May 2014

  Killer Crimes in Chicago

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The Windy City is famous for its politicians, delicious food, and this month -- murder.  At least that's the case in two new books by Chicago-based authors Lynne Raimondo and Lori Rader-Day.


Blind psychiatrist Mark Angelotti is back this month in Raimondo's newly-released Dante's Poison, which bestselling author Hank Phillippi Ryan calls "complex, authentic, surprising-and a page-turning master class in character." Mark is asked to help his friend Hallie defend fellow attorney Jane Barnett against murder charges. Is it merely coincidence that Jane's longtime lover falls dead from a fatal dose of the anti-psychotic drug Lucitrol shortly after she defended the manufacturer against product-liability claims? After Barrett is released, Mark and Hallie discover the killer is still on the loose -- and targeting them as his next victims.


Lori Rader-Day, whose debut novel The Black Hour (out July 8) investigates the aftermath of a shooting on a fictional Chicago-area university campus, sat down with Lynne Raimondo to learn about her experience writing the Mark Angelotti novels:

Lori Rader-Day: What inspired the idea of an amateur sleuth who's going blind?questions


Lynne Raimondo: I started out with the idea of a psychiatrist who's done something blameworthy and soon thereafter is crippled by a disease he suspects - or perhaps wishes - is psychosomatic.  I was casting around for a disease that would work when I discovered Leber's Hereditary Optic Neuropathy, a blinding genetic disorder that can strike anytime in life. My first thought was, how am I ever going to write about a blind character?  But after experimenting with a few chapters, I liked the challenge and thought it could be something fresh.  There have been several blind sleuths in fiction, but none to my knowledge written in the first person.


Rader-Day: You once said that if your books got turned into movies, the first thing the screenwriters would do would be to give Mark a guide dog. Can you talk a little about why it's important to get blindness and disability-and Mark's attitude toward his own-right?


Raimondo: Great question.  There are two reasons Mark doesn't have a dog.  One is that cute animals tend to take over a story, and I didn't want a guide dog to interfere with the narrative.  The other is that most blind people (around 90 percent) use a cane for travel, so it's more accurate that Mark gets around that way.  From the beginning, I thought that if I was going to write about a disabled person, I ought to get the details straight.  That became even more important to me when I learned how many misleading stereotypes

 about the blind exist in popular culture.  It's frustrating to them, and it creates a lot of false notions about what they're capable of.   If I have one hope, it's that readers of my books will come to regard blind people not as walking tragedies, but as intelligent, full-fledged human beings.


Rader-Day: What's the biggest challenge in writing this character?


Raimondo: Sustaining a reader's interest for 300 or so pages without visual description.  I'm a big believer in the late Elmore Leonard's advice to leave out the stuff most people don't read, but even Leonard snuck in some descriptive passages here and there.  My cheat was to give Mark a photographic memory so that he could talk about things he saw before he lost his sight.


Rader-Day: Mark Angelotti is an independent thinker who doesn't suffer fools and doesn't like being played for one. He rubs some of the other characters in the book the wrong way. But he also has an incident in his past that shows him to be human and flawed. What's your favorite thing about Mark? Is there anything autobiographical about him?


Raimondo: What I love best about Mark is that he's a fighter.  Life has dealt him some crappy hands, but he never gives up.  That's not to say he's a Pollyanna.  On the contrary, he's fully capable of cursing the darkness.  I also love that he's honest with himsel

f about his faults.  In my experience, that kind of self-awareness is r

are, and it's what makes him appealing and redeemable despite his many missteps.  He's not really autobiographical, though we do have some common experiences, like growing up Catholic in New York during the 1960's.


Rader-Day: Why did you decide to write from the male perspective? What are the challenges of doing so?


Raimondo: Hmmm . . . never really thought about it before.  From the very beginning, the protagonist I envisioned was a man, and writing from his perspective just seemed to come naturally.  There's probably some deep psychological reason for that (smile).

Lynne Raimondo as Mark Angelotti at Left Coast Crime "The Truth and Nothing But" panel, photo credit
Jerry Panter

Rader-Day: You're a lawyer, and Dante's Wood and Dante's Poison are mysteries that engage with the courtroom -- but Mark is a doctor and counselor. What was the evolution of your thought process as you planned this series. How do you use your law background to build the books?


Raimondo: Honestly, I didn't think I could be successful writing about a lawyer.  There are just too many superb legal thrillers already out there.  At the same time, I wanted to draw on my experience in some way.  After being subpoenaed to testify in a case myself, it dawned on me that writing a series from the point of view of an expert witness could be the answer.  From there, it was an easy leap to making my character a psychiatrist, since so many of the hot button issues in criminal law revolve around mental state and responsibility.  All of my books include at least one courtroom scene, which becomes the catalyst for Mark's subsequent sleuthing.


Rader-Day: When and how did you begin to write fiction? How did you teach yourself to write?


Raimondo: Practice, practice, practice.  I started writing fiction when I was taking what I thought would be a brief sabbatical from my day job.  Before I knew it, I was hooked, though it took several years to discover my writing style.  At first, my prose was too formal and adjective-laden.  I had to teach myself to pare it down.  I never took any classes, but I have a big pile of books on craft, some of which I've read so many times the covers are falling off.


Rader-Day: What advice would you give to someone sitting in a law office somewhere who wants to transition into writing fiction?


Raimondo: Expect delays. Most lawyers know how to tell a story.  If they work in a courtroom, it's what they do every day.  But being a brilliant advocate isn't going to impress an agent or editor.  Anyone who expects to be instantly recognized as the next John Grisham needs to make an appointment with my character.


Rader-Day: What is your writing process like?


Raimondo: I get up at noon, spend an hour or two producing 2,000 words of sparkling prose, and then relax with a well-deserved martini.  Wait, that's not your routine, too?  Seriously, I have no routine other than getting my butt in a chair and plunging ahead, usually without much clue as to where I'm going next.


Rader-Day: What are you working on now?


Raimondo: A Jodi Arias-like trial in which Mark gets corralled into testifying for the prosecution against a woman represented by his sometime romantic interest, Hallie Sanchez.





The Mark Angelotti Novelsdanteswood



"A mesmerizing read. . . . One of the most memorable protagonists in crime fiction."

-Brad Parks

"The courtroom drama shines in this terrific mystery! . . . This engaging and compelling hero will change your perception and win your heart."
-Hank Phillippi Ryan


 Buy Now: 




"A taut, compelling, very moving debut novel that invites us into a murder, and into the life of a wonderful main character."

-Louise Penny


"A real keeper."

-Library Journal Starred Review and Debut of the Month


"One of the best mystery debuts since V.I. Warshawski solved her first case."

-Mystery Scene



Buy Now: 

About the Authorsauthors


Lynne Raimondo


Lynne Raimondo is a full-time writer and the author of the first two Mark Angelotti novels. She formerly worked as the general counsel for Arthur Andersen LLP and later as the general counsel of the Illinois Department of Revenue.


Lori Rader-Day


Lori Rader-Day lives in Chicago, where she is active in the Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter, Sisters in Crime Chicagoland Chapter, and International Thriller Writers. The Black Hour is her first novel. 

We hope you enjoyed hearing from the writer behind Mark Angelotti, and also learning about the hot debut novel coming this summer, The Black Hour! To read an excerpt from the first Mark Angelotti novel, Dante's Wood, click here.



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Lisa Michalski
Seventh Street BooksŪ, an imprint of Prometheus Books