Today, Hartford Books Examiner extends warm virtual greetings to Linda Fairstein.
Ms. Fairstein is the author of Devil’s Bridge (Dutton, $28.00)—the 17th entry in her New York Times and internationally bestselling series featuring prosecutor Alexandra (“Alex”) Cooper. She was chief of the Sex Crimes Unit of the district attorney’s office in Manhattan for more than two decades and is America’s foremost legal expert on sexual assault and domestic violence. Her books have been translated into more than a dozen languages. Ms. Fairstein lives in Manhattan and on Martha’s Vineyard.
Praise for Devil’s Bridge:
“Working in fascinating details on the construction of the Statue of Liberty, the George Washington Bridge, and the lighthouse at Jeffrey’s Hook, Fairstein shows off her prodigious knowledge of New York City while also crafting high stakes action scenes on the Hudson River and its environs…. her newest is sure to follow its predecessors onto the best-seller lists.”— Booklist
“[A]bsolutely riveting…. [Fairstein] has, once again, proved that she is one of the ‘best of the best’ in suspense writing…. This one book will make the summer of 2015 a truly outstanding one for readers everywhere.”—Suspense Magazine
From the publisher:
In her seventeenth Alexandra Cooper thriller, New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein takes readers where they have never been before: Inside the mind of NYPD Detective Mike Chapman.
The Manhattan waterfront is one of New York City’s most magnificent vistas, boasting both the majestic Statue of Liberty and the George Washington Bridge, the world’s busiest span for motor vehicles. But in Devil’s Bridge, Detective Mike Chapman will discover the peril that lurks along this seemingly benign expanse as he takes on his most personal case yet: the disappearance of Alex Cooper.
Coop’s sudden disappearance is fraught with terrifying complications: scores of enemies she has made after a decade of putting criminals behind bars; a recent security breach with dangerous repercussions; and a new intimacy in her relationship with Mike, causing the Police Commissioner himself to be wary of the methods Mike will use to get Coop back… if he can.
Once again, Linda Fairstein proves why she is “one of the best crime fiction writers in America today”* with her most intense Alexandra Cooper novel yet.
Now, Linda Fairstein plays Devil’s advocate …
Hartford Books Examiner: DEVIL’S BRIDGE takes readers into the mind of NYPD Detective Mike Chapman. What appealed to you about this shift in perspective – and what were the greatest challenges and liberties of inhabiting somebody other than Alex?
Linda Fairstein: For the past several years, at almost every book signing I’ve done, readers have asked, “What else would you like to write, aside from the Alex Cooper series?” My answer has been that I have long wanted to write a novel from the perspective of NYPD homicide detective Mike Chapman. I created Mike at the same time as I shaped my protagonist, whom he calls Coop. I’ve written his dialogue for sixteen books, so I know him as well as I know Alex. I think Mike is the reason that male readers come to my series, and the ladies seem to enjoy his company as well. Two years ago, my very smart and generous editor heard me give the answer several times. He took me to lunch and asked if I really wanted to write a Mike Chapman “POV” book. Yes! So DEVIL’S BRIDGE begins like everything else in the series – Coop’s point of view, Coop narrating. She has a bad day in court, and I mean a really bad day. By the end of the evening, she has disappeared. The big twist is that it’s Chapman who picks up the narrative. Like me, the reader is inside his head for the first time in the series – seeing the world through his mind. He is hard at work at a homicide scene, so we get a police procedural workout from Mike. Then we get to find out what he likes about Alex, and what he doesn’t. It was very liberating to let go of Alex (who is much more intense than Mike) and occupy his territory, and a bit frightening, at first, to have a new narrator. But I loved every minute of writing from Mike’s mind – and his mouth.
HBE: This is the 17th Alex Cooper novel. How do you create a believable sense of jeopardy for your characters without risking the alienation of longtime readers – and do you ever find that your instincts as a storyteller conflict with others’ expectations? If so, how do you resolve that?
