Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Lethal Legacy

Ro: Welcome back, Linda Fairstein, author of the best-selling Alex Cooper series. I just finished Lethal Legacy and I loved it! I’ll never be able to pass the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue without thinking of the intrigue behind those doors, and underneath the library itself. Did you already have extensive knowledge of the library before you started to write LL or was the research done specifically for the book?
Linda: Don’t you just love the NYPL? I hope your readers will come see the little video on my website ( which features some of the library’s hidden treasures.

Ro: The video is extremely cool, and it was fun to see the hidden rooms described in the book.

Linda: All of my research was done exclusively for LETHAL LEGACY. I love libraries and I am fascinated by rare books and collectors, but I was always afraid to approach the administrators there because it’s such a, well, such a literary place, and I write more commercial fiction. But I have a great friend who is on the board of trustees, and she took me by the hand and introduced me to the fabulous David Ferriero, who is the head of the NYPL’s four research libraries, and embraced my project with open arms. I had visited the library, of course, and I had read several books about it, so I knew some of the wondrous things that were inside, but on my research tours I was given access to more incredible books, maps and manuscripts than I ever imagined. I spent several weeks doing research there, and they practically had to kick me out to get rid of me.

Ro: The details in the book were fascinating. Are the works you described in your book real and did you have a chance to see any of them?

Linda: All the books and maps described in the novel are indeed real. I have a great affinity for that world, and am fascinated by the people who are such generous patrons of our libraries and museums, and those who need to possess the rare objects for their own pleasure. I collect modern first edition crime novels and mysteries, and each time I publish a book, I treat myself to an old “rare” book, but so far I wouldn’t say that I’ve got anything to kill for. Any of your readers can see their treasures, too. The NYPL conducts two tours a day – and David is toying with the idea of the deadly Alex Cooper tour, to see some of the hidden sites to which I had access. But you can see the first Gutenberg Bible brought to America or the last letter that Keats wrote to Fanny before he died or rare political manuscripts and hundreds of sixteenth century maps of the world. It’s the most fascinating cultural institution we have in New York.

Ro: Luc Rouget, Alex’s sweetheart, is my dream date. Please tell me he’s based on a real person.

Linda: Oh, Luc! My readers either love or hate him – nothing in between. And yes, he’s based on a real guy. Before I met my husband, I had a long romance with a fabulous Frenchman named Andre who was a restaurateur and lived in a fairy-tale village in the south of France. Talk about escaping from the violence and mayhem of my day job! So he’s very real, and very kind and charming….and I think we’ll have a mystery set in the world he inhabits before too long.

Ro: How have you been able to maintain the excitement in the series after almost a dozen successful books?
Linda: Maintaining the excitement and the tension is tough to do, as all your writer-readers know. I’ve studied this genre forever by reading in it so extensively, and am always inspired by the ways that other writers I admire keep their stories fresh. Coop ages much more slowly than we do, you may have noticed. There are only three or four months between stories, so she’s not aging in real time. That helps me a lot in terms of plotting her personal evolution. And then there are endless advances in forensic techniques, and no shortage of criminal schemes. Loyal readers come back to series fiction if they like the characters and invest themselves in their stories, so that keeps me thoroughly engaged, too. There are so many series I hope will never end that it makes me focus on my own work, to keep Alex and Mike and Mercer vital enough to attract their fans.

Ro: You’re involved with a number of groups dedicated to women’s issues and child welfare. Are there any in particular that you’d like to tell our Jungle Red readers about?

Linda: Thanks for this opportunity. I’m on a number of non-profit boards, and my primary focus is on helping victims of violence – both in the courtroom and in the recovery process. SAFE HORIZON is the country’s largest victim advocacy organization – – and it does extraordinary work, moving victims from crisis to confidence. Check the website to see the great range of programs it has – including brick-and-mortar facilities for battered women and their kids that are real homes, individual apartments in safe houses and not the horrible ‘shelters’ we used to see. We have just opened a state-of-the-art Child Advocacy Center – for victims of sexual assault – the child makes one stop – and there, at this beautifully calm center, she or he is examined by one of the best pediatricians in the city, sees a detective and district attorney, and has his or her own social worker/advocate assigned.
My board colleagues surprised me by dedicating the staff wing in my honor, for my thirty years of prosecutorial work; and when my mother died so suddenly last summer (she had been a pediatric nurse and worked for forty years with abused children), we raised funds to dedicate the pediatric medical suite in her memory. We partner often with Mariska’s beloved Joyful Heart ( to do more alternative healing, and we have a huge gala coming up in May (buy a ticket!) at which Mariska will speak, Chris Meloni will emcee, Dick Wolf will be honored, and Sheryl Crow will perform. Then, if you want to do some forensic research for your writing, check out the Virginia Institute of Forensic Science and Medicine ( where all the cutting edge law enforcement technology is tested and taught. Sign up for a seminar and use it in your work!

