aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

You know you've arrived when

You know you've arrived when your birthday is mentioned on Writer's Almanac (http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/) under "Literary and Historical Notes." Usually the birthdays belong to people like Yeats or Percy Bysshe Shelley. Today it was Dennis Lehane. Full disclosure: Several times, I have stood 20 feet from him (at a mystery conference). He's on the short side, and I probably have 20 pounds on him. Yes, I could take down Dennis Lehane. Not that I've ever needed to.

Writers Almanac says, "It's the birthday of the crime writer Dennis Lehane, born in Dorchester, Massachusetts (1965). He grew up in a poor Irish neighborhood in Boston that he once described as "[a place] cramped with corner stores, small playgrounds, and butcher shops ... [where] days, the mothers searched the papers for coupons. Nights, the fathers went to bars. You knew everyone; nobody ever left."

Lehane was one of the few kids from the neighborhood who went to college. He got a master's degree in a creative writing program, and moved back to Boston, where he took a job as a valet in a parking garage. He started writing detective novels, the first of which came out in 1994: A Drink before the War. He supported himself as a chauffeur, and wrote most of his next two books on a yellow legal pad while sitting in the front seat of a limousine. The fifth book in the series, Prayers for Rain, was successful enough that Lehane was able to quit his job and write full time.

Once he had the time to devote to writing, Lehane decided to try something more ambitious than what he'd ever done before. Instead of writing another book about his private detectives, he wrote about a part of Boston based on his own old neighborhood, and a murder that effects three men who've grown up in that neighborhood. The result was his novel Mystic River (2001), which got great reviews and became his first major best-seller."

I read one of series books, but only part way. All I remember about it was that it featured a serial killer who tortured children to death. I'm a parent, and at the time, he wasn't. I couldn't get past that. I don't need to think of my own child in that situation, or anyone's child. Portland had one of those, and he was a monster I don't want to be reminded of.

But I loved Mystic River and felt it deserved the Edgar for best novel. Shutter Island was a quick read, but the twist went a little too far for me.

About 12 months after Mystic River came out, I found a bunch of them on the remaindered table at Powells. First editions. Signed. I would have bought one, but they had that big black remainder felt pen slash across the bottom of the pages. In a weird way, it was a little heartening to know that even Mystic River eventually got remaindered.

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