If it seems like crime novelist Linda Fairstein has intimate knowledge of the world she writes about, it’s because she lived it. For 30 years, Fairstein worked at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, serving as head of the sex crimes unit. Her Alex Cooper series is based on the time she spent there; its 12th volume, Hell Gate, out now and on the New York Times Bestseller List. She spoke with EW.com about the writing process, using New York City as a character and what it ‘s like being a Law & Order: SVU inspiration.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Tell us a little bit about Hell Gate.
LINDA FAIRSTEIN: Alex Cooper is a young prosecutor, and has the job that I had for 30 years. I always try to take my reader into a world that explores some aspect of New York City’s history or current events. Two years ago, the idea for this was political scandals, [sparked by] two events. One was [former New York governor] Eliot Spitzer’s fall from grace. He had been a colleague of mine in the Manhattan D.A.’s office. I was just shocked because I knew him to be a brilliant lawyer and have a lovely family. Shortly after that happened, there was a New York City congressman from Staten Island named Vito Fossella. He had a wife and kids on Staten Island…and it turned out he had a child by his mistress in D.C. Before John Edwards, before Gov. Sanford, I thought about exploring political scandals and the duplicity of people we think have integrity and we’ve elected to public office and how it impacts things.
Your books are very New York centric — the city is like a character. How do you decide what parts of New York make it into the story?
Usually there’s a theme in the book. [Take] Lethal Legacy. I’ve always been fascinated by rare book collectors and rare maps, so I used the New York Public Library as the backdrop for it. It’s such a magnificent building rich with history and treasures. READ FULL STORY