05/09/1994 at 01:00 AM EDT
LAST FEBRUARY, IN FULL VIEW OF TV cameras and throngs of reporters, Bill Clinton stepped out of MysteryBooks in Washington, cradling an unfamiliar blonde who had him tingling with anticipation.
Hillary needn't have been concerned; the object of presidential desire was The Concrete Blonde (Little, Brown), a soon-to-be-published novel by Edgar Award-winning mystery writer Michael Connelly. The bookstore had given Clinton an advance copy after learning he was wild about Hieronymous "Harry" Bosch, the police detective in Connelly's popular earlier novels, The Black Echo and The Black Ice.
Last fall the President, who had recently read Black Ice, asked to meet Bosch's creator. "It was a real thrill to know the President was reading my book," says Connelly, 37, a former Los Angeles Times police reporter. The subsequent encounter was a three-minute chat at Los Angeles International Airport conducted as Clinton swooped into town for a meeting. Unfortunately, Connelly cannot recall much of the conversation. "I was so nervous I forgot it on the spot," he says. "But the majesty of it! This giant plane coming in. Guys in raincoats."
Connelly suspects that Clinton identifies with Bosch (named for the 15th-century Dutch painter) because neither knew their father and both play jazz sax. Having quit the Times last year to write full-time, Connelly, who receives six-figure advances for his books, lives in Hollywood with wife and manager Linda, 35. There, he serves his country by heeding the President's last words to him at LAX—the only ones he remembers. Walking away from Clinton, Connelly felt a tap on his shoulder. It was the President. "Keep writing about this guy," he said. "I really like him."