Thursday, November 8, 2012

What would Dennis Lehane wear?

Breaking News: Congratulations to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Rhys Bowen for their nominations for the 2012 RT Reviewer's Choice Awards!!!!

HALLIE EPHRON: Recently my attention was snagged by a huge piece in The Boston Globe featuring Dennis Lehane, in town to talk about "Live By Night." It's the sequel to his novel "The Given Day" and deals, in Lehane's signature style, with race, poverty, and violence in the context of Prohibition.

Dennis is a brilliant writer, and I was lucky enough to hear him talk about "The Given Day" at a writing conference, a year before the book was published. He read a mesmerizing scene from the middle of the book that dramatizes the Great Molasses Flood which occurred on January 15, 1919, in the North End neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.

I've got his new book right here on top of my TBR pile, but what I want to talk about, Dennis (are you out there, Dennis?), is the outfit you wore to the signing at Brookline Booksmith and that was captured forever by the Globe's photographer.

You wore -- now, how to be charitable about this? --  workout clothes. Dungarees, a T-shirt, and a zippered sweatshirt, all navy blue. You are somewhat unshaven. And here's the thing. You actually look fine, adorable even in a glowering Jack Kerouac kind of way.

Looking at that photograph I was positively beside myself with envy. Could I ever, in my wildest dreams, show up at a book signing unshaven? It's not fair that a guy can pull this off and we women cannot.

Am I the only one who obsesses over what I'll wear to book signings? Do you buy a special "lucky" outfit? Debate whether to polish your nails? Wouldn't life would be so much simpler if we just asked ourselves: What would Dennis Lehane wear?

ALERT! See Dennis Lehane explaining the hoodie thing in today's COMMENTS. What a good sport...

RHYS BOWEN: Hallie, like you I obsess over what to wear to book signings. My biggest fear is that I'll wear the same outfit two years in a row and someone will come up to me with a picture of us taken together the year before and there I'll be in the same jacket. I try to capture the flavor of the period I write about.

I found a great vintage white blazer trimmed with navy for Naughty in Nice. For the upcoming Twelve Clues of Christmas I'm going with a long Christmassy skirt. I think people come to a booksigning to be entertained and looking right is part of the image you are creating.

If I looked brooding and masculine I might go for the work out wear.

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Dennis Lehane is fabulous and incomparable and he can wear whatever he wants. I wonder..if there's kind of an inversely proportional thing, the more amazing you are, the less it matters what you wear. Hmm. No. Look at JK Rowling, she always looks impeccable. And Nora Roberts, and Mary Higgins Clark, and Linda Fairstein.  Laura Lippman and Tess Gerritsen, who wear jeans to signings (right?) look incredible and pulled together.

Oh, and let me tell you this. I was at an out of state library recently, and wore a dress and heels. The librarian was so appreciative--she says she's tired of authors showing up looking like slobs. Her words. 

Is there a "cool guy" look like Dennis has that maybe...women can't do? No. You know what? Dennis dresses like Dennis, that's cool. MHC dresses like MHC, that's cool. I am careful, certainly--because it's respectful. And I think that's the key.

Yes, Hank, I think it is inversely proportional. If you are Dennis Lehane, you can dress however you want.  Shave, don't shave. And Hallie, I saw that photo and didn't actually think he looked that cute. But it doesn't matter. He's Dennis Lehane. He's also a guy. They always get away with murder.

But there's also a bit of branding going on, too, in the book signing outfit whatever it is. Can you imagine our HANK ever going out looking slovenly?? I can't.  I can imagine me going out a bit slovenly, but it would be a HUGE mistake. As comfy as those yoga pants are....they are just not a good idea for a signing.  I will wear UGGS though if it's really cold out.

ROSEMARY HARRIS: Each one of your comments has made me smile. I did have a couple of years when I seemed to be wearing the same thing at every Malice Domestic! (I have a lot of black jackets.) Yoga pants at a signing probably wouldn't work for me - and I frequently ask myself "Would Hank wear this?" During the power outage when I haven't been able to do much, I've been going through my closet for the seasonal Goodwill dropoff and that phrase has come up a lot!

But I don't think for a minute that Dennis' outfit was unplanned. I'm guessing it was - I'm a writer dammit, I've just given birth to the next 600 page masterpiece. You don't expect me to care what I look like, do you?? Or some variation of that.

And I'm sure his audience (except for Hallie) was fine with that.

HALLIE: I said I was jealous! 

ROSEMARY: I once read an interview with Barbara Cartland and she said she dressed the way she did because it was what her readers expected. I suppose it's the same for Dennis Lehane, although I really prefer the jeans, black t-shirt and jacket look that a lot of the male, tough-guy writers are rocking.

