Linda Fairstein, the former chief of the Sex Crimes Unit in the Manhattan DA's office, is the author of Bad Blood and eight other bestselling novels featuring lawyer Alexandra Cooper.
What led you to work as a prosecutor?
I was interested in working for that office but it was very hard to get a toe in the door there. Frank Hogan was the DA at the time, and he was somewhat resistant to hiring women. During my second year there, Mr. Hogan wouldn't let me sit at counsel table, even though I was assisting Jack Litman [later Fairstein's adversary in the Robert Chambers case] with the prosecution. The doors really opened for me when Robert Morgenthau became the DA.
How did his arrival change things?
In 1974, the sex crimes unit had been founded under Hogan [by Leslie Crocker Snyder, who also co-authored New York State's Rape Shield Law] when I was just beginning to try cases, and two years later, I was asked by Morgenthau to take it over, based both on my being the most senior woman remaining and my experience having tried two rape cases. I agreed to do it for a year or two and stayed for 25 years. There were great changes in the laws governing prosecution of sex crimes, and I became deeply involved in an area that hadn't really existed when I started out.
How was Alexandra Cooper born?
In the mid-1980s, a number of publishers asked me to write a nonfiction book about the legislative reforms and the practical programs that we'd put in place in the sex crimes unit. My publisher actually wanted it ghostwritten, but I told them I'd always wanted to write and wanted to try to do it myself. That book, Sexual Violence, while not a bestseller, is still used in many law schools and colleges. Sitting down and disciplining myself to write that book while I had the day job convinced me that I didn't have to wait to do fiction until I had left the DA's office.
How did you get started?
A friend, who advised me to just start by writing a chapter, said the dialogue was fine, but the texture needed work (which was the opposite of what I'd expected). I went back to the drawing board, and Final Jeopardy, the first Alex Cooper novel, was the result.