Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Killer Look? Killer Book!

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?

Piece de...Resistance
            By Linda Fairstein

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).
Would I really lose my guys in the name of fashion?

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.


  1. Killer Look? Afraid not . . . I definitely enjoy looking [and shopping] but when it’s time to put together an outfit, I have a tendency to choose what’s comfortable, so I’m quite probably lacking that fashion sense that seems to come so easily to others.
    I’m excited to know there’s a new Alex Cooper/Mike Chapman book on the way . . . can’t wait to read it!

  2. I am in love with Mike Chapman. I rarely dress up, but for him? I'd wear my sleek black cocktail dress with graduated three-tiered sleeves and my fresh water pearls from DeScenza's in Boston. They were a gift from Steve when we bought new rings after a long separation. We were re-married there in DeScenza's. The clerk offered when we told her we were just buying the rings.

    I know Mike will always belong to Coop, but I might get a sideways glance revealing a brief moment of temptation. I would flash the latest book after giving it a kiss and blowing it his way. That would hold me. He'd have to deal with the memory.

  3. Linda (waving!)

    I think it sounds BRILLIANT, setting the book behind the scenes in NY's fashion world. The personalities! The glitz! The challenge of actually creating a gorgeous item of clothing. (I was addicted to Project Runway.) So of course I want to know about your research. Did it involve acquiring??

  4. I was just thinking about project runway! The real one of course with Tim and Heidi.
    I loved it, too.
    Different of course, but my Air Time is also set in the world of fashion. I think it is fascinating, and just as cutthroat as any other business can be. Just because the focus is on things that are pretty, doesn't mean the battle for supremacy isn't no holds barred.

  5. And even if I don't person doesn't read vogue :-) we still care… Right? We remember Audrey Hepburn's clothes. And Princess Diana. Grace Kelly. Jackie Kennedy . Who is in their spot today do you think? Michelle Obama?

  6. I was lucky to win a copy of Killer Look and have just started reading. So far it is as gripping as any of the others in the series. I highly recommend this book.

  7. No killer look here...I'm just a casual kind of gal. But I do love looking at the fashion trends that I see on the streets.

    I would LOVE to win a copy of Killer Looks.


  8. Yes people watching! I am such a big fan of Bill Cunningham and his amazing eye for style and trends--high fashion and street fashion. He'll be impossible to replace.
    Linda --did you ever meet him?

  9. Love learning NYC history from the fabulous Linda Fairstein! I'm not much for fashion but I have figured out a few outfits that are both good-looking and comfortable. This summer it's white pants and a Talbot's tunic.

    I am facebook friends with a former student who is very much in the fashion world -- she was a beauty contestant who went almost to the top. She models and she works at VOGUE! What fun to see her posts (and remember the 12 year old girl). And to see the good work she does through a family medical foundation in Africa.

    Thanks, Hank, and SEE YOU IN FALMOUTH tonight!!

  10. A killer look? Hardly. When I go to Bouchercon in September (eek - two months!), I'll have to have my Girl help me with my wardrobe so I don't look like a "mom." When I hear that come out of her mouth - "You look like a mom" - I know I'm in trouble. Never mind I am a mom. It's an okay look for day to day, but she says I have to kick it up a notch for author events. Okay.

    I'm wearing one of those shirts with the polo pony. =)

    It comes as no surprise that fashion is incredibly competitive and cutthroat. The Girl got into a Project Runway marathon (yes, the one withe Heidi and Tim). Much to my surprise, my husband got into it, too. Not so much for the fashion, but he was captivated by the human interactions behind the scenes. So much conflict. So good for crime fiction.

  11. Back in the day, especially when I worked, in the mid-70's, as a buyer for a chain of stores here in Cincinnati that sold petite clothing, I wore the latest. My best score, ever, was a price-slashed-to-almost-nothing Ultrasuede wrap dress that looked just like a Halston. It was so chic.

