Thursday, July 25, 2013

Death Angel

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN: Fan girl moment.
Linda Fairstein is on everyone's list of the most iconic, successful, charming, brilliant, and all around fabulous authors around. Right? I always think her books are like--Law and Order meets Vogue Magazine. Maybe that's just me--but they're so stylish and New Yorky and so insidery. I always feel as if I'm eavesdropping on real people solving real the coolest and most historic (and scariest) parts of the city.

 Lee Child calls her "the queen of intelligent suspense." And we know Lee is always right.

Her newest thriller, DEATH ANGEL, is out July 30...hurray! And she graciously agreed to chat with us about it..and about all the fascinating behind the scenes stuff that went into it. And--yes indeed--Jungle Red is giving a copy of DEATH ANGEL to one lucky commenter!  

DEATH ANGEL---starts in Central Park.
It's such a fabulous place… with such a storied history.We all have a Central Park memory, I bet.  Linda, you always choose an iconic New York landmark for your books--why the Park this time?

LINDA FAIRSTEIN:   Central Park is the heart of Manhattan. I moved to the city after my graduation from law school, and have lived close to the Park for forty years. As a young prosecutor, I jogged around the reservoir with office colleagues before going down to work. I’ve biked it countless times, rowed on the lake where detectives find the first body in Death Angel, and enjoyed all of the exquisite serenity and physical beauty with which the Park anchors the city. As Alex Cooper says, Central Park is New York City’s great seductress: she lures us in-- natives or tourists, young and old – with all her temptations; forty million of us every year. And yet, as a prosecutor, some of the most heinous crimes we encountered – from murder to sexual assault to physical beatings and rampages – also occurred in this sanctuary.

I’ve always been drawn to the Park, and especially to the more remote places like the Ramble and the Ravine, which many regulars have never explored. The island of Manhattan had sprawled in development from the tip of its southern shore to the mid-50’s before our city fathers gave serious thought to planning a great Greensward inspired by the magnificent European parks. Now, it’s hard for me to imagine this city without the glories of Central Park. It was only a matter of time before Alex, Mike, and Mercer had to dig deep into the Park and its fascinating history to solve a series of crimes.

HANK: So were you a Central Park buff before you wrote Death Angel?

LINDA FAIRSTEIN:  I’m always attracted to stories that expose the rich history of New York City. Behind the elegant exteriors, there are usually some dark secrets, interesting tales – and occasionally, bodies. I’ve spent so much time in the Park, both personally and professionally, that I’ve had the opportunity to visit locations that many people just don’t find by themselves.

When it came time to do serious research, I had two impeccable sources. The first was the Central Park Conservancy, a superb organization which really made possible the restoration of the Park after the fiscal crisis of the 1970’s almost wrecked it. I’ve supported the Conservancy for years, and was fortunate enough to be introduced to Sara Cedar Miller, the Conservancy’s historian and photographer. I wore out several pairs of sneakers trying to keep up with Sara in Central Park. The second source was a great friend, Nan Rothschild, a distinguished urban anthropologist who is a professor at Columbia and Barnard. Nan led the dig in Central Park several years ago which uncovered Seneca Village. I had no idea the village ever existed, and when I find a fact like that, I know it will work its way into the story.

HANK: Speaking of Seneca Village--Why did you feel it was important to include in your narrative?

LINDA: Once I heard the story of Seneca Village, I couldn’t imagine writing about the Park without including this interesting piece – the houses, schools, churches, cemeteries; it was truly a village. And the people, I still wonder, where did they wind up? If something haunts me enough and works its way into my imagination, I often find that it will resonate with my readers, too.

As I have spoken to people about Death Angel, I have been surprised by how few New Yorkers are aware of the Seneca Village history, or of the fact that Central Park – but for the enormous glacial erratics – is entirely manmade, down to the trees planted in each area, by the design team of Olmsted and Law. Readers always write to me about their love of learning about the historical aspects of New York City in my series. People who live here now or who were raised here really enjoy learning more about places and institutions which seem so familiar to them, but have hidden stories and those readers elsewhere who have never been to New York tell me that this kind of historical detail is what brings the city alive to them. So of course I had to include it!

HANK: The Dakota! Such a icon..I’ll always think of Rosemary’s Baby, and of course John Lennon.

LINDA: Everybody I know is fascinated with the Dakota, the first “apartment” building in Manhattan designed to lure rich and prominent New Yorkers away from their Fifth Avenue mansions. It’s been used in fiction many times – the inspiration for the apartments in Rosemary’s Baby, the building in the wonderful Finney novel Time and Again, in thrillers by Harlan Coben and Lee Child. And sadly, in real life, it was the home of John Lennon, and its front gate was the scene of his murder.

I have a good number of friends who live in the Dakota and I love to visit them there. But until I wrote this book, I’d never stopped to study its history – which is fun – and which made me even more anxious to get an invitation to go back there and poke around.