Oh so funny Hallie, I laughed just reading the title of the post!

I dress up for book talks too--not Hank and Rhys dress-up, but definitely above my at-home schlumpy sweat pants outfit. I'm like Hallie in that I love to be comfortable--and fancy clothes usually aren't. (Like heels--they look great but I can't wear them anymore!) Sometimes I catch myself at the grocery store looking like a bag lady--but this would not happen at a bookstore!

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Guys have it so easy!! I'm already worrying about what I'm going to wear on book tour in February! Can I get a week to two weeks clothes in a roll aboard suitcase? Because, unlike guys, who can wear the same jacket and pants and just change their shirts (or not,) if I wear the same thing to every book signing, all the pictures on Facebook will be identical. (The trials of social media...) And I agree with Rhys, heaven forbid you should wear what you wore the year before...

So yes, I do dress up, even though I'm not a suit and high heels kind of girl. We all want to look like Hank, but it just wouldn't work for me.  I will wear low heels for an event, but then what if you have to go straight from a flight to the bookstore? That means airport in heels--nightmare!

As for Dennis, he is adorable in anything, and if you sell as many books as he does, you can wear whatever you damned please.

HALLIE: So what about you all? Would you ask yourself What Would Dennis Wear? Or What Would Hank Wear? Or What would Mary Higgins Clark Wear? Or What Would Barbara Cartland Wear? if you're dressing to be seen in public? I know what my answer is.


  1. Congratulations to Hank Phillipi Ryan and Rhys Bowen for their nominations for the 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards!!!! Dee

  2. I'll take: What Would Hallie Wear?

    I found a splendid turquoise blouse for my first-ever solo signing, wore it with the black blazer but ended up unhappy with my choice of pants. Sigh. I think I need to go the (comfortable) dress route next time. [Big sh*t-eating grin knowing that there WILL be a next time.]

    I personally can't stand the extremely-trimmed beard look that makes you wonder if it's just unshaven or by design. Come on guys - either grow it out a little or shave it off! Pet peeve of a now officially old lady...

  3. Saw him speak last night at Center for Fiction and I think he may have been wearing the exact same outfit as this picture haha. Must be the go-to discussion apparel.

  4. I thought this was going to be a "Dress Dennis Lehane" game, like with paper dolls. Rats. I wanted to put him in a dress. Maybe a tiara. :-)

    When I give a reading or teach, I've found it helpful to wear a scarf. It gives me something to do with my hands.

  5. Paper dolls? Now there's a scary thought.

    I LOVED paper dolls though I never bothered to cut out the men's clothes. Bo-ring.

  6. That is something I am agonizing over right now! I usually wear dark jeans, comfortable shoes (arthritis in the toes) and a dressier blouse... But what should I wear for my children's book signing?

  7. Susan Elizabeth, I guess we all have our uniforms. Do you realize we'e likely to crack up the next time any of us sees Dennis Lehane and he's in a hoodie?

    BTW I thought I might go to the Center for Fiction gig last night. Jonathan Santlofer is doing a great job programming the monthly talks this year. Next month it's Susan Isaacs. Ten dollares says she's not wearing a hoodie.

  8. I had the pleasure of taking a five-day writing class from Mr. Lehane (I wouldn't dare call him Dennis) at a former writing school of his in St. Pete FLA. He is a WRITER every hour of every day -- he talks, walks, and dresses the part. Jeans, T-shirts, sweat shirts. Hair sticking up. He is also very smart and well spoken. Macho. You don't want to joust with Mr. Lehane, physically or verbally, and I think that's reflected in his dress code. He reminded me a two-fisted priest from the slums -- ready to battle for "his people." I love his writing.

  9. Jack, like Karl Malden in On the Waterfront or Pat O'Brien in Boystown? I confess I do not think "man of the cloth" when I think DL. Unless the cloth is denim ;-)

  10. That was terrific!! I might ask myself if I could get away with what Dennis was wearing. Dress & heels ... "How can I get out of this?"

  11. You're right, Rosemary. I'd say Mr. Lehane looks like a FORMER "man of the cloth" -- maybe who got tossed for his political activities. Ha. Pat O'Brien is too fatherly. Dennis is more like Che Guevara. And definitely IN CHARGE of us student writers. A really great guy.

  12. Add my congratulations for Hank's and Rhys's well-deserved nominations! Good luck, ladies.

    Men are just lazy. That's all I'm going to say about that.

