Tag Archives: Laura Lippman

The Intel: Lisa Lutz

Lutz.Dox.1 (1)You know Lisa Lutz – she’s the bestselling author of The Spellman books, about a family of private investigators. But Lisa’s latest novel The Passenger is a different beast altogether. It’s a dark, twisty tale about identity in which a woman goes on the run after her husband dies in an accident.

Tanya DuBois isn’t real, and neither is Amelia Keen, Debra Maze, or any of her other aliases. She is Amelia when she meets Blue, another woman with a life she’d rather not discuss, and thinks she’s found her kindred spirit. But their pasts and futures clash as the body count rises around them…

In this intel interview, Lisa talks about her startling new heroine, the Spellmans and about going off the grid.

She also talks about her so-called failed screenwriting career which began and ended with a mob comedy called Plan B. But wait… all is not as it seems. Since she answered our intel questions it’s been ann0unced that Lisa will be joining Megan Abbott, George Pelecanos and Richard Price as one of the scriptwriters on David Simon’s new HBO drama, The Deuce, set in the porn industry in the 1970s.

Who is The Passenger?

The passenger is the narrator of my novel. It also refers to the role she’s playing in her own life.

We’ll call her Tanya, but she goes by many names in the book. At first, all we know about her is that she’s running from something. 

Where did you get the inspiration for Tanya DuBois? 

I was interested in writing a novel about a woman who changes from one identity to the next. I liked the idea of her character being layered with other characters—who were still part of her—and the effect her near and distant pasts have had on her life.

If you ever changed your identity and tried to fly away from your troubles, how far do you think you would get? 

I think I’d get farther than most. Or least I’d stay hidden longer. I’m afraid I can’t provide any more details. I wouldn’t want to blow my future cover.

Passenger coverThe Passenger is a change of pace from The Spellman books – did you consciously set out to write something darker and grittier?

It was never my plan to write only in the style of the Spellman series. When I finished The Spellman Files over ten years ago, I immediately began writing a totally different kind of book (published as How to Start a Fire just last year). But the publisher asked if I had a Spellman sequel in me, and I did. Five books later, I knew it was time for me to move on.

I wasn’t necessarily interested in writing something darker—there are some very dark themes in all of my books. I was simply interested in writing a different kind of story. I had other subjects I wanted to explore.

You’ve described yourself as a ‘failed screenwriter’ – how did your experiences in Hollywood lead to your becoming a novelist?

I wrote screenplays for ten years; it never even occurred to me to write a novel. Mostly I wrote one screenplay over and over again. It was a mob comedy called Plan B that got made in 2000. Let’s just say after that it was hard to get anyone to read my scripts. I wrote The Spellman Files out of desperation, really. But it was the smartest thing I ever did.

I don’t think of myself as a failed screenwriter anymore. I’m a novelist. There’s nothing else I’d rather do.

What’s the hardest lesson you ever had to learn about writing?

Just a few days ago I decided to put aside the book I’m working on to start something else, which is what I should have been writing all along. I didn’t pay attention to what I was most passionate about and instead made a calculated decision that I now regret. Never write what you think you should write; write what you’re most passionate about.

Who are the authors you admire, and why?

There are so many, but since I just finished reading Megan Abbott’s upcoming You Will Know Me, I’ll start with her. Her writing is so elegant and her stories so cutting and insightful. I’m a huge fan of Laura Lippman because, well, she’s great, but I also admire how she does something very different each time with her standalones. I loved every second of Maria Semple’s hilarious Where’d You Go, Bernadette. On an opposite note, I felt deeply connected to Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs, which came out a few years ago.

Give me some advice about writing…

There’s a line in Barton Fink where the studio producer says to Barton, ‘We all have that Barton Fink feeling, but since you’re Barton Fink I’m assuming you have it in spades.’ Don’t try to emulate other writers. Figure out what you’re about and who you are.

 What’s next for you?

I’m starting research on that book I should have been working on all along, and I’ve got a few other things on the burner.


The Passenger, published by Titan Books, is out right now in paperback and ebook.

Four New Crime Thriller Books (and a Movie)

Here’s some books out this week that may tickle your fancy…

UnknownHigh-concept thriller Scare Me by Richard Parker got off to the best possible start in life — snapped up by Hollywood before it was even published. The script is being written by actor-turned scriptwriter, Wentworth Miller, him off Prison Break. Scare Me is available in all sorts of formats.

Here’s what all the fuss is about:

When did you last Google yourself? Wealthy businessman, Will Frost, gets woken in the middle of the night by an anonymous caller, asking him exactly this. When Will goes online, he finds a website has been set up in his name, showing photographs of the inside of his home, along with photographs of six houses he has never seen before.

