Going to see Marcia Clark at The Poisoned Pen was the first time Denis and I had gone anywhere together since we'd returned from our trip to California. You know... that trip where any time we got close to Los Angeles, it rained. Guess what? It rained all the way to our favorite bookstore. If this keeps up, we're going to be able to hire out the Jeep to all the parched places here in the Southwest!
|L to R: Marcia Clark and Barbara Peters|
According to host Barbara Peters, "Marcia Clark for me spells trouble." Before her last appearance, there was a gunman at the Los Angeles International Airport. While folks at The Poisoned Pen were getting updates from Marcia, reporters from CNN and the like were texting Clark wanting her to give them updates. To continue this troubling theme, Barbara said, "When I pulled out of the driveway with the rain sheeting down I thought, 'Of course. It's Marcia!'"
We were at The Poisoned Pen for the release of Clark's second Samantha Brinkman mystery, Moral Defense. In answer to a fan's question, Clark told us that she'd been a defense attorney as well as a prosecutor. It's a good change of pace for Clark to write from a defense attorney's perspective since they aren't "bound by as many restrictions as prosecutors are."
At this point, the interview wandered into strange territory, with Peters remarking that she hadn't realized that the television series The Blacklist was true until she'd read a certain article about the FBI in the newspaper. This then led to the two women talking about the 1952 election when Earl Warren was Dwight Eisenhower's only serious competition for the Republican nomination. It was rather obvious that a deal had been done after Eisenhower became president because Warren quickly became a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. What was so surprising was the fact that the conservative Warren became such an activist while serving.
Talk then turned back to books. "All my life experiences are coming through in these stories," Marcia said. "In the Samantha Brinkman stories, I'm able to talk about social or legal issues that are very important to me. In Moral Defense I'm able to talk about child adoption as well as child abuse through a prism so that it isn't 'icky' if that makes sense."
These books also allow the author to write a darker, morally ambiguous character. Defense attorney Samantha Brinkman hates the police because they didn't do well by her when she was a child. She was raised by a single mother who was (and still is) a monster. In the first book, Blood Defense, she finds herself defending a police officer accused of a double homicide. Clark advised any of us who had yet to read Blood Defense to read it first because Moral Defense continues several threads that were set up in Blood Defense. Her Rachel Knight series has been written as standalones.
"Writing scripts is like writing haiku," Clark laughed. Fortunately her writing load has lessened a bit. "Putting out two books a year is craziness!" This woman still has a caseload as a lawyer, she's writing books, and she's writing the pilot for a television series. Whew! She did admit that she didn't have a personal life, and we could all see why.
Barbara herself could certainly relate. "Most of the time Rob comes home with the dogs just as I'm leaving to come here. We travel just so we can see each other."
Marcia and Barbara both believe that trial lawyers make better storytellers than judges do because judges have such a passive role. In fact, one of Marcia's fans described judges as "high-priced observers."
Clark "wanted to be a writer since the age of five, and crime fiction and Nancy Drew were my favorites. I just never thought I could make a living at it." When she got a chance to write scripts for a television show, she told us, "Script writing got me into novel writing."
"The parameters of television mean that you have to tell a man-bites-dog story. Something that's short and direct, but within those guidelines you can still tell the truth."
Another fan wanted to know about Clark's writing influences. "The writing styles of everyone I read influences me," Clark said. "I particularly like noir writers. And there's James Ellroy. Jim Thompson. Hammett. Chandler. Sara Waters."
And she has thought of writing a standalone from the point of view of a juror.
The fans were very talkative this evening, which had a lot to do with how personable Clark is. Another asked her about the motivations of police officers and lawyers who write books. Are they doing it to have things finally come out right, or to tell the story they couldn't tell during the investigation or trial? Marcia said yes to both.
If you'd like to hear more about Marcia's writing process or the trademark battle Barbara had over the name of her bookstore, or a few other topics, I urge you to watch the entire program on The Poisoned Pen's Livestream channel. It was a fun, informative evening!