In his latest mystery, Chicago attorney Scott Turow takes us back to Kindle County, the setting of his first book Presumed Innocent, published in 1987. An immediate hit, the book spent 45 weeks on best sellers’ list, selling more than 6 million paperback copies. It also created a new genre of fiction—the legal thriller. In his ninth novel, Identical (Grand Central 2013; $28), Turow uses the Greek myth of Zeus son’s, the twins, Castor and Pollux, as a frame to tell the modern day story of two other identical twins—Paul and Cass Giannis—at a pivotal time of their lives. Turow, who is currently on a hectic book tour, took time to talk to Shore about Identical.
How do you fit a myth about identical twins which dates back millenniums to 21st century Kindle County?
The two identical twins, Paul and Cass, are now approaching 50 years old. Paul is running for mayor and his brother Cass has just been released from prison for murdering his girlfriend, Dita Kronon a quarter of a century ago. Dita’s brother Hal accuses Paul of also being involved with her murder. His accusations give Paul no other choice but to sue him for libel which begins a very complicated court case as well as reopens the investigation of this 25 year old murder case.
Paul’s accuser is a billionaire with extreme right-wing ideas and endless piles of cash that he’s willing to use to broadcast his accusations. Is there a political message here as well?
It’s not that I think novels are necessarily the right place to send a political message, but there is here a meditation on campaign financing. It’s very aggravating.
Though the current state of politics being awashed in special interest money, not all the politicians in Identical are corrupt.
Many Americans don’t necessarily consider their political leaders as being good. I wanted to write a novel about a politician who really is a good and decent person.
I read that there is a more personal side of why you chose to use the theme of twins in Identical.
I’ve always wanted to write about twins. My younger sister was supposed to be a twin but my brother was stillborn. My dad delivered babies as a profession so at the age of three, when this happened, I couldn’t comprehend why other babies lived and came home but not my brother and at the same time it also seemed threatening to me. Illogically, I came up with the idea my brother wasn’t my sister’s twin, but was mine.
Your books always have so many layers, so much going on and so many twists and turns. How do you keep track of all the plot lines?
For me, that’s an important part of the early stages of writing a book—attempting to keep it correct and connected.
I’m sure you’ve been asked this a million times, but you’re a very successful attorney who does a lot of pro bono work as well as a bestselling author. Is one better than the other, even by increments?
Being an attorney has given me opportunities that I never could have had as an author. For example, I wouldn’t have been able to have the impact on capital punishment in Illinois as I had as a lawyer. Writing totally involves using your entire soul and psyche and personality. It’s not always easy, but when your feel that it’s going well, it’s wonderful. Beyond that, I believe in plot. The boundaries of an intricate plot inspire my imagination. Besides, what could be better than spending the day with your imaginary friends?