Dennis Lehane

Literary Birthday – 4 August – Dennis Lehane

Happy Birthday, Dennis Lehane, born 4 August 1965.


  1. I grew up in a storytelling culture. I am from an Irish culture and my parents and their brothers and sisters would all get together every weekend and they would sit around and tell stories.
  2. Catch me on a good day, I think half of my books aren’t too bad. Catch me on a bad day, I think I’ve never written a good line.
  3. In Greek tragedy, they fall from great heights. In noir, they fall from the curb.
  4. Don’t get me wrong, I love literary fiction. It’s faux literary fiction I can’t stand.
  5. I believe so deeply in the primacy of language, in lifting your prose to the highest level you’re capable of and making your words symphonic.
  6. Once a semester, I usually go through a page of a story with all the students and we remove every modifier. Then we go and put back only the ones the page can’t live without, which tends to add up to about 5 percent of what was there in the first place, if that.
  7. Narrative becomes the way you make sense of chaos. That’s how you focus the world. It’s the only reason you should ever try this writing job.
  8. I found that I could write two kinds of short stories: I could write very absurd, kind of surrealistic, funny stories; or I could write very dark, realistic – hyper-realistic – stories. I was never happy with that, because I couldn’t meld the two.
  9. I’m attracted to what I think of as ‘fiction of mortal event’, that is, fiction in which bad stuff happens and the price is high. That led me to crime fiction. I write about violence; it’s what I obsess over. So I can’t ever imagine writing a book in which crime didn’t happen.
  10. I was not going to use writing for advertising or journalism. I would tend bar, load trucks, chauffeur – do whatever it took. But from the moment I took my first writing workshop, I was a writer.
  11. The world does not have tidy endings. The world does not have neat connections. It is not filled with epiphanies that work perfectly at the moment that you need them.
  12. It’s good not only to realise that you can’t please all of the people all of the time, but that you don’t want to. There’s a certain type of reader that you don’t ever want to write for.

Dennis Lehane is a best-selling American author whose novels have been translated into more than 30 languages. His first novel, A Drink Before the War, won the 1995 Shamus Award for Best First P.I. Novel. In it, he introduced the recurring characters Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro. His other novels Gone, Baby, Gone, Shutter Island, and Live by Night. Four of them have been made into successful films, including Mystic River. Visit his website:

Read: Dennis Lehane’s 10 Rules For Writers

Image: David Shankbone, CC BY 3.0 <>, via Wikimedia Commons

Amanda Patterson by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 4th August 2013