At the end of the day, the issues that are brought up by noir fiction, for lack of a better term, tend to be social issues I’m concerned with, and that’s what I return to time and again. It’s all haves versus have-nots kind of stuff.
[With World Gone By,] I wanted to bring it all home. I started [writing about Joe Coughlin] as a little boy. It’s like giving birth to something. I remember him running up the street and how he was dressed. With this story, which is in some ways a look at American labor and also a look at the American criminal underworld, [I got to ask]: What’s the finale? [It really returns] to a question that comes up in the first book, The Given Day. How do you define a family? Is it what you were born into or what you choose? That becomes a central theme of the three books, and it really comes to a head in this one.
[Growing up in Dorchester] was a real gift. There was a lot of negative to it, don’t get me wrong. Dorchester, when I grew up, was a really violent place; you can’t understand how much racial tension was there. It was a very rough time to grow up in a very rough part of the city, but I wouldn’t be a novelist without it. I wouldn’t be anything without it.
I will always keep a place in Boston, but I don’t think I’ll be pulling up stakes in California any time soon. I miss the attitude like crazy. I have people here say, “What are you angry about?” and I say, “I’m not angry. I’m from Boston.” I miss friends who are sending me pictures of all the snow. I was so jealous.
FOR MORE Lehane’s World Gone By will appear March 10. He’ll give free talks March 11 at 7 p.m. at Boston College (617-552-2203; bc.edu/lowell) and March 12 at 6 p.m. at the Boston Public Library (617-536-5400; bpl.org).