Thursday, March 13, 2008

Linda L. Richards

At Shots Magazine, Ali Karim interviewed Linda L. Richards about her latest novel, Death Was The Other Woman.

A few questions from the interview:

Ali: Death Was The Other Woman is a remarkable PI thriller set in 1930’s Los Angeles, so why this period?

Linda: Thanks for thinking it’s remarkable, Ali! That means a lot.

It had to be that period. I never considered any other. It’s 1931, so it’s just at the end of Prohibition and the beginning of the Depression which creates a breeding ground for crime. On the one hand you’ve got the organized crime types getting fat running illegal booze – and all the stuff that goes with that – and you’ve got the hungry types who are turning to crime just because nothing else is working and their kids are crying with hunger.

Ali : Had you read much of the US golden age? And what PI fiction struck a resonance from the period?

Linda: I’ve read piles of it. I adore the stuff. Can’t get enough. You probably figured that. You might also have figured that Hammett’s work resonated especially. Though I find Chandler to be an elegant stylist, as well.

Ali: And Kitty Pangborn is such a wonderful character, the kind of woman I’d like to date……so how did you dream her up?

Linda: Wonderful. But I blush! Thank you.

But to answer your question, reading a lot of the most classic of the classic fiction of the type we now think of as noir you come across a lot of damaged, self-medicating men. I mean, they’re hitting the sauce first thing in the morning and forced to drive everywhere because they’re too drunk to walk. And in a bout of reading a whole lot of Hammet and Chandler, it occurred to me that it was simply not possible for most of these classic fictional PIs to be successfully doing the work they’re being hired to do. How could they, seriously? It seemed to me that they could probably barely find their way home, let alone the missing persons and errant husbands they get hired to locate.

At the same time, quite often there is a woman in the office, quietly doing her boss’s back up work: typing, answering the phones and so on. She’s always attractive, but never treated as a sexual object by her boss. Rather, she’s treated with a sort of uniform respect. And as I read and read and read some more, it struck me that – probably unbeknownst even to Hammett and Chandler themselves – these women were quite possibly running around after their boss, making sure the work got done so that their paychecks wouldn’t bounce: simple as that. And still I read and read until I saw the outlines of these women – and then one woman in particular. And I could see her hands even in the places where Hammett and Chandler had not placed them. Fixing this, repairing that and occasionally even running softly behind her boss, cleaning up his messes because, after all: times are hard. People are in breadlines. Even hard-working men can’t find the work they need in order to buy milk for their babies. And being a gumshoes’ secretary may not be the best job, but it is a job, at least, and thus must be protected.

So dreaming Kitty up was easy, in a sense. I don’t feel as though I had much at all to do with it. I could see who she was, plain as day. And from the way she acted, I could extrapolate her back story.
Read the entire interview.

The Page 69 Test: Death Was the Other Woman.

--Marshal Zeringue