LF: Tough question. One of the great things about writing a series is that with each book, the novel is meant to stand alone on its own legs, but also to bring along those loyal readers who become attached to the characters over the years. I think establishing a credible sense of jeopardy for Coop, Chapman, and Mercer Wallace really requires a partnership with readers. And crime fiction readers seem quite willing to suspend disbelief in that regard. Of course, Alex is not going to be in jeopardy constantly in real life, but readers count on the tension of that device to propel the plot. So it’s a balance of not having her do totally insane things, but recognizing that she inhabits a world of danger and peril. And about conflicting with expectations, of course, you can’t make every reader happy. The fact that DEVIL’S BRIDGE is the 17th novel in the series suggests that I’ve been very fortunate to have loyal readers, and brought new ones in with each publication. Reviewers and bloggers are only too happy to express displeasure — and more fortunately, pleasure.
HBE: Alex and Mike have shared an ongoing flirtation that has intensified in recent books. What do you see as the pros and cons of an intimate relationship between established characters – and how do their relationship dynamics influence how you envision the overall story arc moving forward, if at all?
LF: I’m smiling as I answer this. When I had the idea to use Alex Cooper, a Manhattan sex crimes prosecutor, as my protagonist, I then gave her two great NYPD detectives to help her investigate and learn the ropes. Mike Chapman is Homicide and Mercer Wallace is Special Victims. They were meant to be her professional partners, to cover her back, and to keep her grounded – especially with Mike’s dark humor and his digs. By the third book tour, readers had figured out – before I was even conscious that I had set it up – that there is a sexual tension between Coop and Chapman that was sizzling beneath the surface of the plots. Now, seventeen books have only covered three years of their lives (the beauty of controlling your characters’ ages in fiction), so this flirtation has played out slowly, and they have each had significant others throughout that time. It’s another tough area – because readers become involved with the characters as though they are real. Some want the intimacy between Alex and Mike, while others don’t. So we’ll give it a try and see how they do together, and whether it breaks up their professional relationship going forward.
HBE: You continue to highlight different parts of New York City as the series progresses. How do you see setting as being a character within a book – and what drew your interest to the Manhattan Seafront, and the GW Bridge, for this particular story?
LF: From the beginning of the series, it was my idea to use some New York City setting as a backdrop for the stories. Even the most elegant and refined places in New York have a dark underbelly: there was a high profile homicide inside the Metropolitan Opera House, in the 80’s, while 4,000 people sat in their seats (DEATH DANCE), and the land on which the NY Public Library sits was once a Revolutionary War Potter’s Field (LETHAL LEGACY). Readers who are familiar with the city seem to enjoy the history – along with mystery – that I love so much, and I get wonderful mail from around the world that people who will never get to NY enjoy the ‘sense of place’ the novels portray. I think those settings make the books richer. I’ve always loved the Hudson River waterway — and have spent a lot of time on and around it. The Statue of Liberty is a magnificent piece of history at the mouth of the river in New York Harbor, and I’ve been up and down many times, beyond the mammoth George Washington Bridge, and underneath it, which has its own history, too. It was just time to ‘go there.’
HBE: Do you find that your background as a prosecutor of complex cases helps you in plotting and unraveling your crime stories? Also, given your intimate knowledge of the criminal justice system, what liberties are you willing to take in your fiction that allow you to maintain an overall authenticity?
LF: I certainly do think that my prosecutorial background allows me to bring an authenticity to the Alex Cooper novels – which was my plan when I started to write, and chose to enter a genre that was pretty crowded with fine writers. The complex plotting is the kind of thing I saw often in real cases, and unraveling the facts – a mix of old-fashioned, superb investigative skills I learned from the NYPD’s best and brightest, and the latest forensic technique – is what it’s all about, in real life and in fiction. I take a lot of fictional liberties with Coop’s love life, dress size, and trust fund … but the depiction of the criminal justice system, even as done in DEVIL’S BRIDGE, is pretty much drawn from the way it operates.
HBE: Leave us with a teaser: what comes next?
LF: Are you up for two teasers? If Coop survives this caper, expect to see the team back next summer in KILLER LOOK, which has to do with the business end of fashion and style in New York. And because I have always wanted to a modern-day, edgy, New York City kind of Nancy Drew series, look for that late next year. My 12 year old sleuth is named Devlin Quick – she’s smart, has a lot of attitude, and gets access to some forensic help because her mother is the first woman police commissioner of the NYPD (a job I wanted in the 1980’s).
With thanks to Linda Fairstein for her generosity of time and thought and to Laura Rossi, Principal/Director of Publicity for Laura Rossi Public Relations, for helping to facilitate this interview.