Alafair Burke’s fascination with crime stories came far before her career as a novelist, or her work as first a prosecutor and then a law professor.
“When I was growing up in Wichita, there was an active serial killer there who called himself ‘BTK,’ which stood for ‘Bind, Torture and Kill,’ which is kind of not a good thing to hear when you’re 8 years old,” she tells the ABA Journal’s Lee Rawles. “And I was always obsessed with crime. I still am. At any given time, I’m watching some story on the news or following some case from afar—but at the time it wasn’t from afar, it was right there. And my experience of living in a place that you would think of as very safe and very quiet, that was actually a very violent place to live, becomes part of Ellie Hatcher’s backstory.”
All Day and a Night is Burke’s fifth book featuring Ellie Hatcher, a New York City police detective. When a murder occurs that is similar to those credited to an imprisoned serial killer, Hatcher and her partner are assigned to review the decades-old cases to determine if an innocent man is serving life without parole. And in a parallel narrative, Carry Blank, the attorney sister of one of the victims, is asked to serve as defense counsel for the imprisoned man, Anthony Amaro. A scene from Blank’s childhood in which her classmates discuss the killings on the playground was informed by Burke’s own memories. Nothing is necessarily as it seems, and people who may seem like stock characters turn out to be much more complex than at first glance.
In this podcast, Burke discusses her work as a writer, Hofstra Law School professor and former deputy district attorney in Portland, Oregon. She also shares a peek into her upcoming book project with one of the original titans of crime fiction, Mary Higgins Clark. And we find out what it’s like to write long-running series–in addition to the Ellie Hatcher series, Burke has written three books featuring prosecutor Samantha Kincaid–and how to deal with a fan base that develops decided opinions on what your characters would or would not do.
ABA Journal: “How the Cops Caught BTK” (2006)