|INTERESTING INTERVIEW|| |
MOSTLY ABOUT THE EVAN HUNTER NOVEL "LIZZIE"|| |
|LBVML: Why did you choose the Borden murders as the subject matter of your novel LIZZIE and did the writing of the work present you with any unusual challenges?|
As opposed to the mysteries I write as Ed McBain, I had written several Evan Hunter novels dealing with generational conflicts. Books like Mothers and Daughters, Sons, Far from the Sea, and especially Love, Dad . It seemed to me that someone accused of having killed her father and her stepmother was a generational conflict of monumental proportions. I decided to investigate the case and write about it if I thought it would serve my needs. It did. The only real challenge I faced was putting the events in chronological order, which was not the way they appeared in the almost 2,000-page trial transcript. I spent at least six months doing that before I wrote a word of the book.
LBVML: Your theory of the case, namely that Lizzie killed her stepmother Abby after having been unexpectedly discovered in bed with Bridget Sullivan, is a unique one and has inspired much discussion. Do you still subscribe to this scenario or have you developed another theory?
Frankly, I haven't given another thought to Lizzie Borden since I finished the book, and I have no reason to revise my original premise. My theory was based on news articles about Lizzie's sister leaving the house, never to return, never to see Lizzie again, after an argument following the "midnight entertainment of Lizzie's close friend, the actress Nance O'Neill." Her sister said in a later interview, "The happenings at the French Street house that caused me to leave, I must refuse to talk about." And the Reverend A. E. Buck advised her that "it was imperative" that she should "make her home elsewhere." Emma remarked, "I do not expect ever to set foot on the place while she lives." I don't know what all of that may suggest to anyone else, but I do know what it suggested to me.
LBVML: You are among an ever-growing group of Borden scholars who believe Lizzie Borden to have been a lesbian. Did you use this idea of her purely as a devise of fiction, or do you believe that Lizzie's murderous rage stems from her shame?
Not shame. I would certainly never suggest that any lesbian should be ashamed of her sexual preference. This is something quite else. Her stepmother calls her "Monster! Unnatural thing." If I may quote from the novel: "She immediately rejected this deformed image of herself, blind anger rising to dispel it, suffocating rage surfacing to encompass and engulf the hopelessness of her secret passion, the chance discovery by this woman who stood quaking now against the closed door to the guest room, the fearsome threat of revelation to her father, the unfairness and stupidity of not being allowed to live her own life as she CHOSE to live it!" Aside from that being some damn fine writing (he said modestly,) it certainly doesn't speak of shame. If anything, it's a cry for understanding. It's a woman pleading for the freedom to be herself.
LBVML: Are there any future plans for your work on Lizzie, or any other documentary work on the case?
Nope. Would anyone like to do the movie? I'm here. Meanwhile, there are too many new things to write.
LBVML: What books or documents on the case were influential to you in your writing of LIZZIE (and have you ever visited the murder house in Fall River)?
I didn't read any other novels or non-fiction books about the case. I studied the transcript. I studied newspaper reports. I learned the town of Fall River upside down and backwards, the murder house included. I learned all about London and the south of France in 1890, the time of Lizzie's visit there. That was all I needed to make my own judgment and write my own book. The rest, as they say, is fiction.
LBVML: You are extremely accessible and have your own web page. Why, after all these years, do you still consider it important to be available to your
Readers are what it's all about, aren't they? If not, why am I writing?
LBVML: Would you tell us a bit about your newest novel, as yet unpublished, entitled Fat Ollie's Book: A Novel of the 87th Precinct?
Fat Ollie's Book brings a peripheral character, Fat Ollie Weeks, into the spotlight. Together with the perennial Steve Carella of the 87th Precinct, Ollie investigates the baffling murder of a city councilman. But Ollie's mind and efforts are elsewhere. Someone has stolen the only copy of his now-completed first novel, a masterpiece in his own mind. The book (my book, not Ollie's) is funny, suspenseful, and probably a masterpiece in my own mind
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