Thursday, March 10, 2011

Linda Fairstein at Mystery Lovers Bookshop

As most of you know - because I've been able to talk about nothing else for the last week - I went last night to Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont to see Linda Fairstein. I've read Linda's books for years and years; she and Robert Crais were the ones who hooked me on crime fiction to begin with. But this was my first opportunity to meet Linda in person.

To say that I was elated is no exaggeration. And the best part, she was even more wonderful than I imagined. She's smart and funny and very interested in her readers. She has fascinating stories and tells them so well.

Mary Alice, one of the owners of Mystery Lovers, provided Linda with a beautiful introduction. For those of you who don't know, Linda was very instrumental in developing the special victims department of the New York Prosecutor's Office. Her work was instrumental in getting sex crime procedures to the point they are today. She brings that experience and authenticity to her books. Anyway, I'm not reviewing here, I'm sharing the event.

SILENT MERCY is the book Linda has just released, and it is the 13th in her Alexandra Cooper series. Alex has Linda's job as an assistant prosecutor, but Linda describes Alex as younger, thinner and blonder than her - and she will stay that way for a long time. Linda laughs at the fact that Alex so closely mirrors her professional life, but she gave Alex the personal life she never has. Yet some of her good friends from school and whatnot will come up to her and say, "I never knew your father invented...and you have a trust fund...and you had a fiance in law school..." Linda says, "get a grip. I made it up."

Through her series, Linda has developed New York City as a character in the books. She spoke about how she loves to take an aspect of NYC and explore it. She has found that many of the places we revere actually have a dark side to them. Linda seeks that out for her characters. It also provides the depth that she wants to have for her books. Linda doesn't favor books that are all fight scenes and car chases. She wants her readers to come way feeling they learned something from the book.

When she asked her friend, who is the president of the Museum of Natural History, if she could do research in the museum, her friend said, "Are you crazy? I don't want you killing anyone in my museum in your book." So Linda actually had to gain access to the museum deceptively to get her research for THE BONE VAULT.

Linda keeps clippings notebooks that are themed to help her research and develop the ideas for her books.

Linda explained that Manhattan has known as and called the Island of Churches. This is one of her fascinations about New York. There are churches that were places of worship for George Washington. Whether they're large cathedrals or small, out of the way churches, they inspire Linda. It was on a trip to a Baptist Church in Harlem, a trip unrelated to any book research, that she discovered Harlem had been a Jewish community before 1920. And there were twelve synagogues built in the early 1900s have since been repurposed and rededicated as other churches. However, there is a great deal of iconography of the synagogues still there.

Likewise, St. Patrick's is not the original cathedral. The original was actually located in Lower Manhattan near Little Italy and was recently dedicated by the Pope as a basilica. Linda explained that she learned about the stained glass windows for Old St. Patrick's Cathedral from Hilary Davidson. The original windows, created in France as a gift to the Americans didn't fit when they arrived in the United States and were therefore given to a small country church.

Linda meant for religion to be a backdrop for these institutions she found so fascinating. However, the book ended up much deeper than Linda initially intended because the topic is so vibrant today. Her research therefore took her in a direction she didn't intend to go.

Linda shared that she included Jeopardy as a part of the books because she hates when the law enforcement organizations are portrayed as dumb or uneducated. She said the people she worked with were very smart and she wanted to show that in her characters.

Linda finished up the event taking various questions and comments from the audience. We learned that she always wanted to write, but her father told her she didn't have anything to write ABOUT, so she needed to get a job. Her first four crime novels were written while she was still a prosecutor. Luckily when she left the DA's office in 2002 she didn't leave her love of writing and she continues to write the Alex Cooper series.

It was such a wonderful event and I am so glad I made the trip to see her. Linda Fairstein is simply a wonderful person and most assuredly one of my great idols.

One of my favorite author pictures ever!

Also, thanks to her generosity, I have a brand new signed copy of SILENT MERCY to give away! In addition, I have a copy of the previous Alex Cooper novel, HELL GATE. So, I will give the big winner the signed SILENT MERCY and the lucky runner up with receive HELL GATE. I do, however, have to limit this giveaway to U.S. residents. I'll take entries through next Friday, March 18th. Just complete the form below.


Jenn's Bookshelves March 11, 2011 at 8:19 AM  

Wow! What a night! I have to say, I love those M&M's!

It's been quite a while since I've read any of Linda's books. It's not because I don't love them, but because of lack of time. But after hearing your excitement about meeting her, I may just have to start back up with her books!

picky girl March 11, 2011 at 11:26 AM  

I have actually never read Linda Fairstein, but I love that so much of it is based on her own background.

Even though I don't watch it often (because it scares the pants off me), I really love Law & Order: SVU. I can see I will have to add her to my list.

Sounds like a great event. I'm so glad you shared with us.

Jen Forbus March 11, 2011 at 11:43 AM  

The character of Alex Cabot on the early Law&Order SVU shows was based on Linda...and the characters name is a hat tip to Alex Cooper! :-)

picky girl March 11, 2011 at 11:46 AM  

Oh my gosh!! So cool.

Kaye Barley March 12, 2011 at 5:02 PM  

Jen - I loved this! What a wonderful write-up of a terrific evening, and GREAT pictures.

Beth F March 13, 2011 at 7:46 AM  

I haven't read Fairstein but you have definitely gotten me interested in her work. What an awesome event.

And how cool about the L&O SVU connection.

Christine March 14, 2011 at 9:46 AM  

Wonderful post, Jen! As I was reading this, I was wondering if she'd inspired any aspect of character in the SVU show. That's very cool...and rather appropriate, I think.

I've had FINAL JEOPARDY in my TBR pile for a while after a previous enthusiastic posting of yours in regards to Ms. Fairstein's books. After this recap, I definitely need to get that series started!

That is a great photo!

Anonymous March 14, 2011 at 2:55 PM  

Lucky girl! And what a great pic!!

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