"The pejorative ghettoization of mystery writing has become pretty laughable," says Dennis Lehane. "It's just not working."
The mega-bestselling author, Boston Public Library board member, and patron saint of Dorchester should know. Though he's celebrated for such thrillers as Mystic River and Shutter Island, Lehane's last novel, The Given Day, was a work of literary history critics called his big American novel. In September, he'll kick off Dennis Lehane Books — his brand new publishing imprint on HarperCollins — with The Cutting Season, the second novel from screenwriter-turned-novelist Attica Locke. On September 19, Lehane will introduce Locke at Newtonville Books.
"The language is just gorgeous," says Lehane, explaining why he picked Locke's novel to launch his imprint. "It was pulling me into a very unique world that was just perfectly rendered."
Lehane will continue to choose more books that fall under the broad umbrella of contemporary American fiction, focusing on mysteries and suspense novels that blur the lines between high art and pulp. "I don't really give a shit what genre a book falls into," he says. "But nobody's gonna let me put a science-fiction book on my imprint, nor should they. Or romance."
Last year, Lehane's editor approached him with the idea of starting his own imprint because of Lehane's tendency to be pedantic. "I'm definitely a geek when it comes to art in general," he says. "I'm always putting CDs in my friend's hands and telling them to go see movies — it's natural for me."
So is writing. In October, Lehane will release his 10th novel, Live by Night, about a Prohibition-era gangster. So how does he balance writing with seeking out young talent?
"It's mostly balanced okay," he says. "My wife would probably answer differently."