Walter Mosley. George P. Pelecanos. Michael Connelly. Dennis Lehane. These are the children of James Ellroy: urban neorealists, violence-obsessed journalists, and Jacob Riis-inspired reformers. Others dance on the outskirts of their circle, but these are the core of the new noir, the ones who paint a sweeping picture of what it is to be poor and city-bound in America.
Mosley's period Los Angeles swims in romance and racial outrage. Pelecanos' Washington, D.C., is hard-boiled into rock. Connelly's present-day L.A. glistens with blood and glitz. And Lehane -- well, Lehane has long been the prize bull. Steeped in the blue-collar Boston of his upbringing and armed with the tenderness of his experience as a children's counselor, he conjures a world that is both dreamy and gritty, booze-soaked and almost impossibly warm.
Not surprisingly, Hollywood has noticed these four, with Connelly ranking as the most recent victim. The word choice is intentional -- while Connelly's ''Blood Work'' featured a rich plot and sharp cop-speak, Clint Eastwood's movie adaptation last year was plodding and almost embarrassing. The movie was a true disservice, because Connelly has written some wildly entertaining books well worth rereading. Unfortunately, his new effort, Lost Light, isn't one of them.
It's not hard to guess why. Like a lot of writers trying to capitalize on growing success, Connelly has begun publishing at a frightening rate: This is his fourth book in the past two years and his ninth Harry Bosch mystery. In ''Lost Light,'' Connelly's crusty L.A. detective finds himself a retired man with too much time on his hands. So Bosch becomes obsessed with cold cases, including the murder of a woman connected to the robbery of $2 million from a movie set. (And no, nobody from Heather Graham's camp was involved.) The plot twists are entertaining, but the novel tastes like meatloaf that needs more time in the oven. And as long as we're talking food, a bit more writerly garnish wouldn't have hurt either.