    Nancy Martin and I had lunch together at Bouchercon. When we were leaving the restaurant, we passed by Mary Higgins Clark, who was also having lunch there. I commented to Nancy that Ms. Clark looks exactly the same in person as she does on her book jackets. And that's how I would expect her to look. How else would you recognize her? :-)

    It was nice to see an author taking great pains (as the JRW do, especially Hank) to present themselves to their readers. I, for one, appreciate the effort.

  13. To be fair, I think writers dress to project their persona -- and that's what Dennis Lehane is doing. I think it's actually smart. He shows up exactly the way his fans expect. And Barbara Cartland wears pink. Vive la difference, I say!

  14. Ha ha Susan, so funny!

    Ramona, I loved paper dolls too. But a Hank paper doll would be a lot more fun than Dennis:)

    Rita, children's booksigning--something very colorful and fun!

    Jack, can't wait to see what you wear when your turn comes!

    By the way, I loved THE GIVEN DAY and just bought the new one for a certain someone's Christmas gift...

  15. Alerted to our little discussion, this comes from the man himself:

    DENNIS LEHANE: Sure, it looks like I just picked those clothes off my closet floor and walked out the door in them, but you have to start working that look early. Can't dress like Tom Wolfe one day and then roll in looking all Dot Ave the next.

    I decided this would be my Hoodie Tour. Hoodie's go with everything--sport coats, top coats, leather coats; everything but jackets that already have hoods. That day was weird--started out cold, ended up hot.

    I had to leave the jacket in the car which led to that whole bluer-than-blue look. That was a fashion faux pas so egregious that both my gay friends AND my straight friends are still giving me grief over it. And understandably so.

    As for why women authors can't pull the casual look off, they can...but again they have to start early. If you arrive at your very first book signing with bed head, ripped boyfriend jeans, and a graphic Tee that doesn't fully conceal your latest Kabbalah-inspired tattoo--basically that whole Zooey-Daschenel-meets-circa-`79-Chrissy-Hynde look--you've got a shot at working that look deep into your career.

    (But not too deep; just ask Madonna who now looks like that sad, menthol-throated, aging-hipster-doofus aunt who missed the last Cool Bus ten years ago and doesn't realize it's not coming back around. Like, ever.)

    Essentially, though, you have to stake your fashion claim with the starter's gun. If you start with the pants suits, you're stuck with the pants suits. If you wear a bright scarf to your first book signing, you'll be wearing a bright scarf to your last. It's a terribly unfair world that way. I suspect Neo-cons are behind it (although they'll claim it's as God intended.)

  16. What a great topic. Personally, I think all you ladies always look great. I am always constantly amazed at how writers look so put together during conferences. It really does show a level of respect and it is noticed. But that doesn't mean everyone has to dress to the nines. Just be yourself, I say.

    As for Hank, I'm not even sure she owns any casual clothes. She always looks FAB.


  17. I've seen Hank in jeans. She looks great.

  18. Years ago I came up with just one rule, as a female writer from Maine: avoid the Carolyn Chute look!

  19. Okay, Dennis, you totally won me over with the Madonna description!!

  20. Hank paper dolls? For all that's good and holy, I can barely dress myself. Having to dress even hank paper dolls might just push me to that nervous breakdown I have been eying for years and so richly deserve.

    As for Dennis Lehane, honestly, if I thought for one second I could get away with a hoodie at a business event I would do it in a heartbeat and expect to take crap from my friends. I guess I am more like him than I thought. :)

  21. Congrats to Hank and Rhys for the 2012 Reader's Choice Awards! Woo hoo!

    And Dennis, now I'm crushed. I so wish I'd started with the bedhead, ripped boyfriend jeans, tattoo, and graphic tee.. I'm sure that would suit my inner writer much better than the boots, leggings, and scarf.

    I'm protesting the criticism (sorry, Edith) of the guy stubble. I like it, and think it's really sexy. Sort of like bedhead. Don't know why. Alas, another look I can't achieve. (At least I hope not.)

    Dennis, thanks for being such a good sport. Maybe you have made blue on blue a new trend.

  22. Edith,
    The thing about that not-really-shaven look, which my husband tells me is achieved with a certain inch razor, is that it only looks good on YOUNG guys. And best on YOUNG movie star guys.

    Don't feel so bad, Debs, given Dennis's comment, I might be committed to UGGS forever.

  23. He had me at Zooey Deschanel meets Chrissy Hynde...

  24. Two words: cashmere hoodie. I have two and I adore them. Granted, I don't wear them to a book signing, but I do wear them on the plane and to dinner at night when on the road for "author stuff."