In the first of these strange houses, a gruesome murder has already taken place. Will is then told that his own family is in mortal danger. The only way he can keep them safe is to visit each of the houses on the website in person before the police discover what has happened there. Seven houses. Seven gruesome homicides. Seven chances to save his daughter’s life…

Unknown-7Eleven Days is Stav Sherez’s eagerly-anticipated follow-up to his debut, A Dark Redemption. This time his troubled investigators Carrigan and Miller investigate a blaze at a West London convent. Eleven Days allows   Sherez to do what he does best – stare into   London’s dark nooks and crannies without blinking.

Let the blurb transport you:

A fire rages through a sleepy West London square, engulfing a small convent hidden away among the residential houses. When DI Jack Carrigan and DS Geneva Miller arrive at the scene they discover eleven bodies, yet there were only supposed to be ten nuns in residence.

It’s eleven days before Christmas, and despite their superiors wanting the case solved before the holidays, Carrigan and Miller start to suspect that the nuns were not who they were made out to be. Why did they make no move to escape the fire? Who is the eleventh victim, whose body was found separate to the others? And where is the convent’s priest, the one man who can answer their questions?

Unknown-3I love, love, love Laura Lippman. If  you like crime novels with a strong emphasis on character, and a strong theme at the heart of the narrative, she’s your woman.  And When She Was Good, now out in paperback, is just as absorbing and beautifully-written as her other stand-alones. It’s set in Lippman’s usual stomping-ground of Baltimore and follows the attempts of a suburban madam to get out of the game. The only disappointment is that her ball-busting lawyer Gloria Bustamente doesn’t make an appearance.

Let the blurb further enlighten you:

In the comfortable suburb where she lives, Heloise is just a mom, the youngish widow with a forgettable job who somehow never misses her son’s soccer games or school plays. But in discrete hotel rooms throughout the area, she’s the woman of your dreams – if you can afford her hourly fee.

For more than a decade, Heloise has believed her unorthodox life to be a safe one; rigidly compartmentalized, maintaining no real friendships and trusting very few people. But now this secret life is under siege. Her once oblivious accountant is asking loaded questions about her business. Her longtime protector is hinting at new, mysterious dangers. Her employees can no longer be trusted. Her ex, the one who doesn’t know he’s the father of her son, is appealing his life sentence. And, one county over, another so-called ‘suburban madam’ has been found dead in her car, an apparent suicide…

Can Heloise stay alive long enough to remake her life again, and save her son? Can she really expect to leave everything else behind?

Here’s a Lippman fact. A former journalist, she’s married to The Wire genius David Simon and actually popped up in a scene of the drama in its final season.

Unknown-8Italian crime is incredibly popular at the moment, and The Black Rose of Florence is the latest effort by Michele Giuttari, who should know a thing or two about solving crime in the city – he was the  former head of the Florence Police Force and their version of the Flying Squad – how do you say ‘get your trousers on, you’re nicked!’ in Italian? – and also led the investigation into the Monster of Florence. Since 2004 he’s been writing his Michele Ferrara crime novels, of which this, out now in paperback, is the fifth.

This is what the blurb says:

A strikingly beautiful young woman is found dead in her Florence apartment. She lies on her bed, naked, a black rose between her legs. And the murders do not stop there: shortly afterwards, a woman is burned to death in a church, and a man is shot on the Ponte Vecchio.

Chief Superindendent Michele Ferrara is all too familiar with the dark side of Florence. But he has never seen anything of this magnitude before – he is up against a mysterious, powerful enemy who would do anything to hide his identity, and manages to controls events at every turn.

As more violent deaths occur, Ferrara has to face the most dangerous investigation in his entire career and must confront deadly secrets from his own past . . .

Please consider that the victim isn’t just beautiful, She is strikingly beautiful. Justice must be done!

And finally should all that reading give you a headache, you could always go to the cinema and enjoy, er stereophonic gunfire and explosions.

A lot of talented people appear in Dead Man Down, a revenge thriller out today about two people who set out to avenge themselves against a ruthless crimelord. Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace, Isabelle Huppert and Dominic Cooper star in the first American movie by Niels Arden Oplev, who steered home the original – and some would argue the best – The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Reviews have been decidedly mixed and I’m guessing that Colin Farrell will scowl a lot, but if I can manage to blank out the abomination of Total Recall, I’m going to cut Mr. Farrell some slack after Seven Psychopaths.

Ooh, look, a trailer – in HD!