The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Laura Lippman on Writing Crime

Laura Lippman. Photo by Jan Cobb

Laura Lippman. Photo by Jan Cobb


Laura Lippman. Photo by Jan Cobb

Dashiell Hammett is credited for inventing noir fiction and its iconic private detective, best personified by Sam Spade, the investigator in the classic Maltese Falcon. He?s the hard-boiled detective, not afraid of criminals, suspicious of cops, a hard-drinking, unsentimental loner, unrooted in any place. He has a sense of honor that may or may not conform to society?s, and is just this side of cynical. And it goes without saying that the detective is always a man. It?s a compelling character and one that defined the genre for more than half a century. But in 1990s, a new group of writers began bringing the social commentary implicit in Hammett?s work out into open by creating crime fiction that featured investigators with deep ties to family and community. These 21st-century detectives aren?t removed from the impact of crime; they live with its repercussions. So the emphasis shifts from ?whodunit? to ?what does it mean?? Certainly, Laura Lippman is in the forefront of this literary shift. She?s written 17 novels (11 featuring private detective Tess Monaghan), and all are set in Baltimore, where Lippman herself was raised and still lives. Her concerns are what happens after the crime to the people left behind. Lippman worked as a journalist for 20 years, and in the clip below, she describes how her time as a reporter helped shape her perspective. [4:27]

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/Laura Lippman-TBR.mp3]

[transcript]

Add new comment