    I put that in quotes because that's how it is in my life. I made a choice just before being published that I was going to present myself a certain way as an author (Jan, exactly the personal branding idea). So I'm dressed up, lipstick, heels, tights, often spanx.

    Let me be clear, unlike Hank (who is certainly my go-to for "what would someone wear?"), I DO NOT look like an author every day. At my day job, I look like a middle-aged, middle-manager wearing trousers and a blouse because I have to. Writing? Yeah, schlumpy sweatshirt (seriously, an XL when I'm an S) and yoga pants.

    Congrats on the award nominations!!

  25. Dennis, thanks for being a good sport. I always notice at conventions that male authors often work at the "male author" look--the Hemmingway Noir, I call it. But since most women can't get away with being unshaven, we have to look at least neat and tidy.
    And I'm off on book tour in one hour. Let's hope the weather forecast is accurate!

  26. Well, I think Dennis nailed it with the "from the beginning" theory. Maybe that's something we should add to our "what new authors should know" list. Pick a persona. Stick with it.

    And listen, how about that paper doll idea? Dennis, you could forget this whole wriitng gig thing and be the author-paper-doll magnate. You could even do a Kindle version.

    As for LIVE BY NIGHT--I had to pick my top four reads for a book show on Boston's WGBH (public TV) rcently--and I chose LIVE BY NIGHT for my fiction selection! It's so terrific..

  27. What a wonderful post -- and ongoing discussion! One question though: Is it too late to shift over to the Barbara Cartland model? Gazing at that photo (and really I can't take my eyes off of it) I realize I need more hot pink in my life.

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  29. Hank Phillippi Ryan said...
    And, oh, thank you! Yes, THE OTHER WOMAN is nominated as one of the best suspense/thrillers of 2012! SO wonderful!

    (Along with Gillian Flynn's GONE GIRL and Lisa Gardner's CATCH ME!And Andrea Kane and JT Ellison and the amazing Friend-of-Reds Alison Gaylin's AND SHE WAS! Nice neighborhood. Very very thrilled.)

  30. It's always easier for guys, because dressing in general is easier for guys. I do black slacks, colorful tunics or black tops and colorful jackets. That's become my uniform for readings and author events. Like Rhys, I worry about wearing the same thing I wore the last year, especially since my jackets or tunics are unusual and memorable. It's my version of the T-shirt and jeans look that lots of male authors do.

  31. Congratulations to you, Alison Gaylin! And don't we all need more hot pink in our lives?

  32. Thank you, Hallie! And big congrats to Hank, Rhys and all the other wonderful nominees. Hot pink all around!

  33. Edith -- I agree with you "men either grow a beard or do not" but then again I worked at a maritime museum for years and most of my friends had really great beards. But that scraggly scruffy stuff, forget it. I have yet to get to the stage of preparing for book signings -- but this is a great discussion. Maybe a workshop for CrimeBake?

  34. Forgot to say congrats to Hank, Rhys and Alison.

    The Other Woman and And She Was are two of my favorite reads of the year.

    And I am sure Rhys' book will be as well, as soon as I get a moment to relax with it.

  35. I totally get Dennis's explanation of "the look," esp the "from the beginning" part. The sport coat and jeans most male mystery writers wear works too. But I admit, it was nice to see a man -- JJ Murphy -- wearing a suit at Malice last spring. He stood out, and it fits the era he's writing about, 1920s NYC.

    And I started worrying about what to wear the moment I registered for next year's Malice!

  36. Not I. The cover of my second book was pink and for some reason I thought I should wear a pink sweater/jacket to some signings. I looked like a giant bottle of Pepto.

    Congrats all and Alison...I LOVED And She Was!

  37. I must have been channeling this post this morning, because I'm a little bit Barbara Cartland myself. Hot pink tights with an all-black ensemble.

    And as a matter of fact, on Nov. 29th I'm doing my first public reading! Yow! And I was thinking about today's outfit...but hot pink forevermore as my accent color? I think not. Maybe just any vibrant accent color will do. I can see myself being one of those writers in black though...

    And as for our man, Dennis (a HUGELY good sport), I'd say the photo hits the perfect balance between disheveled writer and artiste-a-la-noir writer. I'd bet many a fangirl sighed. :-)

  38. I sure did, Lisa.

    And I just got hot blue tights. (Is there such a color?) They're like--cobalt blue. With a black dress? Could work!

  39. Ramona, you are too funny! I wouldn't mind dressing Dennis Lehane, either. In fact I thought this was a contest, and I might win the opportunity. Damn.

    When I lived in Boston we used to put our good shoes in a book bag or briefcase and wear our running shoes until we got where we were going. That usually worked great, and it seemed that most women I knew did that.

