Gil Reavill/13 Stolen Girls Q&A
You’ve done both crime fiction and non-fiction true crime. Was 13 Stolen Girls inspired by any specific case?
13 Stolen Girls came about because a decade ago I worked on a magazine piece about John Edward Robinson of Olathe, Kansas, who was arrested in 2000 for multiple murders. He was one of the first Internet serial killers. He had several quirks, such as storing the bodies of his victims in steel barrels. Without a corpus it’s very hard to get a homicide conviction, indictment or even mount an investigation. Hiding the bodies made it difficult for police to understand what was going on before Robinson had killed repeatedly. But there was another aspect of the case that made an indelible impression on me, which I can’t go into because it would prove a spoiler. But I have to say it’s sickest twist I ever encountered in my years as a crime journalist.
Why choose to base your series around Layla Remington, a detective with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department?
The LAPD has been done to death, and I liked setting the “13” series in Malibu, which is officially under the authority of the LASD. As far as writing a female character, I come from a family of women, so I’ve always been interested in strong female leads. Layla is real to me. I challenged myself to create a character that doesn’t claim the reader’s interest because of substance abuse problems, say, or Asperger’s or OCD or any other quirky syndrome or issue. For psychological dynamics in fictional murder squad cops, lately that stuff has become the equivalent of rounding up the usual suspects. I wanted her to grow into her own over the course of the series. The first Layla Remington mystery, 13 Hollywood Apes, garnered a Thriller award nomination, so other people must have responded to her. I’m excited to stick with Layla to see where she takes me.
The book is based in Hollywood and you live in New York. How did you get a handle on Hollywood ways, not to mention the geography?
I lived in West Hollywood for a time, and worked as a screenwriter. I collaborated on a feature screenplay that somehow miraculously got produced (a corrupt cop crime drama called Dirty, starring Cuba Gooding), so I was able get a brief up-close look at movie-making. The thing about L.A., the circus is always in town. Frank Lloyd Wright said if you tipped the world on its side anything loose would wind up in Southern California. That’s where I want to be as a writer, where all the loose people are. Los Angeles is made for noir, and Hollywood is a great backdrop for crime fiction. I don’t know why every writer everywhere doesn’t use it all the time, since it’s so enjoyably bizarre.
The events of 13 Stolen Girls involve the dark side of 50 Shades of Grey. Have you read the Shades books? How was your creative endeavor inspired by their popularity?
50 Shades shows up throughout 13 Stolen Girls—not under that precise name, but a fictional version of it. I was dealing with the overlap between Hollywood movies and the shadowplay of sado-masochism. The trilogy that is only the most popular best-seller this side of the Bible naturally came up. And it turned out to be a pretty rich vein to work. I’ve read all three books, of course, and looked at them again while researching 13 Stolen Girls. 50 Shades is such a dominating phenomenon, if you’ll excuse the term. When my daughter was a teenager it wasn’t the case that just one or two of her friends was reading it, but that every single one of them was. How can you ignore something like that?
One of your characters is a doomed starlet named Tarin Mistry. Are there any equivalents on the contemporary scene? Is there anyone who could play her today?
All starlets are doomed, because they all grow old. Some of them inhabit their doom more than others. What was it about Gloria Grahame? Ann Savage? We’d have to find the modern incarnation of a classic noir femme fatale. I don’t know if one exists. Someone suggested that the greatest movie femme fatale was Norman Bates’s mother. What’s great about writing Tarin Mistry, rather than having to put out a casting call for her, was that she can be anything the reader imagines her to be. She’s like a sexual blank slate, onto which we can scribble whatever fantasies we want. Likewise, her movie, Joshua Tree, can be so much greater in the imagination than it could possibly be on screen. It’s playing in my head right now.
Link to my Review:http://archiestandwoodsreviewsandwritings.blogspot.com/2015/08/tour-13-stolen-girls-by-gil-reavill.html