Author John Lescroart’s 28th book, "Fatal," is centered around a massive, deadly terrorist attack in San Francisco. There’s no sign of the usual main characters from many of his other thrillers: lawyer Dismas Hardy and Abe Glitsky.
Instead, he writes from the perspective of a new character: Sergeant Beth Tully, a homicide inspector for the San Francisco Police Department dealing with the aftermath of the attack. "Fatal" explores the complex ways that humans cope with trauma in the wake of disaster. Lescroart sat down with CapRadio's Donna Apidone to talk about it.
This is very much a book about unfinished business in a lot of different ways. In fact, there's one line that you wrote: “Could you build a life on a basic falsehood?” And I found myself being suspicious, maybe more so than [in] your other books, very suspicious of everybody who came into the book.
Well this is the difference between writing what I started to write and a traditional mystery where I knew the playground of people that I was working with. This book does not have that particular playground of people. It's a whole group of people who I'd never met before and I had to find and get comfortable with but also within the general context of the story I had guys who were, I thought, fascinating.
They were fascinating but you didn't know, I didn't know, what they were going to do. And they say that if, you know, you can write a book that surprises the author, then the readers are going to be surprised.
There were a number of emotional dilemmas that people in the book faced. You dealt very openly with anorexia. I think you've said you described it better than you knew when you were writing.
I had written a scene about anorexia. I know nothing about anorexia, other than what we all do. I had this moment in the story that I wanted to have something happen to [a character] that was dramatic and serious. And so I had her go into a very serious medical state where she had to get 911 called, taken to the hospital. And I called up a social worker and she explained this thing called the refeeding syndrome. That was exactly what happened in the book. Exactly. I mean I didn't have to change a word other than to acknowledge what it was. And you know that's the kind of thing that happens all the time in these books — that you realize you're kind of onto something that's majorly correct even if you don't really know why.
There was also a big part for PTSD. [It] applied to so many of the characters. Everyone reacted in different ways and that's what PTSD is: a lot of different reactions that even the people involved don't recognize that they are going through or acting out.
Well it's because of major trauma. And that is in the center of this book. In fact, it's the main thing in the book, from my perspective anyway. It’s what makes the whole city go haywire. And in fact, what makes the world that we're living in go haywire. We're all going a little bit nuts, because it's a hard time.
Donna Apidone interviewed John Lescroart on June 13, 2017.