    I have no style, and I know it. So I rely on a trip to De Scenza's, where I get good advice on whatever they have that would make me look like I dressed that way on purpose. I remember my first trip there. Auntie-Mom dragged me upstairs and said, "Give this girl something that will make her T-shirt invisible!" Hey, Scout and I were married by one of their clerks the second time around. We went to buy new wedding rings, because we'd thrown the old ones away. She asked when the wedding was. Scout shrugged his shoulders and told her whenever she was ready. So she made the sign of the cross. Blessed our unholy union. We went on our way.

    Dennis, ha! Once sent to live with my grandparents at the corner of Dot and Brookvale. Between the Carney and Ashmont. My uncle, Tommy Troy, dragged me back. Was the same house his mother sent him to live when he was recalcitrant teenager. She was pregnant with him when his father Officer Jimmy Troy, was shot and killed while arresting a burglary suspect.

  40. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys. Dennis is wonderful and this generation's version of eye candy, and the guy's guy!

  41. I always say what would Hank wear. It doesn't mean that's how I end up dressing but it proves I start from a place of good intention.

  42. Congratulations to Hank and Rhys for their nominations for the 2012 Reviewer's Choice Awards. So well deserved . . . .

    As for the "what to wear" question, I'd vote in favor of whatever makes you feel comfortable in the situation you're dressing for . . . .

  43. He's totally wearing that hoodie in his bookcover jacket, too - ha!

    Rosemary - Do you think we can petition Susan Isaacs to wear a hoodie and set a precedent for writers everywhere??

  44. Oh Hank, cobalt blue! I'm going to have to hunt that color down!

  45. Yes, gorgeous, Lisa!

    And aw, Darlene. xoxoo Sisters have to work together, right?

  46. Thank you so much Rosemary and Kristopher! And Rosemary, I bet you looked fantastic -- even if you *felt* like a Pepto bottle.

  47. Instead of hot blue, how about electric blue? I think that phrase was used in a Sherlock Holmes story, the one where the girl had to cut her hair and wear the blue dress. I think it was the Copper Beeches.

    I prefer fleece jackets without the hood. They're more comfortable. When I get cold at home I put on my comfy fleece jacket. Hoods just get in the way, except I do like a hood on my winter coat because I like to bundle up.

    I'm not an author so I'll just discuss what I'd wear to the office. I usually wear a skirt instead of pants because it's easier to find a skirt that fits. So maybe that makes me look more dressed up than others, but oh, well. Businesses have gotten a lot more casual than they were in 1995 when I started working full time in a law office. Maybe now not so many require professional attire. Do teachers even dress up anymore? Librarians (at the public library) don't.

  48. Can I just say I LOVE SKIRTS, but what I do not love are PANTYHOSE... Life is cruel.

  49. Hallie... laughing about your pantyhose comment. I remember how exciting it was, when I was 11, shopping for my first pair of pantyhose for our middle school dance. I never want to see another pair again. I would rather wear fishermen's waders!

  50. What a super Jungle Red day! I now have added "develop a personal style" to my long-range planning. At the age of 70, I will be doing a reading with long hair and a trim body dressed to kill!

  51. I ran in and out so fast this morning I didn't have the chance to say congratulations to Hank and Rhys on the nominations for the RT Reviewers Choice Awards. You'd both certainly be my choice.

    And I want to say that Dennis has certainly been a great good sport to tolerate all of us women picking at his choice of outfit. (I don't think men are used to that the way women are.) The way he dresses is perfect for his books and for him as author of those terrific books. (I was a little disappointed that we didn't get to play Dennis Lehane paper dolls, after all, though.)

  52. Hank, Rhys – Congratulations on your nominations! I missed that somehow! xo

  53. I used to dress up, a lot. Wore suits to work, certainly a coat and tie out to dinner, and definitely a coat and tie when traveling. (Nothing worse than sitting next to an overweight guy in cutoffs and a tank top on an airplane for four or five hours.)

    Naturally, my appearance at bookstores closely reflected my work attire. Gradually, I've been weaned from wearing a tie. And since I work strictly from home, my work attire is more casual--khakis and turtlenecks or polo shirts. So, that's what I wear out, too.

    Lehane looks the part. Man, I'm jealous.

  54. I'm late to the party, but want to get my congratulations in to Rhys and Hank! Very much deserved.

    I do have pictures of me in consecutive years in the same jacket and it's confusing. Now I'm worried about what to wear at the next writers' event. Thanks a lot.

  55. I don't care what Dennis Lehane wears as long as he keeps writing wonderful books. I've read them all and look forward to his latest.