Bibliophiles: Dennis Lehane on his pandemic binges and a new puppy

Author Dennis Lehane
Author Dennis LehaneGaby Gerster/© Diogenes Verlag

Best-selling novelist Dennis Lehane may have long ago decamped for the West Coast, but he’s still Boston’s top mystery writer. The Dorchester native has written 13 novels, five of which have been made into films, including “Gone, Baby, Gone,” “Shutter Island” and “Mystic River.” Lehane was a writer on the HBO series “The Wire” and has worked on other series such as “Boardwalk Empire” and “Bloodline.” His most recent book, “Since We Fell,” is a psychological thriller that follows a former journalist whose perfect life begins to unravel thanks to a chance encounter.


BOOKS: How is the pandemic affecting your work?

LEHANE: My writing life looks a lot like most people’s corona life. You stay at home. You don’t go too many places. You’re in your head. In terms of my career it feels identical. The only plus side is Hollywood runs on useless meetings. Now I don’t have to commute to them. I do them virtually. The other day my agent said he wanted to pitch something I’m working on to Netflix. I hate driving to Netflix! Then my next thought was, “Oh it’s a Zoom meeting.”

BOOKS: Is the virus influencing your scripts?

LEHANE: I was thinking about that today. When you watch TV now you notice the characters aren’t social distancing. You see people bro-hugging right and left on TV and think, “What the hell is going on here?” Say the virus goes into 2021, I don’t know how that will work for TV. Luckily I’m not working on anything uber contemporary. I’m doing one project set between 1931 and 1954 and another set in the 1990s. I’m also rewriting a western. I’m all over the place. I love working like this. I also feel blessed to just have my job given what is going on right now. So many people have been screwed by this.


BOOKS: Are you working on a novel?

LEHANE: I have a novel that is going at a glacial pace, but it’s going. I still don’t have a plot. That is always difficult for me. I get plots last. I spend months wandering around with characters then think, “Oh, maybe someone should die here.” That’s very much this book, but I’m more excited about this, more than I have been about a project in a while. Luckily I’d already started it before the pandemic. I wouldn’t want to be starting something. There’s a phrase I heard yesterday that is so perfect: We are living in the infinite present. Think about how much time we spend planning the future. That is what gives a lot of life its blood and oxygen. Right now no one is planning. I don’t know what August is going to look like. I have a movie in pre-production right now and they are talking about shooting in October. And I’m like, “Really?”

BOOKS: What else has been hard?

LEHANE: Both my girls are home schooling. We are all done with it. We had a horrific four-day period when we thought my older daughter had coronavirus. We had a full lockdown in this house. I was in the middle of rewriting a script. I called the producer and said, “Forget me for about 10 days because I cannot think straight for one second.” Then it turned out she had a garden-variety flu.


BOOKS: How are you distracting yourself?

LEHANE: Netflix is handy. I just discovered “Stranger Things” and have been watching “This Much Is True.” I also saw “How to Fix a Drug Scandal,” the great documentary on Netflix on Annie Dookhan, the crime lab scientist who was convicted of falsifying evidence in Massachusetts. The only pleasure reading I’ve been doing is Kate Elizabeth Russell’s “My Dark Vanessa,” a look at a woman who as a high school student had a relationship with a teacher. She looks back at it later asking if that was sexual abuse. It’s a very unnerving book and really well written.

BOOKS: What do you miss the most?

LEHANE: Socializing. In the midst of this I moved and got a little puppy, a rescue from Arizona. None of my friends in LA have seen my new house or met my new dogs. That’s weird.

BOOKS: Did the pandemic prompt getting the puppy?

LEHANE: California closed down the weekend of my daughter’s birthday. Her party was canceled. Then her makeup party was canceled. Then her first communion was canceled. She got rocked. I said, “What if I got you a dog for your birthday?” Then we got the puppy that scary week when we thought she had the virus. It helped a lot, even cleaning poop and pee. It helped us focus. We did something nuts, by moving and getting a dog, but in retrospect it was a strangely smart decision.


Follow us on Facebook or Twitter @GlobeBiblio. Amy Sutherland, the author, most recently, of “Rescuing Penny Jane’’ can be reached at amysutherland@mac.com.