Ro: It’s really wonderful that you’re giving so much back. It's a great example for the newbies among us.
What’s up next for you? We know Alex Cooper loves Martha’s Vineyard, any plans for a series set there?
Linda: Alex loves the Vineyard. For her, as it was for me, Martha’s Vineyard is really the beautiful, calm paradise that restores her when she is overwhelmed by everything in her professional life. It really transports her, and she feels completely safe, soothed by the water that surrounds that tranquil island. There are wonderful Vineyard series – my friend Cynthia Riggs has a great one going, and the much loved, late Phil Craig is still a Vineyard vacation must-read. I know I’ll set something there one day, but probably not an entire series. It’s a dramatic setting for a good stand-alone.
Next one is the still-untitled twelfth in the series story, which will have Coop and gang back about the same time next year. I couldn’t resist marching into all the political scandals and personal peccadilloes that have overtaken New York politics in the last year. So the historical setting is the rich background of city politics – and the only three remaining Federal period mansions in Manhattan, all of which date to 1800, and have riveting political histories. Gracie Mansion, home of the rich merchant Archibald Gracie, and given to the city for our mayoral residence – but our mayor has a fancier mansion – so imagine what goes on at Gracie, with nobody home! The other two are Hamilton Grange – the home of Alexander Hamilton; and the glorious Jumel Mansion in Harlem Heights – and the widow Jumel married Aaron Burr. Gracie, Hamilton and Burr were all involved in a murder case in 1800 – and so, the new scandals have a link to the old. That’s the next territory. I’d love to come back and talk to you about it then.
Thanks so very much for letting me drop in to chat. Best to all!
photo: Peter Simon

Linda will be stopping back to answer any questions on the Alex Cooper series, writing and research. And you’ll have a chance to see Linda in person at these upcoming events.

4/ 18 – Keynoting the first Connecticut mystery conference – MURDER 203 (tix and info at Four Jungle Red Writers will be there too!
4/23 – Hosting Luncheon at the Plaza Hotel for God’s Love We Deliver (tix and info available at
4/28 – 6-8pm – Mysterious Bookshop – Signing the new MWA anthology – THE PROSECUTION RESTS
May 1 – 12-2pm – Luncheon for the Morristown, NJ Junior League (tix and info available at
May 14 – 12-2 – Domestic Violence Committee of Central CT– Luncheon honoring Joan Lunden
May 14 – 6-8pm – SINC event at NYC’s Muhlenberg Branch of the NYPL
August 2 – Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival in Chilmark!


  1. Nice to see you here, Linda!
    Now please spill more on Andre...inquiring minds want to know

  2. I love Linda Fairstein's books. I'll be at Murder 203 and am looking forward to seeing her and the four JRWs who'll also be there!

    I hope this is okay to do... I'm guest blogging at today. My first ever blog post!

    Paula Matter

  3. The NYPL does have a "lethal" side to it as it has killed off the Donnell Library Center, and wishes to destroy the Mid-Manhattan Library and the Science, Industry and Business Library as well.

    A group of concerned citizens is attempting to enlist the support of writers and educators in an effort to stop the destruction of these 3 major Library Centers in Mid-town Manhattan.

    I hope you will consider joining us, but above all I hope you will write to your elected representatives to let them know you are opposed to the destruction of these 3 important cultural resources.

    If you wish to participate in our effort, please contact me at

  4. Hi Linda, we're so excited that you've come to spend time with us at Jungle Red! And can't wait to see you at Murder 203 as well.

    How in the world do you have time for all that you do? Maybe you have some tips on time management for the rest of us? What's your writing routine like?

  5. Welcome Linda,
    I'm actualy writing you from the Vineyard, where I'm at work opening my house. I came very close to meeting you once at Cynthia's and hope to meet you sometime soon!
    I love your books!

  6. So great to hear from each of you - and do hope to see many of you at Murder 203 (what a great idea...and so many wonderful writers on board). Cara - we have to talk! A little bit of Paris (and nobody captures that better than you do) and a lot of the South of France - Mougins to be exact. And Jan - I'm on the Vineyard now - and will be all summer...trying to write. Great to be on board, ladies xxx linda