Diving Into the Police Procedural with a New Series
By Dawn Ius
Writing a police procedural can be a daunting task, especially with cops like Michael Connelly’s iconic Harry Bosch dominating the market, both in books and on television. Which is one of the main reasons Lee Goldberg has steered clear of the genre—until now.
With his upcoming release, LOST HILLS, Goldberg doesn’t just dip his toes in the genre, he dives in headfirst with a unique new series and a feisty new character, California police officer Eve Ronin, whose sudden promotion to homicide detective puts her in the unfortunate position of having to constantly justify her badge.
“Becoming a homicide detective is a big deal, and so I wanted to come up with a character who gets the promotion but doesn’t deserve it,” Goldberg says. Ronin actually becomes a hometown hero when her off-duty arrest of a celebrity goes viral—and her promotion is a last-ditch effort to earn the station some much-needed good publicity. “I was tired of the usual detectives in these kinds of books—I wanted a young, not jaded female who didn’t have a serial killer in her past. I wanted to show that it is possible to be a cop without being wrecked with misery.”
That’s not to say Eve’s life is all sunshine and lollipops—she makes gigantic mistakes, she’s disliked by her coworkers, and she’s capable, but “she’s not Harry Bosch.” Which is intentional, since as much as Goldberg admires Connelly’s work—and his characters—he wants his work to stand on its own.
Another distinguishing factor of LOST HILLS is the setting—the novel takes place in Goldberg’s hometown of Calabasas, where the Lost Hills Sheriff Station is located, an area Goldberg says embodies the surrounding mountain areas and Malibu, but is “a world unto itself and a jurisdictional nightmare.”
With the setting locked down and a new character developing, Goldberg now needed a story—and for that, he followed his tradition of fully immersing himself in research. He landed a spot in a seminar for professional homicide investigators—the kind usually closed to civilians—and there learned of a case so interesting and horrific, he couldn’t get it out of his head.
Those murders actually happened in Ohio, but Goldberg moved the story to California so that readers “wouldn’t be tempted to look it up.”
In the book, Eve and her partner are called to the blood-spattered home of a missing single mom and her two kids. Homicide is suspected—but there are no dead bodies to confirm the assessment.
Now, Eve must find the corpses and capture the killer, all while trying to deal with the pressures of insecurity, media attention, and a station full of cops just waiting to see her fail. The book flies by at a rapid pace, without sacrificing Goldberg’s exquisite attention to detail.
With plot, character, and setting now in place, Goldberg set out to find Eve Ronin’s voice.
“It took me a while to find it,” he admits. “I wanted the writing to be invisible. Sometimes, I’d write something funny, or clever, and force myself to pull back. That’s not to say the writing is flat—I just wanted it to be different than anything else I’d written.”
A formidable task given Goldberg’s impressive resume—he’s the author of five individual series, not including the seven books in the Fox and O’Hare series he co-wrote with New York Times bestselling author Janet Evanovich, has contributed to seven anthologies, penned five non-fiction titles, and written a dozen standalone thrillers. And that doesn’t even take into account his success as a TV screenwriter and producer.
If that sounds diverse, well, it’s meant to be.
“I don’t want to be a one-trick pony,” he says. “I never wanted to do the same thing over and over again. Some authors are very comfortable in one voice, but I want a career like Michael Connelly’s—he’s always stretching himself as a writer.”
With LOST HILLS, Goldberg continues to flex his writing muscles and hopes the advance reviews rolling in—including an endorsement from Connelly—are a sign that his “big break” is coming.
In the meantime, he’s already working on book two in the series, a chilling tale that explores the aftermath of the forest fires that raged through California last year. Bone Canyon is set to launch next January, but fans won’t have to wait that long for the next Goldberg book—a new Ian Ludlow installment hits the shelves this spring.