    So I was then familiar with the Garment District, since I worked there for three to four days every five weeks or so, choosing styles for the stores. There is a dichotomy of the pretty showrooms, the not-so-pretty showrooms, and the seedy back rooms and basements with racks and racks of plastic-covered garments going in and out all day long. I could see the identical style in seven different price points, all probably made in the same sweatshop. Such a cutthroat business; I'm surprised more murder mysteries don't take place in such a venue!

    I very much look forward to reading this book, Linda.

  12. Yes it's interesting ..When Air Time came out--with the inside look at counterfeit couture and big bucks and murder, some people thought it couldn't be true. And yet the story began in my own headlines and research with the FBI and secret service!

  13. Ultrasuede! Wrap dress! And whatever happened to shoulders?

  14. I've been gone for a week. A week at the beach with gal pals, so I'm slow catching up with all that I missed here at Jungle Red. Popping in this morning and finding the lovely Ms. Fairstein - What a treat!! I remember being in the Baltimore airport waiting and waiting and waiting for a long over-due flight. I picked up a book that looked interesting. It was Final Jeopardy. I finished it before I got home that evening and rather impatiently tapped my toe awaiting the next in the series. And darned if that series hasn't gotten better and better! I don't even mind sharing my boyfriend, Mike Chapman, with Coop.

    A killer look. I have no idea if it's "killer" or not, but I love boots, leggings, a long white shirt and a long scarf. That's what always works for me and has me feeling comfortable and confident.

    It's good to be back!

  15. Hank, you are the only one of us Reds who has a killer look. Although I've been at the Edgar's etc with Linda and she certainly always looks fabulous! Years ago one of my daughters said to me, "Mom, think Ralph Lauren". She was right. I've gone for the Laeren preppy tailored look ever since. I've decided I'm not the glamorous type. I can't wear heels like you-know-who so I'll settle for looking professional and tidy!

    (And I just noticed that auto-correct had changed a certain Red's name to Tank!) Reminds me of the time I was writing to a professor and the word 'tomorrow' was auto-changed to 'you moron'

  16. Love the entire Alex Cooper series. I lived in NY back in the big bad 1970s so Alex and Mike strike a chord with me. I love that nothing in NY is clear cut, there is always and edge shading to grey and the series shows that so well. Plus it's a great chance to visit wonderful places again, but with an insider's point of view. I did not know that the garment manufacturing industry hung on so long in NYC. My memories of the garment district are of skinny kids pushing racks of clothes that I wasn't sure I could even afford to look at, but I did not know mass manufacturing hung on still.

    My killer attire? Well, I work from home. Don't tell anyone, but I don't even own a pair of pumps anymore. Probably couldn't walk in them. Hum....I think it's time to fix that! I love to write in a pair of oversized jeans and a tee shirt. Talk about glam!

  17. Sounds like another great entry in the series. And go to the fashion district! Wonder why we always think of black for the killer look. Burglar? Mafia? Best killer look in a story is when we don't expect it and it's a shirtwaist housedress or something.

  18. Rhys, Autocorrect is the moronic one. And demonic, at times.

  19. My doubtful killer look. I am a 70 year old panda shaped Floridian, currently 'sporting' rainbow hued hair, wearing caftans, shorts or a Panama hat.

    Alex is back! Hooray. Thanks for allowing the relationship between Alex and Mike to develop in a natural pace.

    re: the robot comment, I too wonder, given the amount of bionic parts I have, that I may someday become a robot.

  20. Oh, got to love autocorrect. It is hilarious..but Rhys, that may be a winner!

    You know what I can NEVER find? Jeans that work. If I could wear a white shirt and jeans, I'd be so thrilled. But always looks wrong. An don;t even talk to me about bathing suits, WHO would want a one shoulder bathing suit? That is just trouble waiting to happen.

  21. Coralee, it sounds like you definitely have a killer look! And Kaye, you are an icon in your red cowboy boots!

  22. Denise Ann--HURRAY! ANd white pants and a tunic is ALWAYS a killer look.

  23. I have been away for a few days, too. What a treat to come back to Linda Fairstein! I LOVE the Alex Cooper series. In addition to many other things already noted, I love how Linda manages to write about really awful crimes in a way that doesn't seem voyeuristic and doesn't give me nightmares.

