Elizabeth George, who stunned followers of her Thomas Lynley series by killing off the Scotland Yard inspector’s wife in With No One as Witness (2005), shows Lynley struggling to carry on in Careless in Red (Reviews, Mar. 10).
Why did you choose to give Lynley an aristocratic background?
This was entirely for my own amusement. When I first began this series, I had no thought of getting published. I wanted to write about characters that would provide me with some fun in their creation and in their depiction.
How has Lynley’s being an earl affected his approach to detection?
It has made him strive to be as egalitarian as possible, knowing the enormous differences that exist between the life he was brought up with and the lives led by most of the people with whom he interacts. He isn’t impressed by people from his own class, and at the same time he doesn’t act superior to people of the “lower” classes.
Why did you as an American decide to set your books in England?
I have a longtime love of England, and I have never believed in the tired advice, “Write what you know.” What I knew was ordinary. Why would I want to write about that?
How would a series set in the U.S. have differed?
Class in the U.S. is more often defined by money, success, education and accomplishment rather than by birth. Someone who had climbed into the upper class as we define it would be highly unlikely to become a cop unless he was eschewing his parents’ way of life. Sort of like a child of Bill Gates becoming a detective. I don’t think such a story line would work as well in the U.S.
Are you concerned that readers will be impatient if Lynley is still one of the walking wounded for another book or two?
To be honest with you, I always focus on the work itself. I never focus on the reader. Indeed, I don’t think about the reader. If I thought about the reader and how the reader was going to react and what the reader likes and doesn’t like, I would end up writing cookie-cutter books. I’d be afraid to experiment with narrative at all. I’d ultimately lose the joy of writing, and the whole kit and caboodle would sink under the weight of my ennui.