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Dennis Lehane On 'Messing With The Wrong City'


This is FRESH AIR. We're following the events in Boston. Dennis Lehane has set many of his novels in his hometown Boston, including "Gone, Baby, Gone" and "Mystic River." Earlier this week he wrote about what it feels like to be a Bostonian in the light of the Boston Marathon bombings. His piece was published in the New York Times.

This morning we called him at his home. Dennis Lehane, thank you for joining us. So first just describe - tell us where you are right now in Boston without giving us the address of your home.

DENNIS LEHANE: Sure. I mean, we're in this place where Boston Allston-Brighton neighborhood of Boston and Brookline meet. So essentially right near Boston University. And directly across the river from MIT.

GROSS: So you're in shutdown right now. You're locked down.


GROSS: Just tell me what's been going through your mind today as you're trapped at home and Bostonians have no idea what to expect.

LEHANE: Well, I mean, there's that. You know, absolutely there's a sense of this, you know, very dangerous loose cannon out there and that's giving everybody pause. The streets are empty. Nobody's leaving their home. Everybody's taking this very seriously. You know, that's been a big thing that's going through my head. I probably know some of the members of law enforcement involved right now and that's given me a little pause.

GROSS: You mean because you're worried about them?

LEHANE: Yeah. Yeah. That sense of, jeez, I hope, you know, I hope nobody I know steps into the line of fire. It's a very selfish thought but of course that's what we think of. We think of the people we know first and then we, you know, extrapolate from there. So. And then, you know, just in general this sense of something that we're all just processing.

I mean, you say, well, I'm not panicking. Well, are you not panicking because you're in shock or you're not panicking because you're processing? Or you're not panicking because panic wouldn't help? What are you going to do? Just do the best you can. You watch the news reports. You hope for the best and keep an eye on your kids.

GROSS: So what are you doing? Are you just, like, reading Twitter feeds and watching the news or listening to the radio?

LEHANE: I'm going back and forth. My daughter, because they keep playing - my daughter seems to be blissfully ignorant of what's going on until they start replaying the tape of the gunfight in Watertown last night. And so when she hears the gunfire she says, Daddy, that movie scares me. So we've been either turning it off, we've been checking our computers. Or, you know, we've been kind of catch as catch can on it.

GROSS: How old is she?

LEHANE: She's almost four.

GROSS: How are you describing all of this to her?

LEHANE: So far so good. So far she hasn't engaged it except to say it's a scary movie. So she doesn't quite understand that this is going on.

GROSS: Where were you Monday?

LEHANE: I was here. I was at my home. And then I noticed that my cell service went down. My wife got through on a landline and then said there's a rumor that there was some sort of explosion at the marathon. And then I turned on the TV. It was within, I think, 10 minutes. I turned on the TV and there was the beginning of it.

And you knew immediately once you saw the second one. And then I went and walked out on the street and I walked over to the marathon route. And, you know, just looked at people. The things that I'll never forget were that, you know, everyone was hugging and everyone was checking their phones over and over because they couldn't get service. So just looking at them over and over and over again and, you know, pounding with their fingers.

GROSS: You strike me as somebody who wants to be where the action is when you can, wants to know about it. When you heard about the attack at the Boston Marathon you walked to where the marathon finish line was, as close as you could get.

LEHANE: Not to the finish line, no.

GROSS: As close as you could get.

LEHANE: I did not go to the finish line.

GROSS: Yeah.

LEHANE: I'm a father.

GROSS: No, I mean nobody could.

LEHANE: Right.

GROSS: Nobody could. But now, like, except for the police, no one can get to where anything is. Like, you have no choice but to stay home.

LEHANE: Right.

GROSS: And so I guess I'm wondering what that feels like, knowing, like, you have no choice to stay home and neither does anybody else and in that sense there's, like, no action going on except for what the police know about and what the police are trying to do.

LEHANE: If it were another city I might feel different. I have such a somewhat proprietary bond toward this city. I have such an embracement of it that I feel like, you know, my friends in blue are out there doing their job. And so, you know, we'll just hang on until they tell us it's all clear. It feels personal in the best possible way.

GROSS: Well, Dennis Lehane, I really want to thank you for talking with us. I wish you the best. I wish your city the best. I hope this ends soon in a positive way. And thank you for your books, thank you for your time today. And I spent a fair amount of time in your city. I love your city and I wish it good things.

LEHANE: Thank you. Thank you very much, Terry. I hope for the same thing.

GROSS: Dennis Lehane, recorded this morning from his home. Two of his novels set in his hometown of Boston are "Gone, Baby, Gone" and "Mystic River." Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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