In Lineup, leading Israeli crime writer Liad Shoham explores the complex repercussions of a rape.
What is “Israeli” about Lineup?
To understand how bizarre your family is, you need to get away or get married. Since I’m an Israeli living in Tel Aviv, this is no simple matter. Still, I would emphasize two concepts that are tied to “Israeliness.” First and foremost, improvisation. Lineup is told by several people. Each one provides his or her own worldview and opinion. Everyone tries to do what he or she feels is right, even if what is “right” doesn’t follow the rules. They don’t do any long-term planning, and they improvise their way from one problem to the next. In a young country that needs to cope with a dynamically changing reality, improvisation is an integral part of life.
And what’s the other concept?
The book was also influenced to a great extent by the fact that the storyline occurs in a small place, in terms of both geographical size and population. There’s nowhere to run away to; everyone potentially knows everyone else, and there will be constant meddling in your business. This same overcrowding creates involvement and a lot of family influence.
What’s the current state of Israeli crime fiction?
Israeli thrillers have gone through a major transformation. When the country was founded, it was faced with life-and-death problems, and writing crime novels was considered an unimportant and undignified line of work. As Israel matured, a change occurred here as well. My books echo that change. They don’t deal with the Arab-Israeli conflict or other issues that people are used to reading about when they think about Israel. As David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, once said, “We’ll be a country like all other countries only once we have Israeli thieves and Israeli prostitutes”—and, if I may expand on that, Israeli thrillers.
How did The Wire influence Lineup?
The series had an enormous effect on me. I watched it with my wife when she was toward the end of her pregnancy, and was having difficulty sleeping. Through watching the series, I realized how powerful it was to see a dramatic story told from various angles. I think that when you write the way I do, about “the system”—when you try to expand the scope to include social issues—presenting the problem from various standpoints enriches the story and gives it a level of complexity. You understand the motives and interests of the different players. There’s no good and bad, there’s only complexity. That’s why Lineup is told from the standpoint of the victim, her family, the police, the prosecutors, the courts, journalists, gangsters, and others.