Over the decade since Dennis Lehane last featured his private investigator team of Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, the author has raised his profile considerably through the big-screen success of his Mystic River (2001) and this year’s Shutter Island (2003), and the literary ambition of The Given Day (2008). Here he resumes his initial series with a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone, published in 1998, which also spurred a hit movie adaptation, released in 2007. While revisiting old friends, the novel is as contemporary as the economic crisis through which its characters are struggling.
Your career has taken you a long way from Patrick and Angie. How did it feel to return to them?
Like putting on a pair of favorite old jeans. There were days I realized the jeans were a hair out of style and, uh, tight, but mostly I just liked how familiar and comfortable they felt.
Beats me. They spent 11 years hiding from me, and then one day, while I was riding in a cab, Patrick started getting all chatty again, rapping on the door, telling me he was carrying a six pack with my name on it, that kinda thing. So, I opened the door.
Had you long planned a sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone?
I don’t plan far ahead. It’s not my gift. The only idea I ever held back on was for Mystic River, and the reason I kept that bullet in the chamber was because I knew I didn’t have what it took to fire the gun just yet.
How did the writing of this novel compare with writing The Given Day?
The Given Day is very much about then. Even with all the parallels to present day, it’s still a novel about a time when almost anyone who lived doesn’t any longer. Moonlight Mile is about now. It references Hummers, Kindles, George Clooney and the current health care quandaries. So writing it was mostly easier but sometimes harder. When you write a historical, you never have to worry if time is going pass you by before the book reaches print.
Do you make a distinction between what some might think of as your “literary” novels, for example The Given Day, and your genre novels, the Patrick and Angie series?
I’ve met writers who rail against the idea of being called mystery writers, and yet they write a series of books in which their protagonist is a member of law enforcement who, um, solves crimes. It reminds me of a gay friend of mine who, when he sees an obvious closet case, says, “I know who I am. Do you?” So, in terms of classification, I know who I am. Whether I find the classification useful or not, at a personal level, is irrelevant. I’m a guy who writes mysteries. And I’m a guy who writes about cities and 20th-century history and class conflict and race relations. Oh, and child care. And women. And music. And the Marx Brothers. And water. Man, I write about water a lot.
How much of your voice is there in Patrick’s?
Tons. You can’t fake sense of humor. But there’s also a huge bifurcation between us—Patrick was an abused child. I was not. His anger is not mine. His fearlessness—in certain situations—is not mine. He’s more conservative than me on several issues. He’s also way cooler than me, mostly because he’s got me to think up all his cool lines, whereas I’m just stuck in the moment, trying to be cool. And failing. Which is probably why I invented Patrick.
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William Morrow / November / 9780061836923 / $26.99