Lynda La Plante on a Truly Inimitable Writer

Mystery MonthLynda La PlanteNot content with her success as a writer and producer of popular British TV shows (Prime Suspect just for starters), Lynda La Plante started writing books, many of which have become international best-sellers. Her Anna Travis series has been consistently strong (see Silent Scream, 2010) and, though we won’t run our review of the next entry, Blind Fury, until our June 1 & 15 double issue, I can give you a sneak preview today: in a starred review, Emily Melton writes “This is vintage La Plante: the quintessential police procedural, with a flawed heroine and enough dark twists to keep even the seasoned mystery fan off balance.” We asked the seasoned mystery author to share the best book she’s read in the past year and she answered not by discussing a single book, but a canon.

I was recently offered to consider writing a novel based on the young Philip Marlowe. Before I could make any decision I read through the entire works of Raymond Chandler. I read his journals, his letters, and biographies. It took me the entire summer, but at the end of my marathon I was, if possible, even more of a fan. This man’s dialogue, his descriptions, his wit and turn of phrase kept me enthralled—quite simply, he is one of the best crime writers ever.

Raymond ChandlerI launched into an attempt and, not copying his style but keeping in mind his short sentences, I completed three chapters. I had such doubt I could pull it off that I chose to contact one of Chandler’s biographers. I asked if he would spare me time to read what I was attempting to do. I said that if he felt I was far off the mark, I would give up. By this time I had allowed a few people to read the three beginning chapters and was getting a very good and positive response back. However, when the call came from the biographer to say he really felt that no one could or should ever attempt to write the proposed novel, I knew he was right. Raymond Chandler is a master crime writer. Reading all his works was a wonderful learning curve.

Share your favorite reads in the comments, on our Facebook page, and on Twitter (#mysterymonth).



About the Author:

Keir Graff is Executive Editor of Booklist Publications and the author of five books. His most recent is the middle-grade novel, The Other Felix (2011). Follow him on Twitter at @Booklist_Keir.

2 Comments on "Lynda La Plante on a Truly Inimitable Writer"

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  1.' Sean C. says:

    Very nice piece on the lovely Ms. La Plante! I completely agree with her…you NEVER try to duplicate a legend like Raymond Chandler; his work is ground-breaking and unlike no other writer before or since.

    I’m actually leaving a note here because I’ve recently returned to reading Lynda’s work; I was a huge fan of hers years ago, even having a memorable meeting with her in London in the spring of 1999 when she was promoting her then-new release of Cold Heart. I also had a p/b copy of Cold Shoulder with me, which I remember having been in the midst of reading at the time, stashed in the side pocket of my blazer. The event was only supposed to be a reading and q&a, so she wasn’t planning on signing books originally. But she stayed after the event’s official end, talking to who I assumed was the store manager or owner, and afew fans were able to sneak a signature here and there with her during their discussion. When the two women finished their conversation, Lynda went to grab her long leather jacket, and I approached her as she slipped it on. When I asked for an autographed, I was greeted with a big smile from the author, and she said, “My goodness! I have a young, male American fan? I didn’t even know such a thing existed!” I confirmed that it was true, and I introduced myself as she took the hardcover of Cold Heart and a pen from me and started scribbling an inscription. As she finished, Ms. La Plante spotted my p/b copy of Cold Shoulder poking from my pocket, and inquired, “Would you like that one signed as well, love?” Flattered that she would do such a thing, I agreed to it, and as she handed me the hardcover, she slipped the p/b from my pocket, and added a new inscription on that one. We had a brief, awkward moment where she tried to hand Cold Shoulder back to me, but I had Cold Heart open while reading the 1st inscription. We both laughed, and she said, “Allow me”, and she tucked the p/b into one pocket of my blazer, fussing with it abit as it wasn’t an easy fit, while slipping the pen I offered into the other pocket. I thanked her profusely, and she told me that she was pleased that I was such a fan of her work. As we were parting, I heard her chuckle, and she called out, “Oh Mr. Sean, one more thing..” I looked back, and she pulled something out of the pocket of her leather jacket: my wallet! “While visiting London, beware of the pickpockets!” At first I was dumbfounded, then I started to laugh as she approached me and handed my billfold back. Apparently, while she returned Cold Shoulder to my pocket, wiggling it inside so it would fit, she had touched my wallet in the other pocket when she deposited my pen, and with a great deal of dexterity snatched it out and snuck it into her own pocket without my detection. It was all a prank, of course, otherwise she could have easily walked away with it. I told her it was an honor to have my pocket picked by such a talented and beautiful woman. She winked at me, pecked my cheek with a kiss, and wished me well on my vacation.

    I’ve been a huge fan ever since, and I’m pleased to know that I was a “victim” of the Queen of Crime!

  2. Keir Graff says:

    Great story, Sean! Thanks for sharing it.

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