Dennis LeHane

Dennis Lehane was at Murder By The Book on November 9th to sign his new book, Moonlight Mile. This is the sequel to Gone, Baby, Gone (1998) which I already had collected years ago.  In addition, I had Sacred (1997), also from years ago, and Darkness Take My Hand (1996 – 12,000 first printing) which I found a few weeks ago.

Mr. LeHane has won the:

  1. Shamus Award for A Drink Before War.
  2. Anthony Award for Mystic River
  3. Barry Award for Mystic River
  4. Dilys Award for Gone, Baby, Gone

He has written a total of nine novels and a book of short stories.  But he’s also gotten into television and the movies with:

The Wire – wrote three episodes from 2004-2008

Mystic River (2003) – directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Kevin Bacon

Gone, Baby, Gone (2006)

Shutter Island (2009)

One man in the audience said that Shutter Island was the scariest book he and his wife had ever read.  His wife would not go to see the movie.  Mr. Lehane said that the concept for Shutter Island came to him when he was stressed out.  He had gotten a call that his mother was in the hospital and was worried about her.  At one point he laid down and shut his eyes … and he slept for a few minutes.  Waking suddenly he quickly wrote down his dream on a few pages.

Forgetting about the notes for a few days, he found them again and realized he had an outline, characters and plots.  He knew he had to start writing immediately before he lost all his other thoughts on the work.  It’s a gothic story set in 1954 in an insane asylum on a remote island.  A murderess has escaped from her cell.  Two US Marshals have come to try and find her.  I haven’t read it.  He said it doesn’t end well.  He felt sorry for the character(s) while writing it.

He likes TV but not the movies.  He told us that TV fits novelists very well.  Each episode can be like a chapter or two in a book.  Strangely enough, he’s only watched his movies once.

His Writing

Mr. Lehane didn’t tell us too much about his writing habits.  He did mention that for about every 40 ideas – only one is really good and usable.  He has actually spent several days going on calls … sometimes suicide calls with a police lieutenant friend of his.  His “friend” tried to make him sick.  He took him to a back room with crime scene photos where he got an idea for a murder … and he did get nauseated.

A budding writer was in the audience asking how to get a manuscript read. Dennis asked how long he had been writing.  I think the guy said 1-2 years.  To which Mr. Lehane emphatically told him that you need about 10,000 hours or about 10 years of writing practice … stories, articles, novels, before you will be good enough for someone to publish your book.

Writer need to have thick skin, also, he said.  He didn’t care if some reviewers gave him a bad review as he knew that some reviewers were very poor at their work.

Moonlight Mile

(Moonlight Mile is a Mick Jagger/Keith Richards song from their 1971 album Sticky Fingers.  Considered one of their greatest ballads.  Used extensively in the sixth season episodes of The Sopranos. –  from

Patrick Mackenzie and Angela Gennaro are back in their sixth novel together.

Patrick now has a son.  As does Dennis.  He talked a lot about these two similarities.

The book came about partly because a TV reporter kept following him around asking him if he was finished writing mystery novels.  He finally got so angry with the reporter he told him “yes, I’ll never write another”.  The reporter put this on the air and Lehane was shunned by fellow mystery authors at the next convention.  So he wrote this book to make the reporter look bad.

Future Work

One project he is really excited about is a gangster novel.  He told us he loved James Cagney movies when he was young.  And he kept referring to Boardwalk Empire.  This was an HBO series about Nucky Thompson, politician, gangster and ruler of Atlantic City.  Set in the 1920s.  (We don’t have HBO).

His book will be about the “youngest son in the Coughlin family”.  I’m not sure what this means.  And he didn’t say when it will be released.

What He Reads

He doesn’t read too many mystery novels because:

1.  He can usually easily figure out the mystery – since his job is coming up with mysteries

2.  He doesn’t want to develop another writer’s “voice” – he said he won’t write for a week after reading another’s work

But he does like non-fiction.  For example World War I and II stories.

He reads Elmore Leonard and George Pelecanos novels.  And reads Peter Dexter books.

He really liked Freedom by Jonathan Franzen.  He liked Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin.

One author he said he really envies is Nic Pizzolatto because of his book, Galveston.  The book came out in June 2010 and we rated it a 35.

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