Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney reads more than his share of creepy books, so when he says a novel is sure to be “one of the most disturbing books of the year,” he means it. Defending Jacob, the third novel from former assistant district attorney William Landay, is our February 2012 Mystery of the Month. This is one book you won't forget.
BookPage chatted with Landay about writing, his opinion of neckties and much more.
Describe your book in one sentence.
Andy Barber is a contented husband and father, and the top trial lawyer in the DA's office, until his teenage son Jacob is accused of murder, forcing Andy to decide: How far would I go to defend my child? (That’s a horrible sentence, but then it had to do a lot of work. Forgive me, writing gods!)
What is the best part about being a writer?
There are two. First, the very rare occasions when my kids, who are now 8 and 10, seem to think it's cool to have a writer for a dad. Second—and this will sound hokey, I know—getting to spend your days creating great books that will long outlive you. (Also, third, no neckties.)
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
The next book, always the next one. I never look back.
Name one book you think everyone should read.?
The Great Gatsby. I know, I know: You read it in high school. But read it again. To me, it’s still the Greatest (so far) American Novel. One of the few novels I read over and over, just for the beauty of the writing.
Of all the characters you've ever written, which is your favorite?
Probably Andy Barber. Not because he is a superhero. He isn’t. He is badly flawed, in fact. But because he loves his child unreasonably and is absolutely unshakable in his devotion to him. What child wouldn’t like to think his father would stick by him no matter what?
What is your favorite movie based on a book?
The Godfather, but there is lots of competition.
What are you working on now?
I try never to talk about books in progress. It's bad luck. But briefly, the new book is the flip side of Defending Jacob: An ordinary family is struck by violence, only this time the story is told from the point of view of the victim's family. That may sound like a grim premise, but the story is actually very hopeful. It suggests we are all much stronger, much tougher than we know. We are all survivors. We have only to be put to the test—though I hope, of course, that none of us ever will be.