A Q&A with Alafair Burke

All Day and A Night by Alafair Burke combines the genres of a legal procedural, police procedural, and a psychological thriller. This book is the fifth in the NYPD police detective Ellie Hatcher series. Readers will learn the tactics used in an investigation and feel they are part of the investigative teams on both sides of the aisle.


The plot begins with the killing of a psychologist that appears to be tied to the serial killer Anthony Amaro. The only problem with that conclusion is that the supposed killer has a good alibi; he is in prison. At about the same time the DA’s office is notified that the publicity seeking celebrity trial lawyer, reminiscent of Gloria Allred, is looking into a wrongful conviction claim. Detective Ellie Hatcher and her partner J.J. Rogan are called in as part of the “fresh look” team by Elli’s boyfriend, Assistant District Attorney Max Donovan.


Elise Cooper: Rumor has it that even “Veronica Mars,” the famous TV detective, likes your books. Can you comment?


Alafair Burke: I am a huge Veronica Mars fan. There was this kick-starter campaign to raise money and I was a huge donor. As a reward the donors were able to do a video with Kristen Bell. I thought that was really cool since I am a loyal and devoted Veronica Mars fan. I loved the movie because it had all the characters, the right tone, and made me satisfy my longing for more TV shows.


EC: How would you describe your books?


AB: My last couple of books has gone towards the psychological thriller aspect. I think of my books as crime friction, sometimes with a little more procedural and sometimes more about the characters. In All Day and A Night there is a little of both. The part from Ellie Hatcher’s perspective is more procedural but the other perspective is written from Carrie’s personal viewpoint. I hope I was able to show the victims as a people. They need to be seen on a page as more than just a body or a clue.


EC: Are you making a statement in this book, where the law is hijacked for political gains?


AB: You made a good observation. Max is being pulled in two different directions. He wants to do the right thing but also knows the politics of the office. In any DA office, people are there for different reasons. Some are there for political advancement. They are some of the most dangerous you will find in the judicial system. It is hard enough to make the right decisions but when some are guided by career advancement that becomes really dangerous for bad things to happen. You can see all this in the book through Max’s eyes.


EC: There seems to be a lot of tension between the prosecutorial team and the police investigative team. Did you do that intentionally?


AB: Police and prosecutors butt heads more than the public realizes. A lot of police officers think prosecutors are the problem in that they do not do the right thing for either political motivations or because they are too chicken to go to trial. On the other hand a lot of prosecutors think cops go overboard and don’t investigate thoroughly enough. I hoped I show in this book how a case has different perspectives, which can make each particular team go in different directions.


EC: Did you also want to point out the tunnel vision of these investigative teams?


AB: One of my first cases was a wrongful conviction case. The two original prosecutors could not admit that they had convicted two innocent people. Prosecutors many times have the assumption the police got the right guy and now it’s their job to prove it. It is very difficult to back away from that and to think maybe we got it wrong. It seems whatever we are looking for is what we see. There is this video where they ask you to count how many red shirts are in it. Because that is what you are looking for you missed the guy in the gorilla outfit walking across the basketball court. You missed it because you only focus on one thing.


EC: Did you write the defense attorney character Linda Moreland based upon the publicity-seeking attorney Gloria Allred?


AB: Actually I was thinking of Nancy Grace on the other side of the aisle. I wrote her as being very loud, squeaky, and always thinking she is right. There were a couple of times when I was writing about Moreland I would get so disgusted with her I would have to stop. I have to admit what happens to her was very fun to write.


EC: What do you want the reader to get out of the book?

AB: Obviously a good entertaining story. But the theme is about forgiveness and thinking about how decisions always have consequences that ripple forward. A lot of times as a writer I do not know what the book is about until the end. This book shows what people will do for others and how much they can forgive. The other reason I write is because I want prosecutors depicted correctly. Sometimes when reading a crime fiction novel I would want to throw the book across the room because the legal characters are seen as being very two dimensional.


EC: Does your dad the famous writer, James Lee Burke, ever comment on your books?


AB: He is a very supportive father. Every dad should do what he does which is tell me after reading the novel ‘I am the best in the world.’ We have a very close parent-child relationship. But we are very private about our own work until it is completed.


EC: Can you give us a head-up about your next book?


AB: I will be collaborating with one of the best suspense writers, Mary Higgins Clark. The book we will be writing together should be out this November.