    Sadly, I am a short woman to begin with, and now a short woman with some middle-age shifting of the sands, so the closest I can claim to a killer look is achieving optimal camouflage and drawing the eye to certain aspects and away from others. That almost never happens for me in any kind of pants, but in winter a nice flowy skirt with boots and a long sweater or top can work a lot of magic. For summer, it helps that I have somehow maintained decent looking upper arms. A few weeks ago I picked up a little dropped waist sleeveless number in black with white polka dots (solid black on the little skirt at the bottom) that makes me feel like there's hope for me.

  24. And that is so interesting to hear, Susan. Suspense dies not have to be gruesome--I have to say, if it is, I skip it. :-). That's another reason Linda is such a rock star.

  25. my kiiler look is my old faithful slinky black dress. thanks for the chance to win

  26. I've been more or less away for a few days, too, so how nice to see Linda Fairstein today!

    My killer look this summer, with twelve hour days at the computer? t-shirts and cotton knit shorts from that great house of fashion, TarGET.

    My closest experience with high fashion was when I was in my twenties, my mom and I would go every year to the annual Jewish women's organization charity sale in Dallas. This was a plan-months-in-advance, line up at the door at dawn on the day thing. Then, chaos! Women taking piles of clothes to the makeshift dressing rooms, getting through them as fast as they could manage. I was, sigh, a size 4 in couture clothes in those days, so I got a lot of gorgeous things every year for a couple of hundred bucks.

    Linda, so looking forward to the book!

  27. Never been one for fashion, but gained much more respect for the designers after watching seasons of Project Runway. For The Paris Spy, I've been researching Coco Chanel, Elsa Schiaparelli, and Nina Ricci. So interesting how fashion overlaped with artists, choreographers, and dancers.

    My killer look? Black tee shirts and black yoga pants. Hey, I'm a New Yorker. (And I DO do yoga!)

  28. I am so excited that you are visiting the Jungle Reds today, Linda! This summer will make the 11th summer that I have looked forward to a new Alex Cooper novel. I started with Entombed, back in 2005, because of its Edgar Allan Poe connection, loved it, and immediately had to go back and read the previous six books. Your settings never fail to fascinate me, and Alex and Mike and Mercer are indeed old friends at this point. If someone were to ask me to choose my favorite Alex Cooper book, it would be like choosing a favorite child. However, I must admit a particular affinity for the setting of Lethal Legacy, with it being the New York Public Library. I always enjoy when Alex goes to her Martha's Vineyard home, too, and her Dewar's preference. Linda, you just do such a brilliant job with setting, characters, plot, and historical significance. Oh, and the covers are always great, too. My only regret is that I don't have a signed copy of any of your books. I can't wait for Killer Look!

    My own killer look. These days I don't know that I have one, as I mostly dress for comfort and a casual look. However, I do love black, and a black jacket with slacks or skirt is usually quite nice. I have no idea what I'm going to wear at Bouchercon this year. I need to get busy on that.

  29. What fun research, Linda! I shutter to imagine how cut-throat the industry is ... oh boy. I'm smiling at the wolf icon -- fictional fashion house House Stark? :-) (Game of Thrones reference for those who haven't seen the show.)

    My killer look? Hmm ... skirts, just in general. For some reason, I rarely wear pants, not even jeans.

  30. My killer look is orange. Orange anything. Tops, mostly, but in fall I have a good excuse to break out the blaze orange caps for hiking in the woods during deer season. My scarlet orange sports jacket was a bit over the top, and has a place of honor in the back of the closet.

  31. Naked is my killer look. It's the only way to survive the Redding heat.

    Anyone sees me, they drop like electrocuted skeeters.

