Triss Stein and I have been colleagues for years, via Poisoned Pen Press, and I’ve always enjoyed seeing her at conferences such as Bouchercon. Although I’m no longer a New Yorker, I’m still referring to her hometown when I say “the City,” and I love hearing about her new books, each of which focuses on a different section of Brooklyn, With her new mystery, Brooklyn Legacies, Triss takes us to Brooklyn Heights, with a compelling case that I’ll let her explain…
How does a book start for you?
Place and history, always. Brooklyn is a great big city that is a quilt of many discrete neighborhoods. Some of them feel like small towns and all of them have their own histories, both proud and tragic, and current issues, both heated and trivial. Is there a link between the historical and the current? In my books, always. With constant change being feared, resented and welcomed, often simultaneously, there is no shortage of conflict. So far I have written about Park Slope before it became trendy; gorgeous Green-Wood Cemetery; distinguished, neglected, then reborn Brooklyn Navy Yard, and hard-times Brownsville.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
Willow Lief. Her real name? Good question. She was meant to be a source of information, an elderly link between past and present crimes. Instead she became a mysterious, mystical (maybe?), devious character with her own secrets. And any more would be a spoiler.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
Present day Brooklyn Heights, the neighborhood of Brooklyn directly across from Wall Street. There are quaint streets, spectacular views and many societies living in often uncomfortable proximity. Heated political conflict. Some legends – yes, the Brooklyn Bridge was sold to naïve newcomers and more than once!- and some famous people, including Henry Ward Beecher,Truman Capote, Norman Mailer and Gypsy Rose Lee. Picking the right story of many for this book was the first challenge.
What are you working on now?
I am experimenting with several new ideas: upstate New York on the Canadian border, where the rural beauty does not hide the tough times; big and small crime in New York’s superheated real estate world; a famous, controversial business setting where I worked for many years.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
How about: You write about Brooklyn. Is that your home town?
The answer is: Not at all, though I’ve lived there for many decades. I grew up in New York’s dairy farm country, but city life always beckoned. When I worked for the Brooklyn library system, every new neighborhood was a revelation,packed with fascinating history, current fears, and quirky residents. I hope my different background gives me objectivity, and my years here give me on-the-ground knowledge.
Triss Stein is a small–town girl from New York state’s dairy country who has spent most of her adult life living and working in New York city. She herself is inspired by Brooklyn’s ever-changing, varied neighborhoods and their rich histories, and her urban historian heroine, Erica Donato, has reasons to ask questions all over her native borough. In Brooklyn Legacies, a chance encounter draws her to the quaint streets and deep conflicts of historic Brooklyn Heights.
Triss’s earlier titles and their settings are: Brooklyn Bones (Park Slope); Brooklyn Graves (Green-Wood Cemetery, Brighton Beach); Brooklyn Secrets ( Brownsville); Brooklyn Wars (Navy Yard).