HANK: Speaking of poking around... Death Angel involves a lot of internal conflict between the police force and a judge. Is this, um, just fiction?

LINDA: In each of my novels, I have drawn on some aspect of my professional experience – thirty years as a prosecutor in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office – to give some life to the stories. There are personal conflicts – from time to time – between and among many of the individuals in the different agencies that make up the criminal justice system. They are not always as extreme, nor as personal, as the relationship I create in this book, but they exist. Some have been more complicated than the one I wrote about here – which is completely fictional – but it is an area I wanted to explore to show how personal relationships can truly interfere with the work of the system.

HANK: You are so incredible with endings! Death Angel wraps up with a surprise that pulls from all the different storylines within the novel. So do you know exactly how you are going to end the novel? Or do you improvise as you go along?

LINDA:    My usual process is to start with the world against which my story is going to be set – in this case, the rich background of Central Park. Then I decide on my victim – because we usually meet her or him early on – and figure the reason for which the murder would have occurred. And then, yes, I figure out the ending next, and I do it for a couple of reasons. Readers of crime novels tend to be very intelligent. They like the stories to be suspenseful, and most don’t mind trying to sort out the red herrings from the real suspects. But at the end, when the killer is revealed and the motive is explained, it has to make sense and come together for the smart readers. So if I know who the killer is at the outset, it allows me to try to leave clues along the way and build to a conclusion that holds together.

The second thing, for me, is that Alex Cooper doesn’t carry a gun. Although she has been in a couple of circumstances in which she can get her hands on one, she doesn’t like guns and isn’t comfortable with them. Other crime novel protagonists are. So I need to figure out where the story is going to end – and how – so I know that Alex can figure out some way to extricate herself from jeopardy, if that becomes necessary. Most of the plot highlights are known to me when I set out to tell the tale, but there are inevitable twists and turns that develop along the way, much to my delight and often to my surprise.

HANK: Is there a character you most enjoy writing? Why?

LINDA: Mike Chapman is my favorite character to write – hands down. When Mike’s in a scene or has a major segment of dialogue, I find myself smiling and channeling back to a bar stool in Forlini’s, listening to some of my smartest detectives telling stories at the end of a long working day. Mike is a composite of some of the best and brightest – and funniest – guys with whom I have handled such deadly serious cases. His character is loaded with some of my most wonderful memories of the prosecutorial work that I did for so long. In those many exhausting hours in front of a computer writing a book, Mike is the guy I most want to have hanging out with me, keeping me going – and maybe having a cocktail with me at the end of the day.

HANK: Okay, so dish. Mike Chapman and Alex Cooper. In Death Angel there’s even more teasing of the reader than usual…. Is this something we can expect more of in the future?

LINDA: There is no question that I get more mail and more comments at my appearances about Alex’s relationship with Mike than about any other thing. Coop has worried about what to do for quite a while now –it’s clear that Mike is her best friend and that she loves him dearly but she is also fearful that District Attorney Paul Battaglia would break up their professional partnership if they became entangled romantically. It just seemed to be the right time and place to test the waters.

HANK: Okay, I can’t resist. Is Alexandra Cooper based on you?

LINDA:  It’s hard not to laugh as I try to answer this. Fifteen books ago, when I created Alex Cooper, I was still a prosecutor in charge of the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office Sex Crimes Unit. I had written a non-fiction book about our work, but had always longed to write crime fiction. And in the 90’s, it was an exciting time in fiction for strong female protagonists in a non-traditional role. There was Coop! A bit too young to experience what I had in the 1970’s – when there were only 11 women in my law school class and seven on the staff of the DA’s office when I joined. The old adage “write what you know” seemed perfectly on point. Through Coop, I felt that I could show my passion for the job – especially since sex crimes and domestic violence, although age-old crimes, were getting first-time attention in the criminal justice system.

While Alexandra Cooper’s professional life is written with all of my experience and love for her work, I have taken great liberties with her personal characteristics. No, I didn’t have a trust fund – but I gave her one to allow her to have the Vineyard home, which provides such an escape from the pressures of her job. Lots of fictional changes on her personal side. She’s younger (much younger now than when I started to write her), thinner, and blonder – but she loves her work, just as I did. There’s a lot of me in Coop, but also a lot more that she knows which, in hindsight, I wish I had known at the time.

HANK:  Grr. What a moment to run out of time!
Don't forget to comment to be entered for DEATH ANGEL...have you ever been to Central Park? Anything interesting happen?

Find Linda at:
Twitter: @lindafairstein
Facebook:  (go like the page right now!)


  1. Central Park is one of those iconic New York places that draws people in . . . lots of places to simply wander around [and maybe end up at the carousel?] . . . . I’m looking forward to reading “Death Angel” . . . .

