Sunday, September 26, 2010

Lisa Black

Lisa Black spent the five happiest years of her life in a morgue, working as a forensic scientist in the trace evidence lab until her husband dragged her to southwest Florida. Now she toils as a certified latent print analyst and CSI at the local police department by day and writes forensic suspense by night. Her books have also been published in the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain and Japan. Her fifth book, Trail of Blood, involves the real-life Torso Killer, who terrorized Cleveland during the dark days of the Great Depression.

Recently I asked her what she was reading. Her reply:
Believe it or not, since getting my own books published my own reading dropped off. I have not yet quit the day job at the police department, so time is always at a premium. Then last year I was randomly chosen from the International Thriller Writers ranks to be a judge for the best novel category. I had to read 22 books in the last quarter of 2009 and another 18 in the first quarter of 2010. In other words I had to make time. (I did that by pointing out to myself that much of the stuff on TV is not worth that hour of my life and by switching from the treadmill to the exercise bike at lunchtime. Helped my knees, too.)

This helped me to re-discover Lisa Gardner. I had liked Hide, but was totally blown away by Gone. A very flawed woman’s car is found empty by the side of the road in a rainstorm and the story takes off from there. I spent the whole book exasperated that I couldn’t even copy it (imitation being the sincerest form of flattery after all…) because each character was so unique, and their actions grew out of that character, that the action couldn’t be repeated in another city with a different woman. She even avoids much of the over the top violence and torture commonly found in books by Karin Slaughter, Val McDermid, and James Patterson.

Then I read The Neighbor, which also begins with a missing woman. (Missing can be a much more helpful status to a story than murdered, because it leaves so much uncertainty—is she dead? Run away? Left of her own accord or kidnapped? Was she ever who we thought she was in the first place?) But again, the people left behind are as unique as she is, full of their own pasts and their own agendas which are complicated and fiercely guarded. Simply put, you spend much of the book wondering what the crap is going on. I love books like that. It all eventually makes sense, of course, and the characters revealed, in all their prickly, tangled, scarred, less-than-perfect-but-doing-their-best selves. (So much better than reading an albeit well-written novel and thinking, sure, here’s the handsome hero, he’s going to fall for the perky heroine, they’ll save the world/victim/priceless artifact from the evil villain, and he’ll even call his estranged mama on the last page to give it that human element appeal.) I read Lisa Gardner’s books thinking, why can’t I write stuff like this? And the answer comes to me: Because you’re not freakin’ Lisa Gardner.
View the video trailer for Trail of Blood, learn more about the book and author at Lisa Black's website.

My Book, The Movie: Trail of Blood.

The Page 69 Test: Trail of Blood.

--Marshal Zeringue