Interview and Introduction by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki
With her latest, Wilde Lake, Laura Lippman has written another fascinating stand-alone novel that, as usual, has a higher level of quality and character examination then most writers. What others in her field can pull off from time to time, Lippman does consistently.
Wilde Lake recounts the story of a family in suburban Maryland with more skeletons than even a walk-in closet could fit. Lippman’s latest is narrated from the perspective of a recently widowed prosecutor who returns to her home town. As she works to prosecute the suspected murderer of a local woman, she begins to suspect more to the story. Flashbacks to her childhood intermingle with her new case for an intense look at power, privilege, and pain.
Lippman crossed my radar early, during my time as a mystery-book-loving newspaper reporter in Hagerstown, Md., not less than 90 minutes from Baltimore. Lippman had been a reporter at the Baltimore Sun but had left to start a detective series about Tess Monaghan, a former reporter for a newspaper that sounded suspiciously like the Sun, but was instead called the Beacon-Light. Lippman was also a reporter, earlier in her career, at the now-defunct San Antonio Light, which she speaks about in the interview.
“I really love Texas. ..I wasn’t made to live there permanently — I really don’t like hot weather — and I’m not a Texan. But I get Texas and I like it and I get very impatient with people who buy into lazy stereotypes about it.”
As she wrote great book after great book I became an increasingly admiring fan of Lippman and her series. While her Tess Monaghan series is great, it’s her stand-alone novels that are more popular – she’s been on the New York Times Bestseller Lists with them – and have received, deservedly, even more critical acclaim.
While Lippman was living in Baltimore and writing about a former reporter living in Baltimore, her future husband, David Simon, also a former Baltimore Sun reporter, captured Baltmore in another way, in The Wire, one of the best television series ever made. My interviews with her would occasionally include me asking questions about which television series better captured the city: The Wire or Homicide (of which Simon was also a significant part.) It’s not unusual for interviewers to ask Lippman questions about Simon. I mention this partly to explain her last answer in the interview, which puts an interesting spin on folks like me asking her questions about his work.
While her Tess Monaghan series is great, it’s her stand-alone novels that are more popular – she’s been on the New York Times Bestseller Lists with them – and have received, deservedly, even more critical acclaim.
Her new book, Wilde Lake, is no different – she takes a clever plot, adds fascinating characters and comes up with a great book that will leave you thinking about it well after you have finished reading it.
“It’s hard to know where collections begin. The first robot wasn’t technically a robot, but a found-art assemblage called “Little Red Riding Hood.” Then I just kept finding robots. I’m trying to keep it under control and succeeding, more or less.”
Scott Butki: Did this novel start with an idea or question? If so, what was it?
Laura Lippman: It started with an idea — how would the events of To Kill a Mockingbird change if they played out in a self-consciously progressive suburb in the 1970s.
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