    Carla DeLauder

  32. My favorite store in the world is in New Orleans, Trashy Diva. All their dresses are retro-vintage and gorgeous. Their designs are highly prized, since they release a limited number of the prints and styles and once they are sold out, they don't produce any more. There is a Facebook group entitled Desperately Seeking Trashy Diva. My Killer Look used to be a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress and a great pair of heels until I discovered Trashy Diva.

  33. Susan, a friend of mine has spent the last forty years researching haute couture. Let me know if you'd like to contact her. She's written fifteen books on sewing, fashion and couture, more than almost anyone else.

  34. HBO made a documentary called Schmatta, all about the garment district. It was completely fascinating, and there were interviews with some real NY characters.
    My killer look? Oh,ha,ha. Though I managed to pull it together for daughters' weddings. ( Or at least they let me think so)

  35. Hmmm...killer look?

    Spiky hair, blood red lipstick, Goth makeup, porcupine type clothes and shoes with stiletto heels?

    I usually try out "Killer Look" type for Halloween.


  36. Linda,

    Your books are on my TBR list.

    Has any of your stories taken place at the Frick Museum or the Morgan Library in New York City?


  37. You will find me wearing my NYDJ denim most of the time, but I can put on an LBD when necessary. I will always read Linda Fairstein'sm fabulous mysteries.
    Barbara Bibel

  38. Triss, that sounds great! I will look for that documentary. Such fun to hear all of your comments… I am off to speak at the Falmouth public library with Hallie! We will report back to you -- and tell you what everyone is wearing :-)

  39. I so wish, by the way, I had kept my DVF wrap dresses… They are still perfect today, I bet.

  40. I'm afraid my killer look up and died. I need to dump some weight so I can wear what's in my closet again. I do have a LBD that I wear with shawls or jackets. I have a pretty cool looking Japanese jacket my son got for me. . .

  41. Denise and… Hooray! So great to see you… And you wore white pants right? killer look !
    And what a fabulous Hallie and Hank event, wasn't it? Jonathan counted 75 people!

  42. Your previous work as a sex crimes prosecutor sounds fascinating! And heartbreaking :(

    This sounds like a really interesting premise, and though I'm no fashionista, I do find the fashion world fascinating (Project Runway and The Devil Wears Prada <3 )

    My Killer Look? Hmm, I'm of the very odd opinion that pants are the devil, so heaven bless the fashion gods that decreed leggings as an acceptable pants-alternative. Leggings with boots and a loose tunic top for cooler weather, and short, flared sundresses for the summer months. My go-to accessories? Cute pair of earrings and a flashy scarf. I absolutely love scarves!

  43. Oh, I have loved your books from the very beginning! As a native of Manhattan now living in California, I gorge myself on some of my own favorite places when I pick up a new book. The only one I had trouble with was the one where you were buried alive - I got claustrophobic just reading it. Thanks for letting me be a fangirl today on Jungle Red.

  44. Mia! Welcome--I'm a scarf person, too. It's terrible--I cannot resist.

    In fact, we should do a whole blog on leggings..the fabulous--and the disasters. Really,: only black works. Right?

    Linda! You are such a rock star! (Linda will choose a winner--but there's still an hour til midnight!


  45. My workout clothes are my killer look. A pair of Lucy leggings and a Lucy scoop neck workout tee shirt. The leggings really hold everything in and the scoop neck shirt is flattering and fitted. I think I found a new mystery series to start with this Alex Cooper series.

  46. Teri-- what are Luci leggings? I am horribly out of it… Sigh.

  47. Hank, I don't know what Luci leggings are either, but now I want them!

  48. Killer look? O dear. I might be the office slob! I'm all for jeans and a bohemian princess or a-line cut top. And clogs. I think the balk at the garment district was interesting b/c the stories are really about the characters in a particular setting/plot/time & thru the latter, we learn about the inner workings/backstory/geography/history/behind the scenes of something unfamiliar.. & this is often, I don't know, like some amazing sauce or reduction on your main dish - it perfects & elevates it, transports you, you think about it...you remember it & want more.
    Anyways, congratulations on your newest book - looking forward to reading it!