut with The Black Echo in 1992. Many of them are set in the same universe with characters from one series appearing in books focused on another.
This might suggest a lot of foresight and a grand design, but Connelly says that's not the case.
"I carefully try to make it like it's all part of a master plan, but it really is not," Connelly says.
"I don't really plan ahead at all. I usually don't know what my next book will be till I'm almost finished the one that I'm writing. And then it's just by instinct. So then I decide what I'm gonna write next."
As he is writing, he often looks back at what's come before and tries to figure out which characters or storylines he can connect or highlight to create the appearance of connection.
"It's flying by the seat of your pants type of writing," Connelly says.
"But it's also I think, the most fulfilling way to do it. Because if I have like a chart on the wall, and I had like wool going from tack to tack and all that, it would feel too much like work. And so I see what happens when I sit down start writing."
Did he, for example, intend to have Bosch and Haller half-brothers from the beginning?
"No - what happened was on The Lincoln Lawyer, the first book with Mickey, I thought it would be a one off. You know, because he was a defence attorney, and I wrote detective novels, at least up until that point."
After finishing the first draft, Connelly realised he liked the new character and could use Mickey to explore a different side of the justice system. He recalled that in an earlier book, he had a flashback where Bosch remembered meeting his father for the one and only time.
"There was a little kid at the house that would be Bosch's half-brother, and I thought, 'Okay,' and then I'll go back to that kid, and that's the Lincoln Lawyer grown up. That kind of made it look like I had this plan over years and years and years and I totally didn't."
Despite this, Connelly doesn't believe in retrospective continuity - rewriting the past.
"I pretty much feel like, you know, you live by what you already wrote. Or you die by it, so l have not changed that history. I don't like doing that."
Seeking a new reason for Mickey to be in court, Connelly decided to use the conviction review unit, established by the Los Angeles DA's office, to look at possible wrongful convictions and decided to make Haller and Bosch a part of this.
He also liked the idea that unlike the standard "innocent until proven guilty" presumption, in these cases the opposite applies: people who have been convicted have the burden of proof.
"It was interesting. And you know, it opens up a whole lot of different cases. And I think, importantly, what it did was bring these two characters together. So you know, I'll explore it again."
Not that it will necessarily be any time soon.
"l already kind of know what I'm going to write next. And it's not going to have these two guys in it. And then I'm going to take a break from them. And then we'll see what happens after."
The next book will focus on another Connelly creation, LAPD detective Renee Ballard.
Connelly was a crime reporter for the Los Angeles Times which gave him access to and observation of police detectives, and later the trial process when he worked as a court reporter. After a few of his novels were published he was able to concentrate full time on writing.
"I haven't been a journalist coming up on 30 years. But I still kind of mine that part of my life, probably use it every day that I'm writing."
His early working life also helped form his opinions of the US justice system.
"I think it's interesting in that most Americans believe in our system, our system of justice, and if you do you know, one of the basic pillars of that is that you're entitled to the best defence possible. And that's part of the system. And yet, a lot of people, I would say the majority of people, despise defence attorneys. So it's really incongruent. Do you believe in our system? And if you do, you should not despise the people that are providing that best defence."
He thinks that's the central challenge Mickey Haller faces: "This idea that people [say] 'How do you sleep at night?'
"I kind of loved playing around with that. Because I think it just comes from the world. I mean, that's not fiction. Since that's the way it is, that's been kind of one of the cornerstones of the books."
Connelly says that the US justice system is tilted by factors such as wealth, race, and politics - and his feelings about it are reflected in his writing.
"I think it's all in there," he says.
"The justice system is not an equal system."
One example is the client in the new Mickey Haller book who wasn't well represented.
"Maybe she couldn't afford a very good attorney, and she kind of went with him because he volunteered and didn't really do her any good."
Connelly says, "The whole system is like kind of a hole that these people get thrown into that just changes their life completely. And it might be something small where you're not in the criminal world, but you get pulled over for drunk driving or something. The impact of the system on your life is really life-altering, for all levels of crime."
He's not a writer who complains about how his work has been butchered by Hollywood. Even if projects don't work out as well as he hoped, he says that when you sell the rights, it's someone else's turn to tell the stories their way.
"I couldn't really do that now, because I'm so much involved. So I've been pretty proud of what they've done with the TV shows."
Connelly says Clint Eastwood's 2003 film based on his novel Blood Work "came and went pretty fast" but several years later, "The Lincoln Lawyer was was pretty successful, it was a good movie and really kind of changed my profile in Hollywood and I think that that movie led to the TV show."
While he was not involved with those films ("Other than being kind of a cheerleader") he's had more to do with the Lincoln Lawyer and Bosch series, saying television is more of a writer's medium than cinema.
"And it's been fun, it kind of reminded me of being in a newsroom because of so many writers in the room. And there's a lot of camaraderie and joking and pranking, and stuff like that. And then when you get to stand on the set and see something you wrote in a room by yourself, maybe 10 or 15 years before, it's very surreal and fulfilling at the same time, it's cool."
The TV series of The Lincoln Lawyer takes its inspiration and major characters from the books - including Mickey's ex-wives Maggie McPherson, a prosecutor and mother of their daughter Hayley, and Lorna, who's his case manager, and his investigator Cisco, a former bikie. But it's not slavishly faithful, mixing elements around and introducing many of its own.
Sometimes Connelly will Zoom in to meetings about The Lincoln Lawyer, which is entering its third season.
"I don't really feel like I have to be there at all. But I like to keep my hand in because it's fun."
Connelly says, "Two key things were casting and locations. I mean, the city of Los Angeles is a character in both shows that's very important. And then both shows really nailed the casting if you ask me, I can't complain about anybody."
He praises the casting of Mexican actor Manuel Garca-Rulfo Lapuente as Mickey Haller and says Netflix was keen to go with the character as portrayed in the books. McConaughey, the Mickey of the movie, was not even half Mexican.
"It's a whole different ecosystem in films, and it's very reliant on star power and promotion, all that stuff. Whereas, you know, Manuel who plays the role now, has been in some pretty good stuff. A lot of Mexican films, too."
With the series, the property was the star, since Connelly's work was well established - as was that of producer David E. Kelley (Ally McBeal, LA Law and many other series).
Connelly was born in Philadelphia and grew up in Miami, finally moving to Los Angeles when he was 30.
"People describe both South Florida and LA as sunny places for shady people, I've heard that about both ... Los Angeles is much bigger than the areas I lived in Florida, but there is a feeling of continuity."
Connelly has won many awards for his books and has served as president of the Mystery Writers of America. He thinks the genre is in good shape with more diverse writers than ever.
His own inspirations included Ross MacDonald and Joseph Wambaugh and the more recent James Lee Burke, Sue Grafton and Scott Turow. But it wasn't a book that started things - it was a film, in 1973.
"I saw the movie The Long Goodbye with Elliott Gould. And that made me pick up the book by Raymond Chandler and then I read all Chandler's books.
"It just hit me then that I would love to try to do this someday, or get into a position to try to do it."
And in a nice turn of events, 50 years after Connelly saw The Long Goodbye - a film he still watches once or twice a year - its star is now in The Lincoln Lawyer, playing Mickey's mentor "Legal" Siegel.
What's next for Mickey Haller?
"As I have said, I don't plan too far ahead. But Resurrection Walk seems to end with a pivot. It feels to me like [Mickey] is leaving at least one aspect of his professional life behind.
"But I won't know which way he is headed until I start writing the next Lincoln Lawyer book."
Resurrection Walk (Allen & Unwin, RRP $32.99) is out now. The Lincoln Lawyer is on Netflix. Bosch is on Amazon Prime.