Monday, February 9, 2015

9mm interview: Attica Locke

A few years ago, I was just starting out as a regular crime fiction reviewer. I was getting used to having lots of upcoming books sent to me; new releases from favourite authors, famous authors, and authors that until then I'd never heard of. Back in 2009, the latter included the debut novel BLACK WATER RISING, which immediately caught my eye amongst the slew of books I received. Set in 1980s Texas, Attica Locke's debut featured a disillusioned lawyer with a chequered past looking for a fresh start, who instead finds himself embroiled in very dangerous waters after he saves a woman from drowning.

Compared to Dennis Lehane for her use of thriller conventions to deliver incisive social commentary, Locke's debut waded into the racial tensions bubbling beneath the glaring Texas sun, and was shortlisted for numerous literary and crime fiction awards, including the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Edgar Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, the Strand Magazine Critics Award, Barry Award, and the NAACP Image Award. Personally I really enjoyed the read, and felt it was the heralding of an exciting new voice in crime fiction, layering Southern gothic, social commentary, and exciting storytelling.

Attica Locke followed that up with THE CUTTING SEASON, a murder mystery where a young woman's body is found on an antebellum plantation utilised as a tourist attraction. Her third novel, PLEASANTVILLE, will be released in the United States in April. But for now, Attica Locke becomes the latest author to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?  
It’s a tie between Kenzie and Gennaro in Dennis Lehane’s books or Rusty Sabich in Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent and Innocent. What I like about what both authors have done with is to believably allow their characters to age and have a different lens on the world.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why? 
To Kill a Mockingbird, because the southern voice felt so familiar to me as a Texan, and because like Scout my father is a lawyer whom I dearly look up to.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?  
I was a screenwriter for more than a decade.  I wrote for nearly every major studio, but none of the movies were ever getting made, and I grew disillusioned.

Outside of writing, and touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?  
Reading is my most preferred relaxing activity.  I also like to go on hikes in Southern California where I live. And I watch a lot of true crime news programs.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?  
Get drunk in a juke joint in Third Ward.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?  
No clue.  It could be a terrible actress.  My life is not that complicated or difficult.  It wouldn’t be hard to play.

Of your writings, published and unpublished, which is your favourite, and why?  
I always love the latest the best, so I’ll say Pleasantville, which comes out this year.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a online or physical bookseller’s shelf?  
I was so overwhelmed that I had to escape somewhere dark and quiet to get out of my head.  I went to the movies. I saw Sex and the City alone in the middle of the day and there I let myself cry with gratitude.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival? 
Meeting someone with the last name Locke and talking to her for several minutes and discovering that we were probably related and then realizing she still wasn’t going to buy a book from me.

Thank you Attica. We appreciate you taking the time to chat with Crime Watch


You can read more about Attica Locke and her writing here: 


Have you read any of Attica Locke's novels? Do you like murder mysteries that evoke social and historical tensions in amongst the crime fiction plotlines? What do you think of the American South as a setting?


1 comment:

  1. I've got Black Water Rising, and thanks for reminding me to read it. I like her crime fiction hero choices! A lady after my own heart!