HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: It’s what we’re writing week! But I am bringing in a ringer.
Oh, yes, I am writing. On word number 42,280 of Untitled, and more about that soon. And DRIVE TIME comes next, and then SAY NO MORE. Incredibly exciting.
But instead of hearing me moan about how I have changed the beginning of Untitled fifteen thousand times, and am certain I will never think of an actual title, let’s hear from a writer who is actually finished with her manuscript. And who had millions of readers waiting to get their little hands on it.
(In fact, you could be one of the first! Our storied guest will choose a lucky winner from the commenters!)
And with all her glory and all her awards and all her fans and all her sales and all her success—and all her generosity and unending good works—I was intrigued to learn what went on behind of the scenes of Linda Fairstein’s KILLER LOOK.
Who’d have thought? And--what do YOU think?
Nothing delights me more than an invitation to return to the company of the divine ladies who are the Jungle Red Writers. I know most of them, have signed books alongside many, and read them all. The great graphic of this home page – those seven elegant headshots, highlighted by the bright red river of glossy nail polish – speaks volumes about their style.
What is style, after all? It can be literary….and these ladies have that in spades. And it can be fashionable…they’ve got that, too. I can’t always describe it, but I think I know it when I see it.
I’ve been writing a series of crime novels for twenty years, featuring a New York City sex crimes prosecutor – Alex Cooper - and her tough NYPD detective boyfriend – Mike Chapman. The 18th book in the series, KILLER LOOK, debuts this week. Throughout these two decades, Coop’s capers have taken an insider look at many of Manhattan’s landmark institutions, most of which have a dark underside. I had her job for thirty years and know that fact well. I was a prosecutor when a young violinist was killed backstage during a performance at the Metropolitan Opera House – the cultural center of the city. I’ve never looked at Lincoln Center the same way since.
I’ve set murders in museums and libraries, on mysterious Governor’s Island and at the fabulous Botanical Gardens. This time, I decided to take a look behind the scenes in the New York City fashion world – after all, we are America’s style capital, on a par with Paris and Rome, Milan and London.
Would it surprise you to know that I met with a bit of resistance from my great friends at Dutton?
Well, it spooked me a bit.
The one square mile of Manhattan that is known as the Garment District has existed for more than 150 years. For a century, most of America’s mass-produced clothing was manufactured right there, until the very recent outsourcing of the work to foreign markets with cheap labor.
The district has a fascinating history. I had long thought it established itself when sewing machines made mass production possible…..grounded in the making of uniforms, blue and gray, for the Civil War. I found out doing research that the actual beginnings of the industry was pre-War – that it was cheaper for slave plantation owners to ship their cotton to New York to have uniforms made for their slaves. (There is always a dark underside, just like I said).
I’ve never had a book theme ‘approved’ by the editorial team. What happened this time? Well, as my JRW friends know, more mysteries are read by women than by men, in general. I count on my women readers, but the publishing crew knows that I’m fortunate enough to have a good male following, too (which I credit to both Mike Chapman – my tough NYPD cop and his smart mouth – and to my procedural bent, writing about the investigations and forensics that I actually did in my old job).
I love following fashion. I’ve never been to the big shows, never bought haute couture (and did you know that term is regulated in France by the government? I didn’t). But I do love to shop and I do love to eyeball and admire great style.
The fix was easy. Instead of murdering a model or making the book all about the slender girls on the runway, I got close enough to learn that the business side of fashion is terrifically cut-throat and provides plenty of motives to murder. No spoiler – my victim is an American icon – a guy who went from rags to riches by creating an iconic American fashion business (think of a collared t-shirt with a wolf’s head where that little polo pony now sits).
I’m thinking that one of the victims in the story is bleeding Jungle Red by the end of the novel - is that okay? And while we are at it, do you have a favorite KILLER LOOK?
HANK: Oh, great question! And that depends. I may have more black jackets than anyone here. And I just scored some pretty darned great pink Prada heels. But if I’m home, writing? I’m in my (black) killer sweatpants.
How about you, Reds? And don’t forget—the fabulous Linda is choosing a winner of KILLER LOOK from the commenters!
Linda Fairstein is the New York Times bestselling author of KILLER LOOK, the 18th book in the Alex Cooper series of crime novels. For thirty years, Fairstein was a prosecutor in the Manhattan DA’s Office, where she led the country’s pioneering Special Victims Unit.