  2. Wonderful interview--one icon talking with another:). You ladies make the book sound irresistible.

    The truth is I've never walked through Central Park. next time in the City, we must rent bikes and see that world...

    thanks for visiting Linda!

  3. AH, are such a good pal. :-)

    ANd Central know, I thing most of my memories are in cabs. It's still kind of...mysterious to me.

    One thing that's also interesting to me-- the Mike and ALex tension! That's been going on for a long time, and yet readers don't seem to get impatient. We just believe it, and go with the flow. From writing Jake and JAne, I know how difficult it is to keep that going--fearing for the Moonlighting disaster..

    And we shall see what happens on Castle!

  4. Linda, I love your books. And I adore Coop. Death Angel sounds fantastic. I'm very curious about Seneca Village.

    The history all of New York City is fascinating. Right now I am especially attracted to the time and place of the Civil War Draft riots.

    I always go to Central Park whenever I go to New York. It's one of the first things I do there, right after lunch at the Russian Tea Room. I just wander around. It's great. Once a strange guy was following me. I thought I had avoided him but finally he caught up to me. It turned out he was my uncle, a detective.

  5. Oh what I wouldn't give for a walk though Central Park with Linda Fairstein. Really, a walk anywhere in NYC with her.

    Linda - you have more insider knowledge of the city than anyone can expect of one person and a city as complex as NYC. It's amazing the research you do! Thank you for that, it really brings the world to life.

    Count me among those that long for more with Coop and Mike. But like Hank, I fear it will change the dynamic too much once they go there, so I am willing to take the ride as long as possible.

    Even after all of these books, I still love the "Final Jeopardy" moments as well. Who would think that putting such a piece of pop culture into a book would resonate for this long. Just perfect.

    And for Hank - re: Jane and Jake. Milk that sexual tension for a long time, it can't be beat.

  6. Wow - this is very cool! What Lucy said!!!! Two icons for sure - and two of my favorite women on God's green earth.

    I'm lucky enough to have read an ARC of DEATH ANGEL and I have to say - this is the Fairstein book I've been waiting for. But, that's all I'm going to say about that - y'all are gonna love it.

    Not being familiar with NYC, but being a lover of old architecture, those aspects of Linda's books are part of what I love most (along with Mike Chapman). I have a book I bought years ago and re-read after reading DEATH ANGEL, Stephen Birmingham's LIFE AT THE DAKOTA. After reading Linda's books, I always seem to head to a bookstore to find a book or two about what Linda has shared with us. This time I'm going to be doing some shopping for more about Seneca Village.

    Love this interview!

  7. Now there's a thought, Kristopher--I bet a charity could raise a lot of money with a Linda Fairstein tour of New York--can you imagine? The Library, of course and the ballet, and Hell Gate Bridge.And of course, the park. Where else?

    Kaye, are you up for it? Reds?

  8. I think a Linda Fairstein tour of NYC would be over the moon fun! Especially if some of Alex's favorite restaurants are included.
    oh oh oh - what a super terrific idea!

  9. Linda - What do you think of the NYC tour idea? Could be a great item for the Bouchercon auction?

    I am unrealistically excited about this idea, given that I would in no way be able to bid what this type of event would be worth. But I am excited for the money it would raise for charity.

  10. How sad is it to say that I've worked in NYC for, sheesh, 15 years now and barely have set foot into the Park. But Death Angel has me intrigued in the biggest way, and I'd love to read it! Gonna add it to my TBR pile now, because while I adore stories that are set in real places, there's nothing to me than a story set in New York.

  11. As I'm writing this, I'm looking out the window at Central Park and can't wait to learn the deep dark secrets Linda uncovered while doing her research. That was one of the things (one of many!) that I loved about Lethal Legacy - learning about the NYPL building.

  12. Hi, Linda! Your book is right now in my TBR pile.

    Central Park! How I love it. But one of my (not so nice) memories of it was taking a walk there with a friend, must have been 1966, along a path in a brushy area and being confronted by a gang of young men. Kids, really, but scary still. Somehow we ran faster.

    And I love that you worked in the Seneca Village. NYC has such a rich history.

  13. Linda and I have a common love of using NYC places in our novels! Mine have Gracie Mansion, the East River, The Colony Club, the Hotel Wales, Sarabeth's, Spence School, The Mark Hotel, Madison Ave art galleries, and often, Bemelman's Bar! Thelma in Manhattan

  14. Ladies talk about fan girl I'm it. I've been a fan of Linda's since her first Coop book came out and Hank you know I love you xoxo-I'm in awe of what Linda has accomplished in her dual careers and Hank you're so right about Law & Order meets Vogue when talking about Linda's writing. Great interview from a huge fan girl of Linda's, Hank's and and all the Jungle Reds

    Thanks I'm not entering because I was a lucky winner of the novel from Linda's contest Thanks Linda.

