Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Killer Look

Post-thunderstorm sky, 8:00 PM. Photo: JH.
Tuesday, July 26, 2016. Another very hot day in New York topping out in the low 90s with a Real Feel at one point of 107!

Last Wednesday, as I wrote here on Friday, I had lunch at Michael’s with Linda Fairstein, the best-selling author of detective thrillers, and former New YorkAssistant DA and prosecutor focusing on crimes of violence against women and children.

Linda and I have known each other for a long time, long enough that I can’t remember how we met. It might have been when she was publicizing one of her now eighteen (!) novels featuring a lady detective named Alexandra Cooper (or Alex to everyone who knows her, and Coop to her boyfriend, ace NYPD detective Mike Chapman.

The names are almost not important to this reader,  because Alex and Mike are there to tell you the story of some crime that has been committed in or around or about New York City. All eighteen books are centered in the metropolis.
DPC and Linda Fairstein at Michael's. Click to order "Killer Look."
I’ve never written a crime/detective novel, nor have I had the interest, let alone the knowledge required. And I’ve read very few except for Linda’s and also the Hardy Boys mysteries which I read when I was eight or ten. So I don’t know about them, what they’re like, why people feel compelled, even obsessed about reading them, which they do; it is a huge audience. But what Linda does – and if you know her well enough, you kinda feel she’s “Alex” because it’s quite a similar personality, a woman who is very contemporary but razor sharp smart about crime and punishment and many other things that interest contemporary women.

This latest, “Killer Look,” is about people, a top designer especially, in the New York fashion world. With everything to live for, he suddenly, unexpectedly “commits suicide.” Really? When Alex and Mike get involved serendipitously (on her part) in the matter it becomes a tear-through read. You can’t stop turning the pages to find out what happens and what happened.

Linda's "Killer Look" launch bouquet.
Last week was a heavy one full of deadlines for this writer, and I was finishing reading a history of “The Mistresses of Cliveden.” I had a copy of “Killer Look” but I hadn’t opened it. Then the weekend came with the heat and I vegged. But yesterday, heat and all, I decided to get started on it, to at least get an idea of what this was about since I was going to be writing about it.

That was in the morning. I’m a slow reader, comparatively, but I read the first hundred pages in the first two hours. It was very very hot in the afternoon, so I kept on reading. By the dinner hour, I just wanted to keep reading (it’s 378 pages) and forget about everything else. I love books like this where you can’t leave them as if you’re going to miss something. That’s Killer Look.

A lot of the environment Linda writes about is very familiar to me including not a few of the characters. It’s very Noo Yawk on all levels. What isn’t familiar to me but always draws me in, and locks me in, is how these professionals like Mike Chapman and Alex Cooper do their jobs. It’s nitty gritty and steel nerves-time. There’s an intimate relationship between Mike and Alex but frankly it doesn’t matter; you just want to find OUT what they’re going to find out. This is not exactly a first but I somehow couldn’t give this one up, and I finished it early this evening, completely sated and satisfied.

What always amazes me about Linda is her own story. As a young girl, I would guess eight or ten, she began reading the Nancy Drew mysteries that were written for young girls. The Hardy Boys, which I read, were the brother-stories to Nancy Drew. But with Linda, Nancy Drew became an idol, an icon, an example for the child to pursue. So it wasn’t accidental that after finishing up at Vassar, she went to University of Virginia law school, and after that got a job in District Attorney Frank Hogan’s office in New York. This was in 1972. She was twenty-five.
Linda working as a sex crimes prosecutor.
Hogan believed women lawyers should stay out of the courtroom and remain in the libraries investigating the laws, etc. Linda, like a lot of women of her profession, wanted more than working over books all the time. She took up an uneasy, difficult subject – domestic abuse of women and children. She loved her job and she made a name for herself in New York law circles. She was the future. Her dream was to be Police Commissioner, or rather, the first woman Police Commissioner. The idea still doesn’t sit well with a lot of men in that profession (and other professions too) and nobody took it even remotely seriously back then.

After a successful career as a prosecutor,
she concluded that her “dream” wasn’t realistic. Besides, at the outset, the young Linda had always dreamed of being a writer. Her father, who was supportive like many “sensible” fathers of that time (late 1960s), strongly suggested that she get herself a profession before she embarked on a “writing” career. In other words, think about survival first.
Linda entering the court room.
So she followed her father’s advice/wishes and the rest is history. But writing remained her dream. She did write a very serious book about her profession entitled “Sexual Violence, Our War Against Rape” before she started on the tales of Alex Cooper. But then she decided to go for it, and the series was born. She kept it close to home, close to the world she’d been immersed in and knew all about. Her first was “Final Jeopardy” published in 1996. Since then she’s written a new Alex Cooper book almost every year. She’s already working on her 19th and also working on a new series for pre-teen girls like Linda at that age. The character is a young girl named Devlin Quick. The 21st century Nancy Drew.

What always amazes me about Linda, as long as I’ve known her, is how shockingly productive she is. So when we had lunch I asked her “how” she worked. In repeating it sounds simple. She gets up around 7 and is at her keyboard by about 7:30. She doesn’t start right away. She goes on the internet and checks in with friends’ emails, as well as other points of interest. And then about a half hour later, she gets started. Aside from the approximately three cups of black coffee, she works until late morning, nearing noon. Then she begins the other part of her day including lunches, appointments, reading. In summer she spends a good part of it on Martha’s Vineyard where she and her husband Michael Goldberg have a house.
Linda with her husband Michael Goldberg.
Right now, however, beginning tonight , Linda begins her annual book tour starting with Barnes and Noble on 86th Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues. Then on Wednesday she flies to Phoenix to make an appearance at Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, the largest purveyor of mystery novels in America, maybe the world. From Arizona, she flies back east to Washington DC the following day for an appearance at Politics and Prose, and then on Friday to Huntington, Long Island at Book Revue. Saturday is Sag Harbor at Taylor Books, and Books and Books in Westhampton on Sunday. Then on Monday she does a satellite radio tour – from home – to 14 cities across the country. Then on Friday, August 5th, Linda, finally up on the Vineyard, makes an appearance at Bunch of Grapes bookstore. Whew.

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