Dennis Lehane talks new novel ‘Since We Fell,’ adapting Stephen King and why we’ll never see a sequel to ‘Mystic River’
Dennis Lehane (Handout)
Author Dennis Lehane has gone full-on Hollywood.
After spending most of his life in his native Boston – which is the setting for many of his books including his recent release Since We Fell – Lehane has left the snow and sleet for Los Angeles.
He has his TV and film work to thank for that.
“I was brought in to develop a TV show for Showtime and we went out to L.A. for a year and a year turned into four years,” he says, with a trace of a smile. “The work kept coming and coming and it just became, ‘Why not?’ Everyone loves the weather, my girls love their school. At the end of the day, I’d leave but I’m having too much fun.”
In addition to the new book – a thriller about an agoraphobic woman who finds out her husband isn’t who he seems – Lehane has three TV projects on the go, including an adaptation of Stephen King’s Mr. Mercedes.
Prior to that, he’s worked on the feature film The Drop, HBO’s Boardwalk Empire and The Wire and Netflix’s Bloodline. Four of his books – Mystic River, Shutter Island, Gone Baby Gone and Live by Night – have been turned into movies, with Since We Fell also set to hit the big screen, which Lehane wrote the screenplay for.
Before a book signing in Toronto, Lehane chatted about Since We Fell’s twisted love story, adapting Stephen King and why there will never be a sequel to Mystic River.
There’s a criminal element to Since We Fell, but it’s really the story of a marriage – which is something new for you.
I think in my own twisted way, this is a love story. There’s a moment when the main character (Rachel Childs) reflects on whether she has a happy marriage or not. She had watched terrible people get married and stay fused together in their own terribleness, and she had watched good people, loving people, throw it all on an ash heap four or five years after saying, ‘I do.’
I was thinking about that a lot. It’s something that shows up in Mystic River too; this idea that the best marriages are often not between the best people. That’s not what makes a marriage.
The plot twists when Rachel finds out her husband may not be who he seems. How did you get there?
Really where this all started was this desire to do a Hitchcock. That was it. I wanted to put somebody in a situation where at the end of the day the only weapon they truly have is themselves. You strip them of everything else and then ask, ‘How is this person going to fight?’ I’m not giving her special skills, I’m not giving her guns. How is she going to fight here? Hitchcock always had [his characters] have some sort of phobia or severe damage, whether it was Vertigo or Rear Window, so I said, ‘Okay, if you were an agoraphobic, what would you really fear?’ If I couldn’t go outside, I’d be fearful of stuff going on outside that other people weren’t telling me about. That would be my fear.
What draws you to the darker edges of the human experience?
You show me somebody who is not f—ed up and I will show you a damaged, damaged liar. I think the world would be a much better place if people just said, ‘I don’t have it all figured out. I’m not better morally than anyone else. Let’s all just agree on certain things — premeditated murder, rape, child molestation — are immoral. Everything else is up for debate.’ I can’t stand when people act is if they’ve got it figured out.
You’re adapting Mr. Mercedes for TV right now. What’s that been like?
I think it’s a really good examination of the post-2008 meltdown in America and the rage and helplessness that went along with that. It’s not a mistake that the book was set in Ohio. It starts off with a bunch of job seekers — job seekers — getting run over by someone in a Mercedes — these are all metaphors… I locked into the material in a way that I’ve never locked into anything else in TV. We’re writing about the America that got left behind, the America that just decided the 2016 election. The America that feels very angry and very abandoned and no matter how I feel about their election I think their feelings are absolutely understandable. We left them holding the bag. We left them with a bunch of empty factories, a bunch of holes in the ground and lots of lost manufacturing jobs. That’s the prism through which I’ve written Mr. Mercedes. There’s not a single scene in that show that I’m not filtering through that idea. I think we’ve got something really cool.
You’ve written five books with the private eye team of Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro and you’ve followed Joe Coughlin through three books, but you never revisited Mystic River’s Jimmy Marcus and Sean Devine. Why not?
That’s an ending. There’s no closure, and that’s how it ends.