  15. I "heart" Linda Fairstein" and I "heart" NYC!! Unbeatable combination. I also love Central Park, and have visited it all my life. A daughter had an apartment on the Columbus Ave. end of the Dakota block . . . I daydreamed about living there!! I still do.

    The park is an incredible gift to the city, and, of course, a Law & Order staple. This book is irresistible!

  16. To Hank (and Kaye and Hallie) and all the great dames of JUNGLE RED WRITERS....I'm just home from doing IMUS and here is this most incredibly generous interview with Hank. From my Vineyard home, I was fortunate enough to follow her Emmy-studded journalistic career - and then just devoured her books alive from the time Hank began to write...and did an event with her....Such a joy when friends are so wonderful, at such an important moment. YES to a charity tour and a walk in the Park when any of you come to town. THANKS HANK!!!! xxx

  17. Oh, Imus! You're so brave! (But then, we knew that..
    And here are Linda's five fave songs from the Imus website...can you guess?

  18. Oh, this is too delicious. DEATH ANGEL sounds fabulous--can't wait to read it.

    I second so many of the comments: Yes to a charity tour! Yes to ongoing sexual tension (in both your and Hank's books)! Yes to learning more about Seneca Village--so intriguing!

    I lived in New York in the early 90s, and I adored Central Park. A few hours spent outside the city bustle--what a mental health saver! :-) I never experienced anything strange or scary.

  19. Hi Linda! What a treat to have you here on JR, and what a great interview!

    It's been way too long since I've been to NYC, and on previous visits I've barely explored the fringes of the park. So I'm eager to learn more, and fascinated by the idea of Seneca Village.

    And I may take you up on that walk when I do come to New York next:-)

  20. I loved "Death Dance" and the peek into the backstage world at Lincoln Center. I've been intrigued by the Dakota for ages, and I can't wait to see what Linda has in store for her characters there. What fun!

  21. I'm off to the Midwest Writers Workshop and will be on a plane for a few hours..back to you soon!

    So lets keep planning our "Linda TOur." The "FABULOUS FAIRSTEIN TOUR"? What should we call it?

  22. I've read every Coop novel to date and can't wait to get my hands on Death Angel.

    Growing up with Nancy Drew, I've always been hooked on a strong female protagnoist, Coop joins the ranks of V.I. Warshawski and Kinsey Millhone.

    Yes, I am a shipper, I love the banter with Mike Chapman and sooner or later Linda will take us there. Mercer is the calming influence on Mike's macho and Coop's impulses - a dynamic trio!

    Linda Fairstein always leaves me wanting and waiting for more.

  23. I love, love, love Mike and I don't mind that slow dance between him and Alex--which is surprising because usually those things make me impatient.

    I think a Fabulous Fairstein Tour of New York would be wonderful. Does that mean we might also get a Happy Hank Tour of Boston?

  24. I have read many in this series, but now will have to play catch-up. Where does the time go. I love these stories and back stories. Dee

  25. After reading all these comments I have to read your books now! I love finding new (to me) mystery series to enjoy. Thanks!

  26. You did Imus? And came back! I am breathless at the thought. You are brave.

  27. Okay, I was a fan before. But now I've seen your Imus song list, Linda — I am in awe.

  28. I've been in Central Park many times, but nothing has ever matched the magic of when Cristo's Gates were there. My friend and I stayed at a hotel on the edge of the park so we could go back often. We arrived, went through the park, and that night it started snowing. We were with friends in a bar and someone came in and said, "It's snowing! The park will be beautiful with the gates." We all ran out and went to the park, where we found dozens of New Yorkers and visitor playing in the snow, laughing. The next day it was breathtaking! I took about 1,000 pictures.

  29. Two of my "must read" authors together. I like the look into the criminal justice system, and I was raised in NewYork City. Linda give me the gift of remembering all the wonders of a fascinating city.

  30. The first time I ever entered Central Park was for a free Simon and Garfunkel concert when I was in college - what an introduction!


  31. Finally! After a LONG plane ride and a LONG drive, I am in Muncie at the Midwest Writers excited to be here!

    So I do think we have hit on something wonderful..cannot wait to come up with the tour!

    Susan b-=what a memory! I'd love to hear more about that..Paul Simon is m complete favorite...

    So lovely to see you, Lil!

  32. Darlene-the Happy Hank Tour? ANY day! xoo

  33. My husband and I just listened to our first Linda Fairstein book (on tape ) on our drive up to Maine last week for vacation. We picked it based on Deborah Crombie's recommendation and we were not disappointed. Both of us loved her characters but most of all we loved learning the interesting history behind the places she wrote about. I was so happy to see the interview today and we look forward to reading and listening to all of her wonderful books!

  34. Elizabeth--that is so nice! I can picture's such fun to listen to books together!