Is Patrick Kenzie Really Dead?

Fans who are eagerly awaiting a new Patrick Kenzie novel from Dennis Lehane might want to check out this article:

Patrick Kenzie is missing and presumed dead.

No, it’s not the latest plot line for a Dennis Lehane whodunit. It’s a sad fact for the best-selling author. The character who helped him sell a million books and launch a bankable career just doesn’t speak to him anymore.

“At first, I was ready for a break and I took it for granted that I could go back to him when I felt like it,” Lehane said. “Then I tried to go back and I couldn’t do it. I’ve tried it a lot in the last nine years. I’ll say to people, ‘Man, I did not abandon those people. I would love to have them back.’ I’d love to do another one right now, just to have Patrick’s voice again.”

Like most people who have lost someone they love, Lehane has moved on. His latest, “The Given Day,” is a striking departure from the 43-year-old’s previous work, no matter the genre.

Set during the Boston police riots of 1918 and studded with both real and imagined characters, the novel is more complex, rich and evocative than anything the Boston-based author has written.

While he’s leaving the door open to the mystery and thriller genres, Lehane said during a recent interview on his national book tour that he’d much rather spend his time chasing new challenges than write another whodunit — with or without Kenzie and his partner Angela Gennaro.

Lehane sat down recently to talk about his 2 million-selling detective series, the new novel and the craft:

AP: Fans would love to see a new novel in the P.I. series, but it doesn’t sound like there’s one in the works.

DL: It’s possible one could sneak up on me, but I just don’t see right now another book in the series. They stopped coming. I think one of the things that gets often confused about my career path is that there’s some sort of career path. I just never have thought along those lines in my life. I just go, ‘OK, I’m going to do this now … because it’s talking to me. Something lit the fire under me to do “Mystic River,” which I saw as a classical tragedy. Something lit the fire under me to do a gothic (“Shutter Island”), then this was a historical.

AP: Have you ever called your fellow whodunit writers and asked for advice on how to find that voice again?

DL: I’m friends with so many guys who can do this and my hat goes off to them. … Lee Child is a friend of mine. He created the Jack Reacher books. I’d kill to be able to do that. What a wonderful thing — just sit down and write the book beginning to middle to end and then just write another one. George Pelecanos, who’s probably my closest friend in the business, he writes a book a year … consistently high quality by just going to work every day. He goes and he sits down and he just does it. Stephen King writes that way. Man I’ve tried. I am not built for it.

AP: You seem to set up a sequel at the end of “The Given Day.” Will that be your next book?

DL: Anybody who knows history will see that they’re sitting in a place right now 18 months before the worst race massacre in American history and it’s sitting there. Do I touch that or don’t I? That’s the million-dollar question right now. Do you start a book with the Tulsa race riot? Do you write a book about the Tulsa race riot? … I’m just a throw-it-on-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks guy. And every single time I’ve outlined it, it’s been disastrous. It’s the way I’ve got to go and it seems to still be producing a decent volume of work.

AP: “The Given Day” is like nothing you’ve written before. What gave you the idea for the book?

DL: I had heard of the Boston police strike since I was a kid growing up in Boston. It was just one of those things that was back there somewhere, and then about seven years ago, I was just thinking about it and I was just stopped cold by what I’d commonly accepted, which is that the entire police force just walked off the job. I was just walking and I thought … “What does that really mean?” It means you have no police? And I began to look into it. The first thing that made me say, ooh, I think I’m going to do this is that I heard at the height of the second day of the riots, the 7th Cavalry charged down Beacon Hill in full regalia with trumpets. I couldn’t get that image out of my head. … Then I heard the Brahmins, the ruling elite in Boston, dealt with their fear that the natives — in this case the Irish and the Italians — were going to overthrow them with a rather novel solution, which was that they armed the Harvard football team, gave them all rifles, sent them to a bridge where they fired on the crowd. I heard that and I went, “Oh, man, I’m writing that book.”

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