INTERVIEW WITH LINDA FAIRSTEIN

Blood Oath (Alexandra Cooper Book)

Linda Fairstein

Dutton Pub.

March 27th, 2019

Blood Oath by Linda Fairstein has Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper returning to work after taking a hiatus to recover from double personal traumas.  She has no time to ease back into a routine because she is presented with a very formidable case.

As the chief of the Special Victims Bureau Alexandra (Alex) oversees and prosecutes sexual assault, domestic violence, child abuse, and related murder cases. After returning to work she is presented with a case by a young woman who has come forward to claim she was assaulted ten years ago, when she was just 14 years old. The name of her attacker comes as a huge surprise to Alex, a respected colleague and someone she knows well. Alex, along with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace must decide if the now twenty-four-year-old victim, Lucy Jenner, is telling the truth.

Besides this devastating accusation Alex must deal with a Judge who she has had scrapes with in the past.  His separated wife is suing him for a divorce and is accusing him of choking her and being abusive in other ways.

Alexandra also faces a tragedy when her friend, Francie Fain, collapses on the street on the way to Alexandra’s welcome back party. At first it seems a tragic accident, but soon it begins to look more like attempted murder. Alex and her boyfriend Mike Chapman question what led to her friend’s current condition.

History is always weaved into the story whether through a Final Jeopardy question where Alex, Mercer, and Chapman generally stop whatever they are doing to watch on TV and make their own wagers regarding the correct answer, or historical architectural and cultural landmarks in New York. The Tombs, the city prison, and the “Bridge of Sighs,” pictured on the book cover, and New York City medical research facility, Rockefeller University, becomes a part of the story.

This plot has non-stop action where all three incidents come together in a thrilling and riveting conclusion. It is nice to see a prosecutor and the police work together to bring justice to those who experienced violence.

Elise Cooper:  Do you ever use your own cases.

Linda Fairstein:  No.  I never use any of my own cases but do pull stories from real cases.  The villain in this story is based on someone who is real, a man I know personally.  I was on the board of a non-profit organization and served alongside this very distinguished gentleman.  Three years ago, someone came forward to say he had molested her twenty years ago.

EC: Why write about it now?

LF:  The seed for this one came from a tragic story involving a powerful man I knew well, who had done something terrible in his young professional life.  I was haunted by the victims’ perspective, and by his downfall.  I could not imagine the profound impact of his actions on his victim who said her life was derailed.  I couldn’t shake the whole idea of it, so I got to work creating my fictional version of a similar case.

EC: New York City appears to be a character in your book?

LF:  Yes.  In this book, I concentrated on Rockefeller University.  At a dinner, I met a very interesting person who is a visionary scientist.  He works there.  As detective Mike Chapman would say, “It is not a university in the sense we think of it.”  It is actually the country’s largest medical institute. 

EC:  Did you tour it?

LF:  I was invited to give a DNA lecture there.  After I spoke to the scientists, I was able to take a tour of this 100-year-old campus.  It has very unusual dark corners and underground tunnels.  Of course, I had to embellish it when I made it a safe house. 

EC:  You also speak of “The Bridge of Sighs?”

LF:  This was my working title, but my publisher didn’t want to use it.  She said if you have to explain your title it is not good.  The original is in Venice.  As someone walked across from the Emperor’s Palace to the prison the last sight they see is the window on the bridge.  They would sigh on the way in.  An historical tidbit; here in New York there is bridge to the Tombs prison from the Manhattan Criminal Courts and the nickname of that passageway is the Bridge of Sighs.  I also noticed that there is a little bridge from the quarantined area of the Rockefeller Institute to the Founders area that looks like the Bridge of Sighs.  You can see it on the book jacket. 

EC:  I am curious, can authors pick their book titles?

LF:  The publisher has the power to kill the title, part of their marketing power.  But best-selling authors can be a part of the process.

EC:  How did you get the title Blood Oath?

LF:  I was thinking about a new title when my stepson come home with a gift.  He and my husband drank from a bottle of bourbon called “Blood Oath” that was in this fancy little box.  I thought this is the perfect name for this title.  I then googled Blood Oath and all its meanings. I thought this is a perfect way to take it from the real-life case to the fictionalized story. I created my own reason for the victim, Lucy, to stay silent.

EC:  Do prosecutors, while interviewing victims, have a witness with them?

LF:  I always made it a rule, since I was burned as a young prosecutor.  Sometimes people being interviewed would say, ‘I never said that, or I forgot to mention he had a knife.’ I trained all my young lawyers to have a witness.  It can be dangerous for the case both ways.  Either something was left out or something was added in.  I never wanted to use the detective on the case because there could be controversy.  I remember once the detective said, ‘she told me she had nothing to drink.  Now she is telling you she had three drinks.’  By having someone else there it protects the witness and the prosecutor.

EC:  How would you describe the victim, Lucy?

LF:  Vulnerable in every way.  Young, very much alone.  The predator had a good sense that she could be groomed, which I detailed in the book.  The bad guy knew how to read her.

EC:  As a reader, I wondered if I liked Lucy?

LF:  This is what Alex is going through: can she trust Lucy? Does she trust Lucy enough?  Even Lucy’s aunt said she lies.  As a prosecutor Alex had to decide if Lucy is telling white lies and if so, would she lie about the bigger things? 

EC:  How would you describe Alex?

LF:  She is tough, sarcastic, and strong. In Devils’ Bridge, an earlier book, I wanted to test myself to see if I could write from the detective’s perspective.  I had Alex kidnapped and held for five days.  She has PTSD in the following books.  Now, she is back.  I know fans will be happy because they wanted this.  I am determined to bring her back strong.

EC:  How would you describe your fictional bad guy?

LF:  Vain, incredibly egotistical, self-centered, and very smart.  The real guy was so arrogant and full of himself.  Because of what he did I found him to have no redeeming qualities other than his intelligence.

EC:  Can you give a heads up about your next book?

LF: The working title is The Graveyard.  Murder takes Alex to some really remote and desolate parts of the city.

THANK YOU!!