Parenthood changes game for 'Moonlight Mile' author Dennis Lehane

Longtime fans of author Dennis Lehane are celebrating the return of his series characters Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro in his new novel, Moonlight Mile. On Monday night, he'll talk about it in Tampa.

It's been 11 years since Lehane finished his first five books about the Boston private investigators. Since then he has written the novels Mystic River, Shutter Island and The Given Day and a collection of short works, Coronado, as well as writing for HBO's The Wire. But readers still longed for the tough and tender banter between Patrick and Angie and the gritty realism of their stories.

Moonlight Mile is just what those fans had in mind — a dark and gripping sequel to the fourth book in the series, Gone, Baby, Gone, which was made into a hit movie in 2007.

Monday night, Lehane and I will talk about Moonlight Mile and other subjects at Four Green Fields Irish Pub in Tampa. The event, co-sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading and Inkwood Books, is the 18-year-old festival's first event in Tampa.

Here's a preview of our conversation.

Patrick Kenzie and Angie Gennaro were business partners with a tumultuous on-and-off romance in the earlier books. Why did you decide to have them be married and parents of a child in Moonlight Mile?

That was more my wife's decision than mine. (Lehane married Angela Bernardo in 2008, and they had a daughter in 2009. They live in St. Petersburg and Boston.) Patrick is the one who has been sort of divorced from the (Catholic) faith. Angie — the character, that is — has always been deeply religious. She would want the ceremony, especially if they have a child; that would be enormous for her. My wife said, "If they're not married by now, what are they doing?"

It puts a different weight on what they do, especially with a kid. I was talking to my wife about this police source I have in Boston, and he asked me if I wanted to go kick down a door, basically go on a raid. She said, "You do know I would shoot you? You have a daughter now; you're not allowed to do that." The rebirth of Patrick was really me wondering how he would be as a father. I think I started the book when my daughter was 3 months old.

Why pick up the characters of Gone, Baby, Gone in Moonlight Mile, rather than start with a new story?

I tried a new story and it was boring as hell. Then I thought, what if their daughter was the same age Amanda McCready was when she vanished? And what if Amanda vanished again? It would hold up an interesting mirror. The book had a lot of fits and starts, but once I thought of that, boom.

Most of your fiction has been set in Boston. It's your hometown, so of course you know it well, but what makes it such a rich source for you?

For one thing, it's an extremely unique place in an ever increasingly homogenized United States. There's no place like Boston; it just has a ton of flavor. Also, people may not realize how unbelievably small it is, but so dense. So in a very small piece of geography, you can cover a multitude of social strata.

Certainly (Moonlight Mile) is a book about post-meltdown America. I use Patrick to sort of explore my own rage. But this is Patrick's book, and at their basic level these books have always been about the people we fly over. Patrick and Angie have always, absolutely been resolutely working class. That's what grounds them. I've found when I move away from that, the books just float away.

Colette Bancroft can be reached at cbancroft@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8435. She blogs on Critics Circle at blogs.tampabay.com/critics.

Meet the author

The St. Petersburg Times Festival of Reading and Inkwood Books will present Dennis Lehane, in conversation with Times book editor Colette Bancroft, at 7 p.m. Monday at Four Green Fields Irish Pub, 205 W Platt St., Tampa. A signing will follow. Tickets are free with the purchase of a copy of Moonlight Mile from Inkwood; call (813) 253-2638 or go to inkwoodbooks.com.

Parenthood changes game for 'Moonlight Mile' author Dennis Lehane 11/27/10 [Last modified: Saturday, November 27, 2010 3:30am]

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