ALoveAFAIR with Crime
September 7, 20126:39 am
When we asked our beautiful New York based crime writer Alafair Burke, where she gained her passion and experience for all-things-crime we weren’t expecting the incredible behind the (crime) scenes story she was about to tell. From childhood to her newest book, Never Tell, the article below uncovers why Alafair is just so good at writing crime:
Where it all began…
It all began in Alafair’s childhood. Her parents moved the family in the late 1970′s from the chaos of a changing southern Florida to a supposedly quiet and provincial neighborhood in Wichita, Kansas. The moving boxes had just been unpacked when Wichita police announced a connection between seven unsolved murders of women and children. The man who claimed responsibility called himself BTK, a gruesome acronym, short for “Bind, Torture, Kill.” The Burke’s new home fell squarely within the serial killer’s stalking territory. Like other children in Wichita in that era, Alafair learned to check the phone lines to make sure they weren’t cut, to keep the basement door locked at all times, and to barricade herself in the bathroom with the phone if she had to call 911.
In a world where the killer could be anyone, and where an arrest appeared hopeless, Alafair found comfort in crime fiction. Her mother, Pearl, was a school librarian and would take her to the public library each week for a new stack of books. She moved from the Encyclopedia Brown series to Nancy Drew to Agatha Christie and eventually to Sue Grafton. In the books, as opposed to Wichita, smart sleuthing always paid off, and order was always restored.
Meanwhile, she read everything she could find about the unsolved murders, believing (ridiculously, she now realizes) that she could break the case if she only had access to all of the evidence. Unfortunately, police would not arrest the BTK killer for another thirty years.
The fascination grows…
After graduating from Reed, in Oregon, Alafair went to Stanford Law School. Although she momentarily flirted with the idea of becoming an entertainment lawyer, so she could make deals at the Palm and get tickets to the Oscars, she eventually realized she had watched Robert Altman’s “The Player” one too many times, and instead decided to pursue criminal law after spending a semester in an externship with the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland. She graduated from Stanford with distinction, earning admission into the Order of the Coif, and then accepted a coveted judicial clerkship with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals before turning to an appointment as a Deputy District Attorney in Portland.
As a prosecutor, Alafair worked primarily in two positions, as a trial lawyer prosecuting domestic violence offenses and as a liaison to the police department, where she worked directly out of the police precinct, trained officers in search and seizure, and wore a Kevlar vest for night-shift ride alongs.
After five years of working at the District Attorney’s Office, Alafair was ready to marry her love of crime fiction with the stories and knowledge she had gathered as a prosecutor and so her incredible crime writing began…
I am just imagining what a dreadful experience, that must have been. Especially for a child. To move into a vicinity marked as a serial killer’s stalking territory. Amazing then that, rather than shy away from crime fiction, you embraced it in the way (successfuly) that you have Thankyou for posting that. It creates another dimension, between author and reader. All too easy for a reader to just think of an author as just a person that writes books. Rather than that person having a background, and in your case, a background from which your writing creativity has developed
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